The Open Door

Writing group last night, sitting around Carol’s table, there were many prompts available to us to get on and write. We plumped for this quote that could be used as a starter for a poem or a piece of prose. I chose prose.

Today we believe that tomorrow will knock and lead us to an open door.

Here is my story, it took me 30 minutes to write.

She lay looking at the sign on the wall above the lintel to the door of her room. It was painted a pale green colour, the writing in cream highlighted in gold. Typical of the signs you found in shops similar to ‘The Present’, a gift shop she remembered from the High Street, long since closed. Motivational quotes written to encourage and raise morale.

Maria shifted her head and turned her face away from the sign. It was an effort now to move, these past few days she had been feeling much weaker and ever movement took a lot of energy. Energy that was quickly slipping out of her body, squeezed out by numerous growths that had taken up residence, unwanted and uninvited.

But the phrase had got in her head. It nagged her and made her restless. Waking her in the dark of night, boring holes in her sleep fence that no herd of sheep could fill.

Tomorrow will knock and lead us to an open door. Up to this point she had dreaded death. Moving into the hospice three weeks ago was in her mind the final straw. She had fought this illness for so long, so many different drug trails, so many different doctors who tried so many strategies. She had entered the hospice reluctantly. It had felt so defeatist and she was a fighter.

And now she had a glimmer of hope. What if death would be a new doorway of living for her? What if with death there came new life. A new way of living? Maybe not the purgatory that the nuns and priest had drummed into her as a child, but something else?

Maria’s days and nights were now filled with thoughts on what would be beyond that open door.

If according to Hindu beliefs she was going to pass through the door and be reborn, she wished to come back as a grasshopper. Whiling away the days in the sun eating grass and singing to herself.

If according to Buddhist beliefs her consciousness continued in another form, she wanted to be an oak trees. In fact the one acorn in an oak tree harvest that was able to put down roots. She would grow and live for over 500 years, watching, observing, connecting with other trees and lifeforms.

If according to Islam, on her death she would be taken by Azar’il and be questioned by two further angels, she would have to get her answers right to ensure a pleasant resting place in Barzakh!

Maria realised how similar this belief was to the purgatory tales of her childhood. The purgatory according to her mum, where she would be picking up pieces of thread and the many pins she had dropped in her sewing lessons. She smiled remembering these close times with her mum whilst sewing her dolls clothes.

How are you doing today Maria?

A voice broke into her thoughts. Maria turned to see that the shift had changed and a new nurse was sitting by her bed. ‘I’m good, waiting for the knock.’

‘Waiting for the knock?’ replied the nurse.

Maria gestured with her head to the sign over the door. ‘Oh’, came the reply. ‘What’s your viewpoint on what’s beyond that open door?’ enquired Maria.

‘Well..’she could sense that Lydia, as that was her name, was torn between duty to her patient and keeping a neutral professional approach and also had a clear interest in the topic.

Lydia, shifted her body in the chair, helping her to block her voice from the open door and the staff nurse behind.

‘I’m a humanist, I believe that we have one life and we need to live it well. There is no afterlife, no reincarnation. It is important that we live each day well.’

As the days passed, Maria’s mind drifted, had she lived each day well? Was there more she could do before tomorrow knocked and led her to that open door?

The root split the casing of the acorn. It had lain in the soil for a good few months, feeling the cold of the winter and the coming warmth of spring. As the root reached down into the soil it could feel and sense other plants around it. Tomorrow will knock, the green shoot was ready to push its way up through he open door of the soil ready to face the light.

Where did that story come from? Definitely from an article I had read at the weekend of a woman who wrote the stories of people near end of life. Here’s a link if you want to read it too.

I also wanted to include the word ‘hope’ as Carol my writing colleague didn’t want to write about it. Hope is always left in the box of stories.

If you liked my story, please leave a positive comment to keep me writing.

Treasures in time

Looking right and left and then right again, she crossed the road. The Green Cross Code man’s voice rang in her ears. Keep looking and listening at all times. There were no cars on her road but she practised anyway as her teachers and parents had drilled the code into her bones. It was almost part of her DNA. 

Her feet felt hot in her brown open-toed sandals with the shiny buckle at the ankle. It had taken a long time to break them in and her dad had resorted to hammering them on the painted red backdoor step in an effort to stop the rub. 

As she stood outside the dark blue front door, sheltered from the August sun by the old rhododendrons, her pockets weighed heavily against her legs. 

She knocked on the door – a small knock at first and then a louder one as she garnered more courage from her gut. She couldn’t reach the doorbell as it was too high. Maybe in a year or two, she could. She waited, the hum of the main road faint in the distance, the sound of distant giggles as someone splashed in a paddling pool down the road. She listened and knocked again.  

She knew he was on his way; she heard the soft shuffling of his carpet slippers on the parquet floor. The door opened. No door chain to keep him safe. He was always confident that whoever it was would not cause him harm. 

Uncle George stood looking down at the girl, whose scuffed knees, dusty open-toed sandals and muddy shorts gave him clues as to why she was here. 

