My Short Stories

“Satin Doll”

 

The hot, thick southern air clung to everything, sticking her skin to the tight white cotton nightgown that fell just below her hips. Savannah walked along the moss covered, tree-lined cobblestone streets all hours of the day and night. Some days she wandered with purpose, other days aimlessly, admiring the beauty in her simple understanding that she was doing exactly what she desired. She wondered if she would see him again tonight.

Would he be there, lying on the same wooden bench as if he owned the entire square, smoking with a slight smirk upon his face and writing in a black leather-bound journal that to her must contain all of the words in the world her own soul had been longing to hear? Would she say something, or would she simply pass by, for it had been her experience that the thoughts occupying her head and emotions filling her heart far exceeded the realities that had been her relationships with men in the past?

Perhaps he would be different, he would be the one, the teacher who would allow her to become the student and for once in her life be captivated by a man whose arms held her rather than merely stuck.

She rounded the corner and there to her delight he was. Only this time he was waiting on her as well. She wondered what she should say. “Ask for a lighter? Too predictable. Ask the time? Too transparent, as anyone meandering the streets at this hour couldn’t possibly be concerned with time, and neither am I.” Here, she was free, if only for a moment.

She was nothing more and nothing less than Savannah, a thirty year-old, divorced, newly remarried mother of two, and a daughter, sister and friend, yet here she was alone, a girl walking through a southern square in the middle of the night.

She stepped beyond the safety and certainty of all that lay just short of the curb, and her heart quickened as she yearned for any change from the monotony of what her days back home had become. Then, suddenly, without intention or provocation, a scene from the not so distant past began playing as if on an old movie reel she was powerless to shut off.

“Yes, honey, I signed your permission slip, and please tell your brother to stop pouting. I am chaperoning his class trip to the museum next week.” Nothing seemed to differentiate one day from the next, other than the nightly prime-time television shows to which she fell asleep alone every evening. Divorced from her children’s father and newly married to a Lieutenant in the Air Force, she spent many days living as a single parent to her two children, Francesca, ten, and Sawyer, eight.

She recalled the countless times people had stopped her and her ex-husband on the street to compliment them and their beautiful children, remarking on their “perfect family.” She remembered feeling drastically, sadly disconnected from their comments, a feeling worsened by her husband’s glowing grin each time the remark was made. She was fortunate to have her beautiful children, of course, and appreciated the stability and affection their father provided, but to her these comments tragically echoed the sentiments he held about their life, but reflected little of the feelings that she had until the very end kept locked deep inside her heart.

 

 

 

When she finally did leave, the reason was not because Jack was anything short of a wonderful husband or an even better father. She left because she could no longer muffle the restless cries of her dancing soul, the ones begging her to live rather than to merely exist. Yet she wondered if she had left only to find herself married again and living a majority of her days alone while her new husband was deployed half way around the world. She began feeling as if she had spent the past four years playing the same old game with new characters. She longed to discover a way to live that provided an escape from the past that seemed to do little to enhance her life rather drain the very passion of living from her magical soul.

Therefore, she instinctively plopped down next to the intriguing stranger, whose “lost yet found” outlook seemed to mirror hers. They continued to sit in a comfortable silence, as the space between them lacked any of the awkwardness one usually expects between two strangers. He finally turned to her and said, “I have learned that all who wander are not lost.”

She grinned, knowing that for the first time in as long as she could remember, she was in the presence of someone who understood her better than the family she left back home and most of those she had known a lifetime. She replied coolly, “I read that somewhere.” The stranger, who almost instantly had become a reflection of her soul in one simple sentence looked directly at her and remarked, “I knew that about you.”

Savannah blushed, for all her life, or at least the most recent years as she struggled through her twenties, she longed for someone to see her for what and who she was in all the ways that were important to her.

He continued on by admitting, “I have a confession to make. I saw you today down by the river.” Savannah, a bit confused, wondered to herself, “How did this beautiful stranger who I found by chance sitting alone in a square in the middle of the night already know me?” Now more intrigued than ever, Savannah let out a giggle and inquired, “You did?”

“Yes, you were talking to Mosses.” “Mosses?” she thought. She didn’t know anyone here, let alone by name. “I was?” she asked, slightly confused by the stranger’s assertion.

“You walked up to him as he played his saxophone, and when his song stopped, you placed your two dollars in his old worn out black case. “O.K.,” she thought, “I clearly remember the evening’s events, but as to why he was so taken with her on account of them she failed to see.

