Fairy tales are a waste of brain cells. They are for crack-heads possessed by a desire to believe life must, and will, always provide a happy ending. Unfortunately, crack is not my drug. Instead, I am a stoner; stoned into a numb existence devastated by circumstances that have contributed to the boiling anger that relentlessly propels me to make rash, pathetic choices. Secrets and deceit have crippled my daily life, crippled my marriage. These secrets have come to define David and me more than any of the happier moments we experienced together. Yep, fairy tales are crack and will never satisfy your cravings.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
This also means I am not uploading wedding speeches tonight. I will begin work on that tomorrow. Some days I feel like Scarlett O'Hara -
"After all... tomorrow is another day."In all seriousness, I wrote an article today reviewing a shoe website which pumped me up (like the shoe reference) to share my new Asics Gel 1170 with you.
But for those of you who do not know, I am a runner as well as a writer. Running fuels my creativity. I have a little blog called Racing Warrior. You can visit it here.
I have been running in my Asics Gel 1160 since September and over 500 miles so it was time for a new pair. I put off buying them because I am cheap, but my aching shins and my reluctance to run forced me to make the purchase.
I am thrilled to in my new running shoes and ready to fuel my creativity.
That's all for tonight, peeps! Going to soak in a hot tub and read my newest download on the Kindle Fire, The Neighbors Are Watching. The jury is still deliberating on the potency of this book. The story has potential, but I question the writing. I will let you know the final verdict.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I am in the process of switching blogs and I didn't want any of my devoted readers (who as of this writing have no idea I am switching - but will soon) to miss out on previous chapters. Again, not awesome, just trying to get some blog housekeeping under control.
On that note, this is my first official blog on Eloquently Spoken. Let me assure you that I will not overwhelm you with vocabulary that makes your head spin. One can write eloquently without being pretentious. Thank goodness, because I never take myself that seriously. Yes, my husband is disagreeing as he reads this, but that's his opinion.
“Help me.” The words were hushed, broken. The familiar voice flavored with a sobbing gurgle.
“Where are you? Are you hurt?” I cupped my hand around the phone, whispering while looking over my shoulder. As always, Sarah’s timing was abysmal. Officer Pershall had just stepped out of the room. Not feeling that is was necessary to tell me where she was going, she simply requested that I, “Hang tight.” Typical police procedure meant to keep me on edge.
“Don’t say anything.” Sarah begged.
Given the circumstances, I wasn‘t exactly sure what that meant. “You did this?”
“Annie, stop!” The gurgling became more intense. I could imagine her nose inflamed , the way her shoulders moved rhythmically up and down when she would cry hard. “ I just want you to know I am safe.”
The call disconnected. What did I owe her? I was glad Eddie was dead. I was relieved, almost giddy, to finally know that I would be able to sleep without wondering if I would awaken with the pawn shop gun held to my temple or worse, one of Eddie‘s hunting knives held against my throat. This was his favorite weapon of torture. But what did I owe her?
All my life, I have been indebted to someone or something. Poor money management skills as a young adult taught me the perils of being in debt. Losing my car, having wages garnished to pay back outstanding loans were a hassle, but I never expected these things to keep me from being safe, independent. In hindsight, I realized Eddie wasn’t the only one who placed limitations on me.
But financial debt can be repaid. How do you pay back those debts that have no monetary value? A truly personal debt.
I started to rummage through my received calls to see if I could locate the number Sarah had called from. I didn’t expect to find it. Sarah was smart, as smart as someone on the run can be, she would not allow her number to be traced. She also had money. Money buys anonymity.
Instead, I accidentally hit the icon for my picture files. A bright, happy picture of Kate and Eddie slapped me in the face. A recent picture. Maybe three months ago.
The giddiness melted away. What did I owe Kate? My Kate. The teenage girl so distraught by her father’s death that I had to literally rock her to sleep last night.
Personal debt is a hellish, nightmare where nobody comes out the victor. Where did my loyalties lie? Who would I protect when the storm started to rage out of control?
“Annie?” Officer Pershall startled me causing my hand to jerk, the phone splattering to the floor breaking apart, the SIM card, the battery, the case all dislocating from each other. “Did something happen?”
“Everything is fine.” I scooped up the pieces of my phone and shoved them in my bag, pushing the stray hairs off my face, trying to appear calm.
Pershall studied me, then walked around behind her desk. Sitting down, she picked up a black remote. Without words, she pushed a button and the wall mounted television behind me came to life. On the screen, I saw myself. My hand cupping the phone, my lips moving. Replaying my phone call from minutes earlier.
Pershall paused the image. “Let’s talk.”
Well, it has been a while since I linked up with Write on Edge. I have been blessed with having a multitude of freelancing opportunities come my way, but it has meant an unscheduled hiatus from my personal writing.
This week WOE challenged me with this prompt:
This week we asked you to write a fiction or memoir piece centered around the idea of fate. Your characters (or you, for the memoir writers) don’t have to believe in fate for it to play a role in their lives; sometimes the lack of belief in something makes it all the more polarizing in our lives.
