Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Almost, Never


Like most memories, the lake lay stone-bound and cold, defended by spruce and pine and tamarack.

She stopped at the water margin, the mirror's edge, below the flood rim, the rack of bone-stripped sticks and bark and tangled sedge.

She slid her hands in the sleeves of her red coat and watched the sentinel crows, both of them black ordinary birds, fold themselves meticulously on the tallest spruce to wait.

Her voice was a little off-key, for she was uncertain and always shy, but she sang anyway.

They came out of the still, dark water like smoke, like mist, like hope.

The dancers.

Silver arms fluttered like swans. Silver feet wove light over the stony beach.

They answered in echoes soft as summer winds, insistent as harp notes.

Come dance with us.
Be real with us.

Almost she believed.

Almost is a blight.

She looked down. Her feet were not silver. They were the same as always.

Always is a curse.

The crows laughed to each other like trolls and flew away.

She still walks there sometimes, pitches pale pebbles into the still dark water, watches the ripples fade.

Grieving.

45 comments:

December Quinn said...

I don't know what this is, but it's beautiful.

Bernita said...

Thank you, December.
I think it's what they call "flash fiction," but I'm not sure.

Savannah Jordan said...

I LOVE this, Bernita!! Can you write me an entire collection by May so I can read it on the lay-overs in the airport??

*gonna go read it again*

Bernita said...

Undeserved, but very sweet of you, Savannah.
Thank you.

Savannah Jordan said...

Very deserved, Bernita.

Enough said.

James Goodman said...

That was great, Bernita.

Tsavo Leone said...

I heartily concur - this is beautiful.

Poetry in prose.

kmfrontain said...

What Tsavo Leone said. I concur.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Guys, and KM.
Very kind.

Ric said...

Cool. Something different on the blog this morning. Great way to start hump day, Bernita.

Thanks.

Carla said...

I agree, this is lovely.
It made me wonder if Damie may have felt like this after her husband died. Should it?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric.

Very perceptive, Carla, and thank you.

Shesawriter said...

I really like that particular hanger drawing. This one stands out and I laughed.

Tanya

jason evans said...

Beautiful piece, Bernita! My favorite of yours yet. The mysticism swirls around you as you read.

Rick said...

"Flash fiction?" That's a new one to me. Que es? I take it that this is not a scene from the book, but in a sense it might be?

Erik Ivan James said...

Beautiful words from beautiful Bernita.

Bernita said...

Thank you,ever-gallant Erik.

New to me too, Rick, there are some examples over at a place called Tribe - Flashing in the Gutters. There are links from Mindy's, Ann's, etc. blogs.
Json mentions a site and so does Mark.
Really short pieces, possibly a word limit.
Thought I'd try it.
No, it's not from the book. I try to make everything "real" and not phantasmagoric in the novel.But you're right.

Thank you, Jason. You do like anything with that touch, don't you? You do it so very, VERY well yourself.

Thank you, Tanya.
Ouch.
Almost left it off this morning. Now I know why.

nessili said...

I have only one word...WOW!

More, more, more cried the blogger!

Bernita said...

Nessili, thank you.
I treasure these comments.
One more, perhaps, tomorrow?

Dennie McDonald said...

it's wonderful, Bernita

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, exactly what december quinn said.

Bernita said...

Not so, Dennie, but thank you. I just hope it's adequate, respectable.

Thank you, Sandra.
~gulps~

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Wow...is that you, Bernita? what a change...so etheral, haunting....just....Wow...!!

Cool...got anymore?

Bernita said...

Did it surprise you, Bonnie?
Perhaps that's why they call it "flash" fiction.
Thank you very much for those nice adjectives.
One more, anyway. Tomorrow.

Dennie McDonald said...

don't be so modest - it is ...

It's dern hard to write flash fiction and to pack such emotion in it ....

Bernita said...

I can only repeat, read Jason's and Mark's, and Mindy's and Ann's, Christa's and Lisa's, etc.

Carla said...

Off-topic, but I've just come across this post on one Roger Damory and thought you might be interested. Wonder if he might be some distant relation to Damie?

Bernita said...

Um..yes,Carla, as a matter of fact, he is, though genealogy is always suspect and surnames somewhat variable and often given more anachronistic weight than they deserve over the centuries.
Thank you. That provides more detail than I had.

For The Trees said...

Ah, Bernita, you've brought a new height to the bar of flash fiction. I got into flashing and wrote 55 quickies, all of which happened to be about the same guy going through life, and ended up doing a few more then putting them into a book, Choices.

They're hard to write unless you're in the groove. None of the flashes in Choices are THAT evocative. But then, it's not an ephemeral book.

I thought for SURE she was gonna dance with them, and drown, or learn to fly and flit over the water. Instead she finds a timeless image.

Very well done. I liked it extremely.

For The Trees said...

