Words

Prompt: Unravel

night sky evergreens

Folly hadn’t spoken since we visited her abandoned town, except to ask if we could sleep outdoors instead of in the big empty Best Western motel that was situated just outside of Chandler’s Folly. I admit, it was sometimes creepy to inhabit a completely empty place meant for hundreds of warm bodies, beds all made up and ready for customers, the neon sign “Vacancies” still automatically lit at night, an ice machine miraculously still full of ice, and what seemed like miles of empty, gaudily-carpeted hallways.

Life was a lot creepier for Plato and I, before Folly found us. Now there were three of us, which was so much better. Now I had someone who could talk back, though Folly often chose not to. Plato was a good listener, and a good dog, but his language skills were lacking.

When the world ended, poor Folly had wandered in the woods, completely alone, before she stumbled upon me and Plato. Talk about creepy. No wonder she couldn’t remember her real name. She couldn’t even drive, being only eleven. I got my driver’s license as soon as I turned sixteen. That was almost a year ago. My birthday was in two days. Maybe the three of us could celebrate somehow. Birthdays were big deals in my family with cake and the whole thing. I tried not to think about it. I set up the tents and got a small fire going. Folly liked to roast things on an open fire, even plain bread or peaches.

The motel was perched on the edge of the green belt and only a ten minute walk from the campsite. Folly turned up as I was cutting up some cooked chicken for Plato. She brought a box of macaroni and cheese and three Creamsicles for our dinner. Sometimes Plato ate better than we did.

So we sat around the fire after our mac and cheese and after me, Folly, and Plato had eaten our Creamsicles, and talked about birthdays. I wasn’t even bothered that talking to Folly was the same as talking to Plato, meaning I expected nothing in return, really, except I know Plato loved me and Folly was just a kid I didn’t know.

I asked her about her birthdays, just to be polite, and as usual Folly didn’t answer until about half an hour after I asked the question. I wondered if she ever had bouncy castles at her birthday parties; that seemed to be a thing parents did, rent these big inflatable things in red and pink and blue that kids could jump on. So a half an hour later she said, “Yes”, and then went into the tiny pup tent she liked. So much for that conversation. It was weird, but maybe her forced solitude got her comfortable being alone; anyway, I didn’t see much of her for a couple of days.

On the morning of my birthday, which was four days after Folly unravelled after being back at her home town, I awoke wondering if we should go back one more time. She really needed to find her house and her name and her history. It was painful to remember, sure, but without memories of my mom and dad and two sisters and our lives, I don’t know how I could have gone on. Folly maybe needed that too.

So she was grilling some breakfast toast over the fire and I suggested we go back to Chandler’s Folly again, now that we knew what to expect. I didn’t talk to her like she was a stupid kid, what was the point in that? She was the smartest person I knew, even if she was the only person I knew.

She actually spoke. She said, “Come with me?”

So I walked with her back to the Best Western motel and beyond, to what looked like a car dealership. I was curious about this. Maybe her father or mother had sold cars? What was the connection?

She led me to a monster of a motor home. Something called a Thor Venetian. Pasted on the door was a red bow, the kind you might find on a small, wrapped Christmas present.

I looked at Folly. She had her usual blank expression, except for a slight air of impatience. So we went inside.

Well it was like a fancy dollhouse, but cosy, you know? Lots of faux suede and tile in muted tones of beige and white, clean and new. I was interested in the driver’s cab, but she nudged me along until we were at the built-in dining area where, I swear, an iced, two layer birthday cake sat in the middle of the faux marble topped table.

There were unlit candles in the cake. The icing was chocolate.

“I made it,” said Folly. “Duncan Hines.”

“You are smart for a kid,” I told her.

“I’m not a kid,” she said.

This was one of the longest conversations we’d ever had.

But I wasn’t thinking about that at the moment. The cake was exactly like the boxed cakes my mother used to make for my birthday. Yes, stale and dry and delicious. The icing came from a package that didn’t even need refrigeration to stay fresh, but it tasted good anyway.

We ate the cake, and gave some to Plato. We washed it down with cold milk. We didn’t sing Happy Birthday or anything.

At the end of the day, as I sat by the fire trying to figure out if we should travel in my red Jag from now on, or in this mammoth motorhome, I realized that I myself had barely spoken since Folly had shown me the cake. She had said nothing more, and now snored in her pup tent.

The sky was again a canopy of stars, which seemed to get brighter every night, framed by spikes of tall spruce and cedar.

Sometimes, I realized, words had no meaning. No purpose. No use.

Conquer

Prompt: Conquer

yin yang fish

Beth wondered how much to tell him, as she snuggled close, her arm draped over his waist and her middle finger idly stroking his breast bone while he slept.

It wasn’t love. It wasn’t just lust, either, exactly. It was an almost Zen contentment, a match, a yin and yang, a yearning perfectly met. Theirs was a playful relationship, without intimacy, but with good food and fun and flirting and far too long in bed. Beth was reeling from the intoxication of it, she walked just a bit above ground, she was just a bit too forgiving, a bit too ready with a smile that couldn’t be contained.

