Staying Alive

Rupert’s hand would always go to his pocket when his sensibilities strayed too far beyond the fray. His focus would glaze, amber irises dimming like the telltale signs of life slowly ebbing from a character in a tragic film. He’d rub the things sheltered in his left pocket. Three rubiginous balls. Cold, plastic shells cocooning the essence of the lives lost to him in the fire that razed his home three years ago. His three girls.

He’d stopped questioning his sanity at the faint, pulse-like vibrations thrumming from within. Instead, he’d learned to draw comfort from the warmth ghosting the scars that scorched his crooked fingers. The bones had never truly slipped back in place after that desperate attempt to break the grill with his bare hands and get his girls out. He clenched the balls tight, eyes squeezed shut to snuff the flames that licked at the edge of his memories. The screams faded from recall. He was almost certain he felt a small hand grip his own.

He looked out to the cyan loch softly rippling as seagulls called. His vision focused to catch the sun in a bashful descent of soft pinks and purples. He stroked the balls again. Rolled them around gently in his palm. Whether it was real, or all in his head, it was all he had. All he could cling to. It was all he had to keep him grounded.

Picture Perfect

Picture perfect —

Smiles captured within the lens

Gleaming faces wrapped

Around tender expressions

Cheeks dimpled with glee

Squinted eyes hugging joy

Between thick lashes

Expressions

Not so easily mimicked now

Yet preserved

In wooden frames

Hooked on walls

Seated on night tables

Buried in dusty albums

She still revisits

Huddled in the frail glow

Within a corner of her room

While swallowing coughs

And blinking away tears

At the vestigial traces

Of when her family

Was once whole