She Could Be Pretty, If She Tried.

Inspired By The Bancroft Prompt: Will You Visit The House of Usher?

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Every morning

I try to make myself look pleasant, I try to make myself pretty and acceptable  and most of all approachable.

” Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good ” I saw that on my Facebook news feed. So I try to do what Facebook says because maybe I’ll fit in, from what I have seen, if you can speak Facebook and follow it’s teachings  you are halfway to being invited into the human race.

As I have in the past, I hope that today is the day I get it right and maybe today is the day I don’t feel like that one piece of rotten fruit in the overflowing fancy antique crystal fruit bowl of life.

I wash my face, I brush my hair, and I softly chant those magic words, ” Look Good. Feel Good. Do Good.”

As I apply my eyeliner I whisper those words, as I put on my lipstick and dust blush onto my cheeks I raise my voice and sing it to the Universe.

I lift my chin make sure I’ve properly blended my powders and creams and colors that are guaranteed to make me look sun kissed and vibrant and alive and approachable and God help me…loveable.

I want to be loveable most of all.

Will it work?

I don’t know, it hasn’t yet.

I must be missing something, some small detail  that makes people not take the seat next to me on the train even though all of the other seats are full, or the way they try not brush up against me when I’m walking down a busy sidewalk.

Can it be fixed with the right scarf? The right color of lip gloss? If I can find it, I know I can correct it.

I look into my mirror and I start to cry because I’m beginning to think that that memes from social media or expensive cosmetics are going to help me and I don’t know why.

I cover my ears with my hands so I won’t hear myself sobbing and then I think-maybe if I put my hair up and twist it into a knot and hold it in place with a pen or clips. That might do the  trick I desperately hope as I run into my bedroom and grab a pen and some hairclips.

I run back into my bathroom, I stand up straight I smile confidently  into my mirror and I lift my hair up into a ponytail and that’s when I see the incision and the thread near my collarbone  that the Mortician used to sew me back up after she embalmed me.

I poke at it a little and think maybe I should do something about that too.

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At The Top Of The Stairs

Inspired By The Bancroft Manor Prompt: Will You Visit The House of Usher?

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My Aunt has a room

at the top of the stairs

where she does all of her writing

and all of her dreaming

and most of her plotting.

 

The  door, at the top of the stairs with the not very rusted hinges is never locked.

No  matter what the weather is like her windows are  never shuttered.

The  unbleached muslin curtains are always tied away from the windows with ribbon she saved from a Christmas present she got from my Grandmother when she was a girl.

The present was a doll that disappeared a few days after Christmas and my Father says my Grandfather asked about it a few days later and my Aunt looked out the window towards the lake and shrugged.

And then she laughed.

 

In my Aunt’s room

at the top of the stairs  she always has a fan running in the corner, it sounds like someone sharpening knives we have decided.

The fan ( an old fashioned one we presumed ) relentlessly whispers,

when you are trying to sleep or decide what to wear or when you are trying to watch TV or fall asleep,  in it’s a smooth metallic voice  interrupted by a clink and a thunk and then silence for a mere second before it started up again.

 

My Aunt has a room at the top of the stairs.

and there is a

welcome signed nailed to the door.

 

The sign is made from pressed tin and has tiny bluebirds stamped around the edges.

But something about that fan whirling relentlessly in the corner,

makes  the friendly, delicate sign seem less inviting.

It is hung on the door with a nail that was far to big

for such a small sign and it had been driven in so deep the sign was slightly folded and it looked like the Blue Birds were going to fly into each other.

 

My Aunt has a room at the top of the stairs

where she does all of her writing, all of her plotting and some of her dreaming.

and we admire her as much as we fear her

because to do what she does, takes  talent and dedication and I must say,  frightening amounts of supernatural focus and drive

when you consider

she is buried a good ten miles away from our house.

