Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear Me Who's Yet To Be

Dear Me Who's Yet to Be:

I have some simple advice for you that I want you to heed. Some advice that I believe will make your life in the glorious future much more life-full and much more glorious. Get ready. Here it comes:

GET OUT MORE.

Get off your lazy butt and get out. Enjoy life. Enjoy human interaction. Enjoy things like movies and shopping and eating lunch with your hubby. Sure, you're a homebody. Sure, you like to cook and spend time with your cats and garden and clean house...okay, not so much on that last one...but come on! You enjoy your home life, yes, but you know what you might enjoy more?! GETTING OUT.

Because here's the deal. In the past, you probably haven't gotten out much. Nope, I know this because I am living in the past, and it's true. You and hubby-man stay in a lot. You read. You write. You do homey things. But you don't get out. And when you do get out, you do crazy things. Like try to get in a car full of strangers that's totally not your car. Or talk gibberish to the Bath and Body Works check-out lady who probably thinks your insane. Or try to drive over a curb in a parking lot because you just wanted to "pull through" instead of taking the time and energy to put the car in reverse and exit the parking lot in any normal sort of human way. Things like that.

Seriously, my friend, this is your past, and it could be your future, too, unless you learn from your past and from me and GET OUT MORE. Among the living. So that when you do get out, you won't make a fool of yourself in front of everyone you encounter. Consider it practice.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Me



This week's Flicker of Inspiration prompt had us writing a letter to a future version of ourselves.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Two Mississippi



Lightning flashed. The young woman watched as the terrified little boy burst through the front door of her home. She wasn’t startled. She’d grown used to children trespassing without any regard to her. She always appreciated the company.

So, as the boy ducked under her dining room table, she just watched him unnoticed from the corner of the room.

He was terrified. She could see the fear in his young eyes; she recognized it, because she’d seen it in the eyes of the many other children who’d come to her house to visit. She hated the fear, mourned it, for she knew it drove them away.

But this fear was different. The boy hadn’t spotted her yet, so it didn’t originate from her presence. This made her curious, made her wonder.

Thunder clapped overhead, and the boy crowded further under the table. She couldn’t help but smile at his discomfort; it was so childlike, so innocent. A simple fear of storms, a fear she’d faced during her lifetime as well. If only things were so simple now.

Above the sound of the storm, she could hear the back door banging against its frame. She could tell that the boy could hear it, too, because he kept glancing nervously towards the back of the house.

He still hadn’t noticed her, and she was torn about whether she even wanted him to or not. The past taught her that when her presence was discovered they would always leave. And she didn’t want this boy to leave like all the others.

As she watched and wished, the boy thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a yellow cats-eye marble. He kissed it quickly, and then stuck it back into the pocket of his shorts.

When she saw the marble, she knew why she was so drawn to this boy, so curious about him. She knew that his visit to her home was not accident but fate. She knew, because she had an identical yellow cats-eye marble in the pocket of her own faded dress. She kept it with her always, a lucky charm, a protective token, a reminder of the life she’d had.

The boy was a kindred spirit; she just knew it. And at that moment, this kindred spirit was gathering up all his courage and crawling out from under the table. The curiosity about the banging door had got the best of him, and he was going to investigate.

She managed to stay out of his line of vision as he slowly made his way across the room and towards the kitchen. His hand stayed in his pocket, and she knew he was worrying his marble, just as she’d done herself hundreds of times before.

When he finally worked up the nerve to push open the kitchen door, he gasped and then hesitated for only the briefest of moments. She held her breath, anticipating his next move and hoping he’d stay.

But he didn’t. The back door moving in time with the wind was the last straw. The boy’s fear took over, and he spun around, nearly falling over himself in his struggle to get out of the house.

The young woman sighed, moved across the room to the front window so that she could watch his departure. As he ran off into the storm, she lifted a hand to the window and smiled. She wasn’t sad that he’d left, and she didn’t feel lonely. No, in fact, she felt better than she’d felt in a long time. Because the boy with the yellow marble might be gone now, but she knew, without a doubt, that he’d be back.


