Zenquill moves house- Old stuff – October 2008

Bored to Death

The snowy white tablecloth looked out of place, its edges flapping against a warm breeze that swam around our arms and legs. Sweat trickled down my spine, and stopped at the band of my funereal pants, and I silently chastised myself for not wearing a little black dress. The table before me was laden with food – an oasis amid the arid and tiny backyard where we gathered. Flies buzzed about with great expectation and people made polite conversation. Impossible not to, given we were standing shoulder to shoulder before a sinking Pilbara sun. I shifted my weight, my heels sinking into the dirt as I glanced around the tiny yard. The grass that dared to grow ran in a feeble strip along the back fence – fed by the neighbours run off. The rest of the lawn was sadly deceased and trodden to gritty red earth. 

I moved toward the table, my glass sweating profusely in my hand. The evening was becoming equally oppressive, just as the afternoon had been and I wondered when would be the appropriate time to feign the start of a migraine. I thought of Big Len and couldn’t help thinking that if these were the best of his mates, then he probably died of boredom. The polite conversation continued as I flipped back an errant corner of cloth and wiped at a creamy blob where the corner had landed in a container of French onion dip. 

My movement toward the food snapped an invisible force-field that pulsed silently around the table, safe keeping the food from human gluttony. As my hand retreated with the blob on my thumb, the crowd descended along with the flies, manners now gone with the searing heat of the afternoon sun. All conversation died as lip service took on a new form. Sounds of dipping and chipping and sipping took over, complemented by the gagging splutters of an old bloke inhaling a corn chip with salsa. I stood back and observed the bizarre and unusual scene. This was strangest wake I had ever attended. 

Coming from inside the house, the sounds of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana brass grew to an embarrassing level of loudness. I slipped my drink through the tangle of arms that reached for the table, and set the glass down. I stood back and rubbed furiously at my temples for effect, and begged Big Len’s forgiveness, wishing him a long and happy Nirvana. It was time to go home.

 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2008

Prayer

On the edge of eastern Australia a young girl wakes with a start. Thunder rumbles over her house and despite the late hour, she quickly crawls from the warmth of her bed. Her flaxen hair is knotted from tossing and turning. She rubs at her eyes, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and then kneels down to the floor. She faces the bed, closes her eyes, brings her palms together in prayer, and then lowers her head, her lips mouthing her thanks and begging forgiveness for falling asleep. She prays that God will keep her mother and father alive. She forgets to ask the same of her brother. His tormenting ways expel him from her nightly requests. 

Her form is tiny, hunched there on the floor. She is barely nine years old yet her list of concerns is far reaching for one so young. She prays for the dogs and cats of the world, that they be kept safe and out of the rain. She prays to come first in the class this year for she knows that if God were to lend a hand with her grades, she would not have to ask him for a new bike. Her parents have promised her that already. 

In the midst of her appeal, her eyes open and she stares up at the moon that is framed by the window above her bed. Her mind wanders from prayer, to a scene that she caught on the T.V last night. The image of a small African boy fills her head; his ribs so pronounced you could strum them like strings on her father’s guitar. She recalls the swell of the boy’s belly and the flies that crawled in and out of his mouth- into that dark empty space that rarely gets filled. 

She shakes the image away but in the darkness as she prays by her bed, his eyes return like a die-cast image of anguish moulded to haunt her. Those almond shaped holes burn into her thoughts. She has stared at the boy’s ravenous eyes long enough to never forget. They imprint for a lifetime to come. 

She saw the pain in his face, then his image was gone, and the screen became crammed with big burly blokes chasing a ball down a field; their faces filled with a pain that would never compare. With the flick of a switch by her father’s hand, their life had resumed its usual course – dinner in front of the tele with a side of ignorant bliss. She wonders if her family saw what she saw in the little boy’s eyes –if they heard the screams in her head that were snagged on the barbs of his pain. 

