Day 5 (from September 2008 Southeast Writer’s Regimen)
#1 Version of events from old photo where I don’t know the people.
The sepia tones of the old photograph lend a somber tone to it. The house is wooden, in the shotgun design, militantly lacking decoration or charm. There are four people sitting in wood chairs on the porch. They are dressed somewhat formally. A yard dog is stretched out in the dirt near the porch. I think the setting was in South Alabama, near Montgomery. A photographer was on the scene for some occasion, possibly even a country wedding. The subjects look like they are in their early to mid-twenties. Good looking folks. Smiling eyes that belie their serious expressions. Clearly a wedding; not the aftermath of a funeral.
#2 Write at least a page of dialogue between two characters who share painful past memories that are difficult to talk about.
Marti and Paul stood side by side at the freshly covered grave. Edges of the funeral tent flapped in the humid central Florida air. Three or four sprays of flowers were propped up, their hideous carnations and lilies rotting on the wind.
“It seems like we stopped being brothers and sisters kind of all at once; like one day we were playing hide and seek and sandlot baseball, climbing those big oak trees and swinging on the Tarzan vines, and then it just stopped,” Marti said, studying her ragged cuticles.
Her words hung uncomfortably between them.
Paul sighed, his big shoulders hunched downward, toward the ground. “I know,” he said. “The night Daddy died. That’s when.” His voice sounded clotted, as though his vocal chords had marinated in sour milk for years.
Marti sighed heavily, too. “Yes,” she said. “I know you’re right. I don’t understand it, but I know you’re right.”
“It was like a bomb exploding in the house. We kids were shell-shocked for years by the concussion. And when we woke up, we were all in different places, wounded, and bleeding, and we never found our way back to each other.” Paul’s shifted slowly from one foot to the other, his clasped hands rising and falling slightly. He sighed again. “Our childhood blew up that night.”
“I know,” Marti said, and moved around so she was in front of Paul. Marti pushed windblown strands of graying hair away from her face. “But you’re still my big brother. And I always loved you. We just stopped knowing each other,” she said, her voice beginning to quaver toward the end.
Marti took a step toward Paul and tilted her chin up toward his face. “It wasn’t our fault, Paul. It never was.”
Paul’s tightly clasped hands flew apart, his face seemed to come apart in an emotional torrent, and he wrapped his little sister up in his arms and they cried together over their loss.
#3 Riff word is Egg.
The self-contained beginning of all things. The snake eating its tail. The heart of the matter. All the DNA a being needs to become all things unto itself. Nurturing. Nurturer. Chicken and the egg. Egg and the chicken.
I am hungry when I think of an egg. Warm, soft scrambled, over easy doused with bacon grease (from a past life), complicated omelettes, simple peasant style fritattas, glorious souffles, dense quiches.
Grandmother Hattie Jones kept chickens. The cliche of the mean rooster came true in her chicken yard, and the big old hens were no day at the beach either. I was scared of them all, but would risk slipping into the barn with its smell of hay, to slip a new-laid egg, warm, still finding its shape, into my small pocket.
The great thickener of life. Eggs bind us together.