Archives for October 2011

Halloween, Books and Unbathed Mommies

Psssst. Are you there readers? It’s me, No. 7.

For all of you two people who still come over to read my sporadic posts, thank you. In the short attention span that comes with life in Blog World, I’m losing my audience in droves.

Sigh

I tell myself all of the hard work I’m doing is worth it. I’m in graduate school for cripe’s sake. I’m honing my skills and hopefully someday I’ll publish a book…that someone will want to buy. A girl can dream, right?

Let me give you a little background on my monthly requirements. Stonecoast is a low residency MFA program, meaning that we meet twice a year for ten days to workshop our manuscripts with faculty and fellow students, attend faculty and graduate presentations and engage in all sorts of debauchery in Maine. Last July was my very first residency at Stonecoast and I was terrified. Despite my seemingly endless supply of words and snarky humor, I get nervous when I’m required to spend 10 days away from home with complete strangers who will be critiquing my writing.

Frankly, after precisely 24 hours I realized that I’d finally found my tribe. Sure, I came home drained and needing to sleep for a month, but it was good and I’m excited for the January residency.

Between residencies, we work with a faculty mentor who does close readings our work on a monthly basis and tailors assignments and reading lists to help us improve our material. On the 23rd of each month since August, I’ve been submitting writing packets. The material varies each month, depending on what my fabulous mentor assigns. I’m in the creative non-fiction genre at Stonecoast and I tend to submit an odd collection of work. On the one hand, I’m writing humor pieces and you’ve probably read the first drafts of several right here at Narragansett No. 7. On the other hand, I’m writing memoir pieces, some of which are also in draft form here.  As my writing packets accumulate, my reading list has evolved to include several traumatic memoirs and fun ghost stories. Yikes…what does this say about my childhood?

So, as my blog sits empty, waiting for posts that no one shows up to read anymore, I’m busy writing to meet my monthly deadlines. This month, I also had to finish my manuscript for submission by November 1st. That’s the manuscript that my fellow workshop members and faculty leaders will critique at the January residency. With two different workshops, I was able to submit humor pieces for the first and the memoir/ghost story for the second.

I’m pooped.

Over the past 24 days I have read five books. I wrote somewhere around 54 pages of material and I tried to be an effective full-time mommy. Kate, in that very Kate way of hers, picked now to potty train. Right in the middle of my packet/manuscript crunch. Today I’m scrambling to create a mummy wrap worthy of Joe’s vision of a “vampire mummy”. Nothing like some last minute Halloween costumes! We haven’t even carved our pumpkins yet thanks to that rogue snowstorm that knocked out power yesterday afternoon. Come to think of it…this truly has evolved into one scary Halloween thanks to my frazzled nerves and lack of regular showers.

 

 Thank goodness for Dave. He drove over to the Stonecoast offices at USM this morning to drop my completed manuscripts off.

If you’re interested in knowing what I was busy reading fr0m September 25th through October something, here’s the list:

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

Daddy Needs a Drink by Robert Wilder

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, now you know. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to catch up on some posts at No. 7 and still have some readers to enjoy them!

By the way, if you’re shopping for a low residency MFA program, I highly recommend Stonecoast.

 

The Old Dairy Barn

For this month’s writing packet, my mentor asked that I try to write one of my childhood ghost experiences into a fiction piece. It was hard…

The subject matter happens to coincide nicely with this week’s writing prompt at The Lightening and The Lightening Bug.

***********

She stood on the porch gazing in the direction of the big barn, her eyes slightly squinted while she absently bit her lower lip. The girl was eight years old, she was petite with a head full of long brown hair. Her jeans were tucked into a pair of black Wellies caked with mud and her fingers worried hem of her sweatshirt. The barn she was looking at was one of four on her family’s farm.

They called it the Big Barn because it was truly enormous. It was three stories with a lower level that was the dairy of a farmer who worked the farm in the 50’s, but the girl didn’t know this. Now, the barn simply held hay, a chicken coop and the new brown and white calf they’d named Emil. The girl instantly loved him; Emil and his soft eyes framed in beautiful lashes so long they tickled when she reached out to touch them. Like butterfly kisses from a cow. The thought made her giggle.

The bottom floor of that barn had never been one of the places she enjoyed exploring. The other barns, and even the house, still held remnants of the prior owners. Broken farm equipment, wagon wheels, abandoned feed bins that she loved to discover. But the Big Barn’s abandoned dairy was dark. Even on the days when the sun shone bright and farm teemed with new life – chicks and piglets and foals – the air in the dairy was too still. The sunlight that entered through the high windows danced with dust motes before the gloom swallowed it all. The old stone walls and concrete alley echoed, amplifying any sound. The worst sounds came from the far end where the first floor had caved in to the dairy long ago. She never went there.

To her parents, it made sense that Emil’s pen should be in the old dairy and twice a day, and the girl was responsible for feeding him. He’d arrived on the farm needing to be weaned, so she happily mixed his powdered milk and dutifully taught him to drink from a bucket using her fingers. Staying with him until he’d licked the bucket clean, she’d fling her arms around his neck and hug him. He’d lick her face and frolic around the pen making her laugh. Is it possible, she wondered, to love a cow?

Going into the Big Barn each afternoon to feed Emil was something she loved to do. Her family was never home after school. Emil was her comfort. He made the gloom in the Big Barn tolerable while the sun came through the windows and the dust motes spun through the air. But then the days grew shorter and autumn turned the sky gray.

Now, she stood on the porch and stared at the barn, pulling at the hem of her sweatshirt and wondering how dark it was up there in the dairy. She was trying to work up some courage and map out the process so she’d get through it quickly. Then Emil’s faint hungry cry forced her Wellies off the porch. 

She made her plan while she walked. She’d prepare his food just outside the door where it was light, then run to the light switch, then cross to Emil’s pen, then back to the light switch, back into darkness and she’d run.

While she mixed the milk and prepared his grain, her eyes kept returning to the open door of the dairy. Inside the frame, the room was dim. Her muscles tightened and she fumbled the powdered milk. The barn, or something inside, didn’t to want her come in and she almost didn’t, but then Emil cried for her again. A soft hungry moo that she couldn’t bear to ignore.

She stood at the entrance judging the distance to the light switch. What was it, five maybe six running steps? Emil mooed once more, startling her into a run. The milk sloshed in the bucket and soaked her jeans by the time she reached the light. The dim bulb barely illuminated to the old dairy. The crumbling stones and concrete and weathered wood only seemed enhanced by that single naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling. If she had known what the inside of a mausoleum looked like, she might have been able to make the comparison. The silence and that feeling she wasn’t alone was hard to ignore; then she remembered her calf and turned. His eyes soothed her.

In his pen, she held the bucket so he didn’t spill the milk and as he settled into his meal she relaxed. Behind her, the sound of metal striking metal broke the silence. Her heart skipped and the hair on her arms rose in response when she turned to see who was there. She scanned the dairy, looking to the other end. The room was empty. She desperately tried to ignore the feeling of being watched but she knew it was real, so she turned back to Emil and willed him to eat faster. Her eyes fixed on the calf, but she wasn’t watching him, she’d entered that state of concentration that helped her see what her eyes couldn’t. She didn’t know how it worked and wasn’t old enough to question it, but she trusted her intuition. She knew when she concentrated like this, the ghosts grew stronger. The ghosts knew she could sense them.

This ghost in the dairy proved himself with another jarring clash of metal on metal. The sound of stanchions being moved into place. With the sound came the vision of the farmer moving through the afternoon milking. He was moving down the alley, securing his cows. He knew she was there but he was a farmer bound by the schedule of his cows. He’d deal with her when the last heifer was secure in the stall closest to Emil’s pen. 

She willed Emil to eat more quickly but a calf can’t be rushed. The ghost of the farmer got closer and his energy grew stronger, demanding to know who she was. Her mind filled with his gruff voice, “What are you doing in here?”

Meekly, she responded, “I’m just feeding Emil,” hoping to satisfy him.

“Get out of that pen!” he yelled. “Go on! Go home now!”

She startled at the force of him. His order was shouted but she knew that no one else would have heard it. Emil wasn’t showing any distress.  Momentarily, she tried to calm herself. It’s just your imagination, it’s just your imagination… 

“I said get away from that calf!”

