Sunday, 11 January 2009

Blog Story - First Post!

The box sat between us on the kitchen table. It was larger than I’d expected. A splintery wooden thing, speckled with nails, and barred with shadows where the sunshine fell in slices through the blind.

“Well, it’s here,” she said. “Arrived at last!”

She swished from foot to foot on her side of the box and her peach-painted mouth twitched as if with a smile, but I wasn’t convinced. Her eyes remained dark and wet. She was doing too much blinking.

“I can see that,” I replied.

I’d wanted to keep the atmosphere light, casual even, but my voice came out higher and frailer than I’d intended. I sounded like a child. A little boy, with a trembling lip and a crumpling chin and two grazed knees. Barely even pretending to be brave.

I cleared my throat and for a moment, thought that I smelt something beyond the sour mop bucket and old bacon fat, something beyond the synthetic roses of her perfume.

A forest smell, a black leaf smell. Could it truly be coming from within?

I saw that she had taken the hammer out already.

As she raised it slowly in one milk-white hand, I heard her cotton skirts whisper and the creak of her bodice, or of a stiff, pink sleeve. She turned the claw-end carefully to face me.

“Aren’t you going to open it?” she asked.

She held herself still now, waiting. From the world behind the blind came the ordinary morning sounds of birds twittering and car engines’ coughing. There was the panicked scuff and scurry of late-to-work feet. I let the clock tick once, twice, and then again before reflecting back her empty grin.

“You do the honours,” I suggested. And took a small step backwards, towards the door.

Your turn . . .


Leatherdykeuk said...

Her peach lips split into a smile, like an over-ripe fruit bursting and showing a glimpse of the bone white worms below the surface. She took a step forward and dug the claw ito the wood near the first protruding nail. It was well made, once, this box and I glanced at the blinds, wondering if I should close them fully to block the sun’s view of this abomination. Such things should never be under the daylight, surely?

The nail sounded as if it were in agony as she levered it out, a thin wail, reedy in the stillness and tick-tick-tick of my ordinary, suburban and above all, safe kitchen. Was it my imagination, or was the damp earth smell already stronger?

She freed the nail from the hammer claw and placed it on the corner of the table. It’s bent shank seemed to be a question mark, accusing me as it asked ‘Why?’ A speck dropped from the box onto the quarry tiles. Was it only yesterday that I’d bleached them? It seemed a lifetime ago, and now there was a woodlouse on its back, multiple legs freewheeling as it tried to flip itself over.

I looked away but the rustle of her cotton skirts drew me back to her milk-white hands and the hammer, digging into the old wood as it prised the second nail free.

No shriek this time. The nail came out straight and smooth, as if the box were resigned to being exposed to the light for the first time in what – twenty years? She dropped it next to the first, an exclamation point this time.

She mistook my expression. “I know,” she said, her eyes still blink-blink-blinking. “Isn’t it exciting?”

Anonymous said...

“But Mary this is your moment child” Mrs Allen pushed the hammer into my hands, “You've been living free in this house with us, but this will mean you are really free. Doc Morgan promised he'd sign you over when the time came. Don't you want to see it in black and white?”

I turned the hammer in my hands and stared at Doc Morgan's chest. The cool aroma of acacia floated in on the warm morning air, I could hear Mr Allen and the boys on the porch. The pavillion swing chair was creaking like it always did, Mr Allen's tobacco scent sneaking and swirling it's way into the kitchen. This was my rightful place I guess, but inside that chest was the ticket to any place being rightful. I didn't know how that felt and was frightened to find out.

Mrs Allen moved beside me and put her hands down to join mine around the hammer handle. Together we pulled back and began the down swing. That hammer seemed to move forever before it struck. Mamma's face, Uncle Uriah, Doc Morgan himself. All those people who made me who I was swept through Mr Allen's smoke and the acacia, eyes winking out behind the claw trail and then silent splinters flying slow in all directions.

Sorting through his personal affects, Mrs Allen found my letter and began to read.

“Dearest Mary, I am so sorry but I could not face telling you straight. So let death, god help me, be less a coward in your eyes. Your deeds were put up as collateral some months ago in a game aboard a steamer bound for New Orleans. You belong now to a Mr Glennister of Kentucky, who will soon be aware of the title transfer. I am sorry child.”

Dansk said...

'Emily you're such a scaredy-cat'

She turned to face the table, hammer still held upright, her smile now transformed into a look of determination. Yet she hesitated.

The kitchen light faded for a moment, perhaps just a passing cloud, and in that instant the box seemed to grow, to take on mass and became this foreboding presence in the room. My hands gripped the sideboard behind me.

'Uncle Dippel would be ashamed to see you now'

'Well Uncle Dippel isn't here now' I replied. 'I didn't ask him to leave me anything'

'But he did, and you know how rich he was. Whatever it is it must be something special if he sent it to you.'

I stared at the box. Our address stamped on the side in large Germanic letters. I could barely make out the return address. Then I noticed the small marks underneath. The three small zigzag lines above the letters B and F. I looked up at my sister and shook my head once.

'For God's sake' She said, and stepped up to the table. Placing her palm on the top of the box, she positioned the hammer's claw over one of the nails. And stopped.

'Emily' She breathed. 'It's warm'.

Jamieson Wolf said...

She held out her hand to stop me. “Aren’t you curious?” Her voice was lilting, almost playful.

I shook my head. I was afraid but I was too afraid to admit my fear. The box and the possibilities it presented frightened me and I found myself in a paradox.

She laughed, a sound like broken glass falling on tile. Musical but somehow still cold. “But you’re the one who ordered them.” She said.

“No,” I corrected her. “You asked me to order because I’m the only one who had a credit card. That doesn’t make it mine.” I didn’t want to claim ownership for what lay inside. The earthy smell was intoxicating. It reminded me of pine needles and dirt from a forest floor.

“Please, Suzanne?” she said, pouting. She was good at pouting. “For me? After all, I did give birth to you. The least you can do is open a teensy little box.” She sounded like a baby, like a child.

I knew my doctor would call this emotional blackmail. My mother was the champion of blackmail and manipulation. She had taught me many things. Especially not to trust her.

I huffed out a breath, knowing that I would not win. Knowing that she would continue, chipping away at me until I had no choice but to agree. My doctor wanted me to make my own decisions.

And so I took the hammer.

It felt heavy in my hand, heavier than it should have. Fear tends to make the body weak. I barely felt my fingers wrap around the handle of the hammer, barely felt its heaviness, its weight.

I used the claw end of the hammer on the first nail. As the nail came free, it moaned. It made the box seem as if it were alive.

Jamieson Wolf

Megan said...

I've had a query about timings - I don't think I was very clear (I'm sorry!)You can keep posting here until midnight tonight. And then come back again tomorrow (when I'll have hopefully written the next post) to play again.
Btw - I cannot believe how completely great these all are.
Thank you!
m x

Megan said...

This blog story is now closed for the night. Come back tomorrow to find out what has happened so far, and to perhaps tell me what will happen next . . .

DJ Kirkby said...

Oh wow. Just came by to read, mid week is not a good time for me to be able to do anything besides go through the motions of working, writing gets pushed aside. Great stuff from everyone though.