Uncoupling

via Find a Spring.com

He should have stayed away for good. Instead, Asa set his traveling bag down and resumed life as though he had never traveled half way around the world, spending the last three months living in a thatched hut on a beach along the Andaman Sea skin diving, fishing, eating, and entertaining lonely female travelers on their way to other places.

On his first day back, Asa found the three chords of firewood he cut and bucked last spring more than half gone. “Someone helping themselves I see. And they parked right in front for easy loading.”  The tire tracks were fresh; the tread pattern rigid in the mud along with tiny boot prints.  “At least she left me some kindling and an ax.”

It was a silent give and take between them, but mostly it was her taking what she wanted and him making up the loss. Neighborly with an edge he put there when he took what she was offering not bargaining for the price he’d pay.

Asa discovered the empty water tank on his second day back. He gathered his tools and hiked up the narrow canyon to the spring two miles away  Water, like a road, will turn neighbor against neighbor and turn and honest neighbor into a thief.

Clearing away rocks and sediment at the spring box, Asa walked the waterline through the brush watching the weight of water pull the line down.  He looked for signs of rats; he looked for the line pinned beneath a fallen tree or rocks. For three days Asa hiked the canyon uncoupling and coupling the water line.

On the fifth day, Asa uncouple the waterline to clear it of debris at the pump-house, and that’s when he saw it. So simple it made him laugh out loud as he push the valve open and watched water gush beneath the pump-house door. Someone had unbolted the pump leaving a note: “Thanks!”

“Life’s a bitch,” he said as he closed the valve.

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The Trifecta Challenge: Write 333 words using the word and this meaning– something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant. Add your link here.

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Waiting

Photo Credit: Korean War Veteran-georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/07/

Going to the doctor is never my idea of fun, but I go. I sit in the crowded reception room with other bodies ravaged by war. But who remembers my war? The Korean War is a short paragraph in my granddaughter’s history book. My teenage granddaughter shrugs when I ask her, “Where is Korea?” On a map spread beneath glass she points an uncertain finger at the Asian continent as though that were a sufficient answer.  “Have you been there Granddad?” she asks. I consider her innocence before answering.

In the waiting room I flip through outdated magazines or yesterday’s newspapers. A television high on the wall babbles. I wait my turn. I am weighed. A nurse, overly cheery, takes my blood pressure. I watch the mercury pulse on the gauge catching the beat of my heart. The sound of my blood surges in my ears; the reading is too high. The nurse ushers me into an office with a view of gray windows. The buildings are only inches apart, and through four panes of glass I see shapes of darkness.

The doc is new, a young man freshly minted from medical school with a tight look about him. Shadows fill the hollows of his eyes and cheeks, a new father battling sleepless nights ignorant that the war has just begun. I spot a small, framed photograph on his desk. A young, beautiful wife holding a brand new baby. I smile and ask, “How’s it going young man?” He shakes his head and shuffles the pages of my chart.

Words betray him the way my body betrays me, and the diagnosis tumbles out of his mouth indelicate, and I wonder if he speaks to his wife with these cool words. “I assure you Mr. Fredrickson, cancer is no longer a death sentence.” His reassurance is hardly reassuring. The diagnosis, the elephant in the room, trumpets otherwise, and we talk gingerly around the topic. Our visit ends. New appointments for scans and surgeons begins.

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The Trifecta Challenge–Your response must be between 33 and 333 words. New 3: having been in a relationship or condition but a short time <new to the job> <a new wife>

The Secret Life

Six months before my husband Arthur celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday I began inviting his old business partners, friends and well-wishers to fly in from Los Angeles for the day. “A gala event,” I told Arthur several weeks before the party. Nonplussed by my declaration, Arthur merely looked up from his book noticing me for the first time as though I were some rarefied animal in a dusty encyclopedia which lay dormant on the shelves of his study. Undeterred, I arranged an outside party on the terrace with food, tables and chairs for five hundred, buckets of iced champagne and a well-stocked bar. I ordered deep red Talisman roses which I had flown in at full bloom, and I hired a band to play Glenn Miller tunes all afternoon.

