26 January 2012

"Under the Dogwood Tree" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

It began with a family picnic on that cool November day. Gray shredded clouds lay feathered against the elusive blue of sky. Frosty eddies of air mingled with scents of cinnamon and apple pie, buttery mashed potatoes and sweet raspberry lemonade. A deep-broiled brisket, browned and tender with gravy awaited us as we picked our way through the old cemetery that occupied the corner of Pinecroft and Hillsbury. Warm summer had persisted through the weeks prior to the day and emboldened by a confident forecast, we’d settled on this day to gather and eat in the waning sunshine.
Ours was a strange custom, born of generations encouraged to remain close to those that had gone before us. Memorial parks were still parks after all, and with the headstones flat and nestled in among the freshly-cut turf, one could pretend this was only a place in which to rejoice in the bounties of life.
Lilly, with her little velvet coat and matching dusky rose ribbon in her gold-spun hair, walked with Theodore in his gentle navy blue frock to compliment his dark curls and shining leather uppers. My children. I’d brought them along with Anthony, my loving husband of more than twenty years. His urn sat silent and patient as I chattered to it as if he were lying in the grass beside me. I knew his bones were ash; he never wanted to lie rotting in the ground as his father before him. Still, dinner was had here in Hillcroft Memorial Park, a clever combination of names from the two intersecting streets, and Anthony came along, though he never had much to say.
I glanced up to watch Theodore and Lilly hop over gravestones and relate spooky stories to one another, their high voices carrying bits of their tales to me over the breeze. I wasn’t hungry, but I ate Anthony’s portion anyway. Today was special.
After the children returned to settle and eat, we cleaned our area and locked the basket in the car. Anthony came with us.
“Did you find it?” I asked Lilly, older by two years than her smaller brother.
She blinked and pointed in a direction and we detoured our path. Under the spread embrace of a dogwood tree, I spotted it. The children broke away to reach it before I did. A simple square, set in the ground, blades of grass drooping inward to it. I regarded the urn in my hand. A tear escaped to slide down my cheek.
Only now could I afford to lay him to rest not rotting. He was dust already. Memories of his laugh, his smile, his hand on my cheek raced through my mind. A year. Nothing more. An unstoppable sequence of days, carrying him away from us.
I knelt beside the hole and set the urn in place.
Next year’s picnic, we would eat under the dogwood tree.

19 January 2012

"Resurrection" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

The earth lay covered over with a blanket of fresh-fallen snow. Grave diggers cleared away a patch and broke ground. They worked well into the day, their sweat and breath steaming in the chilly air. When they’d finished, a doorway stood open, sunk into the ground. A haven for the dead. A subterranean bed. A regal casket was carried out by solemn pallbearers, silver watch chains winking in the gloom of black. Fingerprints marring the elegant brass handles were wiped clean with a white handkerchief, produced from an unknown pocket.
Mourners stood in quiet rows, swaying to hypnotic drone of the priest’s eulogy. He blessed the raw earth’s open wound.
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
The coffin sank into the earth on whispering pulleys.
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
Holy water rained down without a sound.
A sharp cry from one of the onlookers punched through the priest’s words. The woman fainted. Prayer continued, though no one was listening.
Light faded from the heavens. The ceremony had come to the final words.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
The fragile form within the luxurious box was sandwiched between heaven and hell, forever locked in earth’s embrace.
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust.
A star shot through the yawning sky. Gentle mists of dew shook from the upper branches of trees in the early morning breeze. Birds  stirred and flitted about overhead, busy already capturing fleeing insects. They chirruped like crickets themselves, obviously pleased with the day’s bounty.
It was a golden sunrise, like the exterior curve of a ripe apple from the fabled Herculean myth. Shrouds of woolen clouds framed the skies, idyllic and yet ignorant in their silent grandeur.
Day returned.

12 January 2012

"The Light" - A Paranomal #Fridayflash

Photo credit: streetfishing from morguefile.com

Rain spattered over the cooling hood like blood, tinted carmine and blue alternately by rotating lights. Stein got out of the car. Ahead of him lay a dead woman marked pale and still by the patrol car’s headlights. He greeted the officer and together they gazed absently at the grisly scene before them.  Her dress, once a deep blue satin, was ripped and sullen. The impact had left her barefoot, as being struck by a speeding vehicle often would. The chance-shower paused, as if catching a breath.

“Around what time was she found?” Stein dipped his fingers into the inside pocket of his wool overcoat to fish out a cigarette. A stray breeze caught the Zippo’s flame, wrestling with the golden tongue before he cupped his hand over the determined tiny fire. The dead woman’s blonde hair was soaked in almost equal halves of blood and rain.

“Around midnight.” The officer’s badge read C. Johnson. His face may as well been carved in flint. He dragged his dark fingers up under his plastic-covered police cap through the wiry salt-and-pepper hairs, reseating it on his head afterwards. “The coroner estimates time of death to be about nine yesterday evening, but the cold could be fucking with her temperature.”

Stein grunted in assent, his eyes dazzled again and again by the camera flash as a photographer captured each fatal detail. The dead woman’s diamond wedding ring cast off a shine like a distant star.

“The driver never stopped. No signs of braking at all. Since the road is so far out, we’re figuring it took hours for the next motorist to drive by and see her lying there.”

Stein shrugged. “Or there were more, but you know people…they don’t like to get involved.”

Johnson snorted. “They would have had to drive around her then, with her right there in the middle of the road.”

Blood pooled around the dead woman’s head, sticky and diluted from the light shower. The cleaners were attempting to separate her body from the blacktop. Stein exhaled a plume of smoke and dropped the cigarette at his feet, fating the fading glow into final darkness on the damp pavement.

The crime scene dissipated like fog in the sun. He turned to the woman who stared with wide eyes, her fingers covering her mouth.  Her deep blue dress lay in solemn folds against her legs. She stepped forward on tentative bare feet.

“Do you remember anything?” Stein considered lighting another cigarette, then decided against it. He stood patient, awaiting the woman’s response. She’d stopped at the edge of where the blood stain had been moments before.

She shook her head. “Teddy and I were fighting—he said some words. We were on our way to my mother’s. He was saying awful things about her.” She turned to face Stein, her makeup smeared in black tracks over her pallid cheeks with tears.

“Go on…”

“I told him that if he hated her so much he shouldn’t have come. He told me he didn’t trust me driving alone. We argued.”

“And then what?”

“He…hit me. He was yelling terrible things. He stopped the car and told me to get out.”

“And did you?”

She nodded. “Yes. He drove off and left me there on the side of the road.” She tucked her bottom lip behind her teeth. “The next thing I knew, you were there. Waiting for me.”

“That’s what I do. Wait.” Stein put an arm around her shoulder, walking her back to his car. Long and low, people said about it when asked. Black, or the deadest shade of purple they’d ever saw. He opened the passenger door and she lowered herself into the ashen seat. Stein got in behind the wheel. Cool blue light washed over his features as the engine rumbled into life. “I’ll get you to where you need to go next.”

The woman instinctively reached for her seatbelt, but found there was none. “Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you home.” He glanced at her huddled against the door with eyes the color of tombstones. “Your name is Allis Forn. You died in 1979. Do you know what today’s date is?”

“No…what is it?”

He told her and she broke into tears. Thirty-two years she’d waited.

They drove towards the light.