“Mosses, gave you his standard line, ‘What do you want to hear, kid?’ and it was what you said next that not only took me by surprise, but also flustered old Mosses. He couldn’t stop talking about the girl who had done what no one in his twenty-two years of playing down by the river ever had. You asked him what he wanted to play for you! And you asked him, “‘what song came to his mind when he looked at you!”

 

 

 

She smiled bigger now and turned her head in slight embarrassment and disbelief that she was the only one to have ever asked him such a seemingly innocuous and, to her, obvious question. Unable to mumble anything representing a concise, witty reply in the instant following his confession, she softly whispered, “Satin Doll, by Ella Fitzgerald.”

He said, “I know, and for the rest of my life, when I hear that song, or see old Mosses playing down by the pier, I will think of the girl who was everything beautiful and different that I seek in the world daily.”

The enormity of all he was expressing was what she too yearned for; an undying passion. To be the witness and observor of honest thoughtfulness. To search a heart and discover no evidence of disinterestedness, feigned and or inverted. Rather simply honest moments caught from daily life that most people had.

For to her, truly seeing people is to believe that we all have a story and regardless of circumstance, status or appearance, we all collectively control the story.

A lofty ideal build on a foundation of privilegeand presumption, this is admitted. But she also consciously and consistently must admit the power the holds that ideal and sway forever in the forefront of her heart and soul.

But until her random stroll through a sleepy southern town in the middle of then night; she had never really believed anyone would see it, understand it, foster it and help her to trust it all. That to be unique was now finally recognized by another and this time not all in the wrong.

For now, right now she. I am, me am compelled to admit to my heart that I felt more connected to the handsome and unfamiliar soul than I had or have since than anyone I had ever known.

I am strikingly now aware that when I wrote “regardless of how the rest of her adventure may bear on her life, this moment was to be the highlight not only of her time away from home, but also, quite honestly, of her entire life.”

For she had found the beauty in discovering the true depth of one’s unshakable impulse to act rather than spend the days reacting to life.

The essence of her being was heard not by what she said but by all she did not. In a holy silence.

Her inner beauty and vibrant soul was discovered, not in the grandeur of revolution, or the haste and fear of insurrection. No, it was simple. An intercession of faith and doubt; the intimacy that can only ever come from listening. For above the words and mechanics of the song we as those two strangers created from our serendipitous symphony; the key of life heard in a fleeting entanglement of three lives.

A divine accompaniment, two gypsy souls now forever changed. The wandering would end. For they could rest and the song plays on. Their duty done at midnight wrote the song and freed them to be home once more.

It was a true ordeal transposed into a song. And all for the better.

So the next time you find yourself in a strange place, contemplating taking to a stranger or crossing the street. Take a deep breath and say yes to life. For the picture you’ll see is the purest reflection: for equal to the angle of incidence the inner becomes the outer.

And you have by now recognized the essential goodness in humanity and there is the key to the door that was never locked. Inclusive exclusion the power.

The power of the human and the divine shattering the evil and becoming the good.

Written By: S. Elizabeth

Life as Lessons, Life as Loss, Life as Love, My Short Stories, My Writing LIfe

The Fall of Camelot…est. 1978

Monday, February 21, 2011, was to be simply another bright and brisk morning that began with no signs nor warning of the destruction that was on a collision course aimed at all I ever knew.

No alarm bells sounding to alert me of the unthinkable that was to become my forever truth… that lie in wait.

At times, I often wonder lost in reflection of those early days, how? How is it possible that a day seemingly as ordinary as any other, can transform itself into the day that stops time?

How can so much pain be inflicted by a single unwanted and undeserving minute ? Giving the next fourteen hundred and thirty-nine minutes the power to sear an unwanted fate?

For once death had my brother in its sights, and Joe and his life began to slip away into darkness so did mine. As he was letting go of living with his unnoticed and increasingly labored gasps. Death simultaneously began scribbling erratically upon my life.  It used an ink laced with agony, torment and tragedy and stained the pages of my history, for never can they be erased.

An ordinary Monday became infamously the day that changed me forever and cast me into a role I never wanted to play. A sister without her brother, her life’s witness and constant companion, trapped now perpetually between tears and pain.

I grew up with my family intact while so many of my friend’s parents had divorced. I had always known I was loved and in turn I truly loved my parents. My two brothers and I grew up the best of friends and although I know better, our childhood seemed almost enchanted.

We had a wonderful home, which provided a foundation of love and laughter, one others seemed to envy. However, we saw ourselves as an ordinary family with an ordinary and most common life.  Yet, having been the one who lived it and lost it, I assure anyone of this, what made it magical was the two young boys I shared it with. For we lived and laughed together in a life untouched by hardship, oblivious to sadness and ignorantly unaware of loss.

