Hi all! Kimberly Emerson here, writer at www.kimberlyemerson.com and proud friend of the BBB. This is my second feature on the BBB blog, and I am tickled to be asked back! My five prompts were:
Amy- A thin wisp of gray smoke rising from a cave in a black lagoon.
Cameron- Making words out of numbers on an upside down calculator.
Erika- There is no spoon.
Jen- Hot air balloon breaks the tether and flies away, your little dog inside.
Wendy- Fruit loops and chocolate milk
I chose to go with Erika’s offering. (She seems to be on a roll lately!) It got me to thinking that even when we are absolutely certain something is so, we’re not always right…
A Spoonful of Inspiration
by Kimberly Emerson
Four hours of gardening and I hit the wall. A small retaining wall, to be exact, after I tripped over a tree root, but still a solid indication that I should quit for the day.
I walked through the back door into the house, stripping off my clothing along the way. My daughter, Karys, had left to visit her father a few days ago, so the house stood empty – no one around to mind if I threw my sweat-stained garb into the washing machine and traipsed through the house naked to a much needed shower.
My hand froze over the washing machine’s start button. Someone was in the house, in my daughter’s bedroom. Not Karys. The world’s most responsible nineteen-year-old, she would have let me know if she decided to come home early. From the clatter in the next room, someone looking for something, who didn’t realize that I was home.
I grabbed a towel out of the dryer. Thank goodness I’d procrastinated in folding the laundry. I could run, but my compact house sat on a little-traveled two-lane highway, and the nearest neighbors were half a mile down the road. My cell phone sat on my bedroom nightstand, on the other side of the house. Better running down the highway in a towel, or in here with a burglar?
I headed toward the kitchen to grab a butcher knife. That had to be a good accessory in either case.
“Grab the spoon, Bronwyn. We have to go.”
A diminutive woman, no more than five feet and probably less, stood in front of me, a finger to her cupid’s bow lips. She wore a short filmy dress that floated around her, a white that barely seemed to exist outside of the imagination.
I clung to my towel. “Who are you?” I spoke in the barest whisper. “How do you know my name? Where did you come from?”
“Aderyn. Your mother sent me.”
Wrong answer. “My mother died when I was four. How did – “
“Well, yes and no.” She shook her head. “Grab the spoon. We have to go. Crusher in there – “ she nodded toward my daughter’s room – “will kill you. Karys’ father doesn’t think he will, but he will.”
Her voice barely carried to my ears. She couldn’t top four feet, actually, standing there in her – well, now that I looked closely, it was a white linen shift dress, suitable for an garden party or a charity luncheon. She hadn’t been wearing that before, I was sure of it.
In her own way, she might be as scary as the guy throwing things in Karys’ room. “I’ll get a spoon from the kitchen.”
“No. The spoon in this room. The important one.”
“In the laundry room? There is no spoon. Important or otherwise.”
“Close your eyes. Where is the warmth?”
“I don’t know!”
Her voice didn’t carry, but mine did. The noises in the other room abruptly changed. I closed my eyes and realized with a tug in my stomach that I could feel warmth. To my right…not far…
I opened my eyes and looked at the utility table where I’d put the mail for the last couple of days, without bothering to open most of it. A package, addressed to me. I grabbed it. “This?”
“Yes. Let’s go!” My new friend/foe grabbed both my hands and yanked hard, whereupon the room disappeared.
Before I could blink, the strange woman and I stood in what looked like a hotel lobby, completely deserted. I clutched for my towel, only to discover I now wore a dress – like Aderyn’s, but in a forest green that flattered my pale, freckled skin. I could no longer feel a drop of sweat on my body, and my fingernails bore no traces of dirt. Even my hair felt clean.
Perhaps I hit my head on that retaining wall in the garden this morning, and just hadn’t realized it.
Aderyn – still in the white linen dress, thank goodness – stood in front of me, her hands on either side of my face. “Don’t shake your head. You’ll mess up your hair, and your mother likes things tidy.”
I remembered that.
I could barely recall anything about her. Just one genuine memory still remained – my mother, in a lemon-colored dress with a full skirt. I asked her to spin in it, so I could see it swirl around her. Usually when I asked that, she said no, it would mess up her hair. That day, though, she did it, and that was the one image of her I could still remember – Mama twirling in her pretty yellow dress.
How could you be dead and not dead, and why did my sort-of-dead mother know I needed rescuing from someone sent by my daughter’s father?
Karys’ father, by contrast, I could picture instantly, in spite of the fact I hadn’t seen him since that fateful night in college. Frat party – he was drunk and I was lonely. Not long after, his garage band got signed to a label and he skyrocketed to fame. He’d never talked to me again, not even after he found out Karys was on the way.
A month ago, however, he contacted Karys and said he wanted to make amends.
