Already Gone (Fiction) & Photo by Emilio Pasquale

Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it.  I barely made it for April, but what follows is the photo he chose, and then my story.  His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should (but I hope you will read the following story too – it’s less than 500 words :) )

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

ALREADY GONE

I shift my weight to relieve the pressure throbbing in my heels. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here because I lost all concept of time… well, I don’t know how long ago. Minutes, hours, days and weeks carry no meaning for me anymore. I hear muted voices and whispers at my back, a brush fire threatening to consume me. I lean toward the porthole window so I can’t see any metal in my peripheral vision. Had it not been for the scraping of forks on plates behind me, I could imagine being alone on a raft drifting into the ocean. As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.

“Has she eaten today?”

“Probably not. She’s been standing there for hours.”

I have a name. My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.

I squint and focus on the clusters of palm trees. I start counting, just to prove to myself I’m not completely gone. My vision always blurs around eleven; that’s when I cease to differentiate tree trunks from sailboat masts. I begin counting again, my unblinking gaze moving across the horizon.

“I don’t think she’s right.”

A laugh. “None of ‘em are. It’s called job security.”

I’m not crazy, I’m lost. Again, my thought doesn’t earn the privilege of spoken words.

I can’t discern if I am running away from or toward something. I decide it really doesn’t matter as I lean forward until my forehead rests on the glass. The drumbeat in my chest grows to such intensity that little room remains for my breath. I take what I can get. The glass warms beneath my skin until it feels like an extension of me. I’m mesmerized by the fogging and un-fogging caused by the interplay of my breathing and evaporation.

I hear shuffling feet behind me and voices fade. Isolation envelops me, clutching my insides in a twisting grip.

“Dinner’s over.”

My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.

I don’t resist the tug on my arm and we both stumble. My right hand knocks the picture off the wall and the glass shatters. Shards dig into my bare skin when I land on the ground. I don’t feel anything. My muscles spasm, as if separate from me. I watch, intrigued. I hear a panicked call for help. I don’t care. My eyelids grow heavy as I search for white light or shadows. I see nothing. I half-expect to feel fear or anticipation. Instead, I’m indifferent toward death and life. Commotion surrounds me and I almost pity them.

Why can’t they see the futility of saving what is already gone?

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This time Emilio almost stumped me.  I was drawn to the obvious with this photo, and if you have read my fiction before, you know I do try to avoid obvious!   It’s not exactly an uplifting story, but I thought finding out the character was lost in a picture and not out to sea may have been unexpected, although clues to the setting are there.  Thanks so much for reading :)

I Know Why They Stay

04-13 Butterfly

On the bench I sit, in the middle of the park,

frozen in time, while the world bustles around me.

I watch life happen, but don’t dare take part

for I know what many others can’t see.

I spy a young girl, no older than seven or eight,

bouncing toward her weary mother.

She squeals, “good things come to those who wait!”

I see the butterfly perched on her outstretched finger.

As the girl nears the woman sitting beside me,

The butterfly’s damaged wings capture my attention.

“She won’t fly. Doesn’t she realize there’s a world to see?”

Her brow now furrowed, she poses the question.

The mother sets an open magazine upon her lap,

“The butterfly must feel at home on the finger of my sweet girl,”

“Perhaps she’s tired, so she’s decided to take a little nap?”

The response, obvious shelter from the ways of the world.

I avert my gaze, should it betray knowledge of the disappointing truth,

I’m not a butterfly expert, but I know exactly why they stay:

It matters not whether they rest or move,

Death befalls them either way.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Here’s where I share inspiration for my poetry.  This will be short!  The thought occurred to me that sometimes no matter what I do, the outcome is the same, so why bother.  (I know, that is isn’t very hopeful of me.)  Then, I decided I wanted to write a story poem with that theme.  The butterfly was simply the captured creature of opportunity, as I had a photo that I’d taken a couple years ago during a visit to Shenandoah.

Reflection

03-23 Duck4

I felt the current pulling me under…

but then,

your words provided shelter

from the rain of discontent

pelting my battered body.

I watched life scatter my dreams asunder…

that’s when,

you strived to make me stronger,

infused me with new-found courage

that I could, indeed, grasp for a future unseen.

I mourned the innocence and hope cruelly plundered…

there again,

you offered your ear and shoulder,

and supplied words of comfort (surely, heaven-sent)-

insisting goodness and kindness resided within me.

