March 13, 2024

During our February 28th meeting, my writers’ club decided to have a homework assignment using the following prompt:

“Write from a wall’s perspective and incorporate American Flag”

Here’s what I composed and shared during our first meeting in March:

Wall

The room is so still and quiet. I remember when it was filled with children’s voices and laughter. But that happened long ago.

Across the room there’s a cream statue with a bright red center. The elderly woman lights a candle then a stick of incense. She kneels on the floor in her daily ritual. Her mumbling words incoherent to me.

I was once whiter than that statue. I was given a bath every spring. Sometimes they painted me. Now I’m forgotten; gray, dingy, and streaked with smoke.

She picks up her cane then uses it to push herself to stand. Unsteady, she collapses into the nearby recliner. I wait until she snores and drool drips down her chin.

I call across the room. “Niche, did she say anything new?”

He hacks and coughs, trying to clear the remaining cloud of frankincense which envelops him. “Youff! Yes. She begged to be taken to heaven. Yack! Now that her younger brother is dead, she feels she has no one left in this world.”

A tiny chunk of my plaster falls as I shudder. “Wonder what will happen to us?”

The next day someone rings the doorbell, knocks at the door, then uses a key to unlock it when the white-haired woman doesn’t wake. As a woman with gray-streaked hair enters the foyer, she calls, “Aunt Mary, It’s Janie. I brought you a casserole.” When there isn’t any response, she puts her dish on the coffee table, crosses the room, and pulls up the shades. “Aunt Mary.” She gently shakes the napping woman’s shoulder. “Would you like a cup of green tea?” When Mary nods, Janie goes into the kitchen. She returns with a tray after the teapot sings and has a roll of garbage bags under her arm.

In a querulous voice, Mary asks, “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”

“I promised Dad I would come clean your house twice a week. He gave me his key.” She smiles. “Thought you might enjoy a cheesy broccoli casserole.”

“Who are you?”

Janie sighs. “Aunt Mary, I told you. I’m Janie. Eugene’s middle daughter.” She swipes a mess of sardine tins, tuna cans, and cracker crumbs from Mary’s end table into a bag. She spoons food onto a plate and sets this next to her aunt who pushes it away.  “Don’t need no mollycoddling.”

“I remember when I hated broccoli.” Janie sits on the sofa and fills a plate. “Your Jimmy double-dogged dared me to eat your cheesy broccoli soup. I tried it and liked it.” She takes a bite. “Though it’s not your soup recipe, it’s similar. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want.”

She remains quiet as she finishes her meal then picks up her dishes and goes into the kitchen. Janie returns with cleaning tools and supplies. She carefully moves the five American flags from near the niche and places the stack on the couch. “When I come this Saturday, I’ll bring some of that new Woolite product then hand wash these if that’s all right with you. I’ll also do your lace curtains.” When Mary doesn’t respond, she turns and sees her napping.

Janie talks to herself as she dusts and mops. “Tsk. Dang shame for Auntie’s house to be in such shape. Dad warned me, but I never imagined it to be this bad. I know Bill will argue with me, but he’ll come around when I mention all her men lost in the world wars. Uncle Jim and Jimmy in the first one. Then she lost Gene, Bud, and Frank when their sub got torpedoed in the second.” She sighs. “So sad Auntie didn’t have grandchildren. I’ll bring all of mine and put this place to rights. Maybe it will cheer her up.”

She finishes her work. Lighting a candle, Janie kneels. “Sacred Heart of Jesus, please hear my prayer. Aunt Mary has suffered too much grief. May her last days be filled with happiness. May she find joy in my family. Amen.”

I wait until she leaves. “Niche, do you think ‘put to rights’ means we’ll have baths and paint again?”

“Dunno for sure, but think it does.”

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