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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

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fiction; short story; prose

Ill-planned Flight

The indomitable Charlie Mills at Carrot Ranch presented a new challenge. Write a story in 99 words about a cat. Here’s my offering. What do you think?

Ill-planned Flight

A story in 99 words Written by Kerry E.B. Black

With a rumble, her stomach reminded Sylvie of ever-present hunger. She licked the fur along her protruding ribs and purred a reassurance like the lullaby the sick Girl’s Momma sang when tucking the Girl in to sleep.

The Girl would clutch Sylvie like a stuffed toy. One spring evening, the girl sobbed into Sylvie’s fur, muttering about nurses and shots. Sylvie wriggled free and fled to lick the salt from her coat. The Momma leapt at her, but Sylvie dashed out an open door and hid beneath the porch.

When an ambulance collected the girl, the family forgot Sylvie.

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Pictures

Pictures

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black

May, 2013

Waiting rooms are places of anxious anticipation.  Each week, Aiden’s mom takes him to this psychological office where he expects sometime to be declared insane.  Mom looks on hopefully, praying for a relief from the fears and displaced anger that started as Aiden entered puberty.

The waiting room is always tidy, with the plastic foods placed in bins around the play kitchen, but no diminutive plastic pots and pans for use by a pretend cook.  Uncomfortable, orange-upholstered furniture rings the room, and in the center, atop a circular globe rug, is an oval table with tiny plastic chairs in primary colors.  A bin sits nearby with art supplies and coloring books.

When they come, no other clients await admittance, and because mom believes that to be on time means to arrive at least 15 minutes early, the wait seems amazingly long until the doctor calls him back.  Worries and anger fueled by the anticipation give energy, and Aiden nonchalantly grabbed a black, spiral-bound sketchbook from the bin.  Colored pencils in hand, Aiden chose a page and began to draw.

The page was not the first nor the last in the book, though it was closer to the back.  He drew a scene with shadowy people peering toward the center of the page, incomplete because Doctor Williams called him back before he could depict the object of their attention.

As was his general practice, Aiden did not want to talk about his personal life.  Dr. Williams was patient, as was his way.  He allowed Aiden to approach sensitive subjects in his own time, preferring a natural progression built on trust instead of a hurried fix to the many psychological ails that afflict his clients.

“What is your first name?” Aiden asked the doctor, biding some time.  The doctor looked at him with a smile and replied, “Bill.”  Aiden furrowed his brow and asked, “wait, wait, man, your name is William Williams?”  Dr. Williams smirked.  “Yep.  Guess my parents had a sense of humor, huh?”  Aiden snorted.  “Dealt with a lot of teasing because of their little word play,” the doctor added.  Aiden nodded.  He knew about word play games from classmates.

When he returned the following Tuesday afternoon, Aiden retrieved the sketchbook from the bottom of the bin, buried under coloring books and loose pages of construction paper.  When he turned to the page with his picture, he was shocked to find it altered.  There in the center was depicted a young woman, wide-eyed and frightened.  She somewhat resembled the illustrations in Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with long pale hair caught in a headband and a bell-shaped dress reaching below her knees.  Her hands were clasped behind her back, but there were no legs or feet on the picture.

Aiden guessed that the patient ran out of time while tampering with his picture.  There should be no girl on his page!  It was not what he imagined at all.  Why couldn’t the artist have chosen a page of his or her own to capture the waif, he wondered angrily.  While he contemplated the intrusion on his artistic expression, he sketched in two skinny legs hugged by striped hose and maryjane shoes.  He added some shading to the folds of the dress and darkened the circles under her pale eyes before he started a new scene on the opposing page.

This had a street light pooling at the corner of a dark alley and a questionable looking street.   The scene was entirely abandoned, without even a rat to scurry from trash can to trash can.  It was a desolate and unfriendly- feeling picture that he only just finished when Dr. Williams called him back.  His mother barely looked up from her novel when Aiden went back to the small office with its over-stuffed wing-back chairs in brown leather.  The thin-slatted white shutters on the small rectangular window were pulled mostly shut, allowing a bright cheeriness but not a glare to annoy the eyes.

Although it was difficult to talk about truly sensitive matters, Aiden did disclose a little of what was bothering him.  This was great progress in Dr. Williams’ opinion, although when the session was concluded, Aiden did not feel that anything had changed.

