Into the Forest (a story in 50 words)

 

 

Trees like a beating heart.

Trees like a beating heart.

Life was noisy.

Snow fell, and the woods beckoned —

It’s quiet here.  Come in.

Sure-footed, she blazoned forth.

Light slanted through the trees like a promise,

A golden haze whispered, Stay.

Standing beside three trees, red as beating hearts

She found a home inside herself.

Quiet to last a lifetime.

 

n.b.  The photo came first.  I wanted to see whether, not only could I write a story in exactly 50 words, but could I create that story inspired by the photo.  I like a challenge.  Thanks to the WordPress editors for this one.  It took me nearly a week to do it.  Hemingway, I am not.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

Highclere Castle sig 2

Highclere Castle in Hampshire, UK.   Fellow Downton Abbey fans will recognize it as home to the fictional Crawley family and their gaggle of servants.  I was taken with the breadth of all those windows, lined row upon row like mute sentinels — letting in light, while repelling the elements; offering up views of the world outside, while keeping the viewer out of sight.

What I’d really like to know is, who’s responsible for cleaning them?

Interested in the Weekly Photo Challenge?  Check it out here.

Alice Falls

Kipling's pond pm~The end of Alice~

The pond was deeper than she expected.  Colder, too.  She felt as though she was sliding, sinking, falling down down down to the bottom — wherever that was.  A sudden flash of memory swam by — Dr. Seuss and McElligott’s Pool.  A kid with a fishing pole and a bottomless pit of water that ends up in an ocean somewhere.

Panic set in as it is wont to do when a person is drowning.  Her mind stopped making sense.  Instead, it fired a final desperate thought: This was how the story ends?  Really?

Bummer.

~Alice’s Parents~

“It’s so quiet without our girl,” her father said.

“It’s quiet because Alice was such a clumsy child, always bumping into things.  A walking, breathing cartoon of ungainly girlhood, she was.  Never had her mind on what she was doing.”

“Not true.  Not true at all”, said Alice’s father. “Alice is a lovely girl.  In another story she might have been a dancer.  We could have called her Clara.”

A slender young man strode into the library.  “Clara?  Who’s Clara?”

“Pay no attention to the old coot,” Alice’s mother replied.  “I haven’t a clue what he’s on about.  He’s a crackpot.”

“Where’s Alice?” the man asked.

“Alice doesn’t live here anymore.  She’s moved.”

Alice’s boyfriend was stunned.

“Can you blame her?” Alice’s father said to his wife.  “You were always at her about something — don’t drink this, don’t eat that, put the key back where you found it – nag, nag, nag.  No wonder she left.”

“Are you saying, it’s my fault?”

“Does a donkey bray?”

The ex-boyfriend turned on his heel and walked out without a word.

The bickering continued.  It never stopped.

~Alice makes up her mind~

Alice had never been able to settle.  No matter where she traveled, how many marvels she discovered, it was never enough, because there was always one irritation that she could not shake.  Herself.

Good, God, she was annoying.  Chasing after some elusive thing.

She knew well enough what she didn’t want: Children; factory work; city living; an overbearing husband (or an even-tempered one for that matter, nope, no husband at all, chalk it up to her parent’s lousy marriage for scaring her off that one).  The list grew longer the older she got.  Her problem was she couldn’t decide what it was she did want.

Until now.

Boxes were still stacked in the foyer of the cottage.  Her cottage.  Her new home. Before she began the task of unpacking, she’d gone to a local market and picked up items for a picnic lunch. Sandwich, chips, some fruit, and a bottle of wine.

It was the pond that sold her.  The water lilies spread like a cape over the surface, fish flicking orange tails just below the surface.  She hadn’t thought of having a pond until she saw this one.  And then, when she did, she knew it’s what she wanted all along.

She had one glass of wine.  That’s all.  Something jumped in the water, and it startled her.  She dropped her glass and it broke, cutting her knuckle.  Then she accidentally knocked over the bottle and the rest of the wine poured out onto the grass as the bottle rolled the few feet and plopped into the pond.

“Dammit.”

She figured she’d kill two birds with one stone.  Retrieve the bottle and wash the blood off her finger at the same time.  She thought about a lot of things in her last few minutes.  Like how much she was going to enjoy living here.  She might even invite her parents for a visit, if they were well enough to make the trip.  Definitely put in a garden around the pond.

She could do anything she wanted now.  After all, she had lots of years ahead of her yet, didn’t she?

 

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n.b.  The object of this DP Weekly Writing Challenge was to begin a story with the end.  It sounded like fun.  It was fun to figure out.  I hope you like it.

Metamorphosis

wilderness 1 pm

It was a myth, of course. But still. When the end came he imagined going out like an elephant, lumbering off into the wild, away from others. Away from family and friends (well-meaning as they were). Dying should be a solitary thing.

Be careful what you wish for, someone pointed out. He might have listened, but he was young.

The change began slow enough, initially. By the time he realized, it was too late. He cursed about the unfairness of it. He drank too much, and smoked excessively. Eventually, he saw that struggle was futile, and he accepted the inevitability.

After that, his spine stiffened and lost flexibility. His neck took on girth. Was his head bigger? It was harder to move it. Even nodding felt awkward and uncomfortable. Surely, his ears had grown — his hearing was so much more acute. It was spring, and a million birds were whistling . . . warbling . . . chirping. Each call clear and distinct from the other. He could hear the hum of bees that swarmed around the lilacs in his neighbor’s yard.

The noise of it made his head hurt.

