Category Archives: Parents

Take Care: A Tale of the Abysmal Dollhouse

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Wheelchair

 

The storm clouds had moved along with the wind, leaving behind a still, grey day. The heavy downpour had come down on a slant, washing the dusty windows of shop. The glass glistened as the headlights of passing cars fractured off the puddles, the brief flashing of light creating a strobe effect on the items on display. Dollhouses littered the shelving: Victorian, Tudor, Colonial, Craftsman, and an Abbey. All stood at a slant, showing the open side, the rooms, staircases, floors. The placement also allowed the outside features to shine, the gables, balconies, bay windows, and wrap-around porches, adorned with miniature plants, rocking chairs, and welcome mats.

The bright reflective bursts caught the eye of Mark, who was passing by, but at a slow steady pace. His head had been turned to the ground, hands in his pants pockets, shoulders taught. The light drew his eye to the display, and his feet followed. He studied each house, taking in the details, admiring the color scheme of some, others the aesthetic beauty of the architecture. Mark’s wandering eyes and feet led him to the door to the shop. It was a plain glass door, wooden frame, with nothing to announce the name of the place of business. He found his hand reaching for the door handle, but he really couldn’t figure out why.

Behind the glass, behind the dollhouses, The Shopkeeper had been watching Mark as he viewed her safe houses, appraising him, the way he observed, his slow steady examination of her wares. She checked the dark corners of the shoppe and let out a wistful sigh. Some of the houses hungered, and she wished them appeasement, yet this man was not for them. The Shopkeeper shushed them before Mark had completed turning the door handle and entered, the action causing the hanging doorbell to sound.

The Shopkeeper took in his appearance, which through the window gave him a yellow/sepia hue. Inside, things did not change all that drastically. While he took a few steps in, looking around, she observed his color choices were dull, and his clothing, while well kept, was far from being stylish. He looked lived in and comfortable in what he wore, but his body language suggested more.

“May I help you?”, she asked.

Mark looked up from the Carriage House he was staring at. “No, thank you. I…I’m just looking, I guess.” He paused, his shoulders frowning, turning his head to the left, away from the Shopkeeper. “I’m not even sure why I came in. Dollhouses,” he swept his arms, palms up, around the room, “are not really an interest of mine. My ex was into it, and my daughter. Mom, too.” Mark shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. Not sure why I’m telling you any of this. Is it OK if I just look around?”

The Shopkeeper nodded, picking up her duster, for there was always dust in the shop. The flakes swirled in the sun beams as they slanted through the windows. Today, they weren’t visible…until it settled down on top of the many surfaces. Mark brought in his own dust trail, and he was leaving it around the shop as he went from dollhouse to dollhouse. She followed him out of the corner of her eyes, marking where she had to concentrate on dusting, later.

She heard him stop walking. His shoes had been making a tap tap tapping as he walked; when he stood still to look, and he bent down, the shoes gave a little squeak, adjusting to the new stance. This time, it was a full stop. No noise from his shoes. No “hmmm” or “huh?” or just regular breathing. Stillness. The Shopkeeper turned and looked at Mark.

He was frozen in front of a traditional style dollhouse. Two floors, an attic with dormer, wide porch, shutters on the windows, wood detailing, the front door with two windows on either side and five windows on top, with the middle window directly above the door. The house in pristine white paint. Mark was staring hard. He gasped for air, realizing he had been holding his breath.

Turning the house around, he let out another slight gasp. “My house. This…is my house.” He stood up, looked around, found The Shopkeeper. “How? This is my house.”

The Shopkeeper walked over to stand by his side. He followed her as she bent down to look inside the house, adjusting it so they faced it squarely on. Mark began to point out some of the details to her. The layout was the same. The decor, the same:  paneling in the dining room, the soft blue scalloped floral pattern wallpaper that ran from the front door to the kitchen, up the stairway to the halls on the second floor, the wood floors with it’s various rugs and runners. The tables, chairs, sofa: same as it ever was.

Mark forced himself to look at the bedrooms, the ones on the second floor, and the den that had been converted to one on the first floor. He reached into his room, stopping to look at The Shopkeeper, waiting for permission. She stood, did a light dusting sweep of the houses’ roof, and moved back to the front of the shop. Mark bent back down and touched the bed. It felt soft and inviting.

