First Frost

Frost-on-grass-red-maple-leaf-with-frost-in-dappled-sunlight

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A timid morning ray reached through the window, warmed my face, tugged my eyelids, and coaxed me to wake with the newborn day. I yawned, stretched and felt the chill air, a chill that was absent when I fell to sleep.

It was a time when nights pushed back the edges of day and cool fingers plucked warmth from the sun. The sun would submit, darkness would rule the world allowing the handmaidens of snow and ice to dance while summer slumbered.

For now, there were preparations needed ahead of darkness’ descent. I rose, dressed and flung open the door. Night’s chill reached into my lungs, stealing my breath while the sun dazzled my senses with crystalline grass and lace-edged leaves. My hand touched the shawl hanging on its peg where I had abandoned it months before. Delicate wool magically constructed stored welcome warmth, my shield, my protector. Armed, I stepped into a world transformed.

The dazzling display would fade, it was the harbinger, a gentle warning to make haste. My sisters emerged, we marveled a moment, then without a word, we spread iridescent wings, and rising like the mist, we flew.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

Hey! What Did the Blue Jay Say?

blue-jay-at-feeder

Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

I heard the cry as I opened my eyes.

“Hey. Hey.” The call was sharp and incessant.

It was Saturday, the day I didn’t set my alarm intending to wake when I woke.

“Hey, what did the blue jay say?” Brandon sat in bed flipping the screen on his iPad.

“He says ‘there is no corn in the feeder’.”

“We put food in it yesterday. How can it be empty?”

“Between the squirrels and the jays?” I stretched, rubbed my eyes and squinted at the clock.

“You got an extra hour,” Brandon said swiping his finger across the tablet.

“Is the coffee ready?”

“I heard the buzzer a few minutes ago.”

I grabbed my robe, stuffed my feet into worn slippers and headed downstairs. First order of business was coffee. The aroma greeted me as I entered the kitchen. I took my favorite cup from its peg and filled it to the brim with hot, steamy java. The cup wrapped in both hands I leaned over and took a deep breath, allowing the steam to trickle into my fuzzy brain.

“Hey. Hey.” The call came from beyond the sliding glass door.

“Yes, yes. You want breakfast too.” I took a quick sip before reaching into the full container of corn cobs. We had gathered them from the field after the harvesters finished. My coffee cup in one hand and two big cobs precariously balanced in my arms, I opened the sliding door and stepped onto the deck. A jay sat at the feeder and tipped his head at me.

“Hey. Hey,” he called before he flew away. Another jay perched in the Norwegian Pine twenty feet away.

“Hey. Hey.”

I dumped the cobs on the platform feeder at the deck’s edge and took a seat at the table. A jay swooped in, landing first on the deck rail then hopping to the feeder. The sun was warm, but the air promised snow. I knew it was one of the last mornings I would share breakfast with the jays.

A squirrel chattered in the distance, wanting his share of corn. The jays and the squirrels agreed. It would be a cold winter.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

Sunset City

 

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I press my hand on the glass. It stretches, floor to ceiling forming an invisible barrier between me and the city I love. The day is ending the sun is setting, painting a glorious color display in the sky while the city lights twinkle a light show of their own. I lean forward, my forehead touches glass and I close my eyes imprinting the image in my memory.

Tomorrow a plane will take me far away, and I will leave my city behind. New adventures, new friends, a new beginning for my life. But my heart will remain in the city I love.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

La Toussaint

Photo credit: cloud2013 on Visual hunt / CC BY

Mama spent the week in preparation. Each night after school we wove plastic Chrysanthemums with the greenery collected from the property into Couronnes de Toussaints.

On Thursday, we packed the couronnes and candles into the car for our pilgrimage. The candles filled the confines of the car with a heady aroma of incense that made my eyes water like Mama’s.

“Today is a holy day of obligation,” Mama said as we drove into the church parking lot.

Mass droned in my ears and I dreamed of the happy days we spent with Daddy. After mass, we walked to the cemetery. Daddy’s grave was first. We removed the old couronne, replacing it with the newly made one. We lit the candles, leaving them to burn in the darkness. Mama pressed her hand to the cold stone and closed her eyes. She was silent for a long time.

