Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Only Slightly Premature Kick-Off to the Holiday Season

Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence!   I’ve collected this particular Flower before.  On my second blog posting, in fact.  To refresh your memories, I introduced my sister-across-the-water Tanja Cilia and shared her impeccably crafted Haiku. 

Well, I’ve got a new mission in life.  Think back with me.  How many times in the group e-mails have you seen Tanja preface remarks with “I’m an editor, not a writer but…”  But nothing.  Tanja Cilia is a writer.  Her specialty – and I’ve been privileged to read many of them in the past months since we’ve come into each other’s lives – is Flash Fiction.  The woman writes Flash Fiction worthy of the most classic episodes of The Twilight Zone.  I have never, ever, in my entire life known anyone who says so much in so little, twisting and turning her words like a knife until – she flashes in for the kill.  She’s represented here by the image of Athena that has become her trademark.  She prefers it to an actual photo, she says, for the same reason she prefers radio over television.  The imagination produces better pictures.  Maybe that’s the secret to her incredible shorts.
After much cajoling, I have prevailed upon her to allow me to re-present a trilogy of Flash Fiction that appeared in 2009 in the online Christmas Supplement of the Malta Times.  Today Flowers on the Fence – most proudly – presents  The Ghost of Christmas Past, as told by Tanja Cilia.  Stay tuned, though!  The Trilogy will continue…through the present…through the future…..
The Ghost of Christmas Past 
I open the secret drawer of the bureau I’d bought myself as a Christmas present from the auction. I’d always wanted one.  The very idea of combining the old and the new – setting up my laptop on an antique, and in my own version of retro chic, excited me.
One of the carvings going down the side of the bookshelf stood proud of the rest.  I reached out to flatten it – and a panel at the side of the bureau sprang open.
Hey!  That’s MY handwriting.  That’s MY diary!  How on earth could my diary for 2008 be here, of all places? How come it’s so dusty?
I had been a gifted child. My peers and teachers had hated me for it, and tried to break my spirit.  When I fidgeted because I was bored, they said I was arrogant.  They mispronounced my name on purpose, just to see me get het up.  When I put my hand up to answer the teacher’s questions, I was always ignored.
For the official documents of my consultancy firm, I always use black ink.  For private use, I always use “nice” ink colours like aquamarine and lilac and peach.... I know it’s frivolous, but my friends, to whom I still send snail-mail letters, really appreciate it.
But the diary is written in blue ink, throughout.  It’s weird. I never, but never, use blue ink. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I am compelled to read the entries, as if this would soothe the unease I am feeling. It’s the exact opposite of déjà-vu.  A presentiment that something ominous is about to happen.
It’s like a rumbling behind my belly-button, and the vertiginous feeling you get when you look out of a high-rise building, and the aura before a migraine strikes, and a tingling sensation behind my knees..... as if something is not quite right with my body, but I cannot quite put my finger on it. 
April 12... My daughter came home from school in a teacher’s car because she had twisted her ankle when playing volley-ball.
The name of the teacher as given here is Miss Camilleri.  But I know for a fact that Miss Camilleri  cannot drive.  It was Mrs Brincat who had brought Ruth home; she had been in my class at school - we had been best friends -  and she always gave my daughter special attention, for old times’ sake .... 
I turn to June 5, on spec.  That was the day the brakes of our car didn’t hold, and we ran into the car in front of us.  Yes... here it is, “car crash”.  Oh, no!  It says we were in the ‘new’ Getz Malibu...  When the accident happened we could not have been in any other car but our old trusty Triumph Toledo. We never had any spare cash to purchase the car we really wanted – a Toyota.
July 28.  My sister-in-law’s baby was stillborn
It was not.  In fact, the baby died of an internal hemorrhage six months after he was born. And my sister-in-law says that she has never told anyone but me about her recurring dream, in which the baby is stillborn. 
August 17.  There was the explosion at the fireworks factory across the fields from our house. Someone had bought some contraband Chinese fireworks, and they were dismantling them to see how they were assembled. Snow put out the fire from the explosion.  
Snow?  I cannot understand this. We never get snow in Malta – and if we did, it would never have been in August, when the weather, as we say colloquially, is hot enough to fry eggs on pavements. 
My head spins; I think I’d best make myself a mug of tea and lie down. But first, I have to check - although I am afraid to do so - September 3....
I remember that on the night of my birthday, I had cried myself asleep because I felt unloved and unwanted.  The husband and kids know I hate surprise birthday parties and yet they threw me one anyway.  True enough.  I made a scene and spoiled it all for them, saying that what I want is respect and not empty meaningless, expensive parties... My sister-in-law called me a spoiled brat.
That is so not true. I didn’t want to be a killjoy, and so I pretended that I was enjoying it. I can still recall the ache in my jaws from my false smiles, trying to make them believe I was enjoying it. Later, the little one asked me whether I would have preferred “just a hug and a kiss” from each one of them... and that is when the dam holding back my tears had burst.  
I hear a key turn in the lock. I call out to tell my husband I am in the sitting room, and he asks what the matter is.  He probably realizes from my voice that I am under shock, and I hear him running along the corridor. 
He is not my husband.  I can see the puzzled look in his eyes. And when I silently point down at the diary in my lap, the pages are blank…


  1. What (else) can I say? Thank you Gail - will that suffice?

  2. Wow, that's awesome, Tanja. I didn't expect that ending at all. Very twilight zone. Do do do do do do....okay I can't make the right sound.

  3. I am not in the professional writer realm by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot help but wonder as to who Tanja Cilia thinks she is fooling or attempting to deceive. My humble opinion is that one cannot be an editer without being a superb writer. Everything I have ever read authored by Ms. Cilia demands that all of us want more so please Ms. Cilia feed your followers and never convey you are not an author. You are great - Chad

  4. Absolutly amazing. Do you know how much of a hurry I'm in this morning? I HAVE to be somewhere. Just wanted to glance through and mark for "read later" but you had me captivated.

    Tanja this is fabulous! What a gift you have.

    Gail, thank you for highlighting what is a very talented writer. This is wonderful...and now I'm late!

  5. The Maltese Falconess has hit the ball out of the park. Tanja, you are SO defintely a writer of tales worthy of you claiming the title AUTHOR!

    Gail, thank you for nudging Tanja into letting her words see the light of our day.

    Well done, Ladies...and now you have me anxious for the next installment. The sign of a true talent...leave them wanting more.

  6. Oooh spooky. Lovely story Tanja and superbly written.

  7. Tanja, I am now waiting on the edge of my seat to read the rest of this!!! Very good writing and stop saying you are not a writer. That is just unfair to your writing prowess!!!

  8. That gave me goosebumps! Tanja - you are most certainly a writer. Nice job!

    Look at you Gail - you motivator....

  9. So glad you cracked the whip, Gail! I for one keenly await the next installment of this intriguing trilogy. Loved the diary and all the questions left in its wake. Nicely crafted, Tanja!

  10. Thanks, Gail, for presenting this flower on your fence. It's too bad Twilight Zone isn't still on -- Tanja could be their premiere writer.

    Tanja, this was pretty hair-raising. I wonder if I'll be able to go to sleep tonight.

  11. Oh, I'm so glad all of you stopped by! Now wait for it -- here she goes again! Christmas Present just about to go up!

  12. Gail, so glad you made Tanja share her talents.
    Great story.
    Not just an editor... you are a writer... Tanja!