Blog, fiction

The Message – A Fiction Piece

Arnie pushed her auburn hair behind her ears. She found her hair annoying at this length but there was no need to worry about a haircut now. The message was clear, perhaps the clearest she had ever received.

She scooted her stool close to the window and pushed aside the blue and yellow flowered curtains her grandmother said would be perfect for her room. “You will always have a breath of spring in your room!” The sky was baby blue with cotton-ball clouds In the distance. Other than her curtains, spring had faded away. Summer arrived with warm days and cool nights. Everyone seemed anxious to get outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun but Arnie was conflicted.

Jack Rose, Arnie’s father, paused by her door. “Gorgeous day, isn’t it?” The question was rhetorical of course as her father continued toward the stairs that would lead him to his morning coffee. Grandmother Rose moved in with them when Arnie’s mother passed away. Three years had passed but it still felt like it happened yesterday. People had been kind, but Arnie never wanted to see flowers again. She could no longer tolerate their syrupy sweet smell.

Of course Arnie knew of her mother’s looming fate before anyone else. The message was the first one that frightened her and she clung to her mother hoping it would sway the imminent message. All she could do was wait until others learned what she already knew. Sadly, there was no changing the result. The drunk driver was never caught, but Arnie knew that would be the case.

Arnie quit trying to talk about the messages long ago. Everything was conveniently whisked in the category of coincidence. Arnie was not mature enough to articulate what she knew so she just quit talking about them. Over the last few years the frequency of the messages had decreased. She knew as soon as her mother died she would lose her playroom so Grandma Rose could have a nice room of her own. She packed up her most important books and the stuffed bunny with the floppy ears her mother gave her long before her father explained the need to consolidate her belongings.

She smiled at the squirrels jumping precariously through the oak tree out front. She slipped on her sandals and went downstairs to join her family.

“Your pancakes are ready, my dear.” She loved the way her grandmother smiled with her eyes. “I even warmed the syrup just the way you like it.” Her grandmother kissed Arnie on the forehead as she handed her a plate with three large pancakes. “I hope you’re hungry.”

As she ate her pancakes, Arnie listened to her father and her grandmother talk about the weather. It was a perfect day to just relax with no errands to run and no work to be done. Arnie tried to compartmentalize her thoughts. Should she tell them? What purpose would it serve other than turn a perfectly glorious day into a catastrophe?

After breakfast, Arnie went outside and climbed into the curve of the oak tree. It was a perfect place to give into her thoughts. She thought about her mother and wondered if this was what she felt? Did she know on that day she would breathe her last breath or did it come as a complete surprise?

Who does one tell, when the entire world faces the same fate? Who would believe a thirteen year-old child if she told them today would be the last sunset for the entire planet? Who would believe the sun would lose its grip on this beautiful earth forcing it to be flung into space?

From the tree she watched her father practice on his makeshift putting green. Her grandmother clipped the rose bushes, cutting off the dying blooms. She closed her eyes and wondered if today she might see her mother again.

A hawk appeared out of nowhere and scooped up a small squirrel scampering across the yard. Sunset had come a little early for that little guy.

fiction

Meredith – A Fiction Piece

This piece was inspired by the following photograph. It is outside of my normal style of writing and stretches me out of my comfort zone as it is a little otherworldly. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Meredith’s mother did not approve of her afternoon walk to the forest. None of her mothers had approved of most things Meredith did, but they never argued. They were wary of her, their feelings bordering on fear. She knew the time was approaching. These human bodies wore out quickly, and each time the process started over. The first had lasted only six months. The second almost two years. She had lost count. Each time she shed the human shell, she observed the look of relief on her mothers’ faces. Her new mothers were elated, but the elation soon turned to sadness. As the new body grew and stretched, the mother’s anguish increased.

This time she made it 12 human years. This body had nothing left for her to take. The transition time was near. She always wished it could happen here, alone at the edge of the forest, but she knew the process. Luckily, this time, the neighbor’s wife was with child, and that child would be relinquished and the process would begin again. All her prior transitions had been within hours after the human birth. This time, she wanted to be there from the start. She had the power to transition before the birth now, but it required more time preparation, as the sun relaxed its hold on the energy she needed to survive.

**********

”Thank you for coming, Simone. This child has been a difficult one.”

”She has such a high fever. Have you sent for the doctor?” Simone thought Meredith was such a beautiful child – she hoped her child would be as lovely.

”No, not yet. I hoped she would come around. It’s such a long trip for the doctor and she might recover on her own.”  Constance was tired. 12 years she had tried to love this distant child, but something about Meredith was foreboding. Even as a young child, mothering her was torturous. Maybe it was best to release her, but these were words she would never utter out loud. No one could understand. She decided it was best to let nature take its course and hope this would be the end.

“Let’s let her rest. How about a cup of tea?” As they walked toward the kitchen, the house grew dark and a bitter chill fell over them.

Simone stumbled as she made her way to the table.

“Oh, honey! Are you okay?” Constance held her arm and helped her into the chair.

Simone tried to gather herself. The baby moved so suddenly it caused a sharp pain to rip through her abdomen.

“Could I have some water?”

After a few minutes, Simone seemed to regain her composure.

“You scared me. It’s too soon for labor. You have another six weeks to go.” Constance rested her hand on her neighbor’s shoulder.

“I think I should get back to the house. Sam will be home soon and I’d like to lie down for a bit.” Simone stood slowly. “I hope your angel gets better soon.”

**********

The next morning, the sun broke through the window early. Constance rose to check on Meredith. She had not moved since the prior afternoon. She entered the room and glanced at her daughter. Her eyes were open, but her body cold and white. Constance sat down on the side of the bed and gently closed her eyes, putting a penny on each one. She breathed a sigh of relief as she felt the release of 12 long years of frustration and fear.

“I don’t think you were ever my child, really. I’m not sure where you have gone, but I’m relieved you are no longer here.”

She closed the bedroom door and waited for the doctor to arrive.

Blog, fiction

33 – A Short Fiction Piece

cottage
Image by Stanly8853 from Pixabay

The walk to the mailbox was never a pleasure for Carrie. There were no letters from friends or a note from home. Not even an invitation to one of those dinners where they gave you free food in exchange for a too-long marketing presentation about a timeshare she could never afford. She wondered if anyone had invented a combination mailbox/trash-can since most of her mail ended up there anyway.

There it was, the long white envelope of death. Carrie knew what it said before she ever opened it. Even so, she still held her breath like a little girl waiting to see Santa. She slid her pinkie under the flap and tore it open. Her eyes skimmed the page dimming as she read the all too familiar words.

“Thirty-three ‘we regret to inform you’ in less than 60 days. This could be some sort of record.” As painful as it was, this was the only mail she kept.

The breeze picked up speed and shifted directions. It would be raining soon. Carrie sat on the porch swing and watched the thunderstorm building in the distance.

Darren was right. Darren was always right. He was older and smarter and had a good head on his shoulders. She had listened to these accolades most of her life, but especially since her father died her senior year in college. Darren swooped in and carted their Mom off to his place in the city. He saved the day. Again.

It was no wonder he was successful in business. He was cutthroat and a bully. Dad always saw it but Mom never could. When she died only a year later, Darren was named executor and in charge of Carrie’s distribution from the estate.

Luckily, Dad’s sister – Aunt Irene – could see the handwriting on the wall. She deeded her small cottage and it’s adjoining two acres to Carrie and moved into a small condo in Florida insisting she never liked the place anyway. Otherwise, Carrie would have been 25, on her own with no place to live.

There was no mortgage and the sales from her small organic garden kept her afloat. She often felt like giving up, but her father’s words always kept her going. “You’re going to be a great writer someday”.

Someday? After 33 reject letters from 33 different sources, she was beginning to doubt it. She had completed a book she loved but finding an agent and a publisher these days was tough. She thought about self-publishing but Darren made sure that would not happen.

”I cannot let you spend your inheritance on such frivolous pursuits, Carrie. This is why Mom left me in charge. It’s time for you to grow up and get a real job.” She could not manage her share of the estate until she turned 30. That seemed so far away.

Carrie filed her new reject in the filing cabinet, the folder already bulging. Why was she keeping those stupid things? As she closed the drawer, another folder caught her eye. It was simply labeled “Dad”. She pulled it out and opened it, seeing the letters her father wrote her when she was away at school. He challenged her, asked the rhetorical questions designed to inspire her. As she read them, they made her think deeply about her life and her opportunities  – even if they had not done so before.

“Damn, I miss you. Your positive outlook. Your reassurance. Your inspiration.” She stared at the folder. “Why did you have to leave me?”

Over the next few months, Carrie buried herself penning a response to each of the 60 letters. It was therapeutic and made her feel less alone.

*****

As the autumn leaves reached their full color, Carrie walked to the mailbox as she had done almost every day since she moved in. Another letter from a publisher, but this one felt different. Thicker somehow. Her palms were sweating as she tore the envelope open.

