Near 500 words: Ancestors

The woman in the door of the wooden hut stood before Rufus. Her dark hair and her brown eyes were full of life though her life was hard.

Her focus reminded Rufus of the last time he saw his father. It was late at night and the old man sat at his desk, studying a photograph of his father who had been gone some thirty years. There was a light in the old man’s eyes. It wasn’t the light from the table lamp. It was another kind of light. It was the light of memory.

Or was it more? Was it the light of someone who has experienced some piece of the divine in his life? Rufus’ father never spoke of his father.

“Can I have some water?” Rufus asked the woman in the doorway.

The woman smiled. Instead of water, she invited him inside her one-room house. A house that was spotlessly clean. In the corner was an altar to some god or other. He didn’t ask since he knew it would be as rude as asking his father about his grandfather. She brought him a cup of tea and offered him a seat on one of the three wooden chairs.

Rufus took out his camera and pointed to it. “Can I take your photograph?”

The woman blushed, then shook her head yes.

Rufus pointed and snapped several pictures. Then he finished his tea. He thanked her for her hospitality.

It was a brief encounter but not as brief as the night he saw his father studying the photograph of his father.

As he walked up the path away from the woman’s house, he missed his father and his grandfather. Perhaps in another life. Perhaps.

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Near 500 words: Disagreements

Cameron, 21, stood before the painting and studied it. Finally, he said to Louise, “Raphael or no Raphael, that’s just too baroque for me.”

“You’re such a stick in the mud. You always have been, and you always will be. You probably wouldn’t like Vermeer.” Louise, 23, wore her light blue suit, and nothing could spoil her mood. Especially her brother.

“I love Vermeer. Wonderful light. And that girl with the pearl earring. I would have dated her.”

“Question is would she have dated you.”

“Course she would have. I’m not a bad looking fellow, and I do have my good points.”

“Name one.”

“I can name two. I like Vermeer and I’m your brother.”

“Aren’t you the smarty pants,” Louise said. “Just what is wrong with the Raphael?”

“It says it’s The Triumph of Galatea. Who the heck is Galatea anyway?”

“From some Greek story, I guess.”

“Another thing I don’t like. The women are supposed to be naked. It’s like Raphael has put skin suits on them. Nothing really showing. And all you get of the little guys with their wings is their butts. Geez, I don’t want to see a bunch of guys’ butts. If I did, I could look at mine in the mirror. Oh, I correct myself. There is one guy in the corner. You get to see his stuff.”

“It’s all supposed to be symbolic.”

“Symbolic?” Cameron snickered. “I think I’ve enough of this art for one day. Let’s go see a movie like you promised.”

“All right, but I get to pick the movie.”

“Oh, no. You picked the art. I’m picking the movie.”

They turned and headed for the entrance of the museum. They passed the guard and walked down the stairs to the street below.

“If you pick the movie,” Louise said, “you pay. I paid for the museum.”

“Want to get a dog and a coke?” he said, pointing to a hot dog stand over in the park.

As they hurried across the street, she said, “We’re not going to another one of those shoot ‘em ups you love. I absolutely forbid it.”

“Let’s go see ‘Heat’.”

They arrived at the hot dog stand.

“No. That’s another shoot ‘em up. Absolutely not.”

They took their food from the man and found a park bench. Cameron plopped down on the bench. Louise checked it for anything that would dirty her skirt. Finally, she sat down beside her brother. They both bit into their wieners.

“This is good,” Louise said to Cameron.

“This is good,” Cameron said to Louise.

The two looked out at the park and both smiled.

“This is the life,” Cameron said to his sister.

“This is the life,” Louise agreed. “Mom would be proud.”

“Yes, she would. We do agree on something.”

“But we’re not going to that movie.”

“It’s got De Niro and Pacino and there’s romance in it. I’m sure.”

“Over my dead body,” Louise said.

“That can be arranged. Maybe I’ll get Pacino to do the job.”

Louise laughed. “I’d rather it be De Niro.”

Near 500 words: Frank’s Day

Frank was excited. His mother was taking him to the fair. He was seven years old and he had heard a lot about the fair from his friend Gina. His friend, Roger, too. Now it was his turn. His mother was excited for him as well.

The first thing Frank discovered about the fair. It was alive with noises, and they were happiness noises. Then there were the colors that filled his eyes with brightness and variety. And the smells of popcorn.

