Some Free Fall Fiction
Writer’s note: I’ve said before that I’m in a weekly Free Fall writing group (Friday, 10 to noon, new writers welcome) We have a “prompt” and then we all create fast, trying not to edit as we go. Then it’s fun to read aloud.
prompt- Magic pumpkin
What Edward liked was his magic pumpkin. A gypsy had given it to him, after he had helped her across the street. And shielded her from mud splash from a passing carriage. And fought off a pair of dogs who had tried to switch from chasing the carriage to attacking the billowing skirts of the gypsy.
So now he had a magic pumpkin. But not to eat. Gentlemen don’t eat pumpkins. No, to hollow out and carve in two eyes, a nose and a mouth. And then to put in a fragrant gypsy candle. That he paid for, at a booth at the fair.
During rainy October evenings, when action seems to be dampened down, spirits drenched under rains, and falling black shadows under wet slimy black trees, then he was so happy to be inside with his pumpkin, staring into the flame, and making his plans. His dreams. His daydreams.
His hands were cold, and nobody loved him. But in the flame burned hope. He was going to do good deeds. Next season, after the ground firmed up, he would ride a horse to see the Outer Hebrides. He would. He could. Or he could move lots of rocks and gravel into that stupid muddy part of the lane, so old ladies wouldn’t get their skirts dirty. He could.
Yes, he could stare at that magic flame for a long time, feeling a kinder, better Edward. Or maybe, it truth, he was getting kinder for longer intervals, and feeling a fierce temper for shorter intervals.
One day the Indian from Bombay, not the other one, was delivering his milk and the stupid boy put the milk where it could be kicked over. And Edward, sure enough, kicked it.
(When reading aloud: “I was going to write that he threw his pumpkin in a rage and so he broke his own pumpkin”)
prompt- The witching hour
So there’s this guy. A witch? An abuser in hiding human clothing? With laces up his front?
What you do is send him a card from his secret admirer: “Meet me in the graveyard at 10 p. m.”
And so Edward received a card. And so, after applying his moustache wax just so, he strode off one night to the graveyard. Arriving on time, as befits a gentleman.
He walked through the wrought iron fence, wended his way among the headstones, and there, in the middle of the grave yard, was a ghost. Edward stopped, an appropriate distance away. Far enough to run, far enough that he didn’t have to look too closely at this apparition. Edward had never seen a ghost, but every one knew they looked like a draped bed sheet. And this one did too. With two big dark eyes. Some ghosts talk.
Edward perched across a convenient headstone and regarded the spectre.
“Hello,” he said again. Silence. “I am not afraid. Oh I say, can you talk?”
And it spoke. “Eeedwaard. Are you a good man, Edward?”
“I am a gentleman… Dash it, but we gentlemen aren’t all good.”
“Yes, I can have a temper. But not usually, I try to be good, I do good deeds, I help Miss Marpole across the street.”
“Oh, dash it, but I do lose control… And then I justify it, by trying to look down on the person. And I know it’s beneath me.”
“And then I get ashamed.”
Edward regarded the spirit.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Keeevin. I was Kevin in another life.”
“I knew a Kevin. I never talk to him now.”
Man and ghost looked at each other. The ghost spoke first.
“Youuu won’t talk to aaanyone beyond the grave.”
Edward sighed. Silence.
“That’s true,” he said at last. “I should probably talk to Kevin now. I really should.”
The ghost was silent.
“If I were a good man… I would look for the good in Kevin… And, core blimey, I would try to seem positive. As the reverend says… I would show the light of the lamb…”
Wind rustled the trees.
“I would look for the good and project the light.”
The wind rushed and the ghost spoke a lonely word, “Ohhh.”
“Ghost, is that… easy? To keep projecting, and seeing? To hold that heart in place?
“Ghost, I want to try. I dare say, on this side of the grave, I want to hold onto my good heart, and pray for Kevin, pray that he may have a good life like me, and be equal to me, equal to all of God’s children.
Edward looked down at his feet.
“I have been arrogant. That’s where the temper comes from.” His voice dropped, and he continued “Who am I to judge? Am I afraid of Kevin thinking I am not a gentlemen? Where did I make the connection between good fortune and judging? And does poor Kevin think that a person who yells in a temper is somehow entitled to judge?”
Edward lifted his eyes to where the ghost had been.
“I am mortal. Just a man.”
But the ghost was gone, and the wind rushed by unheeding of the tableau below.
Late that night, as the bell tower chimed, and one day gave way to the next in the darkness, a different man walked home, with the name of Edward, a gentleman of common humanity.
~Two of the writers that day laughed at how they were channeling each other: They both wrote about motherhood, as in simultaneously having to multi-task, trying to find pumpkins at the cheaper rates but not sold out yet, with kids too young to be trusted with knives. The “magic pumpkin,” for one mother, after getting desperate near Hallowe’en, was found in her own back yard where she thought she had only planted squash, and then calling her son to come see.
~I read once where someone who had an “abuse people” problem seemingly didn’t know what abuse was, and was told, “Anything that’s not nurturing is abusive.” Simple and true.