She closes her eyes and returns to her list, adding the boy with the almond shaped eyes. She prays that wherever he is, God will keep him alive. She hears the rain spatter against the roof and she crawls back into her bed. She lies in the dark and stares up at the moon. It is a long time before she is able to sleep.

 TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2008

Remains

Stillness befalls the darkened house and Jonah slips from the warmth of his bed, the cold night air encircling his tiny frame. In a well-rehearsed ritual, he silently pads from his room to the landing at the top of the stairs. He trails an old shawl of his mother’s behind him. It has been colder these past few nights. He carefully negotiates the top stair, avoiding the spot that creaks and complains when placed under pressure. He slowly descends and then squats, feeling the stubbly prickle of the carpeted step through the thinness of his cotton pyjamas. They are hand-me-downs but from whom, he is not sure. He has no brothers or sisters. 

Through the slats of the banister, he stares down into the lounge room, where he sees the fireplace glowing. Its warmth fails to reach him. He is oddly comforted by the dark, preferring not to be seen. He watches his father hunched in a chair, cradling a near empty bottle of booze like it might be a loved one. He toys with the notion that one-day soon, he will edge down these stairs and instead of a bottle it will be him in his father’s arms, sharing the remains of the day. His father’s face is lit with the dancing reflection of orange flames. Despite the flickering glow, his eyes fail to register light of any description. He appears as a dead man sitting. 

Jonah shivers. He swaddles himself with the shawl, cuddles his knees into his body to ward off his sorrow. It has been like this for months-since the death of his mother. The clock on the mantle strikes one, and the clang of the bell sees his father roused from his stupor. He watches his father raise the bottle and drain the remains. Jonah clutches the shawl and scrambles silently back up the stairs. He slides into the tepid warmth of his bed, and then turns on his side, away from the sound of his father crying. 

Snagged

Beth slipped the key in her pocket and stood with her back to the door. The weather had turned and a low hanging blanket of grey spread over the ocean. She stared toward the water, at a jagged line of debris that stretched the length of the beach. It formed an unsteady line that divided the forces of nature. 

She rubbed at her arms and considered going back in for her coat, yet decided against it. What harm could a little rainwater do? The quiet of the cottage had driven her out. There was little to do now the others had gone and returned to their make believe worlds of rip, tear and bust. She liked living here – having her friends down for the week every once in a while. It made her feel close in a distant way. It gave her a taste of the world she denied she was missing. 

At the end of the beach, she could see her neighbours preparing to fish. It had become a Thursday night ritual to join them. On Fridays she pan-fried her catch in an old frying pan that her mother once owned. She decided on spending the evening tossing a line and spinning a yarn with her neighbours. The T.V was broken and she hated the silence of being alone. 

The light was beginning to fade, and a slice of sun slipped between cloud and horizon. It flooded the ocean in hues of deep violet and pink. This was her favourite time of the day, yet still she felt restless. She set off along the grassy path that joined her cottage to the sand, and she collected a small lantern that sat at the end of the path. She kicked off her shoes, hearing her mother’s voice nagging her as she went…”watch your feet – there could be syringes…”  She shut out the voice in her head and enjoyed the squeaky grittiness of the sand against the souls of her feet. 

Up ahead, she saw Pete. She watched him casting his rod and saw the line snag straight away. Beside him sat all the usual props – esky, stools and an orange crate he had stolen from the dairy. On the upturned crate sat an old wireless – its music winding toward her as she walked. She smiled at the notion that Pete still believed the music enticed the fish. 

Dancing about nearby was Pete’s wife Elsa, and their five-year-old son. Their laughter lifted high on the salty breeze. They both began waving as they spotted her heading toward them. 

“I was just coming to see you,” Beth shouted to them, holding the lantern high in the air. Her hair flew about her face and whipped at her eyes and mouth. She could taste salt on her lips already. 

“Have they gone yet?” Elsa shouted into the wind. Her son stopped to investigate a burrowing crab. 

