Monday, February 24, 2014

Sights and Sounds

Brooke shrugged out of her coat as Mark slid it from her shoulders. Draping it over his arm, he turned to the attendant at the coat check. As he accepted their ticket from the attendant, Brooke spoke up, "What is this exhibit again?"

"It's a collection of photographs." Brooke turned toward Mark with a frown, her eyebrows knitted together. "But, it's a special collection. Trust me."

Guiding his date toward the line of other guests, Mark slipped Brooke's hand over the crook of his arm and read from the printed program. "It says here that this display is the collaborative result of six years worth of work by Benjamin Meer and Charlotte Kalmen. Benjamin Meer has a twin brother, William, who lost his sight as a result of Stargardt's Disease. Benjamin compiled this collection of photographs for William in order to capture favorite moments of their childhood, a scrapbook of sorts."

Brooke shook her head. "A lot of good that would do his brother. A bit thoughtless, don't you think?"

"But that's where Charlotte Kalmen comes in. Charlotte is a composer and pianist and it's her contribution to the project that I think you'll appreciate. Studying Benjamin's photographs, Charlotte wrote original songs to accompany each image, telling the story of each memory through music."

As the couple approached the first photograph, Mark handed Brooke a small device. "What's this? A remote control?"

"Very funny. This first image is titled, "Morning Breaks". It's the view out the kitchen window of the Meer family home. Now if I type in #124, we'll hear Charlotte's interpretation of this early morning moment."  Pressing the keys on the control, Mark held it up near Brooke's ear.

The first few notes seemed to be calling up the sun, beckoning its tentative rise over the crest of the hill. As the song continued, Brooke could make out the notes of birds calling out greetings to one another and the long sighs of the earth awaking. She smiled as the last notes evaporated. "That was lovely," she smiled. "It gave me goosebumps." Rubbing her arms, Mark directed them to the next photograph.

"This one is #135 and it's titled, "Old Porch Swing". According to the program, the boys spent hours on this porch swing, telling stories and listening to the world around them."

Brooke grasped the control to her ear, each note painting a picture of pure joy. Transported to the edge of that swing, she clung to the armrest and listened to the laughter of the boys, felt the summer breeze blow her curls back from her face. She rocked back and forth, hearing the creak of the old wood.

Mark's gaze drifted away from the photograph, landing on Brooke's upturned face. His own eyes glistened as he watched a single tear slip down her cheek. And then another. As she turned her sightless eyes toward him, his felt his throat tighten. In the silence that followed the final strain, Brooke whispered, "I could see the sunshine."

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

A 500-word piece inspired by the image above. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eight O'Clock

Aurora yawned and stretched her hands overhead, feeling a familiar ache in her lower back. She winced and rubbed at the sore muscles, wondering what she'd done to tweak it this time. Shuffling to the kitchen in her slippers, she set the kettle on the burner and popped a tea bag into her favorite emerald green mug, the one Abend had chosen for her during his trip home to Germany last year.  Cupping the mug in her hands, she felt the smooth depressions in the stoneware and smiled at how perfectly it fit in her grip. Abend said it was made just for her. Peeking at the clock, she yawned again. "He said he'd call at eight." Propping herself against the counter, she waited for the water to boil.

Abend scratched at his chin, feeling the stubble, and grinned. He could hear Aurora's teasing voice, "If you want a kiss, you'll need to shave first."  He flicked off the bathroom light and sighed.  There would be no kiss, just a phone call to his favorite girl.  Abend pulled on a sweatshirt to guard against the chill and wandered to his hotel room's kitchenette, searching for something hot to drink. A nondescript ivory mug sat in the sink. He rinsed it and filled it with water before putting it in the mini-microwave and pressing the button marked, "beverage". Running his hand through his hair, he checked his watch, the Rolex Aurora had surprised him with before he left for this trip. "So you won't lose track of time and forget to call me," she'd said, winking.

The timepiece read seven forty-five. Just then the microwave beeped and Abend carefully lifted the steaming mug and dropped in a tea bag from the hotel stash.  Blowing across the surface of the mug, he settled into the armchair near the window and pulled out his notes from his most recent interviews. The next fifteen minutes crawled toward eight o'clock.

Pouring the boiling water into her emerald mug, Aurora smiled as her phone rang.  Abend's ring tone filled the quiet kitchen and she slipped into a chair at the kitchen table.

"Hello, Love."

"Hey there, my girl. Did I wake you?"

"No. I've been waiting for your call. How are you?"

"Busy, as you'd expect. I covered the ski jump events, even interviewing the gold medalist from China."

"Wonderful! I'll look for you at the bottom of the hill."

"Sure, I'll be the one in the blue hat amidst the sea of reporters. Are you staying busy?"

"I have a meeting across the bay in Sausalito in a bit."

A few seconds ticked by in silence.

"I miss you."

"I miss you, too. Just five more days."

"I made reservations at Cupola."

"I can taste the pizza."

"I'm sorry, I have to go."

"Have a great day, Aurora."

"I will. And you sleep well."

"Good morning."

"Good night."

As the phone went silent, Aurora sighed. "Time is the longest distance between two places."

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

A 500-word piece inspired by The Glass Menagerie quote, "Time is the longest distance between two places." and the image above. A little fun with language: Aurora is Latin for "goddess of the dawn" while Abend is German for "evening".

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It Takes Two...

"You're sure you don't mind running out?"

