Imperturbable

 

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Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

I follow the instructions exactly. At the automat I get a cup of coffee and sit at an empty table. My pulse is racing, but I appear calm. Like everyone else, I look weary; my once fashionable coat discreetly mended.

A young man in a nondescript suit sits at a nearby table. As he turns the pages of his newspaper, he mentions the rainy weather. I reply with the code phrase. We sit for a while, sipping our coffee, each of us seemingly lost in thought. Then the man puts his coat on–leaving the newspaper on the table–and starts walking toward the door. I stand up, and as I pass his table, I pick it up.

We both exit. We go in different directions down the imperturbable street. It’s difficult to believe there’s a war going on.

 

This is bit of flash fiction for my prosery prompt for dVerse. The prompt line that must be incorporated is “We go in different directions down the imperturbable street,” from Gwendolyn Brooks, An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire.”

Without intending to, I wrote a companion piece to another prosery piece I wrote—and also illustrated with a Hopper painting.

 

Shadows

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Credit: Pixabay

 

Once he was so alive–handsome, vital, and full of laughter. I miss his laugh. It was full of joy, never mean-spirited.

It was the first thing to go.

I didn’t notice at first. Chris was feeling the strain of his work, I thought. My husband was new to the firm. He was told to go to a client’s house for a deposition regarding a property dispute. Later, he said the man was creepy. I didn’t really pay attention to the details. I wish I had.

A month ago, Chris drove out to the property, but he never came home. I dreamt of him that night, and every night since. I know it’s him, even though all I see is his shadow. His shadow shouts. On a nightmare scream, I wake.

But now it’s not a dream. Chris’s shadow is here. Waiting for me.

 

For dVerse’s Prosery prompt, Björn has asked us to incorporate this sentence from Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”: “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”  

“Your piece of prose can be fiction or autobiographic, but you are only allowed to use 144 words (which means that you need to add maximum137 words that are your own.

You are allowed to capitalize and punctuate the given line, but you are cannot add any text inside the quote.”

So, this line is from Maya Angelou’s poem, but it has nothing to do with the poem’s meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets

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Edward Hopper, New York Restaurant

 

“I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.” Perhaps I wasn’t, not really. Not in those days. I was like the wind blowing in and out of places, and love followed—a gentle breeze or a gale—either way it was here and gone. Until Joe.

We both had worked as codebreakers. All that’s history now, of course, but even now, I can’t give you any details. Enemies remain—secrets, too. I didn’t even notice him at first.

Then one day, I glanced up as he was consulting with a colleague. He looked at me and nodded. I nodded back. Without a word, we had an understanding. Later, we met for coffee…

It’s been thirty years. He brings me coffee every morning. I’m surprised if he doesn’t spill a drop or two. But that will be our little secret.

 

This is my flash fiction “prosery” piece for my prompt today on dVerse. Our pieces cannot be longer than 144 words. Mine is exactly 144 words. The first line comes from a poem by Jane Hirshfield. 

 

 

 

1692: Salem

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Evil is growing here. It is in the soil, where our fields lie fallow. Is this the barrenness of harvest or pestilence? Village and town are plunged into darkness, no light remains. But what lives in the shadows? Demons surround us, and the devil gains more converts every day. Even the households of ministers are afflicted. We are torn apart. Undone.

Yet it’s our duty to fight the darkness and expel the evil that lurks here. It is our duty–we the justices–to send the witches to death. This affliction has spread through the region; so many blackened with devils’ marks, though they bleed red as anyone (their master teaches them tricks).

They will suffer the justice of righteousness, crushed by rocks or hanged by a rope, until they die, and we are saved.

But at night I wonder—what if we’re wrong?

 

For dVerse, Prosery #5. Prosery is prose using a line from a poem. Björn has asked us to use the line: “This is the barrenness of harvest or pestilence,” from a poem by Louise Glück. The word limit is 144 words. I rewrote part of an old poem, and I turned the given prompt line into a question.

 

Something Happened Here

 

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Red Bank Battlefield,  National Park, NJ

He watches from this place. Where—he’s not certain, and he drifts and wanders, but never far from this spot. Something happened here, he thinks.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been here, or what was before. He notices others like him here. They nod to each other, sharing a bond. . .of some sort.

What is that sound? Oh yes, that’s called music. He thinks it’s something he used to like. I rememberyes, I used to. . . sing.

He watches as people gather. A woman dressed in black wipes her face. A small boy stands next to her holding a flag.

Something happened here, he thinks again.

And as the leaves blow and whisper in the breeze, he remembers—these memories were left here with the trees. The woman’s eyes open wide as he gently kisses her, and then disappears forever.

 

This is my prosery piece for my dVerse prompt, using the line “These memories were left here with the trees” from the poem “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War” by Jo Harjo.  When I walk in the park, sometimes I think memories whisper from the trees.

 

 

 

 

Lux Mentis: Prosery

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We sail the night sea in our silvered ark. We’re refugees with lives programmed by machines that tell us when it’s day or night. On the observation deck, I can see the distant light of faraway stars, beckoning but elusive, like dream fragments remembered as you wake. Somewhere out there is our destiny–yet I’m haunted by the memory of sunshine streaming through the trees and the sound of birdsong on a summer day. Sometimes I hear the crash of waves in the constant humming of machinery, and I can almost taste the salt of ocean breezes.

Last night I dreamt I was the moon. I looked down and cried for Earth, gone forever.

 

At dVerse, we’re trying something new: a flash fiction piece of 144 words or less based on a line taken from a poem. We’re calling it prosery. Sarah has offered us this wonderful line, “Last night I dreamt I was the moon” from Alice Oswald’s “Full Moon.”