Thursday, February 18, 2010

500 Words—A House For the Senses

Finally, after weeks of being negligent, I have found time to play 500 Words, blogville's short-story game in which you write a 500-word story around a sentence from literature.

This week's sentence is from Little Women: "A pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan, and a lovely blue sash."

A House For the Senses

Maggie stood in what was once her grandmother’s bedroom, a time capsule that looked as if it had been decorated in 1927, and not one item had been moved from its intended place since.

She turned slowly in the room, taking in every corner and memorizing every shadow and layer. The gauzy lace curtains draped over the windows, the satin bed cover, the braided rug woven from scraps from every dress her mother wore as a child. On the dresser was a tarnished gold tray that held a small mirror, a comb with missing teeth and a hairbrush with most of its bristles worn away. Beside the set were once elegant perfume bottles, their contents evaporated into an amber syrup. And spread out behind it all like a backdrop was a fan carved from ivory and webbed with painted silk.

When Maggie was a little girl, she would visit her grandmother once a year, and she would wonder about this woman who rarely spoke to her except to offer her a peanut butter cookie or a piece of salt-water taffy she had made in her own kitchen. On those annual visits, the grown ups would sit on the front porch, swaying on the rusted glider pushed by the feet of the one with the longest legs, and mixing their soft voices with the steady and rhythmic squeak of the old springs.

They would drink sweet tea and watch the honeybees drain the begonias, and Maggie would slip off to explore the house that seemed so odd. The floors sloped downward, and the ceilings bowed in spots. The walls were covered with dark green paper like taffeta and dotted with framed pictures of ancestors who looked like silent film stars. Lace doilies covered every tabletop. And in the corner was a pump organ that no one had played in decades but that had once filled the house with “Beulah Land” and “My Blue Heaven.” When whippoorwills call and evening is nigh.

Some rooms smelled like talcum, and others smelled like anise. Some drawers were filled with saved greeting cards and school pictures, and others were filled with delicate stockings and linen handkerchiefs with embroidered edges. Eighty-five years worth of collected China and glass rattled when Maggie walked past the cabinet, but she dare not touch a single piece.

Her mother tapped on the door behind her. “Take what you want, Mag. The movers will be here in a minute, and we need to get going.”

Maggie took one last look at the rooms that had captivated her as a child. She examined her own reflection in the mirror that had lost its silver, hoping to see traces of her grandmother in her own features. She gathered a few things—a pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan, and a lovely blue sash—and she tucked them away in a small box.

As she walked down the front steps, Maggie pushed the old glider to hear the squeak one last time.

5 comments:

savannah said...

what a heartbreaking, but still lovely story! xoxoxo

dive said...

Oh, that is so sad and beautiful, Robyn. You certainly do have a special eye for detail and mood and you can sure wrench the emotions.
Wonderful.

MmeBenaut said...

Oh, so beautiful Robyn. I swear that I was in that room with Maggie, my eyes scanning all of those beautiful, well-loved and collected ornaments.

You are such an incredible writer Robyn. Thank you!

Lulubelle B said...

So lovely and so sad. Why did her grandmother not talk to her? Was she indifferent? Did she not like the child? It's this sort of thing that can haunt us through adulthood.

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