I decided to apply this to my Carly storyline. Had a little trouble with grammar, punctuation, especially on the brother/sister part. So, any critiques regarding to punctuation and grammar would be helpful. I think my brain has just been over-extended these past few days.
My brother thrashed in the hospital bed, tugging at the handrails not in an attempt to loosen the restraints. No, it was an uncontrolled fit, a result of the mixture of booze, pot and mental instability. It hurt like razors digging at my skin watching him out of control like this. Unable to find words to soothe his obvious pain, I started breathing evenly counting to whatever magic number would make my own heart stop racing.
“I love it!” he screamed joyfully. His drunken face was twisted into an odd shape of amusement mixed with irrepressible facial tics, another result of way to many chemicals in his body. If this had been five years ago, and we had been enjoying a night out on the town, I would have been laughing hysterical at his comedic appearance.
Unfortunately, those carefree brother/sister moments had been snuffed out by an ever growing presence of a chemically dependent demon that seemed to want to possess my brother’s body. I watched his hands thrashing, the restraints digging into the bandages encircling his wrists. Tears wanted to fall, but I knew they would be useless and not helpful.
“I LOVE IT!” he screamed louder this time. A nurse poked her head in the door and I held up my hand, signaling that we were fine.
For hours, though it felt like days, I stood by my brother’s bedside listening to him ramble about how much he loved Jim Bean, how pot made him the King of the World and so happy. He explained how fate had determined this night. Fate and genetics were responsible for his actions. Fate was his enemy. He was doomed to repeat the genetic tendencies of bad choices. He never once spoke of being able to create his own fate.
I wanted to tell him that fate was transparent. That fate was feeble, hinging solely on a person’s belief in destiny. For a man who claimed to be atheist, that God could not possibly exist, I found it amusing that he used fate as excuse to continue to live life in a downward spiral.
I wanted to reason with him, beg him to stop. He was the only connection left to our parents, I kept silent. No matter my feelings about fate one thing was certain. You can’t reason with a drunk. This night had to be left to fate and I hoped it was on my side.
I have been extremely busy this week finishing up some freelance work that is alot more work than I anticipated. Any one else out there ever bitten off more than they can chew? And it is a holiday weekend of course. Hot, sunny and begging me to come outside.
However, I couldn't pass up the chance to continue working on my wanna-be novel. The WOE prompt this week was short and sweet, so I decided to take some time and add this small excerpt from my larger work. If you have been following Carly's story, this piece may have you thinking, "What the ----! Where did this come from?" I promise it has a place in the story.
The prompt this week was: Location, location, location
This week we asked you to focus on setting to deepen the reader’s connection to your story. You had the choice of using the setting to help develop your characters, your plot, or simply the mood of your story. Memoir writers could describe any setting in their past that holds meaning in their lives.
Cam’s protag experiences the elements a little too closely in The Storm.
We want to see the world your characters inhabit. In 250 words. Please only link up if you did the prompt and try to visit as many linkups as possible.
Momma opened the door. The over-whelming stench of leftover garbage slithered into my nostrils, assuring me this house would be like all of our other dwellings. Stagnant and revolting.
I should be use to this smell, I scolded myself. A nomadic existence did not afford the best living conditions. In all honestly, nomadic is a romantic word not worthy of our domestic journeys. Being jobless and entertaining numerous shortcomings did not leave much room for habitable living conditions. The Spencer family could afford squalor; nothing more.
Barely large enough to be considered a shed, the house creaked, sagging loudly as Momma and I stepped over the threshold. The eye didn't have to travel far to inventory the contents of the home. Three rooms: a common space, a kitchen with a wood-burning stove to cook meals and a bedroom. The bedroom was too small to accommodate a toddler, but we would be expected to sleep seven.
Noticing a large, galvanized metal tub sitting near the back door in the kitchen, I quickly understood this would be another home without indoor plumbing. I spied a decrepit out-building through the kitchen window. The pissing hole, I presumed.
"Lena!" My mother's voice trembled in my chest. I was at attention immediately. "See that?"
She pointed at black specks scattered across the kitchen floor. "Damn bastard rats. Two just scurried that way. Get the broom from the truck and knock their asses out of here. Then clean up their mess."
Walking to the truck, I sighed and blinked back useless tears. Welcome home, I thought.
I am honored that my piece from last week's Write on Edge prompt was used as a springboard for this week's prompt about choice and consequences. I had a lot of fun putting that conversation together.
This week my response to the WOE prompt is taking us back to the very beginning of Carly's story where a single choice will snowball into a million consequences, both good and bad.
The WOE prompt for this week is:
For this week’s prompt, you were asked to write a story or memoir which relates to choices and/or consequences. Because of the 400 word limit, you may choose to focus just on the choice, or just on the consequence, if you like.
Photo courtesy of stock.xchange
This time I went to the hospital out of obligation, not love.
