Friday, July 15, 2011

Entry #23

All We Are
by Joni Haws

The tock-tock of the grandfather clock echoed beside her as she slumped against the wall, twisted carpet between her fingers. Large swaths of afternoon light cut through the living room windows and she let her head fall back, fixated on the illumined dust particles and their lazy drifting. What was dust, anyway? Flour so fine it had escaped the inferno? Kicked up dirt, meandering its way back home? Perhaps, she realized, it was itsy bits of people, flaked-off pieces of themselves transcendent enough to defy petty laws like gravity.

Was she, right now, breathing in parts of herself? Of Jeff?

Of Lily?

Maybe, at this very second, she was surrounded by teeny little pieces of Lily, still floating, silent, everywhere.

The AC kicked on.

She heard Jeff’s slow step down the stairs behind her, knew he spotted her legs jutting out from behind the clock. Silence. She felt his stare, the weight of speech growing on his tongue.

Finally, he sighed. “Mel, you can’t-”

Her words, quiet, were measured in teaspoons. “Please. Go. Away.”

Another long silence. The garage door opened. Shut.

A robin hopped across the porch, its rusted belly plump as a bean bag. She watched it through the plated window of the storm door.

And then she saw Lily’s handprint, greasy and perfect, like stamped butter on the glass.

Crawling to the door she nearly touched it, withdrew her hand, and the AC chilled fresh trails on her cheeks.


Aimee Laine said...

So I thought this was going to be gross with this line: Was she, right now, breathing in parts of herself? Of Jeff?
but then it turned very very somber. I assume something happened to Lily? My what? Where? There is more to this story right? right? Right?? :) :) 'Cuz I want to know!

Michele Zugnoni said...

Your use of description is wonderful. I felt as though I could see the scene unfold before me, just as I could feel the woman's emotions as she focused on the continued existence of time. I'd love to know more.

Thanks for sharing!

Catrina said...

I love how the narrative matches her conversation with Jeff--short, terse sentences.

Some surprising (and refreshing!) imagery here. Excellent job.

Precie said...

She nearly touched it...perfect!

Poignant and well-executed.

SzélsőFa said...

i loved the description of the characters and events - there're so many tragedies compressed in less, than 250 words. great job.
(although i have yet to find out what AC stands for - it's my fault, sorry for that!)

PJD said...

I am thinking that Lily is a child that has died or maybe gone missing. Missing, I think, based on the hint of dust making its way back home. This is perhaps my favorite so far, and there have been some terrific entries. So many layers, so much hidden beneath the surface, so much revealed in the honest voice. This is beautifully written.

fairyhedgehog said...

So much grief for Lily. I liked being inside the character's mind and hearing her think about the dust - and wondering what the flour was about. The handprint was perfect.

Joni said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone. I'm so enjoying this contest. I really appreciate the positive vibes.

@Szelsofa - AC is Air Conditioning. :)

@Peter - You, sir, just made my day.

SzélsőFa said...

knowing what AC stands for made me re-read the story and i found the writing and the story even stronger than for the first (two or three) reads.
i thought it was some drug. :(

but now it creates a new perspective - it is very painful and one of my favourites and i've read 40+ entries so far.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Successfully illustrated absence. I love how it's the unsaid which speaks loudest in this story.

Unknown said...

How sad :( The death of a child is every mother's worse nightmare. She's clinging to the piece that remains.


Old Kitty said...

This was full of eloquent atmosphere. I love the imagery of the robin. Take care

bluesugarpoet said...

Heart wrenching! Nicely done. ~Jana A.

Sarah Hina said...

I loved her contemplation of the dust. I actually have a similar scene in my WIP.

I loved the entire piece, Joni. You are gifted with language.

Richard Levangie said...


The think this is fabulous. Simple, evocative phrasing weaving complex emotion. I'm totally impressed.

Certainly in my top three.

Joni said...

Again, thank you all for you feedback. I really appreciate it.

And Sarah, it's nice to see you around!

Unknown said...

Beautifully written, Joni, and so poignant.


MG Ainsworth said...

This is so achingly beautiful. As a mom the imagery went straight to my core and brough tears to my eyes.

C. Sonberg Larson said...

The subtle hints of what happened-- thought provoking.
The image of the mother searching-- heart breaking.
The main idea tucked behind mother's thoughts and a half revealed Kansas song title-- Brilliant.
Very good writing.

Phil W said...

This is movingly beautiful. Bravo.

Unknown said...

I like the way this opens with the play of sounds tick-tock clock and then the fresh description of dust particles gives it a touch of horror that fits the sadness of loss.

JaneyV said...

Joni - the grief here is crushing - for the lost child, the husband pushed away and for a life once happy. Your writing is beautifully crafted and evocative. This is amazing.

Joni said...

Thank you all so much reading and posting comments. The loss of a child is something I have never experienced firsthand, but find the possibility hauntingly terrifying. I actually really like Peter's interpretation of her not being dead, but missing. It's got me thinking about future story ideas.

I'm just thrilled to be able to participate among such talent as the rest of you.

Catherine Vibert said...

Beautifully told, and with such an emptiness. Sad.

Anonymous said...

What a monumental loss weighing on, and permeating, this piece. Very effectively portrayed.

Congrats on Forties Club!

PJD said...

Congrats on 40s club, but personally I don't see how you missed out on the top five. This story has stuck with me perhaps more than any of the others.