Home is Where the Pie Is

This week, Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge involved writing about food. He did this as a way to honor Anthony Bourdain. I don’t really know much about Bourdain, but I do know about depression, and I feel like Wendig doing this challenge in his honor can get the word out to more people. If you’re depressed and feel like hurting yourself, please call the Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

So for this week, I wrote about Mila, and food, and the South, and traveling home. And it’s a little longer at 1997 words.

Home Is Where the Pie Is — 1997 words

Mila bit into a juicy piece of fried chicken. She licked her lips, tasting the grease and the salt. The chicken brought her back to humid nights, fireflies in the backyard, and red and white checkered picnic tables.

“Snap out of it.”

“Huh?”

“You were in another world.”

“Literally, I traveled back to my childhood,” Mila said. She set the half-eaten chicken breast down on the avocado cafeteria tray.

She and Clem had been on the road for days. They took the back road winding their way toward their final destination. In Oxford, they stopped at a little café called Bright’s. Mila ordered fried chicken with fried green tomatoes and pineapple cheese casserole with a glass of sweet tea. She ordered this as naturally as if she ate this food every day, and Clem stared at her.

“You ain’t from around here, are you?” the waitress said, stuffing the order pad into the pocket of her apron.

“I grew up down the road a piece,” Mila said.

“Always good to go home,” the waitress said, wandering back toward the kitchen.

Mila had two cups of sweet tea. Clem thought it too sweet and almost spit it out on first sip. He ordered water instead. Mila could feel the indulgence slipping into her bladder and filling it to the brim.

“I’m gonna run to the bathroom.”

“Want me to ask for the check?”

The waitress popped up beside the table, “What about dessert?”

Mila reluctantly sat down and crossed her legs to keep her bladder from exploding.

“What do you have?”

“The usuals: banana puddin’, blackberry cobbler, punkin pie, oh, and we have homemade peach ice cream.”

Homemade peach ice cream. Mila remembered lazy days on the front porch, escaping the 12 o’clock sun and scorching heat of the summer. She remembered her dad’s old brown bucket ice cream machine, the blue box of Morton’s salt, complete with little girl holding an umbrella, and the fresh peaches and cream.

“Can I pour in the salt, Daddy?”

She could all but taste her childhood.

“Homemade peach ice cream,” Mila said, and she rushed to the bathroom.

***

Mila met Clem on a blind date. They went to Meskerem, a favorite of Mila’s, but Clem had not been a huge fan. Mila had started her second job since college, was trying to write a book, and had just finished nursing a broken heart when her friend Ted said, “Hey, I think you should meet this guy Clem I work with. You two would hit it off.”

When she met Clem, she had been surprised, but she rolled with it not letting on. She hadn’t laughed so hard in years, maybe since the first time she’d smoked pot with her high school friends behind the gym. Clem made her cheeks red, her heart flutter, and he provided something she needed direly in her own life: humor. She watched him as he pretended to like the injera with shiro de kibbe. He made faces when he thought she wasn’t looking.

“Maybe Ethiopian food isn’t my cup of tea,” Clem finally admitted, “Next time, want to go to Dave and Buster’s?”

That night, securely outfitted in her grey lounge pants and striped shirt she confided to Ted who had stopped by for a night cap and some gossip.

“I really like him. I just don’t know whether I can date him.”

“Not a good kisser? I dated a guy like that once; let me tell you, it took all I could for me not to toss my cookies right into his mouth whenever he’d pucker up. Girl, you need to drop him like a fly if that’s what’s up.”

“No, I mean, he’s a great kisser.”

Mila thought back to the few hours before, when Clem had been such a gentleman. He opened the door for her. She started to walk in, then turned around, skipped down the step, and she, Mila, had made the first move, planting her lips on his. He tasted vaguely like Ethiopian food, gin and tonic which they had enjoyed at the bar afterwards, and cinnamon gum. When his tongue slid into her mouth, her heart beat fast, and she felt the spark—that elusive spark she had never felt before—and she knew this man who made her laugh so hard was the one for her.

“So what’s the problem?” Ted asked, sighing.

Mila hesitated a moment and then said, “He’s black.”

“And that’s a problem, why?”

“My parents would never approve.”

“Mila, dear, sometimes you just have to let go of your past. Things change”

Oh, how Mila hoped things had changed.

Six months later, Clem had proposed and Mila had accepted. And because of this, she felt they should go meet her family, the prospect scarier than anything Mila had ever faced before.

***

Mila and Clem both had the peach ice cream with real chunks of peach. A little taste of childhood. After they licked their bowls clean, they paid, stood up, and Clem took Mila’s hand as they walked toward the door. Old men in overalls and blue haired ladies stared at them. Mila and Clem walked through the spotlight pretending not to notice.

“We stick out here,” Clem said when they were out the door.

“Clem, we’re not in D.C. anymore,” Mila said, with a laugh, as she gripped his hand a little tighter and gave it a squeeze.

The road trip had been a successful one. They stopped in Memphis on the way down and had barbeque at Central. Clem declared it the best piece of meat he’d ever eaten in his life. They stayed at a hotel called The Royal, which sounded nice, but consisted of a sagging bag, carpet that felt covered in lotion, and mice or some other rodent skittering in the walls all night long. Mila said it was the same old adage: can’t trust a book by its cover. Clem nodded in agreement. Mila hoped her parents felt the same way about Clem. She wasn’t so sure. She’d never mentioned to them Clem’s cover.

Mila’s childhood home sat in a bed of green. Cows chewed up the lawn. Her father had acquired them recently. “You father thinks he’s a farmer in his old age,” her mother had said over the phone.

“A real farm,” Clem said.

“Not really. A hobby,” Mila said.

Mila’s heart raced. She did not know what her mother and father would do or say when she saw Clem. She felt like she had prepared Clem, but she knew she had not prepared her parents. She was just glad her brother, Bobby, had left town. She didn’t need his racist ass making any comments that might hurt Clem’s feelings.