My head snapped up. The woman in front of me wore a yellow linen shift dress. We looked like a rainbow bridesmaid coalition. “Mama.”
“Bronwyn bach.” Little Bronwyn. A Welsh nickname that Dad told me she used for me. She put a hand on my face. “You’re so beautiful. I’ve missed you so much.”
I shrank back from her. “No. You don’t get to show up after thirty-four years and tell me that you missed me.” I jerked a thumb at Aderyn. “This one told me that Karys’ father sent that man to my house. Has he done something Karys? Where is she?”
“Karys.” My mother smiled. “She’s beautiful, too.”
“I know she’s beautiful, damn it. I’ve been there for every one of her nineteen years. Now where is she? This touching reunion will have to wait.”
“My love.” Mama touched my arm. A rush of childish joy ran through me even as I flinched. “Karys is safe. I understand that you’re angry, and you have a right to be, but please believe me – I’ve always watched over you, and I will always watch over Karys.”
“I thought you were dead!” I shook off her hand. “You watching over me from this demented hotel didn’t stop me from getting pregnant at eighteen. I doubt you’ll be any help to Karys, either.”
She sniffed. “You can blame biology for that, not me. You wanted to sleep with Jack. I couldn’t stop something you wanted to happen.”
Great. Now I had the image in my head of my mother watching me have really bad sex with a drunken frat boy. This day just did not get better. “How do you know what I want, then or now?”
“Bronwyn, you know my name.”
“Druantia.” The name came out of my mouth like a reluctant baby tooth, pulled by someone else’s string. “I believe it’s Welsh for ‘woman who abandons her family.’”
“What else does it mean? Your father told you.”
“It’s the name of a Druidic goddess. Protector of trees, or something.”
“And knowledge, passion, sex, fertility, and more to the point in your case, creativity. Bronwyn bach, look at me.”
I didn’t want to, but I did – and noticed she glowed. I didn’t see it till I stared at her for a minute. A faint, glistening outline.
My jaw dropped. “You?”
“Me.” She stepped closer to me, but didn’t touch me. “I didn’t want to leave you.”
“But you did.”
“The other gods were afraid if I spent too much time on Earth with you, I’d stop being a god. Or even worse, you might become one. I had to leave.”
“You’re a goddess! You didn’t have to do anything!”
“It wasn’t that simple, Bronwyn. Nothing is. You have a child. You know that.” Her mouth quirked up on one side. “Sorry about the extraordinary fertility, by the way.”
I shook my head. “Don’t you dare take credit for that. I decided to have Karys.” I blushed at the memory of my eighteen-year-old self, thinking that having the baby would keep Jack in my life. “That had nothing to do with you.”
Mama nodded. “You’re a wonderful mother. Better than I ever was.”
“Not always.” I wanted to lie, but it would be an insult to Karys. She had it rough as a kid. I blinked the tears out of my eyes and cleared my throat. “So – this is heaven?”
“We dialed down a few things to stay in your comprehension. You’ll see for yourself, someday, but not today.”
I rubbed my temples. “If I’m not dying and Karys isn’t in danger, why did you bring me here? I mean, why now?”
“I had to explain who you are, and why Jack wants that spoon.”
She pointed toward the package Aderyn made me bring along. I ripped open the padded envelope. It contained a carved piece of wood – a Welsh love spoon. My mother had given it to my father, and when he died in my teens, Dad left it to me. When I found out I was pregnant, I mailed it to Jack.
“After you slept with Jack, he became a household name.”
My mouth twisted to one side involuntarily. “I’m aware, thanks.”
“Think about it, Brownyn.” Mama gazed at the intricate patterns on the spoon. “Hasn’t been doing so well lately, has he?”
“Not a hit in years.” I watched Mama run a finger over the spoon’s detail and felt something flicker in the back of my brain. No, it couldn’t be. “The spoon didn’t make him famous. I refuse to believe that.”
“Not the spoon. Although that’s what he thought.” She brushed a non-existent piece of lint off her dress. “Not the brightest firefly in the swarm, that one.”
“Oh, hell.” I stared at her. “It was me. I somehow channelled you and made that loser famous. My head hurts. Do goddesses keep aspirin in the house?”
“Don’t blame me. That power’s all yours. Even Jack figured that out, eventually.”
“Is that why he got in touch with Karys, after all these years? He thought maybe she inherited the magic touch?”
Mama sighed. “When he figured out she couldn’t help him, he sent the spoon back to you, to be – reenergized, so to speak.”
“And then he sent that thief to my house, to steal it back?”
Slowly, Mama nodded.
“Damn it! Just when I thought he was finally seeing sense, he turns out to be an even bigger jackass than before!”
“It won’t work. You’re the daughter of the goddess, my love. You’re the muse. Only you.”
