Blink

She lay there completely drained, unable to speak, but also not feeling the need to. Exhaustion had robbed the strength necessary to keep her eyes open. Throughout the night she fought hard but, by the third time the staff rushed in, summoned by the blaring alarms, she felt herself slipping. Wearily, she turned her face in his direction. In the rush of doctors, he had been driven to the far corner of the hospital room. His face showed fear she’d never seen before . He looks stricken, she thought. Through her new calm, she felt only briefly sorry for him. She grew detached and he grew dim as she began that exquisite surrender. The hands of the people working on her body grew faint. Their voices took on a distant tinny sound.

There was no fear. That surprised her. How many times had she begged for this moment of release but backed off, fearful of what lies beyond? At last, she found herself wrapped in comfort and, with a growing sense of disengagement, she thought, how ironichow peculiar that my old prayer would be honored now, when I no longer plead for escape. Be careful what you wish for.

She vaguely felt her body moving. Her eyes blinked open to her doctor’s hovering face, asking questions she couldn’t respond to. They blinked open to lights flashing past overhead, then open again when a mask was placed over her face. They finally opened to him, his forehead resting against hers, his eyes full of worry. He squeezed her hand and she felt that.

On the verge of surrender, the first cry of their son touched her ears. She thanked God for his life, grateful for that piece of her that would remain with her husband.

Then she closed her eyes.

This week The Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood prompt was for a flash fiction piece inspired by the word LIFE. The story needed to be told in 300 words or less. Mine is precisely 300 words and based on the birth of my son. Every single word is true, except for the part where I died, of course.

This ain’t your home…

We bought that house together months before our wedding but it was never really mine. In his mind, he did all the work so he became the sole owner and he made that clear. I didn’t care. In the end, I just walked away from it all and threw everyone into a state of confusion. Who walks away like that unless there’s another man?

I do.

I tried to be like them and, in conforming, I began to drown. In the end, I went back to get my things. I left half of everything – half of the towels, half the dishes, half the sheets, I left the bed, I took the couch, and I left the house. It was never mine. I cleaned it. I cooked his dinner in it. I tried to be his wife in it. I wanted to die in it.

One night I went back to pick up my cat. His new girlfriend, the Bud Girl from Vegas, was allergic. The dog was off limits though, because she liked Jack. He’d left her picture at my sister’s house. Had he planted it there as if accidentally, so that I’d see his new girlfriend? She was cute. She wore her Bud Girl uniform proudly and stood beaming next to a hairy overweight and heavily bearded biker. I think his planted photo scheme bombed. I simultaneously thought it was funny, sad and desperate.

The night I picked up my cat, I stood in the living room and he moved closer to me, trying to pull me into an embrace that I didn’t want when the telephone began to ring. My telephone number, my telephone, my answering machine. “Hi, Baby it’s me…” my eyebrows rose as I spun back to look at his face. I stared at the person who had been accusing me of cheating for a month and a half. I glared at the person who threatened to change the locks on our house before we were divorced because his father told him to – the person who was just trying to pull me into an embrace. I moved to pick up my telephone and say hello. “Wait!” he pleaded, “Don’t.” My hand hovered over the cradled telephone as I weighed the importance of picking it up. What did she know about me? Did she know I hadn’t even moved out yet? That we weren’t divorced? Did she know that he was trying to sleep with me while I picked up the cat? Did I really care enough to tell her?

 No.

I took a step back and listened to the disembodied voice calling my husband ‘Baby’. I looked around the room that I hated and my eyes finally came to rest on him. He had no idea what to do. Was he waiting for me to confront him? Was he waiting for me to retaliate after the accusations that I’d cheated? Did he need me to explain again that sometimes people leave because they’re drowning? Should I scream that I’d slept in my car because of him? That my own family stepped away from me because of my alleged cheating?

 No.

I stepped away from the telephone and picked up the crate holding Rosie. He reached for me again as she hung up, trying to pull me closer but I resisted. “I’ll be here with the moving truck in two weeks.”

She moved in a month later. I moved to Greenwich and a house full of single girls.

Sand and the Soul

My body rose into the air, heaved toward the sky on the crest of an undulating wave that brought me as close to flight as I’ll ever be. Just as quickly, I plummeted back toward the earth as the wave moved forward without me – pulled back where the world attempts to ground me, forever reminding me I belong on its solid surface. I tucked my knees into my chest, avoiding the sand beneath my feet and I hid behind the wall of water. There, in the trough of a chilly Atlantic wave, I relished precious seconds of freedom. Behind the wall of water I was unseen. For a moment, I ceased to exist. I was erased by the sea.

