A few years ago (maybe more?), I did a LOT more blogging than I did now. I did a lot of writing prompts, mostly. Some of the stuff I came up with was crap, but others weren't so bad. This particular prompt was to write a short piece including the William Carlos Williams verse, The Red Wheelbarrow (which is basically the opening line to this piece of mine). And...to be creative, or something like that.
So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed in rainwater beside the white chickens. Everything does, since water’s worth more than gold these days. But Mama told me it wasn't always like that, that water used to flow at the flip of a switch.
Two inches of rain rest within the wheelbarrow's walls, and Hank takes the first handful to his mouth, his fingers trembling with excitement and fatigue. Hank’s always first, since he’s the smallest.
Rose rolls her eyes as she stands back, but I know she understands. He’s weak, even weaker than yesterday.
We haven’t seen rain in too many months, and my mouth is dry. Sometimes it bleeds, but Mama’s is worse.
She stands back and watches the three of us, and her tongue grazes over her cracked lips. But she’ll let us drink first, let us wet our dry tongues and fill our bellies, and I tell myself to save her some when my turn comes.
Hank is laughing now, and water dribbles down his dirty chin, leaving tracks. We can’t help our laughter, too, even Rose. Even the three chickens cluck.
And I imagine what they would taste like, though Mama refuses to kill them because the chickens give us eggs.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine.
We have to hide them when stragglers come by. Most men, and even women, would kill for a live animal. Sometimes even a dead one.
After Rose gulps four handfuls, it’s my turn. Rust flakes float in the remains, but it doesn’t stop me, and after one handful, I back up so Mama can take her turn. My hands are still wet, so when she isn’t looking I’ll lick them.
But she scolds me with her eyes, narrow and fierce and loving. Charlene.
I ignore her at first, but her eyes continue to dig and her feet seem fastened to the ground. And as I bow my head and eagerly cup more, I know that even though everything depends on that red wheelbarrow glazed in rainwater for Hank, Rose, and I, it doesn’t for Mama. For Mama everything depends on the life of her children.