Category: Memories

F is for Faith Healer

“Eve, ride with your mother and the nurse in the ambulance,” the man said.

After the hospital bed bearing her mother had been loaded in, Eve climbed in and one of the drivers slammed the heavy door shut.

As the vehicle pulled away, I stood on the sidewalk hugging my coat in the chill night air.

“Get in this car, Mel,” the man shouted.

f is for faith healerI jumped and scrambled into the empty seat between between Claire and Gerrard. We drove a long way. The man sang Blessed Assurance to himself raising his voice during the chorus:

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

We rode huddled in silence. Finally, we arrived at an open field. The dark silhouette of a huge tent loomed in the night sky. We waited behind a long queue of cars that sought space among the parked rows filled by earlier arrivals.

The man hunched his shoulders, shook his head, and muttered, “Quel désordre!” He lowered his window and, waving a sheaf of tickets, called to a guard who wielded a flashlight, “I have a reservation. My wife’s ambulance should be here… That’s her,” he cried out pointing at the large, white shape as it moved into the yellow light near the tent entrance.

“Pull over here,” the guard directed. We parked in an area surrounded by red tape on which “reserved” had been printed in white.

Inside, we sat under the bluish light cast by bare, fluorescent bulbs. Giant space heaters sent warmth towards our shoulders but missed the chilly seats of the metal folding chairs. The woman lay under piles of blankets on her hospital bed.

“Who’s he?” Gerrard whispered to Charles.

“A faith healer,” Charles answered. Gerrard’s brow furrowed. “He’s going to try to heal mummy like the one last week.”

“Oh!” Gerard’s voice rose.

The man snapped his head in our direction, “Hush! Show some respect.” He leaned over to the large woman next to him, “I’ve got to be father and mother to them.” She nodded. “But I know God will heal my wife and give them back their mother.”

“Amen!” she replied.

“What is your name?” the faith healer lay his hand atop the pile of blankets.

“Roberta,” the woman’s voice was a whisper.

“Roberta,” the man spoke clearly.

“Roberta,” the faith healer’s drawled. “Do you believe God can heal you?”

“Yes,” the woman whispered.

“Then in the name of Jesus, be healed!”

He lifted her off the bed holding her under her arms. Spasms of pain tore across her face. She hung from his hands, a limp rag doll; her toes, in black, leather slippers, barely touched the floor.

“Walk Roberta,” the man urged.

The woman hung suspended from the faith healer’s hands. The nurse stepped forward. She and the man lifted the woman back onto the hospital bed.

“You” have to fast and pray,” the faith healer told the man. “But if you believe,” his voice boomed out through the microphone, “God will heal you.”

“I’ll fast for forty days and forty nights,” the man declared shaking the faith healer’s hand. “Just like Jesus.”

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D is for D’Abby

“God knows your name,” the minister’s bright, authoritative voice asked through the radio speaker. “But do you know His?”

I yawned and stretched, “Morning, Lord.”

“See,” I told the radio. “I know His name.”

The voice continued, “We give those we love special names. When I was a boy…”

D is for D'AbbyHe continued his story while I wrapped myself in my navy, terrycloth robe and padded off to the bathroom. On my return, the minister inquired, “Do you love God so much, you have a name that only the two of you share? Are you that close to Him?” I tuned to a classical station and listened to Haydn as I dressed for church.

Huh? I silently queried my Friend. The lector’s voice continued to ring in my ear after he had returned to his seat. I glanced back down at the service leaflet:

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”*

Abba? That’s You?

But do you call me that? The words formed themselves in my mind and resounded like the peal of one of the bells in the church tower.

My forehead furrowed, That’s what Paul calls You.

I reread the passage from Romans again. The words, “we cry” held my attention. Hmm, I mused. I haven’t included myself in “we.” I tried to focus on the homily but my eyes returned to the leaflet. My lips pushed themselves together in a small moue. Abba doesn’t mean much to me. It just doesn’t.

The creed and prayers of the faithful brought me to my feet and captured my attention but at the announcements, I found my eyes drawn back to Romans 8. So do You want me to give You a personal name? I mutely asked. Something other than Lord, or God, or Friend? The word “Father” caught my eye. Something that means Father? A warm tingle of a divine hug suffused my arms and back. “Okay,” I whispered as I stood for the consecration.

