Just Enough

“Think she’ll answer?”

“I don’t know. It’s been so long since we talked. At least with a civil tone.”

“Then why the hell are you calling her in the first place?”

“To hear her voice again, I guess.”

“A voice you haven’t heard in…”

“Fifteen years or so.”

“Lotta things can change in fifteen years.”

“Or so.”

“Yeah. Like maybe she won’t recognize your name, let alone your voice.”

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap.”

“And all this leaping and listening serves what purpose?”

“Closure.”

“Closure of something for which there never was an open-sure.”

“That’s because I never tried knocking.”

“Oh, is that what they called it in the 90s?”

“Shut up. I’m serious. I never admitted my, my…”

“Infatuation? Obsession? Hallucination?”

“You can always leave, you know. You’re not helping my anxiety about this one bit.”

“And rightly so. Do you seriously believe that a woman you knew as barely a friend will be interested in talking to you for the first time in fifteen years, let alone being open to your ‘knocking’ her?”

“No. I don’t. But if I don’t try, even just saying hi, I’ll never have that moment like at the near end of ‘Love, Actually.’ You know, when Keira Knightley comes running out of her house, with her husband — Chiwetel Ejiofor no less — back inside waiting for her, to chase after Andrew Lincoln, since he professed his pretty much undying love for her.”

“Yeah, and she kissed him and gave him a sigh and a look like, ‘too late, but maybe if you tried hitting on me before MY HUSBAND did, I’d have been down with you being the male half of this It Couple in hip London circles. So maybe…’ Is that what you want?”

“Well, maybe. But actually, I’d be happy with what happens next.”

“Which was?”

“He walks away from his great love feeling somewhat like he’s found a kind of closure. And he says what I want to feel, one way or another.”

“I repeat: Which was?”

“He says, ‘Enough. Enough now.’ I just want that.”

“What?”

“Just…Enough.”

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have a bit of flash fiction I cobbled together selected to win a weekly competition, Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads. At 250 words or less, I think I may have just ‘cobbed’ it together. I was stunned and heartened by that honor. To say I needed that approbation of late can’t be overstated. I’m hurting in the creative part of my life as much as the others. So this week, folks were supposed to take a snippet of words from my story (the first line up there) to write a new one. I couldn’t get to it then, but felt the urge today to try. I’m afraid I just let the voices go and this is what happened. First draft, free write., too long for the competition. But for my writing muscles and creative needs? And my heart? Just Enough.

Once Upon a Time There Was a Writer…

Still Life with Lemons on a Plate. Vincent van Gogh, 1887

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to write a new story for my kids collection.”

“What’s it about?”

“I don’t know yet because I haven’t been able to start it.”

“Why not?”

“Because I keep getting distracted.”

“I only just came into the room. You’ve been in here for over an hour.”

“I’m blocked, Jeannie, okay?” 

“What does that even mean?”

“It means I can’t find anything to write about, or can’t get started for some odd reason…like being distracted by my daughter.”

“So this is my fault again. Here, let me help you begin.”

“No, really, I’d prefer it if you’d…”

“Once upon a time, there lived a shoemaker who couldn’t make shoes anymore.”

“Seriously, would you please…”

“So this shoemaker had a daughter, who was the most beautiful and intelligent girl in the kingdom.

“Where’s this going? I’d like to get to my work.”

“One day, the shoemaker’s daughter found her father staring at his work table, where he had all kinds of leather and tools that he had acquired from all over the world.”

“Go on if you must. Just…go on.”

“Don’t sigh so. So the shoemaker’s daughter said, ‘Don’t despair, Father dear. You just need to get away from all your shoe forms and glue pots and laces and come walk with me through the lemon groves.”

“Lemon groves?”

“Don’t stop me now. While they walked, the brilliant daughter filled her apron with the sour lemons. Her father said, ‘What do you propose to do with so many of those?’ And she replied, ‘I’ll crush these, taking their sour essence, add the sweetness of my sugar and make lemon tarts and lemon curd.”

“Lemon curd?”

“Shhh, I’m trying to help here. So the shoemaker and his beautiful and brilliant daughter returned to their house, where she did as she said she would, leaving a dozen untouched lemons left there on her counter. ‘You can have these, father. Perhaps you can think of something else to do with them,’ she said. Just then, a handsome young man was riding past the shoemaker’s house and smelled the lemon tarts the shoemaker’s angelic daughter had left on the window sill to cool.”

“No. You’re not going to say…”

“The handsome young man reined in his horse and walked to the window, drawn by the aroma of the sweetened sour lemons in their flaky pastry glory. At the window, he peered inside and saw the shoemaker’s daughter and was smitten by her beauty, intelligence and extraordinary housekeeping skills.”

