A Key To The Heart

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The last thing she believed was that her great-grandmother’s words had been literal.

The old woman was prone to tall tales, lore and fairies, rumors and gossip, odd potions and odder notions. There were always layers of meaning. Lessons. Some ancient moral to decipher. A hidden understanding.

As a young child, Patricia was fascinated by Gramma Gee. She would spend hours dreaming about the meaning of the words of mystery from the wizened woman who had more wrinkles than skin and whose spine bent halfway parallel to the ground.

But by the time she turned an adolescent, Patricia found the elder’s cryptic talk to be boring, dated, and annoying. She only went to visit to assuage her mother’s guilt, and even then did so without enthusiasm and for the briefest stay.

When Mom died at the end of a long illness while Gramma Gee continued living, Patricia — then a college student — stopped visiting altogether. She’d convinced herself that the old woman in the cheerless room in the old people’s home was senile and would not know the difference, but in her heart’s heart she knew that she was angry. Every day the ancient lived felt like one stolen from her mother.

Patricia wondered if her mom had felt that way after Nana died. The sudden death that bled Nana’s life into her brain had left Mom bereft and lonely. Patricia was not quite four years old at the time.

It did not seem fair. Two holes bracketed by a woman so old there could not have been a good enough reason for her to still live.

Then, on Patricia’s twenty-sixth birthday, Gramma Gee breathed her last. She’d just turned ninety-five.

She left Patricia everything: Two tattered suitcases of documents, moth-eaten blankets in a trunk that could have come out of a horror movie, a box of knickknacks, and a four-leaf clover key wrapped in a piece of leather in the shape of a heart.

“There is a key to the heart, and you can use it.”

Patricia had heard Gramma Gee say this phrase more times than she cared to remember. She’d thought it romantic at some point, then irritating.

But was it more than an expression? And if so, a key to what?

The attorney who was the executor of Gramma Gee’s meager estate was no help. A harried man with droopy spectacles and droopier hair, he had not much to tell her. “It could be in the documents,” he said, nicotine-stained fingers fidgeting for her to sign the papers on his desk and let him go handle some other oldster’s odds and ends. “I believe there’s a deed among the documents. To some house in the old country. I don’t expect it to still be standing. Most are not.”

It was mostly not.

But a section was, and part of a stair sticking out of broken walls. And the owner of the bed and breakfast nearby had a small tractor and a strong son he could lend. When they cleared away the rotten beams and tumbled stones and mounds of weeds, there was an intact part of ancient wall revealed, and more steps.

And at the end of those, a closed door. Set with a heart-shaped lock.

She had the key.

And she could use it.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

If It Rains

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Photo: Javardh on Unsplash

 

“If it rains,” she said.

“It pours,” he answered.

They laughed and touched palms

Over glass.

The barriers that divide

Not keeping them

Apart.

“And when it shines,” she said,

“It glories,” he responded.

She grinned and then the corners

Of her lips

Shook and her palm pressed

Again

Toward his

And her eyes unleashed a

Downpour of

Longing.

“Don’t cry,” he whispered.

“I’m almost ready

For the transplant.

My cells will welcome yours

Into my own.

As they had

In the womb.

It is like coming home.”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Downpour in 88 words

 

 

 

Look Again

 

“Can you see her?” Emma rose on tiptoes and lifted her chin to add inches to her five-foot frame.

I smiled. What Emma lacked in stature, she made up for in sheer stubbornness. She felt tall.

We had parked on the far side of the marina and were approaching from behind the stage, facing the crowd. A sea of heads corralled by masts.

“She isn’t in the first row,” I noted, puzzled. Aunt Tilda was a front-row fixture in all local concerts.

“Look again,” Emma insisted. “If it’s free, you bet she’d staked her claim since the day before yesterday.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

No Line

 

“There’s no line!” Margo pulled Adina’s hand with one of hers and pointed with the other. “Let’s hurry!”