Um, on second thought, you've BEEN writing flash fiction for some time. You put up a little short piece for a blog post and then EVERYBODY AND HIS BROTHER, SISTER, UNCLE AUNT AND COUSIN get into the comments section and put together a 650-page novel. I always feel like I should be here at 5:00 am to get in anywhere NEAR the top of the page.

You sure incite good riot.

Bernita said...

"You sure incite good riot."
What a delicious phrase!
Thank you, Trees, you are so welcome when ever you come.

Gabriele C. said...

Sad and beautiful.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele.
I appreciate that.

M. G. Tarquini said...

This is very nice, Bernita.

A flash fiction is maximum 1000 words. It's almost a game, make 'em as short and as powerful as possible. One of the hallmarks is a twist at the end. Keep writing them. They're a marvelous discipline. Be warned. They're addicting.

Bernita said...

Very nice of you, Mindy.
Thank you.

ivan said...

Bernita, You'veseen this before, but here is long flash fiction anyway.

THE OLD GOAT


In an old prairie dugout, there lived a goat.
Goats seem eternally peeved, that peeved expression, but Andreas the Goat was not really peeved; quite happy, really. Did he not have what he wanted, the supply of scraps at the nearby junkyard, the good feeling he got from the Jimson weed and chicory, the late middle age age which had now cooled his passion, True, the young she-goats still showed interest, though this more for his old daddy goat appeal than anything else. He was a handsome old goat.
One day, another goat passed his way. A young-old nanny . She still had a prance to her gambol, as if very young, but a little gray in her dapple showed she was almost as old as Andreas. The old goat regarded the new arrival with some interest. Meeehh, he bleated, almost out loud. There was, inexplicably, a Meeh-ing response. Amdreas did a slight double-take, but he composed himself. Always be cool around females. "Hello,come closer. What's is your name, little she-goat,what's your name? "
"Yasmine." she bleated. She clacked along the gravel to his hideout and came closer. He could now see her face. The cutest little snout, though he could could see by the reddened blacks of her comma eyes that she had been into something.. Funny weed? Perhaps a bit of fermented barley down by the sump pump. She had certainly was on something. Oh not again, the old goat thought. These kids, always grazing on those devil weeds. And the adults just as bad.She was now right up to him and went to almost pass him, though rubbing a little along his rough hide.
It had struck Andreas that it had been so long, so long since there had been a horn-to-horn. Or even close contact with a female.
But just as soon as she had come up, she suddenly turned on a cloven hoof and seemed about to run away..
But he followed and trotted beside her.
"What's your last name," he asked.
"Springbok."
"Springbok??
"Yes. Yasmine Springbok."
"Icelandic," he asked.
"No, South African , way back.
And with that, she seemed to just spring away from him, as she had done just before,soon to disappear through silver-and-blue Russian olive bushes.

These spacey drug freak nannies, they're all the same, the old goat thought. So much into power plays, games, control. Use you as a sounding board. Tease you and run off.
But her scent, the recent nearness of a female, had awakened something in Andreas.

For some time, the old goat had noticed his thoughts were more in the past than the present. Manger scenes, back in the days wheh he'd had a family, kids, barns, chickens. All gone now. All grown up. Or maybe worse. He winced at the thought.
Always the new she-goat. That's how it had always been up until he grew old. Never mind, Yasmine Bleat, or whatever your name is, I will tend to my grazing, see my reflection in the old glass windshields around the garbage dump. What a fine old goat I am. I don't need anything or anybody.
But Yasmine kept coming around.
At first she seemed to ignore him as she gambolled past, but he had to admit she was raising old goat passions in him, not only the hint of an erection he was starting to feel along his scrabbly belly, but also some sort of promise that Yasmine seemed to hold.
One day she came right up to the old goat and said,"I will give you whatever you want. Anything at all. Whatever you want, real or imagined. "Nutcase," he decided. Off-the-wall she-goat probably Iberian. Gypsy. Best keep to myself."
But on the third day she came back with an old soup can can in her mouth, which suddenly, inexplicably, turned into a flower.
The old goat pawed at the ground, but here, suddenly was a bunch of carrots. "How you doo dat?" the old goat asked, trying to show casualness, not the sudden, strange supernatural fear.
I am she-goat, mistress of goathood. I can make you horny. I can de-goat you if I choose. I can make you magic. I am Isis-goat. I know you better than you know yourself."
. Never met a goat like her before.

They took to running around together, past the trees, past the birds, past the clucky stampeding chickens, through the yard and into a grove of Russian olives, spiky and hard to get near, let alone eat. "Got something to show you, said Yasmine. Come." Andreas followed, followed her down a glade to the hollowed-out stump of an old oak tree, ancient, thick, though the inside was rotted out, leaving a circular ruin all around. One end was open, and inside, there was space for two or three goats, as if in a pen. There, inside the old oak stump there was a nest of spiders, just babies really, scrambling for cover. Yasmine suddenly went to stomp them, and in fact, trampled a couple. The others got away. Andreas was surprised at this sudden show of atavism. Who, what was she really? Andreas had a sudden feeling of unreality as . the hollowed oak stump seemed suddenly alive, all ashimmer. . "Do not be afraid," said Yasmine. This is only a show of my power. I can give you anything you want. Anything at all. And then she knelt on her front legs and produced the vision of a past manger scene, the old goat's former mate, the kids, the chickens. All he had to do was walk into it and there he would be.But Andreas just stood there tranfixed, wondering at the unreality of it all. And just as soon as the scene dissipated, she scrambled for a wall and was suddely gone.
It took a long time for the old goat to return to the dugout.
He was much changed old goat.
Seven years of rooting around the old dugout that he had lived in
And for the first time, he'd learned something. But what was it?
He yearned to see the young-old she-goat again.
One morning, he saw two goats up on the rise, a fine billy and along with him, Yasmine.
Son of a wanton goat! he thought. I should have known.
But the following day she was back, alone, her mysterious companion not there.
"I want you to love me," she said, rather matter-of-factly. I want you to love me. Spiritually, like a goat-knight.
I will give you anything you want." And suddenly, between them, there sprung a clump of olives. Andreas had a taste. Not at all like stale Campbell's soup. Something in those olives though. He could feel, sense the ramaining baby spiders in the stump's walls. Could see them spinning their little gossamer webs, and the mother now nearby.
He made to tell Yasmine how he was feeling, but she was not there now.. She was gone again..

She came back that evening, and, after some rubbing against him, unexpectedly, presented herself to him. Andreas was in goat heaven. He took her. And afterwards, without much ado, she went to run off again. "Stay," said
Andreas." But she gave him a quick nuzzle and she was again gone.Seven days went by. No Yasmine.
He saw the mysterious he-goat again, alone this time, up high on the knoll. Soon another goat joined the handsome Sean Connery goat. It was Yasmine. Andreas could see by the familiarity displayed between them that they were, it seemed, still in love. "And me, what about me?"
She showed up alone the following evening.He was half-made with jealousy and woe.
"Explain."
"You can't get everything from just one goat," she asserted. I am with him, but I love you."
"Yeh."
And she was gone again.
Nights were now spent in fits of jealousy and discontent. He would do this, he would do that. He would butt heads with the mysterious lover.
And one day he did. He saw the two of them up on the rise again and ran right up. "You got a problem? said handsome Sean Connery goat. "Yeah, I've got a problem." And with that, he gave the handsome stranger a pretty good grazing. The stranger did not fifght back. "Leave him alone," Yasmine bleated. "Leave my husband alone." Oohh.
Andreas walked back down the hill, to his shed. He had a sense of clairvoyance. He thought, as he had run away that he heard Yasmine say, "There is a reason for everything. I had come to you for a reason."
He sulked in his "apartment." So that was it. They are married. Well,he had his pen, he had his food and he had his certainties. It was an episode, a learning experience, old as he was.I will be a rock. I will be a hill. I will keep to myself.
Yasmine did not come around again.He grew to be his old self again, his certainties, the "key" his pen.
One morning,something compelled him to leave his pen, and leave fast. There was the sound of heavy machinery just above. He was out just before a massive bulldozer razed his home.
And high up on the knoll, again, he saw Yasmine. Alone. She was making moves to go backdown to the other side of the knoll. She had almost disappeared now.. He had no idea why, or what he would do, and could he do it. But he suddenly made to follow.Soon, he was up on the rise, with Yasmine still in sight.
--Ivan



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Lisa Hunter said...

Lovely, Bernita. Glad to know about the flash fiction genre. I thought your entry read like poetry -- which, coming from a poetry fan like me, is high compliment.

Bernita said...

Ivan, you're going to have to learn to put in links, then you wouldn't have to cut and paste.Saves elbows.

Lisa, thank you.That is a high compliment, and much appreciated.

ivan said...

Thanks Bernita.
Actually, thanks a lot!
My son dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century and it's a wonder that at my hysterically young age of 99 I was able to do anything at all on this
fershlugginer machine.
Over at http://www.grandinite.com,
Aaron Braaten has just linked one of my novels to an off-trail site called "Blooker Awards" and he's trying to get me nominated.(No, not the real BOOKER. More like sort of booby-prize; it's strictly online).
I'll try to put in a link as soon as I figure out what a link is.
XOXO

Bernita said...

~sighing and pinching the bridge of her nose~
That's nice, Ivan. It should win. It's very good.

Alexandra said...

Stunning, simple and eloquent. More... and the praise is more than deserved Bernita, don't duck your head. Inspire us.

Bernita said...

I'm just glad you liked it, Alexandra.
Thank you.

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