Saturday, July 30, 2016

Keychain


(originally published November 1, 2015)

Another year, another Boston Book Festival. Only this year was different in that I decided my time was better spent working on my own writing, rather than going to hear other authors talk about their published works. I was sorry not to go, but this fall has been a whirlwind. So much so that I’ve even been neglecting this blog a bit…but all’s well, and moving onward. The fourth novel is well underway, and I’m preparing a short story for submission to an anthology. But I participated in BBF in one small way, by writing a story for their One City, One Story program, where they invited writers to tell a flash fiction story about what home means to them. Here’s what I sent them.

A keychain shouldn’t be empty of keys, Callie thought as she placed hers on the bare wooden floor. The sunlight glinted off the various trinkets that found their way onto the rings over the years. Practical things like the tiny flashlight and bottle opener, and the fanciful, such as the silver-and-shell seahorse pendant from a trip to Mexico, and the enameled black heart, emblazoned with Emily Strange’s face and the words“Bad Girl Gone Worse” over a spiderweb.

Callie snapped a photo of the bereft keychain. “We’re officially homeless,” she said.
With the photo snapped and uploaded to Instagram with a poignant comment, Callie surveyed the empty room. The moving truck idled by the curb. Shafts of sunlight lengthened along the polished pine floor.

Callie couldn’t fight the emotional storm that descended. Reels of memories played, but one in particular brought tears to her eyes.

“I’ll never forget that moment—after the closing and this place was truly mine. It was empty and sunny, just like this. Diva the Queen of Wonder Dogs and Best Witch’s Familiar Ever was with me. It was her first time seeing the place. She ran through all the rooms and skidded to a halt right here to relax in the sun. Missing her still breaks my heart.”

Kissing her head, Jack pulled her in for a hug. “I know. I’m sorry. We can get a new dog after we settle into the new house.”

“It’s not that,” Callie said with a despondent sniff. “There are so many memories here. I’m happy about the house, but this place is a whole era.”

“A new era awaits.” His squeeze comforted her. “Come on. The movers are waiting.”

She said goodbye to twenty-five years as they drove through Somerville. The store-front ghosts of the past appeared in her mind’s eye. Disc Diggers and Someday CafĂ© in Davis Square; Arsenic and Old Lace in Porter Square; WordsWorth and the Tasty at Harvard. At least Bob Slate’s was resurrected, Callie thought as they continued to drive.

“To think people used to make fun of me for living in Davis Square,” Callie said. “And now it’s hipster central and exorbitantly expensive.”

Jack reached out with one hand to caress her neck. “Hey, we’re only a couple towns over now. We can still go to our favorites anytime. I’m sure it will be hip where we’re moving someday, too.”

Callie laughed. “Someday. That town has a way to go before anyone calls it ‘cool.’ Feels like the end of the universe at the moment.”

Jack laughed and turned on the music. As if on cue to summon her muse, Kate Bush, Nick Cave, and other prophets of the bygone era of her twenties conjured deeper memories. Maudlin sentiments lured like a will-o-wisp.

Remnants of snow banks from a month’s worth of blizzards clung to the curbs—filthy and battered sentinels of one of the harshest winters in recent memory. Spring’s warmth was slow to start, but the densely packed snow showed its age with deepening pits, revealing humanity’s wake—pollution and litter.

When they pulled up to the driveway of their new home, long-time residents pulled their curtains aside to peer at them. The moving truck hadn’t caught up yet. Callie got out of the car, smiling as she thought of the day the real estate agent showed them the house. They had barely crossed the threshold when both Jack and Callie felt that this was their new home. She opened the door and smelled the memories of the family that had left. Years of cooking, favorite colognes, and the mustiness of old things lingered.

“It’s all about the past,” Callie said. “That’s where home really is. Everyone’s too busy to notice it in the present. When you think of home, it’s always in the past.” 

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