The Others’ Side

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Why is it this way, Mama?”

The woman let the small hoe drop from her hand. She straightened, hands over the small of her back, achy from the bending. The plot was spare, and the harshness of many a hard winter had stripped most of the topsoil off, leaving more pebbles than dirt. Still, it was better than nothing, and she was thankful.

The child had been sorting stones into piles. Larger ones. Medium ones. Smaller. There were repairs to make to walls and fences, and very little in the way of clay. Sizing stones helped make the puzzle of fitting the best bit in the best place, easier. It was a tedious chore that the girl somehow managed to make into a game. She had that magic in her, Margot did, the spark of joy that Annabelle spent every night praying would not ever have cause to slough off or be snuffed out.

“Mama?”

Annabelle nodded and turned her head toward the object of the child’s query. She’d had no option but to sit the child facing the chasm. One did not turn one’s back to the mist. Disrespectful. Ill fated. Even for children, who normally carried more protection by nature of their youth. Still, it was best to take precaution, and what the child learned early, she was less likely to forget later on and take a wrong step.

There was reason this plot was made available. Not many farmed so near the rift. Some claimed the uneasy air made foodstuffs grow small and weary.

Some did not have the luxury of growing theirs elsewhere.

“The light does not quite shine there the same way,” she said.

“What did they do?” the child’s voice was filled with pity, not fear, and Annabelle did not know whether in this particularity the compassion was something to celebrate or warn against.

“Some say they’d tied their soul to dark,” Annabelle sighed. The split and its reality was not something often spoken of. Yet unless some miracle happened and their circumstances changed, the child was destined to spend many days in close proximity to the Others’ side. It was better she heard truth from her mother, than distortions from those who felt more comfortable with lies.

She felt the child’s small hand slip into her calloused palm.

“They are not different than us, Margot. Not really. There was time before the split, before the earth heaved and the crack formed and separated this land into its pieces, where we all lived mixed together, if we even knew we were more than one kind. Now those who had happened to be on the parts that became the other side of this canyon, have the mountains dump the clouds onto them and the rapids raise a constant mist. It diminishes their sun.”

The child shuddered. Annabelle squeezed her hand to reassure her.

“There are those who chose to make their fear into a hatred, Margot. And that led to needing to make those one hated, be worthy of such ill-regard.”

“So they are good?”

“Most are. And some very likely aren’t.”

“And the big rocks?” Margot turned her head to inspect the piles she had just made. The stones balanced atop each other in formations mirroring the massive ones on the misty horizon.

“Put there, no doubt. No one quite knows why or how. Some say the ghosts of evil did it. The goblins that spit poison from the earth and crack the ground. I? I think it was people who’d arranged them. As you had the smaller ones.”

Annabelle had never shared with anyone the image that she’d seen nine months before the child was born. The figures scurrying on the impossible embankment, tucking what appeared to be smaller stones in the places where rocks nestled atop one another. The reverent silence of the people had her wonder whether they perhaps saw the rocks as headstones, memorials to those who had been lost to the maw that had swallowed so many when it had first sliced open the ground. A maw many did not believe anyone crossed.

She used her free hand to lift the girl’s chin so their eyes met. “Why did you put them this way, child?”

The gray eyes widened for a moment. In thought, not worry. “I wanted to respect the other stones, Mama. Their balance. How they don’t fall into the underside.”

Annabelle’s eyes filled. Her breath caught.

She smiled.

She never did find out who had forced her that night. She was blamed aplenty as it was, and so she never did tell anyone that she’d believed it had been someone who might’ve seen her watch them. Someone from the Others’ side.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

The Reporter

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Photo: Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

 

He reports first thing in the morning.

He reports again every night.

There’s little that could dissuade him

From being absolutely forthright.

 

He records every scene with a flourish.

His voice reflects every sight,

As with journalist’s flair

He spells data in ample delight.

 

He would not be distracted from telling,

The minutia has got to be tight.

After all, he is in potty training

And to him no discharging is trite.

 

 

 

For RDP Sunday: Journalist

 

 

Man In The Straw

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“And the man in the straw danced and danced …”

“Till the morning came and changed his chance?”

Thomas stroked his granddaughter’s head. She never tired of the story. Her favorite, and she knew it by heart. As he knew her many expressions, the myriad of small sounds she made as she dreamed each night.

She was his favorite. His only, but still his favorite. No one could convince him otherwise.

“Grandpa?” the child burrowed deeper into her blankets.

“Yes, Pumpkin?”

“Do you think the man in the straw ever wanted to be something else?”

He felt his eyes widen as he glanced down at her. Her eyes were open, too. Gone were any traces of the soft daze of moments before sleep.

“What do you think, Pumpkin?” he returned the question, uncertain whether what he’d read into it was indeed in the child’s mind, and unwilling to insert his own assumptions into what may well be a different query altogether.