There was no reason she should feel ashamed of anything in her past. Ok, her military husband left her for a man while she was pregnant. Ouch that did hurt, but didn’t really reflect on her, since in the end she was well rid of the bastard.

A single mom then, basking in the attentions of a rich man, who some might say bought her “services”. She didn’t look at it that way. Roman was lovely, attentive, in love, and Beth was young and desperate and tired of the struggle. Who could condemn her for that?

And Deborah. Beth had never really approved of Deborah’s husband, Vincent, but Deb was like her father— there was no stopping her when she wanted something. They shared a healthy ego, confidence, and the sense that the world owed them a happy life. He hadn’t met Deb yet, hadn’t heard the story of Vincent’s murder. How would it sound to him?

Vincent was out walking late at night (why?). He was robbed. It happens. But how often does the robber shoot their victim in the face? It was more than a robbery; Beth could feel it. No one had ever explored any other motive for the crime. But Beth could add. She knew Vince. Something happened that night.

And Beth didn’t know how to explain it to Geoffrey, or even if she should try. She longed to talk about it with someone. Geoffrey, deep in a dream adventure, was breathing heavily next to her, smelling strongly of his cologne, Makizmo.

Yes, and that scent had to go. It had been Vincent’s cologne too. Very musky and sweet. The smell of it upset Deborah, and even Deb’s strange friend Leep noticed it.

Beth had a little gift for Geoffrey on the night stand. A new cologne. Musky, grassy, citrusy, fresh, and not Makizmo. It was called Conquer.

A new cologne. Beth knew how foolish it was to set landmarks in relationships, but she set one anyway.

Conquer meant both defeat and victory.

Beth moved even closer, and Geoffrey, in his peace and comfort, started to quietly snore.

In Case You Missed It: My Love

Prompt: Expectation

war-of-roses-2

In Case You Missed It:
February 14, 2016

My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin and thorny toes.
…Now that’s not true, his feet are heaven,
Soft, with toes of three and seven.
That’s ‘ten’ in case you cannot add,
That’s just how many toes he had.
And still does have, I’m trying to rhyme,
It’s tricky as I’m short of time.

But still, my love has silken eyes,
Whate’er that means, and when he sighs,
My heart leaps up—but that’s not so
‘Cause that can mean he’s doesn’t know
What’s in my head, and that frustrating
And not a state worth celebrating.
But when he sighs for love of me,
Then my heart plays a symphony.

My lord, this poem has gone astray,
But I’m not done, please let me say:
His hair is mostly there, and grey,
And when he laughs, I want to pray
And thank the gods for his accent
Which is of Lancashire descent.
For when I want to smash his face,
He’ll drop an H, and we’ll embrace.

My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin, and thorny toes.

Poem©Fluffy Pool

Love is…

Prompt: Lovingly

love-sorry

Yes, love is saying you are sorry. I don’t know what the above picture is; I just downloaded it from google images. It is cheesy, but so is the way most of us think about love. I’ve been here on earth a fairly long time, loving and losing or succeeding or felled by exhausted confusion. I have lived enough to know that love is not a fluffy romantic dream, summed up in a platitude. It is precious because we prepare ourselves for it, and enter into it with both heart and eyes wide open. We love people not just in spite of their flaws, but also because of them.

Anyway, thank you to all the wonderful people in my life who have said they were sorry and to those who accepted my apologies with a loving heart.

Or a Catastrophe and Day 11

Prompt: Or

dog-sweet-eyes

Today, as I was taking a break from NaNoWriMo,  I asked my dog, “Is what happened in the US election a disaster, or a catastrophe?”

He looked back at me with his puddly brown eyes. They said, “What election? I feel fine. Why do you look unhappy? Can I have a treat, or a scratch behind the ears? I love you. When’s dinner?”

Why doesn’t everyone have a dog?

I hesitate to be unkind

Prompt: Guest

king of hearts

My uncle was born to immigrant parents on May 24, Victoria Day in Canada, so in homage to their new home they named him Victor.

He was their youngest son, undoubtedly spoiled and pampered by my grandmother, and partner in crime with my father as they grew up poor in Vancouver. The apocryphal story goes that they had no money for the movies, so as the patrons filed out after a film showing, they joined the crowd and walked in by walking backwards. They sold newspapers on the street, like characters in a musical comedy. They played baseball. They loved music of all kinds, especially American pop (Dean Martin) and opera.

Uncle Vic had a dog, and he used to play hide and seek with it at home. The thing is, his dog was blind, and Vic used to go into the clothes closet and hang from the clothes rod, to confuse his dog. My family finds this story hilarious. Vic would hurt nothing and no one, so he was allowed to be charmingly, weirdly nasty when he played hide and seek with his blind dog.

He and two brothers enlisted in the military at the onset of World War II, all of them very young. Vic signed up for the navy (my father air force, and my other uncle, army).