My mother had supernatural powers, and now I had some too? “I have to get home,” I said in a hoarse whisper. “I don’t even know how long I’ve been here. I have to pick up Karys at the airport first thing tomorrow.”
“I know. Don’t worry, you’ll be back in plenty of time. I just had to see you – to explain – to protect Karys.”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I would’ve told her what he really wanted. I wouldn’t have let her go.”
Mama gazed at me, sadness in her green eyes. “Exactly. You can withhold inspiration from him, that’s your choice. But if there was even a chance he might want to get know her, I had to let her have it. And she really wanted to go.”
I bit my lip. She was right. Karys wanted to see her father. I hated the thought of her getting hurt, but she was grown now, and deserved to make her own choices. Even ones that hurt.
“I have to go.” My voice barely reached my own ears.
“I know. You just have one decision to make, and then you can go home.”
I batted a tear from my face. “What decision?”
“The spoon. You can take it with you, and inspire someone else. You can leave it here, and not inspire anyone. Or,” she cleared her throat, “Aderyn can take it back to Jack with your blessing, and his career will take off again. It’s up to you.”
The spoon lay heavy in my hand. My broken heart. Months of tears. Years of bitterness. In the end, though, Jack was the one who’d lost. He’d missed out on knowing Karys.
I ran my hand over the soon. I clasped it, breathed on it, did everything but lick it. (Who knew where it had been in the last twenty years?) Then, I held it out to Aderyn. “He can have it…on one condition.”
Mama held a hand out, stopping Aderyn from taking it. “What’s that?”
“He never comes near Karys again – I meant it, never – unless he really wants to get to know her. You stop him from even saying he wants to see her if he doesn’t mean it. I don’t care if you have to make a tree fall on him.”
Mama nodded. “You have my word.”
“Good.” I looked around the luxurious lobby. “How do I get home?”
“Click your heels three times.”
“No. Aderyn will see you home.” She touched my face again, and this time I let her. “Take care, my dear.”
“You, too.” I turned to go. Could goddesses take care? I’d have to think about it later when my brain didn’t hurt so much.
“I love you, Bronwyn bach.”
I turned around and hugged her, tears dripping down my cheeks on to her crisp yellow dress. She didn’t seem to mind. “I love you, too, Mama.”
At last I let go and walked to Aderyn.
“It’s all a beginning, Bronwyn.” Mama’s voice floated after me. “You’ve looked at everything as an ending, your whole life, but all of it – me, your father, Karys, even Jack – it’s all just the beginning.”
I blinked at her, and then nodded.
The magic transport didn’t get any easier then second time. In what felt like half a second, I stood in my kitchen, feeling like my eyeballs were floating in a bubbling stew. I focused on the digital clock – five-twenty – until my head stopped spinning.
I still had the green dress on, though. Thanks for the new outfit, Mama.
After changing into sweats, I lay on my bed just to get my equilibrium back, but ended up sleeping until my phone woke me up, early the next morning. Karys’ ring. “Hi, sweetheart. Did you catch an earlier flight?”
“No. That’s why I’m calling. Jack wants me to stay another week. When I first got here, he acted like a real jackass, and I almost left. Yesterday, though, I felt like we had a breakthrough, so now I want to stay.…Mom, are you there?”
Five-twenty. I’d gotten back at five-twenty. “What time did he ask, Karys? Exactly?”
“About ten o’clock last night.” She paused. “That was a weird question, Mom. Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to come home?”
“I’m fine. It’s fine.” After Mama’s promise. She wouldn’t have let him say it if he didn’t mean it.
“Do you think I’m making the right decision?” All of a sudden, Karys sounded much younger than her nineteen years. “Or am I setting myself up for a fall?”
“You’re being loving, honey.” I smiled for the first time in days. “And that’s a good beginning.”
For more of Kimberly Emerson’s work, visit her at her blog, on her Facebook page, or on Twitter. She’s not the photographer of the Welsh love spoon (that came from http://www.lsirish.com) but she is the author of two books – almost three – and more short stories than she currently remembers. Zoe, her cat, could probably tell you the exact number, since she got dislodged from the computer keyboard for each one. Not that she’s bitter or anything.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to come out and play! Here are the prompts I had to choose from:
Amy- A large urn with a funny smell
Cameron- The workplace dynamics of a vacuum cleaner manufacturing plant.
Erika- A crushing blow
Jen- Opening Line: After my husband died, I found a phone number in his wallet. It was for Sandy.
Wendy- If ___________ ran for President.
After giggling with the idea of my 16 year old daughter running for President, I sobered up and took Jen’s challenge….
Denial and Isolation:
After my husband died, I found a phone number in his wallet. It was for Sandy. The number was written in an unknown hand, and tucked between his picture of me and the torn movie ticket from our first date.