Her fingers fumbled with the gate, trying to pull the latch open. The ghost farmer angrily marched toward her, ready to chase her or grab her by the shirt. Her hair stood on end and her pulse marched more quickly. Forgetting the latch, she climbed over the pen and hurled herself toward the door. He was bearing down on her, his boots landing with a hollow whomp on the alley floor.  She noted his bow-legged walk, his face pulled into an angry challenge and she ran.

She didn’t think about the turning the light off, she just sprinted, pushing her little body toward the view framed in by the dairy’s entrance. Out there the sky still held the late afternoon light. A black bird flew across the rectangle patch of sky she was desperately trying reach. She threw a glance over her shoulder, knowing she wouldn’t see him there but feeling his proximity anyway. He wasn’t shouting anymore. He was intent on chasing her from his barn and he was closing in. 

She threw her body forward, nearly stumbling when her Wellies landed on the gravel strewn path and she kept running until she realized that he was gone.

He couldn’t follow her from the barn. 

She stopped short, breathing heavily and hunched over with her hands on her knees. Gulping for air and relishing the freedom from his glare, she straightened and turned to look back.  The dairy, dimly lit by that single hanging bulb, was empty. Standing in the last light of day, she realized that she’d need to do it all again tomorrow.

Nail Polish and Supermarket Brawls

Today ended up being what I refer to as a Quintessential Shit Show. Children or not, we all have them. I have retained some memories of my old one woman Shit Shows and I have to say, the Shit Show starring Harried Mother is way more entertaining. Unless of course, you’re playing the role of Harried Mother.

It all started out reasonably enough. Despite day number two of persistent rain, I was playing it cool. I had it all together. I have to thank Dave for the good mornings we have around here. Not only does he hear and respond to his alarm clock, he’s suited up and adjusting his tie by the time he rouses me from a corpse-like slumber.

I’m not built for Maine’s climate between October 1st and May 15th. Climbing out of bed in mid-October is something like Chinese water torture, mainly because that morning chill lasts for months. What makes the torture worth it? Well, for the most part, Mainers are a kinder gentler people. I’ve enjoyed living amongst them and find that my New York edge has dulled a bit. I don’t need it here.

Inevitably, I get a little miffed when the weather turns cold and rainy. My edge gets a little sharper during this period of climate adjustment. Today the old sharpening tool started doing its job right away. After the bus pulled away, I sat down to whip out an essay I’ve been working on. I began perusing the four pages of notes I’d taken while reading the book I’ve been assigned and noticed that someone had done a lovely job of hacking them up with safety scissors. Kudos to her developing fine motor skills. Really, it made me proud. That is, until I realized I would need to find some tape to puzzle my thoughts back together before writing an essay worthy of graduate school. My puzzle took just under an hour, slightly intruding on the time I needed to shower and make lunch before hauling Gwen to preschool.

I was bounding up the stairs for that shower when I heard Kate’s quiet babbling. From her tone, I was able to discern that she was busy. That quiet babble suddenly lent an ominous air to the second floor. Or maybe it was the intense smell of coconut wafting out of my bathroom. I rounded the corner and found Kate shampooing her dry hair with what looked like half the bottle of my pricey shampoo thus whisking away an additional 10 – 15 minutes of precious shower time.

Fast forward 20 minutes and imagine a freshly bathed toddler and her mommy with freshly splashed armpits. Gwen had 10 minutes to snarf down her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk before we grabbed a cookie for the road. Despite the crazed frizzy hair and naked skin highlighting my dull reddened complexion, we made it to preschool on time. My edge was just slightly sharper.

From there, Kate and I had approximately 2 ½ hours to swing by the beauty supply and pick up some much needed frizz color and before heading to the grocery store. No problem, right?

Wrong.

Sally Beauty was uneventful enough. I was only mildly annoyed by the woman with shocking pink hair who seemed oblivious to the fact that she was blocking an entire aisle with her ass… I mean, her cart. I dealt with it and moved on. I made my purchases, including Kate’s coveted tiny bottle of pookie pink nail polish, and we hit the road, bound for the nearest grocery store.