Author's Note: This is a rewrite of my short story "One Mississippi," which was born from a Lightning and Lightning Bug photo prompt. I've wanted to revisit this story from a different perspective and was glad to be able to do so in response to this week's Red Writing Hood prompt. 

By the way, "One Mississippi" is currently published in Volume #35 of Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. Be sure to check it out!








Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daijio Bu?

via

Daihen!

Daijio bu?

Kiken Na!

Abunai!

They were yelling at me in Japanese. At least I think it was Japanese. I couldn’t swear to it, because I think I probably had a concussion and that may have skewed my perception of things a bit. They gathered around and peered down at me out of concerned eyes, talking quickly and making my already pounding head pound even more.

I was leaning against a shiny, black pick-up truck with a huge dent in the side of it. The golf cart I’d been “driving” only moments before was parked in front of me, looking no worse for wear. Surrounding it were dozens of beer cans, soft drinks, hot dogs, and bags of potato chips. I suppose they’d been scattered everywhere at the moment of impact.

Upon seeing the mess beyond the quartet of concerned Japanese golfers, my first coherent thought was that I would need to restock the cart. Ugh. Stocking the cart was always such a pain.

When stocking, I had to make a million trips from the kitchen to my vehicle; my skinny arms loaded down with twelve packs of Bud Light, MGD, and Heineken, hot dogs and condiments precariously perched atop my load. Everything was destined for its place in the Snack Hut just beyond the curve from the 10th hole. The actual trip to the 10th hole was always a pretty big pain itself, full of steep hills and sharp curves.

The funny thing is that I had barely begun that annoying trip when I had the accident. I had just started down a tiny hill that would take me down the path that led to The Hut. The four Japanese men were loading up their own cart with clubs and equipment.

I nodded and smiled as I passed them by and rolled down the hill. The momentum from my descent made the golf cart pick up speed, so I put my foot to what I thought was the break.

Moments later I found myself crushed between my cart and a brand new pickup truck with a brand new dent.

After taking a couple of minutes to “recover” and reassure my foreign friends, I managed to make it to the club house where I promptly quit out of the embarrassment I was pretty sure I’d die from.

For weeks after, I walked around with a black eye and hurt pride, being reminded by countless friends the difference between a brake pedal and gas pedal. Yeah, yeah. I would say. Lesson learned.



Author's Note: This was written for the Red Dress Club's RemembeRED prompt. "Write a post that either starts or ends with the words "Lesson learned." Word limit: 400 words." 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jonquils


via

A row of Jonquils outlined the spot where the house used to stand. They provided a stark contrast of life against the death hovering around the property, a property that seemed nearly like a graveyard with sentimental tokens of bouquets and other trinkets sprinkled over it as a sign of respect to the dead. Behind the bright burst of flowers, in the right hand corner of the property, a chimney stood tall, the sentinel over all that used to be and now was not, a grave marker signaling another dearly departed soul.

The child skipped through the overgrown grass of what used to be a front yard, his mother following closely behind, calling out to him to slow down or he would fall. They looked like an ordinary enough family. Complete with a father in a neatly pressed suit standing apart from his wife and child, surveying the acreage of the lot.

The old man watched the little family from his perch on his front porch. His wife often warned him that if he kept sitting in that rocking chair on that porch day after day that he would grow roots and be stuck forever. The old man didn’t care too much about what his wife said; his last simple joy of watching the traffic pass in front of his house was not something he was willing to give up easily.

He’d watched countless other families look at the property across the highway from his own. He’d watched them swoop in like vultures onto the great deal the land was always offered at. The lot was a prime one. Flat, lots of trees, a little creek running along the back. The perfect spot to build a perfect house with a perfect picket fence, a perfect home for a perfect family. Just like the one that had stood there so many years ago.

The old man remembered that home. Remembered the family that had lived there, and died there, so many years before. The house had caught fire late one summer night. The whole family was inside, unable to escape the smoke and flames, unable to escape that perfect home.  

