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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Vengeance

Another Chuck Wendig challenge today. Chuck asked us to write a story about revenge. I decided to write about a victim of bullying, and how she decides to enact revenge on the bully.

Unfortunately, this story hits home to me. As a 4th grader, I was repeatedly bullied and physically assaulted by another child. I have alopecia, and because I was different, this little boy decided to pick on me. I didn’t tell my parents for a long time. I confided in my sister. She and I spent time sending him love and positive energy, as my sister thought this might make him change his ways. It didn’t.

The next year, my parents moved me out of that school into a private school. I have never forgotten what that little boy did to me, and to this day I wonder if he feels guilty about it. I also wonder what was going on in his life for him to treat me that way. Bullying is a serious issue and should always be addressed. I don’t want to enact revenge on my bully, but an I’m sorry would have been nice. The beginning part of this story is a autobiographical. Teach your kids to be kind and accepting, especially to those who are different.alo


Vengeance — 839 words

 

I had been obsessed with finding Burke Hardwich since about seventh grade. Lying in my bed at night, I pictured his 4th grade self. His two canines missing—never having grown back—and me looking up at him from the ground. The first time he hurt me, we had been lined up for music. He pushed me down, and I went skidding onto the black asphalt, my arm split wide open. I needed stitches. I told my parents it was just an accident.

The accidents continued. Burke would find me alone on the corner of a playground, and he would hit me in the stomach. He kicked out my foot while I carried a tray of spaghetti across the blue and white tile of the cafeteria, red sauce spraying the walls like blood.

I never told Mom and Dad how much Burke hurt me. I started having stomachaches. I sat in the office for most of my 4th grade year, waiting to make a phone call to Dad’s secretary at work who I could always depend on to pick me up.

Burke moved in 5th grade. I felt relief in his leaving of course. My tormentor was gone, and there wasn’t another one to take his place. But as the years went on I became more and more obsessed with Burke.

Fast forward to now. I’m sitting in a dingy apartment in Alabama, and I’ve just landed a job with Burke’s company. He’s a high-powered CEO. Making the big bucks. He’s married and has 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a dog. I have none of those things. I am alone. I have fixed up my appearance today. I’m wearing a red dress designed to accentuate my curves. I’ve had my teeth stained white, put on just enough makeup, and my hair has been recently curled. I look in the mirror, double-checking myself. I look hot. Who could say no to this?

My pseudonym is Camilla. The name means warrior, and that is what I am. For too long, I have let Burke destroy me, and now it’s my turn to destroy him.

In the office, I plant myself at my assigned desk. My heart beats fast in excitement, not nervousness. Burke comes in, chatting on his cell phone. He raises his eyebrows at me in acknowledgment. The skin in between his eyebrows crinkles up as he looks at me. I see recognition, like he knows me but can’t place me. Yes, Burke, you do know me—at least a previous version of myself.

He goes into his office. A few minutes later, he pings me. I walk in. I place my whole body up on his desk, and I cross my sleek legs. I tap my foot, and my heel slips on and off. I take in his look. His eyes run up and down my body, trying to make sense of what he sees. I know he wants to touch me. I can feel it. I like playing this game of cat and mouse with him. I like being the one in control, not the one flat on my back in the asphalt, or being punched silly on the playground.

The weeks go on. I make advances. At first, he doesn’t do anything. Then one day, there is a touch of my hand. A week goes by. My phone is set to record when he tells me what he wants to do with me. I smile and nod, playing along. That night, I send the audio file to HR. They waste no time in terminating him. I am exultant at his demise.

The next day, I show up at his door. His wife answers. She is grimacing at me.

“Are you her?”

“Is Burke home?”

“Burke,” she screams, and slams the door in my face.

He comes out his face tilted down in guilt and angst. I understand I have probably destroyed his marriage too, a fact that makes me giddy.

“You ruined my fucking life,” he says. “Why would you do that?”

“Burke, do you know who I am?” I ask.

I am playing with fire, being there anyway. He could call the police. He could say I have been stalking him. It would be true. I stand with my hands on my hips and stare at him. His face looks like a question mark. Of course, he would not know. I had meant nothing to him in 4th grade. I was a piece of garbage he had been intent on annihilating. He had put me away with all of the rest of his childish things.

I reach into my purse, and I pull out the 4th Grade class picture. I am in the front row, glasses, and bald spots from alopecia. Burke stands in the back, towering over everyone. I tap on my picture as realization spreads across his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says, shaking his head.

“Yeah me too. But now we’re even.”

I throw the picture at him, and I walk away.

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Gun Violence Continues to Kill Our Children

Today, a shooter went into a high school in Santa Fe, TX and killed at least 8 students. There may be more casualties. This is breaking news. What? You’re not shocked. If not, maybe it’s because since Sandy Hook, in the U.S. a gun has been fired on school grounds at least once a week. Maybe it’s because it has become almost commonplace for us to think a shooter *may* at some point show up at our children’s school. Maybe it’s because we know that all the pro-gun advocates have to offer up is more thoughts and prayers without a solution to this problem. We think it’s normal to tell our children to make sure they know where their safe place is. We think it’s normal to tell them to look out for children who may be carrying guns. I have news for you: this is not normal.

Some pro-gun people will tout that gun laws strip them of their second amendment rights. If you say something like the forefathers did not foresee these type of guns, they will laugh in your face. Their solution is to give guns to teachers. Their solution is to train teachers how to shoot an intruder. Since when is this a teacher’s duty? Don’t teachers already do enough? What are the psychological effects of a teacher killing a previous student, even if they previous student is doing harm to someone in the classroom? Can these questions even be answered? One school district even gave teachers tiny baseball bats to fend off intruders. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

The problem is, as soon as anyone brings up gun control, the pro-gun people go nuts.

“They want to take away our guns. What if the government goes berserk and I need them to create my own militia?”

I’m telling you–the government is already berserk. As soon at they shot down reasonable gun control laws after Sandy Hook they had betrayed the trust of the American people. They’re continuing to allow children to DIE because of money they’ve received from the NRA. Money and profits are more important to your government than putting their citizens first with reasonable gun control laws. No one wants to take away all the guns (well, I’m sure someone does, but that’s not what I’m advocating).

How many times do I have to blog about this? How many kids have to die before someone will do something to change the way things are? . This is not working for our U.S. Do we really want to send our kids to school in fear that their life could be snuffed out in a place where they are supposed to feel safe?

If you want to be shocked read this article on the LA Times and scroll down through the list of gun activity at schools:

Since Sandy Hook, a gun has been fired on school grounds nearly once a week

Or this article on Vox:

After Sandy Hook we said never again. And then we let 1,650 mass shootings happen.*

*It should be noted that the Vox article exaggerates. They consider a mass shooting an incident in which 4 or more people are killed. These could be any type of murders, not just in the school. Also, if the definition of 4 or more people is used as a mass shooting, then the mass shooting in Benton, KY would not count (2 killed, 18 injured). This is all semantics, and of course VOX is trying to get views by throwing that large number out there, but there is truth to the number out there just not in an apples to apples sort of way.

Anyway, my point is something needs to be done. We need better gun control laws. We need to figure out what’s going on with the white boys and why they feel like they need to go shoot up schools. Are we failing them? Probably. We need to make things right for our children by enacting commonsense gun control laws.

Every time I hear one of these stories it saddens me, but it also disgusts me that the U.S. continues to turn a blind eye. That ain’t justice or freedom. American children are living their lives in fear.

Here’s Three Commonsense Gun Laws we can fight for:

  1. National permit-to-purchase: policy requiring permits and background check before allowing someone to buy a firearm.
  2. No guns to violent offenders/domestic violence perpetrators: This law explains itself.
  3. Banning certain assault weapons, bumper stocks: What is the intent of these weapons? It’s not to go hunting. This is the law the pro-gun people have the hardest thing when. They don’t want anyone taking their guns. But after the Parkland shooting, the police stations saw people readily giving up their AR-15 and other assault-style weapons.

These are just three laws that would be well worth fighting for the reduce the number of casualties from gun violence every year. This type of gun control has been shown to work in other countries.

It’s time to make a change, America.

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New Beginnings

Hello friendly readers! I’ve been off cruising, and I’m now just getting back into the swing of things with my writing. Today, I wrote a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds. I also did something CRAZY, and I submitted a Flash Fiction piece to The Master’s Review. Wish me luck!

Today’s challenge is about real estate. To be honest, I started about three pieces before I finally settled on this one. It’s about memories, but with a little twist.



New Beginnings — 997 words

Cabin

Callie hadn’t been up the mountain in years. The path stood out, still worn by feet. Her father had taken her hand one day, walked her down the path to the valley below, and told her how this footpath had been worn by Indians long before white men ever settled in these parts. Callie never knew if that was true, but she liked the idea of an Indian family walking up to their tee-pee in the same place their log cabin stood.

The cabin stood strong like a soldier but worn and weary from battle. The clearing around the cabin had weeds that went all the way up to Callie’s knees. She bent down and fingered some of the clover by the wooden steps, thinking about how she and Maymay used to make clover crowns to braid into their hair.

Callie stood in front of the steps, amazed the cabin didn’t even have a broken window. It had obviously been deserted years ago. How long after she packed up a bag and disappeared into the moonlit night had the rest of them left? She would never know.

Callie walked up the creaking stairs. She turned and looked at the view. The mountain sloped down and huge evergreens towered up. She could barely see the creek running below and smoke from a rooftop at the center of town rose and disappeared into the blue sky.

She sighed and turned back toward the door. As a little girl, there had been a screen on the door. They never had air conditioning and the screen let the cool air in and the left the bugs out. She had sat on this porch with her sister, brothers, and parents and rocked in handmade rocking chairs while Poppa played the guitar and they all sang out of tune.

She felt a shiver as if the ghosts of her childhood had come up the mountain with her. She opened the door, listening to the familiar creak as the wood pushed against the frame. Dust swirled on the inside of the house, and she waved it away. Light began to filter in, and she adjusted her eyes.

Callie was shocked. Inside the house, her momma’s pink chair stood in the corner with an afghan draped over it. She remembered the afghan. Great Aunt Bertie had made it when Will had been born fragile and premature in the dead of winter. The rainbow pattern had been a favorite of Callie’s, and she remembered sitting on her momma’s lap and touching the coarse wool as Momma sang to little Will.

The bookcases lining the wall contained the Bible and all the classics. She took the Bible down and opened the front page. Her family’s history, inscribed in her father’s scrawling cursive stared back at her. Momma’s birth and death date. And Will’s. Her birth date and Maymay’s and her brothers’ names glared back at her. She thought of the days by the fire. The good old days, she thought of them, where they hadn’t had much but they’d had each other.

The fireplace stood empty, covered in ash. Her brothers hated to clean it out. They would sneeze and cough and complain until Poppa smacked their faces. Momma always came to their defense, but Poppa tsked tsked her.

Callie felt the tears before she knew she had started crying. She walked to the back into her momma and poppa’s room. The bed stood in the corner with dust bunnies under the frame. The mattress was long gone, probably buried with Momma. Will had been six that winter. He had been such a sickly child. He started coughing first. Momma thought he just had a cold, but it settled into his chest and he struggled to breathe. Momma became feverish within a day.

Callie remembered making dinner on the stove and begging Poppa to take them down the mountain to the doctor. She could hear their breathing from behind the closed door. Poppa refused.

“We don’t have the money for that. The herbs will work.”

Only this time, the herbs didn’t work.

Standing in the little room, she remembered the sound as Will took one last raspy breath and never let another one out. Four hours later, Momma did the same. Within a day, Poppa went out to the barn to make their coffins. He left them in the bed until they smelled, unable to stomach the idea of burying them.

Callie remembered sitting by their bedside and holding Momma’s hands. She could still remember Momma’s white face, her cold-stone dead eyes staring up at the ceiling. Poppa said people were supposed to look peaceful in death, but Momma looked fearful. Callie had never forgotten that look.

Six months later, Callie, fifteen years old, left the cabin for good. She awoke in the middle of the night lying in the bed she shared with MayMay. When she crept out onto the porch she stared out into the dark, trying to make out the two crosses. She turned once and looked back through the windows into the living room where she had grown up. She thought about Momma reading the Bible stories to her, with a heap of children gathered around, and little Will securely on her lap. She thought about Poppa with a pipe in his mouth and a grin on his face, rocking in the chair telling Momma not to rile the kids up before bedtime. But mostly, she thought of the two cold, soulless bodies who had sucked the joy out of the house. She hadn’t seen Poppa smile since.

Callie poured the gasoline in the living room. She had placed the Bible in her purse—one thing to remember everything by. She looked around before lighting the match. She tossed it into the puddle of gasoline and watched as the flames began to dance. She walked out the door and down the path as smoke began to fill the crystal blue sky.

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Let’s Be Friends, Bitches

Best Friends

I’ve been watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Actually, on Saturday I binge watched a lot of episodes. On Saturday I was sick depressed. Anyway, I couldn’t bring myself to do much besides read and watch television. I’m also writing a lot and suffering a lot of angst. The two go hand-in-hand, ask any tortured artist you know.

The show is funny. It’s supposed to be a snarky comedy, rom-com, dark comedy. A mix of all sorts of genres. I like mixed genres, because I mostly write a mix of genres. It has hilarious songs that make fun of everything from Spanx to relationships. But it also can be real. In fact, in watching the show the main character reminds me a lot myself. Not to say I’m crazy, um, maybe I am. Who knows? But boy, I did some crazy things in my past that I would like to forget. Unfortunately, the past has a way of haunting the present.

One thing I love about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is its sarcastic way of dealing with real life. I love how Valencia has never had a group of girl friends and how they deal with that aspect of female life. Let me tell you—females can be vicious, catty, and petty. It’s time we taught our girls to be nice to one another, and not let jealousy get in the way. My husband said to me the other day, “You don’t even like girls.” That’s not exactly true–what I don’t like is bitches.

I made my best girl friends when I was in elementary and high school. I’m still friends with them. As an adult, I’ve had ups and downs. I had a great friend in college who sort of treated me like shit. Whenever I said something she would say, “I don’t care.” Well, not whenever, but a lot. I mostly chalked this up to the fact that she was from New Jersey. The thing is, it was easy to walk away from that friendship, because she didn’t give me what I needed and I didn’t give her what she needed. Plus, I had loads of college friends waiting in the background (Tiffany, Angie, even Jandy—that’s Janet and Andy for all you who didn’t know me in college). In my adulthood, I’ve had good friends who have come and gone. I had a best friend, and we were there for each other when we needed it, and then we moved on. Looking back on that friendship, I’m pretty sure I was going through a mid-life crisis (yes in my early 30s–I’m pretty sure life crisis happen every 10 years or so–hold onto your horses). I’ve always known when a friendship is ready to be over, because they’re easy to walk away from. If there’s angst about walking away from a friendship, then there’s probably some unresolved baggage and you need to get in there and work it out no matter how hard that shit is.

But girls are complicated. And I’m complicated. (Guys are complicated too even though they’d have you believe they’re not.) I’m apparently needy and have a lot of expectations of people. I’m aware of these faults and how they contribute to crazy-making. As I’m watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend and laughing at all the crazy bullshit going on with the main character, Rebecca, I’m also seeing echoes of my life when I was younger (and much less wise than I am today ;-)).

I think as people we tend to blame others for the downfalls in our relationships and our friendships instead of taking a long, hard look at ourselves. It’s much easier to pit the blame on other people, because then you don’t have to own up to the fact that you’re human and you likely make mistakes. For one, I’m super bad at communicating. I hate talking on the phone. I say things like, “Um, yeah, okay. Well I have to go.” Also, there are long extended, uncomfortable periods of silence, which are easy to sustain when you’re looking in someone’s face but harder for me on the phone. I would much rather meet in person for margaritas and Mexican food than talk to them on the phone, but that’s impossible with my long distance friends. I think about my long distance friends a lot (like Tiffany, Julie, Nabi, Kristin, Marianne). I’m just not so good at actually reaching out and communicating with them. I fall back on text a lot (who doesn’t), but I don’t think that’s an acceptable alternative to actually talking communicating.

I think the thing about girls is we let all the emotions get in the way. When we don’t hear from a friend, we think, “Oh God, that girl doesn’t like me anymore. Let me analyze this for twelve hours, eat a tub of ice cream, drink a six pack of beer, then shoot off some text to our used-to-be-best-friend saying: Why don’t you like me anymore? What did I ever do to you? Are you in love with my husband? Are we fighting over the same guy? WHAT DID I DO? Although, usually, in these types of situations I brood and never tell my friend I’m having all these thoughts (see–bad communicator).

Girls also do this thing where they let guy relationships get in the way of their friendships.

Let’s say Holly is best friends with Jemma. Holly meets Daniel. Holly and Daniel start going out. And to Holly it’s like Jemma never existed. Or maybe Holly thinks that their friendship is so solid that Jemma will understand and she doesn’t have to make time for Jemma. Um, not true.

Jemma says, “Hey Holly, want to get a taco and margaritas tonight?” (I’m obviously in the mood for Mexican food today, but then again, when am I not?)

Holly says, “I can’t. I’m going to watch Daniel and his best friends play Madden for four hours, while simultaneously clinging to his arm and acting like a cool girlfriend.”

I mean, girls, why do we do this? We give up who we are a little bit to be with a man. Men don’t do this. They still have their “bros.” Bros before hos, dudes. They make time to game, to talk, to drink loads of beer. But women love to say they’re too busy with their boyfriend, husband, or their kids to maintain and nurture friendships. Man, that’s stupid and has to stop.

I know I’m an offender of this—in the past and today. I use my family as an excuse a lot to blow off my friends. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my good girl friends (like Cecilia, Stacy, and Andrea) can’t be replaced. They are people who I will always be there for no matter what. Even if we don’t talk and fall back on texting, when these people float back into my life and we get back together it’s like nothing has changed. And that’s what real friendship is. And it’s worth fighting for.


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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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A New Life

Hello lovely readers. Today, I wrote a blog for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge this week was to write something with the prompt new life. 

A New Life — 650 Words

When Star turned thirty-one she wished for a new life. She even wished for a new name. The commitments of everyday life seemed too much, and like her name sake, she almost wished she could fizzle out or be sucked up into the nothingness of a black hole.

On a Thursday, she went to her job at Thomason’s Bolts. She sat at the front desk, staring at the wood-paneled walls, waiting for a customer to call or come in. The clock on the wall ticked away, reminding her of how little time she had left to really make a difference.

Mr. Thomason, who had a red mustache despite his head full of black hair, walked in, threw a file on her desk and said, “What the hell happened with the Parker contract?”

Star took a deep breath and stared at him. For years she had been waiting for this moment. She stood up, put her faux Michael Kors purse on her shoulder, and walked out much to the gaping Mr. Thomason’s surprise. She had felt like cussing him out, but instead she walked out with her pride still intact. A silent revolution of sorts.

Star had always trusted her intuition. She trusted it when she met Bobby Dixon at a night club five years back. She trusted it when she walked down the aisle with him two years earlier. She trusted it when she followed him to a Motel 6 on the edge of town three weeks before, and saw him walk into Room 504 with a bleached-blonde tramp wearing hooker heels. She even trusted it as she packed up the boxes in the two story end unit townhome they owned together and walked away from Bobby. Their relationship had grown stagnant, and she knew his transgression was as much her fault as it was his. At night, they had started to politely ignore one another. And she realized their life together had become boring, monotonous even, and who could fathom living out the next 50 or so years that way. Not her.

On Friday, Star sat in the airport. She had turned off her phone after approximately 52 phone calls and about 150 text messages from Bobby. Mr. Thomason had only called her once and left this message, “So I take it you quit?”

Star bought a one-way ticket to Peru. She had been there before. She had been a teenager, on the brink of adulthood, when her parents had dragged her to the rainforest. They had taken her to small villages tucked along the Amazon where they provided medical services for people in need. Her parents had been upset by the poverty of the people. Star had been entranced by the happiness they found in their simple life.

Star couldn’t explain it, but when she stepped off the plane and shook Señor Arizmendi’s hand, she told him not to call her Star, but to call her Zora.  Señor Arizmendi complied, despite the contradictory evidence of her passport.

They took a bus then a boat to the small village. When Señor Arizmendi stepped off the boat, all the children gathered around him, asking for candy and staring with their big brown eyes at Zora. She smiled and patted their heads, and she handed out the candy Señor Arizmendi had given to her in preparation for this moment. The children flashed toothless grins at Zora, and one small boy, who couldn’t have been older than four, placed his pudgy hand in hers and led her toward the one room school house.

Zora sighed in relief as she found her way in this new life. Zora found new meaning in this simple way of life. She found a way to relax and be happy with just being, surviving, teaching, and letting the children help her grown into the person she knew she had always been capable of being.

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Just Be Nice

Just Be Nice

I slacked on keeping my series on race going. I finished Waking Up White about a month ago. I read it slowly, really absorbing the material. Also, I made screenshots of a lot of quotes and the questions at the end of the chapters that spoke to me.

