Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rufus Bent

Leaves sprouted from his fingers and his feet had taken root to the ground when he woke up in his recliner.  However, Rufus Bent was not alarmed. Though his family argued that he was too old and feeble to live alone anymore, he always knew he would stay on the land that once belonged to his granddaddy.
“Of course, never thought it'd be quite this way,” he said as he looked down at his trunk and gnarled knees.
The family was in the kitchen, but Rufus did not call out to them. When they left him to nap earlier, he expected they would pass the time arguing. From what he could hear, they still were.
“I don't care what Daddy says; he's going to that home! It's a good place. He won't get better care.” This from his son.
Rufus laughed. I ain't going nowhere now, he thought as he moved the branch that was his right arm.
He had already refused his daughter's offer to live with her in the city. He told her he wanted to go to sleep at night hearing the familiar and beloved sounds of the backwoods, not the blasts and clatter of urban life which never welcomed him when he visited those few times.
“Maybe we can find someone else to come and stay with Daddy,” she now said to her brother. “Someone who doesn't know him.”
Don't worry, baby angel. Won't be long now. I won't need a nurse. Maybe a gardener? He cackled, as happy as he could be under the circumstances.
A few minutes passed before his children walked into the room. Though he could no longer see them, he heard their gasps and cries.
“I don't believe this,” his son said. “He's gone.” 
No, I'm here, son, right where I belong. Rufus struggled to say more. Can you hear me? You'll always find me here.
There was no more he could do for them. As his last thoughts faded along with his voice, he hoped they would make common sense arrangements.
While his sister cried and dialed the phone, her brother reached over and closed his father's eyes.
“He looks so peaceful. Like he's asleep,” he whispered.
He pulled the blanket from the sofa and covered his father's body. His daddy always hated to be cold.
*  *  *
Note: The first line comes from a #storystarters prompt.

Friday, May 21, 2010


In the middle of the night, when her sleep was interrupted, Ella awoke to her grandmother's arms lifting her from the bed and leading her downstairs. Her questioning murmurs elicited only sshhhs from her Grammy. But, she could hear her father not being quiet at all.
“She's dead? You're lying!” His shouts came from the living room.
“Son,” Grammy called out, “Don't trouble the doctor none.”
When they reached the room and Grammy sat her on the sofa, Ella looked at her father, who was cradling a bloodied hand as he paced in front of the fireplace, the hearth covered by shards of the green Depression glassware her mother once collected.
“Mama is resting in heaven,” she whispered, and was surprised when he stopped.
“And I am going to hell,” he said, with a look to the doctor.
He left the room, taking a bottle of whiskey with him.
While Grammy accompanied the doctor to the front hall, their voices low and their sentences too adult for Ella to decipher, she stood and walked to the window.
“There are no stars up there,” she said. “How can I make a wish tonight?”
Grammy returned and stared at her grandchild, her eyes wearied by age and fear and tears.
“You don't really need them for that, honey,” she said.
Ella shook her head. She knew her grandmother wanted her father to be sent away to the special hospital. Too many times now he did not remember that mama had been dead for months. Skull fracture from accidental fall, according to the coroner's report.
She could not forget because she saw her die.
That's why Grammy woke her, then. To say goodbye to Daddy.
Ella wiped her tears and walked to her grandmother.
“Maybe I'll see them tomorrow,” she said.
“Yes, child.” Grammy kissed the top of her head. “There's always tomorrow.”
However, no matter how many she wished upon, the stars would not alter the truth that it was Ella who had pushed her mother to her death.

Friday, May 14, 2010


It was always at the corner of the west side of the street where she went to sing. Every Monday morning at 7 a.m., while I sat drinking the first of many coffees of the day, I would see her. She would shuffle in her backless slippers to the entrance of the train station. She never looked at anyone, just walked with her head down as she moved to the left foot, right foot, do it all again beat until she reached the stool the news vendor had placed under the awning for her use. A guitar accompanied her musical notes of protest. They were Vietnam-era songs that baffled some of the commuters rushing to get to work.
“Make love, not war.” She would tell anyone this mantra of her long-ago youth as they tried to give her  coins, which she refused. She, in turn, would hand out little slips of paper imprinted with a drawing of the peace symbol and smile whenever I took one, though I never stayed to hear the music. All I wanted was to look at her face before I went to work. I could not explain why but her serene blue eyes offered a cooling antidote to the anxious start of my work week.
On a day I was to leave for vacation, I stayed and waited for her to finish her song.
“Here,” I tried to press money into her hands. “I really want you to have this.”
She shook her head and tugged at the tie-dyed cotton blouse she wore.
This upset me. “Don't be crazy anymore. Please. There are other things to worry about. Vietnam is over. There is no war!”
She lifted her guitar and strummed the opening notes to a Bob Dylan tune.
“There's always something,” she said, and sang her song, blowing out the message to the wind.
Not many weeks later, she was dead. Mugged by someone who most likely thought the frail woman  wearing the colors of the rainbow and singing of peace and love was an easy mark to rob, though he must have been surprised to find papers of the non-monetary kind in her pockets. The person did not even take the guitar – just left its splintered remains next to her body.
For several days, the community placed wreaths at the site of her last breaths and made plans.
It's my turn to join the neighborhood watch group that will patrol the streets tonight for several hours - veritable soldiers in the fight against crime. She might be pleased to know this. Though it probably would sadden her that we were not making love.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Mother’s Day – Twitter Chats Blog Tour

