9/9/16

I've Missed You So


Day 9's prompt: All things suck until one life-changing event . . . hmmm . . .


"If at first, you don't succeed . . ." Bailey paused, and Julius continued, "Just throw that shit out?"

"That's my preference," Bailey crumpled the letter. Three times she had tried to write, and each time she crumpled the paper up, tossing it out. How does one give parents important news when they refused to acknowledge your existence?

"It's your life, babe." Julius kissed her forehead. "Gotta run. Late for work."

"Go on." Bailey watched Julius walk down the sidewalk and disappear around the corner.

She sighed, shaking her head. Her parents steadily rebuffed every attempt to reach out to them. Bailey had celebrated Thanksgiving and birthdays alone for the first time in her life. Cards and presents were returned unopened. Phone calls went unanswered. Doors were left locked. Once she and Julius got together, her parent's had firmly closed their hearts and home to her.

Bailey had cried too many times to count on Julius shoulder, going through what seemed like boxes of tissue. She didn't know what to do, except say screw it and move on. She was losing her ability to hope, and just felt beaten down. Her body literally ached. Although that could be the radiation treatment effects, too.

Bailey wandered into the kitchen, uncovered her aging cellphone, and took a deep, steadying breath before dialing with shaky fingers.

She was getting ready to disconnect the call, when it suddenly picked up.

"Bailey?" A familiar voice wrapped itself around Bailey's heart, squeezing gently.

"Mom?" Bailey felt tears sting her eyes. "Mommy?"

"Oh, sweet girl," her mother breathed softly into the phone. "I've missed you so."

Bailey sat slowly down in her chair, feeling something unclench inside. "Oh. mom," she said, "I've missed you so. I have so much to tell you."


Just One More Bounce, Please

On to week 2 of September's writing challenge. Day 8's prompt is to write a story about wanting something and not having the power to get it, once, twice, thrice . . . until . . .

"He really is intent on his playing, isn't he?"

Jana smiled fondly across the park at her four-year old grandson, energetically bouncing his stuffed Tigger against the wooden play structure, singing with atonal enthusiasm, "The most wonderful thing about Tiggers . . . is Tiggers are wonderful things!"

"He's says Tigger is always asking for just one more bounce. It's like Robin thinks that ragged old toy is alive. I swear, the interior life of a child knows no bounds."

"Do you think he remembers?"

Jana took her eyes off Robin and looked her oldest friend somberly. "If there's any justice in the world, at all, no."

Both adults looked across at the giggling child and the stuffed Tigger. Robin had tucked Tigger under one arm, scrambling up the toy. At the top, he dropped Tigger to the ground, with the injunction to remember, "They're tops are made out of rubber. They're bottoms are made out of springs!"

The Tigger landed awkwardly on the beauty bark below the Big Toy and fell to one side. Robin climbed over the side and jumped after Tigger. Jana half-stood, heart in mouth, to holler, "Robin, stop!" and watched as the boy landed gracefully, snatching Tigger up and hugging him tight.

"I also swear he thinks he can fly." Jana shook her head, heaving a sigh, half-watching Robin as she packed empty sandwich wrappers and juice boxes into Robin's Tigger-themed lunchbox. She paused, listening to Robin's piping voice explain that Tigger's " . . . tops are made out of rubber . . . and bottoms are made out of springs!" ending with a plea to Tigger to "just how him one little bounce, all on his very own."

"The therapist thinks how he plays with Tigger, asking him to show him just one little bounce is how he's processing what he saw when . . . " Jana felt bile rising in her throat, with its now-familiar gag reflex kicking in. She swallowed convulsively and looked off across the playground, her eyes swimming.

"I'm so sorry, Jana. This is more than you ever bargained for, isn't it?"

Her friend paused, and then stood up herself, brushing the bits of bark off her pants and tugging her coat more firmly down around her hips. "When do you think he'll be able to attend preschool so you can come back to work? We miss you."

Jana snorted. "Who knows?" and gave her friend a quick hug before heading over to where Robin sat, cradling his Tigger in his arms, eyes far away fixed on some hidden memory.

Jana could hear the quaver in Robin's voice as he stroked the Tigger's head. "It's okay, Tigger. You'll bounce when you're ready to . . . I know you will."

Jana sat quietly down next to Robin. She could feel the wintry sun on her back, while a brisk breeze ruffled her prematurely graying hair into her eyes.

Robin looked up at her. "I can't remember the next words, Gramma. Tigger won't bounce if I can't remember the words." Tears started to fill his eyes and Jana smiled reassuringly.

"We'll sing it together, Robin, okay?"

He nodded, and Jana started at the beginning in a low and soothing voice. Robin sang with her, his voice steadying. By the time they reached, "They're bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, trouncy," Robin was up and jumping himself, thumping the Tigger's spring-loaded legs vigorously onto the metal slide next to him . . . "fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!"

"Catch, Gramma!" Robin charged back up the Big Toy, and dropped Tigger into Jana's waiting hands. She obligingly held Tigger.

"Bounce him, Gramma, bounce him!"

Jana leaned down, bouncing Tigger off of the beauty bark beneath her feet while Robin slid down the slide, singing at the top of his lungs, "But, by far the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is he's the only one!"

Jana handed the Tigger over to her grandson, and held out her hand.