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Fractured

Photo A.M. Moscoso

We all know at least one child like Diwa Bell – some of us may have been like her in temperament ( quiet, thoughtful and well mannered to a fault ) and could be counted on- even at the young age of 11 to get her homework done and her bed made without being asked.

She feeds her pets at the same time each day, she gives them fresh water and leaves a post it on the refrigerator door to her parents attention when they are running low on food and she can be counted on to do last minute tasks for her Aunts and Uncles or important tasks like helping her Grandmother with chores at her house.

Last Saturday one of Diwa’s Aunties was supposed to take Grandmother Maria her weekly ‘care package artfully packed inside of a lunch box cooler.

As usual, Inside the sturdy little cooler with happy smiling turtles marching around the sides, was homemade butter with strawberries stamped on the top of the little golden ball, pink salt ( Diwa didn’t get that, it tasted like salt but the  color was pretty ) a selection of homemade fruit flavored salsas and thin water biscuits.

And of course there was always a selection of macaroons in Grandmother’s favorite colors- pink and purple.

Auntie Hyacinth was like Diwa, thoughtful, kind and well mannered to a fault and her baskets were always picture perfect.

On this particular Saturday  one of Auntie’s neighbors had an issue with her car and Diwa found a post it on the fridge door Saturday morning  asking if she wouldn’t mind stopping by Grandmother’s to drop off the care package and maybe spend a little time with Grandmother.

Diwa made a little note under the message and told her Mother she was off for the day and would be home before dinner, she stuck it to the door and went upstairs to get ready and a little while later she set out for Grandmother’s House.

There were two pluses to walking to Grandmother’s House.

One was that the walk wasn’t very long and second Diwa had to pass by a lot of gardens full of flowers and fake wells stuffed with more flowers and of course there were the fake deer and gnomes,  frogs ( the frogs were usually wearing crowns ), rabbits ( standing next to baskets of carrots )  and plastic Virgin Marys and Lawn Jockeys  galore.

Diwa loved those still, quiet and attentive plastic creatures, she always hoped against hope one of them would twitch an eye or move just a teeny tiny bit and the- well, Diwa wasn’t sure about the ” and then ” part but she it didn’t play in her thoughts.

For very long.

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Grandmother’s house was the nicest little house on her street.

It looked like a little cottage from a Christmas card and almost everthing in side of it- including the curtains that hung in the windows which Grandmother always kept open just a crack, even in the dead of winter.

Diwa gave three quick little taps on the door and pushed it open and she stood there waiting for Grandmother’s cheery hello- but the house was quiet, it smelled wonderful because today was the day Grandmother did her baking, but it was so quiet.

” Is that you Diwa?” Grandmother called from the back of the house ” I’m sorry sweetness, I had a very big night and I took a little nap.”

Diwa went to the kitchen and set her basket down- she resisted the urge to take  peak in the oven to see what Grandmother had planned for lunch because Grandmother had strict rules about opening the oven door when she was baking or roasting. It affected the cooking she said.

” Grandmother, what are you baking? It smells so- ” Diwa thought for a moment ” It smells so tasty. Is it chicken?”

She went out to the hallway that led to the back of the house and for a minute or two Diwa looked as still and carefully placed as one of the yard statues she enjoyed watching so much.

” Darling, come on back here will you? I need some help getting up. I’m a little stiff, like I said I had a very big night.”

Grandmother’s bedroom was a warm and cozy as the rest of Grandmother’s house and as always it smelled faintly of apples.

She was laying on her bed and her eyes were closed but she opened them when Diwa appeared at the door.

” There she is, there’s my lovely girl.”

Diwa smiled and went to her Grandmother’s side and looked down into her face.

” Grandmother, your eyes look so red, have you been crying?”

” No, no, I was out so late and they are just a bit tired and old like me. But they are still sharp my lovely. I can see you perfectly and right now, that is all that matters”

Diwa reached down and with one finger pushed a lock of hair away from her Grandmother’s brow and behind her ear ” Grandmother, those are such pretty earrings I’m glad you wore them today.  ”

” I wore them just for you. I know how fond you are of the Moon and the stars. You’re a romantic, just like me.”

