This week’s assignment is to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly – and find the beauty in it.
Word limit is 600.
Tears fell on the back of Sarah’s mud encrusted hands. Fingernails brittle from malnutrition peeled away every time her fingers struck a solid object. Bloodied, bony knees ached from the simple task of supporting her frame in the sinking mud. Smells of bile and the distinct metallic bite of blood hung heavily in the air. It was a smell Sarah was quite familiar with, yet it shocked and sickened her every time. Cramped hands and blinding tears couldn’t stop her search. It had to be here. Somewhere lost in this thick sludge was the only reminder she had left of those she had loved and violently lost.
Sarah could still see her mother lying on the dirt floor covered in human waste. Even though her skeletal hands should not be capable of any fluid movement; they twisted the small piece of coveted wire. Every manipulation of the wire brought forth stories of every cherished memory that her mother could recall. . Her mother had brought the warm, soothing bowls of Saturday soup back to Sarah’s memory as surely as she had a steaming bowl before her. Her mother’s tales brought back the soft comfort of the family quilt that Sarah’s grandmother tucked around her while reading classic novels by the candlelight to young, eager ears. Recollections of her father with his strong hands that caressed her face with an ironic tenderness that betrayed the hard earned callouses, left a memory trail of heat to her chilled, sunken cheeks.
Another nail ripped away as Sarah’s fingers discovered something metallic pushed deep in the mire. Her heart caught for a moment and then begun to flutter like a trapped, caged bird as she lifted her fingers to her face to reveal the small piece of twisted metal. As her mother fell to the sound of stuttering guns and piercing screams she had clung to the piece as if it were a talisman that could transport her from this place. Sarah clutched it to her breast and felt the faint, delicate touch of her mother’s hand slide across the wind to wipe away her tears. Stories woven into the wire by her mother’s words tumbled with a ferocity in her heart that propelled Sarah back to her cracked feet.
The sharp, barbed wires and smell of death faded away as Sarah stumbled away from her recollections, just as she had stumbled into freedom away from the camp. Looking into her granddaughter’s eyes she knew the role she had played in the story was complete. Sarah pulled the twisted piece of wire from the pocket of her cardigan offering it to her granddaughter in her outstretched hand; the faded numbers of a tattoo peeked from under her sleeve. Still in silent reverence from the memories that had been spilled, her granddaughter plucked the wire from the gently withered hand and turned it over several times examining the sharp ends and rusted surface. Although crude in shape and harsh in material there was no mistaking the shape of a heart or the transporting beauty of a mother’s love for her child..