The Frozen Rat’s Foot

So, this morning, I went for a run. And I was listening to David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. When I listened to it, I had this story idea pop into my head. Well, it wasn’t exactly this story but it started with Major Tom showing up on Halloween, and this teenage girl not knowing how to handle it. I checked Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge and picked a title randomly, and the rest of the story just fell together. Haunting, not for the feint of heart, and probably a little eerie, but I had a great time writing it! Enjoy.

Major Tom had popped into their lives on Halloween. Delores remembered it, because in the weeks prior to his existence, she’d been listening to David Bowie on repeat. Delores thought it could only be a coincidence—his name. Delores’ mother didn’t believe in coincidences though. She said everything happened for a reason.

Jack and Sunny had been trick-or-treating, and Delores sat by the front door giving out candy. Too old to partake in the annual candy-haul, Delores resigned herself to the fact that getting older stunk. The kids groaned when she handed out Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie pops, the cheap candy, making her life even harder.

Major Tom, she didn’t know his name at first, knocked on the door. He had his arm draped casually over a fairy princess and threw a killer smile Delores’ way.

“Howdy,” he said with a wink.

“Hi,” the timid word barely escaped her mouth.

Major Tom had a way of making his presence known.

Delores could feel her mother behind her and smell her Obsession perfume. Momma bit her lip, stuck her hips out, and tried to look coy. Her flirty red hair that come from a box bounced as she sashayed all the way to the door, leaned down toward the Fairy Princess, and deposited a tootsie roll into her bag. Major Tom caught an eyeful of cleavage from Momma’s low-cut Gap shirt.

“I’m Hilda.” My mom hated her name. She put out a hand showing off bright red nails.

“People call me Major Tom,” he said, extending his hand toward her.

The Fairy Princess and I stared at each other, unaware our lives were about to change forever.

Major Tom and The Fairy Princess aka Candace aka Candy-for-short moved in with us two days before Christmas. Snow filled every crevice of the world, and the heat had been out for a week. Momma had bought food but couldn’t pay the heating bill. Major Tom would be our savior, she said. Only he wasn’t.

When they moved in Major Tom insisted on giving Candy-for-short her own room. Delores could not believe it.

“That’s not fair. I’m the oldest,” she said rolling her eyes all the way to heaven.

“You’ll do what he says. It’s about time we had a man to take charge in this house,” Momma said.

Delores stomped up the stairs. She kicked the bed frame, but only managed to hurt her foot. Hot tears streamed down her acne-pocked face. She wiped them away. Stupid Major Tom and Candy-for-short came in and had ruined everything in her life. Delores threw a shoe at her boom box. She turned the tape over—the one her father had given her before he died. She played Ashes to Ashes, “My mother said, to get things done you’d better not mess with Major Tom.” She wanted to barf or scream or both.

Instead she whispered so low that only the dust bunnies could hear, “I hate you, Major Tom. Something evil lurks behind those twinkling eyes.”

She threw her clothes in a box, gingerly untapped the David Bowie posters from the wall, unmade the bed and walked across the room to Sunny’s room. Sunny’s room had bright yellow walls. My Little Ponies littered the floor. When Delores walked in, Sunny bounced up to her.

“Want to play Barbies?”

“I’m much too old for Barbies, Sunny. Go away.”

Sunny hung her head and dejectedly continued to play.

Candy-for-short was given everything she ever asked for. Sunny and Delores often felt overlooked. Jack lived at the neighbors’ house and sometimes Delores didn’t think their mother even noticed he was missing. Major Tom’s eyes began to look eviler and eviler as dark circles formed underneath them. Momma started sleeping in every day. Major Tom and Momma fought and screamed at one another. Sunny and Delores barricaded themselves in their room, and Delores would play the David Bowie album Scary Monsters on repeat. She wondered how a scary monster had showed up in her house so suddenly and changed everything with such ease.

Soon it became apparent Major Tom had lost his job. He sat at home in the green easy chair, staring at the fuzz on the T.V., or he and Momma locked themselves up in their room for days doing God-knows-what. Food became scarce. Delores tiptoed around the house, afraid to make the hardwoods creak. Major Tom’s wrath had reached new proportions. Jack never came home. Delores wondered if the neighbors had secretly adopted him.