His eyes and hands traversed through each room, taking in the memories each invoked. The kids room, converted from the guest room after his divorce, was as they had left it after they both stopped coming, college then marriages, ending their obligations to be there, to be with him weekly. His parent’s bedroom, full of his mothers’ things, which she valued above anything else most of the time. The walk-in closet crammed with her clothing, shoes, pocketbooks, hats. Her cane leaning against the nightstand.

Mark kept his eye on the cane for a short while. He started to reach in but stopped, closing his eyes, his right hand locked just outside of the room. He breathed in deeply, letting the air escape slowly. Three times. Opening his eyes, he moved his arm.

Piece by piece, Mark removed items from her room, placing them down on the side of the dollhouse shelf. The dressers, the rocking chair, foot stool, pictures hanging on the walls, the bed, night table, the cane. He emptied the closet of all the clothing, making neat piles on the shelf next to the furniture. He was looking at an empty room, save for the wallpaper she loved. Mark stripped that off carefully, leaving the white walls underneath without blemish as best he could.

The kids bedroom was next. It was easier to strip away everything in there, things that would never be used again. Removing everything on the second floor, leaving his room alone. Marks’ excavation, of digging down to the basis of the home, continued downstairs. He methodically removed the items and decor from the living room, foyers, kitchen.

The bedroom nee den stopped Mark dead in his tracks. His eyes got blurry, wet, forcing him to wipe at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. Leaning against the back wall was another cane, next to a walker, next to a wheelchair, next to an oxygen tank. The hospital bed was in the center of the room, which had been denuded, sterilized down to it’s bare bones.

Mark knelt on the floor, slightly rocking back and forth on his heels.  “Sorry, Dad,” he whispered, as he cleansed the room as he had done with the others. When he finally took the hospital bed out of the room, he held it up, examined it, had trouble putting it down, but he eventually did.

While this last task was going on, he had faintly heard The Shopkeeper moving around him. Looking down once the room was emptied, he noticed that all of the familial life pieces had been removed. In their place was new furniture, the stuff one fills a house and makes it a home. Mark wasn’t too surprised to see that it all was in his tastes, design and color.

He filled up the house quickly. Mark moved his things into his parents’ room, adding a few new things that he found left for him. The kids room was returned to guest room status, and he transformed his own room into a second. He moved to the first floor, laying down wall to wall carpeting, then bringing in the chairs, tables, sofa, big comfy chairs with big comfy pillows, large screen TV and fixings.

Mark took his time when it came to refurbish the bottom bedroom back into a den. Executive office chair, desk, computer, stuffed full bookcases and shelving. It was comfortable, and he finally relaxed.

The doorbell rang. Mark got up from the padded chair, walking towards it in his socks only, not wanting to mar the new carpeting. As he got closer to the door, he noticed a familiar face peering in through the left side window at the door. Mark stopped short. He hadn’t seen her in years, lost touch with her, missed her all this time.

He reached out and opened the door.

“Donna.”

She smiled at him, bottom teeth still slightly crooked, head tilted to her right, eyes shining. She had on the red dress and white stockings with red hearts on them, the same as she wore that one Valentines Day.

“Are you going to invite me in?,” she asked.

Mark did, watched her walk a few steps down the hall and into the living room.

“I really like what you did with the place,” she said, whirling around. “Feels like home.”

Mark smiled deeply and went to join her.

The Shopkeeper turned the dollhouse around, the front facade facing out towards the aisle. She gave them the privacy they both deserved.

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Author’s Note:

I haven’t written a “The Abysmal Dollhouse” tale in quite awhile. It has been a favorite of mine of the different story line themes that I’ve come back to explore. If you’re new to these tales, here are two links to check out:

What We Hold Onto

The Abysmal Dollhouse: Collected (sort of)

I hope you enjoy them. When I can force myself to write, I still feel there is more to tell.

Let me know what you think.

Easy Pickings (A to Z Blog Challenge)

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**Please read Delicate Decisions before reading this chapter

**To start from the beginning, go to From the Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas

 

“Easy Pickings”

The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas

Rovas and Berrak went through the file together, past lunch and well into the afternoon. They looked at the photos of the beach, the walk home the children should have taken, and all the odds bits of potential clues that the investigating team had hoped would turn up as a clue. None had offered any information that was of any use.

They had several sketches of the tall blond man from the various witnesses on the beach that day.  No one seemed to agree on anything except he was tall, on the thin side, and blond. Very blond. Facially, the facial features different widely. No one had gotten up close for the details needed.

One woman, a Mrs. Foley, had gone over to talk to the eldest child, Janice. Yet, she recounted, when she drew near the man skipped away, laughing, and the children followed him, their laughter echoing his. She, too, never got a good look at the man.

Berrak was taking notes on multiple sheets of paper, putting any information into categories. They did not have a white board to chart the details. “Not yet, anyway,” Berrak answered, after Khazarian lamented that they had to work without one. He looked at her, adding another quality to his mental list of things about Berrak  he had sometimes taken for granted all these years.

They went over every particular numerous times, coming back to one facet or another. Berrak questioned Khazarian “rather astutely,” he thought. Sure she had run out every iota of Khazarian’s memory, matching up with the notes, pictures, reports, Berrak would then asked Khazarian to question her, to allow her to brainstorm with him like he would with his old squad-room partners. Hours later, one of those rang their bell.

“Sargent Detective Katsaros, how nice to see you again,” Berrak said as she let him in.

“A pleasure, Mrs. Rovas.”

“Please, after all these years. Call me Berrak, won’t you? It’s one thing when ‘Zarian was in charge. Now…things are different, in some ways.” She smiled. “Others, not.”

Shaking his head and smiling, Katsaros said “What is with you two with first names?”

“Berrak, please, Sargent Detective.”

“If that’s the ‘order,’ then it’s Gil. Not sure how comfortable I’ll be, but ok, Berrak.”

“Thank you, Gil”

She led him into the kitchen where Khazarian was bent over her notes. “Sit. Sit. I’m glad you came.”

Gil’s eyebrow shot up a tad when Berrak sat next to the Rovas. He took a third seat, giving Rovas a questioning look.

Rovas took this in, glanced at Berrak, and then sighed. “Berrak has been a great help all day. She has me looking at things from a different perspective. It has been a good thing, Gil. A good thing.” He nodded at his wife. “I called to ask you to come over after work once we attacked the file fifty ways to Sunday.”

Rovas saw the “but” forming before a sound was made. Gil’s face flashed his concern.

“I know it’s not regulation. This is not regulation. I’m…retired, for better or worse. This has the chance to bite us in the ass, but it also has the chance to catch a break and close this. Find out what happened to those three children.”

Straightening up, Gil replied: “Well, let’s dig into all this…” he waved an open palm over the paper strewn table.

For the next two hours plus, Berrak and Khazarian went over all the details and thoughts about the missing Palmont children.with Gil. Berrak brought out bread and sandwich fixings while they talked, coffee being their main choice of working beverage. Berrak made the first batch. Khazarian the next two.

Physically exhausted, but mentally stimulated, a decision was made. They would return to the scene and walk it all through with fresh eyes.

“Tomorrow is my day off, as you well knew, Sir.” Gil got a frown, but continued on. “I’ll pick you both up at ten.”

“To the beach,” Berrak said.

“Back to the beach,” Rovas answered.

They sipped their coffees as they made their plan of attack.

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The next morning found the three of them trudging through sand. An early summer day, the beach was not crowded, but by lunch time they knew they would be fighting for a good space to scout. Rovas, who had walked this route so many times after the children went missing, assigned the three of them equidistant locations for them to observe the throngs. Cell phones made these type of stakeouts easier in the long run, as long as the reception signals were good. At this location, the reception was spotty, but it was the best they could do. After going over their plans one more time, and Rovas warning his wife not to take any action-again-they went to their spots.

At 12:17, Gil rang Rovas, who was at the southern tip of their perimeter. “Sir, I spotted a tall blond guy. He came along the beach north of me. At first I thought he was alone, but a boy of about 9 or 10-the right age for Gerald Palmont, came up from the shore line and took his hand. They are walking away now, off the beach to the parking lot. I’m following.”

Rovas ran as fast as he could, which was not easy for him. Winded, he spotted Berrak and went to her. They set off at a fast walk, almost trot, while he told her what Gil had said.

“No girls?”

“No. He said nothing about the girls,” he panted. “Let’s get in Gil’s car and pick him up. I hope we’re not too late.”

When they got there, Gil was red-faced with anger. “I missed them. I missed them. He was parked right on the edge of the sand. I thought I would have enough time. It was white, a sedan. Not new. I wasn’t close enough for the license plate or make. “

Rovas had his hands balled into fists, laying them on his hips. His head swiveled frantically over the few roads that left the area. He saw no sign of any white car in any direction.

