Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “He Took Walks”

Photo of Alberto Giacometti by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Photo of Alberto Giacometti by Henri Cartier-Bresson

HE TOOK WALKS

He was become a man of few words but he always listened so that people thought he was deep. Like he was thinking more than he said and the look on his face was so serious that those thoughts were reckoned to be hard thoughts. His name was Agustin and when he spoke his words came out slow and halting, as if he was pulling them out from a dark place, one by one, and that made him seem deep, too.

Agustin took daily walks. He’d just get up, quiet as creeping, and he’d leave the room and descend the stairs to the street. He’d make no apology for going or offer up any explanation. He’d just up and leave and he’d be gone for hours. If you asked him where he was going, he’d just shrug and that added mystery to what he was.

He’d set off walking at all hours of the day and the night and no matter the weather. He’d have money in his pocket and the keys to the flat for his return and then he’d just go. Nerita asked to go with him once, and he shrugged then too and so they walked together, in silence at first. They walked with some seeming purpose, out beyond the city limits in the rain. Then they turned around and walked back again and Nerita broke the silence and she talked for the two of them and there was a breathlessness in her talking. In telling the story afterwards she could not say anything of what she had said and a part of her worried that she had said too much.

And that was it really. He had a way of keeping quiet that drew people out of themselves. They felt that they could tell him things, small things and things of importance. They thought that telling him was like telling the priest and that there was never any threat that what they told him could leak out. But then, once they’d told him and they looked back at what they’d said, they could not make sense of why they had said anything at all and so they came to hate him a little and to think he was deep and even that he was calculating and bad.

Truth is that he took those long walks to escape the noise in his head, the noise of people talking and all their secrets locked up in his thinking. He needed the sound of his feet slapping the road and his own breath coming short and quick and the pounding of blood in his head – he needed all of that to still the voices.

He hated knowing the things that he knew: that Alanza had slept with Miguel behind Stefano’s back and that it was the best sex that she’d ever had and now she didn’t know what to do because she loved Stefano. He hated knowing that Donato and Isidro had been drinking once and they’d taken the car and on the way back they had hit a dog and left it lying in the middle of the road with its bones broken and blood spilling from an open wound in its side; or that Orland had stolen money from his grandmother and was still doing it and she did not know that her life savings was draining away; or that Natalie had been pregnant and not knowing who the father was, she had taken two pills and spent three days bleeding in a hotel room in a small town where no one knew her name or where she was from; or that Martino thought he was in love with Ruben and there was this one night and they’d slept in the same bed and in the morning Ruben said he did not remember anything.

Agustin hated that they told him stuff. He was so afraid of talking, in case something that was secret slipped out. So, he was quiet and careful with his words and they thought him deep; and he took himself out on long walks to quieten the noise in his head. And when he was on his own and no one could possibly be near, far out of the town with only green hills and empty fields for company, he’d lift up his voice and talk without stop and he’d hang on the still air all the stuff that he knew, like his mother once hung the washing out to dry and the clothes when she brought them back into the house were fresher and smelled of flowers and birdsong and butterflies.

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→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s site: “Just a Writer’s Page.” And, as always, thanks for reading! -PMc

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “This Is How We Found Her”

 

Photo by Garry Winogrand
Photo by Garry Winogrand

THIS IS HOW WE FOUND HER

The kids on my street, they used to spit at my feet and they said my mam was broken and could never be fixed. They said she was a wino and a slattern. They none of ‘em knowed what a slattern was, but they said it just the same. It was something they’d heard from the mouths of grown ups. They said my mam was a whore and a baggage and they din’t know ‘em words neither.

My mam was all of those things they said, but she warn’t no bad person. She was broken, like they said. I don’t know as what it was that did that to her, but I catched her cryin some days, just to herself. She din’t know I could see her through the crack in her bedroom door. She was just sittin on the edge of her bed and she just cried herself to silence.