In those days life was a pond smooth and stagnant, and flawless as that of glass. Until without warning and in an instant boring and normal were gone. The day had come without reason or warning. The day in which the universe cruelly tossed a stone, haphazardly landing in our quite pond and destroying the gift of it stillness forever.

A gift I never fully had time to feel, to cherish, to be grateful for, and its absence has left me treading water and drowning daily in its unforgiving relentless wake.

The continual disruption comes and goes in waves. Ring after ring rippling outwardly from the first moment of impact  and shakes my soul to its core and alters me and carries me slightly further. Further, from what once was and all that now will never be.

For the shore, I long to reach, allowing me to emerge from the sea of my despair and return “home” no longer exists. There is no map, no directions in which will ever lead me to finding my way back.

Imagine a snow globe and what is within can be described as perfectly imperfect. Our family’s Camelot. However, for the past two years, six months, and nineteen days the ground has not stopped shaking in my upside down world. The snow continues to flurry and fall without any signs of stopping, concealing our Camelot not only from the outside but from inside as well.

Snowflakes like daggers chip away at my heart, flashbacks of our life together. Who were we when we woke all under the same roof to each new sunrise and the limitless possibilities that were ours for the taking?  Longing to scream through the thick and tempered glass, yet my voice won’t carry, and the people living their Camelot, the one we once were, have no way of knowing that each morning we all woke up together, we had more than anything we will ever know again.

I can no longer remember the way I felt when I was the young girl playing with the little blonde haired boy, connected to him at the hip. For those children live now only within memories. Memories that no longer feel like mine. I play them over and over and yet try as I may I fear I have lost my connection to past, severed by the truth of my present.

I become ill when I admit the ease in which I was able to take that life for granted . How could I have ever known that boring and normal were anything and everything, I would one day spend my eternity now wishing for.

Why did we not drift off to dream under each starry night sky deliriously grateful for the absolute perfection of that quiet house?  Why were we not more aware of the love we shared, built intricately upon and around each of us? The foundation of all we ever knew sleeping peacefully, tucked within the four bedrooms of our home. When the life I was naive enough to take for granted was mine.

I panicked in the days immediately following the death of my brother. Living in a perpetual state of heart-wrenching panic. For my life and my family had become unrecognizable. The only certainty was the continually snow storm that showed no sign of letting up, distorting the view of our Camelot. A storm I feared would never stop and the beauty of our life would never be clearly seen again.

Life as Lessons, My Short Stories

Looking back…is key to moving forward

It was the fall of 1995 and I was sixteen years old. I wasn’t a particularly bad child, nor was I particularly good. I sort of teetered on the verge of both identities most of my childhood and into my late twenties. I stumbled here and excelled there. I made my parents proud and I caused them heartache. I suppose I was a normal kid, simply trying to figure it all out.

However, due to my wild side and my distaste for rules and regulations of any kind, that infringed upon all I felt I was entitled to experience, I simply disregarded them  consequences be damned. Resulting directly from my parent’s inability to tame their free-spirited daughter, I spent many, many hours sitting slouched in the corner chair of our family’s dinning room table, while my father spoke at me.

Sometimes he screamed, sometimes his cruel distaste came out calmly. Most times regardless of their presentation I was truly convinced it didn’t even really matter if I was sitting there or not. Convinced he liked the sound of his voice and the reiteration of his words of disappointments, frustrations and what he must have deemed my anointing of his fatherly wisdom.

I can honestly say I don’t recall much of what was said at our “come to Jesus”  meetings but one night in the middle of  one his “usual speeches”. One that I am sure I could recite forward and backward, he spoke a sentence that has stuck with me my entire life. Oddly, too for at the time it wasn’t relative or applicable to whatever typical teenage offense I must have committed. Yet as the words came out of his mouth they seemed to grab my attention as if a record that had been playing endlessly suddenly scratched and all motion in the room came to an abrupt halt. I was so keenly aware of the disruption from the deviation of his usual banter it felt as time in that moment suddenly stopped.

I was suddenly aware of the coldness outside and how the room smelled of musty heat as it whispered out from our old furnace on its first use of the season. Its knocks and ticks amplified my bated breath as I waited for what was about to come. Normally I would use the radiating heat passing through the baseboard along the wall beside me to play one of the many made up games I had invented over the years to pass the time stuck at the table with him.

I would prop my feet up on them and for the most part of “our” conversations, I would stare down at the whole in my  wool socks and play peekaboo with my toe. Tapping it against the register and testing myself as to how long I could keep it pressed flat against it before the heat became intolerable. Not a highly exciting game but a useful distraction I was normally thankful to have to occupy the minutes that turned into hours of my father’s typically very long-winded rants.

