This week I wrote about a lost prompt. Shortly afterwards, my friend Jan, who attended the retreat in December, wrote to say she had a prompt with that title. "Keep looking," she said. So I did.
Years ago (2002-2004), I filled several Clairefontaine notebooks with one-page stories and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I had had one of those books on retreat, maybe thinking I'd write some prompts. I didn't have a clear memory of that but it was a possibility. In the fourth notebook, which had entries only in the beginning section, I found a prompt with a 2010 date and then I found the one I was looking for. I've attached it here. It still sings to me. Could this be the start of novel #3?
Broken Promise was the name on the sign—it hung down low on one side, unhinged. The weather had cracked the paint, some odd shade of blue. The two words had been crudely burned into the plank in that Boy Scout wood-working way.
There was a chain across the entrance to the road but it was rusted, nearly worn through in spots. She realized she could probably bust it loose with a nudge from the car. A heavy metal gate lay flat on the ground to one side just beyond the chain.
She pulled out her sketchbook and a couple of pencils and drew without stopping, without thinking for about 20 minutes. It wasn’t art she was looking for, it was a vision. When she looked over, she saw that the boy had fallen asleep—she hadn’t heard him slump over, hadn’t heard his breathing change.
She reached in the back for her heavy coat and draped it over him, then quietly opened the car door and stepped out into the slushy snow that had filled the muddy tracks that led to the gate.
Her mother had been born here, somewhere in that space ahead, within walls, under a roof, beyond a door and a window that had stood on the concrete slab that she could see a hundred yards in the distance. The slab stood bare, as if picked clean by vultures or swept thoroughly by the handmaidens of the wind. At one end, there was a neat stack of bricks and a low remnant of chimney.
She had a sudden sense of being watched and she turned slowly towards the stand of trees to the north but there was no one visible. She heard no sound of water running. Her mother had talked of a stream not far from the house where she had played in the water. But her mother’s memory was intermittent now fading like the blue of her eyes.
Charlene wondered if you could see the color fade out of your own eyes.