I hate hospitals. Hate. A word I use so frequently that it has lost passion. Now it simply describes anything that is inconvenient. I hate hospitals, family obligations, my situation. I hate the man that lies in a hospital bed beyond the steel doors of this waiting room. I hate that I hope he dies tonight because that makes me despicable.
“The little princess has arrived.” Greer startled me. How had I missed my wicked aunt? The stench from her habitual smoking should have alerted me she was nearby. When I faced her she wore a yellow, haggard smile, but she bore no friendly intentions.
“I wish you wouldn’t call me that.” I stated wishing my voice didn‘t always float one octave higher when I spoke to Greer.
She squeezed my shoulders, clucked her tongue. “Just a pet name, Carly. One you use to not mind.”
I tried to brush off the sarcasm, but instead I absorbed it, allowing it to knock me down. “How is Grandfather?”
“You even say his name like a little princess.” I stared blankly at her, refusing to engage in her spitefulness. She motioned to the menacing steel doors. “ See for yourself. Ilsa is with him.” Ilsa, a gentler aunt.
I hesitated. “Perhaps I would just be in the way.”
“There is more than enough room.” Greer challenged me with her menacing eyes. I accepted and pushed through the doors, entering the stale, antiseptic infused hallway.
His room was on the right. The door slightly ajar. Bile rose and settled fire-hot in the base of my throat. I paused in the doorway, gazing at the frail, petite man lying in bed.
John Spencer. When I was a little girl and ignorant I called him Grandma Johnny. A maze of tubes supplied him with oxygen and nutrients. He held his youngest daughter’s hand, talking about lousy television programming that was the bane of his existence. I tried to feel sympathetic, revulsion was all I could muster. Smugness rested heavy on my shoulders as I considered this fact: His life had caught up to him.
Ilsa looked up at me wiping away tears. I suspected the deathwatch had begun.
I prayed to the devil that he would die tonight. A monster who had raped my mother. And if he did not die tonight, then I would be the one left taking care of him.
Getting in just under the wire with this latest piece for the Write on Edge Friday prompt. Here is the challenge:
For this week, I gave you this opening line:
“Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”
and a little flexibility for the memoirists: feel free to use a narrow lane, a moonlit night, or appearance of someone seemingly from nowhere as a jumping off point.
The word limit was 500 words. We all hope you had fun!
This piece may need a little set-up. It is a continuation of Carly's story from OSOT. Carly runs into Yves while spending time with Shirley, her eccentric, opinionated elderly neighbor (and confidant - even if she doesn't want to admit it). After witnessing the exchange between Carly and Yves, Shirley feels it is necessary to give some unwanted advice.
Feel free to leave any comment! Wrote this quickly because I didn't want to go two weeks in a row not linking up. If I start to get in the habit of not meeting these Friday link-ups, then I may fall out of the habit of writing again. Yikes!
Photo is from http://www.hospitalityinfocentre.co.uk/Fish/Caviar.htm
“Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow moonlit lane, “ Shirley began. I stopped fiddling with my pruning shears giving her a sidelong glance.
“Is that time of night when dementia sets in?” I tried too keep my voice even. Shirley had been too quiet since Yves had left.
Shirley narrowed her eyes at me, the wrinkles make-up couldn’t cover crinkled around her elderly eyes. “I have a story for you. One you would do well to listen to.”
Shirley went about weeding her patch of the garden, continuing her story. “I embellished. These two men didn’t merge together on some obscure moonlit path. In actuality they never met, but I knew them both a lifetime ago. They presented me with a choice.”
She continued when I didn’t attempt to interrupt. Not that it mattered. Shirley would talk anyway. “In my twenties, I went with a young man from town who was a corn husker. All day long he cut, peeled and tossed corn into a farm truck . Ed Bailey, that was his name. A handsome and strong man who husked very well.” She chuckled at her perversion.
She waved me off. “He made me the sweetest cornhusk doll. I still have it. We had been spending time on each other’s porches for quite a few months. My parents were certain a wedding was in the stars. Then William Hardy showed up with. Now, if Ed was wholesome, sturdy and respectable then William was everything opposite. Will Hardy was - What do you call them these days? Ah, a player. A player who rounded up all the single girls in town leaving quite an impression. His charms did not evade me. He was caviar.”
“Absolutely. Ed Bailey was sweet corn. Ordinary and expected. But Will was caviar. Exotic and daring. Will told me I was champagne. We would go well together. I had to choose.”
“Let me guess. You chose ordinary,” I sarcastically stated.
“I chose caviar and champagne. Champagne and sweet corn just don’t mix.”
“What is the point of this story?”
“The point is when you eat too many fish eggs and drink too much champagne you get sick. Should have stuck with the sweet corn.”
“If something is biting your donkey, just say it.” Ellory, seven-years old and a few yards away digging up a worm, smiled at my euphemism.
“What are you doing, Carly?”
“Absolutely, freaking nothing. Just managing a boring and predictable life.”
“That man was flirting with you and I think you liked it.”