The publisher loved the proposal she sent them. The samples of the letters and the responses she had written to her father were compelling. They wanted to see more. They wanted her to work with an editor.

No matter what happened from here, she knew she had found her voice and her way. She now understood why she had received 33 reject letters. For the first time, she had been brave enough to leave her heart beating on the page.

She smiled pressing the letter to her chest. “Daddy, everything is going to be okay.”

fiction

Death of a Dream

This is another short fiction piece I wrote a few years ago.

As I post it here, my thoughts drift to California.

**************************************************************************

The sickening sweet of smell and taste of paregoric invaded my senses.  It was the only comfort I found in the scene laid out before me.  It was odd that I found comfort in that observation.  It whisked me back to my childhood at a time when my grandmother rubbed this intoxicating brown liquid across my gums to ease the pain of a sore tooth.  Why could I taste it?  I found myself dizzy as I tried to breathe through my nostrils – I had subconsciously started breathing through my mouth.  In a strange way it helped me think about something other than the fallen trees that crossed the street ahead of me.  It was as if I was alone in the universe just for a brief moment.  That familiar licorice smell snapped me back and I began to see my friends and family emerge from the old town hall.  The dazed expressions choked the remaining oxygen out of the smoke-filled haze.

“What will we do now?”  I looked up at the confused face of my beloved aunt as she spoke.  I had no answers and I knew in that moment she didn’t expect one.

Most of the buildings lay in shambles.  The town hall was one of the few brick structures in town and even it was charred.  I saw tiny lines the tears had left on the faces of the people I loved.  Little clean rivers running down faces covered in soot.

We fought the construction as hard as we could.  This place – my home – was one of the few places left where generations lived and cared for one another together in the same house.  We treasured the rich history of our ancestors and respected all they worked for to create this place for the generations that would follow.  To lose it now – in this way – crippled all of us.

I had been elected as the one to talk to an attorney and try to fight the impending highway.  Why wasn’t I here?  The fire started in the middle of the night.  Butch went house to house knocking on doors.  The weather had been so dry the fire was spreading fast.  There was no time to get out.   As fifty people dressed in their pajamas and slippers walked into the street, they were shuffled into the only place that might provide shelter. 

The town hall had been built on Mrs. Kramer’s old farm so it set back near the lake.  Sam Bishop had donated brick to ‘make it a nice gathering place’.  The fire roared around the building but luckily it withstood the heat – charred but still standing.  Sam told me they could hear trees falling and unusual popping sounds.  No one screamed.  They just huddled together and prayed.  My heart broke as I listened.

It took a long time for fire engines from surrounding towns to reach the town.  It was easily a thirty minute drive during the best of conditions.  The firefighters worked hard to put out the flames.  By morning, the smoke hung heavy and wet.  The smell was overpowering – the smell of dreams dying and hopes crumbling into dust.   I couldn’t help but wonder what my forefathers thought when they first saw this place – a place green with hope and promise was now charred and broken.

The Red Cross came in with supplies.  We had water and blankets and food but there was nothing that could nourish the souls and fill the void the fire left inside all of us.  We stayed in the town hall now supplied with donated cots and pillows.  We continued to pray when we heard the fire was the result of a poorly planned blast from the construction of the new highway – a highway none of us wanted or needed.  We had been told to just accept that progress must continue whether we were on board or not.  This did not feel like progress.

On Sunday, we gathered in the street and resolved to rebuild.  The attorney had found a violation that would prevent the construction of the highway regardless of anyone’s idea of eminent domain.  Some would say it was too late, but we felt differently.  It had become so easy to lose hope.  We were surrounded by sad news of death and destruction from all corners of the earth.  If we could resurrect the hopes and dreams of a few, then we knew we must.  It had been a daunting task for our ancestors and would no doubt prove difficult for us, too.  The fulfillment of dreams is not always a perfect path, but it is a beautiful path.  We lost a lot, but we didn’t lose everything.  Everyone we loved survived and that was, after all, everything.

Blog, fiction

The Quiet Storm

As he was lying on the couch, he could hear her crying in the other room.  He kicked off his muddy boots in disgust.  Sam had always thought himself an understanding and compassionate man, but after 5 years of tears almost every night, he was at the breaking point.

It all started a few weeks after their honeymoon.  She cried all night one night, saying nothing was wrong.  He was sick with worry.  The next morning he made coffee and tried to be a good husband.  He caressed her back and asked her what had been wrong the night before.

