A short story for May's collab (see REsources). I'd love to know what you think, and whether there is anything I can improve. Or you can improve. x
The oil painting of the orange trees that hung on my wall was newly framed, nailed into a border of orange wood that came from a tree struck down by lightning. Father was a farmer with two green thumbs on hands that molded treasures out of trees. In the backyard attached to my side, his dreams bloomed like new orange blossoms in the young, Californian town of Orange.
His little girls' dresses rose and fell around their ankles as they raced and chased around my porch where their mother sat, knitting. When dusk was near, his wife called in amy and anne and into bed they went, while father set a hammer into his belt and nails into his mouth, getting ready for his favorite summer job. Planks of wood were transformed into a shelf for mama's hats, a chest for his little angels' dolls, and a box for the clothes she was making for the new baby.
1904 came, and Amy and Anne never became Amy, Anne, and Alice. I saw Mother roam the hallway and out into the backyard, where she looked into her reflection in the birdbath and withered like leaves in a drought. The wind was always circulating within me, where she had not heard her third baby girl breathe for the first time. I could tell when she touched the box that Father had made that she could not smell the sping in the breeze anymore.
When Papa died in the war, I was all they had. The girls cried and sank down my walls, they turned my knobs and opened windows to try to bring back the spirit of the sun. Then they painted the shutters a green that the leaves never were after dust storms came and went in the summers. After Mother sprinkled scarce water to keep the insects away, the storms came and went again, fine grains of glassy sand rooted in my shingled roof. It was her Papa's dream of endless green that Amy saw when she closed her window when she went to sleep, and it was what Anne dreamed of in a land where the dust never came. Soon, the Depression brought about little water and the promising green whisper of my shutters were all they could listen to. The radio brought no good news any more, and the cellar beneath my floor was clean out of food and supplies they had sold to keep themselves well. Mama's hands shivered when they washed her lonely dinner plate, and soon Amy and Anne brought their own children to keep their mother company. Oranges were rarely seen from the kitchen window anymore; even the tops of the trees Anne remembered spotting once from Mama's bedroom window were dying like the sun.
Then Mama joined the stars and her grandchildren's memories of the house Grandpa built, the one with the orange trees and the green shutters. On the steps, Amy closed my front door, the door of the house she grew up in, the one that stood like the trees still stood. like Anne, she didn't know what would happen to me, because both wives could only think of the dreaded arrival of a letter drafting their husbands into the army.
The suspiciously confident voices of the radio announcers brought about good news at last, far from the orange trees and on a day called D-day, when the "dreaded drafting of husbands and lads was dropped". One year later, a veteran from the first war finally moved in and set up garden furniture from all the aging tree trunks. He kept the oil painting where he found it, forgotten by Anne and abandoned by Amy, who only saw her father's hands framing it on the back steps.
Harvey died of a heart attack before he saw the child who threw orange seeds down every backyard of every house on the block. The child was motherless, and his father worked in Santa Ana, unconsciously granting him time to lounge on a curved bench a few yards away from where I stood. I heard that houses like me were being taken down and I prepared to never see orange trees sprout again when a sign was put on the front lawn, preventing the wrecking ball from demolishing my sturdy, skeletal remains. The boy was invisible to everyone's eyes, shielded by my size and the tall mixture of grass, weeds, and a massive grape vine that was never removed from the premises. But I was not invisible, and in the night the seeds whispered to my shutters and the old coats of paint chipping at my corners. The attic was hollow with memories of the laughter of children and the excitement when candles were lit at night, instead of the instant glow that blinded the windows in my eyes. Where was the family in the old man who left behind a pair of army tags and a photo of a woman who promised to wait? Where was the family in a pair of sisters was whose unborn sister was the Alice that never came back from the rabbit hole? I longed for the smell of oranges, for a tree that would satiate the hungry crates in my cellar, for a woven basket of fruit made by a mother whose hair was the color of the skin of my very own forbidden fruit.
The seeds young Bradley had tossed from the orange he had stolen from the produce market grew into stout stems that shook like the walking sticks of the elderly. Their tips scratched my sides and there was a shiver that rippled to the cores of my aging foundation. I was to be honored with a plaque that preserved the few months which I believed had been the best in all those that i spent standing, waiting, hoping.
The young woman who lives here now has eyes the color of the craters of the moon. She peels away her sleeves like a woman I knew once, and when she touches my wall, I can hear her heart tremble. But her mind rumbles in the horizon like a storm, and i see in her grocery bags little sachets of seeds: orange and apricot and lemon. Small spades and yellow gloves have made their way to the middle step of my front door, and the painting from the hallway is on the sacred wall above her bed, cherished like a child. She has a dog that trots around the birdbath, chasing his own tail, and when he curls up beside her and her guitar, she can feel the faint pulse in my walls embracing her. I have found a home, and when she sings, the entwined strands of wood that form my bones tighten, and I smell oranges.
Created: Jul 25, 2010Document Media