Weekly Wednesday Flash for Wednesday, February 19, 2020.
I am sorry, fan, but there will be no Flash posted for February 26. You can read about the kite-making troll for two entire weeks!
The Troll in His Mother’s Basement
Lotte used to visit Barg in his cellar, where his mother had ordered him to live out his days. Lotte would come a few times a week, bringing sweets she had made herself, as Barg was very fond of them, especially her hazelnut fudge. Sometimes she brought him shreds of paper from the newspaper office, string whenever she could get it, and the fine, transparent wood, long rods of balsa or bamboo.
The hardest thing to find were the dyes. Ever since the war, and the chemical plant closed, the pristine colors that the region was known for had dried up. Literally. Lotte combed the chemical plant’s warehouse, wearing boots as she trod through the puddles. In the dye factory, even the puddles carried rainbows, as if the tired old cement was oozing the blood of its being through its pale gray skin.
Like Barg’s skin, Lotte realized one very special day, when she explored the abandoned women’s locker room, and found, tucked away inside one of the lockers, a stack of round jars, each filled with brilliant colors; the plant’s famous Midnight Indigo, Sun Gold, Emerald, and Alizarin Crimson.
She looked at the handwritten labels, written beautifully. Like an artist, she thought. Barg is an artist, too. As she held Midnight Indigo in her hand, a strange feeling took her, a little like the ‘whirlies’ she used to get as a child, when her vision sharpened and lined objects with fire. When smells rose from the troll mother’s colored bottles, when she heard music, singing, or a throaty flute. She knew the woman who had filled this jar and written the name of the dye upon it. She looked through the women’s eyes and saw her fingers stained with rainbow blotches, her breath wheezy from the vapors.
A woman, likely long dead. Maybe in the war or maybe from an overdose of color and the deprivation of love.
Lotte took the colors to Barg. His narrow eyes, the color of rain, widened and he took each jar in his heavy hand. With a chronic stoop, perhaps from trying to avoid the cellar ceiling, and lank blond hair that shone like silk after a rare shampoo, Barg was a homely young man, even ugly. His skin was mottled and lumpy, ears too big. Eyes too small. Chest too wide and legs too skinny. His mother was ashamed of him, and all the people in town called him a troll.
All the people in the town thought Lotte made the beautiful kites. They would never have believed that Barg made them.
Barg set each jar down on his worktable, lined up carefully in the order they would appear in the color wheel. He had no words to thank her.
But Lotte knew what would be made from these colors, because the heart of the woman who squirreled them away was inside each shade. She watched Barg as he stained the shreds of paper into glassy panels, using glue Lotte stole from the General Store. He built a box-kite, with streamers like feathers and the painting of a phoenix on the front and sides. Although no one had ever seen a phoenix, Lotte knew that Barg had gotten it right.
Lotte stayed with him as he worked all night. He locked the door whenever he was working, so his mother left his meal just outside and Lotte retrieved it. At lease his cruel mother was a good cook.
When dawn strayed into the cellar though the high windows, Lotte woke up. Barg was gone. The kite was gone. She had seen it when it was completed, and then must have fallen directly asleep. She pushed herself to her feet and pounded up the steps, out the open cellar door and into the brassy sun burning on the horizon. Tears smarted into Lotte’s eyes as she looked up, saw the kite, a small black thing in the sky, and clinging to the string that was tied to nothing was a man, and it was Barg; she knew it was Barg, flying away on his beautiful kite.
There was a brush of touch at Lotte’s elbow and Barg’s mother stood there, also staring into the sun, her eyes also wet with smarting tears. Only maybe for her it was just the sting of the sunlight.
“There he goes,” Barg’s mother said, one hand on her hip, the other holding a brioche.
“Yes, there he goes,” Lotte answered, and accepted the brioche his mother offered.
They watched until he was gone from sight, into the molten color of Sun Gold rimmed with Emerald. Neither Lotte or his mother ever saw him again. And neither spoke of him to each other, ever.