Fiction: Lilacs

February 7, 2018 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

pixabay photo

 

By

Stephen Faulkner

 

 

A man and a woman sit on opposite ends of a park bench from one another. Both are solitarily heedless of all that goes on around them, even of each other. Each is lost in his and her own private contemplations in the sparse shade afforded by a gangling old elm tree that grows behind the bench which they occupy.

The man is in his mid twenties, a smiling charmer for the ladies at the late night establishments he frequents, a sour-dour expression in all other situations. He carries a book of poetry and an empty paper bag that had once contained blanched pistachios, now only rattling shells. His hair is longish but presentably neat, his clothes are casual but with a dressy, tailored look to them.

The woman carries her considerable weight and parcels with the slouched dignity of an out-classed, well pounded boxer. The parcels, obtained at a variety of “better” department stores in the area now lay scattered at her feet and on the seat beside her; the beginnings of a fortress. No one, she believes, will attempt anything against anyone so well guarded. She has heard the word “crone” used in describing her present stature but she will not believe it, though the young man seated at so close proximity to her surely might. In a fit of pique that morning the word had swelled forth in the mouth of her daughter and sounded more a complaint against age than against any certain person, least of all her mother. No, daughters don’t mean such ill-chosen words for too long. Apologies came quickly and the memory was blacked over, if not completely forgotten.

Crone. To look at her the word would seem aptly applied: a thick set of circuitous wrinkles lay over her face like a descending, undulating plane that might, at one time or other, have been the map of a battlefield replete with trenches, mortar holes and the lines of advancement of the contending forces. In contrast the young man at the other end of the bench seemed barely in need of a shave and it was already coming on to five o’clock in the afternoon.

The old lady’s glance veered and she caught sight of his crumpled bag and thought – Nice boy; feeding the pigeons, probably. People like that are always nice. Solitary but kind. She returned her gaze to the packages at her feet past which lay one of the many snaking cracks in the asphalt pathway towards which the park bench was situated. A scattering of coarse gravel brushed the shoulders of the path giving the pedestrianway a lopsided, uneven feel as one traversed its constantly turning, rising, dipping length.

Both pairs of eyes, young man’s and old woman’s, rose to the garden on the other side of the path. The towering old tree behind them, its missing, severed limbs forming holes for the late afternoon sunlight to pass through, cast strange shadows, darkening the bright flowers to a deeper purple than those still bathed in the brightness thrown from the clouded blue. The sun shone, cheerful and hot and the flowers’ colors faded and blanched intermittently as the wind shifted the cloud shadows here and there, nudging the dying tree to allow light for some, early dusk for the rest.

Lilacs. The twittering of birds; the hum of a distant wind, much greater than the one that rustled the leaves above the heads of these two lone souls. And inside each of them, the stillness had halted, a movement begun.

If I could see my way clear, thought the young man as he draped his left arm over the back of the slat bench. To do it all my own way…. That little garden over there would be larger, much larger, would fill out the entire space in which it rests.

So pretty, thought the old woman appreciatively.

And it had begun.

 

Fill out all the sides to the very edges where

the trees begin and not so much with the

lilacs – they make the scene seem so

somber. Daisies would be what is called for

– and chrysanthemums and marigolds and

perhaps it would be good to keep the lilacs

all spread around the inner circle – but no,

lilacs are too…. Too funereal I guess the

word would be, like I’ve read before:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

 

But that is my own subjective stance about

lilacs. Most people see lilies as the death

harbinger, strewn all over caskets going into

the grave and, besides, the daisies will do to

supply the white. The rest must be all color,

all reds and blues and yellows. Tulips,

perhaps. In a variety of colors all with that

one, cupped shape – a smattering of lilacs to

tone it down and the daisies for white, yes,

and the tulips for color and a hardness of

line – oh yes, those Dutch knew what they

were about – yes, to the very edge where the

trees begin and maybe even further, winding

through the trees like a colorful path of glory

– but no. Flowers need the sun like a father.

That is the purpose of the cup of the tulip, to

catch Papa sun’s rays and Mama nature’s

rain and hold them for the sake of life – so

much like the B and D cups of women’s

bras, holding life. Little girls, oh, in high

school, they ran bouncing through the halls

until the rules had to be changed about

fourteen and fifteen year olds not having to

wear the damned things but, up until then,

I was a watcher, only that, delighting in their

giggly glances as they caught my waiting

leer at the hall intersections, pushing out

their pigeon chests to the limit until a button

popped open and then they ran away, baiting

me with their sorry eyes cast like marbles

never touching the ground as they went but

that was all I got: a glance, sorry it couldn’t

go any further than the childish flirtations

but Mommy would soon find out so,,,, I was

glad for the respite from those misplaced

angers when college began its toll-taking

and that was what it was…. A penalty to pay

in order to “make it” as a student, no time

till Saturday for trying to be a man she was

older than I wanting to take more than she

could even think to give through any length

of time. My love diminished rapidly

deteriorating to take take take off the last

vestiges of decency of mind and ordered

soul until her mouth filled mine with tangy

wine, flavored with a cigarette bite and her

body only wanted to charge forward at a

slow and even pace till I could do no more

than hold back, slide deep, hold back, not

even warming her layers of thick, viscous

scales of a she-dragon until my eyes ached

letting loose the final bursts into her first

moanings of don’t stop don’t stop I think

I’m coming closer to a realization of

something like a pain in my groin but not

sharp, not dull and aching but insistent to

that strange thought that she was – my love,

once.  For a long time, long ago and I

couldn’t stand the sight of her now but she

exuded a lusty exuberance when we fucked,

a life not to be coincidental with my own

when I hated her later with a passion that

surprised me, with a sadness, a thought of

the waste of feeling, what I had done, who I

had been, what I had done and not done—

not done….  The one thing from that

relationship that I am truly sorry for  — That

I didn’t give her one single gift of flowers

in all that time….

