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Kenneth D. Reimer
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Kenneth D. Reimer is the author of Zero Time, a novel of time travel. He also creates works of speculative and dystopian fiction, horror, and travel non-fiction.
Kenneth D. Reimer is the author of Zero Time, a novel of time travel. He also creates works of speculative and dystopian fiction, horror, and travel non-fiction.

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What is the cause for violence within a society? Is a cultural fixation on guns the root of evil, or is this fixation symptomatic of a more fundamental disorder? This short story, “The Sand Sculpture,” presents one response to the above questions.

Kenneth D. Reimer

"The Sand Sculpture"

The woman rested her forearm on the steel railing of the patio and looked across the sun-blistered beach. There had been a storm, and the Caribbean now protested that earlier violence by thrashing at the shoreline. In contrast, the sky had grown clear and the wind had calmed. Hours past noon, the air sat heavy with suffocating humidity and heat. The woman frowned briefly, considering how the photographs in the travel brochure had presented an idyllic image somewhat incongruent with the uncomfortable reality.

“Where are the kids?”

Her husband glanced up only briefly from his tablet. “I thought you were watching them.”

“I am,” was the automatic response, then in a movement that was almost languid, the woman scanned the beach, finally identifying several small, pale figures rendered amorphous by the heat radiating off the sand. “Oh, there they are. I think they’re building a sandcastle.”

“A sandcastle? The waves will just tear it down.”


At that same moment, the couple’s oldest daughter was staring back down the beach toward the rented villa where they sat. She was searching for any sign of an adult presence, and she saw nothing.

For the past half hour, her attention had been focused upon a pit which she had just finished digging into the sand a short distance from where the waves crashed. Ignored by her, and ignorant of any danger, her two younger siblings had been attempting to wade into those waves. The surf had punished them with indifference, but neither had been pulled under. Somewhat battered, they had just been called up onto the shore by their older sister, and they now stood in a small group.

This older sister studied her brother and then regarded the shallow pit. The hole was roughly six inches deep, two feet across, and five feet in length. At its edge, beside the mound of quickly drying sand, a blue, plastic bucket lay on its side, looking very much like a child’s innocent plaything.

“It has to be you, Ernest. Hope is too small, and I’m too big.” His older sister spoke loudly to be heard over the surf.

Ernest’s mousy face twisted a little. “You dug it,” he mumbled futilely, for he already knew that Summer would get her way. She always got her way.

At fourteen, she was the oldest and had full authority over her two siblings. She was already becoming beautiful, with an infectious smile and bright, intelligent eyes. Her teachers loved her, and their father believed she could do no wrong.

It wasn’t so with Ernest. The three of them were each spaced roughly three years apart, yet even though he was the middle child, his family treated Ernest like the runt of the litter. He was taller than Hope, but his shrunken chest and bony shoulders made him seem somehow smaller. Ernest knew that Summer hated his weakness, and he in turn struggled with mingled fear and envy at her perfection. Even Hope, with her blonde curls, triggered within him brief moments of anger.

“Climb in, Scarecrow,” Summer insisted.

Ernest looked hopelessly toward the villa, where as yet no adults had emerged from its shaded countenance. His shoulders slumped, and casting a look of veiled hatred toward his sister, he stepped down into the pit.

As though to steady him, Summer curled a hand around his sunburned neck and pressed him down. Once he was laying flat, both Summer and Hope knelt beside the pit and began pushing the mound of sand over his body.


The woman was sipping a gin and tonic and reading a newspaper that she’d found folded into the handle of their front door. It was an island issue—hardly worth reading, but she had already exhausted the books she’d found on the shelves in the villa.

“What are you thinking for dinner?” her husband asked without looking up.

“Do you want to stay in or go to town?”

“Huh, you call that a town? Let’s stay in.”

“I’m not sure we have much to work with.”

“There’s pasta. I’m sure I saw some pasta, and I think there’s a pizza in the freezer.”

“Not exactly local cuisine.”

“No,” he said absentmindedly, for a headline on the webpage he was reading had just caught his interest. “It looks like there was a school shooting this morning.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, single shooter.”

“Where this time?”

