Thursday, November 22, 2018

sparrows

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are on the Elephant's Child blog this month. 
     "Pedro, my love, come in out of the rain and eat some hot soup, please?  You have lost so much weight I am afraid.  Your skin looks almost transparent under your eyes!  I am so worried about you, please, talk to me.  Tell me what is wrong."
     "I'm sorry, Amelita.  I don't mean to worry you.  I've just been trying to solve the mystery of these nightmares I've been having and when I was walking back from the library tonight I believe I have come up with a theory about them."
     "What?  Please, tell me and tell me how I can help you with this."
     "I read old newspapers today that said my father had been accused of a crime I don't believe he did.  I think he was framed because he was an outsider here."
     "Oh no!"
     "There were three local men who were arrested with him, but they testified against him and he was the only one who was convicted."
     "What did they accuse him of?"
     "Theft.  That he stole from people in the audience and robbed several houses in town."
     "I know you don't talk about him very much, but do you think he would have done something like that?"
     "No.  Not at all.  My father was more interested in being the center of attention than in trying to steal or loot people's houses.  He would never take something that didn't belong to him."

     As he told her what he had read in the newspapers, about his father's performance reviews, then the arrest, trial, and death, a thud on the window made both of them jump.  Amelita shuddered as a cold breeze went through the room even though the windows were all closed.

     "Pedro!  What is going on?"

     Holding his finger to his lips to quiet her, he slowly stood and moved to the door.  Opening it, he stepped out into the misting fog that had settled over the area.  She sat, wide-eyed in fear, and watched the door.

     When he returned a few minutes later, he was holding a sparrow in his hands with a broken wing.
Amelita inhaled sharply and looked at Pedro.

     "They say that sparrows are sometimes harbingers of death," she whispered.
     "Nonsense!  It just got confused in the fog and flew into the window."
     "At night?  Most birds don't fly at night, Pedro.  Especially in the rain."
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com

     Pedro looked at her, then at the sparrow in his hand as its head fell to the side.  "It just died," he whispered.
     "See."
     "It doesn't mean anything, Amelita.  It is just a bird.  Not a harbinger.  A bird, and a small bird that hit a large and very hard window."
     "But what if..."
     "What if what?  If it is some kind of messenger of death, perhaps it was just foretelling its own death.  This demonstrates nothing."
     "But what of the chill that we just felt?  Surely you felt it too, Pedro."
     "I will not let this conversation graduate into some superstitious mumbo-jumbo, Amelita.  I know you read palms and look into your crystal ball to tell people what it is they want to hear, but this is not my father's ghost trying to right a wrong done to him?"

     Amelita looked hurt at his words, a tear fell to her cheek, and he instantly regretted saying what he had.  He knew that he was just as frightened by the appearance of the bird as she was, but it did not justify his words to her.

     "I'm sorry.  I was wrong to say that.  You know I respect you and your visions.  It's just that the nightmares have put such a strain on me.  I'm afraid to sleep because I'm am frightened by the nightmares.  It isn't just memories from my childhood anymore.  It's as if I'm seeing my father's life through his eyes.  The things that his father did to him, and the persecution that he suffered at the hands of those who didn't understand him.  I hurt, Amelita, physically hurt when I wake from the nightmares.  I feel the beatings he suffered as if they happened to me.  As if they are still happening.  To me.  I'm afraid, my love.  So very afraid."

     Saying nothing, Amelita stood and walked over to him.  She took the sparrow from his hand and laid it down on a newspaper.  Pedro sat down heavily and sighed as he watched her gently wrap the small bird in the paper and tie it with a piece of string.  She walked behind him and put her hands on his shoulders.  Leaning in towards him, she kissed the top of his head as her tears continued to fall, staining his shirt.

     "Do you believe that your father was killed because of what he knew?  Could he have been blackmailing the men who testified against him?"
     "I don't know.  The article did say he had proof of his innocence."
     "Did the newspaper mention the names of any of the other men?"
     "Yes, but only one man who was the most vocal about my father's guilt.  His name was George Andersen."
     "George.  Wasn't that the name of the banker that was so rude when we came into town?"

