Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Soul Writer (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her blog, An Open Book. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Hi everyone! Eira and the Dark Phoenix are taking a break this week. I haven't been able to spare the time to write a decent installment with all the school "stuff" this week, so please accept my apology and dive into this temporary piece until next week. It's got plenty of emotion and a sliver of darkness, sprinkled with hope--a rainbow fire. ^_^ I wrote this piece three years ago and couldn't do it justice. It appeared as a Faithwriter Challenge awhile back. While it still is not what I want it to be, it's been on my mind for awhile, so I've expanded it a bit and tried to explain the heart of my "Soul Writer". Enjoy! Please leave a comment or a question, I love the feedback--happy weekend! 

The wooden sign rattled from in the clutches of the iron arm that hung the shingle over the doorway. I scowled at it from behind the dingy, soot-covered window that allowed the few shafts of light into my meticulous office. It proudly declared our services, touting exceptional gravestones, monuments and the sentence I hated the most was last—“Resident Soul Writer Within”.

My talent had now become a commodity. I stabbed my fingers at the keyboard, finding some pleasure in the clacking keys and none in my current commission. Today was a perfectly wretched day—even the sky was dark, the mirror to my present mood.


Blessed to have known her
Blessed to have loved her
Anne Jensen
Beloved wife, sister, mother.


I rearranged the colors on the heart-shaped template. The digital rendition did not do the symbol the justice it deserved, but I didn’t feel up to playing around with it, so I clicked print, slouching down into the shabby office chair. When the finished product printed, a shrunken black and gray rendition of what the finished product would be, I stapled it to a sheaf of pre-written papers. The pink paper seemed to pale as I glared at it, the black and gray deliberate lines across the softness.

Blaine Jensen was on her way.

I didn’t want to see her miserable face again. The sheaf of papers fell back to the desk with a rustle as I let the stapler fall on top of it. I didn’t care about breaking the silence in the drab room, because the lack of noise was becoming too great. I could almost hear myself think and that was another thing I didn’t want to do.

Ann Jensen had so much more in her life. Not all of it good and not all of it bad, mostly in between—just like the rest of us. She had tried her very best every time she fell. I felt it from the photo. Picking at the lint on the sleeve of my black sweatshirt, I closed my eyes, calling the image to mind. The photograph was crystal clear—a vintage impression of a young woman from a painful past.

My jaw ached, my teeth ground so tightly together the anger coursed through me in showering waves. I could see Anne’s face and I could still hear her daughter’s words when she’d placed her order a week ago.
I hadn’t wanted to take the job, but as a Soul Writer, I could not refuse. Tak says it’s in the job description. I think he made it up. I don’t care. He’s usually right. I hate that.

What I'd written for Anne was correct, but I'd removed all emotion from the words, just as her family had done at the funeral. Just like Blair had done. This was nothing more than another inevitable business transaction in the last duty required to her late mother.

Rebellion itched at my fingertips and I grabbed a post-it notepad and red pen. I could feel the words as they poured onto the neon colored square.

Your soul was our sunshine
The sadness had flown
You gave of your heart
May this be known
Anne Jensen,
Angel of a mother, wife and daughter.



I didn't reconsider as I redid the item with the new verse. The heart template became a cross with a base. I printed it on yellow card stock. Ripping out the old staple, I jammed a paperclip on the new revision and dumped the handful on the plastic outbox.
That was end of one headache for the day.

There was a quiet knock on the door and I made myself swivel around in the chair with the closest thing to a smile I could muster.

It must have been enough, because Old Mr. Svens stood uncertainly in the tiny doorway, brown fedora held to his chest. “Beggin' yer pardon',” He began, stepping in and dipping his head to my supposed smile. “My nephew's dog been missin' fer awhile, an'-” He held out a battered picture and I snatched it from wrinkled fingers, turning the chair back to the desk.

Looking at him was making the headache worse. Familiar sensations began to ripple over me. Memories seeped into my head like the downpour that had drowned my ivy in the window box out front. “Name?” I muttered, closing my eyes to be sure I would focus only on the new image in my head.

“Johnny.” His voice brightened a few sunny degrees. “Your gift workin'?”

“Jonathan.” I corrected, annoyed as the name spelled itself out in my head. Names were always tricky. “You gave him the dog, then?”

“Yes'm.”

“Buy him a new one.” I gave the photo a light toss in the direction of his voice, turning to the keyboard. There was no flicker of life from it, the dog was dead. I could only write in a memory of something when it was dead.