Maybe this would be the family to bring that home back to life. The old man hoped so. He hoped this family wouldn’t notice the heavy air that hung over where the house used to stand. He hoped that they wouldn’t sense what those countless other families had sensed and refuse to build a house on such evil land.

The old man hoped that this young couple and their little boy would buy this empty lot with its bright jonquils and lonely chimney and build their dream house upon its ground. They would build their family, build a perfect spot to have front yard picnics and backyard barbecues, build a foundation for a lifetime of cherished memories and moments. He hoped they would build that perfect house with its perfect promises, so that he could tear them all down.

From his perch on his front porch, rocking calmly and quietly, he would watch those dreams burn. Because no one ever suspects the little old man across the street, nothing more than a nosy fool. Nothing less than a murderer. 



This was written in response to the Lightning and Lightning Bug prompt: Houses. Or the lack thereof.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ice Cream on Sundays

When I was growing up, my parents had a Sunday night ritual for our family. It wasn’t much; it wasn’t extravagant or exciting, but it was special to us. In fact, it’s now one of my most beloved childhood memories. During this time, our family didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend, but my parents made sure my sister and I never felt this difficulty. They made sure that the adventures we had as a family outweighed material possessions.

One adventure was that Sunday night ritual of a weekly trip to Dairy Queen. I can still remember sitting in the backseat of our van or in between my parents in my Daddy’s little red truck and relishing the anticipation of a chocolate-dipped cone. We’d always go through the drive-thru. My Daddy would always order us the same ice cream, and I would always enjoy every little lick.

My husband Jeremy and I decided to go out for ice cream last Sunday night, and I was reminded of this special time with my parents, reminded that having a lot of money and a lot of things is nothing compared to having each other and maybe an ice cream cone now and again.

It was pretty late Sunday evening, and as we pulled up to Sonic to get our treat, I was slightly amazed at the number of people in the parking lot, also enjoying a Sunday night indulgence. I smiled as we enjoyed our ice cream and wondered if there were any children there visiting, lapping up the time spent with their parents and the special pleasure of a simple ice cream cone.

I certainly hope so.

In a time of smart phones, social networking, great advances in technology, I think we sometimes forget simple pleasures such as this. I think sometimes we get so caught up in what we have and what we don’t have that we miss out on some great moments in life, moments that even money can’t buy.  I sometimes lose sight of those moments myself.

In fact, I’ve often thought that I may be the very last person in the world who doesn’t own a smart phone or an iPad or even an iPod. I think of myself as being kind of behind sometimes, feeling like the rest of the world is speeding by me with all the latest technology, the best cars, the most beautiful houses. Thankfully, when these thoughts arrive, I usually put them to rest pretty quickly. Because I am blessed with so much more than the latest gadgets or the best clothes or cars, I am blessed with love.

I have moments of sitting on the front porch as the sun falls below the horizon. I own a scruffy little vegetable garden that produces the juiciest tomatoes, the most beautiful yellow squash, and the hottest Cayenne peppers. I covet time spent with my husband as we argue over Jeopardy or our differing taste in movies and books, as we cherish a home-cooked meal with turnip greens and cornbread. I greedily hold on to the sheer beauty of a roof over my head, air conditioning cooling our rooms, lights illuminating our lives. I’m blessed in little ways that are amazing and overwhelming and huge.

I may not have the latest smart phone. Heck, I may not even have a smart phone. And I may not drive the best or most beautiful car. I don’t have a big-screen television or a blu-ray player or even a DVR. My clothes aren’t designer, and my shoes aren't even the least bit chic. But I am undoubtedly blessed in hundreds of 
ways, not the least of which is ice cream on Sundays.




Author's Note: I'm linking this post up with a weekly Dare to Share Link Up with the Lightning and the Lightning Bug Writing Community. This community is for experienced and new writers alike, a supportive place for you to share your words. The Dare to Share Link Up is a weekly link up which has a new theme each week. You can share any kind of post in this link up, be it fiction, non-fiction, or poetry...you can share an old or a new post. I encourage you to hop over to the Lightning and the Lightning Bug and check things out! You'll not only find a place to share your work, but you'll also find some great reads. 