My blood pressure was rising quickly. I could feel it in my ears pounding hard, furiously. “I don’t need to explain myself.”
Shirley glared at me and stepped uncomfortably close. Eye to eye with me she stated. “I am looking out for you. Who else do you have?”
I met her gaze, breathing deeply to avoid the temptation to shove her righteous ass to the ground. “I don‘t need your advice. I don‘t need your warnings. I am not eating caviar.”
Shirley shrugged, backing down, turning to her gardening. “It’s goes bad quickly, Carly. Remember that.”
I am linking up tonight with Write on Edge. The challenge for this week was:
For this week, I gave you the word “core” and 450 words to explore any meaning of the word in a work of creative non-fiction/memoir or fiction.
For this exercise, I decided to write a continuation of last weeks' prompt.
This piece is a section from a larger piece of work. So, I hope it is not too confusing. Or that it ends to abruptly. I am one of those people who likes to tie everything up in a nice bow at the end, but this piece continues on within the secluded world of my computer files. However, I tried to find a decent stopping point for the purpose of this challenge.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little bit!
Please feel free to leave edits and concrit. Your input helps me see things from a different perspective, enabling me to continue to improve my writing. Thanks, everyone!
A matter-of-fact statement that startled me out of my melancholy. Absorb in my memories, I hadn’t heard his car approach, the door slam. David was leaning against the trunk, feet outstretched and ankles crossed, sunglasses perched on his nose. His arms crossed, too. This pose, now defensive and closed-off, is what once initially attracted me to him. A casual, laziness.
I wrapped my arms around my core, urging my body to stop shivering. A ridiculous reaction considering that it was ninety degrees and the air was saturated from the humidity. I had to explain my behavior. Running off in the middle of a wake that I was suppose to be hosting, leaving everyone to clean up the mess, most certainly required an answer.
I dribbled a forgotten soda bottle cap between the toes of my black pumps, considering my words carefully. David continued to hold his pose, waiting. I kicked the bottle cap again, this time too hard. It rolled off the sidewalk and settled onto the street out of my reach. Time was up.
“I shouldn’t have run off like that.” I admitted.
David shrugged. “Everyday we make choices - right or wrong. We have each made our fair share.”
He relaxed his arms, his right hand creeping into the inside of his suit jacket. He pulled out a blue sheet of paper professionally folded into three even sections. My eyes widened.
“I don’t want this.” His voice was quiet, a whisper. He pushed back his glasses. His eyes were red, rubbed almost raw as if he had tried to scrub away the traces of emotion.
This was the moment when I was suppose to be articulate. Say something that really mattered, but I never mastered the art of eloquence. “Super bad timing,” I conceded.
Surprisingly, David laughed. A laugh so thunderous I jumped nearly six feet high. “You’re telling me. Only I could be served with divorce papers the same day I am attending a memorial service for my wife’s, I guess soon-to-be ex-wife’s, grandfather. I didn’t realize my life was such a badly written comedy.”
I walked towards him, throwing my hands to the sky. “The reviews just came in. They are mixed. I wouldn’t say it is entirely bad.” Old habits. Giving in to comedy and banter to avoid a conversion that mattered.
We stood in front of each other, my height-defying heels allowing me a more even perspective. Being this close to him, I had no other choice, but to be honest.
“I don’t want this either.”
“The divorce?“ David pointed between him and me. “Or this?”
I nodded towards my parents’ neglected house. “ We have become like that house. A shell that provides only shelter, but no color, no personality. We’ve become a house that is simply struggling to stay composed, one more storm away from imploding.”
I took the papers from him. “These were filed out of frustration, hurt and anger.”
Slowly and purposefully, I tore the paper in half. “This is because as much as I have tried to hate you, I still love you.”
It’s time for a change in outward appearance, be it a character, yourself, or someone in your life. In 500 words or less, write about a makeover of your choice (hair, clothes, makeup, facial hair for the menfolk), fictional or memoir/creative non-fiction. Let’s think about how physical appearance changes can affect the inner landscape.
I took a different approach to this prompt, choosing to write about demise - the antithesis of a makeover. And instead of writing about a specific character, I took the approach of writing about the end of an era of a family home.
On the far side of the street, I loitered on the sidewalk watching the house. A careful observer, not wanting to draw attention. Of course, this neighborhood had gone through periods of exoduses over the years. Original families were displaced throughout the state, different countries. No one would be around to offer awkward condolences.
Twelve months. Only twelve months had passed since the plane crash. After a joint funeral, meetings with my parents’ financial advisors and deciding how to divide the estate, David and I had stood in the front yard watching my parents’ existences being auctioned away to strangers. Two days later, the For Sale sign went up. Memories are hazy, but I do remember how absurd it was that our realtor spent 40 minutes finding the perfect location for a stupid sign.