“They left a while ago…” Beth answered now close enough to no longer scream to be heard. 

“You ok?” Elsa asked. 

“I’m fine…” 

“He didn’t show, did he?” 

“Nope – no biggie – I’ll just consider it my final fling…” Beth flippantly replied, though her heart was twisting in half. An uncomfortable silence fell between them and was quickly filled with the returning roar of the ocean. 

“The inconceivable dream, perhaps,” Beth added, her smile quickly vanishing. 

She watched Elsa chase after her son who was chasing a squawking gull through the line of the weed left on the beach. Beth turned her attention toward the sea. The setting sun had drained the colours away and left her alone with the earliest shades of darkness. 

“I thought you might need this,” she said, turning and offering the lantern to Elsa. 

“I think tonight, I’ll stay in,” she added. 

“You sure you don’t want to fish?” 

“I should probably go home – clean up a bit…Make sure you catch me one,” Beth called, edging away, increasing the distance between them. 

“Sure…” Elsa linked hands with her son and then led him back to the music. 

Beth dug her feet into the sand and propelled herself back up the beach. At the edge of the grassy path that led to her door, she saw the car through the trees as it travelled the road. She reached the cottage just as it pulled into her drive. Her hand wrapped around the doorknob, and with the key in the lock – she froze as she stared at the car, and waited for the driver’s door to open. He had come after all. He got out of the car and in the poor light she failed to see the woman in the passenger side. She studied the woman as she climbed from the car and relaxed when she saw the ageing face and the obvious hunch of the old woman’s shoulders as she attempted to straighten.  

Beth turned the key and opened the door and then stood and watched them walking toward her. It was too late to pretend to be out; and too early to tell why he had come; why he had brought the old woman along. The woman looked the same as she always had – though more weathered, perhaps. Beth watched him climb from the car and smile the way he always did, and she could feel herself fold on the inside. By the time they had reached her, the rain had begun and Beth longed for the warmth of the coat she had left inside. 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2008

Lifeline

Pollen litters the surface of the bench top. She sees it the minute she walks through the door into the kitchen. She drops her bag, grabs the sponge and wipes the tiny yellow pinheads away. She stares at the vase on the bench. It is brimming with last week’s dying white lilies. The cycle of death returns once again. She rinses the sponge and places it perfectly straight against the edge of the sink, and then dries her hands on a snow-white hand towel. She surveys the rest of the kitchen. Everything is spotless and tells her that her daughter, Lisa, isn’t home yet. 

Lifting her bags from the floor, she unpacks them on the bench she has just cleaned. The items cluster together one last time before they are separated into their respective homes. There are lentils, beans, some fresh broccoli and cauliflower. The habit of veganism lingers. She leaves the lentils to one side, mentally making soup for dinner for the two of them. The weather has turned in the past week and she can feel the promise of winter wrapped in these early autumn days. The chill in the air reminds her of her husband and the approaching anniversary of his death. She brushes the memory away as though it were frost on her shoulders. 

 Placing the vegetables into the fridge, she sees the note Lisa has attached to the fridge door with a magnet her father brought home from the States years ago. It is a smiling pink pig.

“Mum…I’ll grab something while I’m out – don’t wait up…Lisa.” 

She plucks the note from the pigs mouth as the image of homemade lentil soup is quickly replaced by toast and green tea in front of the television. A long heavy sigh slips through her lips as she contemplates a night home alone. 

She gathers the dying lilies from the vase on the bench and upends them in the trash, along with the note. With the kitchen in order, she then moves through the house. It is still a house more than a home with its straight lines and perfect curves. The place is near new, bought with money from her late husband’s estate. It’s like walking through an architectural blizzard – everything white and smooth – the walls, the furniture, even the prints on the walls are pale and insipid.It seems like all colour has washed from her life though the memories remain as vivid as ever. 

