I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on saying thanks and posting old business, but, “Ha! Better late than never,” I always say.
Well that and, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission,” but that’s a post for another time.
Anyway, so back in 2015 (oh so long ago), my favourite writerly website, Writer Unboxed, held a year-long flash fiction contest. The instructions? Write a 250 word story (with a beginning, middle, and end) once a month, based on a different picture prompt each time.
I wrote this one and it was chosen as a weiner,err, winner for the March submissions, so thank you to Jo Eberhardt and the crew at WU for putting on and hosting the contest. It was a great experience!
Oh, and I’m sorry for being late with my thanks, and I’m sorry for my shameless self-promotion.
Glory remembers the relevant things: the heavy thumping of the soldier’s boots as they marched near the shallow grave her mother frantically dug for them to hide in; the green strip of fabric ripped from the hem of her mother’s dress to cover her mouth and nose so she could breathe easier under the dirt; the feel of her mother’s hands—shredded and bleeding—in hers as they lay there together, hoping for silence and not discovery.
The coughing up of Nigerian silt for weeks after coming to Canada.
This wall is not her wall to paint. But those girls were not their girls to take. She carries her survivor’s guilt like it was a canvas satchel stuffed with boulders. She was lucky. Five minutes later and her mother would no longer have been at the school.
She paints a white girl on the brick wall even though she knows there are many colours with fear – white, yellow, black, red—and she paints the bubbles for her sisters.
219 bubbles to be painted in all and, one after another, they float lightly, freely, ironically, out from the paintbrush. There’s no freedom for her sisters yet, but she knows she needs to keep hoping.
In the bubbles, where the small white reflection of light would go, she paints their eyes as she feels them now: dark, terrified, resigned, frantic.
And underneath each bubble, in her beautiful cursive writing, she writes all their names: Esther, Maryam, Yagana, Awa, Rejoice, Lydia, Comfort…