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…