Maggie was already pulling on her grey peacoat and wrapping a long turquoise scarf around her neck.  "Of course not. I'll just pop down to the corner market. You can't very well have cinnamon rolls without cinnamon!" She laughed and tugged an old felt hat over her unruly curls and then, tucking the cuffs of her pajama bottoms into her boots, she peered up at her sister and grinned. "Is there anything else we need? You do have coffee, right?"

Elsa nodded and silenced the timer on the stove. Pulling on oven mitts, she reached into the oven to pull out her grandmother's ceramic bowl; the warm yeasty bread rising up above the surface and pressing against the blue-checked tea towel she had draped over the top.  "I went to the store after my tiff with Rob and I guess my mind was elsewhere. He just made me so mad..." Her voice trailed off prompting a sympathetic squeeze from her sister. Elsa shrugged and let out a long sigh. "It's really not a big deal. Listen, if you hurry, I'll have the dough rolled out and ready for the good stuff when you get back. I have a couple dollars in my purse, if you need it."

"Don't be silly. I got paid yesterday and after paying the rent, I think I have just enough money leftover for a jar of cinnamon," Maggie teased. "I'll be back in a jiffy!"

As the apartment door slammed shut, Elsa opened the cupboard door and gathered the other ingredients she needed in order to make their mother's famous cinnamon rolls.  Lining up the brown sugar, butter and raisins, she flipped on the radio before dipping her hands into the dented canister and sprinkling the countertop with a generous dusting of flour. Singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, she dumped out the warm dough onto the floured surface and kneaded out the air bubbles, the familiar yeasty fragrance filling her nostrils.

For a moment, Elsa was transported back to her childhood kitchen, covered in flour up to her elbows and helping her mother roll out the dough for their Saturday morning breakfast.  Cartoons blared from the living room and her mom hummed, "I Can't Stop Lovin' You," while she worked the dough.

"You know, Love," she murmured to her oldest daughter. "Bread is the perfect food to prepare when you're working through a problem. Bread dough loves to be pounded on and pushed around. Work out your frustrations on a lump of dough and you'll feel better."

Elsa smiled at the memory. Knowing her dad, the girls' mother had plenty of frustrations to work out. That's probably why Mom made cinnamon rolls every Saturday. To push around and pound on the dough instead of Dad. In spite of his faults, her mother had stood by him through all those years, even with his conspiracy theories and irrational fears making work hard to find and even harder to keep. Unbidden, her thoughts floated back to her argument with Rob, stirring up a familiar dialogue. So, he forgot our date. He said he was sorry, right? Yes. But this wasn't the first time he'd missed an engagement. Well, last time you gave him the wrong restaurant. But he didn't have to be so rude about it yesterday. Flouring her rolling pin, Elsa pummeled the sweet dough and was surprised to find that with each roll, she felt some of the tension leave her shoulders.  He did text this morning with new reservations. Proof, I suppose, that he wanted to make it right. Once the dough was pressed into a thin rectangle, Elsa slathered butter over the smooth surface, turning the spatula back and forth. I guess it was all just a messy misunderstanding. I should let it go, but...

She was shaken from her thoughts by the rattling of Maggie's keys in the door. "I'm back! Did you miss me?" she hollered. Thumping the jar of seasoning on the counter, she unwrapped her warm layers and grinned, her nose and cheeks pink from the frosty morning air. "It smells good," she quipped as she pinched off a piece of dough and popped it in her mouth. Elsa playfully slapped her sister's hand away, scolding her with a look learned from their mother. Maggie laughed and tucked her legs up under herself, perching on the kitchen stool to watch her sister work.

After a generous layer of brown sugar, a sprinkling of raisins and a heavy dusting of the recently fetched seasoning, Elsa rolled up the dough, sliced it into hearty rolls and popped them into the oven. "Do you want a cup of coffee while we wait? It'll be a spell for them to rise and bake." At a nod from her sister, Elsa filled a mug with fresh coffee and slid it across the countertop, picking up the new jar of seasoning to put away. She paused. "Uh, oh. This isn't cinnamon, Maggie." Her younger sister snatched it from her hand and squinted at the label.

"Chicken jerk? Oops. Well, uh, they'll be spicy!"

Elsa clasped her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. "You really need to wear your glasses when you shop!"

"You could have read the label, too. Where are your glasses?"

"Shush. Can you pass me the phone."

"Who are you calling at this hour?"

"Rob. You just reminded me that it takes two to make an accident."


A flash-fiction piece inspired by The Great Gatsby quote, "It takes two to make an accident." And also inspired my very own kitchen-catastrophe when I really did mistake chicken jerk for cinnamon in a batch of cinnamon rolls. That spicy accident ended up in the trash, but not without teaching me a lesson about reading labels carefully!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bells

The bells of St. Brigit's are calling tonight. 

The glow of a hundred tapers fills the nave; the air is heady with incense. Organ music swells to the rafters and every head turns. Feet shuffle and the pews creak as those gathered rise and catch a glimpse of the beauty behind the veil, prompting the appearance of lace handkerchiefs to dab at teary eyes. The belle trembles, clinging to the arm of her escort, her eyes focused on the altar awash in orchids and ivy. Her glistening eyes flicker to the loving smile of the gentleman standing at the end of the aisle.

And finally she can breathe.

image courtesy of gammablog

100 words to add to that first line. May they live happily ever after.