Friday, May 2, 2014


You were away for a bit. On an adventure, maybe exploring other places. Perhaps you were off writing poetry for a month! You come back home to pull the covers off of the furniture and settle back into your existence. But something is just not quite right. Things are noticeably askew, and you get the feeling someone was here in your absence. Tell us who, what, when, where and how come(?). I said things were slightly askew, didn't I?



    Gina’s 8 X 10 photo was missing. It was the first thing I noticed almost immediately walking into the door I hadn’t entered for two winter months. It was a habit, a good one, to let my eyes meet hers before I busied my head with anything less worthy of thought than those sea-blue eyes lighting up the smiling face of the woman I’d loved and lost. But today the empty center of the mantle made me think,

    Okay, the glassed frame toppled. It’s lying flat the way Gina lay face up those hellish months and months in the prison of her white hospital bed. But the mantle there, except for a patina of gray dust, was bare. I looked down into the fireplace, bare but for the logs I had stored there before leaving for El Paso. Where are you, Gina? My voice pounded in my head, words riding the rushing rapids of my blood. Then dread followed curiosity because that missing photo meant someone was here.

    Maybe I’d walk through each room and stumble over ransacked dressers, my canvas paintings slashed, their wooden frames snapped like twigs, my years of sweated effort victimized by a burglar who knew as much about creativity and an artist’s pride as a forest ogre knew about compassion.

    But the rest of the house seemed intact. Nothing missing. Nothing taken, broken, out of its usual place. Then I heard the mobile hanging from the hallway ceiling. The one with Gina’s mini-photos suspended from each of the dangling strings. Absent of draft or breeze and definitely wind, the mobile was swaying musically, each metal photo square tinkling against the next. Squinting my eyes out of focus, I watched the mobile’s almost angelic dance, each mini-Gina photo catching the glint of light beaming through the bedroom window. A smile. A wave of her hand. A thrown kiss. Sea-blue eyes all aglitter.

    Dizzied, I seem to hobble towards the bed where I let myself plop down, and face in my hands, I cried. Gina, Gina, Gina, I kept saying like a mantra meant to save me. Life’s been hell without you. I miss you, Sweetheart.

    All at once the music stopped. The mobile hung still. All I could hear was my heart beating as if in a tunnel through which I had been running into or out of for what seemed a dreamlike eternity.

    Drunkenly I ran back to the fireplace. Gina! I blinked my eyes. Gina! I blinked them again but the 8 X 10 was back on the mantle. As if nothing had changed. As if I’d awakened from a nightmare. As if… I’d been out of my mind long enough to get back into it. Gina was not here. She’d died in the killing arms of a vicious cancer that stole her from me. Then something she said came back to me through the dark cloud of this strange homecoming. “I’ll always be with you, Marty. Death’s not strong enough to kill love.”

    1. Wonderful, Sal! It is good to get back "Home" Glad to see you with what you do so well... Flashing your shorts. Stories. Short stories!

    2. Walt, from what I read of your flashes, I must say you are way up there waving your own shorts in the wind of the WWW!

    3. Thank you, Sir! I have a good "mentor". I truly need to write more and compile them.


    Randall Smithwithers was coming home. Finally. It had been a struggle reconciling his thought toward coming back to the family manse. So many memories which with Randall just couldn't come to grips. But the place must be so neglected, he thought. Coming back to Norbal took some doing.

    Father had a stranger sense of humor. He had called their home, Norbal. As a boy, Randall had once asked why father had been saying normal wrong. The elder always proclaimed the end of family vacations as "Returning to Norbal" It meant time to go home. It was a stranger quirk his father possessed.

    The drive up the boulevard gave Randall the sense that something was wrong. Things had changed, he thought. Different in a strange way. The cab driver kept glancing back at his passenger.

    "You okay, Pal?" the hack asked.

    "I don't know. Are you sure this is Caufield Boulevard?" Smithwithers inquired.

    "Look Buddy, I've been driving this burg for 15 years. I know my way..." the cabbie started.

    'No, I mean... it's just that I don't remember..." Randall interrupted before tailing of into an inaudible mutter.

    Silence filled the car. The driver continued to look back at his suspicious charge. Turning into the rather long driveway of the address Randall had given, the cabbie saw Randall face again, looking rather puzzled...again.

    "Here we are, Fella!"

    Randall stepped out and paid the man and watched as he navigated around the curve drive toward the street. Then he turned back to face the house. Taking each step tentatively, the returnee took in every sensation that overcame him. Slowly, he turned his key in the lock. He dreaded coming back to restore the place to livability.

    As the door creaked open he noticed that the slip covers were all removed from the furniture. Not a speck of dust to eradicate. He heard soft music. Randall smelled a wondrous aroma. Roast Beef. Placing his bag on the floor, Smithwithers went to investigate.

