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SS#5

Prompt : Going Home     Word count : 500     Genre : Drama/Memoir

“I’m going home” I say, slightly irritated with the young woman standing in my way.
“Look at the time already.”

She says something, then calls back into the house. I see the gap and slip out. I wish I knew why I fumble so much these days? Just then the padlock bolts the gate shut. There. That will sort them out. I smile.

Suddenly I feel lost. Everything looks different.
But it is time.
I have to go.
I pretend I don’t hear them calling after me.
I don’t understand them most of the time anyway.
I wonder if they are from another country?

I choose the sidewalk where the sun is not in my face.
It’s bright.
I touch my head; then nod.
Good thing I remembered to bring my hat; I forget it; often.

The trees are changing color.
Is it already that reason… um treason… er, season?
What is that word again?
I lift my head and breathe the musty leaves.
Oh, the very lightness of being.
I try to remember the line.
Was it from a book or a movie?
Whatever it was, it still is a good one.
And it doesn’t matter that I can’t recall it now.
It will come to me later, when I’m home.
It usually does.
But now I must get going.
Otherwise I will be late getting home.

I turn the next corner.
Then I see her.
The old girl is going for a swim.
My, my she is brave.
There’s a chill in the air.
I hope she has a towel close by.
If not, she can borrow mine.
Gentleman, me.
I giggle. Yes, I will wait, she can use mine.

I find a nice spot on a rock. I sit down where I can see her splashing in the waves. She doesn’t mind the cold then? There are more people gathering on the beach now; putting their towels out. What if she finds someone else with a towel? I better get to her first.

I wave at her.
She sees me.
It’s so exciting.
Here she comes towards me.
There is concern on her face.
But I smile to reassure her.
I’m here to rescue her.

She splashes through the shallow water.
She likes me.
She is with me now.
I take my towel and hold it out to her.
“I’m going home. Here, you use my towel now. Don’t be cold”.
She folds the towel around me instead.
I don’t understand.
She hug-pulls me away from the sea.

“Come,” my girlfriend says. “I will take you home, then we can
put some clothes on. Both of us. And then we won’t be cold”.

“Dad!” a young woman calls. My girlfriend walks me towards a car.
She helps me in. “Thank you again Mrs Morris and sorry, we are changing medication” says the young one. “At least yesterday he had clothes on,” my girl says.

“Am I going home?” I ask. “Is it time?”

They nod.

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Prompt :– A New Life
Word count :– 1000 words
Genre :- Futuristic (or not!)

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                                FORGIVE                                

     by Annalie Kleinloog

She blows her nose.  There is blood on the tissue and on her fingers.

She hesitates, then looks up from the basin where her stained T-shirt soaks. The familiar puffiness around her cheekbone already shines. It will soon reach her eye. But her nose looks more skew. Damn. She will have to dig up more than the usual excuses before work on Monday. The weekend is not long enough to recover from this one.  Better go finish dinner while he is absorbed in the match of the season; and his umpteenth beer. He wants food by six.

As she fumbles for a clean tissue in her apron pocket, she finds the business card. Her heart skips a beat. She put it there, but forgot to throw it away. The letters and numbers on it swim into recall. It was a chance meeting this morning.  She escapes from her immediate abuse with a sigh and a dreamy smile. The smile hurts the closing eye and she winces.

When they had both stopped in recognition, eons between now and then vanished. She flicked her long blonde fringe expertly over old bruises when she greeted Tim. He looked excited to see her.

“Where have you been all these years?”

Her forced cheerful explanations couldn’t hide emotional and physical pain. She caught a flash of something in Tim’s eyes as he gave her his card.

“I’m in the area for a week, let’s catch up some time, if you can.”

She did not miss the quick glance to her covered eye. Embarrassed she hastened away with a feeble excuse; intent on never bumping into him again.

Halfway down the stairs now, aching in unseen places, she reconsiders that invitation. But quickly changes her mind as she hears her husband’s snort in disgruntlement. No, she cannot aggravate the situation.

