Day 2: Prompt 2

by | Oct 18, 2020 | Dean Cleaning One | 9 comments

At first glance through the glass hatch that frames his face, I overlook the glint of goldplate. The arched figure is actually two fused, creatures, a woman one with a minotaur, her lips pressed to its neck. There is a hint of condensation where the two touch.

The brooch altogether outshines the dull sheen of the tie pin. He hates ties. He flops the end over his right shoulder to signal ‘parent incoming.’ We laugh until he cough snorts. We plan to move in together as soon as we have a deposit on a place.

Madam rattles the glass lid of his coffin. His mouth signals nothing. On patrol feet, she circles the low-slung box. The pallbearers cough and gauge her girth. For a moment the well-oiled procedure stutters.

A good son is his mother’s, someone says from the crowd. There is a murmur of agreement.

While I watch, Madam’s chest rises and falls. Her headtie trembles with the effort of breath.

It’s Madam’s idea to have him lie in the yard. We leave the late-season avocados uncollected when all the trees are in glut. He hates the liquid muck they make.

I stare at the brooch until my eyes swim, really try to see into the chunk of costume jewellery.

The lid is unsecured. Fingers would slide through the silk lining. I could snap the catch loose.

The way the shadows of lashes curve against his cheeks undoes me.

‘Wasted on a boy,’ Madam said to him when he was six.

He’s smooth-skinned, the moth dark sheen of his cheek is wasted on a full-grown man the way he is wasted on the casket.

He stares like a fool when she wears the brooch. Madam lets him try it on sometimes. He pinky swears he will never leave the house with it pinned to his lapel.

He waits till we are alone and pins it on me instead.

‘You can’t see where one starts and where the other leaves off,’ he says.

He never wanted the brooch for himself. I never wanted it for myself. If I’m seen, no one will understand.

9 Comments

  1. Roberta Beary

    This is a powerful story and I can’t wait to see it published.

    I see the brooch as a cameo, and a symbol for the dead lover and the survivor/narrator.

    So many strong images it is hard to pick a favourite, but this comes close, “The way the shadows of lashes curve against his cheeks undoes me.”

    Wonderful writing that stays with the reader long after the story is told.

    • Paul Beckman

      Clementine-Your writing blows me away. “He never wanted the brooch for himself. I never wanted it for myself. If I’m seen, no one will understand.”

    • Clementine Burnley

      Thanks Roberta! So encouraging. Yes, I see the brooch as a cameo too and it didn’t start out that way so I was a bit surprised by the ending. It’s odd how the process of finding the story works. My stories often end up in a drawer after I’m done. If you have time to answer: Where would you see a home for this piece?

  2. Gay Degani

    I love these three sentences particularly.

    He hates ties. He flops the end over his right shoulder to signal ‘parent incoming.’ We laugh until he cough snorts.
    Her headtie trembles with the effort of breath.
    The way the shadows of lashes curve against his cheeks undoes me.

    This works so well, the details in particular. And I love the twist at the end.

    • Clementine Burnley

      Thank you Gay, for reading and commenting. Its good to know which details work better. The end was hard to find.

  3. Tommy Dean

    “At first glance through the glass hatch that frames his face, I overlook the glint of goldplate.” I love this opening! The way it’s framed, the mystery here!

    “There is a hint of condensation where the two touch.” ooh, this is perfect!

    “He flops the end over his right shoulder to signal ‘parent incoming.’” yes, to the secret language between teenagers, especially those in love!

    “Her headtie trembles with the effort of breath.” Love the subtle shift here with the tie image!

    “We leave the late-season avocados uncollected when all the trees are in glut. He hates the liquid muck they make.” Great way to deepen/create a character!

    “he’s smooth-skinned, the moth dark sheen of his cheek is wasted” oh, this is a great image!

    Love how this one plays with front and back story, how you’ve made a funeral story so fresh and interesting! which isn’t easy to do!

    • Clementine Burnley

      Tommy, this weekend been such a oasis in the strange times we are having. Thank you for your inspiring guidance, the detail of your comments, and for how generously you have shared.

  4. Meg Tuite

    I’m such a fan of your work, Clementine! Each line is necessary and gorgeous use of language :”glass hatch, glint, fused, minotaur, sheen, snorts, rattles, glass, low-slung, cough, gauge her girth, well-oiled, stutters, glut, muck….”
    Every word is vivid and visceral and keeps the reader mesmerized. This is an outstanding piece, powerful, subtle, and unforgettable. LOVE!

    • Clementine Burnley

      So good to be in touch again Meg, and thank you for reading. I have so enjoyed this work. Your pieces! O

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