Cliffhanger: Red bricks

Writing a story. Sounds easy enough. After all, it just means bringing a thick clot of a conjecture of people, places and happenings into the realm of the realistic and probable. Like when your mom asks you why you’re late coming home from school, she is almost ready to indulge into accepting an unplanned late arrival of the teacher as a good and plausible response. Yet your answer is that you saw a UFO for a fraction of a second, not realising that that fraction of a second had been warped into hours. Or that your heart melted at the sight of a starving kitty and you just had to get it some food. Or that you stumbled upon an almost rotten wooden box as you felt you had to take another way from school than the usual one. Smoking with a friend after school doesn’t matter and it’s boring too. At least when you realize how the story sounds in your mind. You don’t even wake up to this fact, as the answer to your mom’s question bursts out of your lips and mind.

She was pissed, he could already tell by the light shining shattered thorough the glass kitchen door. It was past late and his mother would never keep the light on so late, not in the kitchen, when dinner after 8 o’clock in the evening was more like an exception than a rule. And this was a time of exceptions, he assumed as his steps heavy with guilt led him closer and closer to the glass door. She would have deserved to have her light supper alongside with him, maybe at around 5 or 6 o’clock. But today this didn’t happen. Just as lunch money didn’t happen to be spent on lunch, but on comics and books, or just as his friends never happened to stop by the house for cookies, tea or a movie, but remained in the short excuses he would tell his mother when she asked.

As the shattered light turned into the full glowing artificial light of the 4-bulb luster stuck to the ceiling when he opened the door, he could also tell that tonight she wouldn’t be asking him why didn’t he invite his friends to taste the crackers she made that very afternoon. Because the crackers were nowhere to be seen, not on the table, not on the kitchen counter, not even somewhere near the cozy dark brown sofa. That sofa which used as his own personal air-jumping-into-sofa place when he was too tired to even take off his boots. But that was when he came back home from school at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, not at 10 o’clock in the evening.

“Hey, mom, I’m back! Are there any yummy crackers left? I kinda lost track of time and I’m starving too!” He was careful enough not to say where he come back from, leaving the assumption of school hanging in the air.

But the words came out tense, like not spoken by him, but written on the keyboard of a computer which didn’t even belong to him. He found himself stretching his face into a smiley, but as artificial as that computer or keyboard, none of which even belonged to him. Behind that smile his breath was spiraling down, anxious and waiting for the question which he knew would come.

“Yummy crackers? I think my grandma’s recipe only mentioned crackers” His mother was knitting, smiling knowingly. And, surprisingly enough for him, not pissed at all. Or at least not appearing to be. He even dared hoping that she, too, had lost track of time. Knitting, however, not wandering home late.

“So you made some? I know it’s already late for dinner, sorry for missing it by the way. I can imagine the broccoli was mouth-watering”.  He was speaking the words truthfully, taking care not to let his mouth talk without him, betray him in any way. He was sorry for missing the dinner and he did love broccoli.

“Well, no disappointment there. We didn’t have broccoli this evening, there was a small… change… of plans”. The hesitation in her words was thick as the blue sweater she was knitting. “Where were you so late anyway?”

He frowned as he realized how quickly she asked the question. A little bit too quickly.

But her next question is tricky. She wants to know what was in the box, or what food you got to the kitty. And now you have to justify that improbable conjecture of people, places and happenings as all the books you read start bubbling in your head. Word after word, sentence after sentence. Each of them is a cliff and on each of them you’re hanging, at least until you come up with the next one. And the red bricks have to fit along each other, as smooth and silky as deep water running along a thousands-year old valley. It seems and it has to seem it’s always been like that, since the beginning of time, but you are smart and you know that time has no beginning, even if the river and the valley must have had one. And your rough red bricks of words, people and sentences have to be put together just like that, just like that river and that valley, seemingly with no beginning, as they have always been put together like that. You are smart enough to know this, but will you be smart enough to accomplish it? No rules, no patterns. Just building bricks. And flowing, silky water to bind them.

“Meeting with the guidance counselor, you forgot? I have an appointment with her every other Thursday” He was betting really high on this answer, throwing in a reluctant smile and some well-placed unspoken anger at her short memory. “Change of plans? What do you mean?”

His question was of course asked too directly. He knew that his mother liked to play with words, suspend the answers and turn a plain blue sweater into a thing of beauty. No wonder she was a writer. An artist of sorts, master of the written word and high lady of the hoards of female readers who hungered for her romance novels. He knew however that those romantic happy-ending stories were the facade of the life she couldn’t have. As he looked at his mother sitting there, with the blue handwork in her lap, he suddenly realized she was aging. The strong artificial light revealed wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and small blue veins on the back of her hands, but veins which yesterday seemed even smaller. And in that moment the broccoli and the stupid guidance counselor had no meaning anymore. He just wanted to do the air-jumping-into-sofa without taking off his boots. And to tell her the truth. He couldn’t bear avoiding it anymore.

“But after the meeting I didn’t come straight home” he continued in a strained voice. “I went to see my dad”.

“I just meant that we had carrots instead of broccoli, not a big deal”

He didn’t know what unsettled him more. The fact that she pretended not to hear that he just said he went to visit his father or the fact that she just said that they had carrots instead of broccoli. The second time this evening. “We” was no longer a word she used since his father died. And they only had carrots for dinner for the last time months ago, when his light-hearted laughter could be heard even from outside the house.

Coming up next:
Part 3: Everything is real
Part 4: Some things are better left alone

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Filed under Concepte, English

5 responses to “Cliffhanger: Red bricks

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