I loved growing up in that house on this street - Mulberry Street, a peaceful, unassuming name envied by those who did not have the privilege to call this quintessential American neighborhood home. Hollywood depicted the essence of our street in those feel good, family flicks where quiet streets were lined with mature trees rising up tall and proud with outstretched limbs, protecting the families on the other side. Each house had a quartet of steps that guided you up to the sidewalk leading to your front door. The homes were two-stories, simple architecture with flat fronts and a collection of windows. Each house displayed a wreath on the different colored front doors. The original families had agreed to keep the doors unique. No two houses could have the same color front door as no two families were the same.
Twelve months and the deaths of the last of the original families was all it took for the magic of this street to dissipate like the morning fog. 52 Mulberry Street, a house once envied by neighbors and visitors had fallen into a deep depression as if it too mourned the loss of it’s old family.
Garden societies visited our home bi-annually complementing my mother on her azaleas, the monstrous hostas that needed constant dividing, her expertly pruned hydrangeas, marigolds that exploded from unusual containers found at barn sales my mom frequented on Saturday mornings. The gardens that hugged our house rippled from season to season never drooping in the Midwestern humidity nor dying off in the winter. The transition from each stage of growth was natural, enchanting and, always, beautiful.
Now, the gardens were in such disarray that I barely recognized the house. My mom’s prize-winning flowers had been ripped from the soil, exposing a bare, ugly foundation. Too much upkeep for today’s schedule-weary families. Even the deeply-rooted oak tree that once held my beloved tire swing had been hacked to a ragged stump.
My thoughts on God, the afterlife were in limbo. But if there is an after-life, I hoped that my mom was somewhere as luscious as her gardens once were, walking among her flowers shielded from the mess that this earthly garden had become. Because if she saw it now, it would kill her all over again.
This excerpt was inspired by the following Write on Edge Prompt: Crossing the Line.
This week we asked you to write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about a time someone crossed a line, legally or ethically. You could have explored vigilante justice or another sort of line crossing. We hope you enjoyed exploring the motivation of your character and possibly the consequences of his or her actions as you put your piece together.
This prompt fit with my current story about Carly, but as excited as I was to start writing this I was also apprehensive. This scene required a lot of emotion. Inserting emotion, especially emotions involving vulneralbility and sensuality are hard for me. As my husband will acknowledge, I am not a stereotypical girl. A hopeless romantic I am not. But Carly was bound to cross this line. So, I hope you enjoy it.
As always, comments and critiques are welcome.
Leave a Comment!
My phone vibrated, fierce and urgent against my palm. Silence suffocated the space in this unfamiliar setting. Darkness had settled and when I dared to look up, away from the phone’s screen, the window failed to reveal the river - only darkness and our images.
I quickly stole a glance at the words on the screen, once a glaring notification, but now fading away. We had to call an ambulance. The text sent from David’s phone.
The words caught in my throat, tight and tiny. Clearing my throat, I uttered, “They had to call an ambulance.”
Continuing to stare at the reflections that darkness offered, I watched as Yves gathered up the materials we had been working on. Our excuse for meeting here tonight, his apartment. Papers scattered around on the coffee table, appetizer ideas for the new menu at The Bitten Dog. Something that could have and should have been done at the restaurant.
“Do you want me to drive you?” My body betrayed me. I quivered as his reflection moved towards me.
“Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “ I can’t.” A whisper as I turned to him. I’m not even sure he heard. I tasted the tears before I felt them falling from my eyelashes.
Yves reached for me. His thumb gently erasing the tears, trailing from my cheek to my jawbone to my lips. Without hesitating, I confronted him. I stared into his eyes, searching for a spark of understanding, wanting him to know me, to see me.
“I’m weak.” I admitted.
His fingers slid into my hair.
“A disaster .” I warned.
He smiled. “I’m not afraid.”
“I keep making bad choices. I should go to the hospital.” My body quivered again aware that I was about to make the wrong choice. I was going to let myself fall because feeling something tonight other than loneliness, regret, anger and pain was the better alternative. I could escape and life could be different for a while.
I lowered my forehead to his chest. “I just want you to know.”
“What?” His breath was hot against the top of my head.
“Who I am.”
Stillness. A momentary pause in his breathing. Then he pulled away, tilting my chin up he held my gaze. “I know. I’ve always known.”
And like that I gave up forever. I welcomed the moment. Not caring how long it lasted, needing it more than certainty. The past had stripped me of certainty. Counting on empty promises had gotten me nowhere yet led me here. And as I tasted the moment on Yves’ lips, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be.
Here are the instructions for this week's Write on Edge prompt:
Yes, I know. We’ve talked aboutvillains before. For me a villian is a bad guy, a black hat, someone driven by sinister motives. An anti-hero, though, there is a character who stands in opposition to the protagonist, who provides a foil and an obstacle on the hero or heroine’s narrative journey.
The way I see it (and I know not everyone will agree), all villains are anti-heroes, but all anti-heroes are not villains.
Show me an anti-hero. It can be a character sketch or a scene, but try to establish how and why this person is the obstacle to the protagonist’s goals.
You have 500 words. Come back and link up on Friday’s post.
So, here it is! I hope you enjoy this little piece. Comments and critiques are always invited and respected!
“This dinner’s real nice, Carly.” John gingerly ate the red potatoes marinated in Italian dressing. “Haven’t eaten this well since your grandma cooked for me.”
Greer put her fork down, her eyes focused on mine, searching for a clue. Always intuitive, never side-lined, she knew there was a greater purpose to this evening than me inviting her over for a simple family dinner. She considered her father for a moment, then asked. “How have things been for you? Carly keep you entertained. Don’t want to hear about you getting bedsores.”
Like you care, I thought. Greer avoided eye contact with me.
“I’m real good, Greer. Come visit more often. See for yourself.”
“I’m a busy woman.” Greer pushed her plate away.
“Well, time’s running out.” Patting his oxygen tank, he continued. “Just saying.”
“Daddy, don’t talk that way,” Ilsa pleaded. Greer rolled her eyes.
“Ain’t any other way than the truth, baby doll. Just the truth.”
We ate the rest of our meal silent each of us pondering the weight of John’s words. Finishing his meal, John scooted back his chair, attempted to make a quiet exit, but found his feet entangled in the chair. He lurched forward. Instinctively, I jumped up, cushioning his fall and letting him fall into me. His breath was labored, he had begun to sweat.
“What do you need?” The question exhaled from my lips as a whisper, surprising me. For weeks I had recoiled from any sort of emotion involving John. Maybe I wasn’t as heartless as I feared.
Righting himself, he shook his head like a cat recovering from an unexpected tumble. “Need to lie down.”
After he waddled out of the kitchen, Greer attacked. “What do you want?”
“Help,” I stated.
“I don’t have any money.” She pulled a cigarette from her purse.
“You can’t smoke in here.”
“Little smoke ain’t gonna soil your home, Princess. Burn a candle.”
I snatched the cigarette from her lips. “There is oxygen in this house. Open flames can cause an explosion.”
“Well, then you wouldn’t need my help.”
“Greer!” Ilsa scolded.
“You need to lighten up. You have help. Nurses come on a daily basis. Eating my inheritance, day by day. You have that woman next door come and baby sit him, too. When do you do your share?”
“Your father has been here for weeks. This is the first time you have come to visit. And only because I offered you food.”
“You deaf? I told you. I am a busy woman.”
“Smoking your disability checks? I forget, what is your disability? General laziness?”
“Bitchy little princess, aren’t we?” Greer circled me. Barefooted, we were the same height. Her fizzled grey hair, cigarette-stained teeth and animal hatred for me shook my confidence. Greer was unpredictable.
I looked over at Ilsa, hoping for help, but instead found her quivering, running the ends of her hair between her fingers over and over again. No question. This battle would be mine alone.
Want to read more about Carly? Click here!
This week's prompt was:
In honor of Davy Jones and the other artists who enhance our lives, this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt draws inspiration from music.
Go to This Day In Music, and discover what was number 1 on the charts in the United States, England or Australia the day you or your character was born, or any other special day in your/their life, if you prefer.
Listen to the song(s) and let it inspire you. In 300 words or less.
So, the prompt is below and I realized that I got the word count completely wrong. This is what happens when I multi-task. Hopefully, it's not too long. I struggled with this piece. I knew what I wanted in my head, but could not seem to articulate it with my words. This is a raw piece that is a continuation of my longer work The Other Side of Truth. Any constructive critique would be most appreciated!
“Here.” Zoe shoved a rumpled, brown grocery bag at my chest. “Put this on.”
Warily, I attempted to open the bag. Knowing my best friend and her propensity for practical jokes, the contents could be disturbing. She ripped the bag from my hands, rolled top tighter and handed it back as roughly as the first time. “No. Just go.”
Obeying her rude commands, I disappeared into the hall bathroom. When I emerged, Zoe clapped vigorously, David snickered and Ellory screamed, “Mommy! It’s not Halloween.”
Zoe had dressed me like a late, 70’s Barbie doll. The contents of the bag were a honey-blond wig that lingered in unnatural waves at the middle of my back, a champagne-colored strapless jumpsuit that would normally have been to much for my small, 5’2 frame. However, Zoe never missed a fashion detail. Compensating for my lack of stature the bag also contained stiletto pumps, helping me rise to whatever occasion Zoe had envisioned for the evening.
“My turn!” Zoe scampered to the bathroom. I am not going to waste a moment describing Zoe’s wardrobe choice for herself. Simply picture Linda Lovelace. Enough said.
“Do you know what this is about?” I asked David while Zoe was adjusting.
He shrugged. “She said she was taking you out for your birthday.”
“My birthday was three months ago.”
“Details.” Zoe interrupted. “Minor detail that doesn’t matter. Let’s go.”
She dragged me out of the house before I could run away and grab my Snuggie. No amount of cajoling could get Zoe to divulge her plans. She simply stated she got the idea from her students. Zoe was an adjunct professor at Midtown Community College, economics. I know. Hard to fathom. Just go with it.