Before he left, Aiden removed the sketchbook from the bin and placed it under the play kitchen in the corner.  The following week, when he retrieved it from his hiding place, he marveled at the alteration of his latest sketch.  In the center of the pool of light was an image of the same girl with the same worried look staring out of the page.  Her hands were covering her mouth this time, though.

Aiden nearly crumpled the page in his frustration.  How dare this girl be placed on his page again, especially after he had taken the time to hide the sketchbook?  Instead, he turned the page and drew the girl who intruded on his art, dead center on the next page.  In his picture, she sat cross legged holding a red balloon.  The rest of the image was black and white, a combination of pencil and ink.  She had a smug little smile as though she knew that she’d got away with her intrusion.

He did not hide the sketch pad at the conclusion of the session, but instead placed it right on top of the coloring book bin.

As he expected, the following week found a good many scribbled pictures in the beginning of the sketchbook, childish depictions of people made entirely of circles or a house with smoke puffing contentedly from a chimney, colorful offerings from much younger visitors to the office.   Aiden became a little worried that his sketches would be scribbled over like the line drawings in the coloring books.  He wondered why the integrity of the pages mattered to him suddenly when he so obviously set up the potential destruction of his drawings himself.  Apparently, though, the kids did not page that far  back into the sketchbook.

However, his mystery artist friend did alter the page with the cross-legged girl.  From her wide eyes now spilled tears.  All around her floated disembodied eyes, also raining their own tears onto the girl.  Beneath her feet swirled an eddy which looked as though it would swallow the entire scene.

Aiden took in the eyes, the tears, and he was saddened.  He followed the pencil strokes of the oval beneath the girl, pulling from it stems which sprouted flowers, daisies and roses.  He widened the garden, engulfing the bottom of the page with springtime.  He added colors with oil crayons from a nearby box.  Each of the pairs of disembodied eyes he altered, hiding them behind puffy clouds or colorfully plumed birds or a gold-bearing rainbow.  In the tearful girl’s hand he added a bouquet of balloons in many colors, hoping that the splashes of brightness would cheer her.

He was so intent upon the picture that he did not respond when Dr. Williams called his name.  When his mother leaned forward to tap his shoulder, the doctor motioned to indicate that he did not want to disturb Aiden.  She sat back and crossed her legs, curiously regarding the doctor and her son.

When he came into better awareness of himself, Aiden realized that Dr. Williams was in the doorway.  He hastily closed the sketchbook and tucked it midway down in the art bin before participating in his therapy.  With a nervous little smile and slight blush, Aiden ducked his head and followed Dr. Williams to his office.

Respecting his privacy, his mother did not examine the sketchbook, but she was extremely curious about its contents.  Without realizing the change, Aiden opened up to Dr. Williams, sharing his concerns.  At the conclusion of the visits, he felt better, lighter, more hopeful and less beleaguered.

Pictures were shared in this way, weekly added to and changed.  Aiden no longer resented the interaction but instead grew to appreciate and hope to see what new piece would be added to the black sketchbook.  When his mother needed to take on an extra job, Aiden’s weekly session was changed to 6 o’clock on Thursday evening.  His Aunt Karen drove him to the office but waited for him in the car.

Aunt Karen was not as prompt as his mother, and when he arrived, the doctor was already waiting for him.  Aiden found himself wondering about the sketchbook sitting in the wicker bin in the waiting room.  He wondered what new image was captured within the heavy white pages.  Dr. Williams noticed his distraction, but he pressed on with the session.  At about a quarter before the hour, Aiden asked if he might be excused, feigning illness.  He hoped to spend a few minutes in the waiting room examining the evolution within the sketch book and adding to his silent dialogue.

Dr. Williams closed his notebook and smiled at Aiden.  “If that is what you would like, we can be done for today,” he said, adding, “but next week, we will talk the whole time, okay?”  Aiden nodded, his sandy hair falling into his dark eyes.  He wondered how necessary the visits were now that his outlook had changed.  He no longer imagined himself in gloom and despair.  There was a renewed hopefulness in his life.  The doctor, too, was feeling confident that the progress was all positive for Aiden.  Smiling broadly, saying, “Thanks, Doc Bill!  See ya next week!” Aiden hurried happily to the yellow walls of the rectangular waiting room.