Clem turned down the circular drive. The front porch greeted them warmly and the rockers gently rocked in the wind as if waving hello to old friends. The second step creaked as they walked up it. As a little girl she always tried to make it creak, and as a teenager she always feared the creak as she snuck in from late drunken nights out with friends.

Clem took her hand in his, giving her courage, as their black and white fingers intertwined, and Mila rang the doorbell.

Mila’s mom answered. She wore a rooster-covered apron splattered in some sort of food. She had her reading glasses perched on her nose. She beamed when she saw Mila, averted her eyes to Clem, and then looked back at Mila.

“Mila,” she said wrapping her in her arms. Mila’s mother smelled like her youth: warm baked biscuits, bacon and eggs, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

“And you must be Clem. I’m Rhonda,” her mother said, putting out a hand to him. Clem shook it and beamed back. Then Mila’s mother pulled him into a hug. “No handshakes here, just warm hugs.”

The house smelled like collards and bacon grease.

“I’m making a meat and three tonight,” Rhonda said.

“What’s that?” Clem whispered to Mila.

“A meat and three veggies. It’s a Southern staple. Is Daddy home?” Mila asked.

“He went up to Garrett’s. I plum ran out of flour, and I’m making a cherry pie.”

“I wish you hadn’t cooked so much. We stopped at Bright’s and had a big lunch.”

“I hope you said hi to Howie.”

“I asked the waitress, and he wasn’t there.”

Howie was one of Mila’s numerous cousins. Mila couldn’t go anywhere in the Oxford area without running into someone she was related to. In high school it had been a joke for her to ask boys what their family lineage was, and then ask her mom, “Is third cousin distant enough?” People always said folks in Mississippi like to marry their cousins, but that was just because everyone was related.

Clem and Mila set their stuff down in Mila’s childhood room. Clem pressed his lips to Mila’s, and they hugged and kissed.

“That went well,” he said, still embracing Mila.

“Daddy might be different. I want to nap, you?”

“Sure.”

They lay in the queen size bed staring up at the ceiling. Mila could hear her heart beating in her ears, the way it did sometimes in the eerie silence of a quiet room. She looked over at Clem, and saw he was sound asleep. After awhile, she got up and walked down the stairs in her stocking feet.

The house smelled of pie. When she and Bobby had been little, their mother had taught them how to make the dough. Mila loved to take the fork and make little indents into the flour. She thought of it as artwork. She loved the way the house smelled with a pie baking in the oven, and even loved her momma when she would smack her hand when Mila tried to get into it before dessert.

Mila’s mother and father stood in the kitchen. Her father’s face had brand new wrinkles above the brow and Mila could barely believe how much older he looked.

“Baby,” he said.

“Daddy.”

“Maybe you ought to wake up Clem. Dinner will be ready in about five minutes,” Mila’s mother said.

Mila walked back up the stairs and woke Clem with a kiss.

“Dinner time. My dad’s here.”

Clem rubbed the sleep out of his eyes then followed Mila down the stairs.

Mila’s mother sat facing them and smiled warmly as they walked into the formal dining room. Steam arose from the rosebud platters that held enough veggies and meat to feed the world. Mila slid into her seat, and Clem sat across from her. Her father walked into the room, after washing his hands, and stopped suddenly.

“He’s black.”

The words hung in the air. Mila tensed. She looked at Clem. He burst out laughing, and soon everyone at the table was laughing.

“I’m sorry,” Mila’s dad said. “I just—”

“It’s quite alright,” Clem said, waving him off.

“I’m Paul,” Mila’s dad introduced himself, awkwardly patting Clem on the shoulder before taking his seat at the head of the table.

They passed around the chicken fried steak, collards, green beans with bit of bacon fat, and homemade macaroni and cheese, and everyone began to eat. When dinner was over, they sat with hands on their stomachs. Clem let a notch out of his belt.

“I’m always telling Rhonda that if she keeps cooking like this I won’t have a notch left to let out,” Paul said, winking at Mila’s mother.

“Well, it’s time for pie, so I hope you still have a little room left, Clem,” Rhonda said, walking out of the room.

She returned with plates of homemade cherry pie and one scoop of ice cream on the side for everyone. When Clem bit into his pie his eyes shone in ecstasy. He gobbled it all up in no time flat.

“This is the best pie I’ve ever had in my life,” Clem announced to the table.

Rhonda flushed with pride.

“Welcome to the family, son,” Mila’s mom and dad said in unison.

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The Dark Half

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. The Challenge was to pick one of Stephen King’s titles and write a completely different story. I’ve never read The Dark Half by Stephen King, but the title spoke to me.

The Dark Half — 1,151 words

P-E-R-F-E-C-T. There’s no such thing. At least that’s what Carmen’s teachers always said. Nobody’s perfect. But Carmen knew better.

“Anything less than perfection is not acceptable.” Her father’s words reverberated in her head. As such, Carmen’s life was ruled by these words.

First an ivy league school, then an 80-hour-a-week job. Then the perfect husband,  then 2 perfect kids, and a golden retriever, living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect town to complete her perfect life. Who could ask for anything more? And still she didn’t feel like she had her father’s approval. It was enough to drive anyone crazy.

On December 6, she woke up in a clapboard house on a mattress shoved up against a graffiti covered wall. A tattooed man slept next to her. His chest rose and fell as she shielded her eyes from the brightness of the sun streaming through the slats covering the windows.

Carmen had no idea how she had ended up in this halfway house or whatever the hell kinda place it was. And she had no idea who the man beside her could be. She pulled the sheet down and much to her surprise realized she was naked. But worse than that, he was naked too. She gasped in horror. And apparently this gasp was louder than the drum beat going on next door or upstairs or wherever the hell it was going on, because it woke up Tattoo man.

“Hey baby,” he said, moving his naked-as-a-mole-rat body toward her.

She scooted to the far edge of the mattress and pulled the sheet all the way up to her chin, trying to cover up and retain at least a little bit of her decency.

“Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean, who the hell am I?”

