L is for Listless

Image source: publicnewstime.com

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


That glorious summer
Of dog day afternoons
How we laughed
Until our faces ached
And it hurt to smile
Or even frown

We were having a heatwave
A tropical heatwave
But a love half-baked
Soon turned to ashes
In the furnace
Of our hearts

J is for Joyful

Image source: oceanadventures.co.za

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


He puts on the linen suit Wendy said would be so classy and perches a Panama hat on his head at a rakish angle. The mirror reflects a picture of sophisticated elegance, except for his expression. He forces his face into a smile; now, he is ready for the Beach Terrace Café reception.

‘This is where we will meet the right people,’ Wendy said.

He will do this for her because all he ever cared about was making her happy.

‘How do I look?’ Wendy appears in the bedroom doorway, dressed in lilac, the colour of old age. Her hat resembles the light shade his mother had on the standard lamp in their front parlour. A fusty room for entertaining guests who merited the best china, and where he would sit in polite formality, wishing he were anywhere else.

‘You look nice.’ What else can he say? He misses her ethnic prints and the bold palette of colours she used to wear. Now she favours the bland tones of safety and respectability.

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His social smile fades as he escorts her along the greeting line. She simpers and air kisses with the best of them.

He remembers a time when Wendy drew attention with her shine and dazzle, and how she moved among people, not caring if she said the wrong thing or wore the wrong clothes.

Now she tries too hard, her smile is brittle, her laugh is too loud, and they brush her off like a fly from honey.

She bows her head, and he moves to her. ‘Don’t cry, Wendy.’

‘I am not crying; I’m angry with them and with me. What are we doing here?’

‘You insisted we come because making new and better friends was one of your conditions for us to start again.’

‘I was wrong.’ The sun disappears behind a cloud and Wendy shivers.

‘Shall we go home?’ He struggles to contain a burgeoning hope.

‘Take me back.’

‘Stay here. There’s something I need to do.’

He finds a dark corner in the bar and takes off his clothes, letting them fall to the ground. A waiter approaches him.

‘Sir, are you all right?’

‘Never felt better.’ He takes a drink from the tray and steps outside.

A woman screams and drops her glass. The throng of people stop talking and stare at him in silence, except for two children who giggle and point.

He winks at them and hands his drink to the woman. ‘There you go, enjoy!’

He strolls over to Wendy. ‘Are you ready?’

She nods but does not look at him. He crooks a finger under her chin and lifts her face to his.

The sun comes out, and Wendy smiles with a radiance that is blinding. She rips off her hat, takes his hand and they run, laughing, down to the sea.

H is for Heartbreak

Image source: weheartit.com

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.
Also includes the Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt: HOW
.


“How much do you love me?”

He buttons up her wedding gown, but the bodice gapes and droops. Then he hands her the veil. But no pins or hair grips: she has no use for such things these days.

“I love you more than I did yesterday,” he says, cupping her face in his hands.

“But will you still love me tomorrow?” Her sunken eyes sparkle and gleam at him.

“My love for you will never die,” he promises.

“Can you show me how much you love me?”

He carries her out onto the terrace, where his tears flow to mix with hers. They share a kiss, and he steps back.

“Thank you.” She gives him one last smile and hoists herself up onto the balcony. For a second, she is silhouetted against the setting sun. Then her body tumbles into the lengthening shadows below.

C is for Crushed

Image source: usnews.com

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays)
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


Titanic dreams
His plans for the future that became hers
The scrimping and saving to buy the ramshackle cottage with a plot of land

Titanic dreams
The love that was there from their first date
A trip to the cinema, with Jack and Rose racing through sinking corridors
“Jack!”
“Rose!”

Shrieking, laughing, running through their waterlogged house
Rain pouring through holes in the roof
Tumbling into bed

Titanic dreams
Pointing, plastering, painting
Watertight and snug
Planting, hoeing, harvesting
Selling organic soaps and candles
Slaughtering their first chicken
Holding it on the block as she lifts the axe
“Jack!”
“Rose!”

Titanic dreams
The car, the storm, the broken bridge
She floats to the surface
The woman in the nightgown
But cold water brought cold death

Titanic dreams
“Jack!”
“Rose!”
The echoes fade as she awakes
And remembers
It wasn’t a dream
How can her heart go on?

B is for Blessed

Image source: ibelieve.com

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays)
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


The lights flickered and went out. The second time that day. Marvin tutted, fumbled in his pocket and drew out his phone. He switched on the torch and rummaged in the kitchen drawer for the candles. Then realised he had thrown away all his matches and lighters because God didn’t approve of smoking.

“Fudge cake, bar stools and crusty hippies.” He thundered, then paused. He guessed name-calling was on the verboten list as well. “Sorry, Lord, I humbly beseech you to forgive this poor sinner.”

The lights came on.

