Thursday, July 29, 2010
I've been writing.
Exciting, isn't it? It's all part of an online group called The Red Dress Club and it's a group of women writers who get together and write from a common meme (similar to a story prompt exercise). On Fridays there is a link party- we all post links to our stories and then read the posts. We offer critiques, advice, attagirls, et cetera, and I must admit that finding this has really jumpstarted me creatively. I've done two of the the three memes offered (missed one, but I will still write it and post it here) and have started on a few other editing projects and stories.
So thank you, Ericka and Cheryl, for creating the RDC site and awakening my inner Godzilla-writer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some stories that need tending.
It had been a while since I had come to this side of town. Five years to be exact. In fact, if it wasn’t for my brother Jasper living here and inviting me over for dinner and to listen to some new albums he had gotten recently, I wouldn’t be here at all. Too much of a chance of running into HER.
But I’m not even going to think about that. All of it is in the past, over and done with. I’m just here to grab some beer, maybe some chips, then head up to Jasper’s. He seemed really stoked over his finds when we spoke on the phone earlier this week.
“Luis? Is that you?” I could literally feel the hair on the back of my neck standing on end as her voice raked over me. Even after all this time it made my stomach knot up. I slowly turned, forcing a smile on my lips. Just my damned luck.
“Austin, hi, how are you?” I asked quickly. Surely forced pleasantries should make this go faster. She still looked pretty much the same as the day she walked out. Long brown hair that reached just past her shoulder blades, curling slightly at the ends, a thick crop of bangs over her forehead, and a little button nose that rose slightly in what she always referred to as her “ski jump”. She wasn’t wearing glasses and she was a little more plump than when we were together, but I’d recognize her anywhere.
“I’m good, Austin. Yeah, just visiting Jasper. He’s got a gig DJ-ing in the club downtown and wants me to hear his new mix.” She didn’t need to hear all this, but I couldn’t get my mouth to stop yapping. She just smiled. She and Jasper had never truly gotten along. None of my family had really ever warmed up to her. “And you?”
“Oh, Eric and I are visiting my folks.” Ah, the giant albino bastard she left me for. I don’t think he was a true albino- no red eyes- but he was blond enough and blue eyed enough that he would have made Hitler proud. Not like my black hair and olive skin. “We were only in for a few days, and fly home tomorrow.” This shocked me, as I never thought she’d leave the comfort of her parents’ house, especially after the break-up we had.
“You don’t live here anymore?” She shook her head and smiled.
“We bought a place in Stockholm, where Eric is from.” I had always known he wasn’t born in the States, but wow. Sweden? That certainly explained the Aryan features. It was hard enough being on the smaller side at 5 feet 6 inches and comparing myself to a guy standing 6 foot 4, but now she throws in that he’s a Swede? How can I one-up that? I knew I couldn’t, and for some reason it made me mad as hell. I shouldn’t have started talking but it was impossible to keep the hurt silent.
“So you went from a common slut to a kept whore, huh?” It was as if the filter between my brain and mouth had disintegrated at the attempt to one-up Austin, and I watched almost helplessly as my words tore the smile from her face. But I couldn’t stop. Secretly, I think I didn’t want to stop. “You destroyed what we had to be with that jackhole? Was it worth it? How long before he’s tossed aside just like I was?”
“I had always known you were a callous prick, but I didn’t realize that not only are you cruel, but you obviously didn’t believe me when I said I did not cheat on you.” Her eyes narrowed further, her jaw set and teeth clenched. I was regretting my choice of words, but deep down, seeing her happy- and with him of all people- made me want to knock her down any way I could. What I didn’t expect was her to spat back just as harshly. Or the Viking to suddenly appear behind her, hand on her shoulder and eyeing me cautiously.
“Austin…” I started but she held up her hand. I immediately held my tongue, something I should have done to begin with. But pain and hurt makes us do stupid things, and I am surely not immune to that.