 She sees the dining table strewn with paper – mostly brochures and travel itinerary. She can feel the knot begin to wind in her gut again. Irritation pinches her mouth to a grimace as she moves to the table edge and with one finger, opens the front flap of a brochure.  Azure blue water sparkles up at her as sailboats bob along, seemingly without a care in the world. Their decks are sprinkled with overly beautiful women and men sailing toward the edge of the paper. She closes the brochure and notices the airline ticket amid the mess. Its one-way status glaring back at her. In a weeks time her daughter will be one of those overly beautiful people having the time of her life. She searches her mind for excuses to make her stay and has managed to stall her a couple of times but it seems time has run out. Her boat has reached the edge of her paper where their journey ends, where her daughter will sail on into uncharted waters. She fights the compulsion to tidy the mess; to straighten and control her external surrounds. Moments pass and she moves from the table, aware that her life line is slipping slowly away from her. Her daughter is leaving, seemingly without a care in the world. 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2008

Siren

The dispatcher’s voice comes in staccato bursts interrupting the radio static. Noah snatches up the radio handset. He speaks softly into the small device, like he is sharing a secret. His partner drives and they’ve just started work. It’s typically quiet for a Monday. The rain has fallen all morning and the remains of a jam filled bun sit balled in plastic wrap on the dash, oozing a sticky river of red. 

Noah detects the concern in the dispatcher’s voice and flicks on the siren. The ambulance surges to life, weaving and wailing its way with astonishing speed. They respond to a call for assistance – a multiple vehicle MVA-fatalities already established on site. He braces himself for the worst he can possibly think of. Regardless, these wretched imaginings rarely protect him. What starts as a small taut knot in his gut, winds itself into the churning sensation of fear. Every time.

They pull up at the scene and he is out of the car, assessing the mayhem, battling his way through the hordes that adhere to the edge of disaster; they are like globules of fat that cling to the edge of a pan – useless and idle, fulfilling no purpose other then to feed their own tedious life’s ravenous need for excitement. They enrage him and he barges through like they barely exist.

He spots the first wreckage – it is unrecognisable and he figures the occupants probably match. The rain is beginning to soak through his clothes and the taste of that sweet sticky bun starts to sour in his mouth. Through a cluster of onlookers, he sees an officer hunched over a body, and he watches him rock back and forth in that slow rhythmic life saving motion. It is futile; the victim is already a corpse. 

As Noah moves closer, his most wretched imaginings pale in comparison to what he can now fully see. The corpse is his wife and beside her lays Jonah, his motionless son. The rain steadily falls, and the blood that spills from their wounds forms an oozing river  that runs to the tip of his shoes. Noah folds like a paper doll and the last thing he sees is that river of red rushing by. 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2008

Magician

I fling open the door and bat my way through balloons. I’m late and my arms ache with the weight of Freddie’s gift I have lugged from next door. I hear the others screaming and cheering in the backyard and that hollow sound of a bat smacking a ball tells me the game has begun. 

I carry Freddie’s present into the kitchen where Granny Bea hunches over the open oven. The sticky sweet smell of Freddie’s ninth birthday cake settles under my nose. 

 “Games started,” Granny Bea winks at me, nodding toward the back door. 

“You might get a bit of a hit before the cakes ready,” she says. 

I dump the present on one end of the table. The other end is covered in party pies, dips, and silly pink cupcakes, obviously just for the girls. I snatch up a couple of party pies, and stuffing one in my mouth, I greet my friends outside. 

Freddie crash tackles me to the ground, and my party pie squelches into my hand. 

“Where’ve ya been?” he asks, releasing his grip. 

 I get up, lick the pie from my hand and wipe the remains down the leg of my shorts. The usual crowd has turned up, plus a couple of ring-ins. Cousins, probably. I feel nervous as I take everyone in. Where is he, I wonder? He said he’d be here. We play for a bit; all the while I’m checking the gate, waiting for him to arrive. 

Freddie flicks a six stitcher at a ring-in. 