His skin became grayer and felt thicker. He noticed that he was more sensitive to sunlight. He wanted nothing so much as to wallow in a pool, but there had been no rain for weeks. The sky remained cloudless, the sun unrelenting in its persistence. So, he rolled up his pant legs (this movement, like so many other things, was becoming increasingly difficult to perform). He took his time at the task. Then he dragged a hose into his back yard and filled his unplanted garden with water. He let the cold water from the hose wash over his head and his back while the mud from his garden rose up his ankles. It was a moment sweet with joy.

Take it where it comes, he thought. He knew, above all, that much was true.

When the transformation was nearly complete, he found that his clothes didn’t fit him anymore. His arms and legs were ponderous, hulking appendages that he could no longer articulate without effort. It might have been more bearable if his mind had also been altered, but that was not the case. His was a young man’s brain in a body that didn’t fit.

All he lacked was a trunk.

There was nothing to do but wait for the last, most useful part of his new self. The thing that would make all the other parts work the way they should. At last, his patience was rewarded. He had it all. He raised his trunk and let forth a mighty trumpet blast. As he stood at the precipice of waiting, he saw the place where he would go: A fern-floored forest where sunlight split the top of the trees and shone rose-colored on one massive tree. His tabernacle.

His solitary thing.

n.b. I was intrigued by this week’s DP challenge on Metamorphosis, the purpose of which was to write about a transformation of human to animal form. It made me remember a conversation I had many years ago with someone I loved. It had to do with elephants.

A fool and his folly

iconic stonehenge pm smaller

This is the photo of Stonehenge that set my grandfather’s heart ablaze.

There are variations of my grandfather’s story, but I prefer this one.  Mostly, because it came from my great-aunt Sophie, and she never said anything that wasn’t true.  Or at least, true enough.  She was the keeper of our stories.  From births to deaths, weddings to wakes; new jobs, new homes, new dreams, if it involved a Webster, Aunt Sophie wrote it down.  That job fell to me a few years ago when, at the age of eighty-two, she fell off her bicycle, hit her head, and died.

(Let that be a lesson for you — You are never too old to wear a helmet.  Aunt Sophie would back me up on this if she could.)

This story began fifty years ago when Grandpa Webster had a dream.  In it he dreamed that his ancestors had been druids, and this pleased him immensely.  The whole wise man, mystical nature thing.  He thought it might be true.  But, when he told others about it, they said — Don’t be daft, you foolIt’s just a dream.  So he shut up about it.

Still.  A wisp of the dream remained.

Shortly after that grandpa bought a box.  He was fond of auctions, and even fonder of bidding on blind boxes – blind in the sense that you had no idea of the contents but were willing to chance that there might be something of value inside.  In this instance, the thing of value was the tinted photo of Stonehenge you see above.

How that photograph took hold of my grandfather.  He kept it on his nightstand.  It was the last thing he looked to before he closed his eyes, and the first thing he saw upon waking, his wife coming in a poor second.  But she was patient because she loved him.  And she knew about his druid wish.  For even a wisp of a dream carries a sweet, smoky odor that a good spouse can smell.  She went to the public library and brought back a book — The Stonehenge Myth — and set it next to the photo on my grandfather’s side of the bed.

My grandparents owned a small farm at the time.  Eighty acres on which they grew corn and wheat and raised chickens, sheep, and some dairy cows.  (My father grew up on this farm and knew before he was eighteen that he wanted something else in life, but that’s another story, for another time.)  Four months after his finding the Stonehenge photo, six months after the druid dream, my grandfather dragged home his first big rock, a four foot by two foot slab of stone that he slid off the back of a flat-bed trailer at the end of the sheep field.  The neighbors wondered what use could be made from a stone that size, but my grandmother had an inkling.

Over the next six months, my grandfather brought home twelve more boulders and stone slabs of various sizes.  He paid his four strapping boys and their friends to help him arrange the stones in a circle.  He borrowed a backhoe and a front end loader.  He carried the Stonehenge photograph in his shirt pocket, and when people asked him what in blue blazes was he trying to build, he pulled out the photo and handed it to them.

This, he said.  I’m building this.  It’s iconic.

Some people thought he said ironic.

Over the years, my grandfather and his folly became legend.  There were stories told that he danced drunken and naked in the moonlight among those stones.  Aunt Sophie said that wasn’t true.  She said that he simply found comfort in sitting in that stone circle while the sun rose or set and he could think about the day ahead of or behind him.  It brought him peace.

For my father and his brothers, it brought them something else.  There were more than a few times when they and their friends dared one another to strip and whoop it up around the rocks.  For them, it was a level of coolness others didn’t have.

We were the only kids with Stonehenge in our back yard.

Fifteen years ago, as my grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary approached, their sons wanted to gift them with a trip to England, to see the real Stonehenge, they said.  My grandparents turned them down.  Why spend all that money, when they were happy with the one they had?

I’m no fool, my grandfather told his boys.

It was the truest thing I ever heard him say.

The Webster family Stonehenge that stands in what used to be a sheep pasture on the farm.  The stones are not as big as they look, not nearly like those at the actual Stonehenge, but they were good enough for dancing around in the moonlight.

The Webster family Stonehenge standing in the sheep pasture on the farm. The stones are not as big as they look, certainly not like those at the actual Stonehenge, but they’re good enough for dancing around in the moonlight.

n.b.  This is not a true story.  It is fiction.  I wanted to see if I had a photo that was iconic to me (for the Weekly WP Writing Challenge), and then make up a story to fit the picture.  Also, I have been to the real Stonehenge.  I wasn’t allowed to dance around the stones, though, naked or otherwise.