Thursday, January 15, 2009

The collection


I wrote this piece for Sunday Scribblings 'Pilgrimage' and Fiction Friday 'Collection'
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May I read it to you? If so, click on arrow
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“Have you seen my scarf darling, the blue one?”called Jonathon as he searched under the coats and jackets that hung by the door.

Julia sighed, and with a half smile said “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on!”

Just lately one thing after another had vanished. Nothing of particular importance. A pen, only a cheap one, but one he liked to use. He’d also mislaid a photograph of himself receiving an award at his firm’s dinner, and another of him reclining on a sun bed. And what happened to last year’s diary? He needed to look up a detail about a meeting, but it was nowhere to be seen.

“Good morning Julia”. Cheryl, their home help breezed into the kitchen with her usual cheery smile.”Jonathan left for work already? I’ll start my cleaning with his study today” she said as she tied the strings on her apron.

Cheryl was a stickler for tidiness. Trouble was she was so tidy that Jonathan often couldn’t lay his hands on things which he had known the exact position of before Cheryl sorted them out.

“I found these in the rubbish bin” she said. Julia looked into the plastic bag and saw a pile of old greetings cards, from birthdays and Christmases past.

“Mind if I take them” she said. “I can put them to good use”

Julia saw no reason why she shouldn’t. Jonathan was a bit of a hoarder, so she was delighted to see the back of them.

One afternoon just as Cheryl was about to leave, Julia asked if her if she would like to take a bag of Jonathans old clothes with her – they were almost new but not often worn. Maybe she could sell them at the church jumble sale. She took them willingly.


*


Cheryl liked to be alone in Jonathon’s study. Behind the closed door she could go through his things and imagine what it must be like for Julia, having him all to herself.

What made her do it, she didn’t really know, but one day she picked up the picture of Julia which sat on the desk and unscrewed the back of the photo frame. It was as if she knew what she would find inside. And there under Julia’s portrait was a faded picture of a young girl with the fairest hair and the palest blue eyes. And by her side a youthful Jonathan, his arm draped over her shoulder.

She took the photo over to the mirror and held it alongside her face. Her smile melted away.
Time had not been kind to her. She took off her spectacles and stared into the glass. Gone the smooth skin and alabaster complexion. Her furrowed brow and tired eyes were a testament to twenty years of sadness and longing. That cropped back hair never really suited her, but it was necessary.

Nothing remained of the girl she was except for her pale blue eyes.
*


It was a cold cruel winter’s day. Cheryl telephoned to say she was unwell and asked if Jonathon could call around that evening with a coat she had left behind the previous day.

She got from her wardrobe the dress she had worn the night Jonathan had walked away from her. It was faded, and no longer fitted properly. She sat in front of the mirror and tried to recreate the face she saw in that picture from all those years ago. Then she slipped on a wig of the fairest hair, and tears rolled down her cheeks.

Leaving the door ajar, she retired to a candlelit room at the back of the house and waited for Jonathon to arrive.

When he did so, she called for him to come on in. He followed her voice and walked slowly towards her.

What he saw took his breath away. In the flickering light of a score of candles he found himself surrounded by his own possessions, old photos, keepsakes and dozens of things he thought he’d mislaid. And there in the corner she sat on a chair, grotesque, absurd.

He froze, unable to think, let alone speak.

She stood and slowly walked across the room, to where he stood, motionless, and wrapped a blue scarf around his neck. She twisted it tighter and tighter until he was no longer able to breathe.

She left the room and turned the key in the lock. Her collection was complete.
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25 comments:

  1. keith,

    this was an amazing story...never saw that end coming :)

    when are you getting that book published?....

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  2. well, well, well, this one took me by surprise. well done!

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  3. excellently written... that was one sick lady.... he is,, or i guess say was lucky he walked away when he did,, he may have been gone much sooner than this!!!!!

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  4. So happy to be back to read your amazing stories. It caught me till
    the end I didn't expect him to become part of her colection Ha HA
    Of course I expected something romantic. Great story

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  5. nice one!! never saw the end coming
    i always enjoy reading your ramblings, Keith ;)

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  6. Hi! Dropping by from Fiction Friday. :) I kind of had a feeling it was Cheryl when she first came into the story, but the ending was totally unexpected. :D

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  7. Oh WOW! I loved this, really really loved it!

    First of all, it's a privilege to have you reading to us. And then the story has some many dimensions I couldn't tell where it was going and it was an immense thrill.
    Well done!

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  8. I'm just off to get a blue scarf from my cupboard! I've been wondering on whom I could blame my wrinkles!

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  9. never saw that coming - creepy!! and what a great ending.

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  10. I'm with Annie...I did not see that coming. Great flash fiction!

    b

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  11. Great story! Creepy good! :)

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  12. Your writing skill continues to amaze me. This is a great story - and, no, I didn't anticipate the ending either, but once there realized that it was perfect.

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  13. You set the bar so very high...this is a superb piece - the tension that spills into the last sentence is palpable... Love it!

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  14. Listening to your voice while I read was very enjoyable. I liked following your inflections and felt as though I was hearing/reading your story as you intended. It is quite a story. It was the moment he saw her there, "grotesque and absurd" that got me.

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  15. A great story! I just knew that it would be this creepy. I've always amazed and yet chilled to the bone of what humans are capable of.

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  16. Great story, you have a gift for storytelling. I also didn't see the ending coming..lol
    how wonderful that you live so close to Stonehedge too! I am jealous. The Taj Mahal was also on my list, I just forgot when it came to the post- it must have been amazing!

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  17. I haunt the sunday scribblings, always reading, never submitting, though I do the exercises. I've got to say, I'm quickly becoming a fan of your work :)

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  18. Wow! That was so well done. Very well done.

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  19. Hi Keith, nicely done, I love the literal twist at the end.

    Also, you have a good radio voice!

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  20. A great story Keith. Well done. Did he recognize her at the end? Poor old Cheryl eh, twisted by love.

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  21. very very well woven - a great flow right into a hitchcock ending!!!

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  22. Enjoyed this immensely and especially hearing your voice!
    Flows well. Nice piece all around!

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  23. wow you are a really good reader and story teller!

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  24. Oh my. Didn't see that one coming - excellent!

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  25. Wow! I just got around to reading (and hearing) your story. You are such a talented writer! Like many others, I also did not anticipate the ending. Listening to your voice was such a treat. Please do more readings in the future.

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