Posted on September 17, 2015September 17, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair9.17.2015 Journal Prompt Image from William S. Burroughs: A Man Within September 17, 2015: When he returned… Like this:Like Loading... Related
13 Replies to “9.17.2015 Journal Prompt”
Why does that woman look like Pattti Smith?…or is she? I have a vague memory about this but not sure who and when.
(This is for you Cynthia)
I was going about and asking people questions and really looking for answers. Hard questions they was. Like what are we here for and what should I do with my life and does God exist? People don’t like those questions. They prefer something easy, where they don’t have to think for an answer. How much is a lemon and what time have you got and what’s your favourite colour?
I asked my mom and she said we are here for to worship God and if He didn’t exist then what for would He want us to worship Him. And that should be my life’s work, she said. And I asked her how she knew. How she knew that God existed. Mom just held her arms wide, like she was embracing everything, and she pirouetted on her toes, and she said if he didn’t exist then what the fuck?
I hadn’t never heard my mom swear before and it shook me and gave to her words a sort of power. And I turned ‘em over and over in my head, same as a river turning stones, till they is smooth and round and glassy. And after, when I was alone in my room some nights, I shut the door and locked it, and I closed the curtains just in case, and I kneeled on the floor, kneeling like praying, and I took out those words of my mom’s and held ‘em in my palm, like pebbles, feeling ‘em click and clicking in my hands. And it took me a while to discover that my mom’s ‘what the fuck’ meant she’d avoided answering my question.
I went to my dad then and I asked him the same and he shrugged and he said something about the day and how sunny it was and hot as a bear’s armpit and the air sticky as syrup, and he said I should be down at the river with the other kids and jumping off the top of the church rock and letting the river take me under and into its cool deep. Jesus, he said, and he said how he wished he was sixteen again and a whole world of girls wanting to be kissed. And all of that was no answer at all.
So I took myself up to grandpa’s house and he was sitting in his chair like he was expecting me. I asked him straight out if he believed in God and he was as honest as the day, and he said he didn’t rightly know if there was a God, but if there was then He wasn’t something we could imagine, no matter how much we prayed; and if there wasn’t no God then getting through the days and being happy and keeping our name clean, well, that was enough to fill our time here on this earth.
Grandpa’s an artist and he paints pictures that only he understands and he says I’m an artist, too. He says we should all of us know what we are, cos knowing means we can give our lives to being that thing. He says I’m an artist and I should just give all my attention to expressing myself and if I did, then maybe someone’d listen to me and be touched by something I had to say, touched deeper than rivers or seas, and he said that was the best damned feeling in all the world. Better than sex or love, he said, or God in his Heaven – if ever there is such a place – or better even than grandma’s sweet potato casserole.
Makes sense, I reckon, and granpa’s the only one as does.
? thanks, anyway…cheers!
Yes, it is Patti Smith. And thanks, Lindsay, for following up on this and making the writing fit even more snugly to the prompt.
Cynthia – my piece was inspired by your question about Patti Smith and her relationship with W.S. Burroughs. I did a bit of light research to find the answer to your questions and found that he gave her some advice on being an artist – doing it not for the money or the fame, but because it was what she was made to do, and to do it with conviction, and to build a clean name, and trust to what you do… and just maybe a connection would happen and then it would be worth it. That research that you prompted me to with your question, well, it led to the piece I wrote, and so I thought the piece was for you.
It’s what’s inside that counts. That’s what I was told, growing up. It’s not about the pretty you are, but it’s about your heart and head the good that it is in both. My mam told me that, and my da nodding like he agreed. Still he called me ‘pretty’, and ‘his pretty’, and he kissed me before I went to my bed and he said I was so pretty the sun would come up shy the next day – and it did, hiding behind clouds; or he’d say I was so pretty the sun’d come up bright and shine down full on me so all the world could see the pretty that I was.
Growing up can be confusing. And I read somewhere about how your parents only fuck you up – meaning well, perhaps, but fucking you up all the same.