Tattoo Man sat up and scooted closer to her, pulling the sheet down as he did. Carmen tried to scoot further from him and almost fell off the mattress onto the dirty black and white tile floor.

“I have no idea how I got here.”

He scoffed. Then he stood up and walked across the room, completely naked, with everything hanging out. Carmen averted her eyes.

He grabbed a cigarette and lit it.

“You want one?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“The hell you don’t.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and shook his head.

“I have to go.”

Carmen stood up, trying to shield her naked body from his wandering eyes. She didn’t succeed. She threw on the dress, one of her favorites, a blue button-down Ann Taylor dress. At least her clothes hadn’t changed. She slipped on her heels. Tattoo Man watched the whole scene with a look of amusement on his face.

She headed toward the door.

“See you tonight, Love,” he said and reached toward her. She avoided his outstretched arms and skirted out the door.

How the hell did she get there? She looked down at her watch. Christ, it was 8 AM.  Tom would be wondering where she was. Breakfast wouldn’t be made. The kids wouldn’t be driven to school. Tom would be late for work. She would be late for work.

Her car sat badly parallel parked in between two overflowing trashcans. She noted with alarm that she was in East Marlboro, an undesirable area, over the bridge and railroad track from Marlboro. She sped up, hitting 90 after merging onto the Interstate. She couldn’t imagine what Tom was thinking.

She pulled into her driveway. She stared at her beautifully manicured half acre yard. She took in the row of beautifully blooming pink azaleas. She looked at the windows with their perfect symmetry and the front porch, complete with a porch swing. She had worked so hard for the perfect life. She sighed a breath of relief.

She ran into the house, listening to the beep of the alarm on the backdoor as she strode into the kitchen. Tom sat at the table, reading the newspaper.

He looked up at Carmen with surprise.

“God, you scared me. Your conference is already over?”

“What? Why are you home? It’s 8:45.”

“I just dropped the kids off. I’m going into the office later. You’re supposed to be gone another two days.”

“Oh, I, um. I just forgot something.”

“So you came all the way back?”

“From where?”

“Buffalo.” He looked at her like she had two heads.

“Buffalo?”

Why the hell would I be at a conference in Buffalo, Carmen thought. She sat down at the table next to Tom and glanced at the newspaper in his hand. December 8th. Pearl Harbor Day. She had lost two days somehow. How was that even possible? She knew with certainty it was December 6th. And Buffalo? Why would she tell Tom she was at a conference in Buffalo. Her head spun, a tension headache rising up on the back of her neck and making her feel hot. She fanned herself off and stared at Tom with her sickly sweet, perfect wife, mother, employee smile planted on her face.

“I just forgot the presentation.”

“I could have emailed that to you.”

“Yeah, but….Listen—I’m going to get it and drive back to Buffalo. I’ll see you on the—” She realized she had no idea when she was supposed to come back home.

“Tenth.”

“Yes of course.”

Carmen headed toward the door.

“Carmen, aren’t you forgetting the presentation…again?” Tom asked, looking up from the paper.

“Oh yeah.”

Carmen took the steps two at a time like she used to do as a kid. She walked into their perfect Master bedroom, with the perfect shade of gray on the wall, and the perfect comforter—not too warm for the summer months. She rummaged around in the drawers, pretending for Tom’s sake, to look for the presentation. She found a jump drive in the back of her underwear drawer. What the hell is this?

She drove back to the slums of East Marlboro. She took the steps two-at-a-time to apartment 208. Tattoo Man opened the door.

“Back already?”

“You have a computer?”

“Laptop. It’s a Chromebook. We bought it together, Carmen.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where is it?”

He pointed her to the table. She squeezed her temples trying to recall the last few days of her life. Carmen plugged the jump drive into the Chromebook’s USB port and a file labeled The Dark Half popped up.

She clicked it and several newspaper articles came up with the dates: January 4, 2017, February 26, 2017, April 10, 2017, April 14, 2017, July 8, 2017, September 26, 2017, October 3, 2017. She scanned the headlines on the articles. Grand Theft Auto. Bank Robbery. Attempted Murder.

One title in particular caught her eye: Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Continue to Elude Cops.

She felt breath on her neck. She turned her head and looked into Tattoo Man’s eyes.

“You made a file,” Tattoo Man said, nodding affirmation.

“Are you Clyde?”

“Yeah. And you’re Bonnie.”


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Seven Minutes in Heaven

So today, I decided to write something a little lighthearted. There has been a lot of bad news lately, and it takes a toll on me sometimes. I thought this morning, I’d get on here and blog about something serious. But this story of innocence came to mind, and I liked where it went. Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of life. Enjoy.  

The bottle spun on the wooden table. My stomach lurched as it came to a stop on Bennett. I’d never kissed a boy before, and here in this dark basement room, the other kids jeered and cheered.

“KISS HER!” they shouted.

“Holly and Bennett sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G–” Bracey Stacy said.

“Shut-up Stacy,” Bennett said.

He leaned over the table and placed his lips on mine. I hands felt sweaty and my heartbeat thundered in my ears.

“Tongue, do it,” Bracey Stacy said.

His lips felt warm, and I opened my mouth just a smidge. His tongue darted in, and it felt wet and slimy like one of those goldfish you win at the fair. I held my eyes shut as his tongue explored my mouth.  I ventured into his mouth with my tongue, feeling his molars, and tasting his breath. It felt like we kissed forever. And then I moaned, and the whole room burst out in laughter. My eyes flew open, and I could see every pore and pimple on Bennett’s face.

“Damn, get a room guys,” Mitch said as Bennett pulled away.

I blinked, and put my hands on my lap, squeezing them together until my pale skin turned bright pink as I sat back in my seat.

Bennett’s blue eyes stared at me from across the table, and he gave me a half-grin.

“Okay, next,” Bracey Stacy said.

Silence descended as the bottle spun again. Bracey Stacy looked hopeful, but the bottle never landed on her. It landed on Bennett and me three more times.

“We should do Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Bennett said after the last spin.

Ridiculously, images of angels and gospel music filled my naïve thirteen-year-old mind. I could almost see the pulpit and Father Roy up there preaching to the ladies in their Sunday best.

