Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired to write fiction based on this fabulous picture Rus came across.
The table was always set the evening before. The mismatched crockery and forks with tines askew and knives with the tips slightly bent. Communing with the future, she called it. A eucharist for the deceased of the past, of the present, of the soon to be.
She set the kettle set on the hob early first thing in the morning and filled it to capacity for guests who would never wet their lips or ask for sugar or decline milk. Rubbing the air between her fingers she felt it at first thicken like rubbing folds of velvet, then thinned out to the vapour of gauze. At the whistle of the kettle she warmed the tea pot, rinsed it and poured out the clean water as a libation before adding spoons of finely cut leaves.
Seated at the table she rubbed the air between her fingers again and the gauze whispered into singular strands of cotton. Wisps of clouds dancing around the spout of the tea pot. She sliced the fruit cake and served herself. Poured the tea and watched the sugar crystals dissolve.
And he was there. A memory. A framed portrait. As if memory was nothing but cake fragments and breadcrumbs to be fed to the birds at the park. And bone china cups held the structure of trauma and the rigidity of tradition. Around her an exoskeleton, a carapace, as thin as a veil, as thick as love. The thinness of the day giving way to the thickness of night.
I wanted the green hat or the sheet. Wardrobe insisted I wear the red. It’s always the way with these things. Everyone knows better than you.
‘We can see your lovely face,’ they cooed.
I screwed it up and everyone said I was difficult to work with.
‘Can we trade?’ I asked.
‘You want me to be the girl?’
‘No. I want you to wear the red hat.’
‘I prefer the green,’ he said. ‘If I can’t do green hat, I’m doing the sheet.’
‘No one listened to me when I said that.’
‘Can we have a dog?’ I asked. ‘I’m allergic to cats.’
Someone laughed and then they all laughed.
‘We love your sense of humour,’ they said.
But I am not amused. It’s hard to laugh when you’re sneezing.
We are pretend reality, masquerading as common place. We are the things that go bump in the night, tidied up, sweetened up, so you’ll never think we are anything other than what you want us to be.
‘Smile,’ they say.
I grimace and secretly wish they would all go to hell. Or perhaps we are already there.
They waited, with undying patience, for the others to make it through the forest and take their seat at the table.
“Perhaps they have lost their way,” said the ghost, unable to really understand any concept of time.
“Or perhaps they have found it,” whispered the girl, knowing that, sometimes, these things happen.
The cat, though, would have none of it. He was hungry, and he looked beyond the forest for his next meal, staring at us in the distance, as if we would be providing him a tasty rodent for a late-night snack.
On the other side of the wall, where the wild things walked and stalked under the light of an endless moon, three creatures sat under a tree, staring longingly at the wall in front of them.
“Perhaps they have lost their way,” said the goblin, chewing on a recently fallen twig with fresh berries still clinging to the underbellies of bronze leaves.
“Or perhaps they have found it,” replied the boy, proudly wearing a green beanie. “You know how they are, always seemingly finding a different way to where they need to be.”
The dog, though, would have none of it, though. He was longing for the sweet flesh of a floundering rabbit stuck in some hole. It was late, and he was too hungry to think of much else.
Above, the owl sat perched, chin in chest, observing the stale mate of patience as he, himself, preserved his energy with great will.
“Perhaps this is their way,” he hooted. We are never as lost, or found, as we think we might be.”