Double Standards

Home was a safe place in our A frame house in the country until the day the phone rang and my mother answered it only to start weeping ferociously. At six I was old enough to help with some things so when she gestured for me to pass her her cigarettes and lighter, I did.

I stood watching her for a while, her pretty legs crossed and pink chenille mule style slippers keeping her feet warm in our drafty winter home. I wanted to know what was wrong but I knew I couldn’t ask until she was off the phone. I idly played with some toys and books nearby, keeping an eye and ear pealed toward mom’s conversation.

My mind ran to all sorts of catastrophes including about dad and my older brothers and sister. It’s a good thing something happened to take my attention off my impatience before I got myself into trouble for interrupting Mom on the phone.

Mom lit a second cigarette and at once, her laquered bun she’d carefully crafted to look pretty like I Dream of Jeannie’s hair, took to flame. I tried to get her attention.

“Mommy, Mommy, your hair is on fire!” I said this several times but she whooshed me away with the hand holding the freshly lit cigarette.  I was panicking and thought about grabbing a bowl of water to pour on her head when she suddenly dropped the phone and it swayed to and fro on the black curly cord.

She set her cigarette down in the ashtray and began pounding at her head with both hands, smashing the stenchy bun down altogether and collapsing the flames while looking at me.

“Why didn’t you say something?” she asked.

“I did,” I said. “Lots of times I did!”

“Well, I never heard you,” she said before picking up her cigarette, grabbing the phone back up to her ear and resuming her tearful conversation.

When she finished the call she told us kids her grandaddy had died. We didn’t know him so it wasn’t upsetting to us but we knew death was a bad thing that meant you’d never see the person again so we felt sorry for Mommy. We knew our loving grandfathers and couldn’t imagine losing them.

Upstairs I went to resume playing with my sisters, our makeshift Sears catalogue people and furnishings our little dolls and houses which we often spent hours enjoying.  All at once Mom bellered up the stairs with such a start to us that we two girls jumped.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, thinking she’d had another phone call.

“I’ve been calling you for ages. Come down here and watch the babies while I cook supper,” she said. “How many times does a person have to call you?”

“Well, I never heard you,” I said as I skipped down the stairs to help.

“You hear just what you want to hear,” she said.

(c) Janni Styles

(Originally posted here in 2015 as a prompted piece in a weekly fiction feature)

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The Rose Series: Seven Sisters

Witness those grown humans

Rosie said to her six sisters

they sure are prickly posies

and they don’t even have

any thorns

Every year the same nonsense

talking to this one

or not speaking to that

maligning sister or brother

behind their kindly backs

Mother Superior of Roses

please halt those double talkers

who hold nothing in abeyance

full mean estates exposed

by fork tongued surly word hawkers

Fifty years on

we’ve bloomed every single spring

faithful, loving and true

just to witness all this sniping

they almost unconsciously do

Being human is oft over rated

I fear, so glad am I to be a rose

so many human faces splinter

leaving loyal blossoms heavy

heartened by a hastening winter

(c) Janni Styles

The Rose Series: Tarnished

once trust is soundly breached

there is no timely repair

rivers of roses never enough

to get you both back there

once your love is violated

by those possessing fork tongue

no apology will ever suffice

what’s been said is done

please keep your tarnished roses

give them to someone else

I deserve the purest flowers

you never deserved myself

(c) Janni Styles

Kindness Karma

you’ve only to sit back

watch the heartless get what they deserve

karma goes direct

it does not swerve

doing nothing is the same

as being actively unkind

“nothing” karma always returns

when something is needed down the line

so let the bitter hearted do whatever they do

don’t get mixed up in karma not meant for you

if they ignore the hurting

instead of being kind

they’ll never truly know

genuine connection of humankind

queen karma always visits

though she may be  somewhat tardy

wherever there was cruelty

she returns to strike the hardy

withholding love or kindness

a sorrowful legacy to impart

kindness always leaves the kind

a very peaceful heart

better to be kind whenever we can

a kindness insurance for the soul

in living a life of grace

love shining out the everlasting goal

(c) Janni Styles

 

The Seer

at first

everyone said

she was a witch

crazy in the head

until she read their

futures from

the ashes of their

burned woods

I see it all

she said, the evils

and the good

nobody’s ever

fooled me

yet

oh some think

they do

that never lasts

doesn’t take me long

for you see

I always know

ahead

what

humans are

about

(c) Janni Styles