The Iron Writer Challenge #112
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Challenge #111 Champion
A love cactus
A carrier pigeon
I have no lifespan.
I stand in solitude, surrounded by an endless stretch of barren desert. The dust and dirt encloses around me, dancing and folding like old paper turning.
I was once beautiful.
A small succulent stuffed in a red-clay pot, heavily decorated with strings of felt hearts that hung from my sharp spines. The love-sick girl added rhinestones around my pot and I was given to her ex-boyfriend, and abandoned, just like her.
He kept me outside a windowsill where I could see the buildings that rose high until I could no longer see them in the dense smog. They reminded me of the pyramids I had lived among centuries ago, except these buildings did not glimmer and they had a flat top that did not come to a point to reach the sun like the pyramids did.
The smog made my skin crack and my needles dull. I could feel the water that flowed through my insides dry up. The smog was a sponge and I was the dishwater.
The ex-boyfriend of the love-sick girl did not love her and I wasn’t accepted as a gift. It made me miss the girl and suddenly, I was love-sick for her delicate hands and the way she circled my pot with lavender bath salts and adorned me with her silly paper things.
The day I was taken to the desert by a carrier pigeon was the day the last paper stringed heart on my spines fell. It fell with last thought of ever being cherished again.
He swooped down from the muddy sky and landed next to me, his beady eyes examining me with curiosity as if I could either be his meal or his lost baby.
I had no time to think. He picked me where my fuchsia colored flower sat. The one that marked me as beautiful and now was starting to curl and wilt. I soared above the flat-topped buildings with the carrier pigeon, above the smog and above the cruel boy that abandoned me. I felt near the pyramids once again, where the sun ascended high and the sky was enveloped in gold.
We travelled for miles, the wind made me feel alive again. And just like that, the pigeon swopped down above a stretch of sand and dropped me in the desert.
He stayed with me until nightfall. The chill of the night desert bit my needles and the heat in the afternoon made the water in my insides flourish. The pigeon cocked his head from side to side and looked at me with his beady, crossed eyes. He had taken me away from the cruel boy and into the desert where I could see the open sky and the rise and fall of the sun every morning and evening.
He must have been alone also, love-sick for someone who had long ago cherished him.
He left at nightfall, but even now, as the sun begins to set, I wait for the pigeon to come visit once again so we can sit in silence and watch it rise.
I sat alone in my home office. My house has not been the same since Kelsey walked out on me four days ago. I asked why she was leaving, what did I do wrong. At first she said she was tired of being poor, despite my six figure income. Eventually, it just came down to her yelling “Because I’m in love with your brother.”
That fact left me in tears. I didn’t leave my room for the first day, with the exception of restroom trips. I even tried a bath salt bath at the urging of my new age friend. Over the second day I tried to work on my different hobbies to see if the pain could be buried. Video games, music, art and an unhealthy amount of alcohol. All of my work culminated to a half drawn picture of a pyramid, which paled in comparison to my beer can pyramid.
Denial sunk in around the third day. She just had to be under a load of stress with her new nursing job, or maybe it was because her mother died last month. Either way I had a feeling she would be coming back soon. I even stocked up on the mozzarella sticks she loved. Hour after hour I sat in front of the door with a beer in hand as I waited for her to come back so I could apologize.
Day four is when everything became real. Everything became a solemn reminder of my deceased love life. The love cactus I bought her for our five year anniversary was a sharp oxymoron at this point. She always said as long as the plant was alive, she would love me… and now I needed to rectify that. I pulled out a matchbook, lit the matches and tossed it next to plant. In a matter of seconds the plant went up like the biblical bush.
I took the picture of us on vacation in Spain from above the mantle and removed it from the frame. That is where I proposed to her and gave her a very expensive ring sapphire ring. She never did give me the ring back and I doubt I’d ever see it again. I tossed the photo into the burning cactus and listened to the crackling of the picture and felt a little better. Next came the picture where we got to see live carrier pigeons in London. I let out a sigh and flick the picture into the dying inferno.
After watching the prickly effigy of Kelsey smolder for a half hour, I figured out a solution to end my pain. The soaks in bath salts didn’t solve any of my problems. Every memory from the carrier pigeon trip to the proposal in Spain meant nothing to her. So I grabbed my revolver and placed it next to my temple. Besides, that half finished picture of the pyramid I drew could use some color.
Miriam pushed foam plugs into her ears; the splashing, and laughing, was quelled for a few precious moments. Standing at the window, she watched the sun shedding crepuscular rays over the half-weeded garden. She hadn’t noticed the crimson flower quietly blooming on her love cactus; everything dangerous, or fragile, was kept out of reach after the twins were born. She grasped the pot from the high shelf, bringing the plant close to her nose. The fragrance was subtle, reminding her of the first time it had bloomed. The scent of eucalyptus wafted medicinally through her airways, followed by a dull thud.
She pulled out the earplugs; a cactus spine pierced her nose as she hastily put the plant back. Calming Lavender and Minty Moments perfumed the hall as she ran through to the bathroom. Two wise monkeys sat facing each other in the bath – one with a mouthful of Cherry Babies, the other with stinging eyes full of Bubbly Bath-time Fun. The silence was almost over as they selected emotions from their limited repertoire. They chose happiness and hysteria – Miriam chose despair. A large jar of bath salts was upturned, the resulting pyramids dissolving the promise of a hundred soothing baths. The relaxing aromas bubbled from the water as she scooped a toddler under each arm.
They heard footsteps from the hall.
They slipped from her grip. Daddy was wearing his cream suit; a soapy sibling attached itself to each leg, transferring vibrant hues to the weave.
‘You’ve left the tools out, honey.’
‘Yes, that’s what we should be focussing on.’
‘I’ll go and get them in. Make sure you rinse them.’
He looked at his trousers.
‘I meant the boys.’
Miriam turned, wiping the blood from her nose, mixing it with tears. The setting sun warmed her back as she gathered the tools. Something moved behind her. Just out of reach, a pigeon was cocking its head at her; it had pinkness on its breast, and looked healthier than the local birds. She reached out a hand, but it hopped away from her. She fetched a box from her shed, added a few grains of rice, and placed it under the bush where she had been weeding.
The next morning, she went to see if her guest was still there. The rice was gone, and the bird was waiting patiently. It stayed still while she put another handful of rice next to it. She left her hand out to see how close it would come. There was a tiny canister on one of its legs. When it came nearer, she gently cupped it in one hand and pulled a strip of paper from the tube. Her husband came out with the twins in tow; she slipped the paper into the pocket of her pinny, and they waved him off to work.
After breakfast, they were in full mayhem mode:
‘What are we playing today, mummy?’
‘What’s Houdini?’ they shouted in unison as she wound the washing line around them.
Miriam put in her earplugs, teased open the message, and laughed out loud.
Four hand-written letters: