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These are the picks from the prompt. The Key

Read and enjoy.

 

Changing Key From Ellie
Livvie unlocked the front door and hung the key on its little hook. She loved this flat. It might only be the tiniest of studio flats but it was theirs, hers and Jamie’s, their very first together.
She was sad Jamie had to go away on a course almost as soon as they moved in. Livvie had hated the thought of him going. Three months seemed like such a long time but she’d coped. It had been really difficult at first but she’d grown used to it and set about settling into the flat unpacking their stuff and arranging what little furniture they had. There wasn’t much space at all but she’d managed to find a home for the important things, Jamie’s rugby trophies and a small shelf for her poetry books.
Normally, when Jamie was around Livvie would spend Saturdays watching him play rugby, with Livvie feigning more interest than she actually felt, trying hard to remember the rules and positions of the players. The games weren’t too bad but it was the evenings in the club house afterwards that sometimes got a bit too much for Livvie developing into raucous boisterous affairs.
Now with Jamie away she’d taken advantage of his absence to join a poetry class instead. Livvie enjoyed her poetry group. It was a delight to discover others who loved reading poetry as much as she did, to share thoughts and ideas. She learnt so much from talking with them, these people of different ages and backgrounds. Livvie gradually made friends with a few of them and looked forward to mooching down to the local pub after class to carry on their discussions for a few hours more.
One evening she found herself sitting next to Alec. She wasn’t too sure about him – he seemed a bit miserable and stand-offish in class. He didn’t say much during their group discussions but when he did he was invariably worth listening to and came across as very well read and deep thinking. Now sitting next to him Livvie felt there was nothing for it; she had to say something and, predictably maybe, started by asking him about his favourite poets. So he told her of all that he loved, he quoted verses to her, became animated. He introduced her to Herrick, spoke to her of Hughes and they discovered their shared love of Eliot.
After a couple of glasses of wine she decided he wasn’t too bad after all. He started to open up to her and told her about the girl he loved; the love of his life Alec was convinced. He’d thought that one day they’d marry but she had different ideas. She told him he was needy and shacked up with one of his friends. He’d never get over it, he said, never.
Partially to try to alleviate his pain and also, deep down, in the hope he’d win her back he’d started to write poetry himself. He’d tried to show her one or two but she’d just not been interested and threw them back at him. “You can keep them,” she said, “I don’t want them.”
As the group started to disperse at the end of the evening Alec smiled at Livvie and said, “You know, it was good talking to you, Liv … I think you understan.”
“I do”, she said, “I think I do”.
She wanted to help him get over it all, move on, make him smile again. They made sure after that evening that they sat next to each other and talked more. A couple of times they even met up separately for coffee but whatever the topic they started talking about it always came back to Alec’s problems and poems.
“You can read them if you like,” he said one day, “she doesn’t want to.”
Livvie took the poems he offered and read them slowly as he watched her. Occasionallyshe’d read a couple of lines aloud and sometimes just gasp at what he’d written.
“They’re wonderful, Alec,” she said, “she’s lucky having someone love her so much.”
******

The term edged to its close and Jamie’s return was imminent.
“I shall have to give up classes next term,” Livvie told Alec, “Jamie’s coming home.”
“I know,” he said, “but why does that mean you have to give up your poetry class, you love it so much.”
“Oh I have to,” she said, “I just do. Somehow I can’t have Jamie and poetry too”.
“Your choice, Liv. Here I wanted you to have this,” Alec handed her an envelope, “it’s a kind of ‘thank you for listening’. Talking to you has helped a lot. No need to open it now, you can do that later.”
Back home Livvie opened the envelope. Inside wasn’t the ‘thank you’ card she’d supposed but a poem Alec had written for her. For her. No one had ever done that before. Touched, she read his words, smiled and tucked the poem inside one of the poetry books on her special shelf. The only place she thought of as her own in that cramped flat.

******

Livvie heard Jamie’s key in the door. He’d been back a week now and greeted her with a quick kiss on the forehead. “Hi Babe,” he said squeezing her bum. He flung his jacket onto the floor and himself into the armchair tossing his keys carelessly onto the nearest shelf. Livvie’s shelf. He turned on the television and then without looking at her said,
“Stevenson’s injured so they’ve moved Willo onto the wing and brought Rick Thomas into the centre. It’ll never work, he hasn’t got the speed.”
She looked at him. She looked at his jacket on the floor. She looked at his keys chucked next to the poetry books on her shelf. “They don’t belong there,” she thought, “they don’t belong there at all.”
Livvie made her choice.

 

Like a Key from Baccus

It’s a Sunday, like all other Sundays. A half-full church with only half the congregation singing while the other half mimes. The other half – the missing half, not the miming half- are my less-than-religious friends and neighbours, peeps who like to be warm on a Sunday morning, not watching condensation rise with their prayers.

I glance up at my mother, singing the bits of the hymn she knows and can stretch to, even if that means screeching into the higher registers. She has the holy look that she wears on a Sunday morning, a bit like the look she wears on a Saturday night when my father rolls in the worse for wear, but without the pinched expression that makes her nose turn white. On a Sunday, her rosy-cheeked face welcomes her martyrdom like Joan of Arc roasting in the freezing flames of virtue.

I’m not sure why so many parents of the parish think that dragging their children to church will make them more biddable. On the last note of the last hymn of the Sunday morning, we kids flee from piety to porn sites and the pretense that we know what we’re watching. Of course, it doesn’t add up. If this is how us kids got made, then all that holy stuff is fake; has to be. You couldn’t do that porn stuff then roll up to church and sing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”.

Yet that’s apparently what adults do. I don’t get it. I wonder what age you have to be before it makes sense? Does it gradually dawn, like understanding chemistry, or does it click, a key turning, opening the door on a brave new world? I hope it’s not like a key. I think I’ll need time to adjust. It must take a lot of practice to be able to do that porn stuff then go and shake hands with the vicar.

 

 

Granddad’s Key  from Ron.

When I remember my granddad, it is with pride, a big man who made and kept friends with ease. Most found him good-natured, and he always saw the best in people. He was a great speaker and gave his life to our family.

 

I loved visiting him because he took the time to talk. His life stories straight away transport the room to another place and time. His voice was deep, slow and often he wiped his eyes when he remembered something special. Excitement confused his words but I never stopped listening. He never spoke of the war unless he could see a point to the tale, to educate, to honour the fallen. To recall was to re-live and he avoided the pain. Most afternoons after speaking for a time he would often nod off. Before leaving, I would tuck the knitted quilt that grandma made for him around his shoulders.
One day when I visited, he said, “Have your mum and dad told you my secret?”
I sat on the floor in front of him. “Dad says you’re worth a lot of money.”
A chuckle came from his rough lips as he lifted my chin and stared into my eyes. “You’re ten now. If I tell you something, will you promise never to tell anyone?”
“Why me? My dad’s your son and auntie Joan your daughter. You should tell them.”
He said something under his breath that I did not catch. “I don’t trust them. Listen, you don’t have to believe me, I’m not even asking you to, but one day you will understand.”
“Okay and I promise not to tell anyone. Cross my heart.”

He appeared to grow in front of me.
“Your dad is right. I have a few pounds stashed away for a rainy day.”
From around his neck he removed a chain with a gold key attached. “Never give this to anyone unless they ask for granddad’s key.”

“What if no one asks?”
“Then my solid gold key is yours to keep.”

Confused, I left him dozing in his armchair and went home. The chain and key I hid in a box in my wardrobe.

A few weeks later mum told me she had bad news. Her eyes filled with tears. As she blinked, they dripped from her eyelids and slid across her cheeks. My heart sank.

“Your granddad is in hospital. He has pneumonia”

I tried to hold back my tears as I asked, “Can we visit?”

“You can come with us tonight. The doctors say he hasn’t got long.”

***

The three of us sat by his bed but I saw that every breath was a struggle. His lungs were desperate for oxygen, but his body would not cooperate. His breaths came fast and shallow. He gripped the white hospital sheets and his eyes pleaded for the pain to stop. He was too old to fight the battle. For a few minutes, he appeared to perk up. He stared at me, I am sure he winked before closing his eyes.

***

The sun shone, its glare bright and cheerful as I entered the church. As I took a pew near the front, the long held-back tears flowed. I was not ashamed. I loved him. Now my storyteller, a wise man who would always listen, was gone. I sat and awaited the start of the service.

A few days after the funeral, the family entered granddad’s home. It was as if the spirit of the house had gone with him and I did not want to be there. Dad told me to take whatever I wanted as a keepsake.

Almost in a whisper I said, “I’d like his medals.”

Dad walked into the back room and returned holding the framed decorations. “He’ll rest in peace knowing you have them.”

I held them close to my chest. “Can I go home? I don’t like being here.”

“Run along,” said mum. “Your dad and auntie Joan need to find granddad’s papers before we put the house up for sale.”

As I made my way home, I remembered granddad’s words. Only give them the key if they ask. No one had mentioned any key.

I still have that key. It reminds me of my storyteller.