Then Grandmother smiled and Diwa gasped. ” You have such a great smile Grandmother. It lights up the room.”

Grandmother sat up and swung her legs over the bed. ” Now my darling, it’s lunch time and I am very hungry. I’ve been in the mood for something special, something a little rich and it most certainly not is chicken. In fact, I was up all night putting it together.”

Diwa reached down to help her Grandmother up. ” What did you make?”

Grandmother leaned down and whispered into her ear, ” I’ve made Shepherds Pie. And if I timed it right he should be ready for us by now.”

Photo A.M. Moscoso

 

Inspired By The SFC Prompt: Fractured Fairy Story

Death By Meridian

Inspired By The SFC Prompt: Catharsis

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How

did I end up

on that hill

with Bubbas in giant trucks and Walmart hovering above me like a spaceship waiting to fire it’s deadly weapons upon a sleeping population.

How

did I end up

on that hill

where instead of hearing symphonies and exploring parks filled with trees and blue and green benches and quiet side streets where sometimes wind chimes sing, I hear the endless cries of ” GIT HER DUN ” from boys in camo shirts and ZZ Top beards and the all purpose reply of ” I know right ” from women who drift around in a haze of Aqua Net and dollar store perfume.

How

did I end up

on that hill

Did I die in my sleep, was I hit by a car, did I trip and fall down the stairs

am I dead

am I

in Hell?

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Raison d’être

From The Bancroft Project: Creating Character Dossiers-Establishing Blocks of Time. To add to our dossiers we worked with the concept of blocks of time and pathways chosen, blocked, travelled, and bypassed. We also considered others whose paths crossed ours or the path of our characters-

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” I have all the time in the world.” the Ghost said to herself as she stood, or more specifically,  as she floated a little above her empty Grave.

Even though she knew she was alone there in her spot above her empty Grave where nobody had left her flowers for so many years she had lost count, she waited for a reply.

Of course there wasn’t one.

There never was.

” I have all the time in the world to decide what kind of ghost I could be. ” the Ghost said firmly and the place where her eyes would be seemed to glow a bit and the place where her jaw would had it not been covered by a  shroud of light blue haze, looked a little firmer.

The Ghost thought about her options for a moment. ” I could be a vicious ghost and throw things around and push people down stairs and scare cats and dogs-well. Not scare exactly but I can  make them puff up and growl.

Or I could be a nice ghost and when I show up people would smell things like freshly baked cookies or flowers. Actually. I wasn’t exactly a nice person so that probably isn’t going to happen at all.”

The Ghost looked down into her empty Grave and then her misty face swirled like fog rolling from the sea up to the beach and when the mist settled down she was smiling.

” I know, I could be one of those ghosts that shows up when bad things are going to happen. I could make myself look like a cat or a big black dog or a black as coal rabbit with fiery red eyes. Now that sounds like the ticket, doesn’t it? The possibilities for what I could do there are only limited by my imagination- which as we both know was pretty wild monster back in my day. I mean, that’s how we ended up together after all.”

Her empty Grave, as dark and inscrutable as ever offered no opinion.

It never did.

She sighed and her misty face broke apart.

 

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” I have all the time in the world.” the Ghost said to herself above her empty Grave when nobody was listening because nobody was ever there.

Even though the Ghost knew she was alone there in her spot above her empty Grave where nobody had left her flowers for so many years she had lost count, she waited for a reply.

This time she got one, in fact, this time she got several.

She swirled in confusion, a light blue mist hanging above her empty Grave because something behind her roared and to her left,   dead rose bushes  snapped and fell to the ground which was a riot of sticker bushes and weeds and chunks or marble and concrete.

The roar was gone and after a few bangs and thumps she heard someone say not very clearly, ” yes I’m sure it doesn’t matter if we dig around here. We might find a few bones or maybe some wood but who cares?”