 

 

So pretty the way they have them, their little

violet heads in neat rows, one just peeking

over the other like little girls posing for a

school class photograph, all smiling so

brightly like they had just been shown one

of their most favorite things — but what

would a little girl smile at so sweetly?  It’s

been so long, so long since I was so young

that I can’t even hazard a guess. There was a

song I heard once not so very long ago that

used those very two words –I would like to

sing but, well… if only in my mind, where

no one will hear. Let’s see – how does it go?

 

“So long, Frank Lloyd Wright

I can’t believe your song is gone

So soon

I barely learned the tune

So soon, so soon.”

 

Deadly in its way, the what and who it was

sung about, like a sad goodbye – but dainty

in its melody, colorful even. Pastels come to

mind, light and airy like a watercolor. Not so

morose like the old Dutch masters used to

do with all those dark browns, grays and

chiaroscuro old men getting ready

to go off to war to maim and kill like it just had to be

in those days. War! What a damned

nuisance, always with the catcalls and

marching in the streets to get everyone to

believe it was the thing to do to send the

boys off to get shot up so bad in the Big One

that they’d just have to leave them bleeding

in the trenches toward the end of it. What a

mess! My Halton, luckily, didn’t have to go

but by then it was Number Two – they’d

already gotten another one worked up in less

Than thirty years but I had Hal, dear sweet –

Always by my side never a stray glance to

any of the other “fillies” he called them,

always the gentleman. Never a stray word or

eye, yes. My man. I didn’t have to worry

with him around – not like some other

women I’ve known their husbands shaking

after every piece of skirt that came by like

they do today, their flies half open, eyes

bugging out whistling on the street corners

at every young wench that shows off a bit of

knee or tummy the way they dress nowadays

nobody cares but to look and gawk out in

the open with about as much discretion as a

dog lifting its leg on a tree root, and when

the wind blows a little lewd odor they can

smell it a mile away the whoremongers

about as old as my new skin like the doctors

say, all the body replenishes itself

completely except for the bones in about

seven years…. Ah! Those kids….  My Hal

would never, no, never until the marriage

day and that night he was so gentle and

patronizing to me it almost made me sick

like he was planning to rob the 1st National

the next morning he was so skittish but the

time came when we both became oblivious

to the volume of my low groans and he

never held back like I asked him to, pleaded

with him not to for so stupid was I then to

believe what Mamma, my sisters and even

my friends said about doing it being a man’s

thing and was only for the woman to lay

back and stifle the cries of pain like fire but

that – which was his odd joy, thinking he

hurt me – the fire soon fled and I felt his

heat more than his yearnings to push harder,

try to hurt me deeper than any gnarled

fingered doctor checking me for whatever

there was down there I can’t say – never will

– but for Hal, sweet, sweating like a

drenched flower cast away on a calm sea—

with only a sigh, a muffled sorrow…. And I

gave, yes, I gave…. But I took from you, too

– and it was, so, so much more, my Sweet,

than you will ever, ever know that I did.

 

The mind mutterings flitted, played out, died in unconsummated, unheard exhaustion. Others took their place but, for the bench across from that formally laid out expanse of night-closing flower in the midst of a green field of well trodden weeds, grass and patchy earth surrounded by the stunted, tired park trees, there seemed to be an end, for this man unbound to this woman, save for the occasionally concurrent, random thought – a fleeting yet clear memory – sometimes just a vague idea.

The young man rose, clutching his book of poetry like a shield, smiled kindly at the old woman in a mute gesture of farewell. The woman nodded solemnly, resolute yet friendly and began to gather her possessions together into a manageable pile on the bench.

What a waste, thought the young man. I’ve accomplished nothing here this afternoon. I didn’t even get half a chance to read, the light was so poor. Ah, well, maybe some other time. Tomorrow or the day after, perhaps – but soon.

And tomorrow, thought the woman. The weatherman says the temperature will be in the low seventies – quite pleasant. I only hope that I will be allowed, by His grace, to come again, to be able to browse back through my time once again over the little things, those sweet minor incidentals.

And the sun burst the clouds’ lower seams and continued on its daily journeying way over to the other side of the world, leaving these people and more to their coming night, to the stars and moon, the pitiful, sundry dreams or to lie awake, fitfully dozing until he, warm Father of the sky, reappears in the wee hours in the East to smile down his gift of heat and light so they can fret through yet another day.

 

 

 

 

 

stephen-faulkner

Stephen Faulkner

Stephen Faulkner is a native New Yorker, transplanted with his wife, Joyce, to Atlanta, Georgia. Steve is now semi-retired from his most recent  job and is back to his true first love – writing. He has recently had the good fortune to get stories published in such publications as Aphelion Webzine, Hellfire Crossroads, The Satirist, Liquid Imagination, Dreams Eternal, Temptations Magazine, The Erotic Review, Sanitarium Magazine, Impendulum Magazine and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. He and Joyce have four cats and a busy life working, volunteering at different non-profit organizations and going to the theater as often as they can find the time.

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