Friday, March 18, 2011

You Taught Me Well

Fiction Friday prompt: The one thing your character regrets learning the most is…. 

Louisa sat to one side and watched the room. Two or three people would enter the room together, never just one, and glance around. They would see the casket on the far side of the room and venture toward it. They would approach slowly, almost as if it were a skittish animal that would bolt if walked upon quickly.

The small group would stand, hands behind backs, staring down at Jeremy in the highly polished ebony box. Sage nods. A few quiet words about mortality or the quality of his appearance would pass among them. They would turn, almost as one, and scan the room.

At some point, one of the group would spy Louisa and they would move toward her, more purposefully than they did the casket.

Louisa stood to meet them.

“So sorry, Louisa.”

“He was so young.”

“We’re just devastated about it.”

“He looks so natural, like he’s sleeping.”

“If there’s anything we can do….”

“We can’t imagine this place without him.”

Louisa would nod and mumble and shake hands through the chorus. They would turn and move away. Louisa would sit and watch for the next crew of mourners.

As the crowd thinned and trickled to the corners of the house, Louisa twisted a black lace handkerchief. “Oh, Jeremy,” she said quietly to the dead man. “I so loved you. I would never have become the mistress of an estate or known how to even try to run a household without you. You were a worthy teacher and I your willing pupil.”

She dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief, stood, and walked toward the casket. “You taught me so much,” she whispered to the ashen face. “Much more than most husbands must teach their wives. Most men in your position marry women who have been trained from girlhood which fork to use for which course and what linen rotation means. They know proper greetings for every possible type of guest, from ambassador to Bollywood starlet.”

Louisa turned to make sure no one was close by. The mourners had all retreated to the outer rooms, finding snacks or their coats. A funeral home man stood near the door. He looked at her when she moved.

A slight bow. “Do you require anything, ma’am?”

“Just a few minutes alone, please.”

“Of course, ma’am.” He stepped backward through the double doors and closed them softly.

Louisa looked back at Jeremy. “I was so glad to learn it all, Jeremy. I even enjoyed learning your hobbies. Collecting stamps. Bird watching. Obscure theatrical trivia.”

Louisa sighed. “All but one. I should not have followed your interest in pharmacology. I became quite adept. Or perhaps I should not have followed you on your late night excursions. Yes, those two skills that I developed from you. I regret that. Following you and discovering who you truly loved. Not me but her. Or at least that’s the impression you gave her. And of all the things I have learned from you, selfishness is the strongest. I could not share you, Jeremy, so pharmacology came into play. So now you will only be mine, Jeremy. She will not be able to visit you in the family cemetery as I will every day.”

Louisa lowered the lid of the casket, the click echoing in the almost empty room. “You taught me well, Jeremy. You taught me well.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Visitor

Fiction Friday prompt: Set your story in the 1880s, in a mid west, tumbleweed town. The doors of the bar open, the piano stops playing and all eyes are drawn to the figure in the doorway…… Now keep going..!

Lefty looked around the ole Bar-J. Just a regular night with all the regular guys. Line along the bar. Piano pounded by Saul, something loud and unknown. Most of the tables empty. A few gals wandering among the empty chairs, stoppin’ to talk to the few boys playing cards.

Lefty pushed between a coupla guys and shouted down to Keep: “Whiskey.” Keep nodded, tossed the liquid into a glass, and dropped it in front of Lefty.

Lefty tilted back his head and poured the drink into mouth. A silence engulfed the saloon. Lefty opened an eye and slowly dropped his head. Ever’one was looking back at the door. He turned to see what had pulled all the eyes that way.

He felt his eyebrows touch his hatband. The person standin’ in the doorway was dressed in a frilly pink…thing. Well, not ‘xactly frilly. Straps over the shoulder, smooth to the waist, puffy ‘round the middle, skin tight down the legs. And them boots. Well, they wadn’t boots but some slipper-like shoes with ribbons round the legs.

Lefty looked back at the boys along the bar. No one moved nor even blinked. The boys playing cards and the girls among the tables also weren’t moving. Even Saul seemed froze at his piano.

Lefty swallowed hard and moseyed toward the visitor. “Howdy,” he said to be polite. “May I hep you?”

“I was looking for the barre,” a quiet voice replied. Lefty looked closely. It was a female. Her hair was all tight agin her head, like an uptight schoolmarm. Her face was all powdery and white. “Is the barre in here?”

Lefty threw a thumb over his shoulder. “Bar’s over there, miss.”

The pink gal looked over Lefty’s shoulder, a tight smile fixed on her white face. Then the corners move upward and the smile grew a might warmer. She pushed past Lefty, walking in a strange prancey way. Lefty had seen a horse move that way once, a horse no longer amongst those in town.

The gal walked up to the bar. Guys parted like she was Moses hisself. She rubbed the brass rail that ran along the bar at about waist height. “Yes,” she whispered.

She throwed her foot up on the rail and made some up and down bounces on her other foot. She looked over towards Saul. “Sir, if you please,” she said.

And danged if Saul turned to his piano and began playin’ some frilly music. Music ain’t usually frilly but that’s what this music was. The gal bounced some more, lifting her arms out and up and back down. She switched legs and did the bounce and arm things agin.

Lefty looked out the door but nothin’ was on the street but horses and a couple of storekeepers sweeping. He turned back to the inside. Cowboys was crowdin’ toward the corners. The card players and other gals had moved back toward the stairs. Ever’one was staring at the gal and at Saul. Saul just kept playing. Keep polished the bar, at the far corner from the gal and acting like she wadn’t there.

Lefty walked over to the gal. “Excuse me, miss,” he said as he tipped his hat. “I believe you done wandered into the wrong story.”