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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Word Prompt: Attic

Beau had been missing for two weeks. I imagined him lying in a ditch, stranded in the middle of the woods with an injured leg or mauled by a vicious animal, and wondering when we’d come and rescue him. He was old. His self-defense skills weren’t what they used to be. At his prime, he’d taken on a pack of neighborhood dogs that ganged up to kill him. When a neighbor intervened and brought him home, we gaped at the gash above his eye.

“That’s nothing,” the neighbor said. “You should have seen the dogs. They fared a lot worse. Your cat tore them to shreds. He’s quite a fighter.”

Beau’s sleek Seal Point Siamese frame misled most to think he was dainty and delicate. He fooled many with his refined, gentleman’s stance and indifferent air, fully living up to his given name: Beau Brummel. But our Beau was no dandy. His royal blue eyes could cut any one of us in two, and with one swipe of his paw, he’d remind you who truly reigned over the four acres on which we lived.

I felt lost without him. Every afternoon I rushed to the answering machine and listened for the unknown voice which spotted our “missing” signs all along the road and called to let us know he had our cat; that stranger never rang.

In the evening I called out for him, hoping I’d see his limber body prancing through the woods toward our house. He never appeared.

I didn’t want to give up hope, but as more days went by, I began to think the worst. My dad said Beau probably left us to go die. Animals did that, especially when they loved a family very much. I couldn’t understand why Beau would leave us without saying goodbye.

Two weeks after he disappeared, I came home from school alone. My sister had gone to a friend’s house. As I prepped a snack to fuel my brain for an afternoon of math equations and history questions, a distinct howl echoed through the house. I stopped at the fridge and listened.

“Meooowww…meooowww…meooowww.”

There was no mistaking that howl. It was easy to discern Beau’s Siamese call. And he’d come back! I darted from room to room, glancing through the glass windows and doors to see where he was waiting for me to let him in.

“Beau!” I shouted. “Where are you?”

“Meooowww…meooowww.”

The howl was distant, like it came from behind our walls. The question was, which wall? As I stood in the hall, I glanced at the ceiling. Could he have been in the attic this whole time? Sometimes, when we went up there to store boxes, he followed us to inspect the vast walk-through space. On a few occasions, we’d accidentally left him put here. I quickly yanked on the pull-down ladder and clambered up the stairs.

“Beau!” I shrieked, glancing anxiously around the cluttered storage room.

But he didn’t appear. Leaving the attic door open, I climbed down the stairs and rushed to the phone.

“He keeps meowing, Dad!” I cried. “He’s somewhere inside the house, but I can’t find him. Please come home and help me look for him.”

Distraught, I tearfully listened to my beloved cat calling out for me, until my dad’s car pulled into the driveway. The howling ceased. I swore up and down that Beau had been meowing, but after a thorough inspection of the entire house, my dad found no trace of the cat.

“But I heard him,” I bawled. “He was meowing. It was his meow.”

Hugging me close, my dad said, “Maybe that was his spirit trying to tell you goodbye.”

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Word Prompt: Kingdom

I woke with stiff legs, every muscle moaning from toil and labor, and staggered from the bed. Unable to life my feet more than half an inch off the ground. My tired, aching body went into automatic mode and shuffled them in jerky pushes across the floor.

This was my morning, shrouded in black from the night which was loathe to depart. Just a few minutes more, it yawned and rolled over to snooze. My heavy shoulders shrugged it off as swollen fingers fumbled for a lamp in the den. My eyes were too tired to see through the dark. Yet my feet didn’t cease shuffling, away from the light, toward the long hallway through which my kingdom awaited.

At the far end, there was my window, the portal through which I gazed at my great city and surveyed the populated hills leading to the crystal skyscrapers glowing on the horizon. This was my kingdom to behold.

But alas, my vision was marred, or the window was not clean, for when I looked through the portal on this morning, there was nothing beyond the shrubs at my property line. The rest of the city had been erased with a giant, smudged eraser, it seemed. A murky blanket of fog had cloaked my view. It hung low and cold, like a burnt cloud tinged brown at its heaviest girth. Where was the sun to rise victoriously, sweep its sword across this monster, and banish it away? It, too, had been caged from the madness around us. In one night, swampy clouds devoured my beloved land, and there I stood, physically pained while I tried to cope with my overwhelming loss.

Everything was gone, lost in the dream which carried me away from all that I loved in one brief moment. I lingered alone, severed from all that I knew and loved well, listening to the silence, for it was all that remained when the rest of the world disappeared from my panoramic view.

Word Prompt: Australia

“Aww, bloody hell, the takeaway is outta whiting. Looks like we’ll be having prawns, unless you fancy calamari or a roasted chook.”

“I could go for a bug, if you’ve got those.”

“Nah, you don’t want ’em here. Morton Bay’s where you go for bugs.”

