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.

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.

Hark, a buzz . . . and then a light

I am a back sleeper.  A plank.  I don’t move in my sleep or thrash about, even in the midst of dreams.  And I do dream.  A lot.  I am dreaming now, of a sound.  It’s the sound of an angry bee somewhere very nearby.  I am terrified of bees.  I have never been stung, but I know it will hurt.  In fact, I am quite sure that I will die.  But right now, I can’t find the bee, I can only hear it, and the fearful part of my brain that is not ready to die from a bee sting becomes more shrill than the buzzing noise.  It shrieks at me:  Wake up!

Then I open my eyes and see a light.

How much time does it take to realize that the light emanates from my cell phone?  And how much more to comprehend the source of the buzzing?  Nano seconds, perhaps.  It feels longer, but I know it cannot be.  I reach for the phone and push the on button, wondering who could this be?  There are no words in the text.  Only a photograph.

In the darkness and the silence, the photo glows.  A sphere of dark shapes are surrounded by swirling colors – yellow, pink, blue, and green.  Who sent this to me, and why?  Is it a mistake?  The number is not one I know.

It is impossible to think rationally when pulled from dreams and presented with a puzzle.  I try to go back to sleep.  Instead, I wonder about the person who sent a photo without explanation at 2AM.  A stranger reaching out to someone else in the middle of the night.  My head is filled with thoughts of wrong numbers and missed connections.  I think about strangers, about all the people there are in the world, and how we are most of us strangers to one another.  Stranger danger . . . Danger, danger, Will Robinson.  We teach our children to run away.

Somewhere a clock is ticking, but I cannot sleep.  My head is crammed with thoughts of strangers.  Of long ago hook-handed madmen who lurked in the dark waiting for lovers to park.  Of boogie-men and nightmares that carry us away; of drowning, falling, flying.  Of noises that bother, unexplainable and irksome, buzzing, buzzing, and then once again back to bees. . . .

Beware the sound of a vibrating phone in the middle of the night.  If it wakes you no good can come of it.

You have been warned.

magic ball pm

There are so many things I should have been doing today.  This was too good a challenge to pass up.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. . . .

It’s my birthday today.  Most of my adult life I have been less than thrilled with birthdays (outside the great excuse for eating lots of chocolate cake).  On my twenty-first birthday I happened to pick up an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, which just happened to have an article – swear to God! – about how physically, it’s all downhill after twenty one.

But life is nothing, if not an interesting journey, right?  This morning I woke up, and in my still dream-fogged brain, this thought occurred to me:  I am not so much getting older, as I am getting more practice at living well and good and happily (most of the time. . .or at least, a proportionately larger percent of the time).  I credit my friend Bob Lee as the reason for this new insight.  He posted a birthday message to me last night that said, Happy 21st again! You must be so good at having those birthdays now. It must have sunk in while I was sleeping.

So, yeah.  Happy Birthday to me!  I am the star of my day today.

The 'Moose hat" picture explained: This was at a fancy dress party (costume party here in the US) at the Fforde Ffiesta June, 2012.  I was 'Moose' Havisham (a combo of Transient Moose and Miss Havisham who are both characters in Jasper Fforde books.  I won first place.

The ‘Moose hat” picture explained: This was at a fancy dress party (costume party here in the US) at the Fforde Ffiesta June, 2012. I was ‘Moose’ Havisham (a combo of Transient Moose and Miss Havisham who are both characters in Jasper Fforde books. I won first place.

It is also my sister’s birthday today.  We are not twins, but we are near twins.  Irish twins, some people tell us, as we are one year apart to the day.  Sharing a birthday was not always easy for us.  Kids do not like sharing birthday gifts, which was something we occasionally had to do.  And we have very different personalities and interests.  About the only trait we have in common is stubbornness, so you can guess how well we got along.

To add to our illusion of our twin-ness, my mother dressed us alike until we revolted.

To add to the illusion of our twin-ness, my mother dressed us alike until we revolted.

But we are grown-ups now, we get along really well and enjoy each other’s company when we can spend time together.  And we never, ever have to share birthday gifts anymore.  Which is good, because she is getting lobster and tequila for her birthday, neither of which I like and one of those things I’m allergic to.  And this is what I got today for my birthday, because I am an avid Dr. Who fan.

Tardis 2 web sz

Care to guess what I plan on keeping in my Tardis?

So, here’s to me and here’s to my birthday twin.  May we live our lives guided by love.

Cheers, y’all!