“I miss my mom”, she said quietly.  “I know you cannot understand because you and your mom don’t get along.  My mom was not like your mom.”

Melody’s mother had been killed in a car accident a few years before they met.  It hit her hard.  As she grieved her mother she spun out of control.  She met a guy, Peter, who said all the right things and meant none of them.  A few months later they went to the Justice of the Peace and got married.  They were together a year when he committed suicide.  Melody never grieved for him.  In a way, Sam thought she hated Peter. He brought out the worst in her.

When Sam met her at the coffee shop that summer afternoon, his smile was met with disgust.  She wanted no part of him – that was obvious.  Sam had been given the cold shoulder before and he wasn’t going to give up that easily.  After a few chance meetings, they started to date.  Movies and popcorn.  Dinner and dancing.  Walks under the stars.  It was so romantic and effortless.  They were married a year to the day from that chance meeting in the coffee shop.  It was a breath of fresh air for both of them.

The church was beautiful.  Everything perfect.  The happy couple flew to the Bahamas for their honeymoon.  It was a fairytale romance in every way.  Five weeks of bliss, then the other shoe dropped.  For the next two years, Melody would cry herself to sleep almost every night.  Sam could never console her – she wouldn’t let him in.  All she ever said was that he just could not possibly understand.

Then one night they went to dinner and actually laughed.  After dinner, they danced their way back to the car and went home and made love on the couch.  That was the first time in two years she didn’t cry herself to sleep.  She curled up in his arms and slept like a baby.  It stayed that way for almost six months.  Then, one night she locked him out of the bedroom and cried herself to sleep.  Sam never had any idea why.  Another two and a half years had passed and the tears came every night.  Eventually, Sam just couldn’t take it anymore and started sleeping on the same couch where they had once made love.

It was fortunate that they never had children.  It made Sam sick to think about such an emotionally unstable woman raising a child.  After all, he was a bit of an expert on that subject.  Sam learned how to tiptoe through his childhood at a very early age.  His mother never cared about anyone but herself.  No, Melody was right about one thing.  Sam would never shed a tear for his mother, nor could he understand crying for anyone for years on end.

Sam’s mind spun almost out of control as he started to think about the possibility that Melody would finally lose herself.  He thought about being tied to a woman he didn’t really know for the rest of his life.  He had said the words, ‘for better or for worse’ but had no idea at the time just how frightening that promise could be.  He knew he wanted out.  That night Sam wanted to scream and run.  Instead, he went to the kitchen and opened a beer.

Sam watched the head form as he poured it into the frosted glass.   He took a sip.  “Oh, my God. That tastes good. Too good.” Sam walked across the kitchen and poured the rest down the drain.  “No. I will not be like my mother.”

He clicked off the light, walked back to the living room and laid down again.  As he pulled the afghan over his shoulder and closed his eyes, he realized the crying would never stop.  He reached over his head and pulled the iPod off the end table.  Sam turned the wheel to his new playlist – Songs of Escape.  He put the earbuds in his ears and drifted off to sleep.  Finally, the crying had been vanquished.

Saturday morning he slept much longer than anticipated.  All the worry and thinking had exhausted him. He walked into the kitchen at about 9:00 am.  Melody was singing and smiled brightly when she saw him.

“Pancakes?”  she winked and spun back around to the stove.

They ate pancakes and drank coffee as Melody laughed and acted as if life was normal.  It was all Sam could do not to stand up and scream at the top of his lungs.  She talked and laughed and moved about the kitchen not even noticing he wasn’t engaged in the conversation.  She was living life with him without him.

“Melody?”  Sam said as she stopped and turned toward him.  “Melody, I’m leaving.  Today.  I won’t be coming back.”

She sank into the chair opposite him. “Why?”  She acted as if she honestly did not know.

“Melody, you need professional help.  I cannot live this way anymore.  I’m a married man who has slept on the couch for over a year now.  It’s not right.”

“Sam, just move back into the bedroom.  I never knew why you left in the first place.”   She smiled, stood up and walked back to the stove.  “Oh, by the way, did I tell you my mom is coming by tonight?”

Sam didn’t know what to say or how to react.  He just kept repeating the words over and over in his mind “……for better or for worse…….”    He was trapped and he knew it.  He had nowhere to turn.

Sam stood up from the table and walked toward the pantry.

“Where are you going?” Melody asked in her upbeat tone.

“Just checking to make sure we have enough beer.  I feel like having a few tonight.”

Melody chuckled.  “Don’t worry, honey.  I’ll pick some up at the store.  Now, what would you like for dinner?”