First, it wasn’t my grocery store. I don’t have the layout of the aisles memorized. They never have what I need and there are never enough cashiers working despite its location at one of the busiest intersections in South Portland. In the interest of time, I decided to suck it up and bite the bullet. Somewhere deep inside my inner voice screamed at me, Are you sure you want to do this? The last time you went into this grocery store you nearly lost your grip on sanity. I ignored my inner-voice’s annoying habit of turning a statement into a question and decided that such negativity was just plain silly.

It was all relatively uneventful. With our groceries piled in the cart, Kate and I made our way to the checkout where, lo and behold, there was but one lonely woman working. The line snaked around the impulse purchases and past the seasonal displays. I glanced at my watch and realized that time was running short. Then I spotted the four empty self-checkout kiosks. They beckoned to me. I assessed the contents of my cart and guessed that I’d fill about four bags. Sure, that pushes the envelope at the self-checkout out, but they were empty. Besides, there’s no rule declaring them a 14 items or less zone. Right?

Of course, halfway through the hell of checking myself out, the lanes filled up with others clearly copying my genius maneuver. At some point, I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck. Moments later, I felt it again. I turned to locate the source of the gusts and saw her behind me. Bitchy McAsshole.

She was impatiently waiting for me to wrap it up. When I turned, I caught her performing the ever-tricky eye-roll and huff combo. Hell, she even threw in an exasperated weight shift, moving her mass of nastiness from her left foot to her right. I ignored her and continued rushing my way through the pile. I kind of understood her frustration because I despise the grocery store too. I become bitter at the mere thought of entering any building where I’m forced to drop $200 dollars on things like cookies, wine and hormone injected chicken breasts.

As I scanned and Bitchy McAsshole performed her complicated routine of huffs, eye rolls and shifts, Kate was happily babbling away about Mickey Mouse balloons, the crayons I was buying and mostly, her new bottle of nail polish. She was so thrilled that she proudly held the bottle up to Bitchy McAsshole and said, “See my new naiw powish? Ith pink!” Bitchy McAsshole sent another breeze in my direction and snarled, “Oh.My.God.”

By now, my edge had been honed to a state of razor sharpness. Suddenly, her toe taps and exaggerated eye rolls became infuriating. Deep down inside, my inner New York girl was roused from her slumber. She’s a person who can turn and unabashedly hurl profanities at subway gropers. She’s a girl who was once overheard singing “turn around tight eyes” set to the tune of Bonny Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, after her She-Devil boss got an eye-job. (Shit like that doesn’t float in law firms, by the way. I speak from experience and have a copy of my first unemployment check stub to prove it.)

Anyway, when Bitchy McAsshole’s disgusted response to Kate’s nail polish display happened, the dormant New York girl came alive with a hearty roar.

Slowly, I turned and caught her at the end of a dramatic eye-roll which was followed by the beginnings of a dirty look. Clearly she thought she’d be delivering that glare to the back of my head. Mild surprise passed over her features when she realized that I was looking at her. She was in the process of reassembling her mask of annoyance when New York girl spoke. No, that’s not true. New York girl yelled. Loud.

“You know what lady? I’ve got enough shit to deal with today without you throwing more crap onto the pile!” I turned back to the scanner, but New York girl wasn’t done. “Does it look like I’m enjoying this fucking party? I was poised to continue but quickly realized that Bitchy McAsshole had never had a run-in with a person who may or may not be slightly crazy. I’m not sure if it was the volume of my voice or the fact that I used the F word in front of my toddler, but she stepped back and her jaw grew slack. I reigned New York girl in just slightly and jabbed a finger toward an empty checkout lane. That’s all. I just pointed and raised my eyebrows at her as if she were nothing more than a petulant little girl. And you know what? It felt good.

Now THAT, my friends, is a lovely ending for a Shit Show. 

How To Compose Eye-Catching Notes

Joe loves words as much as I do. His spelling has really taken off and nearly matches his highly advanced vocabulary. Is there a parent in the world that isn’t thrilled when their 7 year old starts rattling off road signs and calling out the names of random road-side businesses? Why, just last Sunday we were driving through a town here in Maine where someone painted a house purple. I suppose it was painted with the intent of making it eye-catching or, the painter hoped to attract that segment of society that thoroughly enjoys the color purple. (Not the book, silly! The color.) That tiny purple house-turned-business certainly caught Joe’s eye!