“Midwest, some town I’ve never heard of.”

“Let me guess: Some maladjusted misfit was being picked on for being a maladjusted misfit.” She swore and took a gulp of her G. and T.

He raised an eyebrow, then shrugged, “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Since when did being bullied become an excuse for mass murder?”

“About fifteen years ago, I should guess.”

“Too bad those guys didn’t commit suicide before they started shooting other people.”

“Some probably do.” He looked up from the tablet, but she was already back reading her paper. “Anyway, this guy was shot by another student.” He sipped at his drink, shook his head and made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a laugh. “Thank God for the Second Amendment.”


“I have to pee.”

The sand was heaped so high that Ernest could no longer move his limbs. Once they had exhausted the piled sand at the edge of the pit, Summer had instructed Hope to dig from around the growing mound and throw the sand on top. Ernest lay beneath so much sand that he was finding it difficult to breathe. Only his head was visible.

“I have to pee.”

Once the sand had reached sufficient mass, Summer had used the plastic bucket to gather sea water and then pour it over her imprisoned brother. The weight of the sand had increased, almost crushing the eleven year old, and ironically, given the heat of the of day, Ernest had grown cold enough that his lower lip trembled and turned a slight shade of blue.

“I have to pee!”

“Shut up, Scarecrow. Pee in the sand.”

“I’m cold.”

“Try to get out. That’ll warm you up.”

“Summer....” Hope’s small voice was almost swallowed by the pounding waves.

“You want to be next?”

Hope looked down, shaking her head and muttering something inaudible.

Summer stood up, towering over her siblings. She studied the indistinct mound of sand, then knelt down and began to sculpt. In a short time, the outline of a body began to take shape. Rather than the emasculated form of her unfortunate brother, Summer fashioned the thick shouldered body of the brother she thought she deserved. She pushed sand around Ernest’s head so that only eyes, nose and mouth were left uncovered. He was crying now, but she ignored this and used her fingernails to etch the sand, giving it a semblance of hair.

When she stood and appraised her efforts, she realized that her vision exceeded her talent, but the rough shape was recognizable—tall, with broad shoulders and thick arms. Looking so small protruding from the mass of sand, Ernest’s thin, bluing face made her frown, and after a moment of consideration, she took the plastic bucket to the water’s edge and filled it with moist sand.

Hunched on the beach, all but forgotten, Hope watched Summer’s machinations with increasing horror. In desperation, she stared with squinting eyes back toward the villa and quietly gasped when she saw the distant figures of two approaching adults.

Oblivious, Summer returned to Ernest and set down the bucket of sand. Between his muted sobs, Ernest began pleading with her to let him go. She stared at him, seemingly transfixed by his suffering. In silent calculation, she turned away from him and then sat backward, resting her weight upon his chest. Ernest continued to weep, but as he struggled to draw air into his pressed lungs, shallow gasps now punctuated his tears.

Hope also began to cry, and even with the surf, the small sound caught Summer’s attention. She turned her head slowly and fixed the child with an emotionless stare. It was at this point that Summer saw the approaching adults—quite close now. They were not her parents, just two joggers who had made the mistake of venturing out into the punishing heat. As soon as she saw them, Summer stood up and attempted to block Ernest from their view.

The couple slowed as they drew near, and when they glimpsed Ernest, both of them stopped. Summer stepped up to the man and smiled. “Good afternoon, you must be very hot. We have a bottle of water if you would like some.”

Disarmed by her smile, the man shook his head, “Thank you, but we....” He looked over Summer’s shoulder. “Is he all right?”

“Oh, yes. We’re just playing. He’s my younger brother, and I take care of him.”

“He’s crying.”

Summer nodded knowingly, “It’s Hope’s turn to be buried, but Ernest doesn’t want to come out.” She stepped closer to the man, put her hands on her hips, and then tilted her upper torso, making her small breasts thrust forward. “Sometimes kids are like that.”

He laughed uneasily, “Don’t I know it.”

The woman pulled at this arm, “Come on, let’s keep going.”

Made uncomfortable with Summer’s close proximity, the man backed away and nodded at his companion, “Okay. Let’s do it.” As he turned to leave, he called back over his shoulder, “Take care of those two.”