The TV madness is suddenly interrupted with an important announcement. His drunken cursing overlaps what sounds like a global warning. She stops at the landing and leans over the balustrade to get a better view, but quickly pulls back as he gets up to fetch another beer. She hears the fridge door open and leans over again to see the full screen president of the USA.

Stern. Serious. More terrorist attacks?  She holds her breath, hoping the beer will take a while. Straining to hear beyond the kitchen clutter.

“… an asteroid the size of Hawaii is approaching Earth. Its impact is computed to be in the Atlantic Ocean and is estimated to happen in 90 minutes from this announcement. It will destroy all life on earth …”

The message fades away as she absorbs and analyses at the speed of light. Little more than an hour left of life?  In the time it takes him to settle back on the couch, the news flash is done.  She’s made up her mind. She slips out the back door as she hears him flicking through channels to find his match and calling for his supper.

She dials the number on the card as she runs towards the place of their chance meeting.

“It’s me” she says, “I need to see you immediately.”

She can hear in the casualness of Tim’s reply he doesn’t know yet.

“Sure, where?”

“Can you pick me up at the Supermarket from this morning?”

“Convenient. I am just across the road, The Royal, room 503; why don’t you come up?”

Her legs move on their own accord. Five minutes wash away all inhibitions. Years of restraint now seem senseless. She knows who she wants to spend the last minutes of her life with. She always knew.

The foyer is deserted; she won’t have to wait for the elevator. She stumbles out on the fifth floor as others rush in. His bedroom door opens almost immediately. She falls forward into his arms. The way he holds her tells a million tales.

He knows.

He knows about the asteroid.

He knows she always knew, because he did too.

He knows she always wanted to confess, but she feared to acknowledge it.

They don’t speak. They hardly breathe. A lifetime of missed opportunities and wasted emotions spill over them in silence.   She glances at her watch. By now her husband must be breaking down their flat in his search for his usual victim. How dare she ignore his calls for supper? It is five minutes past dinner time.  She pulls away from the embrace.

“Did you hear….?” Tim puts his finger to her lips.

“No time for senseless questions. Let’s just remember and share.”

He walks over to the minibar. Opens a bottle. Hands her a glass.

“I want to know you, before I lose you – again”

“This time, we will be together, forever. An end to this, but a chance on a new life. Riding an asteroid into a new world?” she manages to smile.

She doesn’t try to hide the bruises.   He sits and listens.  She sits and talks.  Time stands still. As he touches her swollen cheek, a slight shudder runs through the building.

Is this it?

Tim pulls her up into a long awaited embrace. His warm breath close to her ear.

“Now it is time to forgive,” he says. “I can’t have you while he still possesses you. Albeit through hatred or resentment. Forgive him and let him go.”

She sobs.   How can she?   So much wasted time? So much hurt? So much pain? So much fear?  How is it possible?

He kisses her tears away gently. And opens the curtains – the sun is setting red above a city filled with chaos and noise. Everyone and everything in a rush to somewhere or someone. Or nowhere.

“Look,” Tim says. “We are lucky. We are together. We have each other.”

The horizon turns dark and the pandemonium continues in the streets below.

“You are right”, she lifts her face to be kissed, “I forgive”.

As Tim bends over her the last thing she sees is a wall of blackness rolling towards them…

THE END

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Prompt:- A Conversation with my spouse    Word Count:- 1200 words      Genre:- Horror

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MESSY                                                                                                             by Annalie Kleinloog

Apprehension thickens the already tense atmosphere in the room. I look around. I’m not alone – as usual. But somehow, I feel desolate.

There is a their side and our side. Our side is hushed with an occasional fumble in a handbag. Both sides have monitor screens and cameras and I know somewhere out there is someone observing every move in here. I’m not sure if that is a consolation or a concern.

The other side is empty now, but muffled voices behind closed doors belie the quiet scene. Footsteps echo from bare passages. Although I know the rules, my palms are sweaty. I also know today will be the last I ever set foot here.

My mind chooses an escape to another time.

Everyone was happy then, I thought. Our journey together started the proper way. We followed the pattern. We met, courted, fell in love and got married. I worked as the provider and every day when I arrived home, she was there. It was all so orderly and normal. The house was spotless, nothing out of place.

