Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's Been a Long Time...

Six months, in fact.

When I started this blog, it was a place to whine and feel sorry for myself (yeah, I can be honest about that). Over time, it morphed into a spot for me to work my writing muscles.

I don't need either of those things anymore.

I'm not deluding myself, mind you. My life is not perfect - yet I'm happier than I've been in a long time. My writing is not award-winning (nor overly prolific, truth be told), but I'm doing the work and I'm putting my name on it, too.

I'm stronger.

It's a promise AND a threat. And it's awesome.

Monday, February 25, 2013

U is for...Underwhelmed

Writing and me? We've got a real love/hate relationship going on.

Sometimes ideas trip over each other as they spill out of my fingertips and rush over the page. And sometimes (like now), there's nothing but me, some white space and a few crickets. 

Through the fall and early winter, I wrote a lot. Story after story...and every one with a beginning, a middle, and an end! Some of them were even kind of not-bad (or so I thought at the time), and in an uncharacteristic burst of optimism, I submitted. Here, there, and everywhere: I sent my stories out into the world.

And now, as winter drags on, they're all slinking back home again. 

Each one gets a once-over when they wander through the door, and without fail, I'm entirely underwhelmed. Where is the jaunty swagger and saucy attitude I thought I remembered? How did I fool myself into thinking that they had something special? 

Mediocrity sucks...


***


Welcome to this week's instalment of Mostly Fiction Monday. This time out, Stranger and I will be working our way through the alphabet; each theme will be "writer's choice", as long as it starts with the letter of the week. Today, "U is for...", which has turned out to be an invitation to my pity party. Sorry about that.

Please feel free to join in on the MFM adventure and post a story of your own. Leave a comment if you do so I can come and see. And stop by next week when we take on "V is for...".




Monday, February 11, 2013

T is for...The Truth


The dining room table was littered with heart-shaped lollipops and Scooby Doo valentines. William and I were a two-person assembly line, addressing cards and affixing candy, getting ready for his class party in the middle of the week. It was a fun way to spend some time on a Sunday afternoon, but my mind was only partially focused on the task.

Another part of my mind was occupied with the premise of the story I planned to work on for my weekly writing prompt. This week's letter was "T", and I was pleased with the premise which was spinning through my thoughts; details were dropping into place.

Finally though, I was thinking about Nathan, and wondering when he would be home. A mid-winter weekend Scout camp should have wrapped up around 1pm or so, and it was coming up on three o'clock, so I expected to hear Scoutmaster's car in my driveway any moment.

Instead of a car, I heard the phone.

"Will you get that, hon?" I called to my husband, who was in the other room.

I heard his muffled greeting, and then footsteps. He handed me the phone.

"Hi C," said a woman's voice. It was Scoutmaster's wife. "Okay, so, first of all, everybody is fine..."

My heart stuttered, then surged. No conversation that begins with those words can ever be a good one.

"There's been an accident," she went on. "Everyone is fine, seriously. But the guys will be a bit late coming home."

So. The details were sketchy, she only had time for a quick conversation with her husband before the police arrived, so she didn't have much more to tell me than that. But she promised to call me back as soon as she could.

While we spoke, I continued tucking lollipops into Will's valentines. I didn't even realize I'd finished until the last heart was securely anchored in place. My own heart felt like it had been squeezed into a too-small box, straining to function within my constricted chest.

Was it five minutes or fifteen? I couldn't say for sure, all I know is that it felt like forever. I asked my husband to go look for them, we knew what highway they were traveling.

"She said he's fine, right?" He pointed out. "What will I accomplish, driving around aimlessly? He's okay, he'll be home soon."

But I just wanted to see him, touch him. He would never be fine or okay or anything, until I could see for myself that it was true. I called Mrs. Scoutmaster back.

"I'm not good at sitting here, waiting," I told her when she answered the phone. "Where are they? I want to go get the kids."

She quickly filled me in, having just wrapped wrapped up a second call with her husband.

"They're only about twenty minutes away. Their stuff is just getting loaded up now, the police will bring them home. I'll call you as soon as they get here."

