Inspiration

She didn’t know how to begin. The page stared back at her, mute, without making any suggestions. She had all her notes together and she had a deadline. She was being paid for writing this investigative article and needed the money it would bring. But she had no idea how to begin. She kept staring at the page and saw the faces of the people she had interviewed on homelessness. Some of their words came to chide her, reminding her that she needed to write this and that she needed to begin today. But the words were all missing from her head.

She looked out the window that was behind her desk. She was on the second floor of the apartment building and the street outside was busy with people and cars. There was a supermarket across the street, and she could watch the people going in, some with empty bags, and others coming out, with their own bags or the supermarket’s bags full of food. Some bags had fruit or vegetables peeping out. Others had bags of potato chips or pastries. A few were a mix. Sometimes one of them would bother to look down at the homeless man holding out his hand and put a coin in it. Most would step around him as if he were part of the building’s façade.

One woman came out, shopping bag full, and stopped in front of the man. She ignored his hand and held out hers, offering him the shopping bag. He smiled and took it. When she left he rifled through it, taking out a bottle of milk which he opened and drank from. Then he put the bag on the ground next to him and put his hand out again, ready to be ignored.

She had found her opening and started striking the keyboard.

As she came into consciousness she could feel the hammer in her head. As she further woke up the hammer hit more furiously, not even allowing her to think. She opened her eyes. It was still dark. She didn’t want to leave the warm coccoon of her bed, but she had to get up to take something. She slowly sat on the edge of the bed. The hammer stopped knocking as steadily, and took up a slower thump. She stood up and the hammer stopped momentarily, only to resume the thumping as she stumbled down the stairs, clutching the banister like a lifeline. In the kitchen she prepared coffee, which she drank hot with the pain medication for her migraines. While she was drinking the hammer stopped completely, only to violently resume as she put the cup down and grabbed her head, squeezing it to slow down the thumps tearing her brain apart. As the hammer slowed, she went back upstairs to bed. Sitting up in bed with pillows propped up behind her she waited for the medication to take effect. As the hammering began to slow, she fell back asleep. Damn, she hated migraines!

White box

Early morning. As you look out the window there is only white. A few nearby shapes are a dim grey. But you are in a white box. An hour later and the dim grey shapes have become noticeably trees. Further down the road that was there yesterday a house-shaped shadow appears. The white becomes brighter. Now, the surrounding fields have returned. Fifteen minutes later the leaves create shadow and looking up there are patches of a faint blue in the white ceiling. At mid-morning, the birds begin to sing and the white box has disappeared, receding to the very edges of the hills, whose tops are still missing in action, but which are starting to show. The fog is finally burning off.

Nightfall

After the sun folded its face for the day, leaving a yellow glow in the west, the mountains gathered a turquoise shawl around their shoulders as they settled in. Pinpricks of light appeared along the seaside and up various folds of the mountain. They were like ants that refused to acknowledge the advent of night and its rest. As the shawl darkened into a purplish blue, the sea reflected it back and the waves said goodnight to the mountains. The pinpricks reduced in number and the mountains sighed and stretched into the darkening light as they had done since the beginning of time.

Unread letter

As she searched for her summer shoes at the back of the closet she sighed. She was alone again. Her husband had gone to the football game that evening. It seemed he was never home. If only Marcel had presented any interest in her before her marriage. She had loved his quirky laugh and they had shared interests. But he hadn’t. And Tony showed up and swept her onto the altar. But after a few months it was obvious she and Tony had nothing in common. But it was too late. Even if she asked for a divorce she didn’t think Marcel would remember her.

She pulled out a box from the back of the closet she hadn’t opened since she had been married. When she saw the design she realized it held some summer sweaters, not shoes. She opened it, anyway. She pulled out the top sweater, a creamy yellow crocheted ball of angora fur. It still had the smell of the perfume she used to wear. She shook it and a paper fell out. It was an envelope. She opened it and took out a the letter. She remembered she had found it in her purse one night after having spent the evening with Marcel and her friends but hadn’t opened it because she was too tired. She had forgotten all about it. As she read it tears came into her eyes. It was from Marcel. He had written, “I love your eyes when you laugh. Shall we try to laugh together?”

