Archive for the ‘Tales’ Category

Morning dawned cold and grey.  A light rain had been falling for some time, slowly drenching the ground.  Aoife peeked out through the curtains and sighed, ‘Guess I’m not doing the laundry today after all.”  She moved out of the bedroom and down the hall to her study.  Walking onto the room, she headed straight to the specially made cabinet and opened one of the drawers.  The drawer was shallow and only contained one item of major importance to Aoife.  She carefully reached in, took hold of the tray within and gingerly removed it.  She turned toward the large desk and placed it down on the surface.  She didn’t move, didn’t even sit down on the chair.  Instead she just stared at the puzzle, her mind a jumble of thoughts.   Without realizing it, she slumped down on the chair and placed her chin in her hands.  What was she hoping to see this time?  She had no idea, but she felt compelled to study the puzzle again.

The puzzle had been completed many years ago, long before she was born.  Someone had cared so much for it they had glued it together and framed it at some point.  Time hadn’t been too kind to the puzzle for the once vibrant scene was now faded, probably from hanging directly with the path of the sunlight.  When Aoife discovered it in the attic of her parents’ house the frame was dusty and falling apart.  The glass was grimy and cracked.  It had appeared to be abandoned since it was buried behind some large boxes.  Forgotten.  Neglected.  However, she sensed that it meant something since no one ever threw it out.  Instantly falling in love with it, she extricated it from the darkened space and took it to her home.   Once home, she had set to lovingly care for it.  Aoife had carefully dusted and cleaned the frame, although she had no intention of keeping the puzzle inside.  It was merely a way of preventing the debris from attaching to the puzzle when she did remove it from the frame.  She had then removed the matting which held the puzzle and inspected it closer.  Although most of the puzzle had still adhered to the board, there were a few areas where she spotted flakes of dried glue and noted several loose pieces.  Picking up a large, new and unused paintbrush, she gently brushed away the flakes.  While she could have applied more glue to it, something or someone chided her and urged her to let it be.  She had located a special display tray like the ones often used to cradle delicate artifacts and placed the puzzle, matte and all onto it.  She then turned to her art cabinet with its oblong, shallow drawers and placed the puzzle inside.  And there it sat for the last 15 years, only coming into the light when Aoife had felt the need, desire or inclination to gaze at it. 

Over the years, she gently cleaned it by brushing off any dust and debris which would accumulate between her visits.  Each time, she noticed more and more of the glue would flake away and she would feel sadness.  She felt as if a part of her history was falling apart.  All she could do was sigh dejectedly and tenderly care for the puzzle like she always did.

Gazing at the puzzle, she followed the flow of the faded scene as best as she could.  Even taking her finger and lightly tracing the images underneath.  She smiled wanly and mused about its origins.  Still running her finger lightly over it, she came to the bottom right corner and noticed that the last of the glue had become brittle and flaky.  She picked up her brush and swept the remains away.  That was it.  ‘The glue has finally come undone,’ she sighed heavily.  There is nothing holding the puzzle together anymore.  As she returned the treasured puzzle to its drawer, tears slowly ran down her face.

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Down a sleepy, narrow, tree-filled lane lies the little hamlet of Heydon.  Apart from the lane, there is no other way in or out of this quaint place.  Legend has it that Heydon is the one place that hasn’t progressed into the 21st century, let alone the latter half of the 20th.  Within its boundaries, there isn’t much to catch one’s notice: a miniscule convenience store, a coffee-house/bakery,  the public house,  a handful of terraced homes , and the impressive grey stone gothic styled church with its yard dotted with the headstones belonging to those members of the community who have long passed away.  And in the centre of it all lays the town square.  That is all there is in this little hamlet. Yet people seem to flock here, that is once they find the lane.  These visitors are like those on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, each seeking something, but unaware of what.  It is here in this place which time seems to stand still; where a seemingly interesting tale weaves into existence.    A tale seemingly involving the public house and the mysterious secrets it holds.