     Pedro looked at her and raised his eyebrows in surprise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

revenge

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are on the Elephant's Child blog this month. 
     Amelita began to peel the orange as she watched Pedro from a distance.  It had been a long time since they had such a luxury, and the scent of it reminded her of where she grew up in Florida.  Pedro hadn't said much since he told her they were going to the town his father died in, and while she knew that the painful memories of his childhood might justify his silence, she was worried about the walls he seemed to be putting up around him.  Even the other circus performers had noticed his silence and some had questioned her about it.

     The circus had been traveling through Cimarron County, Oklahoma and finally stopped in Boise City.  It was the most desolate county they had traveled in so far, and no one seemed to be in a cheerful mood.  After they rode through the small town and set up camp, an employee of the one bank in town had come out to ask how long they would be there.  The sun had just gone down, and the temperature was still so high that lines of sweat rolled down the man's face as he stood talking to the owner of the circus.

     "How long are you planning on staying?"
     "Well, I don't rightly know.  I reckon we'll just have to see what the ticket sales are like."

     Raising the volume of his voice, as if it would make him appear larger than he really was, the bank employee took a step forward.

     "We don't take too kindly to strangers around here."
     "Well, now, my name is Sam.  What's yours?"
     "George.  But why..." 
     Sam quickly cut him off.  "Well, George, we ain't strangers no more, now are we?"
     Glaring at Sam, George spun on his heels in the dust and stormed off.

     It was now the third night that the circus had stayed in Boise City, more out of revenge for the bank employee's arrogance than for ticket sales, although each night sales had increased as word had traveled of their performances.  People had been coming from the surrounding states and counties since it bordered four other states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas.  Sam had a notion that the longer they stayed, the more profitable it would become for them since many of the people in the audience had never before been to a circus or even seen a live elephant.

     Pedro had not yet gotten back up on the high wire, and instead had been spending his nights listening to the locals' talk as they came and went from the big tent.  Every now and then he would hear his father's name mentioned as people said they had once seen a high wire artist that defied gravity, but that he had died after being accused of being a fraud.  Pedro desperately wanted to ask someone to explain what they meant, but he was too afraid of drawing attention to himself and his relationship to the man they were talking about.

     Amelita knew he wasn't sleeping well, and she worried that he was becoming ill from whatever was haunting him.  He barely ate during the day, and she could see that he was becoming weak.  When she tried to talk to him about it, he would give her a vague answer and change the subject, which only made her worry more.

     Trying to avoid drawing too much attention to himself, Pedro went to the town's library and asked if there were any issues of the local newspaper he could look at.  When the librarian asked if there was a specific time frame he was looking for, he asked to see papers dating back to six months before his father died.

     He found what he was looking for two hours later.  A small article in the middle of the paper mentioned a high wire act that had just come into town that was amazing everyone who went to see the performance.  The artist appeared to float in the air, without any wires or safety support.  The first week of his performances sold out, and he would be in town for another two weeks.

     There wasn't another mention of the performer for a month when an article on the first page said that the high wire performer had been found to be a fake and that he had been arrested along with three other men.  They were accused of stealing money from the audience and were suspected in several robberies in the area.  The trial was set for a month away and they were all facing at least ten years in prison for theft.

     The next mention of his father was in an article on the trial.  This time, he was the only defendant mentioned and the three men who had originally been arrested with him had testified against him.  He insisted he was innocent and he had proof he was being framed by the three men.  While the evidence against him was only circumstantial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

     Four days later, a small article on the back page of the newspaper indicated that Pedro's father had been found dead in his cell.  Nothing was said about the cause of death, and he was not mentioned again.

     Pedro sat and looked at the article with a dozen questions running through his mind.  His father had been hard and cruel without a doubt.  But he had never been a thief or a liar.  He knew that his father lived for the applause of the audience and that was more of a reward for him than any price the audience paid.  He went back to the original article that mentioned the arrest of the four men to see what he could learn about the three who eventually testified against his father.

