Beginnings

It begins with sound. One tiny sound, rather the idea of a sound, dripped into her brain with an innocent plop that splashes and jostles and causes all other notions to be washed from the center, bouncing back and forth against each other, a jumbling blur of ideas, none of them good, now that they’ve been blended in this strange, unfortunate way.

All that remains is the painfully sharp clarity of the one round drop of Thought that shreds her concentration.

Can you see it? Can you see it sliding through her brain, hitching a ride into her spine, across her right shoulder and into her arm? She can feel the weight of it, the responsibility of it, that one tiny Thought, traveling into her hand, reaching out.

This Thought. This Thought has completely overtaken her.

But Thought will claim its innocence: Something else is at fault. In this world of passing the buck, of it’s not my fault-ing, perhaps Thought has a point: Perhaps it begins further back.

Scent, then. A thin memory carried on blameless, invisible air through the house, on and up the creaky wooden stairs. Scent whispers to her.

She must respond.

She stands and heads down the stairs where her son stands dropping cookies from the tip of a silver spoon. He puts them in the oven where they will spread and grow into round drops of ideas and pretty glistening memories of which she will eat too many before heading upstairs to try and sort out her Thoughts.

~

This was written for a prompt at The Blogging Lounge, hosted by Ariana Browning. The prompt was begins with.

And, yes, I did make cookies (chocolate chip) the other day and, yes, they are calling to me. Doing my best to ignore them. Hang on…

Fresh Perspective

“We’re just in a bit of a funk, Brad.” Tish smiles at her husband across the kitchen table, a stack of bills between them. She goes to the stove for the kettle, refills their mugs.

“This is more than a funk.” Brad hurls the bills from the table. They sail, unpaid, unpayable, though the air before settling on the floor.

Tish laughs and Brad, loving the merriment of her voice, is encouraged. He stands and pauses to take a sip of his watery tea before proceeding to stomp on the bills, arranging his face in the best frown he can muster. Continue reading

Winter in Canberra

Theresa stares at the windup clock, its fat convex belly reflecting the painting Dan had made just before he left for Canberra. Six seconds before 12:35. For her, lunchtime. For him, nearly breakfast the following day. 

Eighteen hours between Carbondale and Canberra.

She pictures him asleep on his belly, hands tucked beneath the pillow, his hair standing straight up.

“Let him go, Theresa.”

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Dimes Tossed by Strangers

When Professor Dunleavy suggested it three weeks ago, not one student raised his hand. But extra credit sweetened the deal and William Jackson volunteered.

His parents worried, as parents do. What was this fool professor doing, sending their William to live on the streets of Washington, D.C. for seven days and nights?

William reassured his family: It would be a good experience. He would do well, he reasoned, to live a week on nothing but his wits.

Dunleavy drove him to the depot. “You bring anything?”

“Nothing.”

“Cell phone?”

“No.”

“Wallet?” Continue reading

This Good and Gentle Earth

She whispers her secrets to the sand, digging beneath desiccated surfaces with a discarded scallop shell. She digs deep to where the sand has lost all independence. Here, each gleaming glass-like grain becomes one grey mass which she can extract by the handful.

She buries her feet. Pats the sand tight all around. Her toes feel mother ocean’s heartbeat, that ever-present pulse. That constant, nagging beat calling her wave children home.

Eventually, they must depart, evaporating one drop at a time, gathering into clouds, brothers and sisters merging and moving as one, going wherever the wind takes them. Continue reading

The Bells of St. Brigit’s

Tugging at that thin filament at the edges of my brain, leading me through the maze of old paths and connections, reintroducing me to myself and my life, like a baby glancing himself in a mirror, they ring.

My ears focus. My eyes touch darkness. I clear my rusted throat. “The bells of St. Brigit’s are calling tonight.”

She screams and drops a purple plate. “Dad’s back!” She rushes over the fragments of our shattered, scattered lives.

Blue tears leak from her eyes. Her sadness is scented with joy.

I close my eyes.

Retreat.

A moment of respite for my lovely wife.