Berrak headed back to their car. “I think we need to try searching. Futile or not, it’s moving forward. Yesterday, we didn’t even have this much to go on.”

They got in the car and went up and down the streets, hoping to spot the Palmont boy and the blond headed man. 

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“The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas” is my theme for this year. Cold case files for the good inspector to delve into, trying to make sense &/or solve. My plan is to use a variety of genres within this overarching theme to allow me to play and, of course, challenge myself. Some cases might bleed into another case. Most will be stand alone. We’ll see, won’t we?

As to the Blogging from A to Z challenge, I’ll let the words of Arlee Bird (founder of said challenge) tell you what this is all about:

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends.

So, join me (and the over 1800 other blogs involved) starting on Friday, April 1, 2016 and ending on Saturday, April 30th. Comments and such are always welcome. I hope you enjoy the stories.

Roadside Table (SIGNS: #AtoZChallenge): Guest Post

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Roadside TableJenelle struggled to unbuckle the sweating child from the car seat. Traffic roared by, carelessly coming within inches. At last she hefted the toddler to her shoulder, grabbed the faded Hello Kitty bag from the seat, and made her way to the weathered picnic table. Sickly pines cast what shade they could over the two.

She rummaged and came up with a cereal bar and water. A sorry little picnic. Broken-down car. There goes our wonderful day. Damn!
They fed crumbs to some birds. A frisky squirrel ran by swishing his tail.
Mommy…this is FUN!”
Jenelle squeezed her tightly.
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This is a guest post by Ms. Lisa Vooght of Flash Fiction. I met Lisa in 2011 doing our respective first AtoZ Challenge. It has been a great pleasure and a highlight of that first challenge for me.
Check out her blog for wonderful stories and non-fiction posts. This month she is doing an amazing series on Character Development: check it out!!  You’ll also find a guest post by yours truly on her blog on April 29th. Enjoy!!

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For the April 2014 A to Z Blog Challenge, you will find a story a day (except Sundays) from me. A to Z: Staring with A on Tuesday, April 1st and ending with Z on Wednesday, April 30th.

Signs is my theme for this year’s outing. Road signs, building signs, warning signs…Signs alert us to a multitude of messages. My plan is to use the alphabet through Signage, but not to stick to what the sign was originally intended to convey. So, the genre of story writing, and styles, of the posts will vary as my mood and interpretation sees fit. Possibly a poem or two. We’ll see.

I’m also trying something more of a challenge: each post will be a Drabble. A Drabble is 100 Words Exactly.

Hope you enjoy the stories.

Came The Wind

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leavesThe golden, brittle leaf brushed over the top of her shoe, resting  in mid air for a moment. Another gust blew, picking up the leaf and spiraling it away, under a sky filled with darkened clouds. Alice shivered in her coat, the hem overlapping her knee high skirt. She bunched the top together, clutching it closed, having already pulled up the collar. She stared down at the marble and stone work that lay around her, the past staring back up at her. More leaves blew past her and the others, milling around for a moment, then taking off to skitter across the grounds.

The side comments seemed endless to Alice. A few suffered in silence, getting hugged, heads leaning against shoulders for support, comfort. Alice drifted from one group to another, paying attention to the tone of the voices more than the actual words. The elder set, the few who could barely walk, stayed by the cars. They huddled near the aunt who always needed to be the center of attention, her husky voice talking about anything but what lay before them. A few tears, clutched tissues, and a dreary day filled them all.

The service done, the discussions turned to who was following whom, where they were going, who had to leave. Hugs and kisses were passed around, and the car doors opened, and then closed. One by one, the cars pulled away.

Alice looked on. As the last car left, a vortex of leaves swirled together in the spot left vacant, a mini tornado of golds and oranges and browns. Alice turned to watch the receding tail lights pass through the gates.

The leaves dropped to the ground.

Papers of Pain

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Amidst the debris of clutter, among the years of things piled upon, chaotic shoving in of spaces, of things of little to no importance due to the distance of time, papers of pain were uncovered. A history unfolded in short passages, messages, of people passed on, most forgotten or unknown to the one riffling through the quagmire of emotions that the refuse brings.

Losing one’s parents is hard enough; uncovering aspects of them that you only thought you knew becomes the harder part to take in.