‘Hello mischief, what have you got in your pockets today?’

‘Treasure’, came the reply. ‘Can you tell me the stories about my treasure please?’ said the girl.

‘Does your mum know you are here?’ enquired Uncle George. A solemn nod and a slight flicker of the eyes made him think otherwise. ‘Remember, I have always told you, you must tell your mum where you are or she will get worried. Wait here.’ And off he shuffled as she waited quietly, her shorts sagging under the weight of her treasures a little more. She could hear him dial the phone number and a murmured conversation. He was right, as always, but she had been so keen to share her treasures rather than have her sisters steal them from under her nose. 

‘Righto, your mum wants you home in fifteen minutes – come on in.’ 

His home always had a strange smell – the smell of old books, tobacco and dust. The books were piled up along the corridor into the front room. They took up every little bit of space on the tables and chairs. The books jostled for space with rocks, thousands of them, plus some old clay pipes, medals, rusty bits of metal and more. 

Uncle George was an archaeologist and had taken part in hundreds of digs around the town, unearthing Roman and Saxon sites as well as more ancient Briton settlements. 

He settled in a chair by the window. ‘Come on, let’s see the treasures.’  

She pulled out a pile of pebbles from her pockets and scattered them on the table in a heap.  She had spent the afternoon digging them up from her garden. She had given them a cursory wash in the old blue gardening bucket. They had glittered and shimmered whilst they were in the water. Now they looked a little drabber and a lot less exciting. 

Uncle George put his special eyeglass to his eye and peered at the first one. ‘Mmmm, this one looks like a piece of quartz and this looks like granite.’ And so it went on with each pebble. He brought the magic back to the pile of stones. As he talked she noticed that he kept pushing one particular stone to the side of the pile. At last, he picked it up. 

‘Now this one is a little bit special.’  

Oh, how she had yearned to hear that phrase. 

He turned it over and over in his fingers. She could see the yellow tobacco stains from his pipes colouring his nails and knuckles. ‘This I believe is a bit of a stone-age flint. You can almost see the indentations from someone’s fingers. They would have held it like this to strike it to get a spark. Shall we try it out?’  

Her heart was in her mouth; she could hardly get the word out. ‘Yes.’

He got up from the window seat, taking the stone in his hand, and moved towards his high leather-backed chair by the fire. In front was a little kidney-shaped table with a heavy ashtray which had his pipe resting on the edge. Next to the ashtray was a really old box of matches with Swan Vesta on the side. There was another pile of books which he picked up and put on the floor. From inside the Swan Vesta box, Uncle George pulled out a pack of cigarette papers, just like the ones her dad used to do his rollups.  

‘Right, you scrunch those up and make a little pile of paper in the ashtray.’ He then pulled out another stone from his pocket that was similar to hers but with some glittery sparkles on it. 

‘This is called iron pyrite,’ Uncle George explained. ‘You often find iron pyrite near flint – the ancient Britons knew that if these stones were struck against each other they would get a spark. If I strike this one against yours, we should be able to light the papers. It might take a bit of time, but with patience we’ll get there.’  

Holding her breath, she watched the old man striking one stone against the other, feeling almost as if time had slowed down. 

Then something truly wonderful happened – as the spark jumped from the flint and became a flame, she felt the weight of history flashing into the room. It was as if she had travelled through time back to when the forests had spread out all over the land. She felt the presence of that ancient Briton as she had struck the flint back then to create warmth – warmth to cook some meat, warm her toes or simply to keep her family safe. That same warmth she saw now in Uncle George’s eyes. He watched her face too and he could see how this moment in time had linked them both to the past as well as to the future.  

‘Keep this safe on your way home,’ he said, handing the stone back to her. ‘Now I think I have a Murray mint or two for you. Make sure you use the Green Cross Code when you cross the road. Now off home with you.’  

The life of a toy

I’ve been playing around with the life of a toy, this is the start of a short story about Silly Sam, Cat and Dragon. Would love to know what you think?

Silly Sam shook her head, once then twice. The overwhelming scent of lavender had kept her half asleep for about 3 months. She had been standing in a cloth bag surrounded by lavender. A smell she loved and was beginning to loathe.

She sat on top of her bookcase looking around the room. She approved of the green on the walls, it took her back to the wonderful trees in the ground of Kenilworth which she had admired for so long. As she sat on her perch, she spied Cat and Dragon opposite, peeking out of the bookshelves.

‘Psst, are you awake?’ she whispered, ‘what’s the view like from that side of the room?’

‘Nice,’ purred Cat. ‘I have a bird’s eye view of the floor, so I can spot any pesky spiders who dare to dash out.’

‘I like the view too,’ said Dragon, ‘but I am a little afraid of the height of this shelf. What if I drop and fall and bash my wings?’

‘Oh piffle,’ replied Cat. ‘You are such a ninny! Your wings are meant to be unfurled and to fly on the breeze. Think more Cat. We have nine lives you know, able to jump over any obstacle and at any height.’

Cat prepared herself to launch into the air. ‘Be careful Cat,’ warned Silly Sam, ‘It is quite high.’