It took me two months before I touched any of Adam’s things on our dresser. I loved the look and the false feeling that he was in the house somewhere, or on his way home from work. I couldn’t bring myself to change the pillowcase on his side of the bed since it still smelled like him, and it gave me something to cuddle on those long lonely nights since that last squeeze of his fingers in the hospital. I just wasn’t ready. There was no one named Sandy at his memorial service.
Ours was an easy relationship; mellow and without drama. We were tender, affectionate and playful. We cuddled on the couch, and danced in the kitchen. During our daily walks, we relived good and bad times with the kids, shared news of our friends, events at work, and debated the state of the world. He spent great times with his friends who loved him, and he never begrudged my time with the girls. I’d never heard of a friend or friend’s wife named Sandy.
We talked all the time, but there were things that he kept from me until he had a load of liquid courage. It took him 6 months, 8 beers and a gin to tell me that he’d been to the doctor and that he would need surgery in a few weeks. He was embarrassed, and hadn’t wanted to worry me. I was pissed – to put it mildly. Heart sore and terrified. How could I help him if he didn’t let me? Sandy could have been one of his doctors.
I’m not used to the feeling of jealous insecurity, so when it’s hot poker ripped through my chest, I had to force myself to breathe, and when it imbedded itself with a grappling hook between my shoulder blades I didn’t know what to do. Adam wasn’t here to massage the pain away. Who the fuck was Sandy?
My first reaction was irrational. I knew it was, but that didn’t diminish the effects. I forced myself to set the number down and walk away. I didn’t get far. I sank onto our bed, buried my face in my pillow and cried myself out. Looking back, that cry was a mix of pent up emotions with self-pity being the ultimate source. I didn’t want to feel lost and alone. I didn’t want to find something else he had hidden from me. I wanted my best friend back. I wanted the certainty that he was faithful. Why Sandy?
Over the next few days that tiny slip of paper haunted me. I ruminated, rationalized, fumed, and forgave, but ended up with random reasons to walk by the dresser. My eyes were glued to that little slip of paper that had been tucked into his wallet for who knows how long. Sometimes I paused and stared down at it. Sometimes I dared to touch it. Twice I picked it up and reached for the phone. Would Sandy answer?
I knew myself. I had to make the call. I would never rest or forgive myself for not dialing. Worst-case scenario, I’d be devastated, but I could get over it, and really, what were the chances? I loved this man. He loved me. I trusted this man. He trusted me. There was NEVER any hint that he was seeing another woman. I’m not that oblivious. I hoped.
I forced myself to breathe, dialed: Sandy 510-349-0582… and hung up. Disgusted, I tossed the number down on the dresser. It didn’t make it, and fluttered to the floor instead. Only then did I realize that there was writing on the back:
I don’t want you to be alone.
Call Sandy, he’s a good guy.
In love with you always,
Relief washed over me, easing the knot from my back. Adam hadn’t been cheating, he had been thinking of me; trying to set me up with a new companion so I wouldn’t be tempted to hide at home with my grief. I put the note down, sank to the floor and cried for Adam all over again.
I’m writing this today because something amazing happened yesterday. After my support group meeting, one of the other members approached me. We’d talked a few times in the 6 months that I’d been attending, but nothing more. He asked if he could give me his phone number, so that I could call if I ever wanted to talk, or grab a cup of coffee. I liked that he wanted to give me his number and didn’t ask for mine. He wrote down the number and handed it to me. It was a number I knew.
“John, what’s your last name?”
“Sanderson. Clarissa, what is it?” He must have noticed the look on my face.
“Are you ‘Sandy’?” I asked in disbelief.
“Only my wife called me Sandy,” he stepped back in confusion.
“Look.” I reached into my purse, grabbed my wallet and found the little slip of paper that had haunted me so long ago. I handed it to him.
“This is my wife’s handwriting. Oh my God!” He reached into his wallet, shaking his head the whole time. As he pulled a little slip of paper from behind his wife’s picture he asked, “Are you Clare?”
“Yes!” I laughed. Tears finding their way down my cheeks. John reached out and we held each other, remembering the loves of our lives, wondering at the twists and turns that take people away, and bring us together.
“Would you like to get some coffee?” he asked. “I don’t know about you, but I really want to try to figure out why we have each other’s phone numbers in our wallets.”
“Yea, of course,” I replied and as we turned to go and I realized I was still holding onto him. I thought about letting go, but I didn’t want to, so I slid my hand down his arm and found his hand ready for mine.
John, and I talked until the waitresses started giving us dirty looks. It turns out that John’s wife Amanda and my Adam had the same Oncologist. They must have met several times in the waiting rooms or recovery rooms, maybe even supported each other during treatments. John and I aren’t sure, but they must have loved us both very much to try to set us up.
No one knows with the future holds, but I’m going to be okay. Thank you Adam. Thank you Amanda. Thank you John/Sandy.