My mam is laid under the ground now and there’s just my da and he lives in the same house he always lived in and he walks from room to room calling after my mam and looking under beds and behind curtains in case she’s hiding there. And he sets a place at table for her, a knife and fork and spoon, and a plate and a cup, and he cooks things she likes as if she could be tempted to table by the smell of something good to eat.
I call round most days and he hears my key turning in the lock and he calls through, calling to me but thinking I might be Kitty, which is my mam. Oh, he says when it’s only me, and then he remembers himself and he kisses me on the head and he says it is good to see me and he says I do good in visiting him and it does his heart and my heart good to be together.
And one day I visit same as every day and my da is not there. My turn then to go from room to room, calling, and looking under beds and behind curtains. And he is nowhere, just as my mam is nowhere when my da looks. And I’m worried then. He’s not in the garden or in the shed; the smell of him is in the shed, the smell of cigarettes and whisky and potting compost. But no sign of him. And not in the street when I look.
I sit in his chair, trying to feel if it is still warm and thinking it might be, and not sure what that means – if he could be just gone a short time or gone a longer while. And I listen, as my da must listen, to the house breathing and to every small click and clack. Listening for my mam’s footsteps in the hall, listening for my da following after my mam. And the time slips away.
He comes home at last. I hear his key in the lock and the door opening and closing. I call through and he says he is home and he says he got me flowers, but he means he got my mam flowers. And he’s a little disappointed when it is only me so that his smile slips behind a cloud, and he holds out the flowers for me to take, as if it was me all along.
I kiss him, and I say it will all be alright. And he nods – and I recall him nodding when mam used to say that it’s not about how pretty you are but about the goodness you are. And I ache a little inside, for my mam now she’s gone, and for my da who doesn’t call me ‘pretty’ any more, or ‘his pretty’, but only looks at me with his smile hidden.
And there I am, broken by no longer being pretty, or my da not thinking me pretty, at least, and all filled up with goodness like mam said I should be and it is not enough. And maybe I’m fucked up and maybe I always will be and they can do that to you, your parents, but I don;t think they mean to.
Thanks, Lindsay, for more info. I just didn’t understand your story’s relationship to the prompt or why it was in a comment area in reponse to my question.
I also have a deep faith in God that shapes my writing as well as my liviing, so the story was a bit surprising, a little jarring. It’s clear you love to write–and we each have our own voice, our own unique stories to tell!
Patricia, I continue to enjoy your great photo prompt offerings. I have often used them for my short story posts.
Regards and happy writing to all!
sorry if this jarred or did not sit comfortably with your beliefs, Cynthia. It was not intended to do that. I should say the values of the characters in my writing are not necessarily my values, nor is what they say or do, just as the way they say it is not me. A general and all-embracing compassion is what i cling to and I hope that something of this comes across in everything.
And the stories come out of the prompts but are in no way a true reflection of anyone real connected to the prompts and not intended to malign the living or the dead.
Best wishes to all – writers with their writing, readers with their reading, and lovers with their loving, and….
It’s fine, no problem, all bloggers have their own ways and say! Peace. 🙂
Indeed. To you both. So many stories and ways to tell. Lucky for us to be part of this strange pursuit.
Patty, thanks again for all these wonderful prompts and for that ‘snugly’.
She was at that time in her life when she needed certainty and all she had was doubt. ‘Bout lots of things. ‘Bout everything. Like when Lester said he loved her to the widest reach of the sky and more than his own life he loved her and more than his mom’s, well, she just din’t know. And Lester kissed her and put his hand under her clothes and Chrissy din’t know if that was love or something else.
And praying ain’t no good, she said out loud and when she was alone, or alone with God. Like her grandpappy said, there’s a God sure enough, but he’s real busy and he don’t got time to be listening to every one of our prayers. And Chrissy asked her grandpappy how he knowed there was a God and he said it was obvious.
If it’s so damned obvious then how come there’s some as don’t see it?
Watch your language, young lady, her grandpappy said. And he said ok, and he said as maybe it wasn’t so obvious, but it was true all the same. As true as sunrises or sunsets.