There, sitting in a deep-blue child’s chair at the oval table sat a slight-built girl about his age, unmistakably the girl depicted in the sketchbook.  She was smiling at his last picture.  With long, pale fingers, she touched the stars that sparkled in a spiral shape from within an inky sky.  As though dazed, she looked up at him, the small, bemused grin still on her lips, meeting his eyes with her own shadowed and tired baby blues.  She had the delicacy of an antique china doll, slightly damaged and battered.

Although he never depicted himself in the sketchbook, she knew him at once as well.  Her grin broadened, and he imagined a rebirth of butterflies swirling around her like a halo.

Blackjack

Black Jack

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer Black

For the Daytime Writers, Springdale, PA, February, 2013

 

Somehow, the police men’s voices sounded muffled, as though coming through the walkie talkies at their utility belted waists instead of their mouths.  “Ma’am, we’re going to file this report at the station.  If anything else occurs to you, you have our cards.  Real sorry, Ma’am.”

McKenzie did not look up as she mechanically thanked the two young, uniformed men.  “I’d show you photographs of my furnishings if they hadn’t taken my photo albums, too,” she’d explained to them.  She looked at the built-in book shelf beside the red brick fireplace, and tears prickled at her eyes for the first time since she returned from their vacation. 

Make-a-Wish had granted a trip to sunny Florida and Walt Disney World to her daughter, 13 year old Amanda.  It was the kindest experience either woman had enjoyed, with no worries to trouble sleep and less pain since Amanda’s last surgery.  They came home to a house that was clean.  They usually had a tidy house, but this was scrubbed top to bottom; no cob webs or dust, but no personal effects either; the windows still had their curtains and blinds intact and closed, but everything else, from clothing to the dressers that held them, silly mementos magnetted to the refrigerator and the fridge itself, even the toiletries and tp in the bath, gone.  No welcome mat to greet them at their front door, nor a boot tray to host their muddy shoes when they entered the Victorian charmer in the quiet Verona neighborhood.

The only thing remaining was a single playing card, face up, dead center in the living room.  McKenzie stared at the one-eyed Jack, her emotion hidden, when she answered the questions from the police in their black uniforms.  She lied when they asked if the card held any special meaning to her, denying the truth that he had found them after so many years of careful hiding.  He’d wanted her to know who now possessed her possessions, know that he would be coming for them. 

After she closed and locked the heavy wooden front door which showed no signs of forcible entry, drawing the dead bolt, she turned a false smile to her daughter standing in the living room where their couch would have been, her Disney princess shirt brilliantly pink.  McKenzie had two hundred dollars left from the trip, and not much in her bank accounts, but it would have to do.  “We are going on a new adventure, Amanda,” McKenzie exclaimed, “Since we are already packed, we are ready to go.  Where would you like to live, my love, and what name do you think is the prettiest?”

Amanda furrowed her brow.  She was a trusting and caring child, her thirteen years sheltered and youthful.  “Jasmine, momma, like on this shirt.”  She pointed to the dark-haired beauty, and McKenzie smiled.  “I like that name, too, Jasmine.  What about me, though?”  Amanda liked this game, so she suggested other princess names, and thought they should live in Florida.  Perhaps not Florida, but someplace warmer than this Northern city.  Someplace new to hide two gals from an abuser, a one-eyed, black-hearted Jack to whom one was married and the other never called Daddy.

Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black

6 June, 2013

Belinda designed the stained glass to represent what the country house meant to her, a new beginning, a night of promise.  The sun blended into a moon, silvers into golden hues, much as a yin yang.  Luckily her friend Abigail was tiny, because to measure the circular opening, she needed to climb a ladder 15 feet and trust a ledge in the foyer above the entry door of the Butler County home.  After the carefully chosen pieces of glittering glass were cut into the required shapes and soldered together, Abigail again climbed the ladder and secured the sparkling artwork with hammer and clips.

The two friends held hands as they admired the way the light skipped about the vaulted walls and ceiling.  Belinda had a serenity that was infectious, an optimism that many considered naive.   The effect was a wide-eyed, innocent way of looking at the world that Abigail and all of Belinda’s friends wanted to protect.  The assurance that the world was good emitted from her, much like the colors danced through the newly-placed artwork they admired.