“Let’s see what yer made of,” he screams. He sounds just like his dad. 

The guys take up fielding positions, while the girls take themselves inside to the table and the woosie pink cupcakes. I put myself right outfield. I know how hard Freddie hits. The ring-in cranks his arm, runs and delivers the ball. It connects with the bat. An alarming crack shakes through the yard as the ball sails over our heads, landing in the old shed near the back fence. 

I run after the ball, buffalo grass crunching under my feet. As I near the shed,  I hear Granny Bea calling us in – the cake is ready. Nudging the shed door right open with the rubbery tip of my sneaker, I see the ball rocking to a standstill. 

I swoop, pick it up and as I stand, there he is, right in front of me, smiling, sitting cross-legged on the table inside. There are brightly coloured plant pots stacked either side of him. I recognise the long dark ringlets that hang from his bandana and those piercing blue eyes that splay me apart like they know my inner most secrets. He wears the same baggy trousers; harlequin patterned that tuck into bright yellow boots that curl up at the toes. A shimmering emerald, in the shape of a tear, falls from a ring in his ear. And despite the gloom of the shed, the stone sparkles as if it were living. 

“I didn’t think you’d come,” I say, catching my breath. He adjusts a long ivory horn that is slung from his body, and raises it to his lips and blows. An eerie, spooky sound slips from the mouth of the horn on a whispery violet haze. I feel suddenly giddy and the ball drops from my hand. 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2008

Forward

She feels numb as she travels the road and begins to question why she came. Her eyes fix upon the form of the Twelve Apostles before her. To her right lies the calm of earth; to her left is a sea of confusion. Wilted floral arrangements by the side of the road where she parks acknowledge a recent event that part of her still denies. The scent of rotting lilies wafts through the window. The stench reaffirms why she is there. 

She pulls her gaze from the rocks below, opens the car door and walks around to stare down at the dying flowers. The day is drenched in sunshine yet she is so consumed by misery; this scene beside her thwarts any previous happiness. 

 A small crucifix rises through the decaying lilies. Upon it, someone has etched her son’s name. Despite the distance that separated them over the years, it remains surreal, to come here and acknowledge his passing. She opens the car door and leans toward the passenger foot well to retrieve a ceramic urn. She steps from the car and with eyes clenched tight against a rising wind, she unscrews the lid and releases her only child’s ashes. 

 His remains fly about in the sky and then head for the ocean. There is something deeply spiritual in the way Mother Nature carries him away, and the sea calms as if welcoming him home. She carries the emptied urn back to the car, gets in and drives. There are no last minute glances, no lingering looks in the rear vision mirror. It is time to move forward. 

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2008

Moonlight

In the corner of the room, a lantern throws a feeble light. A moth flits chaotically above it, casting an erratic shadow dance onto the wall. A large window is heavily armed with drapes that reach from ceiling to floor. By day, they are closed. By night they are like an eyelid that opens, allowing a view of the external nocturnal world. 

 A small boy tugs at the drapes, dividing them. A splash of moonlight spills into the room, basking him in a milky film that puddles around his feet. His face is angelic and pale; his eyes, red-rimmed and the same colour blue that appears between clouds on a summer’s day. Tight rust coloured curls border his delicate features.

Outside, a rugby match plays on a neighbouring field. He watches the boys, who are all older than him, run up and down with the wind in their hair. 

“Do you want to go down and watch?” his mother asks. She sits on his bed, repeatedly smoothing his sheets. 

 “No,” he answers. 

She studies his frame; takes in his delicate features as her sadness takes over in general. Life is unfair. She waits for his question-the same one he asks every night. 

 “Will I always be allergic to sun?” he asks.

“Yes, James,” she answers. “It’s very rare,” she adds. 

“Because I’m special…”  

“Yes, because you are special. Very special,” she answers. 