After communion, I knelt, my forehead resting on my folded hands, whispering, “D’Abby, thank You for feeding me…” My head snapped up. “What did I just say?” I whispered. “D’Abby? What’s that?” I rested my head on my clasped hands and pleaded, “What’s D’Abby?” The warm tingle held me close. “It’s not Daddy. I wouldn’t call You that. It’s not Papa. He was my father. And it’s not Abba either.” I gazed up at the crucifix and then lowered my head again. “Gee!” I whispered. “Gee!”

*Romans 8:15

C is for Calm and Comfort

“Shall we get flowers for Marmar?” Papa’s big, warm hand clasped mine. Icy blue eyes gazed into my brown ones. My legs beneath my navy coat raised and lowered my black leather Mary Janes in a prancing dance.

C is for ComfortI vigourously nodded. A small smile lifted the corners of my mouth as we entered the shop. I pressed my nose and lips against the counter’s glass front as a blond woman in a blue overall spoke with Papa. A pink and gold bow congratulated me: “It’s a girl!”

“What of peonies, Lysse?” he asked holding one fluffy pink stem.

I breathed in its soft, powdery fragrance then looked up at him with a wide smile and nodded again. As Papa turned away, my eyes collided with the attendant hazel gaze.

“What a lovely little miss,” she said.

I pressed against Papa’s leg reaching for his hand and caught hold of the hem of his tweed jacket, “Huh… Huh…” I whimpered. Tears stung my eyes, “Huh… Huh…” I buried my face in his grey flannel trousers, clutched the soft fabric in my small fingers. “Huh… Huh…”

Papa lifted and held me so that our faces were about a foot apart. “Calm yourself,” he said in his Lysse-does-not-behave-this-way voice. The whimpers petered out as he repeated, “Calm yourself.” A hot tear fell onto his lapel. He gathered me close in his arms against his shoulder. My tears ceased.

“She’s tired,” Papa told the attendant then completed ordering. Mouth serious, eyes wide, I peered over his shoulder at her smiling face as he carried me from the shop.

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B is for Book

My back kneaded the wall outside the woman’s bedroom. Through the cracked door, I saw the woman sitting on her bed, taking things from a round, red, velvet box. Pressed my face against the crack, widening it. My mouth was a small O, my eyes pleading.

“You may come in,” she told me.

I approached the bed stopping with my hands on the white, linen coverlet. One green embroidered flower rested under my fingers. I stroked the bumpy needlework.

b is for bookA few ribbon-tied piles of yellowing envelopes already lay on the bed. The woman removed a small cream coloured book with gold edged pages from the box and placed it next to the envelopes.

“What’s this?” I asked, my hand on the book.

“It’s a children’s missal. My father gave it to me.”

I opened it. A berobed man held a cup and, above it, a small, round, shining white wafer. A sudden stillness filled my insides, rang through my heart and, without sound, through my ears. Tears welled in my eyes. The woman gently took the book from my hands and placed it back on the bed.

“Go play, now,” she told me.

Half way to the door, I stopped and gazed back at the small, cream book.

I returned to the bedroom I shared with Eve and Claire. My face sheltered behind an immense book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes propped against my knees, I sat with my back pressed against the closet wall; the closet door remained ajar.

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old, I chanted under my breath. After each stanza, I raised my head and listened. The rays of the sun on the window seat beckoned me to my accustomed place but I remained in the closet.

The woman’s door closed. She traversed the hallway and descended the stairs. As the sound of her steps died away, I tip toed to her room and tried the handle. It was unlocked. The red, velvet box was not on her bed. I went into her closet. There it was on a shelf above my head. I climbed onto her shoe shelf and lifted the box down. Beneath letters and dried flowers, I found the missal. I took it and returned to the closet in the room I shared.

Slowly, I read each page, drinking in each picture. On the page with the man holding the cup and the small, white, round thing, the words read: ‘Look, the priest is holding up Jesus so you can see him.’

Something tugged at my heart. My chest heaved. A stuttering “Huh! Huh! Huh!” came from the recesses of my chest. The well of tears gushed over. When it receded and the stuttering ended, I left the closet and pushed the book as far as I could under the my mattress.