I measured the success of my party by the number drunken tributes, ribald humor, and geriatric jokes among Arthur’s friends. And what would a birthday be without a cake and candles, but blowing out the candles blew the life out of Arthur because at the end of the party he did the most extraordinary thing—he died. Too much excitement. Too many candles.  After a lifetime of amity, he left me to piece together a new life. Only later did I realize that Arthur was more than just an enigma; he was a stranger.

I arranged a small service at Garden View Cemetery.  The interment was brief; the flowers immaculate.  However, a young man, maybe forty years old, lingered on the periphery. I recognized him several days later as the same young man who stood knocking at my studio door. Visitors annoy me when I’m painting. My painting studio is off-limits to everyone including Arthur when he was alive, but somehow this young man-made it his business to disturb me. “Enter,” I said. The young man walked into my studio with a sunny air of familiarity and ownership that unnerved me, but his smile caught me by surprise. “Arthur?”
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Trifecta: This week’s word is enigma; noun \i-ˈnig-mə, e-\–3: an inscrutable or mysterious person

Café

A spring rain fell all morning bring with it relief from the heat and the red dust that chokes our café, turning our white tablecloths a pale rust. Early afternoon when the rains stop, my father and I rush to set tables, chairs, and fresh tablecloths around the café patio.

Today my father assures me, “One day Sanjay, you will inherit this café from me and care for me the way I care for you.” He turns away from me to spread a table-cloth, but I know his eyes are glassy with memories of my mother, so he quickly laughs to hide himself saying, “Yes, I can see you now Sanjay, A young man married with a plump wife who will care for us both, and perhaps, god willing, bear your children and my grandchildren.” He tells me this last part ruffling my brown-black hair, exchanging his sorrow for the wide smile of an optimist, and I am happy for us both.

Patrons begin to arrive and we are both busy. My father’s café is walking distance from the train station, and it shares a wall with the Commissioner’s Office. “Easy protection in a violent town,” my father says.

The door to the Commissioner’s Office closes hard, and my father pushes me quickly to wait on the Commissioner and his friends. The Commissioner come for tea every afternoon. Once he asked me if I could read, but I shook my head no.

“Do you plan to live here always Sanjay?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Don’t you want to go to school? Go to the university and study?”
“No,” I said.
“Good boy.”

My father helps me balance a tray of eight tea glasses, and I weave my way through the near empty café to the Commissioner’s table. The conversation is tense and hushed.
“It is true? Did the opposition push for a vote of confidence, parliament dissolved, and new elections called?” the Commissioner asked.
“Yes,” said one of the commissioner’s friends.

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The Trifecta Challenge: confidence (noun)

Widow

The young widow clutched the floral dressing gown to her throat, then slipped her heels from the stirrups at the end of the doctor’s bed, white paper crinkling beneath her as she shifted to sit up. She scanned the doctor’s broad face for a hint of hope. Instead she saw her distorted face reflected in the high mirror on his forehead.

“Congratulations!” he beamed. But she came to him already knowing; she calculated her dates. She calculated the difference in age from her baby at home. She calculated the cruelest number: the weeks since her husband’s death, and the weeks it took for her to become pregnant by another man, a man she did not want, but things were different now. She listened from a distant, automatic well in her mind as the doctor told her in earnest how to care for herself, but she place a hand on his arm and shook her head “No.

He frowned. “I don’t do those. I don’t do abortions. I don’t take life. I don’t know anyone in the city that does.”

The widow slumped. Silent tears dropped onto the floral gown.

“There’s always adoption or a clinic down in Mexico,” he said. She nodded like a small child.  “You can’t wait much longer, or it will be too dangerous.” She took a deep breath and slipped behind the mask of wife and widow.

Pushing grief away, she thrust her chin forward, “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

At the appointment desk she looked out into the waiting room. She saw her suitor and watched as she might watch a stranger. He was a slim, young man full of promise dressed in, he declared to her, “A suit to be married and buried in.” A cigarette dangled from his right hand. Impatience creased his smile too deep. He’s attractive but not her type, yet time alters everything. Memories pale. A babysitter waits. The suit eager for her news, waits. “We’ll do it right,” he promises. “A scandal averted.”

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Prompt by Trifecta ~Week 22

Use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Responses with alternate forms of the word (pluralized, different tense, etc.) will be disqualified. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words.

The Word: scan·dal noun \ˈskan-dəl\

3   a: a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it
b : a person whose conduct offends propriety or morality <a scandal to the profession>