It’s time for our April WEP challenge – brought to you by the original imaginings of Nilanjana Bose, the creativity of Olga Godim, and your hosts, Denise Covey and Yolanda Renée!
This month, we’re thinking about PEACE and LOVE.
Create an artistic interpretation: a poem, a flash fiction piece of 1000 words or less, a non-fiction piece detailing your personal experience or someone else’s experience, write a script, draw your dreams, or post a photograph or a photo essay. The genre is up to you. The artistic choice is yours.
There are any number of ways you might express Peace & Love — . . . a love story, a call for world peace, a refugee story, the possibilities are endless. . .
I’ve chosen to write a flash fiction piece of approximately 990 words which explores family dynamics. It’s based on the following prompt: It Came In The Mail…
It Came in The Mail
Snail mail. Not an email. On a rainy day with drops pelting from a grey, lead sky and the dog curled at my stockinged feet that refused to absorb the warmth offered by a rusted heater that made strange clanking noises as if in protest. Certain things are etched into my memory of that precise moment the doorbell rang. On the mantelpiece, a framed photo of my sister and I, eyes crinkled at the corners and mouths stretched in a toothy smile that would make any dentist proud. A spatter of rain against the cracked window pane that was on the list of home renovations for the Spring holiday. Father’s raspy cough, an inheritance after a lifetime of cigarette smoke. Mother bent over the stove top adding a concoction of who-knows-what to the latest brew in the enamel pot.
And the one thing that stands out above the rest, is the smell of burning food forgotten on the stove as two pairs of eyes stood glued to the small, red, rectangular envelope. The foreign stamp winked neatly in the upper right hand corner. Hands trembled and eyes exchanged glances, like creatures from another planet trying to figure out the purpose of the square paper in their hand. Father signed for the mail. Then mother plonked down onto the chair, her alien limbs taking on a life of their own.
“What does it say?” Mother’s fragile whisper floated on the air.
“Peace and love.” Father’s tone wavered between a statement and question.
“Peace and love. What’s that supposed to mean?”
Lines of neat handwriting across the surface were just visible as I tiptoed on stockinged feet to peer at the offending mail. The piece of paper that would change my carefully-constructed world.
“What else does it say? Is there an address or phone number?”
I wish they had displayed half as much emotion when they studied my recent report card.
“She’s fine.” Father resealed the envelope flap.
After all, seven distinctions isn’t too shabby. Wouldn’t you agree?
“Fine? What’s that supposed to mean? She sends a postcard after three months of silence leaving us worried out of our minds and all you can say is, she’s fine?”
Mother reached to grab the offending object.
My excellent report card failed to generate so much excitement.
“She needs money.” Mother’s surprise made no sense.
My sister always needs money. What about what I need?
“So why are you so surprised?” Father has always been realistic.
I’ve got to remain calm. It’s not about me. It’s never about me.
“We’ve lost her, haven’t we? It’s all your fault.” She peered sideways at Father.
“Why does it have to be my fault?” He sighed.
I’m still here…
“You drove her away.”
“Drove her away? She made a choice.”
Those words resonated. They reminded me of a choice that had to be made. But I stalled. It seemed the way to go. It added a measure of comfort, a knowledge that, yes, it had to be done, but in my time. Stalling gave wings to a situation that appeared flightless, doomed to sink even before it had begun to float.
“Have you made a decision?” The voice I least wanted to hear echoed down the line.
The sky was clear.
The air promising.
It smelled of things to come, of positive outcomes beyond the stalling process.
“I can’t rush it! You know that.” I tried to sound confident. I hoped I did.
“So when will you do it? Time is passing…” there was no evading the issue. The stalling tactic wouldn’t last too long.
“When I’m good and ready.”
“What about the parents. They’ll never be ready so why stall?” Her words jolted me back to the painful reality.
“That’s emotional blackmail. Anyway, if you really cared about them, you wouldn’t be doing this.” I tried to portray a resolve that was missing.
“So when will you do it? I really need your help.” Her cold persistence annoyed me.
“I’ll do it when you tell me why.”
“Why is not important. I’m not coming back. But you have to help me manage the situation.”
“Why should I do that?” A picture of that greedy look on her face, blurred my vision.
“For their sakes.”
“Then what?” A knot in my shoulders tightened.
“Then nothing. Your part will be done.”
“I must be off my bloody rocker to listen to you.”
“You have no choice. Remember?”
* * *
It came in the mail on a windy day, six months later, with leaves tapping against the cracked window pane and the dog barking at my feet as I greeted the postman with outstretched hand, before he could slip the offensive mail through the opening.
The staccatoed conversation that had become the norm in our home began to unfold.
“It’s a local stamp.” Relief coated Mother’s voice. “What does it say?”
It was a local stamp this time. The scrawl was unfamiliar but they didn’t even seem to care.
“She’s okay. Thank goodness.” A broad smile transformed mother’s face.
Over the week that followed, monosyllabic communication progressed to full sentences.
“You’re so much happier these days.” Mother frowned and then returned to her pot.
I could say the same of you, mother.
“Finally snapped out of that depressive funk you’ve been wallowing in these last few months?”
If they only knew.
My phone pinged. The last thing I expected was the four-digit number that lit up my cell phone screen.
Thank you for the sisterly support. I’ve deposited an amount as a token of my appreciation. Peace and love.
My trophy celebrating seven distinctions still languishes in a box somewhere. Academic acknowledgement has been ousted by my other creative endeavour. Mother approved of the two framed postcards which have replaced the toothy-smiled photo on the mantelpiece. The tension at home has been replaced by an air of resignation.
I’m an advocate for peace and love, you know?
So that’s a wrap.
I wasn’t sure where this piece was going….but it trudged along and got there in the nick of time.