The Summer Storm
Robert's wife has no idea when the light blue sky has turned a threatening, sombre gray-black. As if someone has gone and smeared a lot of chimney-soot on its face, she says to herself, her hand automatically reaching up to touch her own. Laying there on the grass with the sooty sky bearing down on her, she thinks of Robert. She thinks of his arms as he had held her last summer in this very meadow, how they'd made love, laughed, fed each other from the small basket she'd brought along, the mingling smells of a thousand honeysuckles around them.
She has gone back in time, dreaming, when a movement catches her eye: a foal at the water's edge, drinking from the small brook, all by itself. She wonders where its mother is. She decides it is probably time she returns home, to the empty house Robert has left her in, to follow that harlot he'd met at the fair: the doctor's daughter, fair-haired, light-skinned, tall, and slim - everything Martha is not.
Martha has become Poor Martha, Poor dear Martha. Martha, the wronged, abandoned wife. Every eye in the village has touched her with silent but heavy sympathy as she's trudged her fat belly on swollen legs to and from the market, to fetch milk, or to order new clothes when the old ones did not fit any more.
Anything, dear God, but pity. Anything, but another "Poor dear". Martha, her jaw clenched, thinks of how well she has put a stop to all that today. She gets up, brushes off the grass from her dress. As she walks over to the brook, the foal skitters away, neighing.
She takes one last look at the bundle under the stone. A big, fat raindrop falls on her arm just then, but she takes no notice. They will find it soon enough, she thinks, as she looks at the bits of cloth flowing out from under the smooth stone she's chosen. Mrs. Brown will recognize the mittens and the cap for "Martha's poor baby." Mrs. Kilshaw would see the old baby quilt she handed down for the "poor fatherless child." What a waste, really.
But the proud father is returning today and the house would be empty no more. He will ask for his son, she is sure, before he asks for forgiveness. Better walk down to the village then, it is almost time he is here. She can always send someone back to fetch his darling blue-white son from the brook.
The storm gathers and begins to blow in earnest, the rain soaking Martha so she looks as if she has never been dry. On her hair and clothes and skin the rain flows in rivulets, making it seem like she is crying from all the parts of her body but her eyes. She hums under her breath, and walks like a woman on a stroll in the meadows, taking in the smells of summer.
Anna is tired, so for dinner she throws together some pasta, loving its white body, its rough-smooth texture. She slurps in a strand, checking if it is al dente, burning her tongue. She thinks of the things she did today, the uniforms, the scrubbing rooms, the conversations. She sets the pasta to drain and stirs up the sauce, the red tomatoes reminding her of the blotches on the white towels as the little girl bled on her table. Anna's table.
The girl bled, bled, bled, making the nurses scurry here and scurry there, looking for clips, more towels. But Anna had cut into the wrong place, a main artery, so near the heart that it would pump blood, keep pumping it out, unaware of the blood spilled.
Anna makes herself turn to the pasta, now drained, white, but no longer inviting, the spaghetti strands flowing like bloodless veins. They have gelled into a gooey mess, sticky-gooey, and the pale white looks too much like the white girl's white face, and the whiteness of her father as colour drained out of him.
Anna mixes the sauce into the pasta, stirring it slowly, willing it back to life, then gives up. She picks up the whole lot, chucks it into the bin. She switches off the kitchen light, which has begun to give her a headache, and walks out towards the patio to have a drink.
© 2008 Damyanti Ghosh
Creative process: Damyanti Ghosh : These were the result of writing exercises given out by Sharon Bakar. In both of these, the first sentence comes from a series of writing prompts. This sentence then becomes the first line of your piece.
For instance, for Anna's Day, the prompts were:
A feeling: Tired
A colour: White
A food: Pasta
A sound: Honk
A texture: Rough
Something you've said or thought today: Have a nice vacation
An object you've handled: Cell phone
The name of a person you know or have known: Anna
I was then asked to write a sentence using as many of the words as possible, with a minimum of three.
This was my sentence:
Anna is tired, so for dinner she throws together some pasta, loving its white body, its rough-smooth texture.
I guess my brain kind of short-circuited a bit, trying to connect disparate things. The prompt words used for The Summer Storm story were: wife, light blue, sombre. I basically got the stories down in speed-writing bursts of ten minutes each, and then polished and cut out the excess.
Damyanti Ghosh is an established freelance writer, writing for various websites and magazines, who is now trying to figure out a way to step into fiction: a field she has touched before, but never professionally. She has written poetry for quite some time now, and hopes to become a writer some day: not just a published author, but a real writer in the truest sense of the word.
Damyanti also writes poems. Read two of them here.