And they were gone.

Hope discovered that she had been holding her breath, but when the adults jogged away, leaving her and Ernest alone with Summer, her voice erupted in sobs. Little noise arose from Ernest.

Summer watched the couple grow more distant, then she looked back down the deserted beach to the villa. Finally, her gaze returned to her incomplete sand sculpture.

It was time to finish it.

Moving with calculated slowness, she walked to the top of the sand figure and knelt beside its head. She lifted the blue bucket above the unfinished face then turned the bucket over and dumped out the sand. She patted it down and smoothed out the uneven clumps.

Lastly, she began sculpting the perfect features.

All the while, Hope was screaming.


“Are you sure you want to stay in?”

“Honey, it’s whatever you want.”

She finished her third drink and rattled the ice. The heat had made her uncomfortable, and there were no interesting articles in the imported paper she was reading. She folded it and tossed it on the tile-topped table, then she frowned, picked it up again and quickly flipped through the pages. “There’s nothing here about the war. How current do you think this paper is?”

“It’s today’s headline.” He swept back on the tablet. “Yeah, they started shelling last night. Smart bombs, very precise.”

“That’s what they tell us.”

“That’s what they tell us.”

“I don’t know why they bother. Better to just drop a nuke and get it over with.”

“That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?”

“Sure, but we didn’t start all this. We’re the victims here, and if you’re not willing to face the consequences, don’t go blowing up our planes. Like the Good Book says: ‘You reap what you sow.’”

“Huh, I suppose there’s some truth in that.” He looked up from his tablet and glanced lazily at the Caribbean. “What do you think the kids are up to?”

“They’re still down there playing on the beach. I’ve been watching them.” She rose into a crouch and looked over the railing. “Oh, they’re coming back. No, wait, it’s just Hope.”

For the first time that day, her husband set down his tablet and turned to check on his children. “It is Hope,” he said. “Why is she running?”

“You know,” his wife said, “I think I’ve decided. We should go out for dinner tonight.”

Kenneth D. Reimer
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This small poem is dedicated to my father, Peter, and all those like him who lived through war and carried that experience with them throughout their lives.

Kenneth D. Reimer
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I need feedback on whether or not this poem can stand on its own.  Does it have sufficient merit without the explanation I've included below?

Kenneth D. Reimer

Not too long ago, I visited an erstwhile church that had been converted into a home.  I thought it an interesting idea, living in a church, and before arriving, my imagination spun with ideas regarding the conversion of such a lofty space.  Once I arrived, however, it wasn’t the renovation that captured my interest; rather, it was the artwork that the owner used to decorate that compelled my interest.  
 
The most arresting, and initially most shocking painting was large nude of a woman sprawling spread-eagle upon a bed.  My first thought as, “Okay, this is definitely not a church anymore,” and then it occurred to me that perhaps such a truthful portrayal of the human form should be an element of every church.  Realistically, though, hanging that painting was intended as a declaration of the new tenant’s denial of the old tenant’s neo-puritan philosophies.  

The second painting was a curiosity.  A modern artist had taken a sketch of Christ on the cross, initially drawn by one of the old masters, and rendered it in acrylic.  It was an image of an image—in which the details seemed somehow incorrect, as if the truth had been lost in translation.  I thought it a fitting work of art for a building that had also been rendered into a different meaning.  

No doubt, the third painting was also intended to reflect the conversion of that space: Adam and Eve leaned upon one another as they shuffled from Paradise into reality—just as the old church had left the sheltering dominion of its previous master.
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Not too long ago, I visited an erstwhile church that had been converted into a home.  I thought it an interesting idea, living in a church, and before arriving, my imagination spun with ideas regarding the conversion of such a lofty space.  Once I arrived, however, it wasn’t the renovation that captured my interest; rather, it was the artwork that the owner used to decorate that compelled my interest.  
 
The most arresting, and initially most shocking painting was large nude of a woman sprawling spread-eagle upon a bed.  My first thought as, “Okay, this is definitely not a church anymore,” and then it occurred to me that perhaps such a truthful portrayal of the human form should be an element of every church.  Realistically, though, hanging that painting was intended as a declaration of the new tenant’s denial of the old tenant’s neo-puritan philosophies.  