Welcome to the Twitter Chats Blog Tour, organized by Mari Juniper at Mari's Randomities and Anne Tyler Lord at Don't Fence Me In

Today's theme is Mother's Day.

You'll be traveling with us through the blogs of some of the fantastic authors and writers who participate in our weekly -- funny, entertaining and educating -- Twitter chats. This tour will feature writers from #writechat, #litchat, and #fridayflash.

You will be directed to your next stop at the end of this post. Please feel welcome here. Happy Mother's Day!


Never Too Old
by Marisa Birns

Ellen Newman did not expect to be stuck in an elevator with her mother. But here they were, somewhere between the third and fourth floors in Aunt Judy's building. Her mother, of course, knew about Ellen's discomfort of being confined in small spaces, so she tried to distract her.

“Now, it's supposed to be my surprise party, but honestly, has your father ever been able to keep a secret from me?” She laughed. “Do you remember when – ”

“Mother. Please don't. It's not helping.”

Ellen sat on the floor and hugged her knees. Fortunately, the phone in the control panel worked, so the doorman knew about their predicament and promised it would be mere minutes before an employee from the  maintenance office came to help.

“Are you hungry, dear?” Her mother took out an energy bar from her bag.

A shrug from Ellen. “Well, I didn't have lunch, so I guess I could eat something.”

She reached up and took it from her mother, along with the napkin she held out to her.

“I also have a bottle of water we can share.”

“Don't fuss over me. Please.” Ellen said, though she took the water. After a few seconds of thought, she looked up at her mother and patted the space next to her on the floor.

They passed the time remembering funny stories about various members of the family they would see tonight. Though she realized she was enjoying herself, Ellen still could not push away her worriment that it was taking too long for them to be rescued. Her mother noticed. She put her arm around Ellen's shoulders and kept on talking. Moments later, the elevator jolted in movement. “At last!” they said at the same time, and laughed as they helped each other to stand.

Her mother took out a comb from her bag and handed it to Ellen, who sighed before taking it.

“What am I going to do with you?

“Well, you want to look nice at my party, don't you?” Her mother said as she smoothed small creases from her dress. “And, sweetheart, don't forget that I don't know about it.”

As the doors finally opened to the anxious faces of her husband and sister-in-law, she turned to her daughter and offered her hand. They walked out together.

When they entered the apartment and the lights turned on, her mother acted properly startled at the shouts of  “Surprise!” that came from every corner of the living room. But before she moved across the room for hugs, she looked over at Ellen, who winked and blew her a kiss.

“Yes, it was scary. But you know how Mom is.” Ellen said seconds later in answer to someone's question. “She made it all better.”

Thanks for stopping by. Your next stop for the Mother's Day Twitter Chats Blog Tour is at Jemi Frasier of Just Jemi

The complete list of participants can be found at the hosts' blogs: Mari Juniper and Anne Tyler Lord

Monday, May 03, 2010

Office Mate

I know her fingers are idle. She tried to write for over an hour but fear prevented that, and now she has run out of time.

“What can help me?” I hear her say. “I am in a pickle here.”

No! There will not be brined cucumber for her as long as I am around. After a few moments I hear it. Ah, she remembers I am stashed in the bottom drawer of the desk. Happy moment for me. She lifts me out and unwraps the foil that keeps my square shape fresh and beautiful.

While I do share the space with coarsely chopped peanuts, and some flakes that I believe would be better suited in a bowl full of milk, I know it is the dark part of me she craves. As I have done many times before, she hopes that the taste of  my silky sweet wash of flavor will energize and inspire her.

After eating half of my chocolate goodness, she looks at the paper. Not a single written word mars its virgin pallor. Was it time to move those fingers?

Not yet. I beckon again. She closes her eyes and takes another bite. I can feel her mmmm of pleasure.

“Are you finished with the report?” Her boss stands in the doorway.

She looks at him and swallows. “The research is taking longer than I thought.”

I always have more work to do.
~     ~      ~    ~   

A new chat can be found at #storycraft on Sundays at 6pm EST. In addition to all the good talk last week, participants were given an assignment: to write a story (300-500 words) from the perspective of an inanimate object.  The above was my contribution.

The founders of #storycraft are @TamaraNKitties @Danisidhe and @IamJaymes 

They share space at  @Story_Craft