“Okay,” I said.

He stood up and walked over to me. I stared up at him in wild adolescent wonder. This good-looking, blonde, 5’7”, fourteen-year-old liked little old me. He placed his hand in mine. Skin-on-skin, I could feel the calluses decorating the palms of his hand. My hands felt sweaty and I worried he would pull away. But he held on tight, and he led me to the closet. I looked back at the kids gathered around the table staring at us with looks of astonishment as we headed into uncharted territory.

Mitch and the other boys stood up and set the timer on the clock radio.

“Turn on the T.V.,” Bennett said.

“Why? You don’t want us to hear you go smoochy-smoochy?”  Mitch asked with a laugh.

Five minutes ago I hadn’t even kissed a boy.

The closet smelled of mothballs and sweaty old tennis shoes. I pushed toward the back as Bennett pulled the door close. Total darkness descended upon us.

“What are we doing in here?” I whispered.

“Where are you?”

“In the coats—like Narnia.”

“We only have seven minutes.”

I felt his hand on my waist, and he pulled me close to him. I could feel his breath on my cheeks and see the white of his eyes. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been this close to anyone before. I could see the self-assured smirk on his face. And then his mouth was on mine, salty but sweet. Our tongues explored each other’s mouths. Bennett’s hand gripped my shirt, and his fingernails dug a little into my tender skin. He pulled away for a second.

“Can I touch you here?” he asked. But I couldn’t see what he referred to and his hands were on my chest before I knew it.

“Yes,” I said—an affirmation or an afterthought–I wasn’t sure which.

“Have you done this before?” I asked.

The dark seemed to be crowding in on us. Hadn’t it been seven minutes? It felt more like twenty.

“Never. I like you, Holls,” he said.

His hand felt my cheek. My heart thumped in my chest. I could push my way around him and leave the closet. But still, I liked the attention. I liked him. And I had agreed to go in there with him. I felt electricity between us and a stirring inside I’d never felt before.

“Is this what it feels like?” I asked.

“What?” His face was so close to mine, I could see his teeth and they seemed to glow white in the dark small space.

“Heaven?”

“I hope so,” Bennett said. “Now where were we?”

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


So when was your first kiss? How old were you?

I’ll share–I was thirteen and at Destin with some friends. I kissed a guy in his car, so he was much older. I don’t even remember his name. My first important kiss was with my high school boyfriend, when I was 16. And probably the most memorable one.

 

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Living With Harmony

Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.

Living With Harmony (1,025 words)

Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.

At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.

Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.

Their relationship grew and eventually they married.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He’s a fixer.”

“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.

“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.

But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.

Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life.  And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.

On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”

“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.

Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.

“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.

“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”

Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.

The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.

“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.

“Working on a tough project?”

“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”

Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.

“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”

He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.

“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”

“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.

“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”

“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.

That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”

As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.

The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.

“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”

“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”

“Well have you looked at it?”

“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”

“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”

“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”

With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.

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Baby Doll

This is a short story I wrote for the MOOC I’m taking at http://www.novoed.com.

Baby Doll

1673 words

The first time I knew my daddy was a liar was when Shepherd dug up Pulley’s bones. At first, I pretended the newly unearthed bones were dinosaur bones. I told Spitzer that our backyard, next to the blooming blue hydrangeas, had once been the site of an ancient meteor shower that destroyed the dinosaurs and paved the way for us.

Spitzer called me an idiot, dug a little further into the soft black soil, and pulled out Pulley’s dusty, dirty red collar.

“Last I heard no dinosaur ever wore a collar.”

Spitzer chunked the collar at me and stomped up toward the cold air conditioned house to escape the hot thick summer Alabama air.

I wiped my face, smearing dirt under my eyes like the football players I’d seen on Daddy’s big screen. I didn’t cry. I just picked up the bones, the collar, placed it back into the hole and covered it up. Daddy had told me Pulley ran away, but now I knew the truth.

“Bad dog!” I shouted at Shepherd.

He lifted one ear, twitched his leg then laid his head back into the cool shade under the Oak tree as if he couldn’t be bothered with my scolding.

That night at the dinner table, Daddy smelled sticky-sweet. I didn’t confront him. He’d made some crockpot concoction that resembled mush and put canned LeSeur peas with the little mushrooms on the table in one of Mama’s old corning ware dishes. I made it my job to hide the peas under the mush and took one, maybe two bites. Spitzer talked a lot about his day. About the boys at school who he could beat up with one hand tied behind his back. About how he wanted to go hunting over the weekend and he knew he could peg a prize-winning deer.

Daddy interrupted him mid-sentence. “What’s wrong Baby Doll? You’re not eating much?”

“Nuthing,” I said, staring at the peas on my plate. I took the prongs of my fork and mashed, making pea-guts.

Daddy nudged me with the toe of his work boot. I thought about how Mama used to complain that he drug dirt all over the house, even on her Mama’s old Oriental rug. That rug was full of dog hair now and dirt clods were all grounded in. There weren’t anyone to prevent that from happening now. Lord knows, Daddy and Spitzer didn’t care about the finer things in life.

I slunk into my room after dinner. Shut the door and stared at the picture of Daddy and Mama with Spitzer and me, when we were all together. I fell onto my flower printed bedspread and into a fitful sleep.

The next time I found out Daddy was a liar was in November, two years later. I’d grown and was all legs and arms, Daddy always said. Spitzer wore braces, had broken out into a volcano of acne, and was obsessed with girls who somehow found his adolescent-pocked face endearing. Why anyone would like Spitzer was beyond me.

Alice Chambers came over on a Saturday. She brought Halloween candy with her. I couldn’t believe she still had some left, because when Halloween fell in our house, Spitzer and I made a mountain of candy on our living room floor, divided it out, traded, and then ate it until we were sick. Twenty-four hours after Halloween our pillowcases full of sugary delights held nothing but a few empty wrappers.