“Your students?” My fears were elevated.
Zoe parked the car in front of a charming, two-story Victorian, heaving and grunting along with the beats filtering outside. We staggered up the front steps, our too-tall heels refusing a graceful entrance. The scene inside was a marriage of Animal House meets Studio 54. College students packed so tightly together, bumping and grinding to Working at the Car Wash while the dim lighting, strange chemical smells in the air, and an oozy, sticky substance near the open-toe of my shoe made me nauseous. This time I assaulted Zoe, dragging her onto the porch where the air was easier to breathe.
She cut me off. “It’s a theme party. Thought it would be fun.”
“Fun? I am 35 years-old. Too old to be bumping and grinding a bunch of teenagers and getting high. Seriously, Zoe?”
Rolling her eyes, she emphasized. “They’re young adults. Look, I’m sorry. I was trying to be nice. You’ve been so ho-hum, lately.”
“It’s called responsibility. You should try it sometime.”
I took the blond wig off revealing my flattened brunette hair, counted to ten. Confrontation, fighting with my friend, I didn’t do that. I saved my fighting energy for David and I. “I appreciate the effort, but please stop.”
Zoe hugged me, not capable of holding a grudge. “Your spirit seems unhappy. I wanted give you a little excitement.”
“I’ve been dealing with a lot, but I can handle it. What I can’t handle is a second-hand marijuana high.” Walking back to the car, barefoot, I handed her the wig. “Go get your money back for this.”
“Oh, you keep it. It’s just a prop.”
She pointed to her outfit. “Stephen and I are adventurous. But I think he’s over the blond, double D porn star fantasy. Prop box needs to be updated. You keep it.”
She skipped ahead singing bad seventies disco while I calculated how long it would take to get home and how soon I would be able to take a scalding hot, disinfecting shower.
But, in retrospect, David was 24 when he and I were dating. Please, no lectures. At the time it was cool, but if Devon brought home a grown man to our house when she was barely legal there would be a lot of hypocrisy involved in that conversation. I am digressing. This is about me and about David. More importantly this is about Pam and Doug.
David should have realized that first impressions matter. That I would be forever trying to auto-correct every little bit of my appearance from that first night for the next 15 years. 1995. Kurt Kobain had been dead two years, but I was still trying to resurrect the Nirvana-style dressed in multi-tonal green flannel, a black lacy tank top for a bit of sexiness, tattered and ripped jeans with crappy K-Swiss tennis shoes. This was my laid-back, way-too-cool-for-you style. An appropriate style for the high school wrestling meet. Completely disgusting for meeting my boyfriend’s parents.
“Are you dense?” I grabbed David by the arm, dragging him to the side of the bleachers after he waved his mom and dad over to where I thought we were just hanging out. Apparently, we were waiting.
David shook me off. “What’s your damage?”
I pointed my finger in his face. Ah, the beginnings of our dysfunction. “Don’t quote me Heathers. How could you not tell me?”
“What, Carly?” Placing both hands on my shoulders he danced me around so that he could face the gymnasium floor, completely unaware of my shock and more interested in the wrestling match.
“Look at me!” My voice was squealing, wanting to scream and lash out while still appearing in control. “Look at them.”
Pam and Doug were slowly approaching. He in his work clothes, a black, short-sleeved shirt with his name stitched on the left pockets, the small white triangle of his undershirt at the chest, pressed-black pants, black work boots. His mom was wearing a plain red turtleneck with a small gold chain around her neck, black polyester slacks and black moccasins. They were both carrying seat cushions to make the bleachers more bearable. I hoped they wouldn’t use them as weapons of suffocation when they realized that the slob standing by their son was his girlfriend - emphasis on girl.
“You’re overreacting. Besides this is my brother’s match. Why is it a surprise they are here?”
I didn’t have time to respond. The parents had snuck up behind me, closed in on us like we were prey. Pam and Doug smiled, unaware of the flannel head-case and my tendency to over dramatize.
“Who’s this?” Doug chuckled, playfully punching David on his on the bicep. “An unhappy cheerleader?” Ah, my first experience with Doug’s sense of humor.
David motioned for me to step closer. Shuffling my feet, I moved slowly towards him to complete the circle; me, David and the parents. That is when it happened. A toddler, in the bleachers above us started to pitch a fit. Feet stomping, tears forming, clearly upset about something. His hands flailed about frenziedly, sending the soda can in his Dad’s hands over the side of the bleachers.
The can connected to my temple as David began to introduce me. There were bright colors, sweaty gymnasium odors, hollow voices. The colors faded, my knees were buttery. As the colors faded to black I felt peaceful, all was right again with the world.
Apparently, while crumbling to the floor I muttered, “Thank you.”
“What was that all about?” David asked later that evening while we were discharging from the ER.
I can’t exactly say, but I would bet I was thanking that toddler for giving me a chance to avoid meeting the parents for the first time.