Every day she waited for me with the same smile and the same kiss and the same

“How was your day, Sweety?” I was content.

Why wasn’t she? What went wrong? Or was it always there and I never noticed?

Maybe the towels didn’t have to be folded exactly that way, but it was a small effort to keep her happy. Or maybe the magazines could have looked as nice without being arranged alphabetically; later it was just easier for me not to read. That was also why I had my own coffee mug hidden under the sink, so as not to disturb the rows of mugs – ears all pointing in the same direction like soldiers on parade. Yes, I managed to make it easier for her.

Until the day they came to fetch me from work. Two stern men in suits. I thought something had happened to her. I was wrong. Everything changed that day, most of all – her.

Crunching keys in overused locks startle me back to the present. Chains scrape in rhythmic unison with shuffling feet on shiny floors. A wordless prayer sprouts from my heart to any entity listening, “Please let her be reasonable today.”

I breathe deep with her every approaching step. It seems to work, because by the time she sits down, I’m calm. Almost indifferent, I observe surprised. Relieved. Indifference is painless.

“Have you missed me?” the sneer comes from behind cracked lips. Pain jumps back at the memory of once kissing those lips, alluring then. She wisps the once sun-kissed hair over her shoulder. Her cold eyes focus on my face; her voice is husky. Cigarette smoke hangs between us, swirling around the metal bars and gratefully diluting other bodily odors. I cannot muster the smile I was planning and merely wipe my eyes. “I used to,” I say instead.

I used to believe she was innocent too.

I used to love her.

I used to think she was beautiful.

I used to hope it was all a misunderstanding.

I used to think the nightmare would end.

“What can I entertain you with today, Sweety?” She cups a breast buried in heavy uniform fabric, suggestively shrugging her shoulders. She laughs roughly at my wince. I look away, finding the pen and open the document I have on my lap.

Her eyes narrow. She leans back and put her feet on the bars between us, dismissing me. I see the guard approaching, baton ready. So does she. She drops down and hisses, “You can go fuck yourself!” I pretend not to hear and surprise myself with a calm and collected appeal, “I can’t come back again for this. Ever. Please just sign it.

“Don’t you first want to know WHY I did it?” she asks, almost coquettishly.

The guard taps the baton on his folded arms. “We are running out of time” I sigh.

“Just sign the divorce papers. And NO! I don’t want to know. It‘s bad enough to know you actually did it. It’s unthinkable that innocent children had to suffer. It is absurd to know I NEVER knew…” my voice trails off. I feel the familiar strangling choke I experience every day and every night since she was arrested.

I feel my stomach heaving. I know sooner or later I’m going to vomit, but I can’t stop my outburst. “They are still digging up bodies.” I manage to get out, barely audible. “It has been months and still distressed parents must identify little mangled corpses!”

I swallow. Bile sits between my voice and my guts. Bitterness is hard to control, whether physical or emotional. My emotions are now unstoppable, the revulsion pours out, “Innocent children on their way back from school … you lured them into OUR kitchen! Then you processed and packed them as if they were chicken pieces, ready to be packed for consumption.” My head jerks up at the thought.

My eyes meet hers with equal chill. But horror replaces mine when she averts her stare to inspect her short nails casually. “Yes”, she says conversationally, like it is a matter of sunshine or rain. “And then I buried them in the park across the road! Teeheehee.”

I recoil at her giggle. “You are sick!” I managed through gritted teeth.

She shook her head in disbelief, “No, I didn’t bury them myself, Silly! It was soooooo easy to find helpers. You know the municipal gardeners come every Tuesday and every Thursday? Two days a week. So convenient.”

She is done studying her nails and leans closer, nose almost touching the bar. As if confiding in me. “They believed me when I told them it was a biodegradable bag full of lovely compost. So every Tuesday and Thursday they would nourish their precious plants by burying my donation amongst the shrubs.”

The casualness overrides all my willpower. The envelope is still on my lap and I reach it just in time. With my stomach settled, I wipe my mouth on my sleeve and put the envelope carefully in the bin meant for tissues. “And at the time we discussed the horrors of serial killers and the incompetence of the police!”