Belinda designed the stained glass also to represent her marriage.  She and her husband, Gordon, were as different as the two astral bodies represented in the art.  While he craved attention, she was contented to observe.  He basked in her support, and she supported him in his many endeavors.

But it was not too long into their marriage that the problems arose.  Her support would no longer satisfy him, since he was always requiring a wider range of admiration.   She became befuddled, blaming herself for the growing distance in their relationship.  She hastened to please and build him up emotionally, but unbeknownst to her, he was finding the padding to his vanity elsewhere.

Eventually, Gordon felt that he needed to take greater control of their marriage.  Their relationship became increasingly about him controlling her.  He complained about who she spoke with on the telephone, who she entertained at afternoon tea.  She limited in her access to the bank account, claiming that he did not like the way that she spent their money.  He resented the hours that she spent at work, claiming that they infringed on his activities.  She should not drive the car too frequently, he reasoned, since gas was expensive.  Without realizing that he was doing so, Gordon hoped to cut his wife off from those she loved and thereby force her to cling tighter to him.

Then, one November morning, he grew entirely tired of the situation.  So, he wrote to her in a four paged letter that he left in the center of the granite countertop of the kitchen island, accusing her of selfishness and of being needy.  He told her that he would require his freedom and that she would need to leave.  He did not agree to the marital counseling that she recently begged they attend together, since he felt that she was the problem, not him.  He wanted a divorce, period.  It was non-negotiable.

She read the letter in shock and dread.  Her hands shook when she telephoned her friend, reading it in a voice that matched her shaking hands.  “What does it mean?” she desperately asked Abigail, who tried to disguise her anger at Belinda’s naivety. “It means that you need a good lawyer,” Abigail said.

She suggested that Belinda pack up all of Gordon’s things and place them on the porch.  “Change the locks.”  “I won’t do that to him,” Belinda said.  “He has nowhere to go.  I have family who will take me in.”  The light from the stained glass danced in time to a marble table-top fountain that bubbled in the foyer as Belinda slid down the wall in a tearful huddle, unaware of the fascinating light display above her head.

That day, Abigail came with friends to Belinda’s house.  They packed up her belongings, careful not to touch anything of Gordon’s or, on Belinda’s insistence, anything jointly purchased.  “That can be worked out later,” Belinda reasoned, secretly hoping this move would shock her husband into appreciating their marriage.   A single rented U-haul transported Belinda and her worldly goods to her parents’ house, to parents who tried to comfort their inconsolable and numbed daughter.

Instead of pleasure when he came home and found Belinda gone, Gordon was incensed.  He telephoned her cellular telephone demanding to know where she had taken his belongings.  Already feeling tremendously unsteady from the profound emotional shock of the dissolution of their marriage, Belinda was tearfully confused.  She explained that she only took what was specifically her own.  Glaring about the empty house, Gordon fumed.  The late afternoon sun caused the stained glass to shine to the outside world as though lit from within.  He demanded that Belinda return at once everything that she removed from the house so that he could inspect and determine the honesty of her statement.

Her parents and friend insisted she talk with a lawyer.  She reluctantly telephoned the attorney recommended by Abigail.  The process of equitable distribution began, despite Gordon’s fury.  The house would be sold and the profits split equally.

The property sold quickly.  Heedless of his two hundred pounds, Gordon climbed the 15 feet to the ledge where his discarded wife placed an annual Christmas tree display and, without regard for the house, removed the stained glass, not from sentimentality, but rather from a need to possess.  The stained glass that was specific to that space, designed to enhance the house for perpetuity, he removed, leaving ugly gouges scarring the plaster in the space above the entryway in the foyer.

Before the divorce was finalized, Gordon moved into a split level in a suburb of Pittsburgh with a young lady of his acquaintance who flattered his ego.  He put the stained glass in the front window of this new house, contented imagining Belinda in perpetual tears from losing him and their marriage.  It was not long, however, before this “I love you always, Tracy” became disillusioned with Gordon and moved.

After the divorce was finalized, Belinda found her own apartment and her own emotional footing.  She rekindled friendships and cautiously began dating a good man, Edward, who valued her.  As time progressed, succession of women came to reside with Gordon, all leaving before the light filtered through the stained glass changed with the passing seasons.  When Belinda and Edward married, Gordon cut his hand on the shattered bits of the stained glass when he smashed the lovingly designed piece of art

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