The second painting was a curiosity.  A modern artist had taken a sketch of Christ on the cross, initially drawn by one of the old masters, and rendered it in acrylic.  It was an image of an image—in which the details seemed somehow incorrect, as if the truth had been lost in translation.  I thought it a fitting work of art for a building that had also been rendered into a different meaning.  

No doubt, the third painting was also intended to reflect the conversion of that space: Adam and Eve leaned upon one another as they shuffled from Paradise into reality—just as the old church had left the sheltering dominion of its previous master.
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I have always been fascinated by the wealth of literary characters that can be found within The Bible, and the most compelling of these characters is Lucifer—a tragic hero in the Classical sense, brought down by his own hubris.  I’ve wondered: What would Lucifer be like millennia after the Fall?  Is his character immutable, or would he have changed?  Would he long for redemption, or would he still be consumed by the pride and hate that drove him to rebel?  “A Faint Scent of Rue” is my attempt to answer these questions.

Kenneth D. Reimer


A Faint Scent of Rue

It was autumn, and during this season the man preferred spending mornings upon his apartment terrace overlooking the city street several stories below.  This late in the season, the sun had not yet risen, and hours would pass before any direct light found its way to him between the surrounding buildings.  Dressed in a sweater and slacks, he felt impervious to the chill air.  A cooling cup of coffee warmed his palm.

Reverberating up the gully walls of the downtown core, the sounds of the early morning ritual began to intrude upon his reverie.  After hours of remorseless contemplation, he welcomed the distraction, and the emerging cacophony gave him an odd sense of comfort—an assurance that the chaos was not his alone.  

At times, he would look down to the street and watch an argument in pantomime between two gesticulating figures, watch the same garbage truck collect the daily detritus as it had done innumerable weeks before, or watch one of the local whores stagger off from a customer following the culmination of their clandestine rendezvous.  Yes, chaos lurked on the street below. 

Other times, he would study his place of refuge, this little terrace garden within which he dwelt.  He called it such, but it was an affectation of his, a barren place really, not a garden at all.  All that was green had fled the approaching winter.  The vines that had a month before dropped a veil of privacy about him, now twisted down in dry ruin, more like a cage than a bower.  

On that morning, still under twilight, he sipped coffee and let his gaze wander over the surface of the building across from him.  Its windows were dark.  Most people still slept, and it would be a while yet before the street became thick with cars.  His stereo played within, a soft sonata that was only infrequently interrupted by the sounds echoing up the concrete and glass.  But for his internal machinations, such times were almost peaceful.  

The air was cool, but he enjoyed the briskness of it.  Closing his eyes, the man leaned back in his chair and breathed deep of the morning.  Rising from the street below, there came a banquet of aromas: dew moistened garbage, spilt liquor, the pungent wisp of gasoline, vomit, and somewhere, somewhere, the sticky scent of blood.  They mingled within his lungs.  After years in the city, it was all so familiar now.  

Yet here was something unusual. Something was out of place.  The man sat forward, suddenly alert.  Another deep breath and there it was again—the scent of flowers.  This early in the morning?  He left his chair and walked to the edge of the terrace, studying the scene below.  There, just outside the entrance of the flower shop across the street, a woman paused momentarily and then set off at a quick pace, a wrapped bundle of flowers resting in the crook of her arm.  He filled his lungs once again, desperate for the scent - a familiar scent, a special scent.  Ah, there, he recognized it, the faint scent of rue.

It was a sign.  If he was ever to be welcomed home again, surely this would be the sign.

He rushed from the terrace, through the apartment and burst running into the hallway of his building.  Hurrying past the elevator where a couple stood waiting, the man yanked the steel door of the stairway and leapt triple steps, spinning on the railing until he arrived at street level.  When he came sprinting onto the sidewalk beneath his window, the woman was nearly out of sight around a building at the end of the block.

He was panting with excitement.  Short moments and he was close to where she walked.  Unexpectedly, a sudden panic held him back.  If she was the sign, if he had a chance for repentance, then this encounter demanded some dignity, some decorum.  The moment he had hoped on all these centuries could not pass so unceremoniously.  He checked his headlong rush and brought himself to a measured pace several yards behind her.

