The Sound of Water Only

by Amelie Andrezel (in response to "The Prompt Game" Round 3)

There it is again, the familiar gurgle of the radiator behind me.  In the darkness of the room it is always behind me, the memory of the whisper of the thrush, longing to drip and flow.  Longing to tumble; longing to sing.

I stand from my chair where my papers are piled and I walk to the window.  The hunched outline of the city looms on the horizon, squalid and grey, the cold October rain lending it the substance of a vision.  In the sooty violet of the shifting fog, I see it for what it is:  the maddened imaginings of just so many lotus-eaters—gaunt and raving, twisted by the gaslight—the memories of specters and nothing more.  Behind me, in the darkness, she stirs beside the fire.

Or rather, the fire stirs, and in it her reflection.  

Her complexion is like that: the pale throat of flame tipped in red, shooting and sparking.  Rosy, but never flushed; warm, but never hotter than could be left to safely burn.  She gathers the thread ends of the white shawl around her shoulders and stares out with the same hollow eyes that gaze down from the portraits on the wall.

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The Prompt Game: Round 3

This week, we are going to play the prompt game: classic lit edition.  The following dialogue is from T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Wasteland”.  The rules of the prompt game go like this: write a short story using the dialogue!  Then, post it to your blog tagged #andrezel and I will reblog it here!  Or you can submit it to my Ask Box.  Whatever works for you.  This edition of the prompt game ends Sunday, Oct. 7 at 11 pm CDT, when I will post my short story.  Happy writing!

Character 1: My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

Character 2:

Character 1: Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.

Character 2:

Character 1: What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

Character 2:

Character 1: I never know what you are thinking. Think.

Character 2: I think we are in rats’ alley, where the dead men lost their bones.

Character 1: What is that noise?

Character 2: The wind under the door.

Character 1: What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?

Character 2: Nothing again nothing.

Character 1: Do you know nothing?  Do you see nothing?  Do you remember nothing?

Character 2: I remember: those are pearls that were his eyes.

Character 1: Are you alive, or not?  Is there nothing in your head?

Character 2:

Character 1: What shall I do now?  What shall I do?  Shall I rush out as I am, and walk the street with my hair down, so.  What shall we do tomorrow?  What shall we ever do?

Character 2: The hot water at ten.  And if it rains, a closed car at four.  And we shall play a game of chess, pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Carnations

Who are we, you and I?

Am I the color of my blouse?  Are you the neat parts of your hair?  Or are we those carnations, arranged in crystal vases, standing watch over our tea? 

I’ve been stranded in centerpieces.  I have been the florid air, breaking hot breaths and furtive glances cast by coyest lovers’ eyes.  

I’ve been looked through and around.

I’ve blushed as red as the dawn and grown in thickets to the east.  I’ve played marbles on the drive.  You played with me too, in long grass beneath the clothes line, the wind through the raspberries and crab apples on the lawn and the summer curled under our collars.  You lost your watch behind the fence; we looked for it in the honeysuckle and the mothers cried—Come home!  We rode our bicycles in the dark and drank music from beer bottles by the river at sunset.  We bathed naked in the icy water and you said my skin was pink but only above the ankles.

We are pink on the inside but are lips are so cold.

I have broken in the spring, calved a hundred glaciers to the glacial flow of words that stretch from our mouths like slush: over these cold, pink lips, down the sofa to the floor, where the muffle of the echo of the roar is lost forever in field of persian threads.

I have pierced time; I struck it violently.  I was gleeful and wild with its head upon my stick.  I beat it on the air until it sparked against your breast.  We’ve been bloody and savage; we’ve been brutal and bold.  We have laughed together in a fire of our bodies, dancing in the shadows of the papers and the books that we fed to keep it warm.  

We have been night music, the groans of rusted trains careening by on swaying platforms.  We have crackled in the daylight, we have bayed beneath the moon.  We were shouts, we were yelps.   We were bright, howling sobs.  We were loud. 

But this is how it ends: in silence.

We are carnations.  We stand at attention and we strike a pretty pose.  One morning we discover that our hearts will draw no blood from the blue and shaded places that we hide down in our lungs.  

Someday soon, hands will clear away the table.  They will gather all the cups.  They will fold away the napkins and set the china on the shelf.  The cupboards will be full and we will be empty.  Hands will swoop down to rearrange us.  We will crumble into dust. We will dissolve where we stand: our cheeks will be blood red but our bodies frail and dry.  We will die standing up; the world will take no notice. 