“Please forgive me…” began way too many letters, or messages in holiday/birthday cards, found among the leavings. Reading what he did was painful enough, so Bill only skimmed along, tossing, tossing, tossing…keeping a short pile that he knew he would confront at another time. Not now, not so soon, and maybe…maybe never.  Private thoughts that now are laid bare, never for his eyes in the first place. He thought: Do I have the right/need to know any of this?

Short words of “Love,…,” saying so little, punctuated by messages that left messages of hope and caring, of hurt, pain, and an end to suffering. Is that how they lived for so long, Bill thought, even as he knew the answer. He hoped to escape the yelling, the push and pull games, the neediness from such a young age, and he ran out as fast as he could when he was younger. He knew, though, he could not just abandon, for their world crashed down upon them, and with that crashing he became one of the broken pieces, held together with glue and tape, shattered enough, strong enough. At times.

And then…then, buried snatches of the other. There were the messages of love he now found. They were concealed among the many non-meaning platitudes. They were not long, snippets only, words of caring, of hope, of praise, of cleansing. Bill read these, everyone of them, in full, sometimes again and again. He weighed these few against the pile of pain, and while his own heart was heavy, his chest tight, his stomach roiling…he weighed the messages of love against those of suffering.

Shaking his head to clear the conflict inside, Bill put them all together in one bag, sealing it for now. They could lay still and silent, or battle amongst themselves in the bag.  He held his parents in his hands, their words, their wounds,  and their care and concern for each other. It was one weight, one mass, and he felt it was equal, balanced enough, as he carried it away with him.

Yesterday, Memories (non-fiction)

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In Memory
1926-2012

My mother passed away on October 14th, 2012. One major reason I haven’t been writing, or that my meager attempts have been sombre. My father died on October 15th, 1999, which has still sent shivers through me, that they parted this earth one calendar day apart (although thirteen years passed).

It’s Halloween, a holiday she did enjoy, seeing all the children in their costumes, playing like she was afraid of the “scary” ones, cooing over the very cute tots and babies coming out for their first Trick or Treating, and giving out bags of candy (each bag had to be the same, piece by piece, number by number, so she felt no child felt cheated).  It’s been one of my favorite holidays as well…not so much this year.

She was “known” in our family as the “family historian,” being able to recall all the family stories, connections, etc. This she did orally, rarely writing anything down. Which is a shame: those stories now only reside in the memories of those who listened, and if we don’t write them down, they’ll be gone.

I did find her beginning attempts to write some of the history down, colored through her lens. I’m posting it here where I normally write my own fiction. Not sure when/if I’ll really come back to this blog with any real attention. I hope you enjoy her early memories.

Yesterday, Memories…by

Edith A. Nager: 1926-2012

(1)          My mother and father met and married in Odessa, Russia. Papa had served in the Russian Army for five years and then was discharged. I have a picture of him in his uniform. He was quite dashing. He came to America first and then sent for my mother. This was before the First World War

(2)          The day I was born my father declared it a holiday. He kept my three oldest brothers home from school. The other two were too young for school. There were five boys and now me. The truant officer came to the house and asked why they were home, and Papa said: “After five boys, a girl was born!” That fine gentleman stayed and helped Papa celebrate.

                Mama said, and I quote her: “This is it! If it’s another boy, no more!” Papa ran through the building knocking on doors to tell them the good news. He finally had a daughter.

 

(3)          Saturdays, my mother did not cook. Papa said it was Mama’s time off. He went to the kosher deli and bought Pastrami, Corned Beef, Specials (knockwursts), Salami, Knobelwurst (very garlicky salami), and rye bread. The mustard came in paper cones. Oh my, how delicious it all was. Mama made the potato salad.

                Saturday evening after sundown was the time to turn on the radio and listen to station WEVD. It was Jewish music and singing. It was OK, but Sunday morning was better. Same station, but it was all about “Troubles of People” and “The Bintel Brief,” as well as more music and singing.

                The “Troubles of People” were some of the saddest tales you could hear. Husbands came to the Promised Land first and became Americanized. They met other women, forgetting about the wives and children back home. Sometimes it was a three hankie story.

 

(4)          Sunday brunch was out of this world. Bagels, bialys, pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, cream cheese, Muenster & farmer cheese; Belly lox, a large smoked white fish, and pickled herring in cream sauce with onions. Of course, a large salad: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radishes and green pepper. We ate and talked. Everyone showed up for this feast. My brothers: Lou, Phil, Ezra, Sam, Bernie and me…and of course, Mama and Papa.