The document gains a few more marks as I sob.

“All I want is to have nothing to do with you, forever – sign this NOW!”

She makes a small sucking sound between her teeth, smiles and grabs the pen. The guard steps closer. She scribbles dutifully and flicks each page to me glancing innocently at the guard.

I’m exhausted, but feel relief wash over me as the guard taps the clock on the wall and announces solemnly, “Time.”

I gather myself and the messed up pages. In a very calm almost serene voice, she says: “Get a grip on yourself, Sweety. It is very untidy for a man to weep. Or to throw up in public. Oh, and have your shirt dry-cleaned before your next visit.”

I look at her in disbelief. “There is not a next time.” I turn as I say it.

“You can get killed for being messy!” she sing-songs.

A shiver runs down my spine.

THE END

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It’s been a while, but this will force me to do at least one post every month. Yes, it’s a challenge but it is also about the discipline. If there ain’t goals or deadlines then there ain’t achievements…thank you to Mia from WritersWrite.co.za (#12/12)

So, here is the first.

Prompt : The List.                                                                                                Word Count: 1500

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An Empty Page

She looked up from the task at hand. Swirling mist outside prevented her mental escape over stark skyscrapers; instead, her focus was forced inside the window.

Out there, life bustled away.     In here was the empty.

The grey disconnectedness from that world was in stark contrast to the painful chaos surrounding her in their bedroom. She hardly recognised the tired face reflecting from the weather-beaten pane. Weary eyes stared back, past the reflection, into a pool of memory.

“My brown eyed girl,” soothed his familiar voice from afar. It was his way of shushing her whenever she wished for glossy looks. With a pained smile she reflexively wiped over the back pockets of her jeans. “You have the perfect butt,” he would thwart her regular diet threats. She sighed.

Cleaning out their apartment was an act of purging and she allowed her emotions to roam within limits. Thoughts and memories ebbed and flowed. She allowed her touchy senses to recall him one last time; smell him and caress him with her eyes; then relied on her common sense to finally let go, to throw out the last bits binding his presence to this earth.

Recent conversations swirled as she bent to continue sorting. “There is no perfect”, he often repeated, “it’s the imperfections that make us human.” “Why remember now?” she scolded the thrown-out parcels.

She was scientific enough to accept the medical facts, yet spiritually she was inclined to deny there could be nothing after death. So, here she was. Old fashioned and sufficiently romantic to search and sort through his possessions in the hope of finding a talisman, a tangible, everlasting memory of his essence. “Just one little thing, something small to find and keep … and remind me of you,” her heart begged when she reached the last drawer.

And then she found it.

It was an unsealed envelope addressed to her; part of the bigger pile meant to conclude post-life administrations.  She swallowed. Her fingers retrieved the folded pages from their cover. She froze.

An empty page stared back at her.

Its blankness snapped the thin thread of control, giving her permission to let go. Sobs arose from bruised depths. A place within her she was able to hide until now. The last bit of lifeless blood squeezed from her heart. And slowly, as the pain eased and a mute ache replaced the depths of it, she felt the pulse of life again.

It was a long four months; in a very short time.

Four months ago they were very young, very much in love and very happy.

She was contemplating a new hairstyle for their trip to the Amazon. He was more interested in her back – would she cope with the weight of the necessities for the intended hike? She showed off her stealth by challenging him to a race up the stairs with fully loaded backpack. He cunningly found his way out. Naively, she claimed victory while he hid his growing concern with busyness around the camping stuff. Now she recalled the signs, although youth denied such possibilities then.

She remembered the preparation hikes on the city outskirts. “Not too far”, was the agreement. Neither the drive nor the walk, she realised now. Did he know? Or was it a subconscious protection mechanism?

Always returning home exhilarated, or was it only her? And in the midst of this preparation they would crumble in mutual sense of fun, mock wrestle and seal the outcome with passion – refusing to take note of his increasing tiredness.