A miasma of cobwebs enveloped the room, along with layers of dust and decaying bits of paper.  To look at this room, one would observe it isn’t grand in size or nature.  There are no overly remarkable features belaying its principal purpose.  It’s just a room like any other.  The walls appear grey, the peeling wallpaper having faded over time.  It’s hard to tell what colour the paper should be; ivory, blue or some other shade to compliment the furnishings.  To the left of the entrance, sits a massive English Oak bookcase, filled with all manner of books, journals and periodicals of its day.  The occasional bit of news rag can be gleaned from between the occupants of the shelves.  At the very top sits a huge glass bowl which is overflowing with every conceivable oddity; rare feathers, rocks, a mummified mouse, a worn bridle and bit, etc.  On the wall opposite the door is an unimposing fireplace; its tiled face totally obscured from view by a thick black covering of soot.  The mantle appears to be made of the same grey stone as the church across the way.  It isn’t ornately carved, just simply fashioned to be the focal point of the room, jutting out approximately 18 inches from the wall.  Atop the stone rests the mantle clock which stopped counting time many years ago.  It’s ormolu face barely recognizable beneath the filth, as if it were a young boy out tramping through the mud who reappears home in need of a severe wash.  The other objects on the mantle seem to cower in the presence of the clock, yet the half-dozen, once colourful bottles stand at attention almost defying the importance of it.  And above it all rests a formerly opulent mirror in an intricately carved and gilded frame; the only extravagance in the room.  The mirror appears dejected now and out-of-place.  The layers of grime have warped its view and a crack has developed over time in the upper left hand corner, working its way down the width.  The mirror seems to project a sad perspective of this room.    In the centre of the room sits a writing desk which still proudly displays a clear glass oil lamp, an inkwell long since dried up and the remains of a quill pen.  It’s only drawer, with its unremarkable iron fitted lock, sits slightly askew giving the impression that the owner hurriedly shut it on his/her last visit to the room.  The coordinating chair is manoeuvred at the correct angle to allow a lady with full skirts to deftly slip between and sit at the desk.  Underneath the simple, utilitarian set lies a once stately red wool rug covered with dust and debris.

Outside, the intensely bright morning sun struggles its way through the filth encrusted window, giving the illusion of only the weakest sunlight existing beyond the room.  And within that beam of light, dust motes seem to dance or bounce off one another; giving the room a magical feel.  And magic it is.  No one within the establishment knows this room exists.  The inhabitants of the building have never found a door leading to this wondrous venue.  They have gone about their daily lives constantly traversing not more than two feet from the entrance, yet never knowing of its existence.  Very strange.  They all spotted the window outside, yet have never ventured to discover its source.  So curious.  It’s probably because the window too is of no special consequence.  A perfectly square, wooden-framed portal with typical Georgian glazing set into the whitewashed wall.  From the outside, one could see nothing more than a bunch of wild roses which sprung up on the inside of the glass.  There are no window coverings to be seen, although that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.  The years of neglect and filth did their job in making the window anything but ordinary.  The previous owner of the property did attempt once to peer through this portal.  He took the ladder from the shed, propped it up against the side of the building, and carefully picked his way up to the window on the second floor.  The sun was shining so he figured it would make the task easy.  He couldn’t have been more wrong.  No matter which way he cupped his hands or turned his head, he couldn’t make out anything beyond the panes of glass other than the single pink bloom of a wild rose.  “How was this possible,” he thought.  This rose was thriving from within although no one knew of its existence except from the outside.  Very puzzling indeed.  Eventually though, even that owner stopped looking for the room.  It became known in Heydon as the room time forgot and in truth that is what it really was.  No human had set foot in the room in over 100 years.  If ever found, it would be a treasure trove of what life was like, for the room was left on that fateful day when she walked out and locked the door forever.  Sealing its fate and keeping the magic it contained within it for all eternity.   Or so she thought when she cast the enchantment upon the room.

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      She lazily rolled over to her back and started rubbing her eyes.  Although the curtains were still drawn, she knew by the light filtering through the sides it was morning, albeit a grey, cold morning.  What a way to start a Monday morning!  She pulled the duvet higher, almost under her chin, trying to stay warm.  The bedside clock with its bright red number display read 8:30 a.m.  Her partner had vacated his side of the bed several hours before, leaving it available for her to stretch out over the entire bed.  As she lay there, her mind started ticking over, making numerous lists which rarely were completed.  What was she going to do today?  It was the same question she’d been asking herself every day for the last year. 

     She let her mind wandered to what life was like then.  She’d had a great job working in the financial services industry.  She’d worked her way up to her current position through sheer determination.  Granted, she was no dumb cookie.  Educated, talented and ambitious gave her every right to earn the six figure salary she had received.  Sure, it was stressful most of the time, but it wasn’t anything she wasn’t accustomed.  It was a job filled with deadlines and she knew how to meet them head on.  She’d been with the firm for over 10 years, yet now she had nothing.  It was gone in the blink of an eye.  Riding high one day only to find she’d been thrown to the curb the next.  She felt so low, lost and afraid.  What was she to do?  She was one of those women whose career defined them. 