 

(5)          My brother Bernie gave me a lot of grief. He was the youngest of the boys. He used to tell me I smelled like a flower: it was called a stink weed. One day, he came home from school and went to the medicine cabinet. He took out a box of Feenamint. He got a box of Chicklet’s Gum and replaced it with the laxative. Some of the boys in school were giving him a hard time, so he got even. They never bothered him again. We gave him a new name: we called him “Dr. Fleckel.”

 

(6)          Walking with a group of girls and boys along the Gran Concourse to Fordham Road you could window shop. The stores stayed open till 9:00 p.m. We went to Rushmyers on University Avenue for Ice Cream in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter. We’d also go to 161st Street to Addie Valin’s and the Roxey Deli.

                Trolley cars in the summer, the sides were heavy metal mesh so you would feel cool. It cost five cents each way and some of us would take a ride in the evening. We went all the way to Throgs Neck and back. This was before A.C.

See Her

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Chasing Rainbow By Judy Underwood

See her

Fun is first nature

Wonderment and exploration

Dancing, twirling, laughing, tripping

See her

She won’t always be this way

Relish in what she delights in

What she marvels at

What she runs to grasp

See her

Keep this image in your heart

Share in it

Join in

Reclaim it yourself

See yourself

Chase a rainbow bubble

 

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Prompt from Bluebell Books

Thursday Flash Fiction Week 28: Innocence and Dream: Please write a poem, a prose, or a short story inspired by the image provided above

I’ve done their prompts before. Hope you enjoy.

Connect The Dots

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Her little index finger went from point to point, moving along the surface as she went. Eyes wide, laying still, her tongue slightly pushed out as she worked at the image.

“A butterfly!” Amy said, retracing the pattern she saw.

“Um huh,” her mother murmured, smiling as she stroked her daughter’s hair.

Amy continued to explore, finding another pattern, and then another. Shifting positions only when asked to, Amy found images as she went along.

“A star!”

“Pony!”

“Fish.”

“A dragon!”

“Dragon?” her mother asked?

“Yup. Dragon. Big, scary dragon. Roooooaaaaarrrrrrrr!”

Katie laughed as she hugged her Amy. She got a hug back.

Amy went on tracing  what she saw in the dots, naming them at will, giggling at the made up things. The late afternoon sun streamed through the bedroom window, lighting and warming up the bed they were laying on. Amy drifted off to nap time, finger still on one lone spot.

Katie held her daughter, feeling Amy’s breathing change. She was nappish herself, closing her eyes as they nestled together.

Just before she, too, drifted away, Katie smiled, thinking: “Why did I ever hate my freckles?

 

Wind, Over Dirt

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Feet are planted on the sodden earth. The milling around, jockeying for positions, too close, not far enough, has ended. Heads are bowed, hands are clasped or reach out to touch another. All are quiet, now, but that silence is shaken by the wind that picks up speed, sending hair and head coverings aloft. A multitude of hands pat things back in place, murmurings of comments are made and subside, back to the quiet of the morning.

The cantor speaks, and there spills out an evocation of the life they have all come to honor. There are drawn faces, lowered eyes, huddled bodies, all straining in listening to the words that belay what has been lost. And tears…there are tears, wiped up with crumpled tissues, or left to drip down, from eye to cheek, cheek to chin, chin to hang there, until they fall on the ground.

It is not the only moisture falling. Rain, which had passed by earlier, returns. A few drops  splatter down on the mourners, or miss,  taken by the grass. The drops from the sky turn to a drizzle; from drizzle, to a steady stream. Umbrellas are handed out by the cemetery man. Not everyone takes one. The cantor is protected, as is the widow and one of her children. The son lets the proceeding be, rain or shine, standing alone.

The prayers are done. The dirt is placed on the casket, shovel by shovel full. The ceremony is complete.

Hugs are given, sorrowed words are spoken, and all disperse back to their lives, away from the newly packed ground.

Ashes

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Even after reading about all the possible side effects, Jean wore her mother around her neck daily. Others complimented her on her memorial diamond pendant, with many commenting about it afterwards, not all in a favorable light. Compressed into a stunning jewel, strung and embraced in an array of silver filigree,  the late Mrs. Deidre Ann Cabochon glared from her daughter’s chest.