There were many things to wish were different. In the folktale. In life, too. He often wondered if she so loved the old story exactly because it spoke of vulnerabilities and challenge, of facing fears and finding fault and making do and fighting on. All things she’d know more than enough of.

The child nibbled momentarily on her lower lip. “I think maybe he sometimes wanted to be the man in the spiral. Or Fire. Or the mask. Or the stag.”

“Hmm …” he nodded, hoping she’d say more, wondering if she would. There was a depth to the child. Currents he did not always understand or believe he ought to. An Old Soul, his beloved Mara had said of the newborn even in the few days she had with the child before the angels called.

“But,” the little girl sighed, curling up so her back rested against her grandfather’s thigh as he sat on the edge of her cot. “I think he knew he was the Man In The Straw …”

The pause lingered. The child yawned.

“… and that he was meant to dance and dance …” she whispered, her breath deepening, her eyes closed. “… till morning came and changed his chance…”

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

In The Dell

blue Sue Vincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They built the cone carefully. Everyone knew things like that had to be just so.

“Will they come?” Nelly fretted, slim fingers worrying the edge of her tunic.

“Sure thing,” Dahlia’s nod was as resolute as her voice. “We did it exactly. And it is the right time.”

Nelly nibbled on a lip. Aunt Lorena’s mind wasn’t what it used to be. What if the elder’s confusion extended to passing on instructions?

“There,” Dahlia placed the last stick, straightened, and took a step back to admire their handiwork. She tucked a wild lock of dark hair behind an ear and chuckled. “Looks as if they’re putting their heads together.”

More like a bunch of kindling in a miniature teepee, Nelly thought. She shook doubt out of her head. “Do we wait here?” she scanned the expanse of bluebells that carpeted the ground amidst the trees.

Dahlia twisted her mouth, stuck a corner of that disobedient lock of hair into her mouth, and pondered. The small wood felt quiet. Almost as if the air itself was waiting. “I don’t think so,” she said finally. “We better give them space.”

Nelly wasn’t sure if she felt relieved or disappointed.

After a last scan of the area, the two girls walked away, stealing glances every few paces, lest they miss something when their backs were turned.

“I think that’s far enough,” Dahlia suggested when they’d gone about twenty yards. “We don’t want the fairies to think we left completely.” Or to miss them.

Nelly nodded silently.

An afternoon ray of sun wove through the branches to rest on her cousin’s narrow face, and Dahlia noted to herself how Nelly’s golden braid and cornflower eyes blended seamlessly into the magical scenery. Like a princess, she thought in satisfaction. Exactly what they needed.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

For Keeps Sake

StoryTime OsnatHaplerinBarlev

Photo: Osnat Halperin-Barlev

 

Hold your toes

And attention

On the story she tells.

Lean in more

To inspect

Every image as well.

For no matter

The weather

Or the chatter

Outside,

There’s not much like

The keepsake

Of a big sister’s

Pride,

And the magic of

Words

In your sweet heart,

Amplified.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Keepsake in 49 words

 

 

Night Walker

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Photo: Martin Adams on Unsplash

 

She’d appear out of her bed

As if in dream.

An apparition in their kitchen.

A small figure levitating up the stairs

From the nursery,

A flannel nightgown sweeping over the cold floor

And her bare feet.

They might’ve wondered

Why she had become

A somnambulist,

Had they not needed to keep

Any odd thing

Completely clandestine.

So they latched the front door

High,

And kept the very secret

Of her night-walking

Under the covers

Of unspoken sleep.

 

 

 

For the Weekend Writing Prompt: Somnambulist in 78 words

 

 

Once Upon A Swing

Photo Prompt © Ceayr

 

“It’s where he comes to make a wish,” Johanna whispered over her swing’s ropes as the girls passed each other on the swing-set, ringlets flying in the breeze.

Marie’s eyes widened and she forgot to pump her legs. The old man looked like many others she’d seen. Or was he? She’s never known anyone grown who made wishes. In real life. Into a fountain. Like in stories. It made her wonder what other things in tales were true. Perhaps goblins? Or princesses?

“His wife died, you see,” Johanna added, impressed by her cousin’s reaction. “He wishes for her to return.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Hide And Go Seek

memory SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It was the best place to play hide and go seek.

At least, that’s what they wanted him to think.

It was also the best place to go missing.

Not that they’d tell him. …

He had no reason to suspect anything was amiss. Not when the whole troop of them had ran together all the way to the weathered monoliths that dotted the small glens by the ancient cliffs. Not when the game had ensued with much merry running and grabbing and stone-circling. Not even when most of the children had headed back home for supper as dusk neared, but he was invited to stay “and play a bit longer” with a handful of the most popular kids.

He was new in town. He felt included. He felt welcomed.