“That’s a real stretch.”

“Please, I’m coming to the climax. As I said, the handsome young man was smitten by the shoemaker’s daughter. Let’s call her Jeanne Rose…”

“Convenient.”

“I repeat: Jeanne Rose. And the young man asked if her if he could sample her tarts. The oh-so-sweet Jeanne Rose said he could, but that she had no suitable libation for the young man to drink with his tart. Her father, seeing the young man and daughter setting off sparks between them, and knowing you can’t get rid of a daughter fast enough back in these fairy tale times, said, ‘Handsome young man, if you would be so kind as to fetch me a bucket of water from the well, I shall provide you with libation that you might even take with you on the road if you wish.’ So the young man brought a bucket into the house. The shoemaker crushed the dozen lemons into the water, added  enough sugar to make it ALMOST as sweet as Jeanne Rose, and presented it to the smitten young man.”

“Oh…kayyy…”

“Shhh, let me finish. Suitably puckered from this king’s ransom of citric goodness, the young man revealed—through  his tightly pursed lips—that he was the Prince, scouring the kingdom for the perfect bride to one day share his throne. Then the Prince placed said pucker on the lips of the pluperfect, might-as-well-be-a-princess Jeanne Rose, kissed her with a gentle passion and asked her to be his bride. ‘Yes, oh yes, my prince,’ she said. And they lived happily ever after.”

“Wait a minute. What about that poor bastard shoemaker?”

“Oh, yeah. Ummm, the King seeing his fine handiwork, though already having his own Italian shoemaker, named now-Princess Jeanne Rose’s father Master Saddlemaker of the Royal Tack for all his fine steeds and carriages. Which reminds me, could you give me a ride to the mall? I’m supposed to meet my prince at Starbucks in about fifteen minutes. Daddy? Daddy, did you hear me?”

“You could’ve just asked for the keys, Jeannie. They’re on the kitchen counter next to the lemons. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I may have found a way to turn this pile of chicken shit into Chicken Kiev. Or at least chicken salad.”

“Thank you, Daddy. Have fun. See you later.”

“Um-hmmm. Thank you, Princess. Enjoy your tarts. Hmmm. ‘Once upon a time, there was a…shoemaker…’?”

So I just sat to writing table today, much as the writer/shoemaker in this story. And, since my daughters are far, far away, I just started writing. And here’s what I came up with. Just dialogue. And I thought, “That was fun. Now what?” Back to the groves, I guess.

The Scars That Never Stop Hurting

He didn’t know how to make peace with his past. What offering of acceptable remorse exists when the past, in whatever personage or spirit, listens naught and averts its eyes at the mere thought of him? He’d try, “I’m sorry,” but seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people, two different lives from what came before. His mind has lost its edge and quickness since its days of serving up scars even before others knew the sting of his cut. Now his life is not much more than a scar, something to look at and recall all those wounds he administered across his lifetime. So he waits upon his cold chair for that final felling wound. He sighs at how the sword always fell to his pen, but knows the scythe always wins. Perhaps then a peace he still dreams might come will reveal itself before he hears the swoosh of that existential steel. And, if comes too late, he must assume the role a scar on a piece of someone else’s past. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear that voice say, “Would you write me again.”?

A 200-word free written bit of what feels like literary (those probably not literate) confession and self-imposed penance. Hey, you sit down without a shred of inspiration, you can’t expect Shakespeare or Kendrick Lamar. You just hope and expect ‘something’ will appear eventually. Oh, and the new photo, old regrets and ancient scar (I have many more, some of which you can’t see) are all ©Joseph Hesch.

Carolina Blue

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

The sky claims the upper third of the view in the blue that bears its name. The bottom of the scene, the blue-gray roadway, stretches out ahead like the world’s longest pair of jeans, top-stitched in a Pass/No Pass yellow thread. It’s singing the sonorous song of tar strips against this Yankee’s tires. The middle ground belongs to the pines that curtain off everything to the right and left as if the hills had something to hide. This is the Carolina I observe that lies between a family stretched 700 miles apart. The road offers somnolent monotony and even comfort to a brain that whispers and wonders about what it thinks might lie ahead and what lies might’ve been left behind. The Honda reels in another semi and peels around it to clear the screen of clutter beyond the bugs who lost their own race from here to there. And just as you think closing your eyes wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all, a deer wanders from its place behind the curtain, stage right. It’s gray-beige coat gleams like a the head of a haloed saint in the golden hour now chiming on the gong of sun preparing to make its exit on a day you remember only in stops for coffee, gas, tolls and men’s rooms dressed in tiles foreign as Delaware is to Virginia. But then that eagle, big as a retriever, swoops across its Carolina blue highway and settles upon some scurrying critter who will scurry no more, and you realize there is more life going on around you than in all the lives you’ve lived and loved and lied and lusted and outlasted in your head since you started your sojourn. That’s when you realize here’s your exit and your journey is only just beginning.