She had a bottle of liquor ‘neath her pillow and when she’d done cryin, she put her lips to the lip of that bottle. It was like kissing to watch. I kissed a boy once. It was on the way home from school and he was holding my hand and telling me stuff about who he was, and he asked if I’d ever kissed someone who was not my mam. Then he kissed me. It made me feel a little funny inside, like there was small white marshmallow mice doin cartwheels inside of me. Mam kissing the liquor bottle and I reckon it was something the same cos afterwards she was no more crying and she laughed and she turned on the radio and we danced about the kitchen with our arms about each other, dancing like crazy people.

‘Course one drink was never enough and she kept creeping back every now and then, back to her bedside, and she’d feel under the pillow for that kissing bottle. And later when, she was so filled up with laughing and her feet kicking the air, she dressed up nice and she tip-toed out. She said I was not to wait up, and sometimes I din’t.

In the morning there was always a different guy sittin down to breakfast with us. Mam din’t hardly know his name, though he kept touching her under the table and she kept pushing his hand away. He put some money in a glass jar by the front door when he left and we never saw him again. It was my job to run to the jar to count how much he’d left and it was never enough.

Then last night mam din’t come home. That sometimes happened. There was no one but me at the table for breakfast and the jar was empty by the door. I dressed for school same as always and I packed two thick doorstep slices of bread and jam into a box for my lunch.

‘Don’t you leave the house without you put a shine to your shoes, girl.’

Even with mam not there, I could hear her voice in my head, making sure I was turned out right.

‘And brush your hair and your teeth now.’

They found my mam later in the day. I got a visit from the chief of police. He came to my school. He said it was just like she was sleeping, ‘cept she wasn’t. His face was long as horse’s and his words was all soft and sorry. He said I was to go stay with my auntie Billie.

These days the kids in the street, they don’t say nothing ‘bout my mam and what she was. They just look at me with the same look as the chief of police when he came to the schoo and was sorry. And the thing is, them looks on the faces of the kids, I reckon as how they hurt more than the things they used to say ‘bout my mam.

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→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s site: “Just a Writer’s Page.” And, as always, thanks for reading! -PMc

 

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “It Took All Night”

Photo by Adde Adesokan
Photo by Adde Adesokan

IT TOOK ALL NIGHT

It took all night. I couldn’t sleep none and couldn’t get comfortable in the goddam seat. That’s right. Bitchin. Me and I can sleep anywhere, and didn’t mom once say that I was the one could sleep on the edge of a butcher’s knife and she was something proud when she said it, like it was some special accomplishment? I never really knew why it had to be a butcher’s knife, but she was right, I could sleep anywhere and anytime and often did.

Do you recall? In the middle of Principal Goode’s speech at my graduation and I fell into sleep and fell off the stage. There’s pictures to prove it and pictures of me in odd places and always sleeping. And didn’t I have the nickname ‘Dormouse’ for all my school years, and sleeping through some of the big events like the moon landing and pops got us up specially and there was popcorn and fizzy cola and I fell asleep a little before the Eagle had landed? And when Lennon got shot and the Berlin wall came down and the twin towers got hit and I woke up days afterwards not knowing that history had been made whilst I’d slept.

But on the bus home, on that long night bus back to Tipton, well I couldn’t find comfort or sleep nowheres. I was worried, I guess. About mom and about pops. I was worried about what was waiting for us at home. Pops’ telegram just said to come quick and it said that it didn’t look good. Nothing more than that.

You got the same telegram and we compared them word for word over the phone, and they was exactly the same. And so we agreed it must be serious and, without knowing exactly why, we was making our way home from our different far-flung places.

I got to talking to this girl on the bus. She couldn’t sleep neither, leastways not at first, and she gave me her whole life story, every small detail. Her name was Sue. We found that she went to the same high school as me, and the same as you, and I didn’t know her. I thought I knew every girl in Tipton, but I didn’t know her. She was running from something, she said but she didn’t say what. I figured there was a guy and she was running home to where she could be and be safe.