I absorbed the encouragement, and wondered…

how then,

did my worries become like beads of water

sliding off a duck’s feathered back?

Like a mirror, I must reflect the grace extended to me.               

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration:  This poem came to mind as I was pondering reflection.  There is the kind of reflection depicted in the photo; and then there is the reflection we do when we look back at where we have been, and those who have helped us through.

On March 28, 2010, I wrote my first timid post here.  I was certain no one would read it… and not many did!  But a strange thing has happened over the years… people have found my small space on the internet.  I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read something I’ve written.

Since I likely won’t post until next week, I just wanted to acknowledge the 5-year mark of this blog and my 773rd post.  It’s happening because of you:  the readers/commenters who make this a fun place to be.  I’ve grown a lot in the last five years and bared much more here than I ever thought I would.  I thought revealing myself would be terrifying, but it’s turned out to be liberating.

For all of you who have had me in your thoughts and prayers over the last couple months – thank you.  Your kind support has truly helped more than you know.  Someday I will provide some explanation, but I simply can’t right now :)

Oh, Dear (Fiction inspired by Emilio Pasquale photo)

This story is inspired by Emilio Pasquale’s photo. I didn’t ask permission to post the photo here, but you can view it in another window by clicking the link on the first sentence. (Trust me, you should see it!)

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“Yes, Mr. Collins. The cabin will be set just how you requested. I took excellent notes.”

Samuel tapped his fingers on his desk. “You’ve got the dozen pink roses and the box of truffles in the bedroom?”

“Yes, sir.”

He exhaled. “Thank you, Josie. Everything has to be perfect; exactly like it was twenty years ago.”

He hung up the phone and rested his forehead in his hands. He knew his future depended on the success of the upcoming weekend. Twenty years ago, he had taken Deana to the rustic cabin on their honeymoon. They hadn’t had much money and, although the cabin was only two hours north of Phoenix, the climate was a world away. Three weeks ago, Deana moved out. Now, he had to prove to her that he still loved her. Recreating our honeymoon for Valentine’s Day is perfect!

He picked up the phone again and pressed the first programmed call number.

“What do you want?”

He gulped. “Listen, Deana. Just give me a chance.”

“I’ve already given you too many.”

“Please, just meet me at the Ponderosa Inn and Cabins on Saturday.” When the silence dragged on for several awkward seconds, he continued, “Cabin 9. Just one more chance. Please.

“That’s where we spent our honeymoon.”

“I remember.”

“I don’t think-”

“Don’t think, just show up.”

She sighed. “Fine.”

He exhaled and his shoulders slumped with the release of tension. “The room is ours at two, if you want to head up early. I have a couple things to take care of, but I’ll be there by four.”

She snorted. “Another one of your business weekends, huh? Never mind. We’ve been through-”

“No!” He took a breath to calm his panic. “No, wait, it’s not like that. I’ve reserved two hours of spa time; you pick the services.”

“Oh.” She paused. “They have a spa now?”

“They added it a few years ago.”

“Okay.”

He smiled. “You won’t be disappointed.”

He hung up the phone and dialed the Ponderosa Inn.

“Hi, this is Samuel Collins,” he said once the front desk picked up the line. “I need to schedule two hours of spa services for Saturday.”

“I’m sorry. The spa is fully booked until Sunday afternoon.”

“How much would it cost to make it happen?”

“Sir, it’s Valentine’s Day. The schedule is full.”

“Okay, okay.” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “Can you call people who are scheduled between two and four to find out if they will sell their appointment? I’ll pay any price.”

“Sure, Mr. Collins. I’ll see what I can do.”

“I appreciate it, Josie.”

***        ***        ***

On Valentine’s Day, Samuel called Deana. “Yes, the spa appointment is all set. When you check in at the front desk, ask for Yolanda and she’ll get you started.”

“I’m impressed. I didn’t think you could pull it off. I always planned our vacations.”

“I’m full of surprises.”

“Wait a second; you didn’t have your assistant set everything up, did you?”

“Actually, no.” That would’ve been smarter. “I’ve made our dinner reservations for 6pm, so that should give you enough time to get ready.”

“All right.”

“I love you, Deana.”

The line disconnected. She’d avoided saying she loved him for months. He didn’t pick up on it at first. A twinge of pain ran through his chest. He should’ve asked questions. He counted out twenty-three one hundred dollar bills; enough to cover the spa appointment and tips. He folded the wad in half and shoved it into his blazer pocket. He grabbed his overnight bag and headed to the car.