Alice Chambers had ringlet curls and freckles on the bridge of her nose. That day she wore a white dress with multi-colored polka dots. I grabbed the fabric with two fingers and let the slippery silk slide through my fingers. I loved Alice Chambers and hated her at the same time, because she had nice clothes and a mama.

Alice Chambers and I played dolls in my bedroom. Her doll had a dress identical to hers. My doll had one eye and just a scrap of hair left on her head. Alice and I sat the dolls on the floor on a checkered handkerchief I had borrowed from Spitzer’s room.

“They’re having a picnic,” I said.

“They need drinks and food.”

“I’ll get some.”

I went into the kitchen and opened the cabinets next to the mini-fridge. Daddy had all kinds of tiny cups in that cabinet next to big bottles of alcohol. He barely drank the alcohol, but sometimes when his hunting buddies came over they’d reek of the stuff by the end of the night. I pulled out a big bottle of amber colored liquid and a couple of the tiny glasses. I brought them to the bedroom. Alice Chambers giggled when she saw me struggling not to drop them, but then came to my rescue.

I opened the bottle and poured the tiny glasses full of the liquid.

“I have some food over here,” I said, taking plastic pieces of watermelon from the play fridge I had deserted in the corner of my room.

We sat down, behind our dolls.

“Let’s take a drink,” I said.

Alice nodded. I took a swig of the amber colored liquid, and when I started to swallow my throat burned and my eyes watered. Instead of swallowing it, I let it spill into the cavities of my mouth making my cheeks as big as a chipmunk saving for winter. Then when I couldn’t hold it in anymore I spit it out all over Alice Chamber’s beautiful party dress. All of this happened in a matter of seconds, but it felt like an eternity, and Alice still had her tiny glass full of that vile stuff that I couldn’t believe Daddy drank.

Alice stood up, dripping with alcohol, a big brown stain on the front of her dress. Her face turned red, she looked horrified, but she didn’t say anything at first.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, standing up and trying to pat her down.

“Well,” Alice said, trying to be lady-like. “I—I never. And just so you know, there’s no Santa Claus.”

She shouted it at me, grabbed her doll and ran out of the room, out of the house, and out of my life forever. I stood there in complete shock, feeling dizzy from the little bit of amber liquid I’d drank, then sat down on the floor amidst the ruined picnic. No Santa Claus. But Daddy had said Santa came down the chimney and brought toys. And if there was no Santa Claus how did I end up with a new bike last Christmas? I knew Daddy couldn’t afford that with his no-good damn beggar’s salary. But still, I didn’t ask Daddy. Instead, I marched into Spitzer’s room where he was sucking the face of some girl, and demanded to know the truth. He caved as always, told me the truth, and then told me to get the heck out of his room.

The third time I found out Daddy was a liar was when the letter came from Mama. To be fair, I was snooping. Spitzer always said my dirty snooping would lead to no-good. Daddy’s room had coins on the dresser, and sometimes I took these to buy pencil grips. I liked the way the pencil grips fit in my fingers. They made it so I didn’t get callouses, and I had quite a collection of them. Well that week, there was a rainbow grip on sale at school and I was determined to buy it, but I’d spent all my money on Necco wafers when I’d been in town with Spitzer that past weekend. So I was on a mission to find some loose change in Daddy’s room when I stumbled across the letter.

It was folded on his nightstand into a neat little square. When I opened it, the paper felt soft under my skin like it had been opened and closed a billion times.

James,

I’ve thought about coming home. I don’t know what you told the children when I left three years ago. For all I know, you told them I’m dead and gone. I deserve that after the way I left you. Now I know I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for an escape. I couldn’t deal with the PTA meetings, the dinners on the table, and the demands of the kids. I didn’t know how to tell you, and when Sam came into my life I took it as an opportunity to move on.

Maybe this apology comes too little too late. I think of Baby Doll and Spitzer so much. I can’t even imagine how they’ve grown. Does Baby Doll still have curls? Is Spitzer still playing ball? I know this letter will hurt you. That’s not my intention. But I want you to know that I think about them. Often. And of you.I I still love you. My address is above. Please write back.

All my love,

Eileen

I traced the words with my fingers. Big fat tears fell from my eyes onto the paper, making it weaker than it’d been before. I sat it down on the shag carpet, and took a piece of my dress and wiped it dry, carefully, so as not to rip it. My mama was alive. Not dead like Pulley. Alive and well and living somewhere without us. Daddy had told Spitzer and I she was dead. Deader than a doornail, I’d thought because I’d been little then.

I didn’t hear Daddy walk in. I didn’t see his face. But the next thing I felt were his big bear arms around me. I smelled his Daddy smell, cologne mixed with sweat, that sticky-sweet smell that always comforted me, and I felt the scratchiness of his beard on my face.

“I’m so sorry, Baby Doll,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.”

I felt the hotness of his tears on the back of my neck, and I turned around and wrapped myself into his arms and let him hold me and rock me like I was still his baby doll.

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Lost and Found

I wrote this story for Terrible Minds, yet again! The assignment only had one requirement: must contain a map.

Lost and found

(873 words)

Harlan didn’t trust GPS. The first time he used it he had ended up somewhere in bum-fuck-Egypt. At that point, he had been infinitely grateful for the stacks of fold up maps stuck in his glove compartment. Back then, everyone had maps. Most people used them. People understood geography and how routes connected to state highways, interstates, connecting all the states to make us somehow unified even from thousands of miles away. Now they summoned Siri and asked her to take them to a location. How did they know she’d comply? That’s what Harlan wanted to ask them.

Cheree thought he was ridiculous. A few years after GPS came out she’d bought him a TomTom. It sat in the box under the wilting tree for a few days. Then one day it magically appeared in the front seat of Harlan’s car, still in its box. It sat there too, until Cheree had to borrow Harlan’s car because hers needed an oil change. When she came back from work that evening the TomTom had been installed. Harlan had never so much as pushed the power button.

