The coins in Crow’s pocket jangled as he walked down the street. He liked to imagine the sound was actually being made by the spurs he wore on his boots.
“You know how some people,” Sparrow asked, leading him across the street, “just pick up and leave? Like they just go somewhere else and you never see them again? Or you do, but like five years later and they’re completely different?”
“Yeah. Do you have a cigarette?”
She stopped in the middle of the road to give him one. A car honked and swerved around them.
“Could you do that?”
His wife printed out a poem, something about plums, and used the fruit shaped magnets they’d found at a flea market to affix it to the refrigerator.
“I don’t get it,” he said.
She said there wasn’t anything to get. It was just a little funny. He shrugged. Slipped past her. Opened the fridge door and pulled out the last can of beer.
“I’ll have one too,” she said. He swallowed and said there weren’t any left.
“I can pour you half? Or finish this and go to the store for more, no problem.”
“Get something for breakfast, too then.”
A single trail of eyeliner, although she might have tried to rub it away, ran down her cheek. Her nose a breath away from the subway door’s window. Her lips moving, repeating the same shapes. Rehearsing what she’ll say. Her reflection, the audience, as the train moved through the darkened tunnel.
Three stations later, she’s finished the speech. The movement transfers from her mouth to her legs. The left foot starts tapping. At the next stop, she’s dancing, arms in the air, head shaking from side to side, as she exits the train and runs up the escalator, and outside.
On moonless nights, Mother would usher us to bed early. She’d tuck us in. Snuffing the lamps and dousing the fire, because the coming spirits couldn’t see in the dark. And we’d be safe.
We’d sneak out of bed to watch mother’s rituals from the doorway of her bedroom. Cheeks against the jamb, toes never over the threshold. She’d sit on edge of her vanity, facing the mirror, eyes closed tight, the bed sheets wrapped loose around her legs and shoulders. Every lamp from the house, burning and surrounding her.
The only light for miles, concentrated in one small place.
Prompt courtesy of Jane Dougherty‘s Strange Sunday Challenge.
The afternoon before this morning, I watched six or seven starlings brave the snowstorm to pry the last of the withered chokeberries from the tree outside my room. And then today, after praying for work to be cancelled and then trudging through the barely shovelled streets to the subway, there was a man, sitting so he looked back to where the train came from.
And he had the same expression as those birds.
I tried to read, but the words wouldn’t stick. So I watched him over the edge of my book. More people got on, brushing away the snow.
Instead of attending the church service he knew his mother would have bitterly opposed, Goat paced through the two rooms she’d lived in for the last ten years. The funeral was his aunt’s idea. The sister she’d never got along with, but who was willing to do everything. And pay for it.
He found a box of postcards in the bedroom closet. He pulled a few from the middle. They’d come from all over the world, but always from the same person, only ever signing, “Love, S.”
The first card was thirty years old. The last postmarked a week ago.
A heavy silence settled down. Kearns could feel it in his shoulders.
The second gunman of the pair waited out there, somewhere near the pumps or inside the station, or circling around the other side of the building. Kearns imagined him crawling closer, or with his feet up, calling for more men.
He couldn’t stay here. He shifted, moving slowly. Getting his feet under him, stopping between movements to listen. Kearns figured the odds of him surviving were better on the road. He’d gotten the jump on one of them, but that just meant the other would be more careful.
He pretended to be asleep when his daughter looked in on him.
And then when he heard the two short hank she always gave before turning on the highway, he closed the open book laying on his lap and stood slowly, but with determination. He showered and then shaved in the steamy bathroom. His Sunday suit, just pressed hung, behind the door.
He straightened his tie and a stray hair from his left eyebrow.
At the kitchen table, he poured himself three fingers of bourbon, sipping slow, letting it roll.
His service revolver resting to the right of the glass.
Swallow hard to stop the shivers. If only for a few seconds. Concentrate on avoiding the coming catastrophe. The bus’s late and the wind’s blowing up your back. Today is today and, yes, it’s miserable and tomorrow might exist, but nothing is certain.
You skin discolours, surrounded by three computer screens, monitoring your productivity. Climb the rungs of the spreadsheets sent out early to the entire floor with erroneous information and then duck outside before the accusatory footsteps find you.
Freezing for five minutes is fine.
The elevator doors close just before you can get in, on. Whichever it is.
Prompt courtesy of The Daily Post.
Don’t tell me your secrets. I can’t keep them safe.
I might leave them rolling loose on windowsills to be picked up by the breeze coming in across the back yard, and that’ll carry them up. They’ll be the grey in the sky, until they latch onto gales and head further out where they’ll be dropped in the oceans. Bobbing on white water waves. Slowly making their way to shore, where they’ll be deposited on sandy beaches.
Where anyone spending an afternoon could find them and pick them up and hold them to their ears and learn everything about you.
Prompt courtesy of Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.