“It’s done, Luis. No apologies are going to make it go away or make it better. Go live your life, do whatever, and stay a bitter man.” With those words she turned, took Eric’s arm and walked away. I could see a slump to her shoulders as they walked and I knew my words had taken a toll, but rather than feel triumphant, I felt like an ass. Tonight is going to require more than a six-pack to get through after this fiasco, so I went to the back of the grocery, grabbed a 24-can case, and made my way to the front registers. If I’m going start the journey to drunken oblivion, I may as well do it right.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
While you are volunteering for your favourite charity, a man walks up to your table and hands you $1,000,000 in large bills. He walks away, weeping, but never says a word. Tell his story.
Time had slowed so much over the past six months that Early McCallahan had difficulty at times determining what day it was. Tuesday, Friday, Sunday- did it really matter anymore? His beloved Ava was dead either way.
They had married young. Early was 18 and about to head off to Europe in the next few months to fight in the war. Hitler had effectively put an end to Early’s plans of college and providing for his family. He was scared, of course- wasn’t everyone? But that fear fell to the wayside when he laid eyes on 16-year-old Ava Marie Munroe. Tall, blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and a figure whose curves sent his heart on a mad roller coaster ride. He was smitten in an instant, though Ava- and her stern father- took more convincing.
They were married in a small civil ceremony a few months later, just days before Early was about to board the ship that would take him across the Atlantic. There were many tears, and Ava gave him a monogrammed handkerchief to keep on his person while he was away,. That favour kept him safe while he was gone, and a year later he was back in her arms, wounded but alive. He never left her side after that. Four boys and two girls later, they were happy and content with the hand life had dealt them.
Then the lump appeared. It seemed to rise overnight, and concerned, Early accompanied Ava to her doctor, who immediately referred her to a specialist. Cancer. The word alone tore through Early’s soul. The tumors ate away quickly at his bide and within weeks she succumbed to the disease.
Even with their children at his side, Early felt more alone than he had in his entire life. He had a good number of years in Ava’s company, but it seemed all too short. He went through the motions of the funeral, the post-funeral reception, and condolences from family he had not seen in ages until he was so weary he could barely hold his head up. The home he and Ava shared felt foreign to him, as if he no longer belonged. The smell of her perfume lingered on everything, and for the first time since his wife passed away, Early allowed himself to cry.
He stayed in the house, forcing himself to live with the knowledge that he would be alone until he too succumbed to Death and would be with Ava again. He was never a very religious man, but the thought of facing his remaining days alone was too much for his already-frail state and he turned to the church. He found a measure of peace within the old, musty pews of St. Andrew’s and its parishioners, but it was not enough to take away all the pain. Early had received a large insurance payment from the life policy he had on both he and his wife, but he refused to spend the money on himself, instead living off his meager Social Security stipend. It kept food on the table and clothes on his back, and he would ask for nothing more.
Early sank deeper and deeper into a depression, sometimes forgetting to eat, then forgetting simple hygiene. His children had already moved on, engrossed in their own families' workings to worry about their father. The days began running together as he spent his time watching television infomercials into all hours of the night, preferring to sleep on the weathered sofa than the bed he spent so many nights with Ava. She dominated Early's thoughts, the sound of her laughter ringing in his head as he thought back to happier times, before she had gotten ill. The smile on her lips as she watched her children playing on the gloor by her feet, the entire family gathered aroud the Thanksgiving table and saying what they were grateful for, the flush of her skin after they made love. He could imagine the feel of the smooth skin of her face, the press of her lips against his own, and the tears came again. He was tired of being alone. He was tired of always missing her. He was tired of hearing people tell him he'd get over it. It's not something he wanted to get over, for that would mean allowing her memory to slip away.
