Good Fortune

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Photo: Xinhua County, China (Wikipedia)

 

It was the busiest time.

His loneliest.

He sought good fortune in small things. Mostly because it was absent from the big ones. There was always some disaster to contend with: illness, sorrow, loss.

He was born unlucky. His mother pushed by the side of the road because he’d come so quickly. He was blamed for his rash emergence. For her illness. For her early death. Blamed in the not-so-subtle ways that used words like blades.

“You always were impatient,” his grandmother would say. “Show too-little respect.”

He knew his grandmother resented his emerging like a peasant in the dirt when she had clawed her way out of the rice-fields. He had no response.

“Be grateful that you have enough to eat,” she’d frown. “Unlucky boy.”

Xinhua offered work. He fled.

The letter said that his grandmother had died.

New Year approached. His good fortune was to spend it alone.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Xinhua, China

 

 

 

What Could Not Be Untold

 

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Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa (Photo: redcharlie on Unsplash)

 

“Is that where we’re going?” the boy pointed at the road snaking below. He squinted, hoping to see a car. They’ve walked long. He was tired.

“There,” his father’s finger angled higher, at the cliff. Beyond.

The boy scrunched his lips but kept quiet. Time with his ntate oa was precious. Also, at eight, he did not want to be seen as a baby who should’ve been left home with the women.

The father nodded approval. His son was growing to be obedient and mindful. It was good.

“What’s there?” the boy adjusted the Basotho blanket over his shoulder. He hadn’t been  happy to be told to bring it earlier, but was now that the sun hid.

“Rocks. Earth. Bones. Your ancestors’ homes.”

Khotso nodded. His father was a man of few words, and Khotso knew he was being trusted to understand the power of what could not be untold.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Free State, South Africa

 

 

Up In Smoke

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Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

More Than Well Done

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Photo: Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

 

She mixed and measured, weighed and watched, stirred and sprinkled, steeped and sliced.

She’d gotten every item ready. She made sure she had all the tools. She kept the temperature exact.

This one was going to come out just right.

She double checked each line. She’d compared reviews for different versions of the recipe, to ensure this one worked fine.

The kitchen fan hummed.

Her phone rang.

The house smelled of burnt garlic. She was deafened by the smoke alarm.

The roast was toast.

She could have cried. …

She should have known that her ever-hungry teenage son would devour it as is, as soon as he sat down.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Devour in 108 words

 

 

 

The Stir

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Photo: Alev Takil on Unsplash

 

It wasn’t my intention to create such a stir.

Or was it?

There were many reasons to season the exchange with something less bland than the weather of stocks and performance of bonds and predicted fluctuations of the markets.

So I told them I’m leaving.

“But dinner isn’t over!” Mom’s carefully drawn eyebrows rose into a crease that would likely be frozen by Botox by next week.

“You’ve not been excused,” Dad contributed parenting.

“I’m thirty-two,” I breathed. “I’m moving out.”

“On your own?” Mom’s voice turned acid.

I glanced down. Met liquid eyes. Inspiration dawned. “Nope, I’m taking Leon.”

 

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s JusJoJan prompt: Intention

And … dipping my pen for the first time into the Writers United prompt of “season”

 

 

 

Maybe So

Photo prompt: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

“I wish I could show you the Menorah, Papa!”

“I wish so, too, Leah!”

“Shall I describe it?”

“Oh please do!” he covered the mouthpiece and pressed his ear to receiver. It’ll be months before he’d save enough to hear her sweet voice again.

“We have white candles and the Shamash is melting fastest,” the child stared at her father’s photo, sent from far away. “I’ll use my new crayons and mail you a drawing! Maybe one day people will have special phones that will let them see each other!”

The fantasies of children. He smiled. “Maybe so, maybe so.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Windows On Display

On display NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

His artwork,

Carefully crafted by

Little fingers

And a big

Heart,

Proudly on display

At the family’s

Living room,

Like any well deserving

Art.

 

Note: This is one of a series of creations by my nephew, who was about 7-8 years old when he crafted this and other lovely depictions in modeling clay 3D art.

 

For the Lens-Artists Challenge: on display

 

 

 

An Education

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Photo: El Cabildo © Preyes (Wikimedia Commons)

 

“Where are we going, Papi?” Ramon clung to his father’s belt.

“You’ll see.”

“But it’s a school-day, Papi.” If there was something — other than Jesus — that his parents held sacred, it was education. Though poor, his parents always managed to supply what he needed for school. In turn Ramon was expected to learn well and listen to his teachers. Skipping classes went against everything he understood.

“It will still be a day of learning,” Papi pedaled steadily over muddy paths, narrow roads, and into the city.

Ramon held on, in awe of his father’s ability to find his way in the maze.

