Thursday March 2nd, 2017

The exercise:

Write about: the afterthought.

Around mid-afternoon it was looking like I was going to have a lot of stuff to put in the freezer. Then the bakery got busy. I'm going to thank the weather and how much warmer it was this afternoon than it was this morning for that.

Ended up with only one loaf, one baguette, one ciabatta loaf, a handful of croissants, bagels, and cinnamon buns, and one focaccia. Definitely left work in a better mood because of the late day rush.

Going back to starting at nine tomorrow, as last Friday's first hour after opening was rather crazy without me there. Plus Shannon is heading out for a weekend trip to Victoria in the afternoon so she needs to get her baking done on time, not be dealing with the front.

Hopefully it's another good day.

I expect it will be.


Her name was Rosa, but nobody called her that.

She was simply called The Afterthought.

It wasn't just because she was the youngest of ten children. It had nothing to do with being the only girl, though you'd be forgiven if you were fooled by that book cover. Certainly she was very quiet - so much calmer than all of her brothers - but that wasn't it either.

It was all about the gap.

Rosa was seven years younger than her closest (in age, at least) brother. That, at best, screamed accident. At best, it indicated that her parents had decided they were done having children... until one day they decided eh, why not one more?

Not much better, admittedly, but at least there would be some intention there. Some desire for her inclusion in their family.

Regardless of their parents' actual thoughts, the brothers decided upon that second option. So they called their little sister The Afterthought, almost from the very beginning. Never in front of their parents, at least not at first. But of course mom and dad figured out what was going on.

Parents nearly always do, in the end.

The boys were good about including their sister in what they were doing, but they very nearly always made a point of pretending that they'd forgotten she existed before extending a belated invitation to play or to go to the corner store or to go to the matinee at their local movie theatre.

It's not an easy way to grow up, always being reminded that you're constantly on the brink of being forgotten. It does not do wonders for one's self-confidence or self-esteem. It was no surprise that Rosa struggled to carve out a place in that household.

It was, perhaps, even less surprising when, as a still shy and introverted 23 year old, she decided to take her bloody revenge on her brothers.


Greg said...

I hope the bakery tomorrow is steady then, so that the rush doesn't overwhelm you too much! It sounds like it's going to be a bit of an intense day though if it's like the previous Friday.
Rosa's is a bit of a sad tale though I was expecting (I don't know why) a slightly more uplifting ending from you :) Still, I like how detailed the background is and how it builds through to explaining the punchline. You get a clear feeling that she put up with a lot as she grew up, and the fact that her parents are never shown stopping her brothers is very telling and despite having no words is a superior image throughout the whole piece.

The afterthought
Bare feet on snow. Skin so white -- it reminded her of the tall pillars that fronted her parent's villa up in Northbrook, they were the first things visitors saw as they came up the drive -- that the blue veins were like lines of mould in cheese. Were shoes an afterthought or had they been deliberately removed? How about socks?
"No socks," said a police Scene-Of-Crime Officer standing nearby. He was holding a plastic bag by a corner; there was a black car key caught between the transparent layers. "No fibres below the shin." She shivered, vibrating in time to the rattle of the police tape tied around the trees. It defined a pentagon that gave them enough room to move in; at one point there was a white tent set up and she could hear voices from within. The wind blew from the east, carrying with it a scent of diesel fuel and she thought she knew where the vehicles were parked. Why couldn't she think of them as cars?
"Footprints in the snow suggest barefoot for a while," said a different SOCO walking behind her. She turned -- this one was carrying a logo-branded carrier bag that held rolls of tape and bandages. They were all roughly circular so they needed to be filed together... of course.

Greg said...

"Footprints everywhere," said the first SOCO, dusting for fingerprints on the fingers.
She pressed her own fingers to her temples, trying to concentrate, bring everything back into focus. For a moment the snow disappeared and there were four walls, a smell of tobacco and shampoo, men murmuring in the background and a doctor leaning in.
"This is really just an afterthought," said a friendly voice and fingers pressed to her temples. There was an instant of pain and then the snow was back and she felt like the real world had reasserted itself.
"She's a bit dead," said the second SOCO and she had to concentrate to work out who she was talking about. The corpse with the feet like gorgonzola cheese.
There was the smell of tobacco and a warm hand touched her back. "We'd like to know what she thought after she was killed," said a familiar voice. "We believe you can help."
"The afterthoughts," she said. "The thoughts we form as we prepare to move on."
"Just so," said the voice with the depth of tobacco, brown and lush, seductive and yet dangerous.
"I'm just going to wash my hair," said the first SOCO, smiling at someone behind her. "I've got new shampoo. It's called Afterthoughts, you wash, go,... and them remember that you needed to wash your hair." No-one laughed because it was serious and they all knew it.
She knelt at the cheese feet and felt a tightness in her chest. In her memories a doctor leaned in, eyes wide, mouth open. "They said you're an afterthought," said the doctor in a friendly voice. She reached out and let skin contact skin, the living and dead meeting again, a gateway opening, a threshold forming where things could have potential without having the weight of reality. A young girl, barefoot, stood there looking uncertain. She looked at her hands, black with fingerprint powder.
"I only wanted a cigarette," she said, her mouth opening impossibly wide. Red, red flesh yawned. "I just asked for a cigarette." Her mouth opened wider still, and her head hinged back so that the top of her head touched the back of her neck and there was just a hungry, toothy mouth where once there was a head.
"Do you have a cigarette, Jenny?"

[Sorry for having to post twice; hopefully it's worth it]

Marc said...

Greg - thanks for the kind words on mine :)

Goodness me, this is fantastic. I think I remember seeing more of this in future prompt responses... so I find myself very much looking forward to that!

Wonderful details and atmosphere and story telling. Bravo.