Short Story

THE WEP CHALLENGE, JUNE 2019, CAGED BIRDS DON'T SING By Pat Garcia

Tumblr_pr96j3Liio1tj480ko1_1280

 

 

Kathie Mae sat and stared at her surroundings; everything was in place just like he liked it.

The cream coloured sofa just at the right angle, three meters away but right in front of the large floor to ceiling window that faced the street before their house. The window sparkled. The brightness from the sun shining heftily through it. The mahogany wood piano, opened, displaying its ivory black and white keys, and a portrait of her hanging over it, singing.

 

Kathie Mae looked at the portrait and examined the eyes of the woman she no longer knew. Yes, the eyes in the picture were brighter, livelier, and mischievous filled with hope and the desire to conquer the world. Where had all that gone?

 

The clock ticked away the minutes; her heartbeat quickened with every passing minute.

Soon he would be home.  In an hour or two, Kathie Mae would have to stop her wandering mind from going back to the past.  

Whoever thought that having everything that money could buy meant fulfilment had to be gravely disturbed she thought and heard Louisa knock softly on the living room door.

“Come in, Louisa.”

“I don’t mean to disturb you, but I’ll be leaving soon. Is there anything else you want me to do?”

“No,” Kathie Mae said and gave her a hollow smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “What are you going to do this weekend, Louisa?”

“I’m going to do what I do here every day,” Louisa said. “I’m going to clean my house.”

Kathie Mae chuckled. She’d talked to Cesare about reducing Louisa’s days to three times a week, but he’d insisted that she had to come every day except Sunday. When he returned home, he wanted to see an orderly, well-kept house without any clutter. That when she’d begun to notice that well-kept meant everything including her.

“Well, take some time to enjoy your Sunday, Louisa. Everybody needs rest.”

“I will.  If I had a husband like yours, I’d be in Heaven,” Louisa said. “It would be so nice to wake up and not have to do anything.”

Kathie Mae shuddered at Louisa’s words. The woman didn’t know what she was asking for.

Would she really like living in a cage?  The changes Kathie Mae had had to undergo bombarded her mind.

 

 

Black men love long hair, white men love afros, but what about what women like. Were there no women in the world outside of the Stepford Wives?  

Cesare had told her to get rid of her coils. Why were they so distasteful and unruly for him? Afro, he’d shouted, Afro!  An Afro was what Cesare expected her to wear. Little by little, he’d whittled away at her until she’d become the pretty hull that he wanted her to be.

Soon, she didn’t recognise who she was. When she looked into her mirror, she saw Cesare’s creation. The one he wanted to come home too. She’d managed to save only a tiny small piece of who she was hidden deep inside her and would visit whenever she could.

 

 

“Are you alright, Ms. Kathie Mae?” Louisa asked, frowning.

She had drifted so deep into the small piece of herself that she’d forgotten that Louisa was standing before her.

“Yes…Louisa. I’m sorry…No need to tell Mr. Domenico…about this. I…was just thinking about what you said,” Kathie Mae said.

“Okay, I won’t mention it this time, but I don’t want you to slip away like that. You scared me. Mr. Domenico said it’s dangerous when you slip away.”

“I’m alright, Louisa. I didn’t slip away. I was just thinking about what you said, ”Kathie Mae repeated even though she didn’t remember what Louisa had said.

“Good, then I would like to leave early if it is alright with you,” Louisa said.

“Sure, why don’t you do that,” Kathie Mae said, “I’m waiting on Cesare to come home just as he wants me too.”

“When are you going to sing again?” Louisa asked.

“Sing? Oh yes…I did sing once, didn’t I.”

“Why don’t you know, Ms. Kathie Mae?”  Louisa asked. “You sing so beautifully, with heart and soul.”

“One day…Louisa…one day, I’ll tell you all about it,” Kathie Mae said. “Now go home.”

 

 

Kathie Mae heard the front door close and listened as Louisa turned the key in the lock.

She walked to the living room window and stood so Louisa could see that she was in the house. A fake smile on her face, Kathie Mae waved at Louisa. “

Caged birds don’t sing, Louisa. “They dressed as puppets without souls. Caged birds don’t sing,” Kathie Mae murmured while waving to Louisa.

 

Kathie Mae went back to the sofa to sit before the window, so Cesare could see her when he came home and looked at the window from the sidewalk.  He would wave. She would wave back. He would walk up the steps and open the door to the cage and say darling before he locked the cage for the weekend.

Caged Birds don’t sing.

 

Shalom aleichem,

Fullsizeoutput_e26

Pat G


WEP August 2018 Flash Fiction Challenge, Janie B and A Change of Heart, By Pat Garcia

 

E2a73b9219ba21d4b939b8bdf85e0825

WC: 962

The bed placed against the wall facing the huge bedroom window gave Janie B a good view of the lake. Two willow trees one on the left and one on the right of the garden framed the garden’s center, presenting her with a surreal picture that stirred up her grey cells and made her think. She ran her fingers through her tiny afro. Massaging her scalp, she shook her head, not quite believing she’d succeeded.

