“Miss Rudy says I should audition. She says I might enjoy it. She says being in a play is like becoming somebody else. But I don’t know. What if I forget all my lines? Or fall over? And one of the girls you have to kiss a boy at the end.”
Mrs Mwanna is doing that thing where she wanders around muttering and you don’t know if she’s listening or not. Sometimes she is, but this time I know she wasn’t because she looks right at me and says “You’ll never enjoy swimming if you’re busy looking out for jellyfish.”
Lyla woke with a start. The room was dark and quiet. Gentle breathing from her left the only thing to hang onto. The world wasn’t ending.
She wrapped herself in a blanket and padded into the next room. The baby was sleeping soundly, her mouth slightly open, her face calm. Lyla’s mind spiked again with the vision of that same face contorted in terror, dropping away into the abyss and her own arms reaching desperately through the air.
Lyla’s face touched the baby’s hair as she climbed into the crib. “You caught me,” she whispered, finally able to relax again.
Everyone’s eyes were red. Someone she didn’t know touched Daddy’s arm, then pulled away like he was fire. Melanie stared at a water bottle someone left on a pew.
Daddy was in the pulpit, talking. Melanie couldn’t hear him, her ears were stuffed with rabbit fur.
Mrs Mwanna was staring at Jesus and muttering, which was funny, because Mrs Mwanna didn’t believe. What was she saying to Him? Was she telling him off? Melanie wanted to tell him off too, but she didn’t want to be smited. She needed Jesus to be on her side right now. More than ever.
Extroduction: For those who haven’t followed this blog since the dawn of time, Melanie is a recurring character. Melanie is around 8 years old. Her family attend a Christian church with a fire and brimstone priest. Mrs Mwanna is her wonderful, non-Christian neighbour. Her Mother has terminal cancer. Melanie’s story is one of her trying to reconcile her faith and the teachings of her church with the realities of her experiences. Where this particular clip fits in, is for your imagination to decide.
Happy New Year! As I approach a ‘big’ birthday at the end of the year, I have decided to try to develop 40 healthy habits which fit into my life and improve my health, mentally or physically, my relationships or my impact on the world. I hope more frequent Friday Fiction contributions can be one of them.
“The ball just won’t go in for me,” Melanie whined.
Mrs Mwanna stopped tidying her desk to look at the four-foot-nothing bundle of potential and frustration on her couch. “Maybe netball’s not the right fit for you,” she said, gently. “You’ll find your groove.”
“I don’t fit anywhere!”
Mrs Mwanna straightened the pens in a pot. Lined up neatly; soldiers on parade. Too many, really, she mused. I should probably get rid of a few.
A grunt of despair brought her attention back to her young friend.
“You are too special,” she said, “Too important. There’s nothing tidy about scissors.”
Waking before the kids for the first time in a while, it occurred to me that it was Wednesday and I could use the time to join in Friday Fictioneers for the first time in years. The prompt is one I’ve used before (see my previous story here: https://elmowrites.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/friday-fictioneers-dreams/) but I decided to make up a new one. I’ve missed my favourite character, Melanie, so I let her have her say about the picture this time and my story is below. Your comments and critique are welcome.
I want to swim with dolphins, but we should let them go free.
We’re caged ourselves now. No parks, no school, no visiting Mummy. Dolphins have been trapped like this forever: staring at the ocean through the bars of a cage.
They say swimming with dolphins makes you feel free, but how can you feel free in a cage? I want to jump off the back of a fishing boat when a pod comes by, and splash through the waves and hang onto a fin when I’m tired, like Daddy carrying me home from school back when there was school.
After a long (looong) hiatus, I have been inspired by an old writing buddy to pop back and post about an old, fictional friend. Melanie never ages, so she is still 7ish, but now Sebastian is 7 too; he wasn’t born when she started being 7 in my head. Yesterday we chalked our walk (and those of some friends we are missing!) – the blue writing above it is hard to read but says “We’re in this together”.
When I stuck the last red heart to the living room window it made a complete rainbow of hearts and I couldn’t see so much of the street outside. For a whole week now, we’ve been stuck here, in the house, waiting. Waiting for the government to say we can go out again? Waiting to get bored? That’s happened already. Just waiting, I guess. Every day, I’ve folded and cut and pasted up tissue paper hearts of a different colour. Now the rainbow is done and I’ll have to think of something else to do with the long hours indoors.
Looking out of the window doesn’t help really. There’s nothing to see. A few people wearing those little blue paper masks. They wear those at the hospital a lot, but they’re everywhere. Do they really help? Does the invisible enemy really care about a tiny scrap of paper?
Mrs Mwana has put up a rainbow too. Mrs Mwana always has amazing sweets that she keeps in a little jar and now the wrappers shine their colours across the street. “It’s like hugging,” Mrs Mwana said, “Put something in your window each day and I will do the same. That way we know each other is there.”
I said we should do a rainbow because the rainbow is the symbol of God’s covenant not to kill all the people again in a massive flood. Mrs Mwana doesn’t believe in God, so she said “I’m not sure about God, sweetheart, but this is our covenant. You and me.”
