Wednesday November 25th, 2015

The exercise:

Write about: the telegram.

Chopped and hauled wood. Got a haircut. Looked for work.

That about sums it up for today.

Mine:

"Sir, a telegram has arrived for you."

The man being addressed, seated in a plump chair with a drink in his right hand, continues to stare at the dancing flames in the fireplace before him. The servant who had addressed him, the message held tightly in his left hand, remains standing in the doorway.

Several minutes pass without any change in the scene, save for there being slightly less wood in the fireplace and, therefore, slightly more ash.

"Sir," the servant tries again after clearing his throat, "a telegram has arr-"

"Put it on the table," the man says, nudging his left elbow toward the circular surface he had indicated, "and get out."

The servant does as requested, as unhurriedly as he can manage. He does not wish to taint the room with the stench of his fear. His master does not look kindly upon such transgressions.

"And lock the door behind you!"

Having returned to the safety of the doorway, the servant is glad to know that his master could not possibly have seen him jump, like a startled child, at the shouted command. He, again, does as he was told, before fleeing with silent steps to the sanctuary of the hotel's front desk.

The man does not pick up the telegram. Does not even look at it. He does not need to. He knows who it is from and, minus a few specifics, what she has to say. And he is in no hurry to read her words.

It is, in some ways, a surprise that he does not simply feed it to the flames. At least, for someone who does not know this man well.

I, on the other hand, know him all too well. For I am his son. I still think of myself as such, at any rate.

Even though I have been dead for all these years...

4 Comments:

Greg said...

That sounds like a fairly busy day, all in all. But you've managed to produce a very nice tale out of it, and one you can add to the 'to-be-continued' list I think :) The scene-setting is masterfully done, and it's only a little bit of a shame that nothing other than the delivery of the telegram happens. It would be nice to see more of this, and see what's going to happen now that the telegram is there!

The telegram
Mum was always a little scatterbrained; I can remember that when i was a child she took the wrong child home from school not once but once a month. The most spectacular one is when she took the wrong child home from the wrong school. I can laugh about it now, but when I was sitting on the stone steps leading up the reception desk of the school, cold and lonely, watching daylight trickle away, it was horrible. As I got older I got more used to it: I'd check the washing machine for tea and the oven for dirty clothes. I did my own washing and ironing as soon as clothes became important to me, and I started cooking after I realised it was that or expect to go hungry two days out of five.
Actually, looking over what I've just written, she was a lot scatterbrained. There was the time she went to the post-office to buy stamps and a large envelope and came back home two days later with a half-empty champagne bottle and a Contract-bridge trophy, six hundred(!) envelopes but no stamps. And the time that she took the dog for a walk and came back with three dogs, a turtle and an Abyssinian mountain cat.
So I probably shouldn't have been surprised when she sat down at the table one afternoon, after having been out to see her friends Alice and Betty, and said, "Oh look, I've got a telegram!"
I was baking; Mum liked apple pie and I prefered it without random inclusions from her forgetting the type of pie, and then that it was a pie. I finished wrapping the pastry in cling-film and set it in the fridge to rest, and then her words hit home.
"There's no such thing any more," I said. "It's all email, or maybe fax if you're in the Dark Ages."
Mum waved a yellow bit of paper at me. "Then what's this, smarty-pants?" she asked. I set the apples aside and put the knife down, and took the paper. Sure enough, it was a telegram.
ASWAN DAM NEARING COMPLETION STOP AL HAZRED WRITING NEW BOOK STOP FOSSILS ARE HERE STOP COMING HOME SOONEST
"This is insane," I said. "Where did you get this from?"
"It was on the doormat," said Mum.
"Someone's pranking you," I said. "The Aswan dam was built in 1900 – well, a few years either side. We studied it in school."
"My grandfather was out in Egypt then," said Mum, a vague look on her face. "He was so scatterbrained you know."
The cold chill of dread that shivered down my spine was entirely involuntary.

Marc said...

Greg - yeah, I seem to have a growing urge to write longer, more involved pieces these days. Huh. I shall add this to my (growing) list of things to return to.

Love the details in your opening, they really set the stage for the remainder of the tale. Though I do have to ask about that ending: is the dread due to the realization that the scatterbrained...ness... might be hereditary, or for some other reason?

Greg said...

Heh, actually my intention is to return to this piece as well at some point: the dread is actually that the narrator's mother's grandfather (that'll need names sooner rather than later then!) has forgotten that he's dead :)

Marc said...

Greg - ah! That makes perfect sense. Thank you! And I look forward to the inevitable continuation :D