Adina followed Margo’s finger, shielding her eyes from the sun. It’s been a long day already and they’d only gotten in a little over an hour ago. The drive. The stops. The lines for the tickets. The lines for the entrance. The lines for the bathroom. The lines to the lines …

Her eyes met the target.

What was that!?

A contraption rose ahead, metal-barred and plastic-sheathed, crisscrossed with steps and zigzagged horrors.

“Come on!” Margo danced on the balls of her feet, ecstatic.

Adina felt the hotdog that she didn’t even eat yet threaten a revisit.

No way she was going up that thing. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.

“Must be a reason no one’s there,” she tried.

“Yeah! Because it is ‘by reservation.’ Aren’t you glad I called ahead and made one?”

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

No Shoveling!

 

“I’ll just be a minute,” Benito shooed his family ahead. “Don’t want you catching cold.”

He rubbed his gloved hands together. The temperature had dropped over twenty degrees in the last few hours.

“Especially you, Junior!” he pointed at his youngest. The boy had weak lungs and had just finished another long course of antibiotics. “In you go.”

“Oh, no, you’re not!” Maria planted her feet in front of her husband. “You are coming in with us. Right now. There will be no shoveling by you today. Boss Manuel insisted. Today you are a guest. After all, it is your birthday!”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

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

 

 

One Face, A Whole World – Yom Ha’Shoah

 

This is the photo of Sarah Kol (1933-1944), my grandfather’s niece. She was murdered, age 11, along with her mother Ida, my grandfather’s eldest sister, and many others, by the Nazis in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

She is one of the millions lost to the rabid hate the Nazis practiced, spread, and fed.

Each one of those millions lost was an entire lost world.

Each murder left a gaping hole where their lives and accomplishments, their stories, their loves and joys, their children and grand-children who’d never be, would have been, should have been …

My grandfather lost many in his family in the Holocaust.

My grandmother lost many in hers.

Other branches of my family lost loved ones, too.

Many families lost even more.

Some have no one left to remember. Many have no photos. No one to tell their stories.

So we must. As we can. Tell of those we know.

Remember all.

Little Sarah’s is but one face of many.

Hers was a life all its own. Snuffed out but not forgotten.

May her memory be a blessing.

May all their memories be a blessing. Six million. More. So we remember.

So we never forget.

Little Sarah, you were born but a year before my mother. The Nazis killed you, but they could not kill your memory. You live in each of us. The memory of your mother and siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles lives on, too. I see your face in my sisters and many cousins and nieces.

We are you.

And we remember.

 

 

For Keeps Sake

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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

 

 

Call Home

Photo prompt: © Douglas M. MacIlroy

 

“Do you still have it?”

“Let me see,” he nodded at the screen even though he knew she couldn’t see him.

“Okay.”

The tremor in her voice told him everything: How tender she felt, how brave she was, how she couldn’t bear for him to ask directly lest it shatter what brittle control she managed to maintain.

“Got it,” he breathed. Attached. Hit ‘send.’ “Check your email.”

The line was silent. Then her voice, full of tears. “I knew it. I knew it hadn’t been a dream. She said she’d visit. From the after. Exactly this way. … And she came.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Magic Man

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Photo: JK Monument, Brasilia; Maurilio Quadros on Unsplash

 

“Why is he up there?” Santiago shaded his eyes against the glare.

“To be close to the angels,” A-avó said.

“Isn’t he already dead?” the boy asked softly. He didn’t want to offend his grandmother, whose age seemed close enough to dying.

“Ah,” A-avó shook her head with sorrow. “He is with Jesus now some years. But he kept many from joining Heaven too early.”

The boy’s eyes lit with curiosity. “Did he do magic, A-avó?”

“In his way,” the old woman nodded. “Magic enough to me. Your O-avô would not have lived if it weren’t for President JK bringing medicine to us who lived in the country. The malaria and the tuberculosis would have taken your O-avô. As they had taken mine.”

Santiago thought of how it would be for him to grow up without the man he loved. “Obrigado,” he bowed to the statue.

“Good boy,” A-avó smiled.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Brasilia, Brazil