Treading water, I turned my body and faced the horizon to welcome another exhilarating ride skyward, realizing that riding waves still fills my soul with pure joy. The waves are a place where the darkness can’t reach me. The water holds both the joy and playfulness lost so long ago when the darkness began its slow consumption.

My face bore a smile. Unabashed, I played in the waves allowing freedom to wash over me, temporarily cleansing the darkness. I turned once again to face the beach and, there in the sand, I saw my little girls building castles and moats. Their presence suddenly made me aware that I must tear myself away and return to solid ground. I need to walk among them in the sand and allow my feet to sink into the earth, back on land where the darkness hovers, waiting to pull me down.

So this week, we want you to write about sand.
Yes…sand.

It doesn’t have to be summer-related, but the impending summer and my proximity to Lake Michigan and it’s glorious beaches are what inspired me to tell you to write about sand.

So.

SAND.

GO.






Green Eyed Monsters?

Aaah…jealousy. We all have it. We all feel it.

And now we’d like you to write about it. We’ll leave it open: you can write about something or someone you envy, or a time when your jealousy got you in trouble, or maybe how it makes you feel to be envious. Whatever you want.

In the past, I was made to understand that I was the family outsider – the one who never quite fit. My angles were all wrong. My thoughts and aspirations were too different. I walk in the land of dreams and they move with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Leaving them was a difficult but trying to squeeze myself into a place among them had become too exhausting. When I met David, we seamlessly merged together and, for first time, it was acceptable to simply be me.


Being away for ten years has provided some insights. The death of our older generation has brought revelations while watching the younger set enter adulthood has been interesting. I’ve come to realize that there is a side of my family that I barely know. We are virtual strangers but for passing news from my mother or sister or grandmother. For my entire life I’ve moved on their perimeter, never really feeling like anything more than a passing acquaintance.


Once, just last year, I was speaking with my grandmother on the telephone when she began talking about my younger cousin and me. She began a sentence with, “I know there’s some jealousy and competition between the two of you but…” I didn’t hear the rest of what she said. I was trying work out the jealousy and competition part. Did she have me confused with another granddaughter? The wheels were spinning.

 I barely know the girl…the last time we spent any real time together was when I was 12 and that was a lifetime ago.


She called me last year to inform me that my grandmother wasn’t doing well and that I should visit her before it’s too late. I bit my tongue during that somewhat admonishing telephone call from my younger cousin. Her tone suggested that I had no idea what was happening in my grandmother’s life. Was she attempting to assert her position of authority on the matter? Her call seemed to infer some familial failure and selfishness on my part. I wanted to tell her that I don’t have the luxury of dumping my three children off with someone while I jet off to Nashville for a visit. And I don’t have the luxury of buying plane tickets for a family of five to go say what might be a final goodbye. I wish I did.

I don’t know you.

You’ve never made an effort to know me.

Why would you call me out of the blue and suggest that I’d better visit before it’s too late?

As if I don’t already know…or care.

I wanted to tell her that I have no need to fly somewhere to prove my love and gain good standing. I don’t need to be anyone’s favorite. I don’t need to compete for love. I don’t need to be the family golden child. I began to wonder if what my grandmother had said about jealousy and competition was true. Had this existed for all of this time and I had no idea? Does it exist at all? Frankly there isn’t much else I could do to remove myself from their lives, short of dying. I never see them.


When I was 12, I ran away from my mother’s home. I told her I hated her when what I actually hated was that my parents had divorced just months earlier. I went to live with my father for the rest of that year and, when summer came, I visited my mother’s family with her. My uncles cornered me and the childless one informed me that they were all mad at me for what I did to my mother. He looked at me with disdain and told me that running away was selfish and mean…that I had no right to do something so horrible to my mother. It was my fault that she was so unhappy. He delivered his message and walked off to join the family.


I sat alone by the swimming pool after being told how horrible they all thought I was. I sat there and watched the younger children who still had their house and their family and their innocence and the love of everyone. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t part of that family. That day, I was pushed to the perimeter.


Yesterday, my sister and I talked about our immediate family and how my sister, my brother and I have always gotten the raw end of the deal. We’re the bastard children who missed out on relationships because of divorces and years-long family arguments. We didn’t inherit family heirlooms because, it seemed, all the others are somehow more entitled to those treasures because of who they are. We didn’t have parents that bought us cars and took us on yearly family vacations. Most of us don’t have family who lives down the road who want to pick our children up and watch them while we jet off to another state to visit someone for a few days.