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Away III

This week’s assignment was to rewrite a previous submission. My goal is to blend Mel’s interior life with her Friend and the internal censor she has developed with her everyday experience. You comments and suggestions are most welcome:

…But you’re somehow a part of my life
And you won’t go away
(1)

Carly Simon’s voice continued on as my clear soprano cracked and faded to a whisper. The rubbery, dark, barrier spanned my heart and mind. I raised my broken soul to my Friend like a shocked child holding a dead bird, pleading, ‘It’s broke. Fix it.’ My Friend’s arms suffused me with radiant warmth; He neither explained nor eradicated the pain.

“She’s off key,” Verna sneered.

I raised my head to look at her indistinct form through blurred eyes, then wiped away my tears with the soft cotton of my pale blue sleeve.

Verna stood with her back to the frosted window. I did not respond. Neither did the other occupants in our dorm room.

“She is.” This time her voice was shrill.

Sprawled across my bed in her pajamas and robe, Kelli swiped a yellow highlight across another sentence in her economics text then looked up and said, “No she isn’t.”

Her dark gaze caught and held Verna’s hazel eyes. Verna lowered her lashes. Kelli returned to her studies.

Verna muttered, “I can hear it even if you can’t.”

“Huh?” Diana, flopped down like a rag doll, shared the braided rug in the middle of the floor with me. She lowered the typed page she was marking with red, green, and blue fine point pens away from her face, and told Verna, “You’re tone deaf. You can’t even play a kazoo.”

We chuckled. I turned my eyes back to the psychology text in my lap.

Verna opened the window a crack and sniffed, “It smells like snow.”

Ama, twirling one of her many slender braids, uttered a breathy plea, “Verna, it’s cold. We have our French final tomorrow.”

Verna shut the window and bounced towards her friend. The phone rang as she passed.

“Crazy coeds r us!” Nancy and I exhaled audibly. Kelli shook her head. “Meh-el,” Verna bleated, her mouth gloating, her eyes like Claire’s had been whenever she lied and the minister beat me. “It’s your fazher!”

I glared at her and snatched the beige receiver from her hand. “Hello?”

“Who was that?” I knew the minister’s voice could be heard throughout the room.

“My roommate.”

“Get a new one.”

“What’s up?”

‘Good,’ the inner censor commended me. ‘Keep it casual, relaxed.’

Mon Dieu! You don’t ask how I am?” he accused.

“I’m studying for finals,” I told him my voice raising nearly an octave.

‘Stay calm,’ the censor warned.

“You can pick up your ticket tomorrow,” the minister told me.

“Thanks. I’ll get it at the airport Wednesday.”

“Get it tomorrow.” His voice held the same menace as when he unbuckled his belt to hit one of us.
“I have finals every day.” An image flashed through my mind. I held my breath; my heart began to pound. “The ticket… it’s round-trip, right?!”

‘Don’t screech,’ the censor chided.

Zut! Don’t raise your voice to me!” the minister commanded. “I said I’d get a round trip ticket. Are you calling me a liar?”

I soundlessly released my breath but did not speak.

‘Good,’ the censor assured me. ‘Ignore his accusation.’

The minister continued, “Bring all your things back with you.”

“Why?” My heart began pounding again.

“Someone will steal them. Nouille!” He muttered the last word, idiot.

I ignored the insult. “My room and the dorm will be locked. No one can get in.”

“Bring everything anyway.” He spoke in his prophecy-from-on-high voice that I had learned to ignore when I was twelve.

“I have a final in the morning,” I sighed.

‘Perfect,’ the censor told me. ‘Remind him that you have a lot of work.’

“Just because you have that scholarship, you think you know everything.”

“I have insurance.” The words tumbled out before the censor stopped them. I ignored her indignant jolt. “It’s nearly midnight here. I’ve got to go. Tell Matthieu I love him.”

I gently replaced the receiver; he would ring back and rebuke me if I let it slam. Kelli’s eyes caught mine. She gave me a small, I’m-sorry smile. My shoulders ached. The darkness of the rubbery barrier loomed within me.