We shared a few beers and a bottle of Jack and maybe that made her talkative. She said how she missed the quiet of Tipton and the dirt on her shoes and the cracks in the sidewalk. Said she missed the smell, too, you know, and missed being so close to horses and men that cussed and drank in the middle of the day. The way she said it, well, I sorted of missed it then too.

We talked about everything, like we was lovers-in-waiting and we was laying all our best gifts down for to be inspected and measured. When the bus stopped to give the driver a rest break we got out to stretch our legs and we stood under the wide expanse of the Kansa sky counting the thousands of stars. And we smoked a joint that Sue pulled out of her purse, and we found a place of shadow and dark and we just held each other, gently swaying, like we was dancing and there must have been music in our heads.

Sue slept the rest of the way after that and I didn’t. I watched her and I looked real close, searching for the girl she had been in Tipton, wanting to recognize her. But she was a stranger to me.

Then I got out Pop’s telegram again and read it over. And I got the shakes of a sudden, thinking the worst. I suddenly thought of mom and I could see her in that old bed, as clear as if I was home already, the bed with the carved back board. She didn’t look good and her eyes was closing and her face looked creased like she was in pain. I thought again of that butcher’s knife and being able to sleep on its edge, and there was mom sleeping through sharp pain and I knew. Then and there and for no reason other than I could not sleep, I knew, and I cried and couldn’t stop.

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→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s site: “Just a Writer’s Page.”- And Happy Holidays, everyone. May your new year bring many new stories to tell, to read, to write, and to share. -PMc

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “Finally The Rain”

Photo by James Jowers
Photo by James Jowers

FINALLY THE RAIN

 

Finally the rain.

Late again, because it’s always late now; after almost two years and it came at last, sweeping down from the mist-top hills, and it fell as a long forgotten blessing on the town.

And we danced in the streets, all of us, if dancing is spinning from puddle to puddle, and kicking up our heels, and our heads tilted back to drink in the sky and our arms held wide enought to embrace the world. And granma Punita fell to her knees and gave thanks and the water pooled about her skirts and she could not get up again without help.

And Safia was laughing and that was as good as the rain.

And pignose frogs that had slept in the sweated dark under rocks, awoke and they gave up a throaty song of rejoicing. And dead fish came back to silver-kick life. And the whole place sucked and sucked on the rain, and flowers splashed into extravagant bloom, yellow and purple and red; and underneath the whisper and shout of rain was the sound of the forest growing.

And there were tears, only they were tears of joy and could not be seen anyway, not in all that rain, all that wonderful rain, and it looked like tears on all the faces.

And Nandi, the dog, chased his own tail and barked and lay on his back and his tongue was never so pink before and he drank so much he was later quietly sick.

Mama set out all the bowls and jugs in the garden, and empty bottles and pots, and granma Punita’s best china teacups and the china saucers, too, and they were not any of them long in filling. And Papa looked at the mango plants and he swears they bore the buds and flowers that would one day be fruit, and he swears this happened before his very eyes, and none of us doubted but what he said was true.

And Safia was laughing, did I say that already? Safia, who had no words for anything, and she sat in the dark of indoors, and she scowled at the sun and made black faces to scare house crows. The same Safia that I sang to sleep on prickle-heat nights and she never gave me thanks or caresses or kisses, and she was laughing and that was the best thing of all; and I laughed too, and I took a kiss that was not given and still Safia laughed.

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→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s page: “Just a Writer’s Page.”-PMc

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “Tears In The Tuileries”

Photo by Mary Ellen Mark
Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

TEARS IN THE TUILERIES

He has a small brown suitcase that he takes with him everywhere he goes: in the car on long journeys; on the bus into town; carried to the shop at the end of the street when he needs a quarter ounce of Ogden’s Redbreast Flake tobacco for his pipe. The suitcase is old, the stiffened corners battered and scraped, and fading travel stickers covering one side, reminders of where he has been – where they have been. Always with the one suitcase; to Morecombe, and Blackpool, and Edinburgh, and to St Ives in sunnier days.