She wore a white coat; her long, blonde hair flowed behind her.  When she reached the corner and turned East, the rising sun caught her hair, and it looked as if a halo suddenly enwreathed her head.  The image was evocative, bringing to mind a similar vision that he had experienced many, many years before.  The memory forced itself upon him.  As with this morning, that one too had begun in a garden.

* * *

He had always appreciated beauty, and here had been an abundance of it—rich, varied, new—brilliantly new, shimmering with its imitation of perfection.  His very presence in that place had been an affront to god, but what of that?  Had he not once strode amidst the grandeur of Heaven?  How then could such diminished beauty be denied him?  And that fool Uriel had shown him the way.  The fault was Uriel’s.  Let Uriel bear the blame.  

Studying that fragile creation, he had wondered: Could this world cast its enchantment upon him—compel him to leave it unsullied?  Perhaps once, but no longer.  No, god’s lesson had been clear: One must not strive for Perfection; Perfection must be brought down.

And so it would be . . . .

A cluster of petals stirred about his ankles.  He bent to lift one, brought it to his nose and breathed long of the bitter smell.  Ah, the scent of rue.  It carried with it remembrances of Heaven, where he'd once stood amidst such flowers, bathed in celestial light while the voice of god had whispered through the fields.  He had taken steps to alter that voice, not to replace it, but only to merge it with his own.  Had that been so terrible an aspiration for a perfect being such as himself?  Wasn’t his very perfection a testament to the creator?  All had failed, and god’s voice was lost to him. 
 
He had regarded the rue, the herb-of-grace.  Surely that blossom in that place spoke of a god's guiding hand.  Surely it did.  He crushed it, and his other hand touched the scar where Michael had first taught him pain.

Not too far from where he stood, he had seen a figure moving through the foliage, lit by the newborn sun.  There she walked—alone—wandering in her abysmal innocence, oblivious to his presence and his intent.  To this paradise, he would bring a small fragment of the night to answer god’s crime of hubris with one of his own.  Lowering with a hiss to the undergrowth, he moved toward her unsuspecting form.

"God," he would say to the woman, arrayed as she was in her clothes of celestial light.  "God," he would say, "sent me here, not as a temptation, but as a test.  Are you equal to his test?"

* * *

It seemed fitting now that the scent of herb-of-grace, that rue, would draw him from his terrace garden. A symbol of repentance, it had special meaning for him, feeling now as he did, longing for the vaulted stars of Heaven.  And hadn’t he already suffered enough?  Hadn’t his punishment far exceeded his crime?  Yet still he felt doubt.  Was god’s grace expansive enough to overcome his thunderous pride?

Then again, this morning, at the coming of dawn, a woman had passed beneath his home, and the scent of rue had drawn him from his garden bower.  What else could such a thing mean but that god was extending his grace?  Surely, she had been sent to him.

He could see her only a little way down the street, holding with care the small package of flowers that she had arose early in the morning to purchase.  Maybe they were for herself.  She would place them in a vase in the morning light and the sun's heat would release their fragrance to fill her home.

Perhaps those flowers were for a lover.  No, he would not entertain such a thought.  If she were sent as a symbol to him, her purity would be immaculate.  There could be no lover, no complications.  This one woman must be innocent and clean, free from his influence.  Like that first woman had been so long ago.

If not, then he was still lost.

Unable to wait any longer, he closed in upon her and called out.

She paused at the sound of his voice, stiff.  In his excitement, he wondered if a connection had been made, and if she realized in that startled moment that their destinies were entwined.  Possibilities thrilled him.  She paused.  He approached, called out again.  She turned.

Timid with apprehension, he avoided her gaze and looked down to the package cradled in her arm.  Horrified, he recognized the logo of an all-night liquor store stenciled on the paper bag.  He'd been to that place, just across the street from his apartment building, its door next to the flower shop.  He was stunned.  She didn't carry flowers; she carried alcohol.  He could smell it on her breath.  Bourbon.  She'd been drawing it straight from the bottle.  Sickened, the man realized that it was her perfume he had smelled, pungent now that he was close.  Mixed with the fetid stench of her breath, it nauseated him.