Which is why at this point, he was ticked off. The map open in front of him did not show the road he had been driving down. He knew he had made a wrong turn somewhere, but he couldn’t figure out where. And he sat, air conditioner blaring, needle precariously close to Empty, on the side of the road with his finger on an empty space in the middle of nowhere where clearly, in real life, there was an actual road. The TomTom glared at him, willing him to push the little power button. But he felt in this predicament the TomTom would have no idea the road existed either. Plus, it might drain his gas reserves even further. And it was the principle of the matter after all. All these years, the maps had always been right. This was not the time to change his firmly held beliefs, damn-it.

He turned off the engine and stepped out of the car. The heat beat down on him with its blaring desert-force. He kicked the tire to his 2009 BMW, because that was helpful. He stood in the breakdown lane with his arms over head and sweat stains spreading out on the new Oxford shirt Cheree bought for him. The heat played in dancing waves over the desert surrounding him.

He walked around to the other side of the car, opened the passenger side and took out the stack of maps. Nevada. He had two other maps for Nevada. They looked older than the one he had been using. He opened one up and laid it out on the hood of the car, then planted his hands on the black paint before realizing this was a mistake. The sun-heated metal burned the palms of his hand.

“Shit,” he said, shaking his hands in the dusty air.

He stared at the map, placing his finger at the location that looked like an undeveloped piece of land in the middle of the desert. He looked around, and sure enough that’s what it was, with a goddamn no-name, no-route road running through it that he’d been lucky enough to turn onto somehow.

Cheree would be worried by now. He knew she was sitting at the bar at the Bellagio having a gin and tonic and checking her iPhone for the time. God, he wished he had one of those too. Then he could call her if he could get reception out here. They had tickets for Cirque du Soleil at 7 PM. He knew he’d never make it if he didn’t find his way out of this place. He just couldn’t remember if he’d taken a right or left, then another right or left, and it was a horrible time for his memory to fail him. Or his sense of direction.

Cheree always joked that for someone who loved maps he got lost an awful lot. He always smiled and nodded when she said it in front of other people, but in reality the statement pissed him off. But now he knew she was right and that if he didn’t find his way out of this nowhere road he’d die of thirst and hunger in the middle of the desert.

“Stupid no-good maps,” he said.

He folded them up, stuck them in the glove department, slammed the passenger’s side door then walked around to the driver’s side. He started the car then powered on the TomTom. His first thought would be that it would need updating, and he’d still be lost, but to his surprise it had been updated and there were even addresses loaded into the machine. God love, Cheree. Always there for him. He pulled out his notepad with the address scrawled on it—3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South—and plugged it into the machine.

The little dots swirled around in a circle: Calculating.

And sure enough the road appeared. Continue for 35 miles, take a left. Clear cut directions on a road that did exist even though every single map he owned said it shouldn’t be there.

Maybe Cheree was right after all. GPS had its benefits.

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The Weird Adventures of Dick and Jane

Here’s another piece of flash fiction from Terrible Minds. There are bad words in this short story. It is 1414 words, and a little bit looney! The prompt came from THEY FIGHT CRIME, which gives hilarious prompts apparently!

My prompt: He’s a Green-fingered advertising executive who believes he’s a wolf. She’s a mentally unstable astronaut with a magical ham sandwich in her pocket.

And the story:

Dick finished his nightly howl after checking in on his calla lilies. Of course they bloomed with the power of a thousand glories. After all, Dick had always had green-fingers as his  grandma liked to say. God rest her soul. He looked up to the sky to see the tiny dot, he thought was a star, traveling closer and closer. He didn’t think that was right. In fact, he’d drawn stars before. He was drawing stars right now for some pathetic ad he had to do for the Wright Agency. God, he hated the Wright Agency. They were always wrong in his opinion. He opened his mouth to howl again.

His neighbor threw open his window, “Shut the fuck up, Dick. You’re not a wolf. You’re just a goddamn asshole for waking everyone up with your incessant howling, every single goddamn night!”

Dick ignored his neighbor’s negative comments and asked, “How about those Braves?”

“Damn, your mother knew what she was doing when she named you Dick,” the neighbor said, closing the window.

Dick didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he focused on the dot. Now it looked entirely too close. And in fact, it wasn’t a dot anymore. It looked like a—s.

Close call, Dick thought, as he brushed himself off from where he’d thrown himself. The spacecraft landed on the other side of his fence sparing his morning-glories and forget-me-nots. The neighbor’s house had been saved too. Too bad. Dick didn’t think anyone could survive that kind of landing, but the spacecraft, the size of a mini-cooper, looked largely intact. His fur of his beard bristled up as he walked out the back gate and stood near the spaceship.

Dick sneaked up to the spacecraft on all fours. Smoke rose from one side. He knocked on it, hearing the hollow sound of metal ring out against the night. Other people looked on from their windows, but no one was as brave as Dick. He protected his territory with a canine ferocity and the machine had landed precariously close to his land.

The door opened and he jumped back, landing on his hands and feet. He barred his teeth and began growling as the astronaut stepped out of the spacecraft. She lifted the orange space helmet from her head, and shook out her long strawberry locks. Her eyes twinkled, illuminated by the moon, and to Dick it seemed as if she’d walked right out of a fairy tale to meet him. Dick barred his teeth and began sniffing as she walked closer to him. He stared at her orange spacesuit which looked a little too tight around her breast area.

“Where am I?”

He stood up and brushed the dirt off his arms and legs.

“Outside Atlanta. Name’s Dick. Top wolf, these parts. Somewhat of a Casanova, really.”

“Wolf?” Her brows knitted into a question mark above her head. “Tried to make it to Mars. Dammit. Failed again.”

Dick hung his head and whined.

“Wolf! The fuck you are!” the woman screamed.

Dick backed away from the woman, unsure why she was so angry. He wanted to go back into his house and work on his ad. He felt safe inside his den. He sat back on his haunches against the roughness of the asphalt as she came toward him. He thought she wanted to attack him, but instead she helped him up on to two legs then wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. She smelled. Not like perfume. Like meat. He stuck out his tongue and salivated, dripping salvia all over her orange spacesuit. He sniffed, leaning down toward her and she let him, amazingly. Most people hit him or attacked him with their purses when he started sniffing around them. He sniffed all the way down to her pocket. He could tell the smell came from there. He wanted to take a bite, but she gently pushed him away.