We visited other family members who preceded us in death, replacing couronnes and lighting candles at each grave. Mama said we should ask those at a state of grace, to guide us on our journey. I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I prayed, asking them to help Mama.

“Now, we must visit Aunt Odilia and Uncle Bertrand,” Mama said leading us among the graves.

“Mama?” I said tugging on her sleeve, concerned for our mistake. “There’s just one.” I pointed at the one remaining couronne I carried.

Mama gave my shoulder a squeeze.

“Why, child that’s fine. They’re buried in the same grave.”

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Jo Hawk The Writer

The Last Train

I stand on the platform ending my time in Dublin. It hadn’t happened in a flash or on a whim, rather it crawled on hands and knees, innocent and unassuming. A thought, whisper soft but stronger than Hector’s winds, blew our lives apart leaving you devastated.  Hector showed me the crossroads my heart told me I would find. My eyes opened, I saw how the path changed me.  I could not return to the place we met. Hector set me free.

You felt the change and the void in the storm’s aftermath. I recognized the pain you tried to hide. It burned, a fire deep inside that consumed the tender memories of you and me. The storm will pass, and years will turn raging flames to smoldering embers then cold gray ash. Then you will remember your sweet baby and the promise she kept.

The deserted streets mark the time, time for one last drink, the final goodbye. My heart tells me I am never coming home to Dublin. The train whistle sings a long lonely note signaling the beginning and the end. The last train drives me forward, on the only path that can make it right.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

Psychic House

Photo credit: Nick Douglas on Visual hunt / CC BY

The speedometer read eighty-five miles per hour as my onyx black fully restored 59 Chevy El Camino swept down the narrow two-lane country road. Tonight, was black as my car and there wasn’t a streetlight for miles. I listened to 348 Tri-Power V8 pulsing under the hood, begging me to push the pedal harder. The restoration included a new 700R-4 automatic transmission and dual exhaust. I had kept the OEM parts on the dash and recovered the bench seat in black vinyl.

My 59s headlights set wide on the grill were the only lights that kept my baby right of center. My destination was a good ten miles from town, ten lonely miles. A faint blue light hovered on the horizon, I glanced at my odometer and guessed I was fast approaching the end of the line.

I eased off the gas and felt the engine throttle back before the TAC dropped. El-Cam coasted the last mile and onto the gravel driveway. I tapped the breaks, and she came to a full stop in front of the house.  A floodlight lit the end of the house and red, three-foot-tall letters that spelled the word “Psychic”.

I slid her into Park, shut her down and stepped out. This place wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but I didn’t have a choice. I pulled my cell from my pocket, the time read five after ten and the sign on the door said they closed at ten. I had come this far, so I knocked.

“Come on in, Sugar. They said you’d be late.”

The voice started me, but I opened the door, releasing the smell of burning incense.

“Don’t be shy,” she said.

I stepped in greeted by the stereotypical décor items you see in the movies. Crystals, books, and labeled jars crammed the shelves lining the walls. An antique chandelier hung from a ceiling painted with constellations. Heavy purple damask drapes with gold bullion tassel fringe hung at the windows. Strung across the top were plastic pumpkin patio lights.

A circular table covered with the drapery fabric stood in the center of the room surrounded by four purple velvet upholstered chairs.  A young black woman dressed in jeans, a tee shirt, and flip-flops sat in one chair. She didn’t match her surroundings, but she motioned for me to sit in the chair opposite her. As I took my seat, she cocked her head and stared at my blouse. I realized I hadn’t removed the diner’s name badge when I left work.

“What can I do for you, Ellen?” she asked.

“I thought you were psychic?”

“And so I am.”

“Then why did you have to read my name tag?”

“The spirits say, ‘someone is coming’. No names.”

“Did the ‘spirits’ tell you why I am here?”

“Sugar, you have questions. Everyone who comes has questions.”

This was ridiculous, a waste of time, and I stood ready to leave.

“Now, now darling. I see you need proof to believe.” She leaned back and held her hands, fingers spread wide, in front of her face. Her eyes rolled and when she spoke her voice was different.

