So Many Roses. (Part Four)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Summer turns to autumn, there is still much work to do. Secrets are spilling up from the earth, the spirits are restless.

1960. These late summers' afternoons are never lazy. The grapes are ready to be collected tomorrow, the crates stacked. The wife stands at the wooden gate and a horse shoe has been tied with wire at the front of it. The house to the front is now empty, and the one on the corner. It is so quiet now, so dry. She sweeps the steps. It was slow, imperceptible at first, winding like a breeze across yellow grass, like the thunder far off across the field, the rumbling and whispering, the stories from the next village, crops stolen, the music from next door seized, folk snatched off the streets, bursts of gunshots as if out if nowhere, the school with the windows all broken and sprawled schoolbooks. Then the return to utter silence. The way it is all hidden. She locks the gate. Now you hardly dare speak in your own home. Her son runs smiling up the path. A lizard darts into a crack in the concrete. 

Her neighbour had turned up panting one day, gasping for air, leaning on the gate: the babies have been killed -his blue green eyes wide with fear, the babies have been killed, they've hung them from the trees. Then he was at the back, screaming through the mesh, fingers twisted around the wire, helpless and growling, banging his hands against the fence, red raw, throwing rocks. Her husband could not save him. He said he should have saved him, as he leant against the side of the house, under the branches of the apricot tree. As he slid down to the ground and held his hands over his eyes. But the tears seeped through his fingers.

Then walnuts fall to the ground. Gold-winged butterflies like fluttering leaves. The pear tree's rough old bark against the cheek, there are spots in the leaves. Yellow flowers shoot from tall stems, and a few late blooms of roses appear. Virginia creepers have turned from green to red. The magpies peck at purple grapes and hop across the vines, the leaves curl, the juicy green globes are succulent drops for the last drunken wasps. Apples crunch under foot. The earth is soft. Some days sunshine, others rain. The mornings are colder and the woodburner is lit. Crack, crack cracking walnut shells. Sawing wood. Crisp air mulled with woodsmoke. It is the moment that you feel safest and so at ease. That is when things change so quickly.

No-one can keep count of everyone they take away- from the village, and the next. Pulling them in off the streets, loading the trucks and driving off leaving only, silence. The husband, the wife, their son, lie still, waiting until the sun will rise and the birds will sing again. Waiting until it is over. In the cellar. 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963. They feel safe here. The wife looks so like her sister, both are strong and healthy and stout. The same dark wavy hair, square brow and shy smile. No-one will know she is still here,that is, if they do not go out at the same time. 

That first autumn. When the wood was taken. Standing in the porch, firing warning shots as possessed kittens dashed and tumbled. The gold barrel fell to the ground, the last leaf fell from the branches. Then after, empty, the trees bare , stark, some lightening struck, in the November mist. Empty, as if all the life, all the spirit had been drained away. From me. From here.

In the night, I awake to the sound of children laughing and playing. They are dancing amongst the asters.

 

 


Submitted: December 20, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Michelle Blower. All rights reserved.

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