It all came to a head on Fat Tuesday.

Candy-for-short and Sunny sat at the kitchen table doing their homework. Their sallow skin seemed to sink into the darkness of the room. Their gaunt cheekbones haunted Delores. What they all needed was a good meal. Major Tom and Momma had locked the door to their room, and no one had heard a peep from them for at least a day.

“Go upstairs and play,” Delores directed the little girls.

Candy-for-short had been slinking around in the last week. Major Tom had been less and less present in all their lives.

“I just wish he would hug me still,” she had confided to Delores the day before. Delores had been secretly relieved when Major Tom grew quiet. His yelling had terrified her. Delores’ dad had been quiet, soft-spoken, and kind. Meek as a mouse her Momma said. Major Tom was the opposite: loud, boisterous, and down-right scary a lot of the time. Plus, he had taken away Delores’ mother, her ally in the house. Even though Delores knew her mother was less-than-perfect beforehand, Major Tom had transformed her into a nightmarish entity who Delores didn’t think she really knew.

Delores opened up the freezer. She didn’t know how it had gotten in there. She pulled it out and set it on the counter. She drummed her fingers on the counter trying to figure out the best way to cook it. Roasted, no? Boiled, ooh gross—all she could think about were her Momma’s boiled Brussels sprouts that made her gag. Fried. She settled on fried. Everything tasted good fried.

She pulled out the deep fryer and got to work, seasoning it, and breading it so it could be fried. She found a jar of green beans and nuked them in the microwave and made some white rice with a pat of butter to go with it. The smell of food cooking brought everyone to the kitchen. Momma and Major Tom stepped out of the bedroom, eyes blood-shot and faces white as ghosts. The girls bounded down the stairs, and even Jack showed up at the back door, eager to take his role as part of the family if it entailed a home cooked meal.

Delores had cut it up and served it on the rosebud plates her grandmother had passed down to them. She put a little scoop of rice, a serving of green beans, and the fried meat on the plate, arranging it with care for everyone at the table, the way her old-Momma used to do. Everyone dug in, eating like they had never eaten before.

Suddenly Major Tom crunched down on something hard.

He pulled it out of his mouth and studied it. His bloodshot eyes took on a quizzical look. Delores had only eaten her green beans and rice. She’d left the meat untouched. She stared at him.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“A frozen rat’s foot,” Delores said.

Forks clattered against the plates. Her family’s faces took on a look for simultaneous horror. Jack made a retching noise, and Momma ran to the bathroom.

Delores chuckled, shoveled her remaining food in her mouth, then walked out the front door intent on never going back.

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Memories of Ed

This morning, I put in a Violent Femmes CD on the way to work. The only one I own. It is the self-titled album. I hadn’t listened to this album in years. It reminds me of Ed who I knew from church and then high school. Then he was simply gone.

When I was a kid I went to Holy Comforter, an Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s still there. There were a ton of kids and one of those kids was a guy named Ed Pradot. He became my friend as we moved from children to the awkward pre-teen years and started participating in the youth program called EYC (Episcopal Young Churchpeople). We spent time at lock-ins together, playing BINGO in the church cafeteria, and stumbled through our developmental and adolescent years together.

I knew Ed pretty much my whole life. He had fluffy blonde hair, and a huge magnanimous personality. He was a grade below me in school, but that didn’t affect our friendship. One summer, our EYC group went down to Orange Beach for the weekend. Ed and I were in the back of a car with a girl named Deidra, and he put in the Violent Femmes CD. We sang the songs all the way down to Orange Beach (church appropriateness = questionable). That night, we decided we’d stay up all night: Ed, Deidra, and I. And we made it too. Only, we were too tired to go to the beach and slept through all of the next day. I think we made it down to the beach for about thirty minutes before sundown the following night. But we didn’t think the time had been wasted. We were young, and we’d stayed up through the whole night so we could talk, bond, and learn how to grow up and become adults.

Later, when I was in 11th grade, I transferred to the Catholic school in town. Ed went there, and we ended up in some classes together. Then we started carpooling. I picked him up every morning and we talked all the way to school.We often stopped at a Spectrum gas station on the Eastern Boulevard to get candy and junk for our day. We were such good friends, but nothing more. I never had thoughts of him as more than a friend, but I’ll never know whether he wanted more. It wasn’t something we discussed, but it wasn’t something I questioned either.

On one of these morning trips, Ed did not seem himself. I asked him about his history test, and he told me he didn’t have one. He stated he had a science test, but I knew that wasn’t true because we had discussed it the night before on our way home. I had also told him how in Health class we learned that when someone has a seizure you don’t put anything in their mouth. Instead you wait it out, and then sweep out their mouth afterwards to make sure they have a clear airway.

That morning, I had made it to the intersection of McGehee Rd and Troy Hwy and was about to turn onto Eastern Blvd, when he started having a seizure. I thought he was messing with me.

“Oh, c’mon Ed. I know you’re faking it, trying to see what I’m going to do.” I patted him, trying to get him to stop, but he continued seizing. His head hit up against the window of my Supra Celica. I learned at this particular moment in my life that I’m horrible in emergencies. I was at a stop light, and I beeped my horn trying to get people to move. I rolled down my windows and yelled that my friend was having a seizure. No one moved. And finally, after what seemed like an eternity the light changed. Ed was seizing still—I think. I drove like a bat out of hell to the Spectrum station. I left the car running, made sure that Ed was okay, and ran into the store.

Inside, I said, “My friend is having a seizure in the car. Call 911.” Six shocked faces turned to look at me, and six shocked people dropped their morning snacks and ran out to help me. Ed had stopped seizing by then, and the attendant called 911. A nice man straightened him up in the seat and swept his mouth. He was bleeding, because he’d bit his tongue. A nice woman held me, comforted me and told me Ed was going to be alright. I called Ed’s mom, but she didn’t arrive until after the ambulance had already loaded Ed into the back and taken off. The ambulance driver told me where they were taking him, and I relayed the information to his mother.

She said, “He’s never had a seizure before.”

I just shook, barely able to speak. Then I got in my car and drove to school. I attempted to take my Religion test, but Mrs. Toner my religion teacher walked me to the office, called my mom and sent me home. I was so shaken up.

Ed recovered. He told me the last thing he remembered was getting in the car, and then it was a blank, like he didn’t even exist until he woke up in the hospital feeling so tired with his tongue completely bitten through. He didn’t even remember the conversation we had that morning in the car.

Unfortunately, when I went to college Ed and I lost touch. And the summer before I went back for my sophomore year I thought about him. I called his house, but his little brother told me he was staying with his dad that summer. When I asked for the number, the little brother told me he didn’t have it.

A few months later, sitting in my dorm room at American University, I received a call from my childhood friend Hillary. She was sobbing. “Ed got hit by a car, Lauren. He was crossing the road. He’s dead.”

I was shocked. Because he had such a big personality that it didn’t seem possible his life could be snuffed out just like that. And I didn’t get to say goodbye. I wanted to see him that summer before my sophomore year and talk to him, pal around, and just be Lauren and Ed, but it never happened. My parents were in London when I received the call, and so I didn’t have the money to fly home from Washington D.C. to Alabama. I called my brother and sobbed on the phone to him. I felt life was unfair. I’d lost two friends at young ages by this time, and I just didn’t understand how that could happen. It took me a long time to wrap my head around losing Ed. More than anything, I wish I had insisted on getting his phone number from his brother and having one last conversation with him before he left this world.

Today in the car, listening to the Violent Femmes all the memories of Ed popped up making him feel alive again. I could see his kind eyes, his funny, fluffy hair, and the smile he always wore. I remembered all the nights we’d hung out together at EYC. I remember how loving and caring he was, and I’ll always treasure those moments I had with him, even though they were too few.

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Carry On

When I wake up in the morning, I grab a cup of coffee, sit down, turn on Pandora, and I blog, write, or work on yearbook (almost done!). This morning, Pandora played the same song for me two times in a row. Carry On by Fun.. It reminded me how you can put CDs on repeat and play them over and over again, reveling in the words that seem so relevant in your life but are sung by a total stranger. How many of you have done that when you’re having a bad day (or a bad breakup)?