Mrs Mwana’s rainbow has stopped at the orange line. I should go across and check she’s OK, but Daddy said nobody was allowed to go outside or touch each other. It’s why we can’t visit Mummy at the hospital any more. Not even to say goodnight.
I wonder what Mummy is doing right now. Sleeping, probably, Mummy spends a lot of time sleeping. Last week, I was watching Mummy sleeping and I wondered how they would know when she died. Would she really look any different? I asked Mrs Mwana. Mrs Mwana said not to worry, the doctors would know. Then she said “And when it happens, you come and see me so that we can say goodbye to her spirit.”
Except now I can’t even hug Mummy goodnight and I can’t visit Mrs Mwana and if Mummy does die, there’ll be no way to say goodbye to her spirit because I’m locked in this stupid house with this stupid rainbow that doesn’t even block out the weird, broken world or the horrible virus that’s flooding across the planet to kill everyone I love.
I want tear down the hearts, because God broke his covenant and Mrs Mwana broke her covenant or she’s lying dead in her kitchen and can’t even tell me. Then I see something moving in her window. Mrs Mwana is taping red sweet wrappers over the top of the orange ones. She sees me and points upwards to where a cloud catches the light from her sweet wrappers, or maybe it’s God, painting his promise back onto the sky.
Melanie is far and away my favourite character to write, so when she popped into my head with today’s FF photo after a long absence, I had to find time to record her thoughts and share them with you. My story begins below the prompt picture and I welcome all feedback. If you enjoy Melanie even half as much as I do, click on her tag below, which will take you to some of her other musings.
Today’s prompt is from our esteemed leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. I’ve been watching a BBC documentary on Auschwitz recently and have been staggered, not for the first time, by the cheer incomprehensibility of what happened there, and elsewhere in Europe little under a century ago. Rochelle’s brand of historical fiction, set during another period of anti-semitic mass murder, is the kind of writing that I believe we need to turn shocking but incomprehensible statistics back into real emotions. I don’t think I’m the only person who finds it easier to feel for one person than for a million. Her novels are available on Amazon. I haven’t read them yet, but if they are anything like her short stories, they will make the reader do just that.
I see God sometimes. Not actually, because that’s only when you’re dead. And not like a burning bush or something… he doesn’t talk. And when I talk, it’s like he’s listening but he doesn’t answer, like Daddy watching the rugby and if I talk about something, he says “Yes, I’m listening,” but he doesn’t actually talk back about the thing.
Seeing God is like a big light in the sky, brighter than the sun. So bright you can’t see it, but it strokes things on the ground like fingers and you want to touch them, but they’re never quite there.
No rerun for me this week; if you went back to Rochelle’s original post, you’ll know why. Five days into motherhood, apparently I didn’t put writing first ;). Three and a half years on, it’s still a challenge to fit in a weekly burst of writing, but sometimes we need to rise to challenges…
Kent Bonham recommended the rerun; the picture is Rochelle‘s own.
Mrs Mwanna says he won’t bring Mummy home in this. She says it loads, like each time she looks out, the sun will be shining, the ice will have gone and the car will have pulled in.
She looks more often than I do, but they don’t come.
It’s too cold to take Mummy outside. She’s too frail to walk and it’s too slippery for the wheelchair. Too far for me to visit. Too early for us to phone.
We hold hands and watch through the frost for the car that won’t come. He won’t bring her home in this.
It can be no coincidence that the prompt on 11/11 should be a cemetery, but what struck me in this week’s prompt from J Hardy Carroll were the white figures, and for some reason they reminded me of Melanie. This story is not reliant on you having met her before, but if you want to meet her again, check out the rest of the Melanie tagged posts.
Last week’s concrit subgroup was great – I look forward to your stories and critiques again this week.
And, after reading, if you’re wondering what happened on 14 November 1940, click here.
13 November 2015
After the ceremony, Sophia and Mel ran into the graveyard and threw spare confetti onto a headstone.
“They should have more respect,” I heard an elderly guest mutter.
“Where are the parents?” her husband agreed.
Here I am, I replied silently, picking up our coats and wishing my wife were here. I’ve always thought the dead would enjoy the proximity of children, but for appearance’s sake, I approached the girls.
“Look, Daddy,” Mel pointed to the petal-strewn grave. “It’s their wedding day too!”
Married 13 November 1940. Died 14 November 1940. For the briefest time in life, and for eternity.
Friday Fiction time again. I’m slightly hampered by technology today, including the fact that my Word Count device seems to be stuck on 99, no matter how many words I add or take away. I suppose I could count manually, but instead I’m just going to ask your forgiveness for possibly going one or two over / under 100.
Rochelle hosts us and Adam Ickes provided this week’s photo. As usual, please feel free to be honest!
Mrs Mwanna’s house is really weird. It’s full of boxes, like on Hoarders except that Mrs Mwanna’s stuff is all carefully labelled. She’s got this one box where I think she stores her conversations with the spirits, because it’s got a sign on the outside that says In Voices.
She asked me to go and get her a new box of candles out of the back room and I saw the In Voices box and then I saw Joey chewing on a candle. Father Andrews says “The devil lives among us,” but he’s probably just seen Mrs Mwanna’s pet goat.