He tugs again at the curtains, closes the eye of his nocturnal world and retreats to his bed and his ongoing world of darkness. 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2008

Flutter

I don’t think about the next hour. I just think about your next breath and I coil myself up in the moment, my arms all around you as best I can. Your hand, so small and pale curls softly around my thumb. Like a fragile leaf that clings to a tree, you could flutter away in the next breath of air and I know that my darkest hour is yet to come. 

The leads and the tubes tangle and twine like accustomed old lovers reacquainted again; a mending braid that connects you to life –  to me. A battle scar travels the length of your chest and the warriors have stifled your cries. I hear the gentle purr of machines, those robotic angels that watch over you, and never give up. 

I trace the beats of your heart as blimps on a screen. It is my lifeline of hope bobbing about on the dark sea of a monitor screen; your chaotic rhythm of life that will not be calmed by science or prayer. I watch you draw breath and I cling to hope, to you, to whatever it is that keeps me present in the moments we have. 

Just before dawn, in those seconds before the warmth of that God coloured part of the day unfolds, and the world kicks slowly to life – you shudder, like your soul is waving goodbye. Quietly, without fanfare or fuss, you flutter away, your tiny hand still curled around my thumb. My arms all around you as best I can. My bleakest hour. My little one. How I miss you already. 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2008

Christmas Cheer

A smouldering cauldron bubbled and spat in the corner of the room. Beside it, an old man in long robes clutched a long handled spoon. He stirred and stabbed at the gurgling pot. Outstretched on a nearby table lay a cat, ugly and grey, its skin crinkled and creased. It had china blue eyes that peered through small slits in its head, and strangely enough, had two opposable thumbs, allowing it access to a world unexperienced by regular cats. It haphazardly batted the remains of a mouse, occasionally picking it up for closer inspection. 

 Shelves over the table held various jars.

“Hand me that one,” said the old man. The cat reached up and took down a jar labelled ‘Humanity’, and handed it over. “You’re wasting your time on them, you know that,” said the cat, stretching itself into a perfect arch. 

“Don’t be so dreary. Besides, its only once a year…” the man said, pouring a liberal sprinkling of humanity into the pot. 

“How are we off for ‘Compassion’ this year, he added. The cat lifted a near empty jar from the shelf and inspected it closely. 

“There’s a dram or two left. You want it?” 

“Please,” added the old man – taking the jar from the cat’s outstretched paw. 

“You better add some good will and cheer,” sneered the cat. 

“Already in, thanks all the same,” the old man replied, detecting the note of sarcasm in his feline apprentice’s voice. 

“S’pose you are the alchemist, not me. I just get to wash up. So, when are you pouring this puppy?” the cat asked. 

“Nearly done. Should be set in about seven minutes. You want to help me?” 

“Oh, I suppose so. You only want me for my thumbs,” 

“Not true,” 

 Together, they poured the mix into a large tablet shaped mould, and watched it set instantaneously. Flipping the giant pill from the mould, they rolled it outside. They stopped just short of a ledge, and curling their respective toes over the edge of their world, they peered down at Planet Earth. 

 “Ready?” the old man asked.  

“Uh huh,” 

“On three…one…two…three……..” 

“Merry Christmas,” the old man cheered as he rolled the pill over the edge. 

 The tablet spun through space, and on impact, exploded into a cloud of white dust. 

“Hmm, your aim’s improving. You think it will work this year?” the cat asked, genuinely concerned. 

“Probably not… can’t knock a fellow for trying, though…” 

“S’pose not. I’ll wash if you wipe?” the cat offered. 

“Sure.” 

 MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2008

Candles

Snow settled on my shoulders as I walked the short distance to the church.  The building looked out of place, stuck out in the middle of a snowy expanse like a cheap decoration perched on a cake.  An old man, severely hunched, leaned against the frame of the church door. He looked like a capital “C” standing there, his cane tapping impatiently against the frozen ground. As I neared, I could hear keys jangle in his trouser pocket, his hand buried deep against the cold. I wondered for a moment what I might be keeping him from. Death came to mind – at least I had given the poor soul something to venture out for. 

 Snow crunched beneath my boots, alerting him to my arrival. His cane ceased its monotonous tapping and he lifted his head toward me. A smile creased one side of his mouth and from within the folds of his crumpling face, I saw he had eyes the same colour as mine. He straightened a little, as much as age and arthritis might allow, and he pulled from his pocket a large ring of keys, carefully selecting the one he required. With the key clamped firmly in his fist, he guided it into the lock on the door, leaning his cane against the stone wall, and using both hands to turn. The door gave a little cough as the lock disengaged. The man pulled back the key and then taking his cane once again, he stabbed at the door.  

 The door creaked in protest at the intrusion as it yawned its way open.  The man mumbled to me in his native tongue and waved me forward through the opening, his hand pausing, palm upward, in a gesture that would cinch our deal. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the dollars I knew would be needed. He accepted them, his eyes twinkling gratitude. 

I stepped inside, my boots echoing against the stone floor. Birds fluttered from the rafters, seeking refuge elsewhere beneath the vaulted roof. I looked around at the ruins, at the colourless walls that bled into the faded mosaic floor. I wondered how long it had taken to bleach the life from the place. Opposite where I stood, two towering windows beckoned the light from outside and filled the church with a starkness that emphasised the bitter cold. Before me the congregation once sat, the pews long since rotted and the devout now nothing but dust returned to the earth. 

I walked toward the windows, into the frozen light that bathed the only remaining feature. Steps led up to a stone tablet supported each end by ash coloured blocks. The tablet was covered in dust and splattered with bird shit. It was here that the old priest had touted his word to the throngs. I fumbled through my pack, feeling for the small votive candle and matches I had packed for the journey. I pulled them from my bag and I climbed the three steps to the pulpit and I set down the candle. I lay down my bag, and with both hands, I worked a match from the box, my fingers nearly numb from the cold. 

 I closed my eyes before striking the match and I conjured his image. I opened my eyes and I stabbed the match head hard against the flint of the box, catching the fleeting sensation of warmth against my fingers and face as the match flared.  With trembling hands, I held the flame to the wick and waited for the blue orange glow to begin. The flame grew, dancing in anticipation at the task it had been called to perform. 

I blew out the match knelt before the tablet, and then closed my eyes and bowed my head and prayed to the Saints and the Gods and to any other deity that might consider what I was about to attempt. I let the words of the mantra form in my mind and then slowly spill from my lips, gathering speed and volume and power enough to let me go. I felt the first sign as a tremor in my legs and then the familiar sensation of tumbling backward began. 

When I opened my eyes, the walls were no longer the colour of bleached bone. The warm ochre hue had returned and the church pews stood in lines before me, empty but fully restored. I stood and brushed the dust from my robes and blew gently to extinguish the flame of my candle. I grabbed the candle and dropped it into my pocket, noticing that the matches had once again refused to cross to a time where they were yet to be invented. I would need to find something to light my way back. I ran down the steps and through the church and stopped just by the door.”He is waiting but don’t be long,” said an old man with a cane.

“I won’t…I promise,  I wont,” I said. 

I pushed through the doors, into a sunlit field that was brimming with early spring flowers. In the distance, I could hear a bell tolling and I feared I might miss him. I hitched up my robe, and from the church, through the field, toward the place I knew he’d be waiting, I ran.  I had so much to tell him.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2008

Trepidation

With trepidation, she extended a leg, pointing her toe toward the reflection of sky that filled the lake. They had told her that once the seal breaks, there is no going back. Her toe slid through the surface, painless at first but quickly followed by biting cold that reminded her that all things have consequence. She chewed at her lip – just a little. Just enough to confuse her brain into thinking that this was the right thing to do. Without knowledge of depth, she leaned into the water, willing to trust in this worldwide abyss. As she descended into the deep, she prayed for a safe and fortuitous passage…

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