The Ghost followed the voices  with her almost non-existent eyes and saw that the voices  belonged to two men with shovels.

They chose a spot and begin to dig into her empty Grave and after several hours they seemed satisfied with their work. They went away and came back many  times with black bags- several in fact and after looking at each other for a minute one said to the other. ” Lunch at The Oak Tree  on Main Street after?’

The other man said, “Sounds good. Their burgers really  hit the spot”

Unceremoniously they began to drop the black, lumpy and in some cases leaking black bags into her empty Grave.

Then they filled it.

They were not acting like they had all of the time in the world.

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” So  now you have a purpose, . ”  the Ghost said to her dark and inscrutable Grave. How tragic is that? My empty Grave has a raison d’être and I don’t. ”

Had she had  lungs she would have taken a deep breath  before she screeched- so she just skipped to the screeching part, ” My entire situation is ridiculous and intolerable!”

This time she felt like her dark and inscrutable formally empty Grave was listening to her.

The ghost simmered and then she snapped together atom by atom, nightmare by nightmare and when she was done her eyes were fiery red and she was covered with dark silky fur.

Then she hopped over her once Empty and inscrutable Grave and she went to start her own  reason for being and her little black nose quivered with excitement.

 

The Puzzle

Guided Imagery Prompt: Paradise Found

Meditate upon Milton’s Sonnet XX and consider how your light is spent; who you must serve. Peek through the doorway of Milton’s cottage, glimpse paradise and write about ‘Paradise Found’.

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It’s a puzzle to me

how it is that I broke into so many pieces

how it was that my pieces were scattered and lost

in such a small space.

 

Some of the pieces that I found were bright and looked brand new

others were bent and twisted, their markings rubbed away

a few seemed to be hiding in the cracks in the floor, wedged and hiding

in dusty wooden drawers

swollen shut with mold, wood rot and decay.

How did they get in there I wondered, not wanting to touch them

not wanting to think about them

I wish they would go away I’m not sure they can be saved.

 

I did try to gather up  as many pieces as I could,  I tried to put them together

I tried to make them look like a picture, I wanted them to tell a story

I wanted to put them in a frame and hang them from a wall and I wanted

them to shine like the other puzzles I’ve seen sitting next to me on the bus,

or eating dinner with me at family gatherings, or puzzles I’ve called husband or friends.

 

But there are so many pieces of me scattered in such a small space

I’d like to arrange them so that they would make sense.

But where do I start?

The most overwhelming, the most terrifying thought of all?

What will it look like

when I am done?

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Upon Reflection

Inspired by the Soul Food Café Prompt: Mirror Mirror on the Wall

The mirror, the only mirror I will allow in my house

is on the floor, next to the basement door that I keep locked

with a skeleton key.

I threaten that mirror

on a daily basis

about the trip, the one way trip

to the basement that I will send it on unless it says what I want to hear.

” Do we feel chatty today?” I asked it very late last night, or maybe it was very early this morning. At any rate it was dark outside. And the mirror had been silent for many years now.

” A little ” it said in a voice that reminded me of crackling ice.

” Good. So shall we try this again?” I asked as I crouched down towards the floor. ” Tell me mirror, what do you see? Do you see beauty? Do you see a face that could launch a thousand ships or do you see a terror of flesh layered with clumsy hands on crooked and broken bones. What do you see Mirror?”

” I see my face you evil witch, and I want it back!” the Mirror crackled and spat in a rage. ” Give me back my face!”

” The face you hated? The one you scorned, the one you were about to take to the surgeon to carve up and remake? It suited me just fine, I promised to never hurt it. So with me it will stay. Unless that is, you’re up to making an apology and a promise.”

” Go to Hell.” was the reply.

I picked up the mirror and considered smashing it against the door- the one I keep locked with a skeleton key- but instead I turned it against the wall and said. ” Enjoy the view my faceless friend, we’ll chat again soon. Maybe.”