Voyage [Repost]

Prompt: Smell you later

portrait of a young woman

Oh, what a journey!

Everything smelled horrible and I couldn’t eat the food. It was foul. But when I could, I went up on deck where the air was a little fresher, though the smoke from the smokestacks often settled over us, dropping black ash into our lungs.

I was little, so I could get up there even when it was crowded. Unless the ship was storm-tossed, I would stay up top in the rain, underneath a box that was full of ropes (I looked). It was better than being crammed together belowdecks.

My mother dressed me like a boy, because she thought I would be safer. But you might be surprised how many men want to be with boys. I knew how to look after myself, though, I was pretty smart for a kid.

My mother had a boyfriend on the ship, though she didn’t think I knew. It was such a long, boring, unpleasant, filthy voyage that my mother welcomed this man, with his jokes and and the way he always had sugar cubes in his pocket, like a stableboy. My mother had a sweet tooth, and those sugar cubes were the closest thing to candy she was going to get.

Sometimes at night, when they thought I was asleep, they snuggled together.

One time I made it up to second class. This was very hard, unless you were half-monkey, like me, at least my mother said so. I could climb anything. I had my cleanest boy clothes on, so didn’t smell too terrible, and I climbed up through the inflatable life boats closest to the steerage deck, and made my way by ladder to the crews’ quarters, where it was easy to slip onto the second class deck.

It was pretty nice up there. People weren’t vomiting or covered in ash, or making love in dark dirty corners that smelled like pee.

I even got to meet the captain. A very pretty lady, about my mother’s age, saw me crying as I clung to the railing, breathing in the sea air. I forget why I was crying. When she asked me what was wrong I said I lost my mommy and daddy— I used those words— and she gave me a hug and said, “Well I know the captain, and he can find your parents for you.”

Meanwhile, she bought me some ice cream. Wow!

The captain quickly determined that I was steerage, that I (my mother) had only paid $30 for my passage, that I was not lost but an overly-curious girl dressed as a boy.

The captain was old, I remember that, but I mostly remember that he had a cat, whose fur was the same grey colour as the captain’s beard. He said the cat killed vermin. I asked if I could take the cat back to steerage with me. He didn’t laugh, and neither did the lady.

My mother told me my father would be waiting for us, once we docked and cleared inspection. I didn’t remember my father, not one bit, so I wasn’t sure how to feel.

I wondered how my mother would clean us up, how she would wash away the voyage, with its smells and indiscretions and adventures, and if my father would love me, or even know me. I told my mother that perhaps I could stay a boy, since fathers liked boys better.

My mother kissed me and said no, and my journey ended.


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Prompt: Memory

woman damaged_Fotor

Leep awoke, feeling too hot. He’d had that dream again. The too hot dream.

It was more a memory than a dream because Leep did remember it, it was real, that sharp fragment from a life he had mostly forgotten. But he couldn’t understand why it played on a loop in his dreams, over and over.

He was a boy, sitting on a chair behind a floor to ceiling plastic curtain. The curtain was white with a pattern of solid red circles struck through by solid red lines. The pattern made Leep uneasy— it felt unfinished, wrong, hostile, and it was all he had to look at.

But the coffee finished percolating. He heard the silence. So he stood, pulled the curtain aside and went to the counter where he unplugged the pot.

A woman sat at a formica-topped table. The table was edged with shiny, ridged chrome, and the pattern on the top was sky blue with white starbursts. She wore a starched white dress with sensible white shoes, badly scuffed and starting to wear at the heel.

The pot was heavy for a boy, but Leep was careful. He poured steaming coffee into the white porcelain cup set before the woman. She took a sip.

“Too hot,” she said.

And Leep awakened in the dark. He got out of bed, took his gun out of the side table drawer, and went into the hallway. He put his navy blue nylon jacket with the hood over his black pyjamas, pulled on his boots, and stuffed a dark woollen scarf into a pocket.

And he walked, in that perfect deep abandoned silence, through streets and alleyways and across parks, until his legs ached and he found himself in the parking lot of the hospital. He wrapped the scarf around his mouth and nose so only his eyes showed, and waited until a lone nurse, in a pink pantsuit with navy blue piping, emerged from the glowing light of the hospital’s east entrance and approached the row of parked cars.

He crept out from the shadows as she reached into her handbag for the keys to her car, a grey Toyota.

“Give me your wallet,” he said, as usual. “I have a gun.”

She was in her forties, plump, with frizzy ash blonde hair. She was Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, and Leep had helped her get her father home one day when he’d passed out on the bus stop bench. He hadn’t known she was a nurse.

She looked startled, but they all did.

She said, “Leep, is that you?”

Leep took the gun out of his pocket and pointed it at her. “No,” he said. What was he going to say? “Hey, how’s the old man?”

She had forty-five dollars in her wallet, and in the clear plastic slot for a driver’s licence she instead had a picture of a boy, about twelve years old, staring out from under a red baseball cap.

Leep threw the wallet as hard as he could, towards the hospital entrance.

“Go get it,” he said.