“Hey! There’s a toy store for adults back there!”

“Huh…I guess we missed that, buddy.”

Other than swelling with pride upon discovering my son’s ability to locate sex-toy shops…“What’s linger-eee anyway?”  …I love finding his carefully composed notes tucked around the house. Phonetics clearly work for him.

I give him a big thumbs up for style. The bright orange PIS(S) juxtaposed with that faintly penciled ELMO on a torn scrap of paper is a terrific example of recycling, fine motor skills and spelling practice. It’s hard to squeeze PISS into a tiny triangular corner of scrap paper, y’all!

Maybe he gets his developing knack for composing eye-catching notes from me. I’ve found that notes are rarely ignored when written on things that one might not commonly associate with “list” material. For example, leftover quesadillas from Kate’s lunch at Chili’s make wonderful writing surfaces. Not only did I recycle, but that note was one hell of an attention grabber! Dave didn’t forget a single thing on the list!

 

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Mountain Men

David made plans to run in the Mountain Epic at Sunday River with our cousin-in-law, Brian. Far be for me to suggest that an event that has chosen to  join the words “mountain” and “epic” sounds like glorified torture.  So I bit my tongue and along with the children, I dragged my sorry cardio-deprived body out of bed at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to trek into the northern-most woods of Maine. Okay, not really the most northern parts, but still.

Two hours later, I was standing at the base of Sunday River with Dave’s cousin Lynn and a gaggle of children as our husbands joined the mob of insane people who, for some reason, shared the belief  that running straight up an enormous mountain was a fantastic idea.

*SNORT*

Should I mention that he had his choice of courses and he chose the 8-miler? That’s 5 summits. 

Clearly, he didn’t  read the brochure that plainly stated, “Mountain Epic will take you over a wide array of trails, obstacles, and alpine features. Highlights include winding single-track, stunning forests, sweeping vistas, and a 4ft deep mud pit at the finish.”

Basically, he ponied up thirty dollars to torture himself and later, quietly confided that, at one point, he was climbing something akin to a gravely rock-face where he was forced to use his hands to crawl to safety. From the backseat, Gwen asked him if he spotted any mountain goats up there at the top.

 *SNORT, SNORT*

An hour and 40 minutes later, our manly men came limping across the finish line mud pit. After watching approximately 25 other fools belly-flop and swan-dive into the mud pit while he waited, Joe had already decided that he’d like to cross the finish line with his daddy. Really, it was simply an excuse to hurl his scrawny fully-clothed body into a trench of muddy water. Together, my manly-man and manly-man in training, emerged soaked, filthy and triumphant.

Later, I found out that the 2011 Wife Carrying Championship was held on Saturday. That’s right. The annual WIFE CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIP went right through that very mud pit. I was pissed. Next year, I’m totally making him carry me through that thing and I’ll be sure to get it on film. I will, I tell you! Or my name is mud.

That Poor Dude

We had a good day. Filled with running (Dave not me), Beer (me not Dave) and a giant heated swimming pool with all of the cousins. Good times.

By the time we got home, it was 5:00 and we were snoring by 7:30. I have no idea what Dave was bitching about…he only ran 4 miles straight up a mountain and down again. Sheesh.

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The Boozy Floozy – A Memoir Essay

Her nickname was Bunny but, she was neither soft nor fuzzy. In fact, she was missing any of the traits one might associate with a meek woodland creature. Unless, of course, bunnies smoked Marlboro reds and drank like fish. In which case, then her nickname was spot-on. If bunnies screamed hateful things at little girls and attempted to beat teenage boys with two-by-fours, then sure…she was a bunny.

I privately named her Boozy Floozy or simply, “her.” Sometimes, I even referred to her as “It.” As in, Here It comes, better disappear before It attacks.

Bunny was really only called Bunny during the moments when Happy Hour was still happy, that fleeting bit of time when she and my father neared the end of their first drink and their faces bloomed with smiles, their eyes brightened and everyone became funny. Even Bunny. But happy hour could turn ugly fast.