I would eventually tire of that and give up on inflicting any further burns to my toe and then move my attention to again counting the owls that adorned the wallpaper my mother just had to have.

At one time over the course of these one-sided conversations with “Joe” (that is my father’s name) I had counted 347 but I was willing to double even triple check my work in a single session if cut anytime off my sentence. Or enhanced my ability to tune him out, surely lessening the sting of his verbal lashings.

“Sarah, Sarah you better be listening young lady!” A strictly rhetorical question as he never really wanted to hear anyone other than himself.

“Sarah, I am telling you now baby!” “There are a lot of things I don’t know, but there is one thing, that I promise you can bet the farm on.”

This would usually be the time I began daydreaming of my horse and riding out in the fields on a warm summer day. Free and wild under a perfectly clear blue sky nothing but silence and the wind would I be forced to hear.

However, tonight was different and his words cut like a knife through the perfectly painted canvas in my mind and sharply brought me right back to that small kitchen. In actuality it wasn’t a small room at all, but he had a way of making the walls feel as if they were closing in on me with every endless tick of his watch.

He had a way about him in these memories of mine that cause me only to remember the room possessing a single light that hung from the ceiling overhead and swayed ever so slightly back and forth dependent on force of his voice.

The bulb always dim and stained yellow from the constant stream of pollution rising up from the Marlboro Red he lit every three to four minutes. Smoke so thick at times I could taste nothing else even after brushing my teeth for bed after each time all was said and done.

Sarah, one day you’re going to stop right in the middle of your everyday life and if you continue living the way you have been, my ears slightly perked as what could I possibly be doing now that will permanently affect me and the life I will have years from now, I thought to myself?

Reviewing quickly the true severity of my offenses. I made decent grades. I was on the Varsity Soccer Team. I had no criminal record, never been in any “real” trouble and besides breaking his curfew or skipping a few classes , even stealing a few bucks when it was left lying around, what could he possible deem me labeled in his eyes for life?

I clinched the fists inside my yellow turtle neck sweater and stuck my head as low as it would go into the stretched out neck, as whatever was coming couldn’t be good. Particularly, nervous and I would have sworn I had heard the worst of the worst from that man many times over.

“I’m telling you now baby, you keep living like your living, floating here and there, you’re going to grow up and be one unhappy little girl… Sarah…and then of course he did one of his big dramatic and long-winded pauses, which are always followed up by the light of a smoke. A sure indication of something he considered important looming just inside his mouth. Perched on the tip of his tongue just waiting for the smoke to his ears eloquently lure it out. Trapping his words within and highlighting their definitive presence. Words frozen and suspended in the breath of smoke in which he exhaled them upon.

He continued “One day you’re going to want to pack up your toys and run home.” “But baby you’ll have created a life in which there is no road home nor anyone even there who could save you from it!” “The toys you will then call yours will no longer neatly fit in the toy chest if in fact you even for once tried to clean up your mess.” “For regardless, they won’t be the kind of toys you are able to simply leave when you’ve become bored with them, abandoning them out in the rain for the next girl to come along and find.” “They will be yours for life and you will be miserable every day of yours because of them.” “Mark my words little girl, mark my words.”

I just sat there, for the first time I had no quick interjection of why he was surely wrong! Nor could I conjure up any deep sigh indicating in my teenage way that he had no idea what he was talking about. No snide comment to shoot just as fast back to him acknowledging I even retained his thoughts. I had nothing.

I just sat there stunned and baffled. Clueless as to what he said meant for sure. However, for some reason they felt unshakable and the smoke they hung on seemed to cling and engulf my clothes, my hair and my soul.

My father and I would have many more kitchen table torture sessions before I moved out and finally became an “adult”.

As to what specifically was said in any of them before that day or after I wouldn’t and couldn’t swear to any true content of it now.

However, that single profession. The one that came out of nowhere and held no relevance to the events at hand, seeming to steam from my father’s well of actual insight and intuition scared me.

For something about those words and chance of whatever they meant actually holding some bit truth about me and my life to come was a premonition not easily brushed off.

As if it, as if he had subconsciously sealed my fate. A fate that although I didn’t understand it then, Left me with an uncomfortable awareness, one in which I didn’t like the way it felt to fit before I even had a chance to experience it. The finality of his imposed sentence on what began as  a seemingly ordinary chilly fall day is one that to this day has never left me.

The only clarity I have found after the passing of many years is the shocking and absolute truth in the perfect reflection of his words as in fact despite his unexplained warning did in fact become my life.

TO BE CONTINUED ~ Stay turned as the epiphany is IMPORTANT