And Chrissy lies in the dark some nights, all the stars shifting in the sky above her, and she thinks of all things and nothing. And she doubts that the night will ever end and determines to stay awake just to see if the certain sun comes up like always. Only, sleep overcomes her, and dreaming, too, and she wakes and the day is already dressed and ’bout its business.
Chrissy rises then, same as always, and looks to see if the day is different from yesterday, and not just something she is living over again, the same day. And she checks to see that the rules in her world have not altered, cos she read somewhere ‘bout other universes and some of ‘em parallel to this one and running the same stories but running ’em different in some small degree, an infinity of those universes. And certainty and doubt doing battle again in her head.
If you love me, Lester, then you’d respect me.
And I do, more than you can know. A whole barrel of respect. And if you loved me, Chrissy, then you’d want me to be touching you, even unto your soul you would.
And Chrissy thinks she does love him and he’s so goddamn pretty and when he kisses her it’s like she’s floating or breathless high, and standing on top of mountains looking down on everything.
Do you love me? Lester asks her and he is all doubt when he says it, doubt and prayer, and looking for certainty as much as Chrissy is.
And she tells him it’s obvious. And she says, Jesus, it’s so fucking obvious. And the voice of her grandpappy is in her head telling her to mind her language and he says God don’t like a girl what cusses all the time and He hears everything. And Chrissy just don’t get it, how He hears her cussing but He don’t hear her prayers.
Love you sure as eggs, she says to Lester, and she kisses him and he kisses her, and she feels like a angel then, soaring or falling, and Lester touches under her dress same as before, holds her titties in his hands, holding ‘em like sacred objects; and this can’t be wrong, she thinks, cos it feels so right. And Chrissy just don’t know and she wants to know, but who can she ask if God ain’t always listening or only hearing her cussing?
You ever kiss someone really old? Older as library books and their spines all broken and mended with tape that is now yellow and brittle and lost all stick? Old enough they smell of dust and sour milk and they look like they is touching death? You ever kiss someone like that? Really kiss ‘em? Lover kissing?
There was this guy once and he was old like that and his voice was all breath and blow and he lost hisself some days. And I mean he really lost hisself. I saw him sitting in the park and holding his hands out flat like he was testing for rain and or waiting to catch something falling from heaven. And I went and sat beside him and I asked if he was ok.
He said as how he didn’t know if he was. He said as he was just sitting collecting his thoughts and he said he’d set them free like they was birds and they was flying all about and he was waiting for them to come back to his open hands. I told him my name and he said his own name’d come to him if I wanted to wait.
I don’t think he was meaning to be cute or funny. It’s just how it was. And so I sat with him and waited. And his hands got heavy held out like that and I could see them sagging with the weight of nothing, only he said it was the weight of all his thoughts coming back to him. And he said his name was Col, by the way.
I walked him home when his hands was so heavy he put ’em in his pockets and fiddling with his keys and his money and his come-back-to-him thoughts. He said I was pretty and I reminded him of someone. He said it was a girl he knew once and she was someone he lost and she never came back and she was his one big regret.
He invited me in for tea and I couldn’t think of a reason why not and it was dark inside with all the curtains drawn and the air all breathless and hot. And Col said her name was Lucy and did I mind if he held my hand and called me Lucy. Ok, it was weird and I should’ve said him no, but where was the harm?
We sat close together and my hand in his and it was exciting and strange both at the same time. And so quiet I could hear his every breath and my own heart beating. And he was talking, only there was no sound to his words and only air and shape. And he was stroking my hand and crying silent tears.
I kissed him then. I don’t know why, but I did. Soft at first and then more than soft. He tasted of metal or dirt and his lips was dry as tissue paper and kissing was all that it was. No hands grabbing for me and no tongue in my mouth thick as a slug, but just the pink kitten tip of his and tentative and teasing.
After, I said I’d maybe take the tea another time and I let go of his hand and said him goodbye. I saw him after, maybe two or three times, and he was sitting in the park like before, gathering his thoughts. And I touched my lips with my fingers and thought of being Lucy again.
Then I didn’t see him amore and saw only the space where he’d been, and I found that his house was up for sale, a big sign outside saying which estate agent to call; and the rest I could only guess at.