Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Magpies

Yeah, I don't like the title either.  But it's better than the original, which was Mothballs.

Recap: I held a contest over at the Clowncar Publishing Facebook page last week. The winner won a flash fiction based on the winner's Facebook page.  Anne Fontaine won, and it was enjoyable to scour her page looking for breadcrumbs that would lead me to the story.  What I found: she was in her attic recently, her daughter is in her first year of college, she named her Esty shop after her grandfather.  The result:

Magpies
by Jeff Wood
 As she opened the splintered door to the attic a cloud of miller moths burst into the air, motes of dust trembling in their wake as she climbed the stairs, every Spring now for twelve years: putting up the heavy quilts, the coats and sweaters, taking down the summer clothes and light blankets. She looked forward to it, yearly. The theater of memory, the lure of the closed box. First one right up near the door, old Christmas lights, the ones her husband had drunkenly attempted to disentangle on the naked hardwood floor that last Christmas together. She never bothered to disentangle things, she put them in a box and trucked them to the attic: out of sight, out of mind. Put away the winter things, bring in the summer. Dust devils swirled at her feet as she walked, moths like flocks of birds. Next up, boxes from her daughter’s room. She had left for college nine months ago, come home hurriedly for Thanksgiving and Christmas, was due for summer break in a scant few days. She had intended her daughter’s room to be kept the same, a diorama, a tar pit, but life moves on and she soon learned there is no such thing as an unused room, even if all it holds is memory.  The bed soon became covered with fabric, the end-table a space for needle and thread, yarn and loom. She had needed room and so packed up some the clutter and moved it up here. Trophies. Video games. Orphaned cards from the Sorry board. She pulled out a favored stuffed monkey and tried to remember what her daughter had named it—Ferfy, Foofy, Floopy—and as she tilted her head to ponder a familiar shape peered from around another box: a worn wooden crate belonging to her Grandfather Wright, a relic from his merchant days.

Moths fluttered, dust settled on cardboard. She was not much tempted to open it, content in the comfort of her daughter’s things, the smell of them, the touch. Grandpa Wright had built raised flowerbeds for his wife using the same wood the crate was built from, and his wife had coaxed a garden from it what, forty years ago? And decades later, with his wife passed and his children scattered, they had pleaded with him to stay at the hospital but he insisted on going home, insisted upon the garden, surrounded by his wife’s flowers, butterflies and bees humming among the petals, the sky full of magpies. She had been with him out in the garden that afternoon, not very old, ten maybe, eleven. He had been showing her a daylily and in mid-sentence seemed to simply go to sleep, his eyes closing, and she caught a notion of what might be happening and his head tilted to the side and his jaw dropped open and the air was suddenly alive with birdsong, she had never heard so many birds before, how could the world contain so many birds, so much song? She ran to tell her parents, sat on the porch with them waiting for the ambulance. Flashing red and blue lights strobed in the trees as they rolled him out of the house on a stretcher. The magpies had been long ago scared away by the siren. The ambulance rushed away in a loud blare of horn and they all walked back inside the silent house. Her father closed the front door solidly and began to weep.

She snapped back to the present with a sneeze, clearing her nose of dust. There is no such thing as an unused room. She began to repack her daughter’s things, readying her home for the coming visit, moths above her like birds on the wing, motes dancing in the attic light like kites.

2 comments:

SueAnn Lommler said...

What a beautiful story. I loved the feel of it. So poignant.
Hugs
SueAnn

De said...

I could easily get caught up in that attic for hours. Thanks for the little trip.