The curtains clapped as a breeze from the patio swayed their movement.  Janie B smiled at her imagination and gazed out of the window to observe the moon beginning to rise with its lightly reddish tint.

 That she was sleeping in the same cabin where she was once held as a prisoner was no longer a millstone around her neck. The horrible experience now captured, a part of her past vanished with Paolo Mendoza taking her through the chaos to freedom. Each nightmare had become a therapeutic playground where he led her farther and farther into a discovery of the strength lodged inside of her.  

Meeting him changed her heart about the way she grappled and dealt with the dangerous situation she’d experienced.  His methods had given her a new life.

She would never forget his bursting into the cabin as her captor tied the last piece of purple yarn around her neck. He’d been climbing the mountain and come upon the hut. How strange that just as a stranger had captured and tortured her another stranger would be the one to save her.  Now, Paolo was responsible for her lying in bed with a smile on her face. He made her take on the demons from that awful day. That was Paolo. Stern, loving, and kind, yet his gentleness amazed her.

Paolo was no big daddy. He wasn’t even sympathetic or compassionate when it came time for her to take another step toward her freedom. He didn’t let her hide behind shame.  Didn’t allow her to bury her hidden wounds. Always confronting, he forced her to take an in-depth look at her heart attitude. Made her see what she didn’t want to see. No, she couldn’t hide with Paolo Mendoza.

He didn’t duck. He challenged. Like the day he forced her to drive his Aston Martin. The first time she’d returned to this cabin. She hadn’t wanted to, but he’d insisted when she started having nightmares. He even demanded she learned how to knit.   It never occurred to her that he was preparing her to attack the horror of what happened in the cabin so she could free her mind. She’d knitted him a purple hat. Then, he had wanted a red scarf, and then he’d asked her to knit him some yellow gloves. That was Paolo.  The leader of his team of silent raiding frogmen, his cruelty to her displayed itself in coercing her into facing whatever was hindering her from being the lively woman she’d locked behind the doors of her heart.  

Janie B turned to lie on her left side and spooned herself against Paolo’s back as she gazed out the window. Sleep evaded her. Typical.  Even though she’d triumphed, she couldn’t quite believe she was sleeping in the cabin. She’d just done a three-hundred-sixty-degree pirouette.  Her heart was still doing somersaults as she thought about how she’d spun herself out of the last part of the terror that had befallen her.  She released a deep sigh and kissed Paolo’s back.

“Why can’t you sleep, JB?”

“What happened today has got me spinning, and my heart keeps flipping.”

Grunts of laughter shook his belly region.

“You looked mighty good in that red wedding dress, Babe. In fact, you looked like my dream.”

“Umph. Whoever heard of a 42-41-48 size woman getting married in a red dress. The dress hugged my big hips. It was ridiculous.”

“I love the ridiculous, JB.” He removed her arms from around him and turned to face her. “Put on your red dress, baby, cause we’re going out tonight,” he sang with his deep throaty baritone voice while he did his best to imitate Tommy Tucker. “Put on your red dress baby cause we’re going out tonight.

Janie B couldn’t help but screeched as she laughed and joined in “And you’d better wear some boxin gloves,”she sang back to him in her contralto voice, “in case some fool might wanna fight.

“I love it when you sing, JB. It’s a confirmation,” Paolo said and yawned.

“About what?”

“About your heart, JB,” Paolo replied while drawing her closer to him. “About your heart, sweet lady.”

Janie B chuckled. “Mr. Mendoza, you have a lot to do with my heart change.”

“Let’s say, I prodded you into conquering your dragons. You have nothing to fear.”

“You kept me from becoming a recluse. I’m no longer the fearful, frighten heart you found in this cabin.”

“I know. That’s why I had to marry you quickly. Didn’t want anyone else snapping you up.  Never thought I’d encounter my big beautiful woman by climbing up a mountain.”

“Paolo, look,” Janie B almost shouted, glancing toward the window pane “A deer with horns!”  

“Those are antlers, JB. He’s admiring you.”

“Well, he can stop admiring and go away.”

Grunts of laughter came from Paolo. He turned so he could lay on his back and gaze at the deer while keeping one arm around Janie B. “Put on your high-heel sneakers, Lordy, wear your wig-hat on your head,” Paolo murmured in his sleepy, sing-song voice, and Janie cackled like a hen gathering her baby chicks.  “Put on your high-heel sneakers, child. Wear your wig-hat on your head. Ya know you're looking mighty fine, baby, I'm pretty sure you're gonna knock 'em dead.”

