WEP CHALLENGE FOR DECEMBER – RIBBONS AND CANDLES
The Red Box with the Black Ribbon
By J Lenni Dorner
The black ribbon sways with each oscillation of the fan Evelyn never turns off. Under it, the candle flickers. It seems like common knowledge that fire should be kept away from ribbons. But what is common knowledge? The theory that humans have their own sort of internal Internet has never been proven. Even if it were to exist, at what age would people gain access to it? A toddler is not expected to know that fire and decorative trim do not mix.
Evelyn is not a toddler though. Her stretchmarks strain as her body extends, her muscles tightening as far as they’ll go. Not nearly as limber as others in this apartment complex. One day, she knows, she’ll likely be carted away from her home. The idea that the place she’d be put is nicknamed “a home” angers her. Final facility, the big box before the pine box, an orphanage for the abandoned old — these are what she calls such places. It’s a hate that runs deep, one she will not discuss. There are only two ways she knows to avoid that fate.
The edge of the ribbon singes. Were her sense of smell not destroyed from too many years at a job that OSHA has since shut down, she might notice. If her loyal beagle were still alive, he would howl at the danger. Her husband hated that dog.
Another rotation of the fan. The flame rises as the ribbon teases it. Chared edges dance with the fire. A relationship that is beautiful for a moment, but ultimately destructive. Not unlike the contents of the red box to which the ribbon is affixed.
The doorbell signals Evelyn. She stops stretching, wipes her hands on a towel with red stains, and goes to her home’s only entrance. A woman walks in, faking pleasantries as she hauls in two gift bags. They cringe with every glance at the other.
“Where is my brother?” The woman looks about the room. Both bags are set near the neatly wrapped, huge box. The big gift bag is sparkling gold, filled to the brim with barely enough space for the tissue paper. The small one is a silver shade so dull it would better to call it gray. An item rolls around in it, despite the crinkle cut filler and multiple layers of tissue paper.
The fan’s breeze has two new obstacles. Airflow changes direction, blowing the ribbon closer to its deadly, dancing flame. Neither of the women takes note as the ribbon swings just out of fire’s reach.
“He is here. I never took him from you. But, as you requested at Thanksgiving last month, I am giving him back.”
“It wasn’t what you think. Not that I’d expect you to understand.”
Evelyn rolls her eyes. “I’ve known since we first met. The same dress to go with our nearly identical faces. You are my living mirror. It’s common knowledge that you and your brother are too close, isn’t it? But last month, when you got the same dentures I have, that was the last straw.”
“The last straw? Are you leaving him? I’ll pay for the divorce lawyers.”
As the fan turns again, the ribbon and candle mate. Evelyn doesn’t notice, she’s too busy laughing.
“No need for that. Just take your gift box and go. This is our final holiday together.”
Evelyn’s sister-in-law looks to the gift box just as the flame moves from the ribbon to the lid. It spreads, enjoying the taste of destruction. The box burns quickly. Evelyn’s husband’s remains peek out.
Before a horror-struck scream can escape, Evelyn strikes. Blood speckles the drops of wax which were once a candle. A stray piece of burning ribbon floats onto the body. “You’re together now.”
Evelyn barricades the door as leaves. She watches from the parking lot as her apartment complex burns. A twinge of guilt hits her. Not all the children living there deserved to have their holiday burned. She hopes they’ll understand when they’re as old as she is now.
Two ways to avoid the nursing home: prison or suicide. Evelyn wasn’t ready to die.
688 words FCA
Oscillating Fan –
Nursing home – Also called Geriatric care. A health care facility that becomes a residence, mostly for the elderly, which has around-the-clock nursing care.
OSHA – https://www.osha.gov The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Labor.
Crinkle Cut Filler and Tissue Paper –
More ribbons and candles! From Fractions of Existence:
Share the images, if you would be so kind.
The inspiration behind this twisted tale: http://s.lehighvalleylive.com/6xEWTNW A nearby apartment fire.