The coal train meandered by.
Locking her eyes on the rail she could see an occasional spark.
It was hot.
Mallow grew alongside the route. Yellow orbs too delicate to be there opening their souls to the sun. Yet, there they were.
She leaned back against the tree that also somehow survived surrounded by dry brittle grass and weeds. Curling ends beggared of water from the last spring rain.
The train continued on.
Closing her eyes to barely a squint she was able to merge the spinning wheels until it looked as if the train was floating on some kind of magic heat rising above its rails, making it stand still. All that iron and power just floating motionless.
In each window was a face looking at her, just staring as if they had something to tell her. A wistful look. A veneer of gloom. There was fear. Anger. Each mask holding their story that somehow was hers now.
The alarm on her phone buzzed.
The end of the train passed and she watched the last face, gentle and perfectly framed in the back window, fade away.
The walk back to the abandoned house was through the old fields that once held crops to feed hungry bellies. About an hour’s walk from the tree would find her feet planted on the porch. The paint, if there ever was any, was long faded away. Only an ashen grey lingered.
This was all hers now. The house. The land of anecdotal crops.
The railroad held the only easement between her and the next homestead, also abandoned.
She didn’t want it.
She was of water and ocean and floating. She was of horizon that met sky where sun and moon each in their own time would rise and fall. She was of sea wind that carried story.
She was not of this place. Or at least she didn’t think so.
The man at the gas station had given her a watermelon. She had no idea why or where he had gotten it. But she was glad it was waiting for her on the table.
The inside of the house was decorated with spider webs, dust, and time.
The table wobbled but she was sure it wasn’t from neglect. It had been made that way. She propped it up with a flat stone she found near the fireplace. She traced her finger around a small indentation. It was a perfect fit.
She was hungry and tired. And thirsty.
There was only one way into that globe of pleasure. On the ledge under the once glazed window that looked out to the railroad tracks was another stone. It was slightly larger than her hand with a carved point on one edge. It had to have been carefully chipped and formed for its purpose. There was a swirl with a line that would sit next to her palm. This, too, was intentional.
Raising the rock above her head and holding it with both hands, she brought it down with all her might into the center of the watermelon.
The sidewalk. The burning asphalt. The push. The crash. The blood spatter across her jacket. There were screams and everything blurred, sounds, people, hands pulling her back in slow motion like the wheels of the train. Only she was the motionless object, floating above him.
Or rather, what was left of him…
. . . . .
It is always sacred time when our writing group meets. There were nine of us today at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Our warmup write morphed from a practice I learned in a class at the Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
We each started with a small blank piece of paper. We were to write one quick sentence on it describing something we experienced that morning. The trick is not to think too much. Not to try to be cleaver or descriptive. Just write. We passed the paper to our right and wrote one word that came to us about the gardens. Passed again – one verb. Passed again – another word. Passed a last time – an emotion. As we gathered our drinks and settled, we could chose which prompt paper we wanted to write from. It is our rule that you may use a prompt or not. Let it inspire you. Or not. I took the one that was left:
They waited as the coal train meandered sleepily through the crossing.
mallow locking watermelon wistful
Thank you, dear friends. You are AMAZING!
The boy hadn’t spoken since his twin
One would never know they were twins. She was tall, willowy with short cropped hair of every shade of purple she could concoct. Her fingers were elegant and held rings with stones in shades to match. Her clothes were an amalgamation of flowy gauzes and soft worn cottons, belts of woven wools, and usually one or two scarves tied just so. All in colors of violet or plum or lilac. You get the idea. Her hazel green eyes were the perfect garnish.
And ballet slippers. Not just flats with hard soles and a small heel, but real soft pink ballet slippers. She wore them in rain, as well as snow. Her toes got cold and wet. It was her way of knowing she was still alive. Keeping in touch with what was real.
He was just plain. Medium height. Medium weight. Brown eyes and hair. Brown clothes and shoes. He was much like a bush of witches broom. When they were together, she was the bloom to his branches. He didn’t mind. From the time in the womb he swaddled her with his arms. They had pictures. He just a mass of twine, she a blossom of light.