It was almost an hour before the phone rang again. This time, instead of Mrs. Scoutmaster, it was Nathan. I finally started to breathe again.

In less than ten minutes, I was face to face with my child. And we really are "face to face" these days, he is just about the same height as me. I looked him over quickly, head to toe, and then searched deep within his blue-green eyes. Not a scratch. Not a bump. And nothing alarming found within his gaze.

He tolerated a hug, and pretended not to notice that I was a little bit teary-eyed. Back at home, he tolerated another embrace after he described what sound a Chevy Cavalier makes as it breaks through the guardrail on the side of the highway and rolls three times before coming to a standstill. And how nobody screamed until it was over. And how they all shivered and shook when they got out of the car, and looked with much amazement at what was left of it.

"It was unrecognizable," he told me. "The driver's side and back windows blew out. And the front of the car...well, it was just gone."

Somehow, my son and his two friends, along with Scoutmaster, walked out of that wreckage without so much as a scratch.

Last night, it was a long time before sleep found me, and my pillow was damp with tears that insisted on dwelling on what could have been.  

The worst part is that I can't be there, always, to keep him safe. The worst part is that there was nothing I could do to save him from going through this experience. And when he told me "I thought I was going to die", a little piece of me actually did.

So of course, I never wrote the damn "T" story. Instead of fiction, you're getting this: Truth.


***

Welcome to this week's installment of Mostly Fiction Monday. This time out, Stranger and I will be working our way through the alphabet; each theme will be "writer's choice", as long as it starts with the letter of the week. 
Today, "T is for..." stretched things from Fiction into Truth. I know, I know...my words are pretty melodramatic, considering the fact that everyone is fine. But I can't stop thinking about what might have been, and the tears come, just the same...

Please feel free to join in on the MFM adventure and post a story of your own. Leave a comment if you do so I can come and see! And stop by next week when we take on "U is for...".

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scar Tissue

My body tells a thousand tales; history written in the marks upon my skin.

Look at my belly: lacy lines traced in my flesh speak of babies, one and then two. These frame my navel's lopsided smile, a reminder of the surgeries that came later. Coincidentally, one and then two.

Just above, tucked into the curve of my breast, the faintest, one-inch line still lingers. It's almost as old as I am, born from a puncture wound received when I was four (and now stretched tight over a much larger rib cage). A rousing game of cops and robbers was ruined by my unsuccessful attempt to leap over a pile of nail-studded lumber. I ended up in the emergency room.The bad guys got away.

The pale skin of my left arm, just above the elbow, is marked with a crescent moon. Fitting, since I acquired this blemish while my body wasn't following the lunar cycle. Clumsy and awkward with my unfamiliar shape, a hot baking sheet pulled carelessly from the oven brands me now, always.

Travel outward, look down. My right calf bears an angry slash, a souvenir of seventh-grade stupidity. Look at me! Watch me as I kick my leg over the For Sale sign that has suddenly sprouted upon our front lawn like an interruption. Except, of course, I missed. The blood stains in the grass were barely noticeable and our house was sold soon after.

Now, up and up and up. A divot, there, by my left eye brow--a lowly chicken pox scar. I scratched. Yes, I was weak. But not too weak. It is, I think, the only one.

Look at my ears. Do you see the tiny starbursts where extra earrings used to ride? Some were slammed into being with the forceful exclamation of an ear piercing gun, while others were born of ice and alcohol and a safety pin. Small reminders of a girl who didn't used to be so scared.

Scar tissue: stories of (im)perfection. All of them mine. All of them, me.

***

Welcome to this week's (slightly late) installment of Mostly Fiction Monday. This time out, Stranger and I will be working our way through the alphabet; each theme will be "writer's choice", as long as it starts with the letter of the week. Today, "S is for...", and I give you this rambling bit of I-don't-know-what-the-heck-this-is. What can I say? You win some, you lose some. :)

Please feel free to join in on the MFM adventure and post a story of your own. Leave a comment if you do so I can come and see! And stop by next week when we take on "T is for...".

Monday, January 28, 2013

Red, Red Wine

"You sure you'll be okay?"

