Broke

Nelson keeps his deformed left hand in his jeans pocket, rolling a two dollar coin between his three fingers. No matter what happens, with this coin in his pocket, he’s never broke. With two bucks, a person just can’t be broke.

He zips his sleeping bag closed with his right hand, then leans back against the boarded storefront, underneath a gray awning that sheltered him from most of last night’s rain.  Waiting for Old Man Russell to move spots paid off, and Nelson is determined to keep this space for himself, even if it means a few more bloody fights.    

He squints his eyes, blurring his vision and softening the surrounding scene of cement, garbage cans and rusty cars. When Nelson squints, he sees only the centre of the picture: maple trees bursting autumn within the confines of the tiny city park across the street.

Crimson. Pink. Gold. Brightest red. The same colours that painted the horizons of his childhood. His family’s home, nothing more than a rundown shack if he’s honest, had the best view on the reserve. Aunt Gladys said they never had to decorate inside because nature provided decoration enough for anyone. Nelson closes his eyes, carrying his aunt’s words and the fantastic colour, a phantom of comfort, into his sleep.

In his dreams, his family are happy. They sit at picnic tables, waiting for the day’s salmon catch to cook on an open fire. Children play and run around. The adults are telling stories and laughing. But Nelson strains to hear their laughter. It’s blocked out by a loud crackling – the sound of brittle leaves as a strong breeze passes through the tree branches.

And now Nelson can smell smoke, can actually taste smoke from the air. Light wafts have grown into thick billows, raging out of the untamed fire. Salty resin catches in his lungs and takes hold of him.

Bystanders are too distracted by the flames to see a two dollar coin roll into the street.

Whethers

Though I cannot touch your shirtsleeve, I reach out.
You answer me, pull me close with softly written words.
Soothe. Calm.
We shield ourselves with flannel paragraphs,
Hold life’s storms at bay,
Understanding, no matter what our whethers,
Friendship moors us in undeniable harbour.

44 words for d’Verse Poets Pub Monday quadrille prompt: harbor/harbour

Change

Marquee neon spotlights the startled expression of someone who once pretended to love me. My hand reaches deep into my empty coat pocket and it’s then I realize: I’ve already tossed our past away.

A 33 word Trifecta-like writing challenge for myself and for writer Tom MacInnes. Please pop over to Tom’s new blog to read his response.

Inconsolable

Sisters, unlike.
One rounded, one jagged.
Puzzle pieces never able to click-fit.
Don’t make trouble, I begged,
Never understanding she didn’t.
Her heart broken in shards, impossible to mend.
My wrists cut in bloody despair.
She salved, bandaged my wounds
Before fading from view.

*****

dVerse quadrille prompt: puzzle (44 words)

Crumbling

Many’s the night you’ve walked these same miles, without ever lifting from your chair.
Dreams like loosed cobblestones, a path crumbling underneath your worn, hobo shoes.
Brief solace sometimes sought, diversions for your wearied soul.
Slippery side streets and names you no longer remember.

This week, dVerse Poets provided the Quadrille (44 words) prompt word: cobble.

Rut

You find it a bore most days. Fifteen years in an indelible ink rut. You keep your head down and get on with it: tramp-stamping nineteen year olds, piercing the folds of chubby bodies, asking drunken longshoremen if they want it spelled M-o-m or M-u-m. You grind your teeth every time one of the morbidly tattooed requests another skull.

You’re thinking of that and you’re thinking of nothing as you clean the machines in the back, when the bell clangs purposefully against the shop’s front door. You step through the strings of beads to check out who’s come in.

You see him waiting by the poster of Janis Joplin. A waifish sort. Pale with red flushed cheeks. Black hair that makes him look paler. You’re about to tell him you don’t tat minors, when he reads your mind and produces photo identification. He wants a tattoo before he enlists. Not only has he got i.d. but he’s also got cash.

You walk him to the client room and ask him if he knows what he wants. He pauses, then pulls a piece of notepaper from his pocket. It’s folded into precise eighths and he takes his time revealing the image he’s drawn. At first you think he’s kidding. It’s hardly an appropriate brand for an army recruit. But he’s not kidding and he won’t be deterred, even after you tell him it will be three hours and five hundred bucks.

By the time you’ve finished, you’re perspiring and feeling light-headed. You pretend it’s from the ink fumes. You take his money and say goodbye.

As he heads out the door, you thank him for lifting you up out of your rut today. Then a cry catches in your throat. And as you watch him disappear down the street, you silently plead to whoever is listening that if that boy gets stuck in a rut, in whatever land he’s bound for, those full-size angel wings now so delicately inscribed on his pale freckled back will lift him up and bring him home.

***********

This piece was written about 5 years ago. The only time I’ve tried second person point of view. A shout out to my friend Edward Lorn for reminding me about the power of second person and how darn difficult it is to get right. Edward is doing a series on his Youtube channel called ‘From the Desk‘ that provides extremely valuable insights for fledgling writers like me, you, us.

 

Damage

Sinewed hands grab my shoulders, shove me sideways down unfamiliar streets.

Glowing in the distant dark there shimmers a landed mermaid, enchanting, enticing,

Melting in the tarnished silver spoon I wasn’t born with.

Burns my hands. Burns my veins.

Soundless, the world is ash.

44 words (quadrille) for d’Verse. Prompt word: burn