     At first, she had loads of confidence in her ability to join the gainfully employed again.  However, with each rejection, her self-esteem started to waver, and as each day rolled into the next, she started doubting herself even more.  What a vicious cycle everything turned out to be?  Was there no end?  Hadn’t she hit the bottom yet and when would her life start turning around?  Her partner kept assuring her she was highly talented and everyone was foolish if they didn’t hire her on the spot.  She smiled at his enthusiasm, secretly worrying that he might be wrong.  And here she was one year later, still unemployed with little to no prospects on the horizon.  What now? 

     She’d settled her mind back to her original question…what was she going to do today?  There was only so much dusting and shopping a person could do.  She’d learned quickly to stagger chores or errands to ward off boredom, but even that never seemed to satisfy her.   As she willed herself to crawl out of bed, the phone rang.  She darted across the room and answered it. 

     “Hello?” she queried.

     “Good Morning.  This is Mary from the HR department at Burroughs & Keefe.  I’m calling for Ms. Smyth.” the voice on the other end informed.

     “This is she.” she replied, her heart beginning to beat fast.

     “Congratulations. You have the job.”

     She couldn’t believe it.  She’d only interviewed last week with this firm.  Maybe her partner was right, maybe she was that good.  “Thank you.  When do you need me to start?”

     “We do need you to start tomorrow.  I’m sorry about the short notice.  However, would it be possible for you to stop in today to fill out some paperwork?  This way you can jump right into the new position.” the caller stated.

     “That’s perfectly fine.  I could be there in an hour or so.  See you then.”  She was speechless.  They wanted her to start the following day. 

     “Wonderful.  I’m looking forward to meeting with you shortly.  I’ll leave word at reception to expect you.  Good bye.”

     The call ended and she stood there looking at the phone for a moment.  She couldn’t wrap her head around what had just happened.  It really was a reversal of fortune…again.

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            Growing up, my grandparents only lived several blocks from my house.  It was a relatively easy walk, so my mom would take us there quite often during the summer months.  My sister, Melanie and I would run all over Grandma’s yard playing with balls, hoola-hoops and jump ropes.  We would dart between the sheets which were hanging on the clothesline, billowing in the warm summer breezes.  When we would need to take a break, we would drop down on the swing with popsicles or lay at the base of one of the fruit trees in the yard.  Grandma’s yard had two cherry trees and a pear tree, all of which were at the back, close to the garage.  Mel, age 5, and I, age 6, were too small to reach up and pluck the juicy cherries from the tree.  They looked so delicious and red.  Rarely did we find any cherries on the ground.  Oftentimes, we would only find pits lying around the trees because the birds or squirrels would have gotten to them first.   Many times, Grandma would pick cherries for us.  Either Mel or I would hold the bowl while she would reach up into the low-lying branches to gather enough cherries for both of us.

            As much as we enjoyed the shade and the sweet fruit from the cherry trees, our favorite tree was the pear tree.  The way the tree had grown, it was a perfect tree to climb, even for a young child of 5 or 6.  The pears would have greenish gold skin when ripe.  Their white flesh would be slightly sweet and extremely juicy.  Biting into them, the juice would roll down our chins, making us sticky.  I would like to get up into the tree to snatch a couple of succulent pears for Mel and me, and then scamper back down before I could get scolded by Mom or Grandma.  Many times, Grandma would ask us to pick up and throw out the fallen pears from around the base of the tree.  These were pears the squirrels attempted to snatch, yet because they were too ripe would fall to the ground, forgotten.  Mel and I would pick up the pears, but instead of immediately throwing them in the trash, we would use them to draw all over the sidewalk.  We would make rainbows, suns, and stars.  We would write our names and numbers.  We would even draw out a hopscotch frame so we could play.  We would wile away the afternoon in Grandma’s yard; writing and drawing until we used up the last of the overripe pears.  Excited at what we had accomplished, we would call Mom and Grandma’s attention to our creations.  Grandma would chuckle at our creativity, while Mom would tell us what a good job we had done, yet, reminding us Grandpa would not be pleased when he would get home from work.  Oftentimes, Mel and I would still be drawing with pears when Grandpa would walk into the yard.  He would see what we had done and scold us for the mess we had made.  He would grumble as he pulled out the hose, washing the sidewalks down so the flies and the bugs wouldn’t swarm to the sweet pear juice.  After he finished cleaning the sidewalk, Grandpa would sit on the swing and motion to us to sit on his lap.  Obviously, he wasn’t really angry with us, since he would swing with us until his dinner was ready or Mom would take us home.

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