We are carnations, you and I.

-Amelie Andrezel

Performances

redcanbewarm:

You sit in a room.  There are blue lights on the piano and a bucket for tips and a waitress with long socks and a low cut shirt and an assurance there is no cover but it would be nice if you’d fucking well buy a drink.

You stare straight ahead toward the front of the room to the empty bench and the waiting piano.

There are four walls here and a floor but it isn’t a room.  It’s a mark of punctuation.  In it, for the space of an hour, twenty lives will overlap.  We are headed in different directions but we have paused here, under the scrutiny of cheap blue lights, to inhale cigarette smoke and savor the distinct aroma of unsampled potential.  Downstairs there is another room, pulsing to another beat.  There are other walls there and other lives.  They are stagnating, scintillating, exhaling some other hymn in the spaces between some other notes.

The band is waiting in the cold of its battered green bus.  The players will shuffle in, sweat on the stage, and play in the crowd.  They will leave their ardor hanging in the rafters and when they are used up and the lights go down, they will drink with us at the bar.  We will shake their hands and we will thank them—as though it has been a dinner party and they have played the gracious hosts.  This is how it will be, soon.

For now, they are on the bus.  You are in the basement; the opening act makes music overhead.  Soon we will overlap: indulging in our performances, getting lost between the lines.  Soon.  

For now, it is a world of walls.

-Amelie Andrezel

Hungry

“It is nice to travel,” he said.  “I like to be reminded that even the Border can be idyllic and stable.”

“If Mademoiselle Strauss had her way,” Ferdinand observed, “There’d be no such thing as stability.”

“At least not the kind,” Jordan agreed, “That must be kept alive on a steady diet of civil liberties.”

-Amelie Andrezel, “Mementos of the Fall”

Eyes

Seeing his nephew standing defiantly in the doorway, the honorable Chancellor Gerald Cooper rose from his seat and crossed the room to embrace him.

In his youth, Gerald had been a handsome man, slender and elegant with a romantic profile.  Though his hair had long since gone grey, it retained the debonair wave above his temple which had been something of a trademark in the early days.  The eyes, too, were limpid as always, brooding and troubled as Ferdinand remembered.  There was a light in those pools, an intermittent flicker in the deep blue sadness.  To catch a single flash, like the orange streak of a koi in a bed of tangled reeds, was to restore one’s belief in the potential of man.

-Amelie Andrezel, “Mementos of the Fall”

Pressing Lidless Eyes…

He continued on walking until he knew he was no longer afraid.  There was a cat curled up in the yellow purring of the sun and he let himself be lulled by the gentle movement of its tail.

He turned his face upward, to the open windows and the closed people pacing inside.  He looked through the shuttered people, at the gaping windows, and he knew: here was the sum and the total of the world.  Ten hundred thousand figures home for tea, ten hundred thousand hats on ten hundred thousand hooks.  There were shoes at the door and sugar spoons on the napkins and saucers on the buffets.  There were soft sighs on gramophones and dry kisses on cheeks and the fluttering motions of wrists at buttons.  There were bracelets on the mantle and cuff-links on the dressers, but there was no fear.  It was the simplest thing in the world: the children home for tea time and a knocking at the door.

Who was it there, on the other side? Ferdinand wondered.

When the sheets were turned down and the kettles had been lifted, screaming, from the coils; when the books were set in order and the dishes stacked in rows, who, then, could come calling with a rapping on the door?

-Amelie Andrezel, “Mementos of the Fall”

Success

"Why are you here?" Diana asked, her pale arms against his shoulders, long fingers twisted together behind his back.

Peter looked down and watched the cars crawl like ants past her bare toes, curled around the precipice.

"Because I wake up in the morning and think of one hundred things I could do to ensure my failure," he said candidly, "But none to secure my success."

-Amelie Andrezel, “The Pact”

In the archive at the homestead, there was a drawer of maps.

Some were like panes of a stained-glass window, or the colorful flash of a bird of paradise, searching for a mate.  They marked, in vivid boundaries, those transitions invisible to our eyes—minerals and cryptomaria, maturity and isostacy.  They were the legacy of a generation of absentee explorers, remote mariners who carved up a country without setting foot on its shores.  Their loyalties were stamped in official letters above the legends; their names lived on in the places they’d most deeply sunk their flags.  

The label on the drawer read “Maps.”  But I had always known: it was a drawer of ghosts.

-Amelie Andrezel, “The Rock of Saint Michael”