Marooned

I held you as you grew in inside my life-giving waters. I dreamed for you before you could dream. Every new sound, smile, and movement was recorded upon the tender organ beating within my breast. I am the keeper of your origins and the name on your tongue when your last breath has been taken.Marooned Short Story cover

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The Brilliant One. He was named thus for the persona he elected. Black wool dress pants with creases so mean they could cut through turbulent air. A long overcoat, crafted from the same materials, scratched and abraded at his neckline and cuffs. These micro irritations served as constant reminders of a fact that very few people knew. He was not the only one.

A Teacher. The best and brightest minds were sent to him for training. He was the man with wild, wiry hair that reached toward his shoulders. He joked that when the brain worked at full capacity, it would produce so much heat that the follicles at the top of one’s head would burn away.

A Mind Like No Other. He had the tools of technology at his disposal but preferred, instead, the scrape and scuff of chalk on board and the compact binder that fit in the palm of his hand. Upon the page of every fresh notebook, he taped a photo of her. The binder and chalkboard went with the persona and recorded information that others raced to comprehend.

He Agreed. When the choice among billions came down to one, he nodded. He understood.  He would represent them all. A holdout. For the blink of a cosmic eye, he would continue recording his thoughts and equations.

Beauty and Beast. It was a surprise to observe what the mind does when deprived of human contact. Guilt clutched at him with cold, bony, claw-like talons.  Every day, he stared, as if mesmerized, at that thing of massive beauty that revolved beneath his window. Illuminated and glowing against her blanket of dark emptiness, her silent cries reached him, causing the talons to tighten.

Eyes Closed. The reoccurring dream was a further surprise. When all the thoughts of humanity and the universe were open to him, it was his sister to whom they ever returned. Алина. His  twin. They’d lost her when she was ten. Chernobyl had been their childhood home. He knew, without a doubt, that her mind had been greater than his.

Musings. Perhaps the expiration of humanity had occurred on the day of Chernobyl’s disaster. He’d helped put off the inevitable. He was a temporary patch on the dam with fatal cracks that ran too deep. No one but him was left to wonder if she might have been the key that could have changed the outcome.

***

“Mama.”

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Story Prompt: WriteOn weekend challenge – in 500 words or less – Marooned

Inspiration: Pink Floyd song, Marooned

Answered Prayers

A hint of lemons on the ocean breeze coming through the open window brought a wistful smile to Marzia’s face as she pulled more wet laundry from the tiny washing machine. She could already taste those lemons in her mouth at the end of the day.

Carlo would be in the fields now laughing and smiling with the men and women who also worked there. Carlo was always bright and cheerful, not like his sister who’d grown increasingly tired and sour with the years.

Marzia carried a heavy sheet out to the balcony where she added it to the others that swayed and moved with the currents of the warm scented air. Looking down below, she spotted young Theresa and Paulo hiding and giggling near the corner of the market. They didn’t realize that they had an audience as they French kissed and ran their hands over each other in places that would have their mothers squawking.

She remembered when she’d been Theresa’s age, wearing the starched white shirts and pleated skirts of the Catholic school. Toni Marellli had been her boyfriend then. They’d thought that the same corner was private too.  After Carlo’s accident, Toni had gone away. Marzia stalked him sometimes on the internet. The photos of his receding hairline, beer buddies and of his two grown daughters always stayed with her for days. That would have been my life.

When the disaster struck—the one that had left the top half of her brother’s skull missing, Marzia knelt in the surgery waiting room saying prayers on her rosary and begging God to let Carlo live. God had granted that wish. The Doctors warned her that Carlo would probably not live past the age of twenty-five.

They were both in their sixties now. Carlo worked during harvest in the lemon and olive fields perched on the steep slopes of the coastal mountains.  In the early evenings, he sat at the edges of the walkway leading down to the Ligurian Sea. He smiled innocently at the tourists who regarded him with surprised pity. There was never a language barrier for Carlo. Turning his head so that they had a clear view of his injury, he motioned toward his hat lying near his feet. The loose change that he proudly poured into their kitchen table did help make ends meet, as did Mariza’s miniature sketches that she drew of seascapes and buildings in their tiny town. The sheets she washed were destined for tourist beds. At night, she sipped on Carlo’s share of the Limoncello that he received at the conclusion of the harvest season.

In her top dresser drawer was the rosary that she’d used that night. She hadn’t touched it since. If Carlo beat her to the grave, she planned to put it in with his ashes.

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Story Prompt: WriteOn weekend challenge: 500 words or less – “Window”

Inspiration: A trip to Manarola, Italy in Cinque Terra – art and photography by the author