Shards and Scree
by Maggie Shore (reprinted with permission from Quirk-e)
Ellie and Doris smile at each other
across the cafe table, sipping chamomile tea
between tidbits of news,
their white hair two halos of light.
Ellie suddenly brightens over an important
insight about their trip to Reno.
She is preparing to speak
her mouth poised, savoring the taste
of the first words.
A long pause hangs between them.
“Dammit Doris, I had this great idea
I was going to tell you, something about . . .
and it just went poof, disappeared
as if the words had leaped off a cliff
and fallen into darkness.”
Doris replies nonchalantly:
“If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
and Ellie sniffs into her yellow hanky
dabs her eyes.
She wonders aloud:
“God, Doris, where does that stuff go?
Those unsaid things that just disappear,
a whole sentence formed in your mouth — gone.
It happens to me a lot these days.”
“Oh dear,” Doris offers. “Don’t you worry so.”
“All those words and ideas —
gone in a flash, dropped into oblivion,
wherever that is. Maybe those lost fragments are just
lying about at the base of the cliff,
piles of dark shards and scree of lost memories.”
“Well dear,” said Doris, “Maybe they’re recycled, who knows?
So let’s head back now. You know they don’t like it
when we’re late for supper.”
by Douglas Bacon (reprinted with permission from Quirk-e)
“Let’s play wedding,” said Mary-Ellen.
Mary-Ellen was my big sister. With tightly curled blond hair and a tummy that made her look what Mommy called pleasingly plump, Mary-Ellen was everything I thought a pretty girl should look like.
“Oh, goody, goody!” I jumped with excitement as we ran up the oak staircase to her bedroom.
It was the day after I’d turned four and exactly a month before Princess Elizabeth, the most beautiful princess of all, would marry Prince Philip of Greece, the handsomest man in the world. Everybody was excited, even sour-faced Mrs. Scollard next door who kept boarders. There were songs about it on the radio, and there were colour pictures of all the Royal Family in the The Star Weekly. Mary Ellen and I cut them out and put them in our scrapbooks.
The routine was always the same: Mary-Ellen was the bride, Princess Elizabeth, and I was the bridesmaid, Princess Margaret Rose, her younger sister. Nobody was Prince Philip ’cuz he was a man, and he didn’t wear a dress.
“Can I be Princess ’Lizabeth this time?” I said as we climbed the stairs. “Pull-eeeze, Mary-Ellen? You’re always Princess ’Lizabeth and it’s not fair! It’s my turn.” I knew it was hopeless, but I still tried.
“No!” she said. Then, without even looking at me she said, “I’m Princess Elizabeth and I’m the bride ’cuz I’m the oldest and I’m the prettiest. You’re Princess Margaret Rose ’cuz you’re the youngest and skinny. You know that, Chrissy, so just shut up.”
We weren’t supposed to say shut up, but Mary-Ellen said it.
“Princess Elizabeth will be queen someday ’cuz she’s the oldest,” she said. “But Princess Margaret-Rose will never be queen. She’ll always stay a princess. But she’ll still be a princess,” she said. “So if you’re a princess you should be thankful. Really, Chrissy. You’re such a brat sometimes!”
Mary-Ellen brought the box of dress up clothes we called Granny’s Chest out of the cedar closet and put it at the foot of her bed. Then she sorted them into two piles. The bigger pile of clothes was for her, the smaller one for me. I loved looking at them:
Granny Ferguson’s Alice-blue gown that she’d worn as bridesmaid
Great-grandma Billingsly’s silver grey taffeta skirt with a bustle at the back
Great-granny Pettigrew’s hundred year-old ruffled pink waistcoat with sequins down the front
Aunt Hattie’s long white lace gloves with tiny red rhinestones up the arm
Granny’s small black kid gloves with two buttons under the wrist that she’d had when she was a little girl
An antique Japanese silk shawl with persimmon-red fringe on three sides
Aunt Tessie’s ivory-white bonnet that tied up in a side-bow . . . and . . .
“Here, you can wear these,” said Mary-Ellen. She handed me four or five things she didn’t want. Then she showed me one thing she did want that didn’t fit her. “And you can wear these,” she said as she handed me the purple, velvet Queen Anne slippers that had belonged to Great-granny Pettigrew when she was a little girl. Only someone with feet as small as Cinderella’s could fit into them.
“I’m Cinderella. I’m Cinderella,” I taunted. I knew how much Mary-Ellen liked them, but her feet were too big, like the Ugly Step-Sisters. She might be oldest, and might be queen some day, but I got to wear Queen Anne’s royal purple velvet slippers!
We’d barely started playing wedding when we heard it: the sound of Mommy’s black oxfords coming up the hardwood stairs. Panic united us.
“Quick, Chrissy, get out of the dress . . . fast,” said Mary-Ellen. Her fingers and mine worked frantically to undo buttons on the Alice-blue gown that my fingers had just struggled to do up. “Hurry up, Chrissy! Hurry up!” As she pulled the dress over my head, I pulled off the gloves and slipped off the Japanese shawl.
My heart was thumping as loud as Mommy’s rolling pin on the breadboard when she made pies. Mommy hated it when I played dress-up. She’d found us once before and we’d both got a licking. Mary-Ellen got it a lot worse than me because, according to Mommy, she’d “encouraged me” and was “old enough to know better.” She’d said that if she ever caught us doing it again she’d “knock the living daylights out of us,” and we knew she meant it.
I’d just got the last slipper off and was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed when Mommy marched into Mary-Ellen’s room.
“There you are, Mary-Ellen!” said Mommy. “Didn’t you hear me calling you? Go get the clothes off the line before it rains. Now!” Her narrowed eyes were riveted on Mary-Ellen.
“Yes Mommy. Sorry Mommy,” said Mary-Ellen as she took off the hat with the side-bow and placed it on the bed. When she walked out of the room, she scrunched up her shoulders in apparent fear and remorse, but as she passed me she rolled her eyes and winked . . . in victory. We’d done it. Mommy hadn’t found out. We wouldn’t get a licking.
As soon as Mary-Ellen left the room, Mommy changed. She walked over next to me and smiled. Then she reached out her hand and let her fingers play and toy with my curly blond hair, looked me straight in the eye and lowered her head.
“Now, Chrissy,” she said, “tell Mommy. What’s her little boy been up to with his sister today?”