Her small feet sprang spritely across worn, marble smooth cobblestone. Her heels clicked musically as she made her way towards the crossroads just outside of town. Along side the path, daffodils and tulips blossomed into yellow, marine and carmine.
The red paned door of the glass telephone box open slid open soundlessly; admitting her. The light within was dimmed by a dozen plastered prints that smothered an entire section of the booth. “Women of Britain say Go!” announced one, “Your King and Country Needs You!” demanded another. She took a glance outside and was glad that no one else was in queue. The shiny, beetle black telephone sat on the hook; a patient messenger waiting for delivery.
“Burrrrrring! Burrrring!” The handle bursts into activity.
She reached for it instinctively, but paused to suppress a sudden onset of butterflies.
She took a deep breath, felt the air filling her lungs like a hot air balloon.
“Dad?” She meekly murmured.
The voice that answered her is boisterous and full of good cheer. He tells her that glory and service for his country awaits, and that he could barely wait to show her his medals and the new stripe across his shoulder.
“Please be careful, Daddy… I’ll miss you,” She pled insistently.
He laughed, assured her not to be worried; that he would be back home by Christmas, to enjoy their traditional pudding. Think about the future, he told her. Think about us.
“Just promise you will be careful,” she repeated, like a mother worried about her lost child.
“Promise!” She repeated apprehensively.
He agreed, reassuring her that he would be back by Christmas. She should be sure of it. He is sorry for the fact that she is left with her aunt until he is back.
The phone is replaced. She exits the booth, just as the blue English sky had began to turn grey with the spring rain.
Her feet moved languidly down the path, dragging oversized gumboots through the chaotic maple leaves that was scattered all over, crunching every time she took a step.
Trees were stripped bare; skeletal shadows of their old gory; the cobblestone a scarlet carpet of burnish orange fading to decay. The door squeaked open with a groan, neglected by time and disuse. She slid the door shut and let herself inside. The panes are thickly covered with desperate posters, “Your fellows are fighting. Why aren’t YOU?” implored one, and another which made her weary, “Oh please do Daddy, buy me a victory bond.” It portrayed a little girl naively requesting to join the forces.
The phone hung black and ominous, like a dread messenger. She wondered if there would be a call for her at all.
Father did promise though. So she stood and waited. Time and hope ticked away slowly, her mind felt like a limestone bored through by the insistent drip of her growing anxiety. Disquieted, she begins to slide the door open when…
She snatches it right up immediately, with no time to dwell upon whether or not it is for her. “Father?” she frantically inquired.
The voice on the other end of the phone is frayed and tired, but with a warm, embracing tone of good cheer. She asks about the war, when he would return.
“Soon,” he told her, but no details; he declined to tell her anything else.
Loose lips sink ships.
He promised her again that he will leave as soon as possible.
“Promise me.” She sobbed, her voice no longer the girl he knew, but a young woman.
A smear of rain began to splatter against the panes of the tattered telephone booth. She replaced the phone; outside the autumn rains began their carpet bombing, sweeping up the dead leaves in eddies of brown and black.
Worn, second-hand boots make their way down a snow-smothered path. This winter had being especially cold. The town is completely empty, no people are outdoors, and no automobiles grace the roads. Even the sedge are withered in the lake, and no birds sing. The trees were dead and bare, not even one leaf occupied the branches. The day is quiet and frozen.
Approaching the red panel door, she wipes the pane; no one was inside; it is a casket of old waste paper. The doors take some coxing to open as it shudders agonizingly along it’s demented guide-rails. She allows herself to squeeze inside, into the freezing little booth. All the pamphlets had rotted away, it smells strongly of mould.
The black telephone hangs like death over the green bronze mantle.
She waits by the telephone like a faithful hound. The sky grayly whispers of patient, silent minds.
The frost outside grows a little across the window panes. Inside, her own warmth was building up a foggy residue, locking her into a world of her own.
The phone rests, quiet as a tomb.
She clutches an old pocket watch until the final moment; that final tick in which promises long made where broken by the inevitable march of time. As the needle neglectfully passes the mark, she felt her wintery world change to that of an alien, hostile landscape; the clinical whiteness of the snow accentuating her onset of desolation.
“You promised father.”
As the late snow fills the corridors of the township, the girl sits upon the damp floor of the worn, red booth, a red stain upon the pure white snow; and wept silently for her childhood.
Marker’s Notes : The reason I very much enjoyed this piece is because of it’s ability to utilise a rarely seen style of ingenuity – a time shift narrative. Each core section utilise (with some errors) tenses which signify the passage from Spring (Belonging) to Winter (Disconnection). A very solid piece of work with no overt techniques, but lots of small, subtle descriptions that build mood and atmosphere.