Ever Mindful

star-195187_640

Lately, I am fragile old silk.

Frayed at the edges, hopelessly tattered.

Crushed beneath a chafing blanket of onyx woolen sky.

Yet every time the blackness threatens to unravel me, stars appear.

Points of wondrous light that I can pluck from the jagged gloom, and endow with gratitude.

Illuminating a brighter side.

Stars.  Blessings.

Too many to count, I’m reminded.

Stitched into the fabric of my delicately woven life.

http://writeonedge.com/2013/11/write-at-the-merge-week-48/

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/11/trifecta-week-105.html

Picture credit here.

Bloom of Faith

In distant autumns, we planted tulips.

Assurances of spring.

Tulips. 

Cherished for elegance and grace.

That hunger winter, we cherished tulips as an assurance of survival.

Dug up the bulbs, and ate them.

                                           ******

In the depths of winter during the German occupation of the Netherlands  in World War II, food was so scarce that people were reduced to eating anything deemed edible including sawdust, book binding glue-and tulip bulbs.

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/11/trifextra-week-ninety-five.html

Stone Soup

She’s been waiting for him.  Camped out on the porch, front door propped open so she can hear the Philco in the sitting room. It’s close to dusk and Helen Forrest is singing “The Man I Love.”

He pulls up, emerges from behind the wheel of a sapphire blue Nash Coupe, and waves-all smiles and plaid wool and stubbly chin.  Quite a contrast to the clean-shaven, double breasted flannel, laid-off despondency of a week ago. Her “Welcome home, honey!” hooks his heart as her arms encircle his waist.  “Catch any fish?”  His answer is muffled against her Coty-powdered cheek and tawny pin curls.

“As a matter of fact, I did.  This morning. Served with a couple of eggs, over easy, short stack and cup of coffee.  The buck and two bits Angler’s Special. ”  He winks. 

He looks younger than his 47 years. Four days by the water have done him a world of good. Softened the worry lines around his brown eyes, despite his misgivings about the extravagance of the trip. She insisted, though-the imminent need to penny-pinch a weak excuse for denying him.

“I brought you a present, Emma.”  He rummages around in the back seat clutter of tackle and dirty clothes, and hands her his split bamboo fishing rod.

“Gee, thanks, George,” she laughs.  “But I seem to recall giving you this for Christmas!”

“Oh woman of little faith,” he counters, rummaging some more, his fingers ferreting out a small brown-paper sack.  She peeks inside the bag, delighted to discover that her gift is a dozen or so colorful river rocks. 

“I’d pick ‘em up sometimes, when the fish weren’t biting.  You’re lucky I didn’t bring you a whole car load.”  He winks again.

She’ll never tire of seeing him this happy. 

“Haven’t you ever heard of stone soup?” she teases.  I’m told it’s good-with or without fish.”

She squeezes his hand, the memory still raw. 

How watching him cry almost killed her.

Facade

mask 1

He should have been killed.

A horrible thought, to be sure, as I welcome him into the room, yet I’ve no regret for thinking it.  It is well-intentioned, born out of mercy.

He is very young.  No more than 19 or 20, and I can only imagine how handsome he must have beenWhile I have learned to suppress my compulsion to know details, once again, beyond my control, my stomach lurches when I look at him.  The ragged purple edges of his torn-away cheek, exposing broken teeth.   The empty space that once held his nose.    Bullets, most likely, or possibly shrapnel.  It doesn’t matter.  He has been rendered grotesque.  Unfit to live in genteel society.

His mask is finished.  Made from the thinnest shell of galvanized tin and enameled paint, I lift it carefully from its hook on a wall displaying dozens of other masks like it, and gently fit the cold metal against his battle-shattered profile.  He winces.

You’ll look so distinguished with glasses!  I remark lightly.  And the skin color is a perfect match!  How does it feel?

Bereft of words, he simply nods.

I press into his hands a small mirror.

Go ahead, I urge.  Take a look.

His hesitation stretches into a full minute before he haltingly brings the mirror up to his face.  Greeted by a semblance of normal, he starts to sob.  His  gratitude is so deep and so sincere I can hardly bear the pain upon my heart, and in that moment, I fall in love with him.

I push back my own tears.  Now go, Henry!  Go and have yourself a truly wonderful life!

His tin face, the made-whole companion to his damaged one, is frozen.   Expressionless.

Except for his eyes.

They dance.

Standing taller, he kisses my hand, and then he’s gone.

Tomorrow, another face in a seemingly endless string of faces will come to me, looking for the promise of a second chance.

And I will fall in love again.

This piece was inspired by efforts during WWI to provide severely disfigured soldiers with a new life by using facial prosthetics.

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/11/trifecta-week-104.html

Picture credit here, and here.

Bombshell

Just for tonight he is determined to forget the war.

When he wrestles the borrowed Willys to an abrupt halt (much like reining in a high-spirited horse), near the front of the row house where she is billeted, the guttural rumble of the motor once shut off brings the stillness and quiet of the velveteen night into soft contrast.  No explosions.  No gore.  No lingering cries and pall of death. 

No medic.  And no nurse. 

Just the two ordinary them.

Her front door opens and she steps out in a split-second flash of yellow light before quickly pulling the door closed behind her.  Blackout restored, she is illuminated only by cloudless, traitorous, moonlight.  Not that he notices the moon.  In her best dress she could easily be mistaken for a starlet instead of an angel of mercy. Lip rouged red lips replace blood stained hands, and at the sight of her, his breath catches in his chest.

He is smitten.  Stumbles self consciously from the driver’s seat around to the passenger side where she is buttoning her coat against the chill, and gallantly offers her his arm.  Teetering in seldom worn crimson suede heels, she is touched by his gesture.  Gathering her dress around her legs-a little higher than she had intended-she climbs into the jeep, affording him an accidental glimpse of her gartered thigh peeking out from under a lacy blush-colored slip.

His face colors blush as well.  It’s inevitable.  Just as tonight, when bombs start to fall, he will be forgetting the war.  At least for a little while.

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/11/trifextra-week-ninety-four-trifexxxtra.html