"Let's head home. It's nap-time."

Robin pulled away, dashing back up the Big Toy.

"Just one more bounce, Gramma, please? One more? Please?"



9/8/16

Broken Mirror

Today's prompt invited us to go back to the "like me/not like me" characters and focus on dialogue. So, here's one more snippet of the mirror series. Enjoy . . . 



“Mother . . . mother . . . mother?”

“Really, Luellen. Once is enough. And then wait to be acknowledged. How many times must I tell you, once and wait. Repeat it after me . . . re-peat-it-af-ter-me!”

“OW! . . . Once and wait . . . once and wait . . . once and wait . . . aieee.”

“Stop that dreadful sniveling. I don’t wish to hear it.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Do you hear that, Luellen?”

“No, mother.”

“Exactly. Now, finish your breakfast. We have much to do today.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Well?”

“Mother. Why is Rayanna serving us breakfast?”

“I don’t know to whom you’re referring, Luellen.”

“Her, mother! Right there! Taking your plate. Rayanna. Can’t you see her?”

“I will tell you this exactly once, Luellen, so listen closely. You no longer have a sister. She is dead to us, do you understand me? Dead. Never speak her name again . . . and wipe your eyes. It’s nothing to cry about.”

“Ye-ee-s, mo-mo-mother . . .”

“There’s my good daughter. Now, finish your breakfast. The maid is waiting to clear the table.”


9/7/16

Mirror Reprise

Today's writing prompt was to write about someone very different from yourself. It seemed logical to try the point of view of another character in an earlier prompt. Start with that short and then see what you think . . .



"Maybe it would show a world free from her." Luellen glanced at her sister crouching in a nearby corner. Steam rose off the mop bucket, shrouding the tangled, greasy mess of her hair.

The grimly upright woman standing in front of her murmured, "Be still." Luellen choked back laughter, bowing her head and tracing the tiled floor pattern with her eyes, instead. Mother gazed impassively into the mirror for several long minutes, before giving a slight nod. The salesman half-bowed as he backed slowly out of the room.

"Leave me." Mother sat slowly down on the upholstered chair behind her, continuing to gaze into the mirror as though there were nothing else to be seen in the room.

When Mother spoke in that dead, flat voice, it was best to obey immediately.

Luellen's sister never seemed to learn that lesson. Luellen had cowered many times behind chairs or doors as her sister resisted Mother's lessons and subsequent punishments for disobedience.

Until one morning, Luellen's sister came to the table dressed as a serving maid. The bruises were plain on her face, and traces of the latest whipping were bleeding through the back of her sister's dress. Over time, her sister's role was downgraded again and again, until now she was dressed in rags and scrubbing floors.


"You have no sister," was Mother's only response the one time Luellen dared to ask her Mother why her sister was dressed as a serving maid.

Luellen passed by her sister, not glancing at her. Would her sister ever learn? In the end, obeying Mother was just another game. One that Luellen intended to win.



Sometimes, the lovely thing about . . .

. . . writing short stories during a challenge month, is that the ideas bubbling up so nicely lend themselves to a longer story. Just in time, too, with National Novel Writing Month around the corner! 

Here's just a snippet from Day 5 of September's Story-A-Day prompt:



I'd like to say the devil made me do it, but I really don't think there is such a thing as a devil. Maybe. Certainly, there must be a malicious sprite or two, but no devils and no angels. I hope. Unless angels are the ghosts of loved ones long gone, paying a stiff penance in guardianship duties before being admitted through the Pearly Gates? That's a convenient story I like to tell, anyway. It makes me feel that my bull in the china shop routine has a purpose. Would it be fair then, to go back and undo what I've already done? Or would it just destroy the hopes of my guardian angels. What about my hopes?


9/5/16

In the Mirror



I knew I shouldn't have looked in the mirror. My sister said vanity would be my undoing.

But . . . after years of being told I was fat, ugly, with no trace of beauty, no need for clean clothes, clean hands, clean face, brushed hair, I had to look. But . . . after years with no reason to smile or laugh. Or cry, either. Only beautiful children are held when they cry. No one would ever hold me.

Just today, I overheard the antiquities dealer telling mother and sister that the mirror was magic. It would show them what they most desired.

My sister laughed in that tinkling, little girl way. "Maybe it would show a world free from her," and looked at me scornfully where I crouched with a scrub brush and pail of water. I ducked my head and pretended I didn't hear.

Late that night, I crept into the hall. I looked in that mirror, and I looked and I looked. There was nothing. Eventually, my breath fogged the mirror. I wiped it away with the flat of my hand.

The mirror showed me what I most wanted. It wasn't beauty, after all.



9/3/16

Only Me



In life’s chessboard, we capture, castle, capitulate.
We evade, elude, escape.
Eventually, we checkmate -- or we lose.
And always, looking back, we learn how we lost the war, 
even as we won the battle.

“Full of yourself today, Nettie?”

Tom folded the scribblings into an airplane, launching it high above Nettie’s head.

“You know better.”

Nettie stared into the sun glaring through the window, refusing to meet Tom’s eyes. Her hands were heavy with padded restraints around her wrists. 

The plane fluttered to the floor near her feet.

“They’ll never believe you,” Tom leaned in. “Only me. Only me.”