“I thank you for your mercy and benevolence.” Marvin whistled a happy tune. And stopped. Delilah was probably a no-no as well. He tried to recall some hymns from the last service, but all he remembered was off-key singing and tambourines.

Being religious was hard work; there were so many tests and trials to overcome. And most of them in the Assembly. The Assembly due in twenty minutes. He sighed and carried on rearranging the furniture. Soon he had a ring of chairs in the lounge. Then he laid his kitchen table with jugs of water, a wholemeal loaf, a tub of butter and a jar of plum jam. This would be acceptable: Sister Whittaker had made it. The cake might cause problems: it was a coffee sponge, and although caffeine wasn’t banned, he suspected it was frowned upon.

“Stimulants are the work of Satan,” Sister W had said in her sermon. Or was it a lecture? Either way, she’d banged on for hours.

“I’m doing it again,” he muttered and wondered if he should make a formal apology for thinking ill of her. But she was boring when she got going. The Lord certainly was a God of tolerance and infinite patience to put up with that.

Marvin flinched, expecting a thunderbolt to strike him down. After a moment, he straightened up in relief and crossed himself before remembering he wasn’t a catholic and bells-and-smells were not a part of this church.

At seven o’clock, the doorbell rang. He looked in the mirror to ensure he had a happy, but not demented, smile on his face, and opened the door.

“Blessings be upon you,” Sister Whittaker breezed in, followed by a dozen people he didn’t recognise. His heart sank until he saw her bringing up the rear. Sam, with the sweet smile that melted his heart.

“Shall I take your coat?” His own smile broadened, but try as he might, he couldn’t rein it in.

“Come along, you two,” Sister Whittaker bellowed from the lounge. “Brother Clowance is ready to lead us in prayer.”

To Marvin’s delight, the only empty seats were side by side. Tonight, he would get to hold her hand. And that of Brother Clowance. He hoped his palms weren’t as sweaty. They prayed and then sent love around the circle. Did Sam really kiss him on the cheek? During the group huddle in the centre of the room, he smelt her shampoo. Apple and mint, the heady scent made him weak at the knees.

Was this the spirit of God moving him or just lust? Surely, this feeling of lightness and freedom couldn’t come from a dark place? Puzzled, he took his chair and tried to listen as Sister Whittaker expounded on the joy of opening your heart to God. How did she make the Lord sound as welcoming as a colonoscopy? Marvin sighed inwardly: he must stop thinking such thoughts.

Starting with his brother, he mused. Rodney still laughed at the thought of him finding God. Only deep prayer and sitting on his hands stopped Marvin from punching Rod in the face. OK, he had to admit The Righteous Army of Rainbow Worship was a rag-tag group with a pick and mix approach to religion. But the chanting and prayer bells were soothing, and he couldn’t hope to meet a happier and more pleasant bunch of people. And, of course, there was Sam.

He wondered what the rules of courtship were, but he knew himself to be too timid to do much more than grin like an idiot and engage her in conversation even more dreary than that of Sister Whittaker. Wincing, in case she read his mind, Marvin dragged his thoughts back to the here and now. Sam was looking at him with concern. He gave her the thumbs up and nearly burst when she beamed at him with relief.

The rest of the evening passed in a flurry of sandwich making and more prayers. As he collected everyone’s coats, wondering if he dared ask Sam on a date, Sister Whittaker collared him.

“I am extremely disappointed with you, young man.” Her eyes bored into his soul. “If you don’t buck up your ideas, I will stage an intervention.”

“Is it the cake? Marvin gulped.

“What? Good grief, man, there are more important things than cake to worry about–”

“It was very nice, by the way.” Brother Clowance interrupted them. “And can you get a move on, please? My bus leaves in ten minutes.”

Sister Whittaker rolled her eyes. “I’ll get straight to the point. What are you doing with Sam?”

“Nothing!” squeaked Marvin.

“And it’s driving me batty.” She shook her fist in his face. “Both the Lord and I need you to pull your finger out, step up to the plate, and grab this bull by the horns.”

Floundering in a sea of clichés, all Marvin could do was stare at her in open-mouthed confusion.

“I mean, get back in that room and ask Sam out.” Sister Whittaker tucked a finger under his chin and gently closed his mouth. “Remember: God hates a coward.” She patted him on the head, spun him around and shoved him back into the lounge.

Sam stood by the window looking down at the carpet. Marvin was dimly aware of Brother Clowance ushering everyone out of the room.

Marvin willed himself to walk over to her and say the words he’d been too chicken to say for the last few months. But both the flesh and spirit were weak.

“Now!” a voice hissed in his ear, and firm hands urged him forwards.

“Would you like to go to the movies with me or something?” The words were out before he realised he’d said them.

“Yes, please!” Sam raised her head. And there was her lovely, loving smile.

Marvin grinned, then turned to thank his unseen helper, only to find no one there, just a fading sense that a comforting presence had passed this way. And a low whisper just on the edge of his hearing.

“Colonoscopy, indeed!”