A shudder threatened to come and I bit my lip this time, drawing blood. It was a bitter taste in my mouth as my hands moved over the keyboard.

This gift of gold
Is a memory
A single pearl
Cut from my soul
Barney, a  dog
Beloved companion of Jonathan.


I typed the words on a bone-shaped template and clicked print. Blue paper was found under th pink stack. When it printed, I scribbled my signature on the bottom, stapling it to a standard order form. The signature took up half the page. This would be my good deed for the day. “Give this Tak at the engraving room. No charge.”

A trembling hand brushed my shoulder. “God bless, ma'am.” He whispered, taking the form and shuffling towards the side door, marked “Engraving”. I hoped Tak would hear him enter above the usual racket.

The silence was blissful for a half-second. Then Blaine burst through the doorway, expensive perfume stinking up my workspace. “Did you finish mother's plaque?” She demanded, one manicured hand waving in front of my chest.

I tilted my head towards the plastic box, not wanting to touch the paper again. There was too much energy in it and I could barely handle having Blair in the room. My toes curled as I watched the color drain from her face as she read my revision.

She would not dare question it. I find a slightly warped sense of satisfaction as goosebumps appear on her snow-white arms. Wordlessly she rummages through her oversized Coach purse and writes a check, handing it over with a barely audible word of thanks.

I do not remember to wish her a pleasant evening.

Her exits admits the next customer, a Miss June Carlson from the Randall’s church on the corner.

She stood perfectly straight, nose is the air, as she handed over a tiny, black and white photo.

For once, the cruelty of my own handiwork left me wordless. The ache inside began to burn.

The kind, wistful face stares up at me from the yellowed photograph. I can felt the death in this one. It was painful. The shudder is confined to my feet. They twitch and squirm.

“Your inscription and relation?” My voice is wooden as my powers go to work again. I do not have to close my eyes to see clearly. Memories flood in, and I see her as the free woman she never could be.

June sniffed. “If you must know, it’s my mother. Never could stand the woman and I will never forgive her for leaving us. I was raised by my father, you know. But the family must save face, after all these years, she can only come back to die and leave us with a body on our hands.” She gave a most unladylike snort. “Write what you want, I don't care. I’ll be back for it tomorrow. That should be enough time, I’m certainly paying enough for this whole mess as it is!”

I am left staring after her as she stomped through the doorway. Her hurt is so deep and dark, it feels as if she has left it behind with me, even as her shadow disappears. Old Mr. Svens appeared a moment later, shuffling out with a thin slab of rock under one arm. I know Tak has gifted it, because it seems to be light as a feather as the old man hurries out of the shop, his heart less burdened than when he entered.
My nose itched and I braced inwardly. The storm was coming. I could feel it.

Tak burst through the side door to his workshop, his footsteps heavy and deliberate. He is not happy. I don’t think I can bear to hear what he has to say.

Before I can speak, he glared so hard that shame touched my cheeks as our eyes met.
“We need to pray.”

The clipped sentence is more of an order. I do not protest as he rests one hand on my shoulder and we stand as our foreheads touch. The energy of my gift is writhing within me, I know he can feel the conflict, but yet, his mind did not rest on what is below.

His prayer was simple and touching, stirring the very fabric of my gift. I felt it settle within me. “We were gifted for a reason, love.” He whispered. “I am connected to you for that reason.”

I tried not to scoff. My temper would strangle me if I let it.

“Your feelings are running you.” His hands are gentle on my shoulder. So gentle for a giant who could so easily crush me in so many ways.

“How can you be so calm?” I want desperately to be at the same level he is.

Tears lingered in his eyes. “We cast our burdens on Him. He gives us peace of mind and soul. His stability is our security. You can be calm—always, in Him.”

Tak whispered another prayer into my ear and after a few minutes, he leaves. I sit down to work. There is nothing else to do and I can feel the aches melting away. The words are staying behind.
I have work to do. 

I have never met Marie, but with my gift, I feel as if I knew her. This is the most vivid picture yet. My fingers dance across the keyboard. This will be another cross-template on yellow paper.

Of broken hearts
And shattered dreams
Of false starts
And beautiful things
Marie Carlson
Blessed mother, wife and sister.

© Sara Harricharan

2 comments:

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

Creative and unique story. I love this line, “We cast our burdens on Him. He gives us peace of mind and soul. His stability is our security. You can be calm—always, in Him.”
I love your writing style, your gift of words is wonderful! Hugs, Rita

Yvonne said...

Very interesting, Sara! I want to read more...