“Not that. Not here. Not now. Can we go somewhere private?”

He pointed to his backyard, and he opened the gate for her.

“The flowers.”

“Green-fingers,” Dick said, waving them in front of her face like jazz hands.

The garden brimmed with flowers of every imaginable kind. Dick could plant anything. Orchids sprang up from the mere thought of his touch. His backyard felt like paradise, unless you were allergic, then it would have been a nightmare.

Inside the house, the fire cackled.

“Fire in the summer?”

“I sleep on the hearth,” Dick said.

“Do you think you’re actually a wolf?”

Dick’s face took on a blank stare. “Tea?”

“I hate fucking tea,” she said. She picked up the closest thing she saw, a framed picture of Dick’s prized pumpkin from 1997, and threw it against the brick wall closest to her. Dick didn’t flinch. Instead, he went over to the fire and stoked it, ignoring the woman’s hostile glances. She broke into tears again, and Dick knew something was wrong with her. A mental illness. Depression maybe.

“Why do you have a sandwich in your pocket?” he asked.

“This?”

She pulled out a ham sandwich. Dick could smell it from all away across the room. Ham and cheese on ciabatta bread with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato. It looked like something you’d order from Panera or Subway. Dick loved meat. Any kind would do. Of course he normally ate it completely raw.

“That,” he started salivating again.

“This is a magical sandwich,” she said. Her eyes glowed as she gazed at it.

“Magical?”

“Magical. It can grant my wishes. What’s your one wish?”

“Like a genie in a bottle?” Dick felt his ears perk up the way they did when he was out on a hunt.

“Yes, I suppose like a genie,” she said. She cradled the sandwich as if it were a piece of crystal. The smell wafted toward Dick, and the hunger in the pit of his stomach doubled.

“To find a mate. To expand my brood. What is yours?”

“To make it to Mars.”

“What’s on Mars?”

She shrugged her shoulders as if the answer to that question was not the least bit important.

“What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

He plopped down in front of the fire and stretched out, rolling onto his back and exposing his belly. He then turned to his eyes and stared at her with his wolf eyes, calculating the right time to pounce. Instead, he asked a question, because after all he knew in the human world the way to a woman’s heart was through her mind. And Jane was no ordinary woman.

“If the sandwich is magical, then why hasn’t your wish come true?

“If you’re a wolf, then why don’t you have fur?”

“Touché.”

Dick could feel the crazy emanating from Jane. But, still, he wanted to get closer to her. He did what he knew attracted female wolves. He climbed onto the couch next to her and began rubbing his head against her neck. He flicked out her tongue to groom her, but she pulled away and rose her hand as if she were about to slap him.

“What are you doing?” she screeched.

She pulled at her hair in distress. Dick moved closer then stroked her again trying to calm her down. She put her hands down on the couch and pushed herself further away from him. He growled deeply then pounced.

She screamed as his teeth ripped into the sandwich, shoving the whole thing into his mouth, hardly chewing before he swallowed.

“The magic,” she sobbed.

 

* * *

“She’s stabilized.”

“Jane. You were out a long time. But Dr. Hartsell said the shock treatment might have worked. Isn’t that great news?

“You Dick!” she shouted.

She tried to sit up, straining against the restraints meant to keep her from attacking. Dick backed up and shook his head dejectedly at the doctor.

The man in the white coat paced the room as Jane raged. He made his way over to the medicine cabinet and opened the drawer. He pulled out a needle and a vial. From previous hospitalizations, Dick knew it always took awhile to stabilize her. He scratched behind his ear, making his left leg move up and down slightly, as he watched the doctor inject her. Her screams quieted and an ominous silence filled the room.

“What’s that smell?” Dr. Hartsell asked.

Dick reached into his pocket to find the remnants of a half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich.

“Funny. I thought I’d finished that.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

The Boy

I wrote this piece for a Chuck Wendig Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge.

 

The photo I used can be found here: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3003524

I’m trying to write more recently, and flash always gets me started so I can focus on longer works. I hope you enjoy.


The Boy

Found: Small boy. Won’t sit still. Speaks no English.

He bit my hand when we found him. Sitting on a school chair in the cave near the river where we fished. A baby really, but wild like an animal. I don’t know how long he’d been there and whether his behavior indicated he’d been raised by wolves or simply abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for him.

I’d read, in the old days, deformed babies or unwanted babies were left out in the elements to die. But he was neither. Blonde hair and blue eyes set in his head like a china doll. He was perfect looking but for the layer of dirt so thick it had turned his skin the color of a darkie. He squealed and clawed at my face when I tried to put him in the tub.  Jeffrey had to take over, and he seethed so much with anger I thought he’d drown the boy. When I pulled the baby out, his skin looked red and raw from being scrubbed so hard with the lye soap. The water in the tin tub looked as black as the soil on the land we farmed.

“Wild animal. Can’t live here,” Jeffrey said, as the boy ran around the room screeching and hollering.

He posted the signs around town. Went out on horseback and listed our address below the words. But no one wanted a castaway and so the boy stayed. For months. And the baby growing inside me began to make its presence known.

I tried to teach the boy English. I pointed to the bump on my stomach and said, “Baby.” I labeled all the objects in the cabin, pointed to the words and said the names.  He moved his mouth but only pathetic animal sounds erupted from his lips. In anger, he projected his small body onto the floor kicking up dust and dirt until I had to walk away.

“We have to get rid of him,” Jeffrey said.

But I shook my head. I did not agree.

Jeffrey and I lay under the quilt in the oak bed as the boy, or the animal as Jeffrey called him, slept on the pallet on the floor kicking and screaming in his sleep. Jeffrey reached over and rubbed my belly. The baby didn’t move for him.

“This is our child. That’s not,” he said pointing to the boy.

Weeks of arguments as the baby inside me grew. And the boy seemed to become more wild.