Once, he went over to Paris. Years back, that was. There was a reason for going, but he does not think of that now. He remembers smoking his Kaywoodie pipe sitting on a bench in the Tuileries Gardens, the sun on his face, the air sweetened by something, and a sculpture by Aristide Maillol that made him want to laugh – it was of a woman as thick as a tree and as heavy.

In the Gardens he watched a puppet show telling the story of lost or unrequited love. The strings of the puppets were soon invisible and he became so wrapped up in the story that it made him cry and a young girl in a summer dress and with ribbons in her hair pointed and said something to her mama and the woman pulled her daughter quickly away.

Now he just travels into town and back, or over to his sister’s on Sundays for lunch. And always the suitcase goes with him. Used to be that people would ask about the suitcase and why he was never without it. They thought he might be a travelling salesmen and inside the suitcase were samples of what he had to sell – ladies’ perfume, or handkerchiefs made from silk in all colours, or watches bearing the names of great makers. He told them the suitcase contained a change of clothes: a suit and a fresh shirt and clean socks. ‘Just in case,’ he said and he laughed at his own joke and the laughing diverted attention away from the suitcase. No one asks anymore, or even notices.

When he is alone, the curtains drawn and the door to his room shut and the key turned, he lays the suitcase on a bed or a table and he flicks the catches and lifts the lid. Inside is a doll, a stringless wooden puppet girl dressed in old lace and with her hair loose, and her name is Emily. He takes her out of the case, as gentle as though she is blood and breath, and he sits her on his knee. He fixes her hair and the folds of her dress and then he takes one small wooden hand in his and he tells Emily about his day, where he has been, where they have been. And he tells her what he has seen and heard and felt. He tells her everything, and she listens as only wood or stone can listen, patient and unresponsive. And as he talks, he strokes the back of her wooden hand, and the smoke from his pipe sweetens the air in the room, and he cries again, like that day in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.

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→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s page: “Just a Writer’s Page.”-PMc

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “We All Had A Crush”

Photo by James Jowers
Photo by James Jowers

WE ALL HAD A CRUSH

‘If he was chocolate, he’d eat hisself.’ That’s what Susie used to say, and she’d sneer when she said it and spit in the dirt like a boy, and we’d all nod and say, ‘Fuck, she’s right’.

The way Jamie was always tending his hair and he kept a metal comb in his back pocket and he drew it forth like he was pulling a gun on you, and he’d run that comb through his hair, even when the wind was blowing and there ain’t no sense in that. And he was always looking at hisself in the windows of shops or the shiny hubcaps of cars. And he had a way of standing that was real posed, as if he’d rehearsed it in front of a mirror at home.

‘Ain’t no use loving a boy like that, cos he’s your biggest competition and he never loses.’

But we did love him in spite of Susie’s warnings. All of us loved him and we took that love home with us and slept with it and held our pillows like we was holding Jamie and pillows don’t ever hold you back so it was something the same.

Even Susie, and she touched herself beneath her nightdress sometimes, making believe it was him, and I knows that cos I slept over one night and, when she was all breathless and moaning in the dark, I asked her if she was ok and she cried and she called Jamie a bastard and she explained what she’d been about. I had to promise first, not to tell no-one.

Pa said as how he’d come to a bad end, Jamie would. He said he was too pretty by half not to. He was right, too. There was boys and men who cussed in his shadow for the way girls looked at him. And Mrs Brewster, she cussed too, but that was on account of something else, something they’d done together in her backroom, Mrs Brewster and Jamie. And Mr Brewster had caught ‘em together and he put a bullet in the air above the bed and said as how the next’d be right in Jamie’s middle if ever he was about the place again.