At four-twenty, he parked his car in the dirt parking to the left of the main building. He patted his pocket and strode into the lobby. The heat from the fireplace across from the front desk enveloped him as the door eased closed. He detected a sweet smell commingling with the pine scent, and just then, he noticed the plate of chocolate chip cookies on counter.

A brunette with large eyeliner-rimmed brown eyes greeted him with a smile. “Good afternoon.”

“Hi. You must be Josie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m Samuel Collins. I wanted to thank you for your help getting this weekend set up.” He pulled out the wad of bills and peeled four bills away. He handed her the cash. “This is for you.”

Her eyes widened. “No way!”

“Do you have an envelope?”

Josie reached into a drawer to her right and pulled out a letter-sized envelope with three green pine trees stamped in the upper left corner.

He took the envelope from her manicured fingers. “Are the Davenports dining in the main room tonight?”

Josie’s nails clicked the laptop keys. “They have a six-thirty reservation.”

“Perfect. I owe them for the spa appointment.” He stuffed a few bills into the envelope and tucked the rest into his pocket. He handed the envelope to Josie. “Please see that this gets to those who attended to my wife today.” His phone vibrated in his pocket and he checked the screen. Deana. He tapped the screen. “Hi, hon-”

“What is wrong with you?” she shrieked.

He pulled the phone from his ear and turned away from Josie after catching sight of her perplexed expression. “I have no idea.” He didn’t know how to answer. “How was the spa?”

“Nice, until I got back to the cabin!”

“Why? I had them set it up exactly how it was for our honeymoon.”

“We didn’t have two deer in our bed on our honeymoon!”

“What?”

“Two deer. In our bed!”

“Hold on.” He turned to Josie. “She says there are two deer in our bed?”

Josie nodded. “Yes sir, just as you requested.”

“I didn’t ask for that!”

She pulled out a manila folder and flipped through some papers. “Right here.” She handed the paper to him. Scrawled in purple ink was, ‘two deer for our anniversary.’

Samuel rubbed his forehead. “No!  It was supposed to be a card that read, “To my dear for our anniversary.”

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

If you didn’t check out the link to Emilio’s photo at the beginning of the story, here’s a second chance. You really should see the photo that inspired this story – it’s awesome!

I purposely left the ending open so you can determine how it plays out. If you’re a romantic, then she ended up finding the mixup “endeering” (sorry, that was really bad) and laughed at the mishap and they lived happily ever after. If you are a cynic, then she was so mad she drove home that night and reconciliation hopes were dashed :)

I still have a lot of “stuff” going on, but I couldn’t resist this distraction from the weight of life. I appreciate all the kind comments and prayers that many of you have sent my way. You all rock! I hope to be back more regularly soon.

It Is Done – Poetry and Blog Hiatus

Nature's representation of my life at the moment...
Nature’s representation of my life at the moment…

I just let go-

my last precarious hold

on my final shred

of battered sanity.

My soul sinks low,

 a free-fall plummet

to the depths

of I-don’t-know where.

I’m so alone,

fearful, uncertain-

my anguished prayer

is that misery isn’t forever.

-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~–~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~–~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Here is where I usually provide my inspiration for the poem.  About all I can tell you is that I wrote this poem on Saturday after a particularly gut-wrenching event.  I still cry whenever I think about it, which is quite often.    Beyond this, I have to leave you to your own interpretations, as it would reveal too much.  This brings me to the real point of this post…

For almost five years (in March) I’ve posted regularly, at least twice a week, except for maybe a week off here or there.  Circumstances are such that I need to take a longer break.  I don’t know if it will be a matter of weeks or months at this point, but I will be back.  I love this place and it makes me sad to do this, but with what’s going on, I can’t chance posting my emotions “real time.”  I fully intend to fill in some of the details when I’m on “the other side.” Even though I can’t see the other side through the darkness I’m in right now, I expect I will get there.  I don’t know who I’ll be at that point.  God willing, someone stronger.  Maybe more confident, too.

I hope you don’t forget about me during my absence and are willing to get re-acquainted with me when I return.  I have many regular readers that I consider friends and I will miss you!  I will try to do some reading, but may not comment much.  I look forward to the time when I can experience some sort of happiness again and can share it here :)

If you are the praying type, I could really use your prayers right now.

JannaT.