At the stereo, Nancy put on Janis Ian’s Stars. Her elder sister had owned it before she was killed by a drunk driver. We had not listened to it since the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving when Verna had taken extra holiday time and we had the room to ourselves. In the unaccustomed quiet, Nancy played it after she told me she missed her family.

“Why does your fazher sound like…” Verna proceeded to articulate each word, “a loud, old, French peasant?”

I breathed in through gritted teeth, “He’s not my father.” My lips were a tight line.

“He raised you.” All innocence.

I shook my head with such violence my sinuses ached.

Ama dropped her braid, propped her elbows on Verna’s desktop and said, “Verna said he adopted you.”

Only Kelli kept her eyes on her book; I knew she was not reading. I breathed out a defeated sigh, “No.”

‘Careful,’ the censor warned.

“I can’t find a birth certificate or adoption papers. There’s nothing, not even any pictures of me before I was about five.” My Friend’s arms had supported me Verna and the minister lacerated my heart. But now my body sagged under the continuing assault.​

“Did you ever ask?” Diana interest was genuine. Still her question was another blow. “I don’t mean to pry,” she added in a gentle tone.

“This was his answer,” I pointed to the scar above my right eyebrow, shrugged one shoulder, and lowered my head to my book.

“You’re a foundling!” Verna crowed with delight. “Your parents abandoned you.”

“They didn’t!” Heat suffused my body. Unheeded, my book slid to the floor. My fists curled themselves into tight balls. “I just don’t know what,” my forehead crumpled as the rubbery darkness overshadowed me, “happened to them…” The last three words were a whisper. My fists unclenched, became limp. My eyes pleaded for answers I knew none of them had. My face felt stretched, parched.

“What about you?” Nancy cut in with unusual sharpness. “Your father abandoned you.”

Verna’s back straightened, “Mummy divorced my father.” Her voice held a faint British accent that she had picked up during a semester in London; she used it to proclaim her superiority.

“Your father still abandoned you,” Kelli told her. “You haven’t seen him since you were a baby.”

Verna glanced at each of us. I followed the hasty swivel of her head. First, her eyes met Nancy’s hard, blue ones, then Kelli’s dark, exotic stare, then Diana’s dim sighted, hazel look, then my eyes as dark and exotic as Kelli’s, and finally the steady, blue gaze of her best friend, Ama. No one spoke. Even Ama, twirling her braids, waited with us for Verna’s response. Verna turned her eyes to L’Etranger. I picked up my book as Janis Ian explained:

…I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you
(2)

Rubbery blackness blocked the present from the past, an unassailable barrier. I blinked away tears. An electric tingle saturated my body from head to toe; my Friend was hiding me in the safety of His wounds.
____________
(1) Stephen Sondheim, “​Not A Day Goes By
(2) Janis Ian, “​Jesse

Away II

This was the second assignment I submitted:

…But you’re somehow a part of my life
And you won’t go away
(1)

Carly Simon’s voice continued as my clear soprano cracked and descended to a whisper. The dark barrier stretched within. My Friend’s arms held me in radiant warmth.

“She’s off key.”

I raised my head, peered through blurred eyes, wiped tears on my blue, shirt sleeve.

Verna stood with her back to the window. We did not respond. Her voice grew shrill, “She is.”

Sprawled across my bed, Kelli highlighted another sentence in her book, then looked up and said, “No she isn’t.” Her dark gaze caught and held Verna’s hazel eyes. Verna lowered her lashes. Kelli returned to her studies.

Verna muttered, “I can hear it even if you can’t.”

“Huh?” Diana, plopped down in the middle of the floor, pulled herself to her knees. “You’re tone deaf. You can’t even play a kazoo.”

We chuckled. I turned my eyes to the psychology text in my lap.

Verna opened the window and sniffed, “It smells like snow.”

Ama, twirling one of her many slender braids, uttered a breathy plea, “Verna, it’s cold. We have our French final tomorrow.” Verna shut the window and bounced towards her friend. The phone rang.

“Crazy coeds r us!” Nancy and I exhaled audibly. Kelli shook her head. “Meh-el,” Verna bleated, her smile gaped, her eyes like Claire’s had been whenever she lied and I got the beating. “It’s your fazher!”

I took the receiver. “Hello?”