I swear there was a swagger to Jamie’s step after that, not seeing the wrong that he done, just thinking he was more man than boy. Still we loved him and Pam got a picture of him sitting up against a car outside Marty’s bar and he had a cigarette hanging from his lip and not a hair out of place and he was wearing that shirt with the blue paisley pattern, and in that picture he looked so chocolatey I’d have eaten him.

He’s married now. Years have passed. Got two kids in school and a job shoveling sand. He’s thicker about the middle and he’s losing his hair. He don’t smile like he used to and that’s cos Jamie the man’s got fewer teeth than Jamie the boy, and that’s cos he’s always getting beat up when he’s a drink in him and the men of the town they feel a lot better now he ain’t so pretty.

I bought that picture off Pam for twenty bucks that I stole from Pa and me and Susie we sits some days and we passes that picture back and forth and we laugh remembering how it was once and she puts her hand down there and pretends like she’s close to coming and that makes us laugh all the more.

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→Thanks to my cyber writing friend Lindsay for letting me share this with you! Hope you dug it.  For more, visit “Just a Writer’s Page.”-PMc←

Friday Flash with Lindsay ~ “Milly in Love”

 

Photo by Dayanita Singh
Photo by Dayanita Singh

MILLY IN LOVE

Sometimes she couldn’t do it. And Milly clenched her fists into small hard roses, and she stamped her feet making a small drum thunder on the wooden floorboards, and she screamed.

It’s what she did when the dance steps she’d learned left her and she tripped over and that was done in front of the dance teacher, Miss Elspeth; in front of all the girls in the class, too, and they laughed at first and then they held the gasp of worry in their cupped hands raised to their mouths. There were tears then and Milly made much of the twist in her ankle and Miss Elspeth felt for more than a bruise and finding nothing she said that Milly would be fine in a day or two and fine enough for the performance the following week.

But Milly said she couldn’t do it and her fingers were fists and her sore foot stamped and no wince or cry of pain, and Milly did not see the mistake she made in that. ‘I can’t do it,’ she cried. ‘And I wont.’

Same thing over again when she was learning to sing and she broke the tune, was the only girl who did, and she held a hand to her throat and said it was sore and maybe she should rest and Mrs Burgundy prescribed honey and lemon and hot water, and she should be fine in a day or two.

But Milly couldn’t and wouldn’t sing again, and she threw herself on her bed and there was something elegant and posed in the picture she made, and her tears were something musical.

Then there was Eddie and he was in the year above Milly at school and all the girls in her class talked of Eddie and what it would be like to be walking beside him, so close they were touching. Eddie and Pamela or Eddie and June, and each of the girls looked for some match between Eddie’s name and theirs. And kisses were talked about and debated and the girls took turns touching their lips with their fingers and imagining what it would be like. And in the dark below the school stage, Carol caressed the softness of her breast, her eyes closed, and she made believe it was Eddie who touched her.

And Eddie had eyes for Milly, and that made her special.

‘You have to,’ said Sue. ‘You have to, and afterwards we want to know. Everything. What it was like, what Eddie was like.’

But though she said she would, when it came to it Milly couldn’t. Alone in her room her fingers curled into knotted fists and her feet stamped and she screamed. She threw herself on the bed and wept, for she could not get the picture out of her head, the picture of Carol and the dark under the stage and the look on the girl’s face, so like an angel suffering bliss, and her fingers leaving small pink marks on her budded breast.

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→For my own delight, and for yours I hope, I am introducing a new series of short pieces to be posted on Fridays: Friday Flash with Lindsay. I don’t really know Lindsay, but I sort of feel as though she and I are writing buddies. Lindsay (that’s the only name I have) is a long-time visitor to my site, and a frequent contributor of brilliant small pieces of writing drawn from the Daily Journal Prompts I post. Together, Lindsay and I will bring a selection of these works to you…if not every Friday, certainly many of them. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do. And I hope they inspire you to try out theDaily Journal Prompts yourself. Oh, and take a trip over to Lindsay’s site, too, for more good stuff: Just a Writer’s Page.-PMc←