Thursday, August 5, 2010


This Week's [fiction] friday prompt:  Strains of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" floated into the room.

Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room. Ruby opened her eyes. It took a few minutes for her vision to focus and for her to recognize the room as her own den. The light creeping through the lace curtains had faded and the shadows of her plastic-coated furniture stretched out across the beige carpeting.

Ruby slowly let her body wake up, allowing her back time to work out its kinks before she rose and began to cross the den to the dining room.  Each step required much effort and she admonished herself for stashing her walker in the hall closet earlier in the afternoon. While her body seemed to grow weaker each year, her pride grew with all the gusto of a weed in a bed of wildflowers.

Holding onto the door frame, Ruby felt along the wall for the switch, flipped it, and frowned at the sight before her. The decorated table in the center of the room lay untouched. She circled the table, carefully gripping the back of the thick, mahogani chairs until she reached the portable CD player on the sideboard.

The electronic device was oddly out of place in this room full of antiques. Her granddaughter, Sophie, had brought it as a gift a few years ago. Ruby had pulled it out of the bedroom closet this morning, determined to modernize the event a little by playing the CD she had found at the party store. Now, she hit the stop button on the player, pressed down on the latch, and watched the CD spin until it came to a stop. She picked it up and carefully returned it to the brightly-colored case marked “Party Tunes.”

Ruby turned back to the table. In the center set a lively bouquet of red poppies. Each place setting was carefully set with her heirloom white china. She had pulled the set from the curio in the corner of the room and washed each dish carefully before placing the settings. The embroidered tablecloth was speckled with a modest sprinkling of confetti.  At the far end of the table her crystal punch bowl was dripping with condensation, creating a wet ring on the fine cloth. The raspberry sherbet had completely melted into the ginger ale, leaving a pink foam that clotted across the surface.

At the head of the table, the cake set on an ornate glass stand.  Ruby had ordered it from Romano’s  Bakery a week ago and was ecstatic when it had been delivered that morning. The white fondant created a beautifully smooth surface for the pink pearls of sugar, airy wisps of ribbon, and perfectly-sculpted roses. Ruby picked up the serving set and slid the knife into the cake. She felt of a wave of satisfaction watching the knife glide smoothly through the scrolling number 80. She expertly worked the server under the piece and pulled out a perfect triangle.

With the slice missing she had a clear view of the layers of spongy cake, frosting, and fruit paste at the heart of the convection. Her spirit saddened at the thought of marring such a work of art. She thought for a moment that had she not sliced into the lovely creation it might have remained there, undisturbed, amid the dressings of her untouched table for many years:  A monument of undiluted perfection.

Ruby worked to pull one of the chairs away from the table. She managed to move it a few inches, just enough to slide her dwindling frame between the edge of the table and the back of the chair.  She reached for the plated piece of cake and set it gently atop the dinner plate before her.  She picked up the silver dessert fork and used it to cut a small bite from the tip of the triangle of cake.  Ruby lifted the sugary treat to her mouth and slid the fork in, letting her lips close around the cool metal. She closed her eyes and reveled in the sensations that came flooding through her, like a wild river rushing at the walls of its dam, unrestrained, bursting through, shattering the bindings that would hold it back.