my heart slips
through a crack
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Photo: Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, c.b.w. 2015
Words: senryu, c.b.w. 2018
I. urban pause
sitting in traffic
the sun glints
off strangers’ cars
II. urban solitude
the city surrounds
my skin and bones
yet I am alone
III. urban sprawl
where a desert
once filled my view
IV. urban garden
picking garden beans
roars down the road
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Image: New York Movie – Edward Hopper, 1939, WikiArt.org
Words: senryu, haiku, c.b.w. 2016
Just as it did every year on this day, Malcolm’s cane rattles across the cobblestones. He knows where the walkway is uneven and how many steps it takes to get from the flower market to the clock tower. Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven. For the last ten years, the number has always been the same.
The roses smell stronger than usual, their sweet, musky scent hangs heavy in the foggy air. The treads on his old shoes struggle to grip the stones still wet from the street washer’s hose. He tightens his hold on his cane and feels for the wall behind him. A chill seeps into his spine as he leans on the stone bricks.
He knows he’s in the right place when he hears the soft tick-tock of the clock tower. The steady tempo calms his pulse and soothes his nerves. It’s been so long, but the thought of her still makes his hands clammy and his knees wobble.
Footsteps approach and they could be hers . . . but, no. Too heavy and too far apart. They belong to Jakob, a waiter from the café across the street. A large gentle hand squeezes Malcolm’s arm with the assurance of friendship. He says nothing, but gives Malcolm a warm cup of coffee before walking away.
The steam warms his nose and weaves through his thick mustache. It’s enough to warm his bones, but not much else. She said she’d be here and he still believes her. People get lost or wander away, but they always end up coming home. Don’t they?
As the minutes tick by and his coffee cup empties, he listens carefully for the sound of her voice calling his name and sniffs the breeze for a hint of her perfume. He would know her touch anywhere as there is nothing like the feel of her hand in his. If he tries hard enough he can imagine her phantom fingers caressing his skin. Though, he cannot see her face. The memory is no longer vivid and his eyes are a thing of the past.
She would come, he knew she would.
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This is a little experiment in free-writing with the assistance of a prompt and a partial story it inspired in one of my journals. I played with both a bit more and filled in some blanks. The photograph comes from a trip I took to Prague a few years back.
Prompt: They’d agree to meet under the clock on Valentine’s Day. That was four years ago, but he still came very year on that date to wait for her.
Source of prompt: First 50 – I’ve had the prompt tucked in my journal for a while, but never checked out this blog until today. It’s an amazing source of writing prompts and I highly recommend it for any writer looking for a little inspiration!
– – –
The rocking chair sits still and empty. I lean against the doorframe and promise myself I’ll give it a fresh coat of paint one of these days. I make this promise every evening, just as darkness descends over another day.
When the first star appears, that’s my cue to go back inside. As summer wears on it takes longer and longer for that star to appear. I let the screen door slam behind me and I listen for the two usual taps against the jamb. The rocker remains alone and the paint will peel for at least another promise.
The house is quiet save the snores of Moose. The old black lab sleeps on his side in the middle of the living room floor and chases rabbits in his dreams. I turn on one lamp and leave the rest of the house dark. It’s just me tonight, just like always. Aside from polite hellos and thank you’s I haven’t spoken with another human being in as many months as I have fingers and toes.
Cicadas buzz through closed windows, their calls so constant it’s as if their mates never answer. I pick up my book and notice there are only a few pages before the story is over. I mark the last page with a bookmark so I know when to stop. The final pages are always where the characters either solve their problems or are dealt a final blow. Life seldom comes together in such a predictable manner, so I plan on leaving the fictional Miss Hatty Jenson dangling without an answer.
What was it my mother once said? I tap my chin and think back to my eight-year-old self. The little boy across the street had just kicked me in the shins and spit in my hair before he dashed away laughing. I limped home with tears in my eyes and bloodstains on my socks. As I bawled in my mother’s arms, I kept asking her if he would be punished for what he’d done. It only seemed fair that he should pay for being so mean. Between her gentle cooing she whispered, “Fate decides what will be and what will not somewhere between always and never.” Her answer seemed like a crock back then and life has proven to me more than once that the answer is never. The little boy is a bitter man and the little girl still cries.
Miss Jenson has just found out her betrothed is only marrying her for her money and she is heartbroken. There are worse things, but judging from how little of her story remains she will never have to experience them. I pause as Moose rolls on his back. He’s a faithful old friend who has filled the void, but not all holes can be filled. The house is still empty and the rocker remains unpainted. This isn’t how I imagined things to go. I don’t need a prince or even a happy ending . . . just a little certainty would be nice.
Never. When did fate get so vindictive?
My bright red bookmark is one page away. This is where I read slower and more carefully so as not to overstep my boundary. Miss Jenson now realizes her best friend’s infatuation with her fiancé as the cause for false rumors. She immediately recognizes the folly in doubting his love and sets off to catch him before he departs for far away shores . . . but, I will never know how it ends and Miss Jenson will forever be on the cusp of her conclusion. I close the book and place it on my bookshelf next to all the rest. Hundreds of books clutter rows of shelves, each with a bookmark holding the last page.
* * *
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Note: This story was inspired by a previous post, Wonder Lines. Inspiration really does arrive in the most unexpected places, even somewhere as strange as a random set of self-generated questions.
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