I reminded my sister that although we didn’t inherit our grandmother’s clocks or china, we didn’t get to go to our Granbob’s funeral and we can’t fly down to Nashville to see our Granny, what we’ve inherited is far more substantial than material objects. I have no need to provide everyone with material proof of how much they loved us. We have our memories of time spent with them. Memories of summer days in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, New Orleans and Florida. Memories of waking at 4:00 a.m. to watch Diana marry her prince. Memories of riding a fake deer in my grandmother’s rock garden while she belly laughed and taught us about love and flowers. Memories of walking through the forest with her while she told us stories of her childhood.


I’ll just stay out here on the perimeter where I’ve always belonged. On the inside, the angles are much too sharp.

Consumed

This week, we want fightin’ words.

Write a piece about a fight. What happened? Why? Who “won”? What were the repercussions?

Show us. Use emotion. Description. If it’s a fist fight, what did it feel like to hit someone – or be hit? What does it feel like to be screamed at – or get the silent treatment?

This can be fiction or non-fiction. Your choice.

Come back Friday and link up!

I come from a family that wasn’t afraid to punch someone in the face if they stepped out of line. Lest you think that we’re all a bunch of angry psychopaths, allow me to clarify. In our early years many punches were thrown at one another, along with professions of intense sibling hatred, but if someone outside of the clan threatened one of us, they picked a fight with all of us. Familial loyalty always trumped an argument if an outsider dared to threaten one of us with violence. Except for my sister…she just tended to dissolve into tears and duck.

When I was 10-years-old, my brother and I were removed from the school bus for fighting with the “Bad Kid” that lived up the road. The Bad Kid picked a fight with my brother. They were both five years older than me, but that didn’t stop me from offering my assistance. Having faithfully tuned in to The Bionic Woman each week, I felt fully empowered as I charged down the narrow aisle of the school bus and launched myself onto the Bad Kid’s back with all of the confidence and gusto of Jaimie Sommers. I was dervish of scratches and slaps but sadly lacked any of the bionics that would have aided my brother in actually disabling the Bad Kid. The only thing I accomplished was ripping Bad Kid’s glasses from his face. Next thing I knew, we were left standing on the side of the road in a cloud of dust while the bus pulled away.

Years later, my brother and I were visiting my father in Florida. I was a senior in high school and going through some pretty heavy stuff. I’d venture to say that year was one of my most troubled from an emotional standpoint. I was suffering from crippling depression, living with an evil stepfather and suffering from some serious abandonment issues as the result of my parent’s divorce. I was also dating ‘that’ boyfriend-the one and only boy I ever allowed to walk all over me.

I don’t recall much about that year’s trip to Florida, but what I recall about the night in a particular Florida parking lot is family legend. At times laughed at and, at times, a disturbing glimpse into my dark state of mind at that time.

It all began innocently enough with a family dinner at a restaurant near Fort Meyers beach. Having sufficiently gorged ourselves, we returned to the Cadillac in the parking lot while my brother stayed behind to pay the bill. My father, stepmother, stepsister and I waited in the car, illuminated by the building’s flood lights, and quietly remarked about how full we were when a man stumbled out from the bushes. He briefly paused, swaying dangerously close to the tipping over point and allowed his bleary eyes to adjust on the car. With concentrated effort he raised his middle finger at us and screamed, “You fuckin’ snowbirds!” Then with the exaggerated gait of a cartoon turtle, his neck preceding his body, he shuffled off toward the entrance of the bar, turning once more to reiterate that we were, in fact, a lousy bunch of “fucking snowbirds!”

It was at that moment that my brother chose to exit the restaurant. Through my passenger window, I saw his mouth say something to the effect of, “What’s your problem?” That’s all it took for the The Drunk to begin punching. Within seconds, fists were flying and, in some rage-induced loss of consciousness, I leaped from the Cadillac. As my brother, who was doing just fine on his own, fought with the suddenly lucid and strong drunk man, I stood behind him and threw my own flailing punches. I vaguely remember my brother attempting to push me out of the way but, mostly, I saw only that man.

Never before had I been so consumed by adrenalin and rage. I was swept away and into some dark place of violence. This drunk, angry man had plucked at the final string that was holding me together in that year. No one knew what was happening in the depths of my troubled mind. Depression and abandonment weren’t topics of discussion in schools or at home. Anger, hatred and resentment boiled to the surface and spilled from my petite body. I felt my fingers connect with his shirt then I plunged in deeper to gouge at his skin with my fingernails. He pulled his arm back in surprise.

First, he became my stepfather and then everyone who had ever let me down or purposely belittled me. Mostly, he became that blackened darkness that had begun it’s ugly swirling inside of my body and robbing me of my life. I punched him in the back as my brother tried to lead him away from me. I was angry that my punch wasn’t as hard as I expected it would be and momentarily thought of the dreams I’d had when I would swing to punch with all of my might, only to deliver a feather light touch on impact.

