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July 5, 2016 / hbrowne4

Man in Barbara’s chair, Vietnam 1997 Emmaleene Leahy

This is a piece I wrote in Inksplinters and was written in response to the visual prompt of the same name. Some fellow attendees might recognise it as it hasn’t been edited or changed. It can be found in:
(My story appears on p18 but there’s lots of other great stories by women from all around the world including Irish award winning writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir ) .

I still have the photo of him, freshly shaven, he is a ghost reclined against a tobacco tinged backdrop.

As a child I collected colours. They fulfilled my kleptomaniacal tendencies. Seeing a new one I just had to have it. I would familiarise myself with the new colours personalities, the various tones of it in different light. Only after intimate knowledge of each colour could I then own it.

To possess it, I had to name it and so began my lifelong affair with Lavender Lilly, Magenta Maggie and Scarlet Harlot. Sometimes colours were defined by their relationship to each other. I particularly liked how my Dairy Milk Purple snarled at my Canary Yellow.

When I think of him now, I think of colour even though I possess nothing more than this muted, faded monotone memory.

I remember him screwing shut one eye as he sucked on a cigarette and how I wondered if that’s what he looked like when he peered through the sights of his weapon as he took aim, fired and killed in the name of war.

He’d draw into his lungs and hold. The moment suspended until the meandering exhale, a blue and grey cloud twirled and coiled and lingered around him. That was in the early days. The days of carefree children playing, days brimming and humming with rainbows revealing the secrets of the earth.

The days before it all broke down in ruins around us.

His blue became the blue of crazy mania and cold dead thoughts that hid in the pools of his eyes. The only way to warm them, rivers of wine that blurred his vision and allowed him to dream through blood shot eyes.

They were the days that I felt ashamed of my own thoughts and the rage I felt towards him.

Those fires soon cooled when he turned grey, gaunt and ashen, lost in his own clothes scuffling in slippers.

Until there were no more shuffling sounds but instead the high whistling sound of him struggling for breath and the awful smell of him rotting away.

One particular day, I forced myself to reach out and touch him, to add the warmth of hope to his despair. He was nothing more than a pile of twigs beneath a blanket, brittle as a pile of kindling.

Everything was brown that day all muddled and mixed up without a name. his skin was rough as tree bark, his bones crumbly as dry rotten wood. The stench of death shredded the air until my insides contorted to avoid it.

I remember sitting at his bedside before that, rocking to the rhythm of the words I muttered over and over.

“Don’t die. Don’t die. Don’t die.”

But that day I touched him I knew he was already gone, his body a hollow carcass in which his soul was poised waiting for dissolution.

When he passed, I felt nothing.

Shouldered his coffin with a face of stone absent of emotion. I did not cry or wail or grieve like my younger sisters did. I wonder if that’s the reason why.

Maybe it is the only reason why, he’s the ghost returning to haunt me, back to torment me into sorrow for his loss. He is a hovering apparition, demanding the mourning he was due. I feel him watching me in purple twilight, hovering and shimmering, suspended in an in between dimension, awaiting the release, the relief of my grief.

One Comment

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  1. dc / Jul 11 2016 5:05 pm

    So lovely to see this popping in my newsfeed! The image was from a postcard I gave to the group a while ago, in a bunch of other potential visual prompts. Happy to see it used in such a touching piece Harry… I also miss the group a lot and hope to return at some stage in the near future. Please give my greetings to everyone there!

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