Thursday, December 17, 2009


Ruth didn't want to brush the tear from her eye, afraid it would attract the attention of her other sister. Miriam was holding court in the centre of the trailer, looking so slim and elegant in her tailored black jacket and skirt. It wasn't supposed to be about her coming back with her stories about offices and pensions.

Vladimir, Ruth's husband appeared by the chair she was sat upon and swapped her tea for a fresh cup. His hand reached out and stroked her hair, and with sleight of hand that would have pleased his father he rubbed the salty tear off her cheek. He looked so handsome in his black tails. They exchanged sad smiles before he slipped back into the crowd. She took a sip from the cup. It was far too sweet again, but she so appreciated the gesture.

"Sorry for your loss, Ruthie." she clasped the long bony hand that was offered to her. Poor Marco, forced to stoop inside the confines of the trailer. Such a sweet young man, but already he had to use a cane to support his frame.

Vladimir returned, set a plate of buns on the arm of her chair, squeezed her hand and was away. He had spoken such beautiful words about her sister. His rasping accent painting an aching portrayal of her love for live, love for her friends and for her work.

Lolo and Bolo both tried to hug her at once, bounced off each other and settled for patting her shoulders, an arm around each other's waist. Sad, nonsense words burbled from their quivering lips and their beady eyes in their tiny heads looked so miserable, though they probably didn't quite grasp what was going on. They knew their friend Ruthie was unhappy, so they were unhappy.

Vladimir came and steered them away, gently shoving them towards Miriam, who he knew detested them. He handed Ruth a heaped plate of biscuits. With her free hand she pulled his head down to kiss him on the check, making him wriggle. He put his hand over her hand, pulling himself free, fingers trailing off against her fingers until just their tips were touching and then he was gone again.

"She was a fine, fine woman." Henry's eyes were level with her own and she recognised the moist redness of genuine grief. There had always been stories, rumours about Henry and her sister. He was a decent man, but she wished they had been more open. People would have been happy for them. The opportunity to be a couple was lost for fear of ridicule. Faint heart.

Vladimir reached down to rest a hand against Henry's back, exchanging a silent nod of understanding with him. With his other hand he placed a plate bearing a whole coffee cake on Ruth's lap.

Ruth looked at the cake, stared intently at it for several long seconds. Her whole upper body fell forward, curled into a ball of sobs, her beard bunching in the the cream topping of the cake. She stood suddenly, sending the plate to the floor and the cake with it. She swept biscuits and buns after them, charging through the mourners to collide in a desperate hug with her sister Miriam, who stared daggers over her shoulder at Vladimir.

Her husband started towards her, but Henry's grasp on his coat tail stopped him short.

"Give her a minute," Henry said. "We've all taken Two Ton... I mean... Tessa's death pretty hard" He looked at the pile of food on the floor. "But you have to remember, Vladimir, there's no getting her back."


  1. I think that it's just right. Although some may run right over that key sentence near the end.

  2. I'm really sorry, but I read through it three times and I couldn't work out what was happening.

    Ruth's beard, and the reference to "two ton" - I'm sure these are important, but I don't know their significance.

  3. Yes, with names like Lolo and Bolo and Two Ton...and all that food...I'm thinking that these are very large circus performers.

    The fact that Henry's eyes were level with hers meant to me that while Tessa was large, her boyfriend was a little person. Hence the fear of ridicule.

    Very tricksy of you!

  4. "Poor Marco, forced to stoop inside the confines of the trailer" signaled something was odd, Lolo and Bolo in unison, made for more odd, "her beard" Oh that takes me back to the realm of normal. lol

    I hope someone takes fish boy some cake, he never gets out of that tank.

  5. I had guessed they might be circus performers as well, but what I focused on the most were the little things--perhaps slightly exaggerated--so common to many gatherings of family and friends when there is a death--the fact that people focus on what seems inane (Miriam being slim, etc.) or think others are focusing on that instead of feeling/showing the proper amount of grief. (All kinds of psychological reasons for this...) Then there is the issue of food, kindness (or not?), uncertainty as to how to handle remembrance oneself and in the presence of others. I love when the seemingly exotic reveals so much about what is so "normal." Thank you. :)

  6. I liked it, and I didn't think it was too subtle or something. Sometimes it's good if a story makes you think, and the hints are all there.

  7. I'm a gonna edit the last bit for clarity...

  8. A bit on the subtle side. Not for the passive-casual reader. Agree with Diandra, nice to think.

  9. Provocative. So provocative I'm still scratching my head. But that's pretty wiped now, so I'll come back and read again -- tomorrow. Great writing, though! Peace, Linda

  10. I read this yesterday and have come back for another read... I'm confused but I like the confusion.... Good writing. :)

  11. I think it comes home. It's subtle, takes a minute, but it does come through. Nice job.

  12. I could tell pretty early they were circus freaks/performers. Her sister who died was the "fat lady" (or whatever the term is) and she's the bearded lady. I'm also guessing the other sister is out of the circus game all together. I couldn't really place anyone else, especially Vlad. Overall, with the subtlety, I really enjoyed this story.

  13. I'm a little confused about Vladimir. He's trying to make her fat like Tessa by giving her the entire coffee cake? But it was Henry that loved Tessa? Do send me a direct message if you want to keep this under wraps, because it's going to bug me!

  14. It's not too subtle. It takes a couple of reads, but so what, that's a good thing. You allow the reader to ask questions, such as: maybe there's another reason Ruth doesn't want to eat, maybe the fact that Miriam is shooting dagger stares at Vladimir means she'd like Ruth to have a life on the outside too, and maybe Vladimir doesn't seem to have any physical anomalies because...hey, let the next reader speculate!

    Well done.

  15. Thanks for the wonderful comments!

    I had thought about exposing the initial idea I had when writing this piece but it's gone on so long that I'm afraid I'll spoil the fun. I've told a couple of trusted souls what I was intending to portray, but I think I'll leave it at that.

    Honestly, the failure of most readers to get the whole picture is a failure in my writing, not in anyone's perception.

    This has been one of my favourite stories ever.

  16. Not too subtle. You could tell it was a circus family. I wonder about the title, Sung. How did that relate?

    Straight From Hel

  17. At first I thought it was animals, I think because of the names. It took the beard to make me realize it was circus folk. Good read, good descriptions.