She hated me. She told me so once with her hand wrapped around my neck while she pressed me against the wall. Bunny leaned in so close that our noses nearly touched. Her mouth was surrounded in tiny creases and fine blonde hairs. The mole above her lip moved as she breathed booze-scented hate into my face through gritted teeth. She was baiting me. Waiting for me to push back, talk back or cry. I refused to give her what she wanted. I was smarter than her. Mostly because I wasn’t drunk.

Bunny wore shiny polyester shirts and colored her short shagged hair an unnatural shade of dark brown that faded into a brassy dull yellow. She spoke with cigarettes dangling from her lip, squinting through the ribbon of white smoke that moved past her eyes. The effect of that habit, paired with her use of profanity and clipped movements, gave Bunny a masculine air.

My hatred for her was just as big, but I was smarter than she was. I was quiet about my revenge. Once, I stood at the refrigerator lazily searching the contents for food a kid might like to eat. How long did it usually take her to get annoyed by this act? When she jumped up from her chair and began to lunge across the kitchen, I held out a jar of her pickled eggs.

“Want an egg?” I asked, “I’m not sure I’d like them.”

She eyed me suspiciously then pulled on a dry smile. “Haven’t you ever had a pickled egg?”

“No. My mother doesn’t make them.”

She turned her back to me and placed the jar on the counter, and I enjoyed watching her reach in and pluck a slippery egg from the juice. I watched her raise the egg to her mouth as she turned to face me again. She took a hearty bite, removing the top half of the egg and while she chewed, I watched her mole move up and down.

“So, what are they pickled in?” I asked.

“Vinegar and garlic,” she answered as she swallowed, “You have to let them sit for a month. I just opened this jar.”

“I like vinegar.”

“Are you going to eat one or not?” she was becoming impatient with my indecision.

“No, thank you.”

There was no way I was going to eat one of those eggs after I peed in the jar.

Bunny had a violent streak. She once locked my brother out of the house when he didn’t come home by 11:00 and, when he went into the barn to sleep in his car, Bunny attacked him in the dark with a 2×4, aiming for his head. Bunny was dangerous and mean and anything might have set her off.

One day I locked her in the pantry after she ranted about something like, I’d let the cat inside or I’d dipped a celery stalk in the mayonnaise after refusing to eat the liver and onions she cooked for dinner. She mostly ranted because my presence infuriated her. She ranted because it was nearing the hour that she’d pour herself the day’s first drink. She ranted because I was my father’s daughter.

I don’t remember now what it was that she drank, I just know that her violence gave birth to my own. Her hate fed my hate. I feared her and I wanted her dead. Or I wanted to die.

I moved in with my father in November, 1981, just hours after I’d run away and hid in a drainage pipe than ran under the Northway. As the day grew cooler and the late-autumn sun grew faint, I was forced out of hiding. I sat in the same room with my mother and father, a rare occurrence, and informed my mother that I hated her. An hour later I was in the passenger seat of my father’s State Police car with all of my worldly belongings. I chose him in the hope of finding a place where I fit or to recapture that beautiful solitary innocence that I had enjoyed on our farm. It didn’t take long to realize that Bunny had stolen all hope.

Now, Bunny stalked into the pantry with her cigarette dangling from her lips and began shuffling the mushy canned vegetables that she’d force me to eat at dinner. Suddenly, the thought of her taking pleasure in making me eat something that was purposely inedible, enraged me. Her back was turned when I shut the door and turned the lock. Nearly in unison, the lock moved into place with a loud click and Bunny quickly turned. Through the glass and a veil of smoke, she glared at me with narrowed eyes. “You’d better open that fucking door,” she spat.

My response was stony silence. Now that I’d turned that lock, I was forced to commit to my bad choice. She’d kill me if I let her out.

The cigarette was back between the fingers of her right hand and she used it to punctuate the jabbing motions she made while she growled, “Open…the…fucking…door.” Her eyes fixed on mine like an animal assessing its prey. Her upper lip began to quiver, causing the ugly mole that lived there to dance. I knew that I risked her punching through the glass to get out. She was crazy enough to throw her fist through a window in order to get me and it was a chance I was willing take for the sake of my own hatred. Knowing my chances for survival were better if she couldn’t see me, I slowly backed out of the kitchen. I returned her fury-filled stare with my own wordless challenge. If she escaped before my father returned home, she would do something to harm me. Suddenly, I realized my gamble was foolish since sometimes, my father didn’t come home at all.