     All three of them were locals, his father the only outsider.  The three had previous arrests for minor crimes.  Public intoxication.  Disorderly conduct.  Vandalism.  His father had never been arrested.  Why then was his father the only one who was tried and convicted, in spite of his claim of innocence?

     Pedro returned the newspapers to the librarian and walked out into the street.  A light rain was falling as he walked back to the circus camp.  He wondered if his father had indeed been framed for the crime and whether or not the men had anything to do with his death.

     Amelita sat at the window of their wagon, watching the road and waiting for Pedro to return.  Tonight she was going to get him to talk to her and she would not take no for an answer.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

gravity

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are on the Elephant's Child blog this month. 
     "I felt like the air was enclosing me in a fire."

     Pedro shuddered as he recounted his nightmare to Amelita.  The two of them sat once again on the edge of the circus tents, just beyond the light of the night's fires, and the ears of the other performers.

     "The wire felt like ice under my feet, yet the air was like fire.  I was frozen there, unable to move forward or backward.  It was not just physically, but mentally I suddenly felt without purpose, as if there was nothing more for me to live for.  I tried to look down to see if the net was beneath me but I couldn't.  I wanted nothing more than to just fall without a care into the darkness."

     Amelita pulled him closer to her, wanting to will away the darkness that was finding its way into Pedro's mind at night.

     "Pedro, my love, you do have so much to live for.  You have a beautiful life.  We have a beautiful life.  There has to be an explanation for this dark patch right now.  Some reason for the fears and nightmares.  We will find the reason together.  I will not let you go.  You must be strong, and I will be strong for both of us."

     Both of them jumped at the sound of the wood benches in the main tent jamming together, and they turned to look as shouts and screams filled the air.  Getting to his feet, Pedro began running toward the wild cat caravans that stood empty in the fading daylight.  It was time for the act to be in the center ring, and if something had gone wrong during the performance, the audience could be in danger.

     In the days that followed, there were investigations by the local police that did little to explain what had happened.  Somehow during the big cat's performance, the holding pins in several of the benches were removed, causing them to collapse.  Several people in the audience had been seriously injured, including children, but there were no deaths.  Fortunately, the large pen that surrounded the big performance prevented them from bolting as chaos erupted when the benches fell.  The handler had done an amazing job in maintaining control over the lions and tigers in what could have been a very dangerous situation for him.

     All of the performances had been canceled for the next several weeks during the investigations, and when they were concluded, the owner had held a meeting the next morning in the big tent for all of the performers and hired hands.

     "I just wanted to let everyone know that there is no shame in admitting that you might have been in a hurry while we were raising the tent and might not have securely fastened the bench pins."
     
     Loud voices of protest from the hired hands began to rise, and one especially large man stood to voice what everyone was thinking.

     "So that's what they think?  That one of us did it?  One of us made a mistake?"
     "No, not conclusively anyway.  All they have been able to determine is that some of the pins were removed and bent in such a way that it had to have been organic in nature."
     "Organic?   What exactly does that mean?"
     "It means that the pins couldn't have failed on their own, and they couldn't have been bent by the weight of the audience on the benches."
     "So they ARE saying it was one of us!"
     "No.  Not exactly.  They are saying that 'someone' had to have removed and bent the pins prior to the performance.  The weight of the audience on the benches as they filled the seats, made the whole structure shift and that is what caused the remaining pins to fail.  The benches and their supports were so mangled that there really isn't any way to determine the identity of the person, or people, that did this."
     "A textbook case of gravity creating a catastrophe?"
     "Perhaps that is one excuse, but the bottom line is that in the weeks to come we all need to be extra vigilant for unfamiliar faces in places they shouldn't be."
     "You still believe it was done deliberately?"
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
     "I'm not sure what I believe.  I know that Hercules himself couldn't have bent those pins.  I know because I asked him to try and he is the strongest one here.  I think it was something supernatural, but I suppose being married to a fortune teller makes me a little more superstitious than most.  Regardless, we have been asked to leave the area and considering that the locals distrust us now, I think that is a good idea.  I'm asking that everyone pack as quickly as you can.  We've lost too much money here waiting for the investigations to be concluded.  I would like to get on the road before lunch so that we could possibly have the clowns and elephants do a short performance in the next town tonight.  I think that getting as much distance between this place and the next large city where we could set up for several weeks would be a good thing for all of us."