The television was on and the newsman was at a local park, talking about a group raising money for abused and disadvantage children. Something about the story made Early take pause and listen. He suddenly knew what he had to do. Ava would want him to do it. Early stood slowly and smoothed the wrinkles from his pants, noticing the stains on them but not caring. He smoothed his wispy grey hair the best he could, then threw on a hat. He grabbed his wallet and keys and drove slowly to the bank. The manager was stunned when Early stated he wanted to close out his account, but complied, and thirty minutes later was handing the elderly gentleman a thick envelope. Early held it close. It was his entire life savings, every penny he had pinched, saving it for a rainy day, as he liked to tell Ava. He knew she wanted to travel overseas, but the time was lost for that. As he left the bank, he smiled slightly. He knew she was with him, approving his decision. He could feel her presence. He made his way to the park, feeling the sum on his wrinkled face and loving the sensation. Ava would have been out in the garden on a day like this, coaxing her flowers to grow and tending them as carefully as she had their children.
The park was crowded, but Early didn't mind. He listened to the children laughing and playing, parents chattering as they watched their offspring, even dogs barking. His step became lighter as he walked toward the long table where a pair of young women sat, handing out pamphlets, thanking people for their donations, and smiling and laughing They paused as he walked up to the table, the smiles still present on their faces.
"Hullo, sir," the brunette chirped, "would you like a pamphlet on ways you can help at-risk youths?" Early couldn't say a word, only pulled his hat from his head. The young women looked exactly as Ava had when he saw her for the first time, only with darker hair, and his felt his heart breaking anew. His hand shaking, he reached into his jacket and pulled out the envelope from the bank. He held it out to the woman, who took it, a puzzled look on her face. He patted her hand softly and with fresh tears tracing paths down his cheeks, he turned and walked away.
This is for a writing meme on The Red Dress Club blog. Critiques are always welcome! (And this one is not saucy. Sorry, you'll have to wait on that one.)
"Your mother never ceases to amaze me," he said as they pulled out of her parents' driveway and onto the snow-covered streets of Toledo. Delia loved spending the holidays in in her childhood home, but lately the time there was becoming unbearable when it included Elliott. "Here I thought she would be an amazing cook, and yet the ham she made was so dry I had to soak that puppy in gravy just so it wouldn't taste like sawdust." He chuckled hoarsely. "And could the asparagus have been more overcooked and limp? My mom could cook circles around yours, babe..."
Delia let him prattle on, turning her attention to the cityscape outside the car. She had grown up in this neighborhood, a quiet little suburb where everyone seemed to know everyone else. Her folks weren't rich, but they had managed to secure a good-sized nest egg that allowed them to live comfortably in retirement. Her father Ed had been a fireman, ever since he had first volunteered with his local firehouse when he was eighteen. Her mother Eva had worked as the head librarian at the local public library. The two had met by chance when the IGA grocery store next to the library had caught fire. Call it an accident, call it Fate- they had been a couple since.
Delia glanced at Elliott, seeing his lips move but not hearing a sound he made. She had always believed she would find The One and have the fairy tale wedding most girls dream about. She had always imagined The One being a modern Prince Charming, clad in Armani suits for armor, a Jaguar sports car for a steed, and overflowing coffers that would make a member of the Royal Family jealous. Of course, she reasoned with herself, at this point I'd take Joe Anyman who has a Hyundai and a 401k instead of this bozo.
"Are you even listening to me?" Elliott's voice pulled her back to the present.
"I'm sorry," she replied. "I must have dozed off. I guess I'm more tired than I thought." Elliott scoffed.
"Don't see how. I mean, it's not like you've done anything all day." Great. THIS again.
"Y'know, just drop me off at my place. I have some papers to work on before the break is over, and I want to get started on them. I'll just come over tomorrow or something."
"Seriously?" He looked at her incredulously. "It's Thanksgiving, for Christ's sake. You aren't back at school for another three days. Can't it wait?" Delia shook her head and he sighed heavily, a dejected sound. He had apparently been hoping for a nightcap, but Delia had been hit with a revelation that required other plans, ones not including him. A year was way too long for this kind of emotional baggage, and it was time to kick the ship called Elliott out of the harbour.