He needed to turn away, to get as far from that vile creature as he could, but his feet were frozen in place.  Unsuccessfully fighting the compulsion, he looked up to stare into her eyes.

It was an image of corruption—a caricature of sensuality.  He realized that beneath the heavy make-up and bleached hair, he regarded the face of a prostitute.  He'd been lured from his garden by a whore.  Past the crude mask he could see that it was a haggard face, devoid of emotion.  Perhaps she'd been wearied by a night of sin.  Perhaps the baseness of her existence had sucked something intangible from within, leaving only a painted shell.  Perhaps it was the paint alone that held her together.

She was startled; the bottle fell to the sidewalk.  The glass splintered within the bag, and shards tore through paper like bones through skin.

He stepped back a pace and regarded her lifeless façade.  Joy had turned to gall, constricting his throat.  Desperate, given to violence, he considered killing her.  Yet, impossibly mingled somewhere in that brutal assault of sensations, there it was still, the faint scent of rue.  He did nothing, only turn, choking back the bitterness.

The man walked away.  

Winter finally arrived, and snow began to fall.  In the distance, it drew a white shroud over the plants in his erstwhile garden.

Kenneth D. Reimer

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Last week, I posted a short story describing the experience of a young woman in a concentration camp.  Using a photograph that I took while in Dachau, Germany, I designed this cover to go with the story.  I hope people find that it captures the essence of the story.

Kenneth D. Reimer

Website: http://www.kennethdreimer.com
Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kennethdreimer
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Kennethdreimer
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.d.reimer
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To me, the following short story is a tale of strength and quiet defiance. It is an assertion of irrepressible humanity in the midst of another essential human characteristic.

The story was written on the highway between Calgary and Regina. Heading West, the final paragraph pressed itself upon me, and since I was driving, I had to dictate the passage to my companion who thumbed the words into her phone. The rest of the story spoke with increasing insistence until I was able to find some scrap paper, switched to the passenger seat, and feverishly let the words out. (For anyone interested in the writing process, I’ve scanned and posted the notes I scribbled while on the drive.)

I edited this piece, but I hardly feel like I wrote it. Where it came from, I have no idea—the topic was nowhere close to my thoughts. It arrived almost fully-formed, and I was simply the medium used to put it on paper.

I still cannot read it without tears.

Requiem

The door slammed shut, and she could hear the sound of boots thumping down the corridor.  Then silence.  She had once enjoyed silence, but it was now shackled to a sense of apprehension that twisted her insides.  She turned her attention to the heap of clothing that had just been dropped before her.  How long had these awaited delivery to the sorting room?  Had they lain discarded in another chamber, forgotten and growing cold, or could she slide her hands into their midst and still feel warmth—some vestige of that humanity stolen by those boots in the hallway?  Did it really matter?  That warmth would soon fade, and she would feel nothing then but an absence.  

She focused her attention on the business at hand, and after a moment of searching, selected two matching shoes from the pile.  These she set neatly side by side on the plank counter marked “footware.”  Taking up the worn stub of a pencil, she began her list for the day: “One pair of girl’s shoes, brown, size two.”  She glanced down at her own feet shod in tattered remnants and remembered the slippers that she had worn into that place.  It had embarrassed her to leave the apartment in her house slippers, but it had all been too rushed for her to find her shoes, and mother had not been there to help her.  She wondered: Who had sorted her slippers?  Where had they gone?

After selecting another article of clothing, she wrote her next entry: “One pair of boy’s pants, black, medium.”  Cold.  Only, she did not write that last word—it was almost too much to just think it.  She folded the pants exactly and placed them upon the roughly hewn counter.  She regarded them momentarily, hesitating, then she picked them up again and hastily searched the small, buttoned pockets.  In the front, right pocket, there was a note that she withdrew and unfolded.  She read it slowly, then read it again—a message from a father to a son.  The paper was ragged and worn with love, and she knew it had been handed many times.  Recognizing the danger of such a possession, she pushed the paper into her mouth, chewed and swallowed it dryly.  There was a taste of dust and ash, but no love remained, simply another absence.

