It’s a long time since I posted a cop-out blog, but it’s also a long time since my last posting (perhaps because the UK election and its aftermath were so traumatic), so that’s my excuse for this one. It’s simply three stories, each of exactly 200 words, which I wrote for successive competitions on Goodreads.
Theme: What is inside the locked box?
Title: Granddad (NB, that’s not the answer to the question)
Granddad’s magic tricks were part of her earliest memories. The coin held up, the fingers closing over it, both hands opening, empty. Then, every time, Granddad finding it behind her ear. She must have been about 8 before the magic stopped working, but he still did things with cards that mystified her.
He loved her in a different way from Mummy and Daddy, seemed to understand her better. When she was 6 she made him promise not to die. He laughed and said he’d always be with her.
She was 14 now. They hadn’t done things together for ages. So when he died, she felt sad but not surprised.
After the funeral, Mummy gave her a little box with a tiny key. Its label said ‘From Granddad, with love’. She unlocked it and slid back the lid. Out bobbed a tiny hand on a spring. It was clutching a coin. As she looked at it, she felt sorrow well in her chest, rise into her throat. The tears came, and the sobs, and in that little coin she saw everything she’d lost. But she also felt an overwhelming love and knew that Granddad was right. He’d always be with her.
Theme: The night the moonlight stopped.
Title: The Pianist
She’d started playing when she was five; simple little songs about milkmaids and soldiers. Her fingers were tiny on the keys but her hands flew quickly over them and the music flowed.
By her 21st birthday, she was performing all over Europe. It was magical to hear. And see. Her movements and expressions matched the music’s intensity. She drew new subtleties from Chopin, Liszt and, most of all, Beethoven. From the difficulty of his sonata no. 29, The Great Hammerklavier, to the delicacy of his Bagatelle no. 25, Fur Elise, she teased out shifting moods, new interpretations. And across her face flitted frowns, smiles, anxieties, fears.
The specialists couldn’t pinpoint what caused her deafness but, by the age of 30, it had become profound. She retired when she could see the hundreds of hands clapping but hear nothing. From then on, she played only for herself, in a small basement room, on an old upright. It had no hammers, no strings, but her fingers flew as easily as before. As the room filled with the clacking of the keys, her face still showed everything from deep despair to exuberant joy as she coaxed from them sonata number 14, the Moonlight.
Theme: The Other Mirror
Title: Love Affair
It began when her dark, soulful eyes caught his. He was mesmerised, wanted her all to himself. He wooed her with poetry, using words and images she’d never heard from other men, and all the time, he saw shadows of others’ lips and hands on her. It was unbearable.
One night, before leaving to go to her place, he took a four inch bradawl from his toolbox, jammed a cork on its needle-sharp tip, and slipped it into his pocket.
Later, as she leaned back in her chair, he saw again what he was losing. He got up and walked round behind her.
‘Remember Kahlil Gibran? Mirrors of the Soul?’ he said.
She shook her head.
‘He talks about a thirsty man in a cage of gold and jewels, but without water. That’s how I feel. Your eyes are the mirrors of my soul and windows into yours.’
He leaned over her. ‘And what a soul you have’, he said, letting his tongue lick butterfly kisses on the lid of her left eye.
‘Mmmmm. What a nice way to clean a mirror,’ she said. ‘Don’t forget there are two of them.’
‘Ah. I have different plans for the other one.’