"Of course. Go. I'll be fine," I reply. I smile my biggest smile to show how fine I can be. "I love weddings; they put everyone in a sappy mood, don't worry about me."

Chris catches my chin and tips my face up so that he can gaze into my eyes. Satisfied with what he sees, he nods and plants a quick kiss on my highly glossed lips.

"Okay. It's just dinner. I'll catch up with you as soon as I can."

I playfully push him towards the head table. "Go," I instruct. "You've got a job to do, Mr. Best Man. Aren't you supposed to be keeping the groom somewhat sober?"

"At least until the first dance," Chris confirms. "I better go..."

I watch him as he crosses the room, truly enjoying the view. I've never seen him in anything dressier than jeans without holes in the knees; a far cry from the tuxedo he's decked out in tonight. The boy sure cleans up well.

But I can't stand here staring at my date's ass all night. It's time to play girlfriend, and make nice with his friends and family. I take a deep breath and turn my back on my beloved. Table three, here I come. I think, and with my head held high, I march towards my seat.

Sensing a few sets of appreciative eyes upon me, I decide to dial it up a notch. I clean up pretty well too, if I do say so myself. A swish to my hips, and a toss of my hair, and I feel like a supermodel as I strut my stuff.

Damn these high heels, though. As I pitch forward, suddenly unsteady on my feet, I remember why I usually stick to running shoes: I'm clumsy as hell.

Several hands reach down to help me up. I contemplate crawling off under nearby table five (the floor length tablecloth and seating for twelve make for a tempting hiding place), but instead, I take an offered hand and am pulled to my feet, face flaming.

A darting glance to the head table is enough to tell me my spill has not gone unnoticed. The bride is delicately dabbing at the tears of mirth that have sprung to her eyes, so as not to ruin her mascara, and the groom is providing a reenactment of my graceless stumble, much to the amusement of the bridesmaids. At least Chris appears to be concerned, but whether it is for my well-being or his reputation, I can't say. I quickly look away.

I slide into my seat, face blazing. This was not the way I wanted to start off, this was not the first impression that I wanted to make on Chris's family. I mumble greetings to the left and right, but don't make eye contact. I dig in my purse for an imaginary, but much-needed, something and pray my flush will quickly fade.

The waiter comes around and pours the wine. I wrap my hands around the glass like it is a life-preserver and I am drowning, and I take a healthy swig of the Merlot. And then another. My breathing slows, my blush recedes. When I peek out from beneath my lashes, nobody is looking in my direction. Phew.

I put my almost-empty glass down and, feeling somewhat restored, take note of my dining companions. To my left is an older gentleman with a serious dandruff problem and a suit that strains to contain his bulk. He introduces himself as "Uncle Leo", and tells me that I should forget about Chris and run away with him, instead. The line feels a little tired, but he winks at me and pats my knee as he delivers it, the old devil.

Thank goodness the waiter has refilled my glass; I'm going to need it. This is going to be a very long meal.

Uncle Leo forgets about me when the soup arrives. He tucks his napkin into his shirt collar, hefts his spoon, and slurps for all he's worth. I take the opportunity to introduce myself to the couple to my right, David and Ann.

"Oh, you're Chris's girlfriend," David says, with a knowing look.

"Umm, well, yes," I reply, and bury my face in my wine glass to hide my confusion.

"I'm surprised they didn't make you maid of honour," he says. Ann snorts and nods her head.

"Sorry?" I say.

"Yeah, I bet," David replies. But it isn't until they clear the soup and are serving the main course that I figure out he is the only cousin not included in the bridal party.

I sip my wine, and nod noncommittally as David complains about the slight to him, his family, and his unborn children. Well, okay, maybe not the part about the unborn children. But I wouldn't be surprised if he's thinking it. I excuse myself and turn back to Uncle Leo.

Uncle Leo, it appears, knows a lot of jokes. Well, a lot of variations on one joke, anyway.

"What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs that's lying on your porch?"

I blink, not sure how to respond. Luckily, I don't have to, because he answers himself right away. "Matt. What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs that's buried in a pile of leaves? Russell."