Carry On is such a great song. A few years ago, I listened to this song in my darkest days, and it helped me to do just that: carry on. Walk away from the past with open arms toward the future. The future is full of infinite possibilities, and if we didn’t carry on then we’d never have those experiences.

I sat down unsure of what I wanted to blog about this morning. I have been writing, working on a story that took me away from my two previous works in progress. Now that yearbook is almost complete, I’m going to put more effort into blogging more and also into finishing up edits on Little Birdhouses, writing more, and I’m going to start querying again. (Get ready for lots of blog posts about rejection) When I wrote last week, for the first time in awhile, I felt relief wash over me. And it reminded me of the reason I write. I write because I have to. I write because it takes all of my restless energy and turns it into something amazing and beautiful. And because maybe, like I did with Fun.’s song, someone will relate to something I’ve written. The gift of words.

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Almost Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving in the grand U.S. of A. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love getting together with family. I love eating food with them. I love drinking wine. I love recounting family stories, laughing, and just loving the people around me. Thanksgiving invariably has drama too, but what family would be complete without it? If you’re in the U.S. then Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Eat lots of turkey and enjoy your family.

Yesterday, my middle son Liam resurrected my iPod. Here he is, in a wonderful photo my friend Amanda Willis took of him for Christmas (cute guy, huh?)

DSC_0205

This morning, I was signing up for Yuku so I can be part of yet another writing community. Over-committers R Us! I put the iPod on and the music of my whole life filled my ears. Back in June, Rob located the iPod, found out it still worked, and put it in our bag so I could bring it to Punta Cana. I didn’t run in the Dominican Republic though, so I never used it. There was too much drinking to do.

Apparently, I went through most of my CD collection (for you younger folks those are the little round metallic-looking discs similar to records, only smaller. What’s a record?) and downloaded songs onto this iPod a few years back.

I have my happy days: Dave Matthews Band, a little bit of Phish, Big Head Todd, among others. These are mostly from high school. Then morose days of college, when I was mostly pining over someone I’d never be with and discovering myself: Tori Amos, Pavement, Elliott Smith. Then days after college: Keane, Beatles, Wilco, Beck, Coldplay, among others. Then days after kids were born: Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Mumford and Sons.

These songs have given me a ride back through my life this morning. It’s funny how much music can bring someone or something or some time back to the forefront of your mind. My friend from college, the one I pined for, inspired most of my musical taste. He told me to listen to Indie and low-fi, which I still love. He introduced me to Pavement, Wagon Christ, Apples and Stereo. I didn’t know then, but he shaped my music taste forever.

Of course now I’ve added hip hop to my repertoire of music. There’s nothing better than hip hop to Zumba or workout too, and now my music taste is about as eclectic as it comes. I even like some country, which was always on my no-no list.

What’s on your play list this morning?



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Xs and Os

I haven’t shared my flash fiction in awhile, because I haven’t been writing it as much. Between promoting The Devil Within, editing Little Birdhouses, and writing my no-name work-in-progress I haven’t had time. But this week, I decided to write for Mid-week Blues-Buster.

The song this week is Little Blue One by Cowboy Mouth, which is an upbeat song about a sad subjectWhen I heard this song, after not having listened to Cowboy Mouth for years it took me back to a crowded concert venue in Atlanta in the late 90’s or early 00’s, where I’d gone to visit my childhood friend, Stacy, at college. I hadn’t heard them before I attended the concert with Stacy and Andrea and a few other friends, and I immediately liked their music.

Fair warning: the subject matter is about divorce or the end of a relationship.

Here’s the song if you’d like to have a listen:

So here’s the Dear Jane letter…


Xs and Os
554 words
@laurenegreene

Dear Jane,

The dream again. Your face. But when I wake up you’re not beside me in the ocean swell of what-used-to-be our king sized bed. The room wreaks of your ghost. I pretend not to think of you. I tell my repetitive thoughts to still the image of you in my mind as I pour two cups of coffee instead of one for the third time this week. Without thought, I pour the second one down the drain. I think about picking up the extra cup and smashing it against the wall, but instead I set it in the sink and think about how you would have told me to “just put it in the dishwasher.”

The photos of you and me in the Caymans eating turtle soup. The smile on your face is eternal. You don’t live here anymore with me, but every waking moment I have to tell myself you’re gone. Today, I’ll take the photos down. It’s been six months, and I know you’re not coming back. I’ll put them in boxes, and I’ll wrap them up, and it will be like our life together never existed. That’s what you wanted.

When your text pinged my cell at 2 AM, I had to stumble from the couch where I’d fallen asleep watching Geraldo. I knocked the half empty bottle of wine onto the rug. You remember that rug, don’t you? We spent four hours debating on whether to get blue wool or the checkered cotton at Pottery Barn. I, like the sales clerk, wanted to gouge out my eyes with knives before you’d make up your mind. Back and forth. Wishy washy. That was always your way. Maniacal laughter erupted from my lips when I thought how ironic it was that this rug, your baby, your precious, had been left in my incapable hands. It’s in the green trashcan waiting for pickup on the curb now. So long sucker.

The laughter turned to tears when I read your text. “I want an annulment.” The words stung. Married for six years and just like that you wanted to pretend we didn’t exist. Well maybe you didn’t exist, but I did. I waited for you, lost in your blue world of depression as you were. I stuck with you when no one did. I made sure they pumped your stomach. I made sure you didn’t die on the pink title floor of our bathroom by sticking my finger down your throat. Covered in your puke and half-digested pills, I helped get you to the hospital. I saved your life…literally. And I helped you find your way. Even if that way was away from me.

So, my little blue one, now that you’ve found your way you want to pretend that none of it ever happened? Move on, put me behind you and that period of your life when you couldn’t control yourself. You couldn’t control your emotions.

The answer is no. I’ll grant you a divorce, but not an annulment. Because not every day was filled with vomit and fights over rugs. I walked on the beach with you. I kissed you under a gazebo. I imagined our life together, complete with babies, and I thought I’d be with you forever. I can’t pretend that never existed.

Xs and Os, the answer is no.

–John


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Thought of a Day: The best way to help a newbie author like me is to read, review, and recommend their book!

No Doubt

No Doubt is a band formed in 1986. Vocals by Gwen Stefani. They have had several hiatuses, but the band is still producing music.

When I was in high school, I loved the song “Spiderwebs.” The song is actually about someone stalking her, or not giving up on pursuing her.  I had one of those. I ignored his phone calls for two weeks, because I was afraid to confront him and tell him I didn’t want to date him. My poor college roommates had to make up lies and excuses for me, because I simply wouldn’t face the conflict that I was creating.

Instead of no doubt lately, I’ve been having loads of doubt. I’ve been doubting my writing talent. I’ve been doubting whether I’ll be able to make it one day as a successful writer. I started a new novel, about a month ago. I wrote about 7,000 words, and I abandoned it. I thought I’d try my hand at outlining, because I hear it works so well. Well, I couldn’t figure out where the book was going. My books are character-driven not plot-driven, and I think this is why I tend to be a “pantser.” My characters take me where I need to go. I usually have a good idea of beginning, middle and end in my books, but not a full outline. I think outlining made me doubt my abilities, plus medical issues I’ve been having have sucked energy from me, and going over the edits from my editor on “The Devil Within.” I know she’s trying to help, but jeez, it’s hard to have someone pick apart something you’ve worked so hard on.

I had never had such crippling fear when it came to my work before. Okay–I shouldn’t say never. For years, I wouldn’t finish a story. For years, I wouldn’t let anyone read my stories. My fear right now is more related to success or maybe lack thereof. Or maybe, I’m scared of success.  Deadlines, editing, sending it back, proof-reading, formatting. Writing is not an easy job, and it doesn’t just involve writing. It’s a lot of work on top of my day job, my three kids, and life in general. When I’m writing, I feel happy though. I feel like the voices inside my head are quieter. I can write dilemmas into my characters, and stop questioning my existence so much.

I’m going to shut the door on my doubt, and walk away from my stalker, fear.  And I just want to give a quick shout-out to my friends over at Writing Wenches. They listened to me whine and complain yesterday about how blah I was feeling, and gave me tons of support.  What an amazing community I’m part of!