This week’s words are:
dilate :: avalanche :: stamp :: pedal :: change of address
This week, I’m doing something a little different. I’ve written five very short pieces of flash, each one built around – but not using – one prompt word, connected to one another only by time.
The boy listened, his heart hammering, as his boss examined the find. He kept his eyes low: the first thought across his mind when he’d seen the gleam in his sifting tray had been take it! Take it and run! If he showed even a glint of this… His gaze fell on his boss’s machete, and he wasn’t able to think any more.
‘Good, good,’ the boss said, suddenly. His hand, huge and iron-hard, jumped up, his arm like a striking snake; the boy flinched, but the hand fell, gently, warmly, on his shoulder. He looked up at the boss’s face, surprised. The man’s eyes were big, the pupils wide and dark like the tunnels into the mine.
With a shove, he was put back to work. The boy allowed his terror to flow away with the river as he returned to his perch. Today was not the day.
‘Wow, honey! Look at you!‘ She straightened up, straining against her fresh stitches, at the sound of his voice.
‘Hi, Leonard,’ she murmured. The flowers in his fist were already making her eyes water.
‘How’s our girl?’ he whispered, crossing to the crib. When he’d finished cooing, he added his new flowers to all his old flowers. All the cards were from him, too, she knew. Not even a phonecall from Mum.
She looked down at her hands, miles below her, stranded in the snow. Her head suddenly felt like a rock tumbling down the mountain of her body, bringing everything with it; she couldn’t breathe as she collapsed into herself. She clutched the sheets, like that could help. Cold seeped out of every pore.
Nobody knows I’m here. Nobody. How’s Mum going to find me?
‘Did you say something, hon?’ he said, looking at her with a frozen eye.
00:21 a.m., Las Vegas
She was, he realised, following him. She drifted in his wake, her perfume like a noose around his neck. She met his eye, finally, and the glint in her gaze wasn’t his imagination.
She was far from being the only slender, diamanté-clad beauty in the room, but she was the only one who wanted him.
He’d tried to speak to her once or twice, but all she’d done was grin, slowly, and lower her eyes to the gaming table. Midnight saw him desperate.
‘Come,’ she finally whispered, brushing against him as she passed. She paused, glancing over her shoulder, as they reached the exit; when she saw him following, she smiled.
In the dark alley outside, his head met the ground before he could think. The last thing he saw was a boot coming for his face, and he thought he heard a woman’s laugh as he went under.
09:21 a.m., Frankfurt
‘Come on!’ snapped Frau Schenk, her irritation boiling over. ‘Your mother doesn’t pay me all this money to have you play like a strangled cat!’
Amalie sighed, replacing her fingers on the keys. The notes floated on the page before her, breaking free from their moorings as she watched; her fingers felt like twigs, dried and brittle and inflexible. She wondered if she rubbed her hands together hard enough, if she’d be able to set herself on fire. Maybe the piano would burn, as well, and old Schenk along with it. And mama, too.
Two stanzas in, she felt Schenk’s stick across her knees.
‘Your feet! Move them!’ The woman smacked at the sheet music. ‘Can’t you read?’
Amalie tasted blood in her mouth as she stepped on sostenuto, wishing Schenk’s fingers were trapped beneath it. She crushed it to the floor, and took the whipping she knew was coming.
10:21 a.m., Jerusalem
‘Shalom, Keren! How are you today?’ The postmistress’s smile was bright, if a little too full of teeth.
‘Morning, Mrs. Levy.’ Now that it was time to ask for what she wanted, Keren’s throat was dry as a desert. She placed her hands on the counter. Her fingers trembled, and she clenched them together, tightly.
‘And how is your lovely husband?’ Mrs. Levy continued, one eye on the queue behind Keren, and the other on the clock.
‘He’s…’ Keren began. She tripped over her words, and coughed. ‘Look, Mrs. Levy, I need a form.’
‘Yes?’ replied the postmistress, already poised and ready. ‘A visa, perhaps?’
‘No. No, I’m…’ she heaved a breath. ‘I’m leaving. I’m moving away.’
‘Oh! Just you?’ asked Mrs. Levy, her hand already on the appropriate document. She stamped it and slid it through, keeping her eyes on Keren’s face.
‘Just me,’ Keren replied. ‘Just me.’