When she left, he stopped using his voice. When she was there, he spoke through his arms and legs, she giving him the right turn of words. It was the only way for him to thrive, through her in order to speak. She gave him courage and always helped make his words become sweet as fudge. Without her he sounded like cauliflower, just a bunch of off-white, globs of mumbled up noise. So he stopped using his voice.
His job at the botanic gardens was to carry and empty liquid waste buckets from ponds and waterings. He loved his job. In what other job would you get to walk around such beauty all year long? Rows and rows of flowers, bed after bed of vegetables. Trees and orchids. Rock gardens and alpine moss. His work hours were before visitors arrived. Then he returned just before guests left for the other half of his day. He loved quiet.
His favorite spot was the garden with the Minotaur statue. It was bronze, a pretty kind of brown, strong and shiny. The Minotaur didn’t have to talk to others to know what it was about. One could just look at the Minotaur and know its power. And that’s what he did, for hours.
He would hide so as not to be seen until it was safe to come out after the last workers left and the gates were locked for the night. He would make his way down the tabby path being careful not to be in the open. He wasn’t even sure he needed to hide. Most people never saw him anyway. When you are medium at everything and the color of branches, no one notices much.
He would sit under the statue and stories of the Minotaur would flow into his mind. Sometimes when there was a full moon he would lay down on his back feeling the bumps and edges of the shells underneath him and watch the moon as Minotaur stories played across it as if it were a movie screen in the sky.
Then he skedaddled before the early morning crew arrived. He made a stop at the coffee shop and picked up two coffees with cream and one pastry to share as he told the night’s story to his twin. She smiled and corrected his grammar and giving him the perfect words. Which he would remember to perfection, ready to be told again and again and again.
This was his real job. He was the keeper of stories. It wasn’t just Minotaur stories. He gave voice to those who couldn’t speak. There was the little alabaster girl in the cemetary on a bench with her dog who placed its nose so lovingly on her lap that he couldn’t ignore their stories. Or the green patinated frog that crouched on the steps of Mrs. Patmos’ house regularly calling out to be heard.
There were so many stories to remember to tell. Now that she was gone, how was that going to work? How would he find his voice again?
Thursday Afternoon Writers met today at the Denver Botanic Gardens. In addition to a lovely time of sharing, and delightful and amazing writing, the surroundings were an inspiration. I do need to say there is no Minotaur statue there. But there should be. There is a “Liquid Waste” bucket in the cafe. And there shouldn’t be. At least not within sight. 🙂
Our prompts were taken from a writing prompt generator and we each put a word into the pot:
My opening line: The boy hadn’t spoken since his twin had gone…
Our group of words: cauliflower, witches broom, elegant, fudge, Minotaur, skedaddle, tabby, liquid waste
Her voice trickles through heavy roar
of traffic, not like marigolds who hold their
petal memories above forgotten graves behind
concrete walls where ancestors drift in trembling
light that makes its way through cloud grey skies.
And lovers dance over bones of those remaining
under sidewalk gardens and marble columns,
turning up the volume of white space between
beats as figures trace two, now one in embrace,
and bow and turn between the jugglers’ trance.
And our ancestors smile.
This weekend I was delighted!
Three of us trotted into Capitol Hill to write poetry. Through the sponsorship of The Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Write Denver, we joined about twenty others who walked the town to write poetry. Check out Denver Poetry Map where you can read the city.
Bullhorn in hand, our leader took us to the Denver Botanic Gardens, Cheeseman Park, houses in the Cheeseman area, and a coffee house. We stopped, listened to a local poet’s poem through the bullhorn and wrote for fives minutes, then we moved on.
It rained. First big rain of the season.
And then there was Ice Cream Riot. What better way to end the day with “milk stout” scoop? Yes. Stout. In vanilla ice cream. Oh!
Cheeseman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens are built on top of a graveyard. Attempts were made to remove all who rested there, but as ground is turned for new projects, more ancestors are found.
One can remove bones, but spirit will be where spirit will be. We mustn’t forget.