Squirrels (week 3, day 3)

The most notable feature of the house wasn’t the architecture or the location, it was the laundry chute. Occupying less than an eighth of the hallway, the laundry chute drew the attention of everyone who entered, drawing forth questions or comments, within moments of being ushered past the threshold. The house had seen its fair share of owners over the years and, no matter how the home was decorated or who lived there, the chute held center stage.

It was a purely functional item. It operated as expected without needing brute force to open or close. It was placed well for swallowing the laundry generated by entertaining since it sat just outside the kitchen and near the dining room. Even the downstairs powder room was within a few steps. And it was perfectly normal for a house to have a laundry chute in the first place, especially since it had been built in the mid nineteen hundreds when it was all the rage to have a washing machine in the basement.

What drew the eye was its ornamentation. The door of the chute was, simply, a work of art. The average house guest wouldn’t know it but there was an opening on each floor that, taken together, were designed to tell a story. If you started with the door on the main level and worked your way up, you were treated to a story of growth while, if you started at the top floor and worked your way down, you experienced a story of loss. Even without the knowledge of the story (or stories), the doorway on the main floor almost demanded attention.

The door was made out of metal that had been shaped with such care it looked as if it had been painted. Many people who were drawn to it touched it before saying anything, needing to make contact with it to believe it was, in fact, just a door. It was a work of art that draws the viewer in, made even more compelling by it’s unexpected location and purpose.

At the center of the doorway was an image of a young man. Even though there was no color to the image most people assumed he was wearing blue pants that buttoned just below the knee and had blue straps over each shoulder. His shirt was imagined by most to be white and flowing. The scene around him was imagined to be full of color – bright green grass with small yellow flowers, dark green tree leaves exploding from deep brown branches, and a soft blue sky with puffy white clouds in the sky. In his hands he held a flute. It was being held at his chest as he gazed at the route ahead of him, seemingly unbothered by the squirrel who was behind him, hanging onto his glute with its tiny claws.

Max walked past the laundry chute multiple times each day and looked at it every single time. He had done the same that morning as he headed into the kitchen and was thinking about the boy as he began to sauté his breakfast. 

Route to Peace

Route to Peace (Week 2, Day 3)

“What’s in your hand?” Rita held her hand out in front of her and waited for her son to do the same.

“Do I have to show you, mama?”

Rita looked at his round face and worked hard to keep her expression stern even though she wanted to melt. “What do you think?”

“I think I have to show you.” Kwante’s face crumpled and his bottom lip popped forward into the sweetest pout.

“You open your hand and I’ll watch you.” Rita pulled her hand back and rested it on her knee. “I won’t touch whatever you have, I’ll just listen.”

Kwante kept his head down and slowly opened up his hand to reveal a small shell. “His name is Fatty.”

“What now?”

“His name is Fatty.”

Rita started to reach for the shell and Kwante closed his fingers and pulled his hand to his chest. “You said you won’t touch!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Rita put her hands up in front of her. “You’re right. I won’t touch. Why did you name the shell Fatty?”

Kwante gave her a skeptical side eye as he opened his hand again. “He’s not a shell, mama. He’s a snail.”

“A snail?” Rita stood up and backed away in the same breath. “Where did you find a snail?”

“He found me, mama. I didn’t try to find him.” Kwante took a big breath, blew it out, and added, “that’s not all the way true.”

Eyebrows up, Rita asked, “what part isn’t true, Kwante?” When Kwante answered in a whisper too quiet for Rita to hear she lowered herself down onto the ground and crossed her legs. “Come on, Kwante, tell mama.”

“I made him find me, mama. So I have to take care of him.”

“You’re going to need to line some things up for me, Kwante, because I am not understanding right now.”

Kwante’s eyes widened and he leaned forward, keeping the snail close to his heart. “I did it from Yoga, mama. He found me because of the yoga.”

It took everything Rita had to keep from laughing out loud at his earnest pronouncement. They had been doing yoga together every morning for about a month at the recommendation of Kwante’s teacher. The woman had bent over her desk and scribbled for a few minutes before handing Rita a piece of paper with little drawings of stick figures in different shapes. The top of the sheet was labeled “Hatha Helpers – A Route to Peace” which had made Rita need to stifle a giggle. The whole thing was beyond out of Rita’s comfort zone but, for Kwante, she would do almost anything. Almost.

“Kwante, I don’t think snails do yoga, and I know I don’t want a snail in our apartment.” Rita stood up. “You need to return that snail to the grass or wherever you found it and we need to go.”

Shaking his little head Kwante closed his fingers around the snail again. “Mama, please? Fatty needs to come home with us. He found me and we match.”

This is part of the 2022 500-Word Short Story project. Comment with “Tell me more” if you’d like to vote for this to move to the next round.