Let the flames begin! Our first contest entry from Kristy Webster

Literati! Whoda thunk that the Phoenix would rise from its ashes in Moscow! Tis true.  A Word with You Press is back on line with a permafrost–oops!–permanent address in Moscow. We have a backlog of entries into our contest that honors Peggy Dobbs and uses as its prompt: “I swear, it’s not too late.” Our …

Literati!

Whoda thunk that the Phoenix would rise from its ashes in Moscow!

Tis true.  A Word with You Press is back on line with a permafrost–oops!–permanent address in Moscow.

We have a backlog of entries into our contest that honors Peggy Dobbs and uses as its prompt: “I swear, it’s not too late.”

Our first posting is from Kristy Webster, who would very much like to reconnect with all of you after a hiatus of a year or two. Kristy is a brilliant writer and artist and some-time contributor to the word.  For those of you unfamiliar with the site, we sponsor contests on a regular basis but you must write to a specific prompt. Somewhere within you entry you must include the words “I swear, it’s not too late.”

It is certainly not too late for Kristy to be welcomed back into the clan. We have missed you, my dear! Read this, oh Literati, and you will understand. Read this, and be humbled by eloquence, as am I.

Here is Kristies entry and chance to win $500…

Crown

By Kristy Webster

I held you in my arms after washing my hands in hot water and ivory soap for sixty seconds. That was the rule. At age eight, I believed myself an expert on how to hold new things, an expert of how to live in this noisy world. I smelled the top of your head, examined your frail fingernails. I gently flexed them, alarmed at how pliable they were. I tested mine: stiff, inflexible, already. I marveled at your softness, your absolute perfection.

When I was thirteen, I was more of an expert, and your parents asked, Can you keep your eye on him please? And I did. You pouted, you stomped your foot while your parents busied themselves cleaning out their most recent rental, the third in one year. When I tried to take your hand in mine, an offering of comfort, you bit me. But I didn’t tell. I understood it was your protest, the last straw of your patience as you watched your toys sorted, divided into labeled boxes, your clothes folded and lowered into ballooning duffel bags and plastic bins. I added the bite to my crown, a gem of my growing expertise on how to be.

When I was twenty, my crown heavy with dull rocks and broken stones, I watched you, together with my two-year-old son. You were playing with your train set, a birthday gift from your grandmother. My son stomped on the train, pulled pieces from the track, broke them in two, in three, even four, after ruthlessly chewing them up. You sat on the floor, looking at the wake of destruction my angry toddler left behind. I waited for your rage, the five-year-old who stomped his feet, who showed his teeth. But you didn’t show me your teeth, you lifted your head, your glossy eyes questioning mine. I asked, Can it be fixed? You shook your head. No, you answered, But everything breaks, eventually. You said, You just have to let it go once it’s broken. Everything breaks, I repeated.

I was twenty-eight the next time we met and you were a man, towering over the shattered pieces of my crown. I was no expert on how to live. I had only taken too long to believe it. How many years has it been? I asked knowing full well already. Too many, you answered. My son still talks about you, I told you. You hugged me, pressing the back of my head towards you, pulling my face into your chest. I drowned in your scent. I thought, This is what I’ve been waiting for. This. Nothing else.

It wasn’t perfect the first time, or the second. Our first kiss flooded as November poured through a canopy of evergreens. You wiped my face with the inside of your coat, as if you’d forgotten it hadn’t stopped raining. My face wouldn’t stay dry and not only because of the rain.

You left. To find yourself, you said. To know yourself. You were just a kid who thought he was a man, you told me. You were still growing. You were only twenty when you talked about forever. You were no expert on how to be. Be angry, tell me how horrible I am for doing this to you, you begged. I rubbed the place on my left hand, the meaty part of my thumb where you’d taken a bite out of me so long ago. I told you, Everything breaks, eventually. You left me while I sat in the tub, my skin going up in flames. I wanted the scalding water to burn the flesh right off my bones, to rid me of tissue, of nerves, anything capable of drinking and retaining this pain. White bones, a ladder of broken steps to a broken heart.

I swear it’s not too late. A place must exist where broken things are made whole again, where time exists windowless, insulating this tiny kingdom. I swear it’s not too late, to cure the brokenness, to heal such subtle but profound damage. I swear it isn’t too late to find yourself inside this room, with me. It’s not too late, I say to you, when you come back to gather your things; a guitar, a presumably lost jersey, your bags of shirts stuffed inside Safeway bags. I tell you, I kept the pieces all these years, promised myself I’d fix the track, that I’d replace the joints between the train cars. I said, I know it’s a long time coming, but broken things can be fixed.