The heel of my right foot met the threshold of the kitchen doorway and slowly, I closed the door on her rage-filled stare. I’d vowed I wouldn’t show fear in her presence but, when the silence was broken by the sharp click of another door closing, I jumped. Her spell was broken. I whirled and ran through the woodshed into the yard. Without slowing, I ran into the tall grass of the field and didn’t look back. I didn’t want to know if she was watching me. For hours I wandered the woods behind my father’s new house, waiting for the sun to dip low enough in the sky to tell me that he might be home.

It seemed running had become my most effective method of escape. I ran, hoping to block it all out and outrun Bunny. I was still holding out hope for a magical doorway to appear and some beautiful, loving creature to invite me to the other side. On the day that I locked that evil woman in the pantry, my innocence was waning. In less than one year my life had irrevocably changed. I’d come to understand that the people who were my parents were not the people I thought they were.

If you could have peered into the house on Coon Hill Road, you might have seen her sitting alone. A girl with long brown hair, too thin and serious and always holding a book in her lap. She had lived most of her short life that way, trying to feed her insatiable curiosity with words. The things she knew weren’t taught to her by her family, but by the characters in the books she read. She was surviving. If she thought too hard about the number of years she had to endure before she’d be able to leave, she cried. She didn’t know where she would go.

Woman of a Certain Age

A certain birthday is creeping up on me. No…actually, it’s about to punch me in the face. It’s cocked and loaded and ready to shoot but I’m cool with it. Really, I am.

Last week I was killing time by perusing Ebay and Etsy for vintage clothes when I stumbled upon this:

Not me. Not. At. All.

I had that dress. I wore it in the early 90’s when I still wasn’t legally allowed to be in bars but went anyway. In fact, I rocked that dress back when Kurt Cobain was still breathing and astonishing the world with his rebuttal to 80’s hairbands. I wore the hell out of that tight little number and sang …can’t find a better man! at the top of my lungs while I drove into the city to hit CBGB’s. I smoked skinny little Capri cigarettes when I drank because those weren’t like smoking a real cigarrette…therefore, by technicality, I was not a smoker. I loved Eddie Vedder and imagined that, in a perfect world, we’d meet and get married and I’d be his cool wife who wore tight little black dresses and lovingly mopped the sweat from his forehead after particularly grueling sets.

I wore that dress with cowboy boots and black high heels and drank shots out of test tubes. I might have worn it while dancing on the bar at a place called Roxeanne’s with my best friends, Debbie and Corinne. I probably puked on it. Either way, my ass hadn’t fallen yet and my boobs were still perky. My hair was long and cut like Brenda Walsh’s and I exuded a major Don’t-Even-Bother-Talking-To-Me-Fella kind of vibe.

I was dork.

Last night, Dave and I were driving home from our date night when Guns n’ Roses came on the radio. There we were, two cool, aging hotties hurtling down I-95 with Paradise City and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door blaring from the Saab’s speakers. Momentarily, we felt cool. The songs of our youth filled my ears and made me young again. I mean really young. I felt good and happy and…then the stupid DJ went and called those songs classics. CLASSICS, I say!

My dress is vintage and my music is classic. Bitch is gettin’ old…

The Lady’s Story

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opporunity to write something for that fantastic writer’s community known as The Lightening and The Lightening Bug. Surely, you’ve visited and read the varied and talented contributions of the writers who link up each Sunday, right?

The prompt this week suggested that we write about “Objects in the Mirror”  – you were supposed to write about something seen in a mirror. It could have been yourself, someone else, a ghost, a car, your evil twin from another universe – the looking glass, as Alice might have said, was wide open. Oddly enough, I was recently experimenting with a fiction piece about the ghost in my childhood farmhouse and used the very words, “looking glass” in my character’s inner dialogue.

