This week’s stories come from the formidable Debbie Felio, first-time contributor Tim Clark, and myself. Like usual, the stories may have shared the same conditions in their conception but are definitely distinct reactions to the prompt. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!
See you on Monday!
No Good Deed
Life gets away, this time.
Life is hard to understand, Occasionally something good will happen. Most times, though, random occurrences, minor, petty inconveniences barge in callously proving life is not your friend. Life belongs in a museum, behind glass, or a zoo locked in a cage. We need to control life a little better. Life walks around, taking, and stomping, and smashing, and just being a big bully in general.
We, here at Life Explained, have decided to take steps to rein in the abusive monster of reality. First we called a meeting, complete with catered breakfast, and coffee service.
It was fantastic, croissants, bagels, fresh pastries, all arrayed in artfully on long tables, covered with pristine white linens. Oh, and the coffee, was the coffee extraordinary. Dark, hot, freshly ground, steam rising as you poured it in your cup. It had to be the coffee of the gods.
A line started to form at the buffet table. Soon there was some jostling, it looked like the cheese danish were going to go before Geoff, the archivist was going to get one. He tried to muscle his way in front of Cathy, the secretary for transportation department, nasty words were exchanged. Glares, snarls and curses.
Not just swearing either. Turns out Cathy comes from a long line or gypsies. It was, in retrospect, obvious. Cathy was always wearing flowing, pleated, flowered skirts ending at her ankle. Her dusky complexion was complimented by eyes so dark and so glittering they appeared to be pupiless. When she walked, anywhere, people, in the back of their thoughts, almost imperceptibly, heard distant, primal music. A song that haunted them for minutes after she had past. Nobody said anything about the melody, why would they. And nobody made the connection, until yesterday.
Before Geoff could could get back to the end of the line all of his hair had fallen out. He had spent so much time perfecting his look, just the right amount of grey around the temples, the rest jet black, and combed precisely backward, almost aerodynamically. He spent a small fortune on hair products, to keep it in place and colored just perfectly. His clothing was chosen to compliment his hair.
When it fell out he dropped to the floor, sobbing, weeping, curled up in a ball, his face buried in his hands. His shining, bald head gleaming under the harsh lights of the flashing camera phones. It was heartbreaking, and all over Instagram.
We decided Life had won this round. Cathy got her own office, and a company car. Geoff apologized and got his hair back, in a gleaming shade of white/silver that would go with almost any suit. And we went back to work.
Don’t worry, we haven’t given up, we lost the battle, but the war continues. Maybe we will have pizza next time.
The first pair of shoes that someone, other than her mother, bought for her was after the great storm. The streets were flooded but she had to wear her only shoes or risk stepping on something. The missionaries had handed out the cheap rubber sandals at the end of their visit the previous year. For a while, she was able to get around with the soles flapping open like two hungry mouths under her toes. Eventually, though, the glue disintegrated completely and the shoes became a collection of irreparable pieces.
Her mother was working in the city at the time and no one else had the money to take care of little Imelda’s footwear problem. She could not go to school without shoes and for several days, went instead to the harbor and make herself comfortable in her uncles’ fishing boat. She would bring her books and dutifully complete her daily assignments. She’d eat her lunch and then take a short nap under the canvas sail she stretched over the stern like a roof.
Had one of her family members discovered her, she would have been scolded for being on the boat but not for the truancy. Night fishermen, her uncles and grandfather thought that sending Imelda to school was a waste of money. Imelda’s mother wanted her bright daughter to do well in school so she could have a future away from the slums. It was for her beloved mother’s sake that Imelda was so diligent with her studies though, for the most part, she found school tedious. She was absorbed in an arithmetic problem when she was spied by her mother’s best friend. The woman walked down the rickety dock in fragile stiletto heels, calling Imelda’s name. When she asked the child why she was not at school, Imelda looked down at her feet in shame, unable to explain to her mother’s elegant friend that she was not allowed in school barefoot.
The woman had grown up in the same neighborhood so she understood without Imelda’s words. The woman told Imelda to pack up her books and follow her. At the mansion the woman called home, her maid was instructed to give Imelda a bath. Then she had her driver take her and Imelda to the shopping street. Imelda was speechless, nodding or shaking her head to all questions. When she was dropped off back home, new patent leather shoes and white socks adorning her small clean feet, she was irreversibly altered. She had been shown a new world, a world where food did not have to be grown or caught if you wanted to eat, a world with maids and drivers and shoe salesmen and the rich fragrance of Vol de Nuit.
Decades later, after they had arrived safely in Hawaii and she learned that not only her jewelry but her thousands of shoes had been confiscated, Imelda’s distressed mind returned to those first shoes. She smiled, remembering how she would use banana peels to keep the patent leather glossy enough to see her future, shining bright.