“Who was that?” The man’s voice was audible throughout the room.

“My roommate.”

“Get a new one.”

“What’s up?”

Good, the censor commended. Keep it casual, relaxed.

“You don’t ask how I am?” he accused.

“I’m studying for a final,” my voice ascended on the final syllable.

Calm, the censor warned.

“You can pick up your ticket tomorrow.”

“Thanks. I’ll get it at the airport Wednesday.”

“Get it tomorrow.” His voice held the same menace as when he unbuckled his belt.

“I have finals every day.” My breath stopped. My heart began to pound. “The ticket is round-trip?!”

Don’t screech, the censor chided.

“Didn’t I say it would be?” I breathed. He continued, “Bring all your things back with you.”

“Why?” Pounding again.

“To keep them safe.” He used his this-world-is-a-sorry-place tone.

“My room and the dorm will be locked. No one can get in.”

“Bring everything anyway.” It was his prophecy-from-on-high voice. I had learned to ignore it when I was twelve.

“I have a final in the morning.”

“That scholarship doesn’t mean you know everything.”

“I have insurance.” The words were out before the censor stopped them. I ignored her indignant jolt. “I’ve got to go. Tell Matthieu I love him.”

I gently replaced the receiver so he wouldn’t ring back to rebuke me for slamming it down. Kelli’s eyes caught mine. She gave me a small, I’m-sorry smile. My shoulders ached. The barrier overshadowed me.

At the stereo, Nancy played an album that her elder sister had owned before she was killed by a drunk driver.

“Why does your fazher sound like…” Verna proceeded to articulate each word, “a raucous, old, French peasant?”

I breathed in through gritted teeth, “He’s not my father.” My lips were a tight line.

“He raised you,” in an innocent tone.

I shook my head.

Ama dropped her braid, propped her elbows on Verna’s desktop and told me, “Verna said he adopted you.”

“No.” Only Kelli, though she was not reading, kept her eyes on her book. I breathed out a defeated sigh.

Careful, the censor warned.

“I can’t find a birth certificate or adoption papers. There’s nothing.” The warmth of my Friend’s arms held the pieces of me together.

“Did you ask?” Diana’s voice held genuine interest but the weight grew heavier. “I don’t mean to pry,” she added in a gentle tone.

“This was his answer,” I pointed to the scar above my right eyebrow, shrugged one shoulder, and lowered my head to my book.

“You’re a foundling,” Verna crowed with delight. “Your parents abandoned you.”

“They didn’t!” Angry heat suffused my body. I glared at her, “I just don’t know what,” my forehead crumpled as the darkness bore down, “happened to them…” My eyes pleaded for answers I knew they did not have.

“What about you?” Nancy’s voice held unusual sharpness. “Your father abandoned you.”

“My parents divorced,” Verna said with pride.

“Your father still abandoned you,” Kelli told her.

Verna swung her head from side to side, found no one to support her cause. I lowered my eyes to my book as Janis Ian explained:

…I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you
(2)

The barrier loomed within. I blinked away tears. My Friend pulled me closer.

____________
(1) Stephen Sondheim, “Not A Day Goes By
(2) Janis Ian, “Jesse

Why?

The assignment this week asked us to use an excerpt from a previous scene and “write a new and rich description of the world that surrounds this text.” I took an excerpt from “Good Times,” my assignment from last week.

persian carpetMmmph. Mmmph. Mmmph. I drag heavy feet across the reds, golds, and blues of the Persian carpet. My head is down but my eyes don’t see the multi-sided, geometric patterns that so neatly fit thick-soled Mary Jane and then the other. I stop when I reach Papa and place one of my small, tan hands on each of his knees. His breath smells of warm, spicy tobacco. Peppermint too. His trousers exude the fragrance of tweed that has only recently dried.

I try to grasp one of the pale, beige cilia in the fabric under my fingers. Head down, intent on the elusive fiber I ask his knee, “Why did my Grandpère die?”

Papa places one strong index finger under my chin and raises my face until his icy blue eyes meet my dark brown ones. He flinches at my pouting, quivering mouth.

The rustle of silk fills my ears as Marmar flies from the grey wing chair leaving her embroidery on the table under the floor lamp. She sits next to Papa, reaches over his arm and places her hands on my shoulders turning me until our eyes, identical in their darkness, meet.