“One woman’s hat, black.”  She looked for a size but could find none.  All that remained was a slight discolouring on the inside rim, a faint scent like perfume, and a stand of hair caught on the material.  Breath held, she took hold of the hair and carefully pulled it free.  The woman had been blonde, and she had worn her hair cut short, or perhaps the strand had been broken when it was snagged.  Could this be all that remains?  She set the hat on the counter.  

Who would wear that hat now?  She wondered if they would think of the person who had worn it before.  

A stand of hair and a passing thought.  

Then, from the pile of discarded garments, she withdrew a single glove.  For long moments, she stared and handled it gently.  Comfortably weathered, brown leather, the faded and almost unidentifiable image of a red flower that had been drawn upon it in pencil crayon.   She pulled it over her left hand, luxuriating in the warmth.  This was a moment of dangerous impulse, for she knew what her punishment would be if discovered.  Then she began searching for the other glove, sorting through the remnants of people’s lives.  Yet, the second glove was nowhere to be found.  Then there came the sound of boots within the corridor.  She quickly jerked the glove from her hand and laid it once more upon the counter.

The boots passed by.

Her one hand grew cold, and it felt that absence.  She regarded the single glove where it lay.  It seemed an emptiness awaiting fulfillment.  

Awaiting fulfillment.   

And she remembered the gloves she had once worn herself—a gift from her grandmother—the embroidered red flowers that had blossomed upon them everyday anew.  How two humans had clasped hands and eyes had smiled.

Those gloves had slipped from her like the dried leaves of Autumn.  

No.  

There was no promise of fulfillment, no other glove, only the whispered emptiness of a silent passing.

Let it go.  Let it go.

Had it been lost in the gathering?  They were very efficient in their duties.  Few things were ever lost.  People perhaps, human beings were lost, but things were never misplaced.

Had it been on the train?  During the midnight march?

It would never be found, that second glove.  The pair had been separated, and one without the other was incomplete, a statement of absence.  And then, and then, like that missing glove, the person who had worn it had also become emptiness.  How many homes, businesses, schools now stood like that, each a testament to what had been taken away?

She looked with misting eyes at the single glove, surprised that there were still tears to be shed.  That empty glove with its childish design of a flower once drawn in imitation, and then cherished by its owner.  That glove.  Her mother’s glove.  

“One glove of a beautiful woman, found in a collection of stolen clothing gathered at gunpoint, recorded by her daughter who loves her, who misses her and will never see her again.”  

She reached for the glove and pulled it on her hand a final time, then she picked up the worn pencil and returned to the list she had begun that morning.  She drew a thin line across “One pair of girl’s shoes, size two, yellow” and wrote instead: “One small girl, now missing, who loved her bright, yellow shoes.”  The punishment, she knew, would be severe.  She crossed out her next entry and wrote, “One young man, brother and son, who cherished the note given him by his father, now lost forever.”
  
“One blonde-haired woman . . . .”

She stopped writing and gasped for breath.  The tiny choking sound she made was quickly pressed to silence in the cold room with its piles of empty clothes.
  
Then, at the bottom of the list, she added: “One young woman, aged seventeen.  Sister.  Daughter.  Loved.”  She paused and wrote the word a second time: “Loved.  Terrified and then dehumanized.”  She had learned that word in school before the occupation.  “Beaten, starved, and tattooed.  Broken but not destroyed.  A human being.” 

Still a human being.

From without, she heard the sound of boot steps approaching in the corridor. 

Kenneth D. Reimer

Author’s Site: http://www.amazon.com/author/kennethdreimer
Website: http://www.kennethdreimer.com
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This picture was taken outside the refuge on the side of the Cotopaxi volcano in Educador.  The altitude was just under 5000 metres.  Recently, this long dormant volcano became active and forced an evacuation of surrounding area.
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It's time to for me to put away the computer, the iPad, the iPod, the iPhone, and go outside.  All the writing I do for the summer months will be in my journal, on scraps of paper, the margins of books I'm reading, and on napkins in coffee shops.  Old style.  I'm going to love it.
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