When Theresa turned, Leep ran. He took the back alleys, crossed parks now damp with dew, through shadows of dim unlit streets until he reached his house.

He felt sweat trickle down his torso and prick the back of his neck.

Too hot.

Dilemma

Prompt: Dilemma

herbie-hancock-man-child-columbia-speakers-corner-schallplatte-23860

Beep

“Hi, it’s me. I’m just waiting for a cab. I had to tell someone.

“I don’t want two children. I love him but I just can’t see having all that new responsibility and no one there, really there, for me. I desperately want this child too. I don’t know what to do. What should I do?

“I can’t say everything’s going to end, I’m not leaving or anything. Not today or tomorrow. I don’t know, maybe things will change. But I can’t see it, I’m confused. And how much should I tell him? I know, I know….

“So yeah, I tested positive, he put a baby inside me, despite precautions, and he is just a child himself. A grown-ass man child. Did you warn me? I don’t remember. It wouldn’t have mattered.

“Cab’s pulling up. I have to go, will be away for a week. Can we get together maybe next Thursday? Call me. OK?”

Click

She listened to the message again, then hit the Call Back button. Now she got a recording. Virginia was probably on the plane, in the air, and unavailable. At the beep, she said, “Hi, it’s Envy. I’ll be home tonight and tomorrow night, call. And yeah we can meet on Thursday. Don’t do anything. I’m sorry, and I’m happy, and I’m sorry again.

“Bye.”

Click

 


  • Album art from Herbie Hancock’s Man Child.

If

Prompt: Whisper

child and book

When you are a child, you take your life for granted. You know of no other kind of life; you assume all lives are lived like your own. If you have happy parents, all your playmates do. If your father strikes you, all fathers strike their children. If your parents are white, all parents are white. If you have enough to eat, all children do.

If you are only allowed to whisper when your mother or father is in the room, all children are subject to the same rule. If you spend your Saturdays cleaning the corners of the house, where the walls meet and dust gathers, then all children must have these tasks to perform. If your home has no books, no home has books. If you spend one and a half hours at Sunday school each week, then so do your friends. If your pastor scares you so that you sometimes cry silently, inside your head, then it must be so with all pastors.

If the only book you find in your home besides a Bible is a worn paperback book in the drawer of your father’s bedside table called The Lustful Professor, then all fathers have secret reading. If this book is confusing and strange, then all books are such.

If you find a friend who is as lonely and isolated as you are, then all children find such saviours. If you come to understand that your life is not the same as other children, then all children learn to rise above the circumstances of their life.

And if you want your voice to be heard, so do all the people in all the world.

 


  • Image: “The Difficult Lesson”,1884. Bouguereau.

Promiscuity

Prompt: Earth

starchild

Please don’t think we were a bunch of animals rutting recklessly in outer space. Honestly, we were not.

The fact that Sara did not know who the father of her child was indicated a certain carelessness, but during those last months before we reached Beta Omega we were, I think partially insane. All of us. How would you feel, careening to a new planet you only hoped would be habitable, never to see your loved ones or your home, or a forest, flower, bird, or bacon ever, ever again? And you had the responsibility of ethically, intelligently, peacefully and safely populating a new world?

I could have been more careful, too. After all, my child would need to have a different father from his or her future partner, if they wanted to ensure they produced healthy children. There were eight of us, enough for a safe pool of DNA to mix and match, if we were careful.

As first medical officer, Rosa was tasked to oversee the health of all the unborn children. She spent weeks deconstructing the Sparwood project data, and various other biological  studies, and in the end came up with a startlingly simple solution.

“We will be monogamous,” she said at the meeting.

“Interesting,” said Haven. I could see the wheels turning in Haven’s mind, as she tried to catch Will’s eye, but he was leaning back in his chair motionless, as if he was dozing.

“Bloody hell,” said Ed.

“Of course,” said John. “Human culture is traditionally monogamous.”

“It’s an artificial construct,” said Sara. “A result of the patriarchy.” She tapped on her laptop. John frowned at her. I guessed that he was not one of the potential fathers of the child in her belly. Which got me to wondering, because the only one of the male crew I hadn’t, um, done the dirty with was Ed, whose character I found strangely obnoxious and off-putting, and was pretty sure I wouldn’t even be able to hate F him. But Sara could? I thought I knew her better than that.

“I believe monogamy evolved to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,” I said. I knew I was right. I had read Bauch-McElreath before sleeping last night, not from any scientific curiosity, but because I’d had a bout of insomnia lately.

“We start now,” Rosa said, closing the moleskin notebook in front of her. “When Sara’s child is born, we’ll do all the usual tests to determine paternity.”

“Haven, will you marry me?” Ed said, and everyone laughed.

Chris said, “I don’t actually see the need, Rosa. I think we have enough Solos to prevent any unwanted births.”

“It’s not 100% effective,” Rosa said. “We don’t take chances.”

“No,” said Chris.

And that, my friends, is why I seduced Christopher that very night.

 


  • Image: 2001, A Space Odyssey