He should have felt scared.

“He just disappeared,” they later said. “We thought he’d gone home with the others.”

“It has happened before,” their parents nodded, wrapping arms around the shoulders of their feet-shuffling children and forming a united wall against the ashen faces of the boy’s parents, the newcomers who never should have come, who never could belong. “The boy must have wandered away in faded light and fallen into a sinkhole.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Wait For The Light

Photo prompt: Dale Rogerson

 

“Can we go to the playground, Mama?”

The woman stroked the small forehead to compose herself and smiled into the over-bright eyes. “It is the middle of the night, Cara.”

“Can I see?”

The woman tucked the blankets under the child and lifted her. The bundle in her arms felt devastatingly like the infant Cara had been a handful of winters ago, and heartbreakingly almost as light again. She turned so her daughter faced the window.

“It’s dark,” the girl sighed. “I’m tired, Mama. Maybe I wait for the light?”

“Yes, Cara,” the mother whispered. “We wait for the light.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Attitudes of Gratitude

Living princess A.L.

Photo: A.L.

 

I chose to write this response to Dawn as a stream of consciousness piece. No edits. No pauses. No revisiting or rethinking or rephrasing. Typos and mismatched sentences and mixed metaphors and all. It is what it is. And so it is. Here goes, some ten things I am grateful for.

  1. You. I am thankful for all of you whom I met in the blog-lands in 2019, and for those I’d met before but got to know better in 2019. I’m thankful for the glorious, tender, poetic, empathic, wise, witty, funny, delightful, mysterious things you write and post and share. For all of you who love. For all of you I love. For the kindness shown to me.
  2. Kindness. I cannot overemphasize how grateful I am for kindness. For the big things people do for each other, yes. Opening one’s home to the needy. Giving of what one has enough of to those who do not. Going all out for someone else. Yes. All that. But also for the seemingly small acts of kindness: Holding the door for someone, making eye contact and smiling, paying for someone’s coffee, carrying someone’s groceries to the car, babysitting someone’s child so they can have a moment for themselves, clearing snow from someone else’s car, slowing down at the street crossing so someone who is slower or frail does not need to feel rushed lest the light changes before they are on the other side, being the driver who waits patiently till that slow-crosser gets safely to the other side … It all matters. Especially now.
  3. Connection. Through the big and small acts of kindness. Through the words we say and the things we do and the words we don’t say and the things we could’ve done and decided not to, because it was the better thing to do to refrain. To think not only of the immediate gratification but the long term realities of who we are and what we want to know about our own choices.
  4. Choices. For being able to have them. For being able to exercise them. For being able to know what they are and not take them for granted. For remembering those who fought for them and taking on the charge of fighting to help those who have far less choice, so they, too, have the choices they should have.
  5. Patience. Am grateful for learning a bit more of it. For knowing I’ve got more to learn and that I can take the time to become better at it. Patience with others who don’t see as I do. Patience with others who need me to see as they do and even if they have a difficult time accepting I do not see eye to eye with them and likely won’t, and yet that it is okay to disagree and no one needs to feel as if they’d lost face or have less worth. Patience with the things that take time that I don’t always feel I have. Patience with myself, especially. With my body’s limitations. With others’ human limitations. With the realities of pain and the cost of histories and with the urgency to know what the future holds, even if I know I can’t.
  6. The future. Grateful for the opportunity to work toward one. To be part of what change can be done that may help ensure the next generations will have one. To be part of believing that good matters and action matters and small choices matter, and that together we can be more light than doom, more responsible than victimizing, more repairing than damaging.
  7. Repair. Am grateful for the trust placed in each breath we breathe. For the potential to repair: relationships, the fractures of mistakes, the misunderstandings that come with complicated communications and different points of views and variations on information and the tug and pull of forces that may wish to harm, but we need not succumb to. Because we are better than that, and stronger at the seams of our repair. For the potential to hold hope and action for the repair of some aspects of this Earth, too.
  8. Hope. I am deeply, deeply, deeply thankful for hope.
  9. Children. I cannot imagine this world without them. There would be no world without them. They represent, embody, live, breathe, exude hope.
  10. Love, and the power of voice. I know. Two in one. For they are often one. Written, spoken, expressed love and voice. The kind that comes through in actions, in thoughts, in educating, in offering help, in wisdom, in words, in gestures, in the myriad ways that make us who we are. And help us grow.

May every day in 2020 — and in the decade unfurling, new and brimming with what can be still be born — bring us all that we are grateful for. And the courage and power and strength and stamina and magic to dream and trust and do and move beyond.

With a heart full of tremulousness and gratitude,

Na’ama.

 

 

(Adding here a link to last year’s list. Because it made me smile to read it. I’m quite predictable to myself, I am. I am.)

For Dawn’s “The 2019 Attitude of Gratitude List”