“He died because it was time for him to go home and be with God.” She places equal stress on each word. She uses the voice that says, ‘I want you to understand.’

My mind sees a soldier in a stiff cap, another in an olive green cap with a bill, a gun. My nose smell hot, metallic sulfur; my ears hear explosions that deluge Grandpère’s white study and fling him against the dark, polished, wood chair rail.

“No,” I shake my head. The words spill out, “God didn’t take my Grandpère. Soldiers shot him.”

Marmar pulls me against the soft hazy blues of her dress; I breathe in the comfort of her musky perfume.

“Yes. They did,” she tells me, her voice soft, singing, as if she must speak this awful mystery in the cadence of her native Portuguese. “But when he fell, God was right there to catch him.”

My lip quivers. Tears puddle in the corners of my eyes, spill down my face. Papa pulls me onto his lap. My lips, pressed tightly together, struggle to dam the words.

Words burst out, “I don’t like God.”

Papa pulls me close against the softness of his yellow, ribbed vest. I bury my tears in the strength of his chest; he holds my shaking body and murmurs softness into my heart. Marmar’s gentle hand strokes sleep into my short curls.

Good Times

Though I planned to post my work from last week, writing the same scene from two different perspectives, I want to give it another pass. In the meantime, this week’s assignment asked me to write of characters who remember the same experience(s) differently. Your comments are desired:

picnic in Bristol“We had good times when Mummy was alive,” Claire mused as she lay out two rows of honey wheat bread. She took ham, sliced cheddar, mayonnaise, and mustard from the refrigerator.

“Yes,” Eve responded dreamily one elbow leaning on her mother’s old Formica kitchen table. “But then she got sick… and died.”

“Mel,” Claire turned from a kitchen drawer holding the small spatula. A wide smile lit her face. “Do you remember the swings? I used to push you and you’d call out ‘Higher! Push me higher!'”

“I remember,” I told them. “There were picnics with olive loaf sandwiches and potato chips.”

“Weren’t those good times? Remember the zoo in Bristol? And the grape vines and olive trees in Gard?” Claire sighed, “We had the best picnics there. That was the best summer.”

“We should’ve stayed in Bristol,” Eve said. “We could’ve lived in Bristol with Mummy’s cousin. We’d have been happy but…” Eve’s voiced trailed off.

“But she wouldn’t leave. And even when she did, she didn’t take us.” Unshed tears highlighted Claire’s hazel eyes. She scooped out a shiny blob of cream colored mayonnaise with her spatula and spread it on the bread.

Eve stood, retrieved a six-box, shrink wrapped package of raisins from the cupboard and placed them in the basket. “Mel, when were you happy?” she asked.

“Me?” It was a squeak. “Never.”

“But there were good times,” Claire insisted her voice raising almost an octave.

I shook my head, “No. Not one day, not one moment when I was happy.”

“But you were happy when I pushed you on the swings,” Claire insisted.

“No,” I shook my head again. “Sometimes I escaped for…” My forehead rumpled. “A few seconds? Maybe a few minutes? But it was always there.” Tears threatened to leak out; I blinked them away. I hid my face, looking down at the scrubbed, yellow table top, where we had all learned to peel potatoes, helped to make biscuits, picnic sandwiches, and birthday cakes.

“What?” Claire asked.

“The hurt. I always hurt,” I said softly.

“Don’t you remember anything good?” Eve pleaded softly.

“Swimming, dancing, horseback riding, books — those help. But, no.” I shook my head,

“Nothing?” Claire asked.

I did not answer. The small kitchen grew silent except for the soft sounds of Claire arranging meat, cheese, and pickles.

I looked up at Eve, ​”I remember when he beat you. Your blood was all over your blue uniform blouse. Blood everywhere. So much blood…” I closed my eyes against the red tide.

“Why did Grandpère die?” my fingers picked at the roughness of Papa’s brown, herringbone tweed clad knee.

Marmar leaned over and placed her hands on my shoulders turning me to face her. Her dark brown eyes gazed intently into mine, “He died because it was time for him to go home and be with God.”