     Pedro and Amelita sat together on the front seat of their wagon as the horses slowly followed the line of wagons, elephants, and caravans leaving the small town.  She noticed the frown on his face and that he had been silent for several miles.

     "Pedro?  What is it?  What has you worried?"

     "I just realized where we are going.  We're going to where my father made his home after I left him."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

the wanderings of an ADD mind on coffee ...

... at an early morning eye appointment ...

darn, I should have brought my glasses so I could actually read while I'm waiting
hmmm, how long have I been wearing contact lenses?
46 years!  wow.  that's unsettling.
I wonder if Lasik would reduce the risk of a retinal tear in my good eye?
how long has it been since the tear?
13 years! wow. 
I bet I wouldn't be able to wear a contact lens in that eye again.
that means Dad has been gone almost 12 years.
I wonder if the dead can't "rest" in peace if we think about them constantly.
CR's dad was the first dead person I saw.
that was creepy for a 16-year-old.  
he looked like he was sleeping.  
I think I had nightmares for a week after that.
who was the next one?  
was it Dad?  
no, it was that guy I worked with when I was doing HR.  
wow. that was a heartbreaker.  
liver cancer.  
called to tell me on a Monday that the tumor was shrinking and he was so excited because the chemo was killing him, then his wife called on Wednesday and said he had died in his sleep on Tuesday.
Dad must have been the third one.  
Monsignor Metsy who lived near me was the next one.  
Stroke when I was in Alaska during the summer, and then he just wasted away for almost a year.
ugh.  why am I thinking of dead people?
at least I'm not seeing dead people.
that was a good movie.
need to think of something else.  
should have brought my glasses.
wish they'd hurry, my coffee has shifted.
I wonder what made my eye doctor change careers from being an engineer to being an ophthalmologist?
was that my stomach growling!?!
hope no one else heard it.
yay! my turn!
.
.
.
.
all this hurry up and wait.
should have gone to the bathroom.
maybe it won't be as long for the next part.
my eyes are so numb 
they feel weird
I guess my pressures are okay.
I wonder if it is still snowing.
hope not.
can't believe it is almost Christmas.
wish the stores would at least wait until November before putting out Christmas decorations.
there is just something wrong about Christmas music and Halloween decorations.
yay!  that's me!
.
.
.
.
ugh. my eyes are so dry now.
why so many pictures of my eyes?
I guess considering all the surgeries they want to be sure.
how many was it?
cryo
laser
scleral buckle
laser again
cataract removal
silicone oil
another laser
oil change
ACIOL
boy, that doctor sure didn't like me talking during the surgery like Dr. W did
where is the bathroom?
I wonder if I have time to go before they call me again?
nope!  rats.
at least now I can ask him why he switched career fields

Friday, November 2, 2018

the chagrined funambulist

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts were on the Elephant's Child blog in October and were provided by Margaret Adamson, and her friend Sue Fulton. 
     Crumpling up the newspaper, Pedro angrily threw it in the fire pit the tent crew had built between the big cat caravans to keep warm.  If his mistake on the tightrope hadn't been enough to sully the reputation of the circus, the chagrin he felt at the article about his performance was more than enough to cause ticket sales to drop.

     "Inept Funambulist Falls Again" was the kind of headline that closed down shows, not the kind that brought in more customers.  His fall the night before had been the third performance in a row, and his shame over his mistake was almost as heavy on his mind as his worry about why he kept falling.