A grand peach-colored building manifested.

“A palace, Papi?”

“A museum.”

“Of what?”

“Of us.”

Ramon shook his head. Museums are for the dead.

“We’re native Paraguayans, son. El Cabido is dedicated to our heritage. Our music. Our crafts. Today your school is the history of who you are.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Asucion, Paraguay

 

 

 

Devilish

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Photo: Steve Bruce on Unsplash

 

“It was the devil made those,” Aunt Beulah’s eyebrows almost met above the bridge of her nose.

“They’re just a form of volcanic rock, cooled down in a specific way …” Jedidiah tried.

“By which you mean, the devil.”

Jedidiah sighed. There was no way to reason with his relative once her mind was set. Science would find its way to be in service of her beliefs, and any fact would somehow be turned into further proof of her conviction.

In some ways, he knew, he was no different, only that his spiritual experiences had more to do with being one with the rock, fingers holding on to crags, feet clinging to the surface, defying gravity, confronting his mortality.

“You go climb the devil’s work,” Aunt Beulah muttered. She’d raised him and saw herself in his stubbornness. “And I’ll be in the church praying for Jesus to keep you from dying.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Tasmania, Australia

 

 

Relative Loudness

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Photo: Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

 

“It’s way too loud!”

Maria smoothed her skirt. Her mother’s sense of what wasn’t “too loud” was limited to washed-out grays, faded pastels, and the kind of drab that would put even a hyperactive child to sleep. “I like it.”

“You can’t possibly think you’ll get the job dressed like this.”

Her mother always went for the jugular.

Maria shrugged. She’d learned the hard way that to show her wounding only meant that more of it was certain to be dished out.

“Don’t come crying to me when someone more professional gets the position,” her mother added.

“Thanks for the support, Mom,” Maria sighed. She grabbed her bag, checked to see that the bus card was in her pocket, and walked out, deliberately ignoring the foyer’s mirror. She’ll give herself a final once over later, against a store’s window or parked car if she needed to. Any reflective surface would be more forgiving than her mother’s eye.

Some days the anger churned inside her like a witch’s noxious brew. A dash of fury, an evil eye of newt, a cup of resentment, a clump of shame, a fistful of sorrow, all stirred with the bone of a dog left to die in the street under a full moon.

“She can’t help it,” Sam, when he was still around, would try to soothe her. He was spared the worst of their mother’s tongue-lashings, being a boy and therefore less intrinsically prone to disappointing her. But he was well aware of how their mother’s wrath was doled onto Maria, and he’d even take blame where he could, knowing he wasn’t likely to be punished for the same misdemeanor, and that he’ll get off lightly when he was. “Mom sees in you everything she wants to be and cannot.”

It was truth. It was also small consolation.

“I can’t help it that she had less opportunity,” Maria would pout in answer. “It’s not my fault she was kept home to raise her siblings and never got to finish school. It’s not my fault she feels unable to try anything, or that Dad liked pointing out how uneducated she was.” And still … more often than not Sam’s reminders of where their mother had learned criticism toward daughters, and of the inordinate amounts she’d had to put up with, did help awaken a measure of empathy.

Some days less than others, though.

And on this particular morning Maria had very little of it to spare.

She’d worked hard to prepare for this job interview, and she’d put much thought into the clothing she selected. The turquoise top and a the splash of magenta in the beaded necklace were meant to put a bit of color in her pale complexion. She coupled that with a dark blue skirt with a banana-yellow belt. A matching silk scarf was tied around the handles of her rather overtired bag. She wore a single turquoise bangle on her wrist, and the dark blue pumps she’d kept for special occasions. Her hair was pulled back from her face behind one ear to reveal a single studded earring, and fell in soft curls over her cheek on the other side.

She thought she looked nice. Till her mother’s acid raised welts of doubt.

A whistle sounded and she turned around fully prepared to frown, only to have her lips turn up when she saw the whistler.

“You look glam!” Her eighty five year old neighbor leaned onto his rake and grinned at her through few remaining teeth. “Big day?”

“Hi Mr. Green,” she smiled back. “Yes. I mean, I hope. Job interview.”

“Ah,” he nodded sagely. “And you sure do look the part! Go get ’em! And don’t you let yourself worry none. Tell them all the good things that you are and can do, and don’t you be shy about it, either. It’s is your time to shine, so you go ahead and speak up as loud as anything. Show them who you are so they not miss the chance to employ you. And swing by on your way back to tell me how it went, will you now?”

She nodded. She did not trust her voice …

But her heart felt warmed and her feet were lighter as she walked toward the bus, every window reflecting rosy cheeks and a sparkle in her eye.

 

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS challenge: Loud