Uncle Vic, possibly before his marriage and definitely after his divorce, was a kind of a 50’s era playboy. Dark, handsome, athletic, with a lazy, open smile, he belonged in a rat pack, since he was cocky and funny– but never smug. He remained friends with all “his women”, including his ex-wife, with whom he had two children. And his women got along with each other. Family gatherings often included a fascinating mix of beautiful women. It was a world so outside my understanding, so different from my father’s life. Unlike my other relatives, Uncle Vic had some connection to sex. You could just tell.

Vic did card tricks– or rather magic tricks. He was jaw-droppingly good, entirely professional. Your missing playing card would be in your jacket pocket, or pinned to the door with a carving knife. I never learned any of his magic secrets. Damn it.

He was a union man all his life, even when he was promoted to management– a move that rendered him less dangerous and threatening to the corporation. At one time he was head of Human Resources. My brothers were all hired for jobs in the mills or forests. He called friends and family who hinted for jobs “arm-twisters”.

Vic loved to perform. He recited Casey at the Bat and The Salmon Run from memory at family gatherings. Do you know The Salmon Run? It goes like this:

I hesitate to be unkind
But the salmon has a one track mind
Once every season full of fire
He swims up stream higher and higher
From dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn
From morn to night and night to morn
Up rocks and rapids, up streams and hills
Up high cascades, up grassy glades
Up canyons steep. through waters deep
Up stones and rocks, up dams and locks
From day to night from dark to light
Until at last on one bright dawn
He gets there just in time to spawn.

Now having done his salmon duty
Now having wooed his salmon cutie
And weary from his trip up town
In quiet waters he will drown
Pondering with his dying bubble
Why sex is so damn much trouble?

Vic denied the use of Grecian Formula for years and years; as his contemporaries greyed, his hair remained thick and black. We didn’t believe him then, but I do now. Vic had no reason to sprout grey hairs. He didn’t worry. He was Victor every day, and that was enough. He had no agenda, he had no stressful secrets, he refused to fret and fuss when it would do no good at all. He slept the sleep of a man whose conscience was clear. The salt and pepper hair arrived eventually, but it was guilt-free. No-stress, happy grey hair.

We never invited Vic to anything. It was a family joke. He would turn up anyway.

He married a lovely and beautiful woman, and many thought she “tamed” him; but he really just adopted a more recognizable set of manners. He was always a gentleman. They made a handsome couple, and a loving one.

He loved family. He loved my father, and was there for him when he started to fail. My mother, who resented what she saw as a flightiness and irresponsibility in the young Victor, looked at him with new eyes. He never noticed her attitude towards him (if he did notice, the knowledge gave him no grey hairs, because he was Vic). He always treated her with love and respect. In time, my mother felt the same way.

He talked about my father after my father passed away. He told stories. He was a good story-teller. He called me by my childhood name. He was loyal. His second dog was a miserable little thing called Willie, that he loved with all his heart. He also loved the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a lot of love. He was sentimental, but it was natural and normal and welcome. He was the last of his generation in our family.

Vic looked like a glass of red wine was part of his physical body, so right and natural was it in his hand.

Uncle Vic died this morning, peacefully. I seem to have forgotten how to write, but I wanted to say something.

Alarm

Prompt: Burn

smoke-detector-monitoring-system

“You have to know I would never harm you,” Marcus said.

“Setting fire to the house with me in it kind of belies that statement,” said Envy.

Twice he had tried to reach across the table to take her hand, and twice had been rebuffed, once by the guard, and once by Envy herself.

He didn’t look like a prisoner waiting for a trial date. He looked like he had just turned up from a round of golf: a little tanned, a little tired, wondering what was for lunch. In fact, an outsider who observed just the two of them, seated at a small, pine-veneered table, would have pegged Envy for the convict; her hair was tangled, she was pale and nervous, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She was still a little battered from the fall from the balcony. Never a famous beauty to begin with, Envy was not at her best.

“The smoke alarms should have warned you,” said Marcus. “Why didn’t they?”

“That will remain a mystery for the ages,” said Envy, “since they were destroyed in the conflagration.” She wore a gold chain with a diamond-encrusted cross pendant. She was thinking of returning to the church.

“You saw how upset I was,” said Marcus.

“That I survived,” Envy said.

For the third time, Marcus tried to take her hand. This time she slapped it. She was surprised to see his face contort in something that looked like pain. Existential or physical? she wondered.

“When did you stop loving me?” Envy said at last.

Marcus fiddled with the little sign in its plastic casing, propped up on the table. No touching. it said. No item exchange. No food. No shouting. Visitors and/or residents can and will be removed at any time at the guards’ discretion. No smoking.

Marcus looked out the window to an empty field, then back to Envy. “I never stopped loving you,” he said. “That’s why I asked you to come. I need your help.”

“Carmen got the police to describe you only as a ‘person of interest’,” Envy said.

“Carmen?”

“Your lawyer.”

“Ah.”

“That is the help I am giving you,” said Envy. “Take her advice. Tell the truth for once in your fucking life.” She stood up and leaned on her crutches. “And I’ll pray for you.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Marcus.

“Exactly,” said Envy.