 

 

 

Shalom aleichem,

Photo on 14-10-2016 at 08.45

Pat G


Emma by Pat Garcia

Lost&found_badge wood v3 MED

 

 

Emma worked as a librarian. It suited her perfectly.  Books defined her life; books defined her womanhood. That she had never married, she blamed on her resilience to dominate and her no-nonsense way of looking at circumstances. A self-reliable woman, she considered herself to be a self-reliant StrongBlackWoman, who didn’t need a man. That the frequent use of her vibrator indicated an impoverished need anchored beneath the garbage hidden in her mind only popped up when Valentine’s Day neared.  Then, she experienced three horrible pre-weeks like her menstrual period until the fourteenth had passed.

She banged her head lightly against one of the shelves in the erotic section and proclaimed to herself, “Valentine’s is just like any other day.  Nothing unusual.”  A big sigh escaped her lips, and she reached for Anais Nin.  Even though she had been proclaiming this quote for thirty-five of her fifty years, her heart still had not accepted it. Stuck in her mind like burned rice on a hot oven, it failed to stop Valentine’s Day from stinking up her life and destroying her mood every single year.

Mihaly Toledano crossed her mind as she was thumbing through the erotic section, looking for a book that might break through her depression. Her books had given her everything she needed until Mihaly Toledano burst into her life and started coming to the library on a regular basis. 

Sly smiles sent her way, winks when she looked up catching him looking at her, slight touches on her shoulders when he passed by her, and last week, he had reached over her head to get a book for her from a shelf she couldn’t reach and pinned her in with his body. 

What’s wrong with him?  Doesn’t he have anything better to do with his time?

 

“Emma.”

She looked up, startled and embarrassed that he’d found her in one of the aisles of the erotic section.

"We're closed, Mr. Toledano.”

"On the door, it says closing hours are at nine,  so I have exactly seven minutes," Mihaly Toledano said, taking a look at his watch before he came closer and took the book by Anaïs Nin out of her hand.

Mihaly looked at the woman before him; a spark had ignited between them when she helped him find a book over a month ago.  Valentine’s Day was two weeks and four days away, and he had no intentions of letting another month go by without her being his Valentine sweetheart.

Her hazel brown eyes, the short nappy Afro, styled to fit her round brown face complimented her double chin that disappeared when she laughed, and her voice painted pictures of happiness in his darkened soul; she pleased him.

Just the right size, size sixteen or eighteen. I need to feel your flesh and not a bony skeleton;  he thought as he looked at her thighs wrapped tightly in her jeans, and he closed his eyes, savoring the image of her that popped up in his mind. 

 

“So how may I help you,” Emma asked, interrupting his train of thought as she extended her hand wanting him to give her her book back.  “You now have five minutes to tell me what book you're looking for before I close."  

"Actually, I was looking for something soft to read, but not exactly in this section. Something with a romantic touch, like Keats or Shelley, because I’d like to take you to dinner and afterward read you some poetry, but I’m opened to reading Anaïs Nin if that’s what you’d prefer."

“I don’t remember you asking me out Mr. Toledano.”

“Emma, we agreed to be informal with each other.”

“True.  Like I said, Mihaly, I don’t remember you asking me out.”

“I just did, a few minutes ago. I said, I’d like to take you to dinner and then read you some poetry. Do you remember now?”

“Oh…was that asking? Well, if it was, then, No.”

“Why not?”

“You’re too young for me.”

Mihaly saw their age difference as a minor thing. That he was 35 years of age never bothered him.

So, why should it bother you, Emma? Besides, I prefer older women, and the sparks told me you’re mine.

 “Mihaly let’s be upfront with one another, Emma said, interrupting his thoughts.  “What you’re looking for, I’m not willing to give.”

“I didn’t know you could read minds, Emma.”

“I can’t.”

“Then, how do you know what I’m looking for?”

 

Emma looked up at the man standing before her. His dark black hair shining under the lighting looked dark navy blue.  She saw gaiety in his eyes, and she thought he was laughing at her.

“So what do you want?”

“Be my Valentine.”

“And then what?”

“See where these sparks are leading us.”

“They’re leading me home and your five minutes are up. I’ve got to close.”

“Good. Let’s get Shelley or Keats and go eat,” he said, replacing Anais Nin back on the shelf above her head where she couldn’t reach it without the help of a ladder.

“I don’t remember saying yes to dinner.”

“And I don’t like playing games.”

“I don’t either,” Emma said.

“Then, we’ve agreed on the first premise for our budding relationship.”

“If you say so,” Emma said, walking away from him to go get Keats.

“Is dinner on?” he asked, following behind her.

“Yes.”

“In two weeks, you won’t need Anaïs Nin anymore only Keats,” Mihaly said.

“Why not?” she asked, stopping so suddenly that he walked into her causing her to stumble forward.

“Because you’ll have me,” he said as he reached out to catch her and bring her into his arms.

“So you think you’ll be my fantasy for a few weeks, huh?”

“Not weeks, Emma. Years.  You’ll be my Valentine for years to come.”

The End