I thought I’d combine a couple of prompts for Day #27 of my Poem a Day Challenge. The prompt was for a story poem, which used to be my stock in trade. Also, May 1st begins Story a Day May, which I enjoy playing in. Julie Duffy the doyen of Story a Day, suggested we crank out a warmup story of 100-1,000 words. So here is my free-written double-header piece to warm down from April and warm up for may. Not sure if it’s either a story OR a poem, but it’s written and that’s the important part.

Sweet Angel, Take My Hand

The allure of diving into
the forbidden places
sits at the corners
never really hiding,
ready to saunter to
your shoulder and whisper
her practiced patter.
She’s not a demon,
a demon would never
entice you with something
as benign as a hot fudge sundae.
She could be an angel, though,
because she brings you
the message of how good
you’ll feel when you
taste a lick from that cone
of chocolate-vanilla swirl
or from that swirl of lips and hips.
Why else would God make them
but to allow us to feel loved,
blindly blissful in that
moment of contact?
Ahhh, captivating contact.
Ooooh, sweet surrender.
Oh, Angel, you still lead me
and my pen into temptation.
Take my hand and never stop
delivering me these songs
of blessed evil, these
wicked blessings.

Day #18 of NaPoWriMo and the Poem-a-Day Challenge. Today’s prompt was for a Temptation poem. Temptations come in many packages, colors and flavors.They can whisper in your ear, dazzle your eye, lead you by the hand or take your heart and carry it where you may not ever thought you’d go. But you do…willingly.

Grandpa’s Favorite

It’s not that I was the tallest.
Not by a long shot.
Nor the best looking or cutest.
Well, maybe at age 2. Smartest?
Who knew back then?
But I always got the impression
I was my grandfather’s favorite.
Now, I don’t admit this with any
overweening pride. My pride lies
scattered and broken somewhere
in the basement or in my closet.
Years ago, I dropped it and
lots of people stepped on it.

But I can tell you the old man
would lift me into his dump truck
and let me fire up the engine.
He’d give only me nickels
to scratch his bald head while
he dropped off for a nap.
He called me Angelo and
I’ve never quite figured out why,
since I bear the same name he did.
But then, he christened all my cousins
with individual nicknames, too.
Hmmm…

Now I have two granddaughters
and I could never say one’s
my favorite, since they’re
so wonderfully different.
Their three-plus-year age gap looks
so vast when the oldest is barely four.
But here’s what I hope happens
when I’m finally hanging out
with that old man again in
the Valhalla of Hesches:
I want each of my granddaughters
to believe she was my favorite…
because she would be right.

On Day #16 of the PAD Challenge, the prompt was for a “favorite” poem. Which is hard because I don’t have a favorite much of anything. So I just sat at the keyboard and started typing. I often forget the free write is my friend. So here’s the “favorite poem,” which has what someday might be three of my favorite lines concluding it.

The Strongest of My Senses

It never registered, back when
I stood in the middle of the world,
and absorbed it in every detail.
I’m sure I saw Grandma
and some old nuns lose contact
with what occurred around them
or even right in front of them.
But now I view the world through
the foggy mail slot of glaucoma.
The sounds of birds, the wind,
the waves and your voice are muffled
by the pillows of hearing loss.
In don’t feel these lettered keys
with a few of my fingertips ever since
that disc in my neck blew out in ’90.
My diet restrictions dole out
flavors as if boiled cardboard boxes
are the last of the world’s diet.
Allergic rhinitis can close my nose
like a kink in a garden hose.
I only list these things because
I can see you smiling at me,
hear your voice and our music
as if we’re again sitting together
in the dark, smell your perfume,
feel your cheek and taste your kiss.
My sense of imagination shines brighter,
rings louder, feels warmer,
smells lovelier and tastes sweeter
than anything I can remember,
if I’m even remembering these things
in the first place. What’s that?
Another kiss?
Sure.

Day #7 of April PAD 2018 calls for a senses poem. My once super senses have been dulled considerably by disease, age and lack of care. That’ll teach teen (and older) me to blast Led Zeppelin, Seeger, and Waylon through my headphones at jet engine decibels. But even with these losses, I’ve been gifted with another sense that will have to carry me through to my next life, my next chance rapaciously consume the world’s every sight, sound, touch, aroma and taste. Though you’re looking particularly nice today from this seat.