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Category Archives: Silver Plaque Prompts

When I was in Stellenbosch, we visited a vineyard for supper, and they had little quotes all over on silver plaques. I’ve used them as writing prompts.

Okay

tell me the lies I love

She falls off the swings when she’s eight and while she cries her father holds her and says “hey, you’re good, you’re fine. Everything will be okay. Tell me what hurts, baby. It’s okay. You’ll be alright.” But they go to the hospital and her arm is in a cast for weeks and she thinks that that’s not quite okay.

Her first boyfriend dumps her in front of her friends when she’s fifteen. Her mother rubs her back when she tells her about it and murmurs “it’s all okay, girlie, you’ll find someone. It just takes time, you’ll see. It’ll be okay,” But her friends start to drift and his friends are rude to her, and she doesn’t feel like she’s okay.

She refuses to call home for the third time this week because it isn’t an emergency, But she has this feeling that something is going to go wrong. Her best friend makes her tea while she frets and points out “there’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure everyone at home is fine, just relax. It’s okay, nothing is wrong,” But then her mother calls her and her grandmother is dying and she’s pretty sure this is not okay.

The economy isn’t that great right now and she knows, just knows that cutbacks are coming and she hasn’t been working long enough to keep her job. Her husband holds her while she worries and reassures her “hey it’s okay. You’re great there, love, I’m sure you won’t lose your job. But even if you do, we’ll figure something out. It’s all okay, just watch.” But she does lose her job, and he barely hangs on to his, and they have to put off buying a house, and how will they support the baby and how is this okay?

She cries a bit as she helps her son pack for university. Will he eat? Will he study? Will he find friends? Her boy grins at her and says “hey Mom, I’ll be fine, you know that, right? I promise to eat my vegetables and study and whatever. And I’ll see you at Christmas, okay?” But the house seems so empty without him and he doesn’t call as often as she would like, and she is almost but not quite okay.

Her husband starts having memory trouble, so she takes him in for a medical evaluation. She sits with her head in her hands as she listens to the diagnosis and thinks of what he would say if he knew how she was feeling right now. “Whatever it is, it could be worse. We’ll get through it together, promise. It’ll all be okay.” But the Alzheimer’s progresses and he doesn’t remember her anymore and he can hardly do anything for himself and she knows they aren’t okay.

She’s lying in a hospital bed and it’s hard to breathe, hard to think. Her son and his family are in the room with her, her little boy all grown now and holding her hand gently. It’s her daughter-in-law who whispers to her, choking back tears “We’ll be okay, Mom. We’ll see you soon. We love you. It’s okay.” But as she uses her breath to whisper her love back, she wishes she had enough to tell them that it’s okay not to be okay.

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Like a Shadow

no one has noticed I’ve slipped away from the party

I much prefer it out here. It’s quieter, more peaceful, there’s no pressure to be someone I’m not. I can take off my shoes – they’re uncomfortable anyways. I sit on the edge of the patio and turn my back to the house, looking instead into the dark night. Tilting my head up, I stare at the stars and try to tune out the noise from inside. I relax and let go of the feeling of being surrounded all the time.

I prefer the sounds of the crickets and of the occasional car going by to the blaring music and raucous laughter inside. It’s just too loud for me in there. I prefer being alone with my thoughts to having to make conversation. People always ask about the life I should have but don’t actually, and I don’t like trying to explain that I’m okay the way I am. Not that I feel inadequate. I don’t. I like my life, but I don’t like defending it. People never understand.

I much prefer being alone out here to wandering from one conversation to another, never speaking. I could join in, of course, but I rarely find a topic I feel I can speak authoritatively on. It’s easier just to listen, or to slip away and think about the really important things. I’m too serious, and nobody really cares to hear about those kinds of things. I like it out here better.

I much prefer the cover of darkness to the glare of light inside, to the knowledge that people are looking at me, if not for me. There’s not much too look at. I’m plain in comparison to the others here. I don’t bother with the makeup or the elaborate hair. I don’t want to spend more money on something I won’t be comfortable wearing. My dress is in fashion and I’m clean and neat – I’m not here to make a statement. People just notice I have nothing to say and move on quickly.

I much prefer it out here, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m choosing to be alone – I’m sure I could talk with a few of the guests if I wanted to. I’m choosing to think – I’m sure they would welcome my input in a few of the conversations I overheard coming out here. I’m choosing to leave – I’m sure people have noticed and just understand that I want some time to myself. The noise from inside is suddenly louder, and I hear a familiar voice nearby – someone has opened the door and stepped outside. I know them. Have they come looking for me? They never realise that I prefer – oh. Never mind, they’re just getting more drinks. I think I’m visible from there, but they don’t say anything. The noise swells again, then is muted as the door shuts once more. Good.

I much prefer it out here.

 

 

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Still Life in Greyscale

you burst like a grainy image through the heart of my memory

Sometimes she looks around her and thinks of him. She looks at her husband, at her sons and grandsons, and thanks God that they are here around her. Her children and grandchildren will remember their fathers in bright, brilliant colour. The colours of summer on the prairies: sky the bluest of blues, yellow canola, the warm, dark brown of his eyes that her boys had inherited, that always looked at their children with love. The colours of his dress shirts and patterns on his ties. They will remember him in the red of a Santa costume at Christmas. They will remember their fathers in motion: playing football at picnics, throwing them in the air and catching them securely. They will remember him teaching them to dance, to barbeque, to do push-ups properly. They will remember their fathers with sound: his laughter, his gentle scolding, the way he greeted people at their door or at the church. They will remember his terrible singing and the way he told them stories. She is thankful that they will remember their fathers alive.