Cremated only a month previously, the ashes were mixed with snippets of her hair, and all was distilled to the carbon left behind. These were sent into a press, to duplicate the forces of nature. Extreme heat, 1,000,000 p.s.i., and time…and from the passing of the deceased came a new jeweled existence.

Or so Jean thought, even though the price was high on many levels.

Her husband, Paul, disagreed to the cost, both financially and emotionally. He was never fond of Deidre, a woman he found narcissistic and shrewish, and if he had been honest with anyone he would have loudly pronounced how glad he was that his mother-in-law was dead. Paul saw how Jean suffered during her mother’s long lingering illness, how she put “that woman!” on a pedestal, even while being ordered about and verbally demeaned at every turn. Jean just turned the other cheek, said it was the woman who gave her birth and raised her, and that was that.

Paul moved out the day after the jewel was delivered.

When she got the package, Jean cried as she opened it, and cried as she held it out to examine it. Jean asked Paul to attach the clasp for her. He went behind her as she moved her hair aside and did as she asked. There was a soft “snkt” sound; Jean let her hair down and turned around to give Paul a hug. She held him, lowering her head onto his right shoulder, pressing her body against his, tears leaking down, which he felt through his shirt.

Paul also felt the diamond pendant digging into his chest. Uncomfortable as that was, he felt…more. There was something emanating, a negative grasping, and it hurt on a much deeper level then the prick of the necklace pressed against him. Pushing away was hard but Paul moved a few feet backwards, seeing the pain in Jean’s face but he found himself unable to answer her question of what was wrong.

She needed comforting the rest of the day, and each time Paul’s horrible feeling deepened. He felt lethargic, and depressive thoughts flayed him, making deeper cuts as the day progressed. By the time they went to bed-Jean still wearing “her mother”-Paul was ready to slash his wrists. In her sleep Jean rolled over to the edge of the bed, as Paul, awake, did rolled to the opposite side. There was a lessening in his chest, and things felt calmer as he went to the bathroom (down the hallway), and still when he went downstairs to the kitchen for a cold drink.

Sitting at the kitchen table until dawn, Paul went back upstairs. Each step was agony, and when he got to their bedroom door, he knew. Grabbing his clothes, he woke Jean up.

“Get rid of that necklace, Jean. Let her go, or I will…”

“You’ll what?” she said, belligerently, rubbing her eyes, up on one elbow.

“I’ll leave. That thing…something is wrong with it.”

An argument ensued, words were said, many that could not be taken back or apologized for, many that Paul had heard from Deidre’s mouth only months before. Jean came towards him in fury and tears; Paul bolted with his clothes, changing in the car before running away.

Jean grieved doubly now. She started to lose interest in eating, slept poorly, wandered aimlessly, and while all around her said she was in the grips of depression, none would say so to her face. She would talk about her mother in one breath and be scathing in ridicule in the next, tearing apart friends, family, and co-workers alike with a viciousness that was “not like her” (or so they said).

Hollow eyed, sallow skinned, Jean played with the jewel almost constantly. She shortened the chain the one time she removed it, making it a choker, in so many ways. Her belligerence became so brutal that she was told to leave her job, that she was creating an unhealthy work environment. She spat in her bosses coffee when she got up to leave, gave her the finger, and slammed the door on her way out.

Jean sat in the dark, in her living room, gripping the arm rests of the chair she had inherited from her mother. She contemplated many things, but they were about the others, what they had done to her, nothing was her fault, and why were they all crazy? She had bought a 1.4 litre of Irish Creme, Deidre’s favorite, and killed it in one sitting. Feeling queasy, Jean left the house to get some fresh air.

She thought getting in the car for a drive upstate was a good idea, at the time.

********************************************
Author’s Note:
There is more to write about Jean. 845 words is not enough, but it’s enough for me, today.
There actually is a business of putting the ashes of the deceased into jewelry. Some of it is done as described in the above story; the rest are hollow receptacles for the cremated ash. I was told about this by my SO, who loves medical and scientific things, and it has been filtering around my noggin…
until a short Associated Press piece caught my attention: “South Korea has seized thousands of smuggled drug capsules filled with powdered flesh from…”
….well, the rest would be telling where I want to take this whole thing. Suffice to say, reality is just as bad as fiction, n’est pas?

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