“Cannot be tamed,” Jeffrey said, sitting at the kitchen table wiping the sweat and the dirt from his brow.

And the whole time something grew inside me. Guilt, fear, and anger. On the inside I began to take on the feelings of the boy. A wild rage Jeffrey couldn’t understand swelled up like a hurricane within me. A wild rage threatened the humanity inside of me. And Jeffrey began to turn his back upon me. At night, the gulf between us grew. He’d touch the small of my back, and I pulled away from the roughness of his fingertips. And even as the chasm widened, I became closer to the boy. I felt he was a part of me. I felt I understood his pain. I felt he had given it to me to share. Something inside, deep down, told me not to give up on him.

The boy began to take my hand. He would roll his hand into a fist and push it against my open palm. His cries ceased, and he became silent. His silence permeated me, and I began to speak less and less. He put his grimy little hand against my belly, and the baby inside me squirmed and moved under the softness of his fingers.

In one breath, I let go of the rage, and Jeffrey inhaled it, filling up his whole body with a palpable anger. He shouted at me and the boy. He spent longer days in the field away from me. Away from the boy. When the shouts didn’t work he filled our house with an unthinkable void of sound. The silence sat at our dinner table like an uninvited guest.  The tension took on a personality filling our souls with hatred.

And then one morning, I awoke to find the boy gone. Jeffrey sat at the table with a pocket knife, sharpening a branch.

“Going fishing. Want to come?”

I shook my head but didn’t utter a word. I felt alone and abandoned stuck within myself, but Jeffrey’s terrible anger had fled with the boy.

Jeffrey had been gone a few hours when the contractions started. I knew from watching my mama give birth that labor wasn’t quick. But there were other plans for me. The boy clawed his way out of me as quickly as he could. The pain felt so intense that all the rage and loneliness of the last few months escaped through the bestial screams coming from my lips.

The baby stared up at me with blue eyes. He opened his mouth to cry, but instead the boy’s animal sounds spilled out of his throat. I held him to my nipples, and I whispered into his ears, “Now you’re mine forever. No one can take you away. I will never abandon you again.”

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The Instigator

I wrote “The Instigator,” today for Finish That Thought. The thought was “If only I’d gotten her ten minutes earlier,” but I changed up the pronoun. For the special challenge, I had to include a word starting with each letter of the alphabet. Here you go! Once again, I am incapable of writing a happy story.

The Instigator
@laurenegreene
478 words
If only we’d gotten there ten minutes earlier.

“Bear plus food do not mix,” my wife said, when she saw the ravaged campsite.

We’d been watching the sunrise at the top of the peak when the bear attacked. While the sun spread its glorious hues of ultra violet rays over the earth, the bear tore into the freeze-dried packs my wife, unknowingly, had left out beside our packs.

“Rats, I wonder where it came from.”

“Oh, I don’t know, let’s see, the zoo. We’re in the middle of the freaking Appalachian Mountains, Jessica.”

“Jeez, Quint, you don’t have to yell at me.”

We had decided to take this trip, a two week hike in the Appalachians, as a way to repair our marriage, but instead of the bonding experience we had been looking for, the vacation had mirrored our tumultuous relationship.

“Maybe we should call Lyle to come pick us up,” Jessica said. She had the map spread out, sitting cross-legged in the dirt in front of the tent. A torn half empty bag of freeze dried beans stood by her Merrells.

“I’d never get in the car with that guy again, xenophobe that he is.”

“Oh come on, Quint. He’s harmless. What’s our other choice?”

“We stop in the town up the road, buy more food and keep going.”

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing this whole time, keeping it going, despite a clear lack of sustenance?”

I hated when Jessica got all hoity toity on me and created analogies about our relationship. It was a side effect of her psychological practice. Psychologists have their own disease: know-everything-itis. She was staring through the map instead of at it. I sat down on the dirt next to her, and offered up the comfort of my arm, but she scooted further away from me. The Great Divide. Hurt pride, but I shook it off. I’d gotten so good at doing that.

“Here, this little town. Kunkletown. Funny little name, and not too far.”

“I wonder if they have cell service there,” Jessica said, as she folded the map and stuffed it into her back pack.

“Why?” I asked, but she just shook her head.

We wordlessly took the tent down and packed our bags. Stillness rose between us, like the quiet of the sunrise, only an hour before. In that moment, hope had sprung to me like the dawn of the new day, but the bear had dashed all of that making the tension stand between us like an unwanted lover.

Kunkletown was a nice little town. I stayed there, getting myself together for two days after Jessica left with Lyle. I thought maybe I could move to this little town that housed only a church, a few houses and a general store. Then, maybe I could find the hope I had lost in one moment on the trail.

The Great Distractor

Writing for Flash!Friday today.

1) Use “aspiration” as a theme.

2) Photo Prompt

Whetting Interrupted

Whetting Interrupted, 1894. Public Domain painting by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior.

I usually follow the prompt, almost to a tee, but today I didn’t. I used it as a jumping off point. And as a writer/author, I’m all too well aware of distractions that can pull you away from your goals.

The Great Distractor
@laurenegreene
205 words
Sharpen the blade. Akin to sharpening the pencil, in some ways at least. When he met Adele she whetted his appetite. Instead of focusing on his writing, he spent countless hours staring into her blue-gray eyes listening to stories of her youth. He focused on unbuttoning her dresses and rolling around in bed instead of molding his characters.

He had always wanted to be a writer. And by the time he met Adele, he had achieved that goal. But she was a distraction—albeit a pleasant one. After Niels called and told him he’d missed another deadline, he decided writing wasn’t for him. Too much pressure, too much time locked up in a lonely room, away from her soft, pliable body.

She was the one who suggested they get away. Her father had a cabin in the woods. They could spend six months there, and he could focus on his writing again. Walden Pond, he thought. But when they’d arrived there’d been no electricity. He had to write everything out in long form. He had to cut up firewood just to heat the stove. He and Adele stayed under the down comforters snuggled together most days, as his dream of writing slipped further into oblivion.