Friday, April 15, 2011

Orchid Hearth

"Papa, you can't stay here." Grains of sand nestled beneath Renie's coarse garb, marking the distance of her trek. She pointed at the horizon darkening with evening except for the red veins flashing through the ash cloud hovering above Nyiragongo's volcanic flanks. "The diamonds are gone."

His voice husky. "My place here." He retreated into the doorway, his bent frame clearing the doorway as the dune spilled into the front room.

"Times change and you must move on." She waved at the other houses, woodgrains exposed beneath cracking paint. "Everyone has left this ghost town. Marrok and I have a spare room where you could stay."

"That dog. He took you."

"There was nothing left for me, except you. You mustn't blame him."

"More here."

Renie stumbled in the house's darkness, sand covering the floor. A rolling smoothness marred by Papa's footprints. He sat crosslegged on a woven mat, sand spilling from the chimney. An orchid grew, its slender stem vertical, its flower drooping, blue with white veins.

"Unnatural. It shouldn't grow here. We can buy flowers to decorate the room we set aside for you."

"Shush." Papa caressed a petal. "See pattern. Same as brown-green swirl of your mama's eyes."

Renie collapsed, leaning against Papa, closing her eyes to feel the fibers of the blankets mama had woven to keep Renie warm at night. "You can't stay. Maybe, we could bring her."

Papa shook his head. "Promise to visit?"

Renie hugged him tightly. A tear trickling along her nose.


  1. You routinely write so much fantastic fiction that I thought "Sand" was a character in the first line. Good work keeping this one so short and tight, Aidan.

  2. I thought Sand was the daughter's name as well at first. I think that brought a different read to the story for me.

  3. @John & @Tessa, I've slightly modified the opening line to avoid that confusion. Tessa, I'm curious how it changed the read for you. Was it jarring to have her referred to as Renie later?

  4. Hi there Aidan -- really nice sense of place here. Very intrigued about what's going on (a lot suggested in very few lines), liked that flower amongst the desert sands. Leaves me intrigued to see what happens next.

    You're very good at creating these worlds and populating them with a story. St

  5. I like the stubborn, old guy! =) He very much seems to have found his place in the world, good on him. =)

    Really quite touching at the end, too.

  6. @StephenH, Thank-you; I find I'm often taken by places like some people find characters. I have to work harder on the characters.

    @JohnX, I don't know if I would personally be as stubborn as Papa, I have material comforts that I've gotten too used to. Glad to hear it was touching.

  7. It's quite sad when someone just won't leave a place, even if it's for their own good. But then he seems quite happy there, so perhaps moving him would do more harm than good.

  8. I didn't think the daughter's name was sand, so whatever you did, it must have worked.

    Good job with this. A little sweet, a little melancholy.

  9. This reminds me of all those stories of people who won't leave their homes in the face of natural disaster. Home is where the heart is...

  10. I found this to be a very evocative piece, I did wonder if she would persuade papa to leave or not, now I'm wondering what will happen to him.


  11. I loved the imagery you used in this story. Something about the sand sifting into the chimney, the volcano in the distance, the out-of-place flower, caught my imagination.

  12. That was great. It touched me.