She thinks of her father and thinks that he must have been a colourful man, at one time. Her mother used to tell her stories of all kinds, but she never knows what to do with them. Her father doesn’t have colour, motion, or sound. Because her father is just a picture, a photograph in black and white of a handsome man in uniform.

She doesn’t remember her father in colour. She knows about his bottle-green eyes, and his black hair and moustache, and that he lived on the same colourful prairie as she now does. She knows the uniform he wore was the dull khaki of a World War Two soldier. She knows that the picture of him that hangs on her wall was taken outside, and that there were purple flowers behind him. But in her mind he is a colourless man in front of a grey house on a cloudy day. He is hard to see.

She doesn’t remember her father in motion. She’s heard about the dancing, and that he played hockey and liked to take her mother ice-skating. She’s been told that he held her and rocked her, that his arms would always open wide to get hugs from his nieces and nephews. The closest she can get to imagining his movement is the jerky dancing in black and white films, or the scrambling action scenes in war clips, things she knows he once did. In her mind he stands ramrod straight, smiling a bit but not ever shifting. He is firm and tall and strong, a good soldier and a statue.

She doesn’t remember her father with sound. She knows he used to sing a bit: he sang love songs to her mother and lullabies to her. She knows his voice was loud and light, that you could hear it over everyone else’s at parties. She knows he loved to laugh. But in her mind he is silent. She doesn’t know his voice.

But despite all this, when she looks at her husband and her children and grandchildren, she remembers him. She remembers being a little girl, sitting under his picture and telling him things, the exciting things and the sad ones. She remember his presence in her life, not as himself but as other people’s memories of him and the stories they told. He is there for her growing up in the form of ‘your father would have said’ and ‘your father would be proud’. When her family and friends ask about her father, she tells them that he was a brave man who went to war, that he was a friendly man who brought joy to others, that he was a kind and good man. That much she sees when she looks at his picture, the smile playing on his lips even as he gets ready to leave, going unknowingly to his death. That much, she knows from the stories. Even though her father is a photograph in black and white of a man in uniform, her memory of him is of love.

 

 

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Speechless

no words exist for what I need to say

She said “Yes. I have nothing for tomorrow night…” and he just stood there, grinning, because he had never expected her to consider him. For a minute it seemed he would stand that way forever, but then he took a breath and said “Good, then. I’ll pick you up?” and everything was fine.

He said “I love you,” and she turned her head from the stars to him, eyes wide. He held his breath, hoping he hadn’t misjudged, but just before the silence was too long she broke it with awe in her voice. “I love you, too,” They smiled softly at each other for a moment before turning back to the stars.

He asked “Will you marry me?” and despite his certainty he felt sick to his stomach waiting. She had a wide smile on her face as she struggled for words but eventually the answer came. “Yes,” she whispered and the first thing he did was jump up and hug her tightly to him. When he let her go, it was a mad dash home because all he wanted to do was shout it from the rooftops.

I do. I do.

She said “What do you want to name our baby?” and at first he didn’t clue in. When it clicked he whooped and hugged her and rested a hand on her belly. He said “We’ll name our son after my father and yours.” They ended up naming their daughters after his mother and hers.

Whispers in the streets spoke of corruption and war and disaster. People in clubs and shops talked quietly about being rid of the General who was the King’s puppeteer. She lamented “What kind of world will our children grow up in?” and when he heard he had no answers. The question lay uneasily in their lives for weeks. One day he came home late and grim. “I may have to leave soon.” He hung his coat on the hook nearest the door and opened a chest that she had never seen inside of. Then he added “there may be war.”

She said “What will we do for the girls’ first birthday?” He, worn and haggard, looked between her and their daughters for a long while. Then he said wearily, “I suppose we’ll have to do something, won’t we?” He wasn’t there to see what they did.

The newsboys with their papers cried “General killed by masked assassin at dinner last evening! Investigations already begun!” She waited all day for him to come home and reassure her that everything would settle soon. When he did come home, he went to the chest. There were no reassurances. He said “I have to go,” and he kissed her and their daughters and left. There was silence for ever so long.

Little girls clung to her and cried “When Da come home?” She smoothed their hair and bent down to them and held them in her arms, but she did not answer for a very long time. When she spoke past the lump in her throat it was to lie, “Soon, little ones, soon.” Still there was no word.

The newsboys with their papers cried “Assassin caught and awaiting trial! Excecution predicted!” The stranger who came to their door said “I will take you to see your husband.” She didn’t answer; she bundled the girls into their coats and grabbed last night’s leftovers. It wasn’t until they were all following the stranger that she asked “Where is he?”

He said “I’m sorry,” and his hands stretched through cold bars to grasp hers, to reach down to their daughters. They filled her silence with their jabber. “Where you be? Come home? Da! Da!” Eventually she asked “Did you do it?” Quiet. The childish questions became background noise. He watched them, not looking at her. “Not my hands. My friends.” She nodded. “You did what was needed.”

Guilty! Sentence: hanging.

She asked “What kind of world will our children grow up in?” and the question rested between them. He reached through the bars and took her hands, kissed them as best he could. He said “Things are changing. A better one, I promise. A better world.”

People in the streets shouted and jeered as they walked to the town centre, but they didn’t hear them from inside. When the girls had seen the last of their father and been sent to the bathroom with their aunt, they stood and stared at each other. He said “I’m sorry.” She broke down then, sobbed, took huge, gulping breaths, unable to speak. He said “I love you.” She nodded but still couldn’t speak. They stayed in silence then until someone came to take him away.

Guilty of the murder of the General. Sentence: Hanging.

Silence.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in From My Pen, Silver Plaque Prompts

 

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