Within days he could not manage the stairs to their front door. He phoned her from the pavement one day. Despair mixed with fear made his voice unrecognisable. She had to shout his name to get herself out of the confusion. She rushed downstairs; found him crumpled.

Instead of taking him up the stairs, she helped him into the back of a taxi. His head cradled in her lap, his face pale and transparent. His eyes asking. She had no reply.

Instead of handing over when professionals barked orders, she held his hand while they wheel-chaired past the emergency counter. Answering his clammy grip with a determined double handed clasp.

Instead of panicking when they surrounded him with machines and beepers, she repeated the cold details required on numerous forms by heartless voices.

Instead of rushing home to comfort and safety, she watched helplessly as they probed, poked and withdrew blood.

Instead of a quick emergency visit, she was asked to wait outside intensive care. There she remained. When the specialists finally allowed her into his cubicle, she had lost touch with time and reality.

She listened to the hushed voices guiding rushed steps outside the disinfected room while she waited for results, diagnosis’s, prognosis’s all blanketed by an eerie expectancy. During this time his eyes were closed, dark circled and tired. And all this time hers were wide open, searching for reasons and demanding answers.

The wait ended in finality. They had to call off all plans. Except the ones that involved hospitals and tests. They had to cancel all meetings and travels, except to be with each other as much as possible. There was no treatment and no cure.

Their reality was the now. Only now.

Every day for four months she was next to his bed.

Some days were light with fun-filled chatting, other days were serious and heavy. Most days consisted of making lists to ensure a hassle free admin for her after he was gone. Lists of numbers, people and places.  To do lists.

And almost every day he would tell her about all the things he was planning to change in life. Changes he would like to see in the world. And with a glint in his eyes he would add; “And all the things I want to change about you.”“What?” she would sulkily ask. “I want to know now, so I can start working on it immediately, so when we are old together one day, I can be perfect for you,” she said and hoped he couldn’t see the tears in her eyes.

There was minimal paperwork in the end. The last few days they focused on the wishes he had for his final journey. No sermon or ceremony – who was to impress? No songs. No tears. “A simple farewell, because only love lasts,” he urged with bony fingers.

His bedside drawer contained the few lists they considered essential, and as he opened it for her to remove the pile of envelopes two days ago, they both knew all was done. And they both understood it was not long.“Put this away and work through it when you are ready,” he whispered. “And remember to look for your list too.”

She smiled at his last brave attempt to tease her. No tears, she willed herself. He kissed her hand, “I love you for real.” His voice barely audible. “And straight back at you,” she said.  She bent over him, kissed his forehead and whispered, “Wait until I find that list, when you next see me, I will be SO perfect.” He grinned and winked. “The list is there, waiting for you when I’m gone.” The smile was still on his face when his hand relaxed and his eyes closed peacefully. Forever.

She sat knowing. But also not. She didn’t want to move. But also wanted to run as fast as she could. She didn’t want to let go. And she didn’t, for a long time. That is how the night nurse found her and gently nudged her out the room.  “It’s over.”

She didn’t know how she arrived home.

She recalled feeling overwhelmingly empty. Except for the bundle of envelopes from his bedside drawer. It was, they agreed, to be put in the desk drawer till needed. And that was where she found it now. That single unsealed envelope that bore her name, a smiley face and in brackets, “The List”. Her heart jumped in apprehension and excitement. He wasn’t joking.

She wondered what irritated him the most about her? Her giggle? Her dress-sense? Her big nose? Her neediness?  Unsealed because he knew she would be the one to find it. “Bugger” she thought with a smile, “you DID leave a list.”

Two pages neatly folded.  Unfolding them, she now stared at the first blank page.

She blew her nose noisily.

She paged over, on the second page the writing was muddled with a weak hand, but clear. “I love you for real,” said the scribble. “You have seen that first page, filled with nothing? … those are ALL the things I want you to change about you, forever. Xx”.

The nothingness suddenly filled her heart with a happiness beyond words. She could burst with love.  Then she remembered him often saying, “To have what we do makes any life worth it. Imagine how many people die and never experience this?” And then she smiled.

A list that needed no change – ever.

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