“No,” I shook my head. “God didn’t take my Grandpère. Soldiers shot him.”

He flung his hand out towards me, towards Marmar. Marmar’s hand gripped my shoulder. I was all eyes, absorbing a world that had changed with a thunderous Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop in the hallway; Marmar’s grasping fingers had prevented me running to see. Soldiers lumbered through the dark, wooden door of Grandpère’s study. The first wore a stiff cap, the second an olive green cap with a bill. Grandpère spared a rapid glance at Marmar and me standing on the raised area in front of the built-in bookshelves.

The first soldier spoke. Grandpère spoke. My forehead wrinkled at the rushing sound; their lips moved but I could not hear their words. The first soldier spoke again. The rushing sound still filled my ears. Voices had been sucked out of the room. The soldier in the olive green cap took a dark grey gun from the holster on his belt. He pointed it at Grandpère. His finger pressed a lever. Two immense explosion filled the room with the smell of rotten eggs. Grandpère’s back slammed against the white, plaster wall. He slid onto the floor. Blood gushed from his chest. His pale blue cotton shirt grew red with the hot, thick…

“Yes, they did,” Marmar’s replied in her soft, singing tones. “But when he fell, God was right there to catch him.”

My lip quivered. Papa pulled me onto his lap. I buried my tears in the softness of his grey wool sweater. My shoulders trembled as Marmar’s fingers stroked my curls.

“Mel!” Claire demanded.

But how could there be so much blood? It’s supposed to be inside.

I shook my head, “Huh?”

“Where were you?” Her tone was accusatory as if she’d caught me doing something shameful.

My forehead creased, my eyes narrowed. The image of blood across pale blue cotton, the scent of damp wool, slender fingers caressing my hair receded behind the dark, rubbery barrier. I shook my head again.

I blinked in the sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains. “The sun’s out,” I told them. “We can go for our picnic.” I stood and began placing wrapped sandwiches in the basket.

“The sun’s been out for five minutes,” Eve told me.

“Oh,” I shrugged.

Eve and Claire shared a glance.

“You know,” Eve told me, “It wasn’t that much blood.”

I blinked at her, my forehead crumpling again, “There was blue cotton soaked with blood, so much blood.”

Eve’s face was puzzled. Claire looked as if she longed to tap the side of her head and tell me, ‘You’re crazy.’ As I packed, silence again descended on the room.

“That’s why you don’t remember any good times?” Claire blurted out when I had finished with the basket.

“No!” my voice was an angry squeak. “I don’t know. I hurt. I always hurt.”

Tears welled up and threatened to spill. I sniffed and ran to the bathroom, fumbled with the handle, and made it inside before the tears broke free. I rinsed my eyes and face with warm water, then cleaned the tear stains from my glasses. Before replacing them, I looked at my swollen red face in the white-rimmed mirror.

There was blood, I told my Friend.

Image source: http://www.westcountrycottages.com/tag/national-picnic-week/

Family – Five Minute Friday (a day late)

Another rewrite:

guardedNancy heaved her bulging bag onto her narrow bed and began pulling out stacks of neatly folded garments that smelled of biting sweet detergent. “How was Thanksgiving?” she asked.

“Okay,” my said in soft, small tones. My forehead wrinkled, my voice grew stronger “The houses are so close together. I thought that was only in Manhattan.”

Nancy laughed, “That’s the way it is in New York. Everywhere except the suburbs.”

“Oh,” I sat up straight on the hard, wood chair, held my legs out, and pointed and flexed my feet.

“It must be hard for you to be so far from home,” Nancy continued.

I pulled in a deep, cautious breath, “I guess.”

“What was your home like?”

“More land, bigger gardens. There’s a barn and playhouse… and a kitchen garden” I replied. “The vegetables here are like plastic,” my voice rose, cutting the quiet of the room, resounding off the hard surfaces of the floor and the iron beds. “I miss tomatoes that taste like sunshine.” The words tumbled past the censor that had stood stiffly at her post since the day I woke with my mouth pressed against the rusty, dusty screen door.

“Do you miss the family you lived with?” Nancy, her folded laundry now stored in the solid utilitarian bureau or stacked in her closet, sat on the edge of her bed, her chin resting in one cupped hand.