I shouldn't laugh. It's not even funny, not really. But there's something about his deadpan delivery that gets to me and I let out a giggle. The giggle grows into a guffaw, and before I know it, tears are streaming down my face. Uncle Leo, encouraged by my laughter, continues.

"What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the middle of a lake? Bob."

The waiter tries to offer coffee with the dessert, but I hold out my wine glass instead. I notice Chris is frowning in my direction. I smile and wave, but he doesn't wave back. Uncle Leo pats me on the knee. I raise my glass and wink at him.

I love weddings. They put everyone in a sappy mood. Well, mostly everyone. Chris doesn't look like he's feeling too sappy.

"I'd like to buy the handsome gentleman over there a drink," I tell the waiter, the next time he comes by.

"It's an open bar, miss," he says.

"Well, I know that," I reply. "But Mr. Fussypants doesn't seem to be taking advantage. Here...let me."

I pluck the wine bottle from the waiter's hands and then slip out of my high heeled shoes. This time when I cross the room, I hardly stumble at all. So why does Chris look so mad?

***
Welcome to this week's installment of Mostly Fiction Monday. This time out, Stranger and I will be working our way through the alphabet; each theme will be "writer's choice", as long as it starts with the letter of the week. Today, "R is for...", and I give you this silly piece of fluff that flew out of my fingertips tonight. 

Please feel free to join in on the MFM adventure and post a story of your own. Leave a comment if you do so I can come and see! And stop by next week when we take on "S is for...".

Monday, January 21, 2013

Q is for...Quiet Houses


From the outside, there is nothing particularly remarkable about 21 Coulson Avenue. Just one more tidy bungalow in an endless string of quiet houses. Like the others, it clings stubbornly to its patch of ground, defying the merciless wind and the driving rain that rage through the dark like a heart attack.

A welcoming light shines out of all the windows; the promise of a safe haven, protection from the perilous night. You are drawn by the lie behind the light. You are bound to this place; your arrival is inevitable.

In the first window you peer through, you find a girl. She lays upon her bed, a notebook in her hand with words that cut across the page like  accusations. Her stereo emits a wailing wall of sound. It keeps everyone out. It keeps her inside.

Below her, in the basement, a boy faces a sixty-inch screen. From the comfortable embrace of the sofa, he carries out a bloody attack. Animated, pixilated gore splashes across his vision. He reloads, and reloads, and reloads...

Back upstairs, in the kitchen, there's a woman making a meal. Drawers are flung open, drawers are slammed shut. She curses pots that don't boil, salts the sauce with her tears. Another dinner destined to taste like melancholy.

You want to reach out, untie the tangles that have ensnared these little lives. But you can't, you're not allowed.

Nevertheless...

Crack! The house is plunged into darkness and silence.

While the woman fumbles through cupboards for a flashlight, the children make their way towards her. Stereo speakers have been silenced,  the TV screen has gone black.

The woman looks out the window at the storm that shows no sign of abating. "I sure hope the power comes back soon. It's going to get cold in here."

Build a fire, you whisper.

"Why don't we have a fire?" the girl asks.

"We haven't had a fire since...yes, okay. Let's have a fire."

The three of them move into the living room. The woman lays the fire, stacking wood and wedging paper within the cracks. She reaches for the matches.

Open the flue, you admonish.

"Don't forget to open the flue," the boy says.

"Oops," says the woman. "That was close!"

She reaches up, fiddles a minute, and nods. Next: a spark. A puff of air. A tiny flame is born, then grows. The fire pops and crackles, its chatter fills the quiet dark.

"I miss dad," says the girl. The boy nods.

"Yes," says the woman. "I do, too."

Whoosh! Sparks dance, chase each other up the chimney.

You can go now. It's not all right, not yet. But it will be.

***
Welcome to this week's installment of Mostly Fiction Monday. This time out, Stranger and I will be working our way through the alphabet; each theme will be "writer's choice", as long as it starts with the letter of the week. Today, "Q is for...". 
This piece is pretty rough and needs work. But instead of revising, I'm stepping away from the screen to spend time with my family instead. Fitting, right?

Please feel free to join in on the MFM adventure and post a story of your own. Leave a comment if you do so I can come and see! And stop by next week when we take on "R is for...".