“You have a baby. She is everything to you. El-Cam,” her hands dropped to her lap and her chin sank to her chest. For a moment, she appeared to be asleep, but her eyes fluttered, and she looked at me.

“Do the spirits lie?”

I sat in the chair, my eyes never leaving her face.

“That’s better Sugar. They say you need me. You wait,” she said. She stood, disappearing through the swinging beads hanging in the rear doorway. In a few minutes, she returned with two large roller bags, a backpack, and a second large purse slung over her shoulder.

“You’re taking a trip?”

“Yes, Sugar and you must too. You will help me with these bags.”  It was not a question, and she shoved one of the roller bags toward me. “I packed enough for you, but we must be going.”

Without thinking, I caught the roller bag and stared at her.

“Going? Going where? I don’t even know your name.”

“Lulu,” she said tossing the backpack at me. “Ellen we must be far away if you want to live.”

She knew. Somehow, she knew. The voice in my head told me to trust her. I adjusted the backpack on my arm, grabbed the roller bag and followed Lulu out the front door. I lifted the two bags onto the mahogany boards of El-Cam’s bed and secured them under the cargo net before hopping in the driver’s seat. Lulu was in the passenger seat.

“This is your baby? An El Camino?”

I nodded and started the car.

“This baby better fly. Now.”

I nodded again, leaving the headlights off and gravel flying as El-Cam disappeared into the night.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Release

Photo on Visual hunt

Her head rang from jangles and sirens and the neighbor’s too loud tv. She couldn’t think, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t write. A nap, maybe all she needed was a nap. But that didn’t work either. She grabbed her keys and drove to the lake.  The din fell away as she walked the water’s edge and the wind tugged the tangles from her mind. Gulls squabbled, turning somersaults in the air before plunging into the waves to snag a silver treasure. Waves lapped at her feet, erased her footprints, denied her existence. With a deep breath, she smelled the sand, water, dead fish and life. Her heart cracked open expelling a tension she hadn’t recognized she held. Without thinking, she sank to her knees and wrote.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Truffles

Photo credit: Trish Hamme on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

I first saw her in the spring. Chance morning meetings turned into regular occurrences. She was cute, and I looked forward to seeing her, but I forgot her before I got to work. Her business did not concern me. One morning I realized she was hungry. It took several days before I got my act together and remembered to open a can of tuna on my way out the door. The days passed, and she greeted me as I left for work, winding around my legs, expecting me to stroke her head or perhaps waiting for me to feed her.

One rainy night, I pulled into the driveway, my headlights capturing glowing eyes on my doorstep. That night everything changed. She was soaking wet and looked pathetic. Her blues eyes looked at me, she opened her mouth and mewed. She had never spoken. My heart melted and when I opened the front door she dashed inside.

Her body was a dark cream but her face, tail and the tips of her ears were a warm chocolate brown. Her marking reminded me of a chocolate truffle and that became her name. She wakes me every morning and rushes to the door to welcome me home each night. Every evening she climbs into my lap.  I pet her while she purrs and then falls asleep. I can’t remember my life without Truffles.

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Jo Hawk The Writer

The Drive

Photo credit: Phil Denton on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

No sane person is out today. So here I am practicing my insanity. Why was it always me? Oh, I listened to their half-baked pseudo-logical arguments, concocted to serve the one telling the story. There is no point in arguing. I tried that before. The weather forecast calls for hazardous driving conditions, freezing rain, ice, and snow. The trip begins with all of it, including white-out conditions. I follow the taillights of the semi in front of me, trusting the driver will keep it between the ditches.

The truth revolves around money and betrayal. I risked everything, swallowed my fear and betrayed my family by leaving. Making my way alone had not been easy, but eventually, things fell my way. I traveled the world, negotiated deals, and they paid me well. The workday never ended, and priorities were squeezed but it was worth it.

The weather cleared as I drove past farmhouses and pastures. Lights in the houses painted an impression of cheery fires and happy families. As I drove, I wondered what it was like to never venture over fifty miles from the place you were born. The miles slipped away, and I felt my life slipping, fading into my rear-view mirror.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer