• Sahar Abdulaziz

A Writer's Gift ...

Last night my son came home with a special gift for me. He, like his mother, enjoys haunting bookstores in search of a new read. Then he came across this little treasure called, COMPLETE THE STORY, a notebook filled with pages and pages of story starters, and he thought it would be something I'd enjoy. Something to keep my creativity flowing. For an author-writer, this red notebook was a gift of gold.

How better to celebrate this book than to use it and share my stories, right? And so, below, is story starter number 1#. Please join me on my new weekly creative excursions into a world of starts and now some finishes.

The book's story starters are in bold, the rest, well, the rest is the mess in my head. I hope you enjoy.

"At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was … " *

– A home. Living out of a suitcase most of our lives had been rough, especially after Mom fell ill. Grandma had welcomed us in, but she had little to offer herself. A tiny room, a much too small bed for us to share, and a single wood dresser that had once been our mother’s when she was a young child. And yet, at our age, this new shelter offered a solace and safety that for so long had alluded us. At times, even sleeping in our van. Now, with a sturdy roof over our heads, we had the space to think, to play, but most of all to explore. Funny enough, it had been our exploration that unearthed the possibility of oil, 'black gold' some called it. The anticipation of being able to save ourselves became all-consuming.

Mother’s health worried my brother and I. All the stress and sadness had torn her apart. Her once full healthy figure now nothing more than a small, strained frame. She'd become more ribs than flesh. Poverty and loneliness had finally caught up to her, consuming and tormenting her down to the core of her broken, tired soul. We watched through child eyes in horror, helpless, as she coughed a trail of red droplets into a succession of over-used napkins, often turning away in an attempt to hide the remnants of her body failing, but we knew. We saw it all before, and we were scared. Dad’s leaving had already haunted our memories. Losing Mom would be unbearable.

With nothing more than a single discarded Styrofoam cup and an old kitchen spoon successfully swiped from our Grandmother’s kitchen drawer, we headed out to our secret spot, careful not to disturb our mother, who had finally found a few uninterrupted moments to rest peacefully. As we marched through the overgrown meadow, each lost in private thoughts, the sounds of early morning birds filled the crisp, otherwise quiet air. Their welcoming symphony of tweets and calls followed us, urging us to continue … to be brave.

Under the makeshift leaf tarp, made to hide our find, we began carefully scooping the goopy mess up, ladling small amounts into our cup, mindful not to spill. Each precious droplet collected meant one step closer to the home we wanted to construct for our Mother and Grandmother. Once we had collected enough, I found a flat unblemished leaf to cover the cup for our short walk back, the both of us eager to unveil our treasure to the two most important people in our lives.

Tiptoeing into the bedroom, the dank, musty room held an unfamiliar scent. Nothing menacing or overly strong, just different, familiar … Something wasn’t right. Coming closer to the bed, I leaned in to whisper in my mother's delicate ear for her to awaken and share in our fortune, but as I stepped nearer, I saw it, our mother’s expression. Her once beautiful face now frozen, masked in the same unearthly hue that took over our father when last, we saw him in his eternal resting place.

“Wake Grandma,” I whispered to my younger brother standing behind me. He still had the small cup gripped securely in his grubby, tiny hands. “Tell her Mom needs her.” My voice cracked. I had to be a brave, I reminded myself, just like before.

With trembling hands, I pulled the thin blanket protectively over her now quieted shoulder. She’d cough no more.

I remember how my tears ran down my dirt-stained cheeks, a part of me grateful that she’d finally have her permanent home now, safe from need and want. But the bigger, child part of me has always felt heartbroken that we'd never been given the chance to build it for her.

Story Staters from:

* Complete The Story, 2016 Piccadilly (USA) Inc.

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