     Lowering himself onto the sand at the far edge of the wagons, Pedro listened to the rest of the high wire performers talk among themselves as they went through their evening ablutions.  There wasn't any point in him joining them, it would be wasting what little water was available with the current drought conditions.   None of them had questioned his decision to sit out the performance that night, yet he could hear his name being whispered as they washed.

     "Pedro?  What are you doing out here in the dark?"

     He hadn't heard Amelita walk up behind him, and her soft voice was like a whisper on the wind.  To the rest of the performers and the public, she was a saucy clown with a perpetual smile and laughter that sounded like a nightingale.  But to him, she was like a ray of starlight and he found himself moonstruck in her presence.

     Standing to face her, he pulled her close to him.  How could he tell her he was afraid?  How could he tell her that he didn't know if he could walk the tightrope ever again?  The first fall had caught him by surprise and his confidence had been shaken.  It was the scent of the cigar someone in the audience had been smoking that had brought memories of his father rushing back so quickly he had forgotten where he was.  It was a split second of distraction that had  caused him to slip.  She knew that he had been estranged from his father before his death, but she didn't know why.

     Leading her to the wagon they shared, Pedro began to explain how he was a 5th generation tightrope walker, and that it had been his father who taught him the same way that each generation before him had.  His father had been a hard man, who demanded complete submission from his wife and son.  He manipulated and controlled them with fear.  His weapon of choice was a thick cigar that he would use to burn them when they displeased him.  The scars on bottom of Pedro's feet were what gave him the soft step that helped him to sense the vibrations in the wire as he performed.

     As soon as he began to walk, Pedro had repeatedly been pushed or forced off of the wire from higher and higher heights to teach him to respect the wire.  He had suffered broken wrists, arms, ankles and legs before he had finally mastered the wire to his father's satisfaction.

     When he was twelve, his mother had left the wagon they shared to get meat for the evening meal from the town butcher where they were performing and had never returned.  Her body had been found a week later, on a dirt road not far from the circus' camp.  She had slit her wrists with his father's shaving razor.  In her pocket she had left a note addressed to Pedro that simply said she was sorry she hadn't been able to protect him.

     After her death, his father had pushed him even harder to become an exceptional performer, burning him with the cigar on the soft tissue at the back of his knees to build scar tissue that would strengthen his hold on the high swings.

     On his 18th birthday, Pedro had joined the Army.  It was the beginning of World War I and while the burns his father had inflicted to the bottom of his feet would keep him from being sent to the front, they wouldn't keep him from working behind a desk in support of the war effort.  Knowing his father would disapprove of him joining the Army, Pedro had left in the middle of the night without even saying goodbye.

     Two years later, he had heard from a circus passing through town that his father had died in his sleep a short time after Pedro had left.  The guilt he felt for leaving as he did began to give him frequent nightmares.  When the war ended, Pedro had trouble finding work, and falling back to his family legacy, found a circus to join.  It was there that he met Amelita, and the nightmares had stopped.  On their wedding night she had seen his scars for the first time, gently touching them with a questioning look on her face.  He had simply said they were from a childhood that he barely remembered.  In the five years that they had been married he truly had almost forgotten about the things his father did to him.

     Until the scent of his father's favorite cigar wafted up to him on the high wire and shook him to his core.  The second night it had happened again, and after finding his way out of the safety net he had looked intently at everyone in the audience, trying to find the person smoking the cigar.  Last night, as he stood at the top of the ladder before he stepped out onto the wire, he looked to see if there was anyone smoking in the audience.  There wasn't.  But for the third night in a row, just as he got to the most difficult part of his act, he could smell the cigar, causing him to hesitate and lose his balance.

     As he told all this to Amelita, she had listened intently, but hadn't said anything.  Now, his words exhausted, she reached out and gently stroked his face.

     "I'm so sorry, Pedro.  It must have been so hard for you when your mother died.  Do you know exactly when your father died?  Is it perhaps close to the anniversary and you are feeling guilty again for some reason?"

     "I hadn't thought of that.  Yes, it was this time of the year when I found out, so I suppose it could be the anniversary.  But why after all this time would I remember?"