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf. Strangers sloshed past the café , anonymous black umbrellas shielding them from the icy drops. Occasionally, a splash of color would run by, a red, yellow, maybe orange umbrella adding a bit of sunshine to a night that insisted on gloom.
Gratitude and happiness showered me within the protected confines of the café. Logic insisted I should not be happy to be away from my family when walls were tumbling down little by little every day. With each labored breath and guttural cough, Grandfather was closer to death, spending more time sleeping in what use to be mine and David’s bedroom. Nurses came more frequently while Shirley spent more time keeping vigil so that I could work, the girls could have their childhood and David could do whatever David was doing these days. A different logic, the one that I accepted frequently because it suited my selfish needs, was that we were already a family separated by circumstances. A couple days away would not make a difference. Besides this was my job.
The restaurant blog I began contributing to, months before Grandfather got sick, sent me. The distance could be farther. I could be in Germany. Instead, I am in an imposter Dusseldorf, miles from civilization tucked away in central Missouri. Bought and paid to sit in the Skandalös Café doing nothing more but judging the Potato Pancakes and Weiner Schnitzel.
“That coffee isn’t going to keep you warm if you don’t drink it.” Yves’ voice resuscitated my wandering thoughts bringing me back to the moment.
I picked up the napkin lying in front of me, precisely folding, purposely hiding the restaurant‘s moniker. English translation? Scandalous. “I like iced coffee, especially the cheap version they sell at the QuikTrip.”
Yves held out his hand motioning for me to pass him my napkin triangle. He studied it intently.
“Napkin hockey?” He playfully flicked the triangle back to me. It sailed over my shoulder and landed at the feet of an unappreciative patron. The man shook his head, “Uncivilized.”
We giggled. A carefree, girlish sentiment hugged me. Our eyes meeting, I tried to hold onto that feeling, but little by little I felt it dissolving like the sugar in my coffee. What was I doing? Was I pretending? Substituting? True to my vice, I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t let this moment be.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
Quick with the wit, always finding the humor, he sighed heavily, tipping his chair backwards, his hands firmly on the table in front of him. I expected an obvious answer. He replied differently. “I don’t know.”
Uncertainty is treacherous, creating fragility out of otherwise obvious moments. Obviously, I should have taken his uncertainty as a clue to neutralize the situation. A less dysfunctional person would have walked away. But at that moment when uncertainty presented me with choices I knew I was going to choose the wrong one. That was certain.
This excerpt was originally written and posted to my former blog on February 10, 2012
Cold pellets of rain from a late spring thunderstorm pushed the crowd from their seats, shoving us into the innards of the ball stadium two walks into the bottom of the fifth. Plastered up against a brick wall, David and I stood shoulder to shoulder each assessing the damage the rain did to our clothes, hair, mood.
I laughed trying to put a positive spin on getting caught in a monsoon. “Movies are bull-shit. Getting caught in the middle of a rainstorm is not sexy, especially in this crowd.” A large-bellied man next to me belched loudly, then yelled to his wife to grab him another beer.
David didn’t answer. He grunted, crossing his arms.
“I guess it will be a fun story to tell the girls.” David stayed silent. Shaking my head, pulling my jacket tighter around my body, I turned away from him. When the beer-gut guy’s wife moved to fetch a drink, that is when I saw him. Yves.
Leaning against a railing by the escalators he was smiling - flirting?- with a waitress from the stadium’s Fan’s Club. She wasn’t beautiful, maybe pretty. Yves said something and they both erupted into unabashed laughter. A couple people looked their way.
I moved closer to the wall so he wouldn’t see me. I did not have any reason to worry about the waitress. I had no room to judge Yves. Nonetheless, bile collected in the base of my throat. I tried to be rational, casual - personality traits that were not exactly common for me. But tonight I let one rational thought enter my conscious. The waitress worried me with the one quality that she had that I could not compete with. She was available. Unattached. Sans husband.
I looked over my shoulder at David. Eyes closed, leaning against the brick wall, dozing in his blameless world, completely unaware that the man I was screwing behind his back stood less than 50 feet away. Would he even care? Did I care?
I touched his shoulder, startling him. “What?” he grumbled.
Intentions are delicate plans. They can be twisted, chewed up and spit out in distorted ways depending upon the conditions in which they are set. Touching David, my intentions were guided by my desire to be normal again. Not deceitful, impassionate. But the grumble of his voice echoed the thunderstorm raging outside, reminding me that the bridge between the two of us was nearly irreparable.
David had ripped my heart into shreds so long ago - his fault. I refused to let him repair it no matter how hard he tried - my fault. When I thought that I was coping, I was merely shutting down. When my body shut down completely it opened the door to revenge. Revenge who was flirting with a mediocre waitress. Revenge who did not understand how he was being used.
I removed my hand from his shoulder, the reality of how far I had fallen and what had truly been lost seized my stomach. I tried to break away from the crowd, turning around I took two steps before the thunder roared and I vomited all over the beer guy’s shoes.