One such quote (and I’m sorry I read this on a Kindle, so I don’t know what page it was on—Kindle folks: location 3061 of 4136) is “Though I never feared for my safety, or that I’d lose status or friends, I did spend most of my life thinking I had to make a choice between being either a polite person or an angry activist.”

This quote spoke to me. How many times as a child was I told, “Just be nice.” How many times do I tell my kids to “Just be nice?” Niceness is nice, right? But niceness also can take away the voice and the power of some people. Is being polite swallowing your words in the face of blatant racism? It shouldn’t be. Is being polite nodding along while people spout of views you don’t agree with? It shouldn’t be. Is being polite going along with an administration that espouses racist views and seeks to divide our country? It shouldn’t be.

Did you ever watch The Real World? Boy, I just loved Puck and the guy who thought he was Garth Brooks. On the beginning credits of the show they had a one-liner: It’s Time to Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real.

For a long time, I spent my life being polite. When I moved back to Montgomery, I left my voice in D.C. I nodded along with people made derogatory comments. I nodded along when people made fun of Liberals (I am a liberal!). I didn’t realize how much I was a people-pleaser, until I moved back to a place that thought everyone with white skin thought the same way they did.

I didn’t stop being polite until after Trump became president. Then I felt like I had to do something. My mother and I became activists, fighting for what we think is right for all people. Stop being nice and start being your true self.

What does it look like to stop being polite and start being real, you may ask. It’s simple:

  • Don’t Be Complicit to Racism and Discrimination: When someone makes a derogatory comment about a person with a different gender, a different skin color, or a different sexuality tell them you disagree with them. Open your mouth and say, “I don’t believe that.” They may give you a stunned look and walk away, or you may be able to state your point of view. But the important thing is, you’re standing up for what’s right, not being complicit to continued prejudices.
  • Learn: I’ve read a lot about how our nation has perpetuated racism. Before I started on this journey, I knew racism existed. I didn’t know to what extent our system had kept it going. It saddened me to read Just Mercy and see how our justice system treats African Americans so differently than anyone else. It saddened me to hear the GI Bill didn’t serve African Americans the same way it served white Americans. It saddens me to see how our schools continued to be segregated, reinforcing the cycle of poverty that African Americans are so desperately trying to claw their way out of. Having educated myself about several of the issues, I feel more readily able to discuss them, not only with my white friends, but also to get perspective from my black friends. And that brings me to my next point:
  • Discuss: Talk about racism to your black friends. Talk about how they are discriminated against. I can tell you, these discussions may be uncomfortable for you, but they will probably make your black friends feel like you are one of the good ones and you’re at least trying to understand how your actions could be making them feel uncomfortable. Realize, as a white person you have privilege, and acknowledge that.
  • Make Space: If your child attends a school with a PTA, invite your black friends to become presidents, secretaries, etc. Many of them feel as if their voices are not being heard, even at schools. Show them they are welcome and that their voices are needed so we can make our schools more successful for every child.
  • Teach Your Children: About racism and how to combat racism. Let them know the history of racism and how they can support policies that seek to remove racism from our society. Talk to them about the Slavery, The Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Ida B. Wells. Let them know the important contributions African Americans make and continue to make in our society. Let them know race is man-made, and they have the power and the ability in the future to disable the systemic racism our country was built on.
  • Find a cause and support it. Use your voice. Use your activism. Don’t be quiet.

Books to Read:

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

At The Dark End of The Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L. McGuire

Just to name a few.

Recently my husband and I visited Memphis on a getaway. We went to the Civil Rights Museum there that’s located inside the Lorraine Motel where MLK, Jr. was killed. Below are a couple of pictures from that visit. Visual reminders why we need to keep fighting for equity, equality, and for the right thing. America should be a place where everyone can achieve their dream.

view-from-the-balcony-mlk-jr2.jpg

View from Inside the Lorraine Motel to the balcony where MLK, Jr. was shot April 4, 1968

Room MLK Jr stayed in at the Lorraine Motel

MLK Jr’s Motel Room Inside The Lorraine Motel

Freedom Riders Bus

A replica of the Greyhound bus that was firebombed in Anniston, AL in 1961 — Freedom Riders

For More Blog Posts in this series, click the links below:

Stereotypes and Preconceived Notions About Race

Family Values and Principles

You’ve Got Class

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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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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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