But you left. You left. You left.

Night after night without you, the ages between us fight their bloody wars. I have loved you in every way, maybe even with a new love that never existed before me and you. Tell me it’s not too late to put down our swords. Tell me it’s not too late and I will believe you. I will sink into that ruthless dream. I will wait. I will wait…

But you left.

I told you I would put this pain on paper. I told you I would bear it. This is me, my love, bearing it.

22 comments

  1. Kristy, you have set the bar high for all who wish to compete in this contest…such honest, clear narration and emotion. Welcome back.
    with renewed affection,
    thorn
    editor-in-humbled-mode-in-chief

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    Very nice transforming and evolving from young childhood to womanhood and from baby to that time between adolescence and manhood. I like how you used symbols to tie the ages together and allow us to remain in both the moment and in the fuller life spanse. Thank you.

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      I wanted to add that a second reading outloud to friends brought up emotions for me that my silent reading had not. My friends were very impressed with the undercurrents of the narrator/story teller coming forth. I began to picture this story on stage in a spotlight with other spotlight scenes from the woman’s life as she tells the audience about her life and the young man’s. Loved your story.

  3. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    I stopped watching “The Hobbit” just to read this. If you could only understand the sway “The Hobbit” has on me you’d understand…

    I definitely know the feeling about holding a new child. I thought for a second that it was the story of two cousins–one much older, as I am much older than most of my cousins–as their lives progressed. From the looks, it doesn’t seem to be that way, though the loves we go through seem much like the stages of life: a childlike beginning, a time of acquiescence of wisdom, the readiness to feel something real, and the pursuit of finding it.

    Though the story is flooded with heartbreak, it is also holding a breath of hope; yes he left…but it’s no promise that it will be forever. <3

  4. This is like soul food for the ages, perfectly believable, and with the thinest thread of hope (that Stars mentioned). I am curious how long the piece took to write, there being a landslide of raw, honest emotion. I couldn’t imagine one creative thrust, but then with such talent, you probably wrote it with your eyes closed.
    Thanks for making the contest the best that it should be.

  5. This prose is so meaty, my mouth waters. I really appreciate your weight and whimsy. There are so many questions not quite rising to the surface, like a really good meringue. They are in the place they are meant to be, and holding well. A wonderful first read for this contest. KUDOS

  6. F.J. Dagg says:

    “…a ladder of broken steps to a broken heart.” To quote just one superb phrase. Brava! Thanks so much, Kristi.

  7. Kristy Webster says:

    I just want to thank everyone for their beautiful, kind and positive comments about my entry. I am overcome with gratitude. Thank you. –Kristy

  8. Diane Cresswell says:

    Finally a chance to read the stories and Kristy – this is a soul inspired story. Your level of depth in this tweeks ever nerve ending. Your descriptions are worthy of gold stars. This is an incredible love story told simply and with tears. Beautiful.

  9. Candace Louise says:

    Wow. This is beautifully written! The images are incredibly tangible, and I felt the emotions of it right along with reading it.

  10. Mac Eagan says:

    I won’t call this piece “beautiful” – but only because everyone else beat me to it. I was, like Stars, a little lost on the relationship at first but I think that is my only complaint.
    What I recall most from my first (yep, read it more than once) reading is how you balanced a changing POV. “At age eight, I believed myself” sets the tone of a memory, but you do not tell it as something distant. The confidence that comes from a child’s ignorance is plainly expressed.
    With each stage of the story, the narrator’s perspective changes but the story is still told as if each event only happened a few days ago and not as looking back nearly thirty years. At thirteen the confidence is still there, but it somehow doesn’t seem as strong. At twenty and beyond there is doubt, confusion, loss, and regret.
    You share this in a way that is easy to identify and understand.
    Indeed, as Thorn said, you have set the bar high.

  11. Beverly Lucey says:

    I very much like the idea of us being different people on our life’s continuum. Baby sitter, young mother, lonely single, reconnecting in a brand new way, and then, as Emily Dickinson said:
    After great pain, a formal feeling comes –

    The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –

    The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’

    And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

    Your last paragraph is wrenching and real.

  12. I am going through these again, and I am so glad your entry was first. It set the bar high, and I am glad. I appreciate your shifting POV throughout. At one point, I wondered if the “lover” was special needs, but now I see it was just two people trying to make sense of how “everything breaks”, and how there is a strange sort of peace in that knowledge. You wrote your protagonist’s POV kind of like a warp and weft throughout the framework of the love story, and that is cool too. It keeps a nice pulse. Well done.

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