I remember hearing my father’s voice from afar…”Goddamn it, I just wanted to go home to watch T.J. Hooker.” Then I heard his familiar and authoritative State Trooper command to stop fighting. The Drunk whirled to throw a punch at my father who efficiently stopped the punch in mid-air then twisted The Drunk’s arm behind his back and threw him to the ground. I vaguely recall being awed by how easily my father had performed that maneuver to subdue The Drunk. I momentarily wondered how many times he had performed that move in his career as a police officer. The Drunk bounced off the bumper of a car and landed on the asphalt of the parking lot. That’s were I fell upon him, still riding the wave of my rage-induced lack of consciousness.

Slowly, I began to realize that the pointy-toed boot kicking the man in the ribs was mine, as was that voice that was screaming profanities that would make a sailor blush. “You leave my brother *#$(*#*G  alone, you @($damn piece of $*(*&*%$# #***%*%*!” Each kick squarely connected with The Drunk’s body making a series of horrible solid thumping sounds.

Slowly, the veil of rage that had wrapped itself around me began to lift. My kicking slowed as the man on the ground lie there moaning. I looked up to see the horrified faces of my stepmother and stepsister looking at us from behind the windshield. I turned to see my father and brother standing side by side. My brother’s eyes were wide. My father looked only slightly shocked, then chuckled slightly before saying, “Get it in the car.”

I went to the door that I’d left hanging open and slid onto the seat, shaking and freaked out. As we pulled away, I looked at The Drunk in parking lot with blood gushing from a wound on his arm and began questioning my existence.

Long Pond

This piece was written in response to the photo prompt at The Red Dress Club: RemembRED.

Your assignment this week was to write a memoir piece inspired by this picture of a garden hose. In 700 or fewer words, show us where your memory takes you

 
I watched the spray from the hose rise in a twinkling arc over the tomato plants. Fat drops of water rolled from the end of the sprayer and splashed onto my bare feet. The water was shockingly cold in the heat of the morning sun. I looked down and watched the cold, almost painful drops land on my foot. A puddle formed around my toes and made the soil of his garden muddy. My feet were dirty, but he didn’t care. I dug my toes into the earth and absorbed its muddy warmth.

I reached over and plucked a ripe, red cherry tomato from the vine and popped it into my mouth then followed with another. When I’d arranged a tomato in each cheek, I called to him and flashed a beaming smile. He turned from tying a tomato plant to its stake and laughed at the sight of my bulging cheeks. His laugh was magical, spreading warmth and washing me with happiness.

“When are we going to go fishing?” My voice sounded muffled and hollow as my words pushed their way around the tomatoes filling my checks. I stood holding the hose in one hand, watering his tomato plants, and poked at my puffy cheeks with the index finger of my other hand. The skin on my cheeks began feeling like it was stretching, so I bit down on the tomatoes, breaking through the skin and washing my tongue with their sun-warmed sweet and sour interiors.

He never yelled at me and his hands never hurt. He shared his time and paid attention.

“You want to go fishing, huh?”

“Yup, and I’m gonna catch the biggest fish ever!”

He laughed, and then left the garden to enter the cellar. The dirt interior was like entering a cave. The ceiling was lined with fishing poles. He knew just where mine was located and pulled it down, along with his own. The tackle box and oars followed and were pushed into the bed of the truck. We always drove the short distance across the street and down the hill to the boat.

At the shoreline, I stood with the gear and watched him turn the boat over and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished into the damp weedy shoreline as he slid the boat into the water. “Come on,” he’d say, “Watch the mud.”

I gingerly stepped to the boat, walking along the clumps of grass and trying to avoid the blackened mud that sucked at my sneakers. The boat shimmied as I stepped onto the rear seat and made my way to the bow with my arms out in an attempt to balance. He’d pass the oars into the boat, then push off and climb in just before his feet met the water.

The water slapped against the side of the boat and the lily pads dragged at the bottom, trying to slow the momentum of his push. We’d pause there while he arranged the oars and I’d pull at the flowers growing from the lily pads, finally pulling one of the long slimy stems from the water and allowing my fingers to drag through the wake as he rowed me around Long Pond.

Those short summer weeks – always too short, were strung together by days full of nothing that were everything.

Our last day spent fishing together happened in 1998. I was no longer a little girl.

I watched his hands flip the boat and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished through the damp weedy grass of the shoreline. His progress had slowed over the years and, that day, his feet didn’t escape the water when he pushed the boat from the shoreline.

My throat tightened and my eyes burned with the threat of tears so I turned and plucked a flower from among the lily pads. I dragged my fingers through Long Pond and realized that I was beginning to say goodbye.