Gina told him about the horses and he just knew he wanted to ride them and there they were, on the carousel. And they made music. Frank loved the music.

He pulled at his mother’s dress. “Can I? Can I?”

“We have to buy a ticket,” his mother answered him.

He could hardly wait. He was so excited. It was like the times he needed to piss in his pants and thought he would die if he had to wait. Of course, he didn’t die, and he didn’t die waiting on the ticket.

His mother lifted him onto the white stallion and she got on the black mare beside him. Then the carousel took off. Up and down it went. And it went up and down some more. And the music played. Frank was in heaven. But like most things Frank loved, such as chocolate cake and hot cocoa, heaven came to an end.

It was such a short ride. Frank wanted to ride for a thousand miles like Genghis Khan and his mongol hordes he had read about. But his mother insisted they try something else.

She insisted, “You’re going to love cotton candy as much as I do.”

He did love cotton candy as soon as he had some. It was like eating a cloud.

“Now we’re going to ride the ducks,” his mother said, as she grabbed her son’s hand.

“You can ride ducks?” Frank asked. Then he saw it. Giant white ducks at the pier of a lake.

And then it was the biggest surprise of his birthday. Gina and Roger ran past him, yelling, “Frank, Frank.”

Frank joined his two best friends in one of the ducks. The moms of Gina and Roger joined Frank’s mother and got into the duck with their kids. The gondolier guided the duck away from the dock as his passengers jabbered away. Then he sang at the top of his lungs “The Quack Song”. Soon his passengers joined him with their singing.

Across the lake the duck and its gondolier carried the six. As they pulled up to the dock, a young man grabbed each of their hands and said, “Welcome to the Land of the Unicorns”.

The six stepped onto the dock. The kids were all excited. “Unicorns, unicorns,” they sang in unison. Into a large tent they went. On the sides of the tent, a movie projected. It was the Unicorn Story. Everybody went “ahhhh” when they saw the giant white creatures with their large orange horn running like the great steeds they were once upon a time.

When the day was done, Frank kneeled at the side of his bed. His dad kneeling on one side and his mom on the other. Frank prayed, “Thank you, God, for the best day ever.”

His parents tucked their son into bed and snapped off the light and said, “Good night, Son. We love you.”

That night Frank dreamed of friends and unicorns and horses and giant ducks with gondoliers singing “The Quack Song”.

The Gift

As she stood in the living room, Doug’s daughter looked beautiful in her strapless, ankle length evening dress. Just gorgeous. Marge’s blonde hair was short and curly and that accentuated her blue eyes. She had her mother’s eyes. Ellen, her mother, snapped several photographs, then she urged Jack, her daughter’s date, to join Marge so she could take more.

Jack’s smile was the smile of someone who was receiving a precious gem. He took the flower out of its box, laid the box on the table and walked over to Marge. He went to pin the flower to the gown. His hand shook. He was too nervous.

Doug said softly, “I’ll do it.”

Jack looked at her dad with grateful eyes.

Doug took the flower from Jack’s hand and pinned it onto his daughter’s gown. “There,” he said, then kissed his daughter on the cheek.

“Thanks, Dad,” Marge said.

Doug backed away, proud of the girl they’d almost lost two years earlier from cancer. Ellen snapped more pictures. As Marge stood beside her date for the prom, her face glowed.

Doug and Ellen followed the two outside. Standing on the porch, they stood arm in arm, and watched the work of their lives get in the car and drive away. Their eyes were filled with wonder.

Grandma’s Chair

“Dad, I want the chair,” Ellen said.

“That was Grandma’s chair and you can’t have it,” her brother, Taylor, said. “I think I should get it. I am the oldest.”

Fred was not happy that his children were fighting over his mother-in-law’s chair. She’d only been dead a week. Now the kids were fighting over her things. God, didn’t they have any sense? What would they be like when he died?

His wife, Madge, interrupted his thoughts. “None of you are getting it. It’s coming home with me and your father.” Madge didn’t even like the damned chair but she was sure as shooting not going to let the kids take it. It was her mother’s, after all.

That’s when Madge’s brother, Carl, stepped in. “You’re not going to take it, Madge. You didn’t even like it. I’m taking it.”

Madge gave Carl a look but figured that settled it. It did not. When it comes to family, it is never settled.