Since we’ve entered that month devoted to pagan holidays, I decided to link up my tale about the Lady, my nearly constant childhood companion. If you recall, my stories were all true…this one is not. It is merely my imagination at work, attempting to explain who the Lady was and why she stayed with me for so many years. I removed drafts of my true ghost stories from Narragansett No. 7 because I’m working on the in my graduate program…I suppose that if anyone wants to see them again, I could post in honor of Halloween.

This story is nothing more than an experiment.

THE LADY’S STORY

How long have I been waiting in this silent house? I have no way of knowing. I wander from room to room searching for my daughter, worrying that she’ll never come home. Time seems to stand still, as if years have passed while I was sleeping but, I never recall going to sleep. Forever waiting and searching, my thoughts drift, returning me to the hours I spent pacing the length of the hall, waiting for my girl’s fever to break.  Throughout those nights, I crept into her room to check her, to make sure she was still breathing. There were times when I couldn’t help but lean over her tiny bed and nearly place my ear against her frail chest, listening for her wheezing exhalations.  How many times during those long nights had I hovered over her as she slept? Filled with helplessness and worry, I waited for her father to return with the doctor.

Now neither of them is here and I didn’t remember them leaving. So I wait, sure that he has taken her away for treatment. But how long ago had they departed and left me with no word of their whereabouts? I’ve become frightened that the influenza has infected my body; it’s the only explanation for this strange mixture confusion and isolation. Certainly, high fever is known to cause odd visions and perhaps the sense of timelessness I have been experiencing. Fever would explain the sense that I’ve slept for days when I come to in a room, one of my own, that suddenly appears foreign.

More than once, I have been sure that I heard voices and hurried to peer from the windows, hoping to see them below in the dooryard. I have scanned the windows of each barn, hoping to see the light of a lantern. So far, I haven’t seen any sign of life and the landscape looks peculiar – askew, as if something has changed and I can’t bear to look for too long. When I do, it seems as though the world has been reversed. An image sent back through a looking glass. Everything is off, as if the trees themselves are different.

Once, I stood before the window in my daughter’s room and forced myself study the world outside. I quickly backed away when the feverish hallucinations began to set in. I was studying the yard in the front of the house and the lane beyond when the very air seemed to quiver, much like the wavering air above a roaring fire. Most disturbing to me was what I saw in that quivering vision. For the briefest moment, I saw a great and brightly colored metal machine moving into the dooryard. The lane in front had transformed to a flat grey stretch as far as the eye could see. It was then that I began to grow dizzy and my body became weightless but, it wasn’t until my eyes moved to my new beautiful marble walk and the young maple tree that I nearly fainted with terror. Somehow, the great heavy lengths of white marble had been lifted and warped by the roots of a tree that could only have lived for years beyond my own existence.

To the right of the giant maple, the row of new lilacs had grown so large as to obscure the lower fields. I stepped away from window, feeling too light and afraid of becoming faint. I turned to fall into the chair at my daughter’s bedside and instead saw a room coated in dust. The plaster was crumbling and the furniture that remained was not our own.

I expected that weightless feeling to consume me and drag me to the floor but I did not faint. Instead I remained quite still and listened. Strange voices traveled up to my ears. Someone was speaking on the floor below. When had I last gone down the stairs to the first floor? I could not remember. When had I last gone outside and walked in my gardens? I grew alarmed and felt as though I was moving through a thick fog that wiped away recent memory.

In my state of distress, I nearly ran from the room that should have been my daughter’s and hurried toward the staircase of the center hall. I was sure that fever was affecting my thoughts and causing these disturbing visions. I was suddenly quite sure that the voices were those of my dear husband and daughter. With an air of determination, I stood at the top of the stairs and willed myself steady enough to descend. Certainly the familiar faces of my family would break this spell and make my world right again.

It was then, with my foot poised above the step, that I was startled by the little girl coming out of the parlor. On first sight, I saw my own girl and I began to open my mouth to call to her, but then she turned. This girl was not mine at all. She was dressed strangely, with her bare legs showing and odd shoes on her feet. Her hair was long and loose, obscuring her face while she stood at the bottom of the stairs inspecting a toy boat. Startled, I moved back and watched her climb the stairs and sit in the alcove. Shocked and unable to speak, I quietly moved toward her and the floor creaked under my foot. The girl jumped, startled by my noise and I began to speak…