Images of the world which the man inhabited rose in my heart. I pushed most of them away before speaking, “I miss Matthieu.” I paused to review my feelings. “He’s the youngest.” I added. Internally, I scanned the remaining images. “I miss the mountains and Lake Mirren. And swimming everyday and my sewing machine.”

As I spoke, mountains, large green lake, my body slicing through chlorine water, the whir of my sewing machine presented themselves. The censor nodded. Each might be allowed public viewing.

Nancy sat gazing at me. Her patient, gentle attention hurt but there were no more images fit to be shared.

“What do you miss?” I asked trying to redirect her to herself.

“I miss my horse,”she told me.

“You have a horse?” I asked, my eyes wide, my heart rejoicing that she owned one of those magnificent beasts.

“Yes,” Nancy’s face held a small, wistful smile.

Then silence hung in the room. Something more seem expected of me. My voice faltered as the sentence left my lips, “I – I guess I’m looking forward to Christmas.”

She nodded her head. “I miss my family too.”

Nancy sighed, stood up, took her shower basket and one of her still fresh from being laundered towels and left the room.

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On Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Same – Five Minute Friday

This week, I spent 5 minutes rewriting a passage from my book. The rewrite is moving along:

nyc from the air“Had I not bought the boys clothes for school,” I softly told my Friend. “I’d have enough.” I sighed and plucked out a blade of grass. “But he would have tried to take my money away. I just wanted him to leave me alone.” I sighed again. “Now I can’t afford both a plane ticket and to make it through the year.” My forehead was tight. “I’ll need his help,” I told my Friend looking out over Lake Mirren. “But he won’t help me. He’ll never let me go. Never.” I shook my head. “There’s no escape. It will always be the same.”

Tears welled up. With an angry sniff, I blinked them away. A brilliant flash of demanding possibility raced through my mind. “I can’t!” I told my Friend. “I just can’t!” The bright sunny day suddenly felt foggy, dim. I packed my things and walked to the bus stop.

Tap! Tap! Tap! I lowered my Bible, “Who is it?”

“It is I,” Ella announced. “Could you open the door?” I unlatched the hook and cracked the door. “I have a headache,” Ella was even paler than usual. “Would you make dinner?”

“Sure,” it was a pained sigh. I marked my place in Genesis and made my way to the kitchen. With the big chef’s knife Ella and the man had received as a wedding gift, I chopped carrots as if they were wood. “Why isn’t she making dinner?” I demanded of my Friend between chops. “That’s why he married her. I’ve been doing her job all summer.”

You could be in New York soon.

“What?!” The almost sound hung in the air. I felt my bum. The words were like a large boot kicking me gently but firmly in the seat of my pants.

You could be in New York soon.

My backside felt the gentle but firm kick again. “Really?!” My voice was shrill terror. I walked over to the calendar that hung next to the phone and counted days with the knife’s tip. “Three weeks. In three weeks I could leave.” My eyes widened. A warm tingle suffused my body.

A few minutes latter, Gerard came through the laundry room. “Dad sent me to get…” he began.

I interrupted, “In three weeks, I am going to New York.”

“No you’re not,” his voice dripped with superior knowledge.

“Yes I am,” my head nodded as I spoke. He shook his head and disappeared down the cellar steps.

When he returned, words tumbled from my mouth, “Will you buy me a trunk for my going away present?”

Gerard pursed his lips, “He won’t let you go.”

“Yes, he will,” I told him.

Gerard shook his head, “If he let’s you go, I’ll buy the trunk.”

“In three weeks, I’m going to New York,” I told the man that evening. “Will you pay my plane fare so I can use the money I’ve saved for my expenses?”

The words had tumbled out. I didn’t even rehearse, I mutely told my Friend as I waited for an answer.

At my words, the man’s face had become angry and indignant. Ella, who lay beside him, pulled herself up and spoke first, “That’s the least we can do considering how hard you’ve worked.”

The floor was suddenly wobbly, my head woozy and light. Something was changing. Something was not the same. My mouth formed itself into a small smile,  “Thank you.”

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On Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: http://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-2583917-stock-footage-new-york-new-york-circa-may-taxis-and-street-scene-at-intersection-near-grand-central.html

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