As Ever

I wanted to try something new, so talked to a few writers and asked them to come up with a short piece to accompany a forgotten bookmark. The first in this series is by A. R. Teschner:



"As Ever"

Ruth could see Harry's silhouette. He was reading the Times by the light flowing in through the lemon-yellow curtains, his silence inviting her to speak.

"What should I make for her today?" Ruth said, staring at the cupboards as if she could see through them, "It should be something better than the usual. I have to get her guard down."

"You're not going to bring this up now, are you? Do you realize how long ago she sent it?"

The postcard lay on the kitchen counter, its postmark burning her like a brand. The contradictions were all there in Hazel's handwriting, plain enough to Ruth when she had discovered it lying at the bottom of one of her boxes.

"She lied to us, Harry. What's the point in having friends if they can't be straight with you?"

As Hazel's car pulled up, Ruth straightened her house dress as if it were her uniform, then tucked the postcard into her sash. She pushed a smile through despite her heartbeat feeling sickly and slow.

Hazel still wore her office clothes; she covered her lap in napkins to ward off potential spills from the shepherd's pie.

"How was work?" Ruth asked, starting the decompression ritual, nodding and asking sympathetic questions. When they'd moved on to the strawberries and cream, she pulled out the postcard.

"Remember this?"

"Oh!" Hazel forgot to wipe her hands as she took it, "Quiz Kids! You still have it!"

"Where was it you said you saw the show?"

"Chicago, I think. You hear they're bringing it back? On television I mean."

Ruth turned the card over, "Says you were in New York City, here. Remember on Wednesday you rushed out because you said you'd won tickets? And here, it shows you sent it from Wisconsin. On a Saturday."

"You remember which DAY?"

"Looked it up in one of my calendars."

Hazel glared at all the unopened boxes still stacked up in the living room. "Christ, Ruth. Why does everything need to be an argument? Why does it matter?"

"You lied. You always presented a nice face but you never really had time for us."

"You two were the only people I bothered writing to on that trip! We only knew about Quiz Kids because you two were such big fans. You remember how Harry used to go on about how nice it'd be to have a kid that smart? I hated how those poor kids were pressured, but we listened every week just to have something we could talk about."

Ruth tried to imagine Harry rustling his newspaper in the kitchen, but couldn't. She looked down at her faded dress, her arthritic hands knotted like oaks.

"I thought we had forever, Ruth. All of us. When I wrote 'here we are' it was like I was saying WE were those little kids. I didn't think the draft lottery applied to us-- You know, you've been a big help, pitching in. We get along OK. Don't let this ruin it."

Ruth closed her eyes for a long moment, "Keep it. As a reminder of Burt." She imagined Harry's approval, and felt the sick feeling flow away. The card was a reminder to Hazel, though, of all the boxes her roommate had brought with her, many of which Ruth would never manage to sort through.


-Click to enlarge photos-

6 comments:

MrCachet said...

I'd really like digging through the boxes! Who knows? The kept everything. I might even find anoother piece of paper like the Baby Ruth billhead!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

i like the writings for the forgotten marks, a nice touch.... I am now (still) sorting through many boxes of things, and tossing stuff I no longer recall from my teen years and stuff from my Mom or aunt, who are both dead but left unlabeled photos, etc, it's not such fun rummaging! Almost wish I could hire someone to do that for me! I love your posts & follow on Facebook too.

Kristin said...

i love digging through boxes, especially old photos, labeled or not. i like the story. nice touch. reminds me of the story round i used to do.

Artephius said...

I like the concept. And the writing wasn't half bad either.

The Artful Toddger said...

I liked this a lot. It feels like a new art form; the writing is so tied to the found object that it doesn't exist in the same way without an image of said object. I normally find an image next to text distracting, but in this case, I liked constantly looking over at the image in order to put together the "puzzle" posed so well within the writing.

Perhaps in the future, you could find a way to wrap the text around (or superimpose over) the image somehow so that the reader doesn't need to scroll back up? Just a thought. Either way, great!

pfaffpfamily said...

A great idea, and a very good first story to begin with! I liked how the story wasn't "obvious" to the picture, and it was well written - it certainly made me want to keep reading!

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