“Ah, okay, prawns are fine. I don’t eat chook.”

“You don’t eat chook?”

“No, I don’t eat meat.”

“Don’t eat meat? Are you mental? Who doesn’t eat meat?”

“A vegetarian.”

“A what? How do you survive?”

“Eating fruits, veggies, grains, yoghurt, cheese.”

“How do you eat those without meat? And isn’t fish a meat?”

“Some schools of thought don’t classify it as a ‘meat’ because it isn’t raised on land. It’s not my first choice for protein, but it’s the lesser of evils on the menu board over there.”

“I don’t get why you’d want to torture yourself like that. Most blokes over here would reckon you’re a wanker if you can’t enjoy a nice rack of lamb or crusted steak pie.”

“Blokes can reckon all they want, I suppose. Doesn’t bother me.”

“I suppose firing up the ol’ barbie tonight won’t do you much good.”

“I can grill veggies.”

“Vegetables? Are you taking the piss?”

“Not at all. I grill vegetables all the time at home. Squash, Portabello mushrooms, asparagus, kale.”

“Gee, mate, I reckon you have some strange ways of living in America. If you can call that living.”

“Aww, well, that’s the beauty of visiting different places. Gives me a chance to see how the rest of the world lives.”

“And where do you reckon Australia lands in where you’ve been?”

“I can’t really compare it against those places. Australia’s always been dear to me. It’s my second home.”

“A home away from home. Well said, mate.”

Word Prompt: Change

Change takes me from the hills of Spanish tiles and stucco, nine miles of gridlock traffic, and ten hours of computer screen comas to a handcrafted table on an open deck, overlooking an endless landscape of the vast Aussie bush. Flat farmlands to the left graced with white cockatoos flying overhead. A magpie perched on the balcony ledge, warbling a high-pitch whistle to earn its morning food. The clearest blue skies, unmarred by smog, and low, silver-lined clouds coasting toward the open sea, which lingers beyond my view.

Ghost trees, their ashy bark pale and smooth, waving to the cockatoos, their tall and spindly limbs bending to a breeze’s whim. Rustling dainty leaves like a fanned paintbrush pointed toward the sky. Crisp crystal air, slightly damp from morning dew, kissing my cheek as I take the first sip of milky espresso and think, this is a life.

Is it a life I could have every day? Away from the movie screens and TV shows, Gucci people, and fellow creatives, who breathe and sleep our industry – the industry that courses through my blood and gives me new life when a new project or the updated draft pings my inbox, sealed with hopeful greetings from a writer in search of his next job. Could I give that up to sit here on this deck every day? Give everything I’ve worked for an opportunity to blow away, far across the ocean in a much different world with unparalleled priorities? I have clawed against, begrudgingly succumbed to, and drifted aimlessly with change for a seamless number of days. I have learned it’s useless to swim against the currents. I fall in line with the tides and wait for the waves to pass or calm, using the breaks to wade toward unexplored channels and climb on drier lands.

Though this deck calls me home, I’m not ready to swim from the nocturnal glow of streetlights, blocks of ethnic clusters, and hustling city avenues. The tides bring me to the serenity of now to merely escape awhile, appreciate what exists, and reinvigorate a weary, burnt-out soul before it takes another plunge into the choppy waves and explores deeper sands in the next phase of life.

 

Word Prompt: Sunset

I imagined a magnificent sunset, interlaced with mauve and coral ribbons, tangerine clouds, and a warm, copper glow basking over the distant ocean line. Instead I got turbulent rains, gusts of piercing spears hurled from the east, all bursting from unhappy black clouds, which had eaten my perfect, papaya sun.

Angry slaps of rain pelted the porch, warning me to stay inside. If I knew what was good for me. If I wanted to escape their battle unscathed. I heard the ocean waves moan for reprieve, a break from the rage that blasted them from above. Knowing their wrenching pain, I touched my chest and lamented their woeful call. When the parental sun was supposed to be creeping from the room, leaving them in the tender care of watchful stars, a fitful storm was rocking the seas, rustling them to stay awake in the wrath of an inconsolable night.

My sunset in the west was an unfulfilled dream, the peace I sought not meant to be. It was flailing winds, charcoal lines etched in war-torn skies, and a fury of heaven’s tears that dragged me into the pitch-black hole where nightmares awaited.

Word Prompt: Queen

From where she perches,

Canary caged at her side

(a snap will cue her favorite song),

She has done no wrong

Ignore the thickened scars

Her people wear on brittled skin

Weak and coward

Bitter with toxic flames

Blasphemy squirming under mute tongues

Clenched teeth ground to stubs

For the queen, her grace

Black venom shaped in doughy curves

Lines crossed to suit her whim

Of hearts, she claims none,

Of diamonds, she wears them all,

With clubs, she flails an iron fist

While three spades linger in shadow

‘Til the day she falls