It had been raining heavily for two days. After the summer drought the first few hours of rain had been celebrated. But then it kept raining. Hard. The dry, cracked ground could not soak up all the water fast enough. Rivers grew beyond their riverbed, their waters roiling and jumping down the course, brown with mud, the crests of the angry waves beige. The clouds would not stop disgorging water. All that could be done was to keep the water at bay as well as possible.

At least the town was on a gentle hill away from the river. And her apartment was behind the town, away from the river. But she had to cross it to go to a job interview in the next town. The only way to get there was across the river. And if she didn’t get this job she would have to leave her apartment and return to her mother’s house. Not in a million years.

As she approached the bridge, she saw the water was almost at the top. Another hour and it would wash over the top, blocking her off. She decided to cross. She knew she would have to spend the night in her car because she wouldn’t be able to cross back, but it was life or death with her now. She had been told she was the perfect candidate for the post and that they would most likely take her on. They just needed to have a chat with her. She had to have the job. She was running out of money. She started to cross the bridge.

The car was approaching the middle of the bridge and she felt the trembling as the water slammed relentlessly against the structure. Forget about washing over it; most likely the water would wash it away. She kept the car going. As she passed the middle a shudder went through the car, coming up from the tarmac. With a sigh the bridge began to fold and move with the water. She gunned the car but it was too late. The car moved along with the bridge, abandoning the road and bouncing downriver. Inside the car, she screamed, but she knew no one could help her as the car bobbed in the water, racing down the swollen river. She saw people running along the bank, pointing and waving their arms. She had been seen! The car continued until it became entangled in a submerged tree. It stopped, water pounding it from the passenger side. The water would loosen the tree’s grip on it soon but for the moment it had stopped and she could think about getting out.

Water was beginning to enter the car, but at the moment it was up to her ankles. Outside it was almost up to her window, but she couldn’t open it. The button wouldn’t work and the car’s engine was dead; the electronics had worked their last. The door wouldn’t open against the weight of the water and banging on the window she realized she couldn’t break it open. She looked around the seats. There was nothing there to help her break the window. The townspeople had seen her. She had to wait for them to arrive. She hoped they arrived before the force of the mud-filled water drove her car further down the river.

The water was up to her seat now. She thought about her lost job interview. Surely they could hold the job for her another day or two. But she knew they had been desperately looking for a secretary and in that day or two someone else would show up and take it. Her most likely future lay with her mother. The mother who had humiliated her all her life, putting her down, telling her she would never amount to anything. That she was worthless and would run back home soon, asking her mummy to take care of her. The mother who had never given her any credit for anything she had done well. If anyone dared praise her, the mother would point out all the faults and magnify them, showing how the faults covered her like sores. She had never had friends, just acquaintances. And those, few. Her mother had driven them away. Her mother had complained she kept company with animals and did not want to see any of their faces near her daughter. Then she would say her daughter was another animal and not fit for human company. She had only been able to stand up to her mother once; when she had moved out. And now her strength had ebbed as she faced going back home. How could she go back to that? She preferred to live under a bridge. Except they were being washed away.

The water was now up to her chest. Through the muddied windshield she saw someone clambering over the branches to reach her car. He had a crowbar in his hand and swung it at the windshield until it cracked and she could kick it out from inside, dipping her head under water as she lifted her feet against the glass. Finally, it was knocked out and the man threw her a rope. She grabbed it and crawled out of the semi-submerged car. As she clambered over the engine toward the man, holding the rope, she could see people on the riverbank, mostly in green raincoats, but one red raincoat stood out. The woman was standing still, her arms crossed, watching the operation a little way from the bank. Her heart started to beat quickly. Of course, how could she not have remembered. She had been disoriented when she had been swept into the river. She knew where she was now. Her mother lived near here, her house further up the hill. As she was being pulled to safety she saw what was coming.

She let go of the rope and let the cold waters close over her head, gently coddling her as she relented and was carried away from the town. The woman in the red raincoat watched impassively as her daughter disappeared down the river and the neighbors shouted and ran along the riverbank. Then she turned around and went home.

Saturday night lights

Hover over puddles.

A lone melody

Drifts in the streets.

Dancers move their feet,

Their eyes blank,

Their smiles painted.

Dancing their pain

Away into the void

Of solitude.