Friday, July 24, 2009

Lost and Found

Mamma had a love for other people's things. People should take care of their possessions, she would say, or someone else will.

"Careful, child. Mind your feet."

I paused, my foot hovering above the floor. Mamma bent down and picked up the object lying there. A single earring, silver, a green stone dangling from the base.

Mamma shook her head. "Mrs. Johnson's goin' be upset about this."

"Her grandmother's. For her daughter on her wedding," she said when she noticed me looking at her. "That's an emerald."

"Something old?"

Mamma nodded. "Let's put it away safe."

We went down the hallway to, what I always called, the Room. This was the place Mamma kept the things she was always finding. She placed the earring on a shelf that ran along one wall. It joined the many other single and pairs of earrings there. I looked over her shoulder. Something further along the shelf caught my eye.

"What's that?"

Mamma looked where I was pointing. It was a ring, big, gold. A man's ring, a wedding band.

Mamma frowned.

"Anderson. Bill, I think. Bill Anderson."

She nodded, certain now. She picked up the ring, weighing it in her hand.

"Oh yes. I remember Bill now. Yes, I remember him."

"How did he explain to his wife where he lost his ring? Why he took it off?"

She clucked her tongue and looked at me.

"People would do well to make their lives simpler. To take care of their things. Not to cheat on their loved ones."

"No good can come of it."

She moved through the room, past the table covered with all sorts of keys, and stopped at a wide, flat tray. I peeked around her at the things it held.

Mamma sighed as she looked at a long, pointed kitchen knife. The blade was stained red in places.

She shook her head again.

"No. No good can come of it at all."

She looked down at me and nodded towards the knife.

"That was lost too, like all the rest here. Didn't stop them though. Didn't stop them taking her to prison. Ended her days there, she did."

She set the wedding ring down next to the knife.

We stood there, in the room, surrounded by all those things people lose track of.

Mamma always had a love for other people's things.

I take good care of mine.


  1. this is wonderful, it opens up all kinds of possibilities in my mind as I read it. I'd love to be in the room as she tells the stories. nice work.

  2. You've created a thousand stories, whispering in different voices, waiting to be heard. Great story!

  3. Oh, I love it! So many beautiful little pieces.

  4. Great story. The mother's reverence and knowledge of each piece made the story slightly sinister. It makes me wonder if she has a room for lost loves too.

  5. The potential connection between the individual contents of the room had a clean focus in the mother's placing of the ring beside the knife - there are many stories here. The blasé explanation of the collecting urge behind the room, typical of an adult to a child when the truth is complex, does tickle the sinister detector. Nicely done!

  6. I've got so many questions that I don't need the answers to after reading that story! I actually found the narrator more sinister than the mother... but maybe that's my twisted mind - I never believe first person narrators. Lovely story :-)

  7. Glad you enjoyed this one. There is a sinister cast to the whole thing. No good can come of it, I tell you. :-}
    The room (or Room I suppose I should say) could be the setting for a series of tales - most tales of woe I suspect.
    Interestingly, the story was supposed to end with "Mamma always had a love..." which provided a nice bracketing between the beginning and the end. Then the narrator, grown now I suspect, stuck her oar in with that last line. Now, that I found sinister.

  8. Interesting story there, Kevin. Just the thought of that knife, and how Mama got it, creates a whole range of possibilities. And the ring! How, exactly, did Mama get that one, hmmm? Was she the other reason? That's another story I want to hear. Good stuff.

  9. Sinister, yes, but the last couple of lines, to me, almost felt bittersweet. The (I assume) bloody knife creates a fine moment between the son/daughter and mother.
    And this is a lovely, natural piece of dialogue:
    "That was lost too, like all the rest here. Didn't stop them though. Didn't stop them taking her to prison. Ended her days there, she did."

  10. What an odd story. I mean that descriptively, not judgmentally. Eccentric, maybe.
    Okay, my reader comments (me being reader, not writer): It's amazing how quickly I conjured a full-fledged character for Mamma. Much of it came from this one line, your second paragraph: "Careful, child. Mind your feet." I mean, I knew that women right then and there.
    I didn't have as much self-generated clarity on setting (dang, my writer comments may be bleeding in here; sorry). At first I had them in a store, and suspected this would be about shoplifting, or finding something and returning it in the mall or some place similar. Next I thought they might be in a boardinghouse Mamma ran (hence finding other people's stuff), then I thought maybe in a single-family home and Mamma is bringing these things in by some kind of magic and storing them in the Room.
    I didn't have a clear image of the kid's character. I have the barest feeling it's a pre-puberty boy.
    Writerly comments: Which character spoke which dialog confused me. Here are the lines I think are the child's: "Something old?" and "What's that?" and "How did he explain ...." I think that's all. The placement suggests they had some back-and-forth dialog that content suggests was a continuation of one speaker. I don't know. A couple of dialog tags would help clarity, I think.
    I love the final line. There's a lesson learned -- or at least said to have been learned. Do I believe this narrator? Not on Mamma's life. (Funny. Why is that? It's like the narrator is dissecting Mamma, or observing her. He's going to do something with that information. Something self-serving. Hmmm. Just a hint of that, but it feels right.)
    Now I'll post this and go back and read the other comments (I like to make my comments before I look at others). Thanks for sharing this.
    --Jeff Posey
    P.S. I like that bug you have on your blog. I want one of those. I need to investigate.

  11. I like the normality of this before we see the Room. The whole thing is on the surface quite harmless, a mean old woman keeping someone's lost valuable and then we enter the Room and the scope of the piece widens massively. I like the idea of each piece having a dark tale to tell. Subtly sinister....the best kind.

  12. @Jeff Thanks for such a full and detailed comment. I understand about the story not having a clear sense of "place" or "setting" - for me it's a lot of your 3rd choice. I'm not exactly sure how Mamma gets all these things, they may just turn up by themselves. But she knows about them, and keeps them. And I'm certain she knew a good deal about Bill Anderson!
    The narrator, for me, is a young girl - except at the end. That last statement is from an older person, and possibly not a nice one.
    You got the dialogue correct, but I see how I might need to provide a clue or two more.
    Glad you enjoyed it. It grew for me, and took off in a direction that surprised me. I love when that happens.
    @dan Yes. This does start of quiet and normal - and then the wheels come off and things get...different. I seem fond of the idea of something "different" going on beneath the surface of "ordinary" life.
    Well, that's my excuse for these tales anyway.