A short time ago, two of the writers in the Daydream Journal thread decided to try a short story experiment: they agreed on a character, a location, and a couple of objects. The stories they came up with were different, but intriguing. They've agreed to share them with the Post. It's all about that Buddha. Or is it the lizard brooch?
The Lizard Brooch
'You need to move on, Marj', my daughter-in-law Chloe insists. 'It's a year since Tony died.'
A year. Every day since my husband's death has been full of memories of him. It's not that I see his ghost, more that a colour infuses everything – grey or indigo. The world has dulled and darkened. Of course, I do normal things like cleaning and washing up, though I don't cook as much as I used to. When I clean a floor, I hear his footsteps; if I go shopping I half expect to meet him at the end of the supermarket aisle. In the garden, I hear him talking to me. But in the heart of the greyness, I'm aware of his absence, despite the power of my memories.
I know Chloe means well but I can see the headmistress in her, even though she is wearing jeans and a red sweatshirt. She likes to see a day filled with useful activities; sitting and daydreaming doesn't fit into her timetable.
'You've got a list of evening classes and activities of the local U3A. Just choose one.' Exasperation is beginning to creep into her voice.
'All right, perhaps I'll try flower arranging,' I said.
In fact, as soon as she leaves, I climb the stairs and find my lizard brooch. This brooch means a lot to me, because Tony gave it to me while we were first going out together. He was studying herpetology, while I was working in the university library. I had to look up the word in a dictionary: the study of reptiles. 'I'm not keen on snakes,' I admitted, as we sat in one of the university's cafes, eating cake. That's another memory of those days: we ate lots of victoria sponges. I've taken to eating them again, though that's another thing Chloe disapproves of.
'I bet you like lizards though,' he said. 'Most people like lizards.'
'Yes. I like the way they dart about. And their bright eyes.'
He bought me a lizard brooch set with pieces of glass that look like diamonds. Now, I put it on and walk into the garden. Somehow I feel closer to Tony if I'm wearing this brooch, as if it eases communication between us. I've never heard of lizard brooches forming a bridge to the spirit world; it's more that it's a focus for the memories of him.
The garden is beginning to show hints of autumn. A gold sheen over green, a suggestion of leaves wrinkling. Some flowers, like the delphiniums, are finished, although fuschias and roses continue to fly their colourful flags. I have the sense that summer is drawing to a close. In the middle of the garden, there's a circular space between plants, with a seat and a wooden statue of the Buddha. Tony bought it on a reptile-spotting trip to Indonesia and had to pay extra to bring it home on the plane. I'm glad he bothered, because it endows the place with a sense of peace. I sit on the seat, stroke my lizard brooch and look at the Buddha. The indigo mood shifts a little, lightening with violet.
I tell Tony that Chloe has been nagging me, and I find her a little annoying. That's when I hear him speak. It's not his voice, exactly, more a sigh between the leaves, but I know what he's saying.
'I know it's hard to move on but, as long as there's life, there's a possibility of change. Think of your lizard. If it loses its tail that probably hurts, but it can regrow. Be a lizard.'
'I don't really want to do flower arranging,' I protest.
'Is there anything you would like to do?'
I look at the Buddha and have an idea. 'Wood carving. I'd like to be able to make things like that.'
'Good. That's moving on.'