    The music he heard was coming from the drawing room. He recalled the years of his youth sitting here with his rock and roll records, driving his father crazy with its volume. The furniture was arranged as he had remembered, except that father's chair had been replaced by an overstuffed recliner.

    He walked through the alcove to the library. He noticed his books were missing. The shelves were empty, save for the brick-a-brack and knick knacks. His books! Stories of adventures. Collections of poetic works. Encyclopedias and such. Gone. All gone. This was upsetting Randall.


    He heard noises from the kitchen. There was no longer a staff on duty to care for things. He had been gone far too long. Puzzled now. Puzzled and upset. Randall peered around the corner into the brightly lit room. A woman, standing near the counter with her back to the doorway in which Randall stood. She was busy in preparation of a meal. He could not process what was happening.

    Softly, Randall cleared his throat. The woman turned dutifully, not startled or afraid. It was as if she was expecting "visitors". Reaching back for her apron strings, she untied the bow and acknowledged the man.

    "Randy! Oh my dear. It's wonderful to have you back home. I've prepared your favorite..." she halted in mid-sentence and rushed to the confused Randall.

    She thrust her arms around him in an exaggerated hug. Smithwithers had no clue. His lack of response made the woman pull back and her sad look gave Randall a start.

    "You've been gone for so long... don't you remember?" she said wiping a single tear.

    He looked at her, studying her features. Something was familiar, but he didn't know what it was. But he did know something was amiss.

    She started to cry now, loud sobs that touched Randall deeply. He reached to console her, but he didn't know why. Her perfume, a gentle scent, triggered something. He pulled away to look at her. Something... in her eyes, something.

    "Pamela?" he asked, almost as a whisper.

    Tears streamed harder now.

    "You're remembering, aren't you?" she cried happily.

    He embraced her again more for purpose than comfort.

    "The doctor said it would take some time. I'll be patient. You were in the coma for so long!" Pam reassured him. "The amnesia is expected, he said. But, I'm here. I've always been here."

    Randall took consolation in her words. It made some sense now. He wasn't sure what to expect. But he just knew he was returning to Norbal at the right time!


    “Whew – what a trip!” Bernadette sighed as she, exhausted, dropped into her favorite chair and closed her eyes. In an instant she remembered the sights and sounds that filled her senses on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea: the bluest blues and the whitest whites, splashes of vibrant colors in the flowers that filled the air with the sweetest aromas; sea birds calling to one another and the gentle shushing of the water on the shore. It was enough to make Bernie forget all about the world she was trying to escape. Burying her toes in the warm sands of Santorini was a preferred alternative to burying her head back home.

    But now she was home.

    Opening her eyes to the familiar environment, the reality of being alone hit her all over again and the tears that had dried up for a while made their reappearance and began to streak silently down one cheek and then the other.

    Michael was never coming back.

    Through watery eyes she looked at their wedding portrait on the mantle. The smiles on their faces radiated the love in their hearts, with no sign of what was about to happen. Tears came faster now, remembering that day just a year and two weeks ago. In spite of the one-night stand (as they had playfully called their wedding night, knowing their honeymoon would be delayed until their first anniversary), that was the happiest she had ever been. The morning after their wedding, Michael was killed on his way to work in a horrible traffic accident.

    Since his death, she saw Michael everywhere she turned. She missed him so much, yet knew she needed to move on. Bernadette followed through on their dream and took their “honeymoon trip” alone in hopes of reconnecting with her life, as well as moving to the next chapter.

    Now that she was home, Bernadette wondered if she would ever be able to move on.

    Hours passed before she realized and she needed to get unpacked. Dragging herself from the chair, she looked around her home. Bernie froze in her tracks. She sensed something wasn’t right. Everything looked familiar. But what was it? What was different?

    Bernie’s eyes landed on Michael’s Bible, which she couldn’t bear to move from where he left it on the coffee table. It was open. Crossing the room to get a closer look, she saw there was a passage that was highlighted in bright yellow. Jeremiah 29:11 – the passage that was read during their wedding. A promise that Bernadette hadn’t believed to be true for her after Michael’s death. A promise she thought was meant only for the newly pronounced “Mr. & Mrs.”

    “For I know what I have planned for you,” says the Lord. “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

    Sinking to her knees in front of the coffee table, Bernadette did not know how the Bible was opened to that page, but believed that Michael somehow had a hand in giving her the message she needed in order to move on.

    1. You fret (needlessly) about your poetics, but there is no doubt of the quality of your story telling and flash fiction. Keep up with this; it may be a direction to follow. Also, try writing Haibun once in a while. A little longer, prosey bit with the concluding haiku may jar you into some great poems of which to be proud! Nice work, Paula!

    2. Thanks - glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I finally managed to put together the bits of ideas I was having for this prompt. If anyone is interested, the end result is here.

  6. Must admit, Cara. I immediately heard David Byrne (Talking Heads) in my head when I read the title of this. Quite a fright of a story. Glad you were able to pull the pieces together. Please do visit often and add to your story lines!

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