Here's my 52nd Weekend Quickie on the TIW website, a melancholy 200 words...
to celebrate a whole year, I wrote a story using 1 element from each week (the element and not the picture or feeling), 52 (I chose 2 elements from the 12 available at Christmas). Find them if you can :-)This piece is a little melancholy, too...is this a phase I'm going through? Anyway, hope you like it.
If I recall, it was a Saturday afternoon at a local Iron Writers Convention. Five Iron Writers were present when I got there but like some forgotten rule of thumb, I couldn't remember their names, though I knew their faces. They held the convention in the Flora Bama bar, right next to a strange cyclorama of a burning wicker man set in the Scottish Highlands and a live element of eight ladies dancing a jig in the foreground, all organised and produced by some local artist. While melodical musical notes wafted over the sound system, I began to daydream and think back to yesterday morning at Mamie's…
With the smell of fried bacon and just brewed coffee, I made my way into the kitchen. She was nowhere to be seen. Lavender wafted through the open French doors, mixing with the breakfast smells and turning my already weak stomach. I opened the food cupboard to be greeted by a can of alphabet soup and a can of pumpkin, with a rotting coconut cake Mamie had made for Easter...at Christmas. A pack of lifesavers sat on the counter and I took a tangerine one. Far away in the garden I heard the sound of singing. Was it her? A message in a bottle on the top of the fridge said it all.
'Dear Dani, Your mother gave you a little errand. Make two coffees and bring them out with you, following a trail of Mardi Gras beads. At the end of the trail is an arrowhead bordered by a dandelion bracelet. It will show you the way. Yours sincerely, Mamie.'
I did as the message asked and found her in a little summerhouse by a large rockery. We greeted each other and I placed the coffees on the table. She passed over a coin.
"A present for a handsome newspaperman's birthday, a 1909 penny covered in Mars dust. Happy birthday!"
"Err, thanks, Mamie. Where did you get it?"
"From your sister. Ha, kind of a tip from a waitress, so to speak. Go on, your mother said you had to make a birthday wish now."
The annual birthday ritual with Mother. It was easy to choose, 50-50, but it was never a pleasant experience, and now that she was gone, it was Mamie who was left to do her last dying wish. Mother had hired a room at her place for the past few years and they had spent so many evenings together they'd become inseparable.
"Truth or dare?"
"OK, let's do it."
She took out Mother's old coke bottle and spun it around. This bottle was like a portent that provoked fear in me every year, but this time, for perhaps the first time ever, it stopped on 'truth'.
"Oh. Wish upon a star?"
"A star? It's eight o'clock in the morning."
Mamie looked glum but then gave a smile and settled herself into her chair."Your Mother said that if it landed on 'truth' then I'd have to tell. You're 40 this year, so maybe it's better if...err...you know about some things. She'd been prepared to tell you for years but..." She pointed to the bottle. "She said it always came up 'dare'."
"What things, Mamie?"
"Your early years...your 'real' early years..."
She took out an old photo from her pocket and handed it over.
"This is me as a newborn baby. I haven't seen this before…err, what's that on my face?"
"Err…" Mamie had a look. "It's cumerindine. My grandmother swore by it."
"Great...and what's that in the background? What! I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus, rolling down Highway 41? Are you kidding me? What about that old photo of me in the hospital?"
"I don't know about that, but your Mother said that she had to hitchhike from the bus to the hospital."
"Yes, the bus didn't go that way."
I sighed, relieved that this truth wasn't so bad.
"Phew, I thought it was going to be really bad, like I was adopted or something."
"Err, well, not adopted as such…" She passed me another photo.
"It's your father."
"My...but my father is..."
"No, this is your real father. Who you thought was your father was actually your step father. Your mother said that this man is your father." As the shock hit me, Mamie continued. "She said that he had such a feeling of strength and independence about him. She first met him in the summer of her Junior Year at High school..."
I quickly calculated it in my head. Surely that was wrong. How could this be my father?
"That would make me 44, Mamie."
"Yes, it was 5 years later. She met him again, a chance encounter during a cake walk at a fete. He'd lost his shoes. Apparently, he was really something. She said 'some people can look at a mud puddle and see an ocean of ships'. He gave her one of these."
Mamie showed me Mother's five gold rings. It had always been a mystery as to who that fifth ring had came from.
"Why...where...when can I meet him?"
"Oh, he's gone now, a freak accident when a Halcyon flew into his helmet while he was riding his motorbike."
"Oh. So no father-son reunion, then."
"No. Sorry, Dani."
"That's okay…but…but she said I got my nose from my father. His nose is nothing like mine."
"Your nose…well…do you really want to know?"
"Okay. When you were old enough to walk, you were obsessed with moving lights and things, you know, snowglobes, lava lamps and the like. She couldn't drag you past a shop window without a fight. You squashed your nose up against the glass so many times, you got a permanent pugnose."
"What? Next you'll be telling me that this wolf bite I got on my arm 'cause I thought the thing was a lost dog with no collar, isn't!"
"It's a birthmark. Same as that one she said was a rattlesnake bite when you tried to save a yellow scorpion."
First my birth, then my father, and now my infamous bites…
"Uh-huh." I examined both 'birthmarks'. "I see it now. How stupid of me to believe they were bites."
I looked straight at Mamie. A thousand emotions ran through me, a million images, and the world started to spin…