Our lives but glance off the other’s now.

~

This was written for this week’s hundred-word Write on Edge prompt: “The bells of St. Brigit’s are calling tonight.”

I’ve been working with Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, in which the author recommends we study a work one word, then one sentence, then one paragraph, et cetera, at a time, slowly building our understanding of an author’s writing. This morning, I spent way too much time diagramming this paragraph, the first paragraph in Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety: “Floating upward through a confusion of dreams and memory, curving like a trout through the rings of previous rings, I surface. My eyes open. I am awake.”

I love how Stegner goes quickly from dreamlike to matter-of-fact. I tried to copy that quality with this prompt.

Mistakes

Izza scratched at the scab on her knee. “Man was a stranger here. Looked out of place, all wide-eyed and knees knocking as he walked down the rutted street in his suit and tie.”

Nora nodded, encouraging her grandmother to go on.

“Children in torn jeans played on tilting front porches. Dingy whites clung to backyard clotheslines. His father had refused us sidewalks; in a way trapping us permanently in this ramshackle development.”

“The Estates,” Nora said.

“Man sold promises and dreams.”

“But he didn’t sell houses.”

“Lord, we’d waited for years for affordable housing; for homes we could call our own; for a place we could pay off slow-like until we eventually owned it outright. Didn’t own a thing until his son came to town. I remember how he walked down the street, glancing at the addresses spray-painted on the rusted-out mailboxes. Thirty. Thirty-two. Thirty-four. Thirty-eight.”

“Our house.”

 

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Manipulated

“That new?” Terri nodded at the date inked onto Jenner’s arm.

“Emancipation day.”

“Divorce finalized?”

He spat. “Yup.”

Terry felt faint stirrings of hope. Since high school, she’d pined after Jenner. “I wish you’d settle down. Carnival life…”

“Is perfect for me.”

“I see you once a year.”

“I’ll come for Christmas.”

Terry sighed. Ten-year-olds in manure-caked boots and faded denims cowboyed across the fairgrounds, blue ribbons angled across puffed-out chests as they elbowed their way into food lines: Deep fried pickles. Cheese on a stick. Cotton candy and…

“How’d your pie do?”

“Judging is tomorrow.” A group of girls in shorts of questionable length strode past, waving their fannies like American flags. “I won’t win.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Nellie Johanson’s won everything this year, same as last.”

“Preacher’s daughter?”

“She buys jelly and repackages it in her own jars. She bought an Amish quilt and put her initials on it.”

“I can fix Nellie.”

“Woman ain’t broke.”

“She will be.”

“How you propose to do that?”

“Carolina Reaper Slingblade.”

“Hot sauce?”

“Just a touch.”Jenner made a pouring motion. “Let’s manipulate Nellie’s recipe a bit.”

“We can’t do that!”

“When everyone’s dreaming of ribbons, we’ll dose that pie up good.”

“You need your own sleep.”

“I sleep on my feet ten hours a day. Taking tickets, buckling kids into seats, pushing a green button. I could do with a bit of interest in my life.”

Of course, they got more interest than they bargained for. Fairground officials were interested. Police too.

Nellie ran to the IGA and bought a new pie which, naturally, won first prize.

Jenner was fired.

Terry was permanently banned from the fair.

Was it worth it, the newspaper reporter asked, skepticism scattered across her face.

Terry took Jenner’s hand. “We exposed Nellie for the liar she was.”

Jenner gave a secret smile, knowing that his wife didn’t give a diddle about exposing Nellie. “Naw. It was worth it because it brought us together.”

“Finally,” Terry said.

“Yup.”

 

~

This was written for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word was manipulate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Beautiful

She looked most beautiful when she wasn’t trying.

That is to say, she looked most beautiful when she felt no need to impress old Bic Johnston next door, the landlord who wandered out every morning on uncertain legs to bestow upon her a slimy and lecherous grin, all the while inquiring after the rent.

Or Timmy Davis, her own brother-in-law, the mechanic who spat tobacco juice in her front yard and winked, promising to keep her motor running and laughing wickedly.

 

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