I'm also linking up with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop for the first time. This week's prompt was: "The Simple Things."


Mama Kat's

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Red Tag



She stalked the aisles of the ancient shop and tried desperately to ignore the sounds of its ancient proprietor at the counter ruffling his newspaper and slurping his coffee. She had to focus, tune out any sounds so that she could concentrate on her objective.

Cameras lined the shelves of the shop, relics of a simpler time and place, antiques now all but obsolete. Her eyes touched on each one, searching for one with a red tag, one she had searched for in countless other shops. As she passed, the cameras seemed to cry out to her, each telling her its own tale.

Some of light. Of birthday parties and weddings. Vacations spent with families of four at the beach, journeys across Europe and time. Sunsets and newborns.

Some of darkness. Of haunted alleys and houses. Graveyards and dark rooms. Blood and sex and violence. Souls captured on film, damaged forever.

She ignored their pleas and furtive cries, eyes searching wildly for a flash of red. The shop’s air was becoming thick and heavy; her breathing came fast. As she turned down the last aisle, desperate to finish her search and burst out of the shop into the fresh air, she spotted it.

On the bottom shelf, shoved to the very back, a camera with a red tag.

The noises and thoughts crowding her busy mind fell silent. The ancient shop-owner and screaming cameras faded. If possible, the air around her grew heavier, thicker, so that as she moved through it towards the camera it felt as if she were walking through heavy curtains, pushing through some invisible force.

She kneeled at the shelf, hesitated only a moment, then reached for her prize. The camera felt nearly hot to the touch, and even though she knew that couldn’t be, that none of this could be, she felt the heat, was nearly burned by it.

The red tag was attached loosely to the shutter release button. Her name was printed on it in faded handwriting.  The camera was hers. She knew that without having to see her name; she knew when she dreamed of it months ago, sitting on some dusty shelf in some ancient shop with its bright red tag, waiting for her.

Taking a deep breath, she stood up, lifted the camera to her face, and gazed through the viewfinder into her destiny. 

Author's Note: This was written in response to a Red Dress Club prompt. We were to write a story based on the photo above in 400 words or less. Check out more great tales by clicking the link below! 











Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Girl on Horseback

A Girl and her Horse

Thubalup, thubalup, thubalup.

I felt slightly out of control as the horse lurched beneath my body. He was a big guy, and I don’t remember him ever moving that fast before. We’d worked with him for months trying to get him to pick up his pace a bit. For Danny, nothing was worth rushing for, unless it was some sweet feed or a Cheeto. But even then a fast walk would do. He never got in a hurry. Except today. For some reason, today was different. Today, he was going, going, gone.

Thubalup, thubalup, thubalup.

Tightening my legs around his huge barrel of a torso, I held on for dear life and said a quick prayer. I loved horses for the sake of horses not for the sake of speed. In the comfort of a round pen, I didn’t mind a canter, but I much preferred a leisurely trot. I guess that’s why Danny and I got along so well. He was lazy, and I was chicken. A match made in heaven. Except today. Today was different. Today, we were going, going, gone.

Thubalup, thubalup, thubalup.

The horses around us matched our pace perfectly. For a brief moment, we were like one huge four-headed, sixteen-legged creature barreling towards the ends of the Earth, eating up that red Georgia clay like it was the turf of Churchill Downs. My fellow riders whooped and hollered. I closed my eyes and tried to enjoy the sensation of the wind on my face, the sense of freedom that can only really be found on the back of a horse. I opened my eyes again and let myself go like I had never done before on any other day. Except today. Today was different. Today, I was going, going, gone.

Thubalup, thubalup, thubalup.

Then the rain started. It poured down in great sheets, stinging our bodies and slickening the horses’ hides. My jeans contracted, my boots filled. Without much urging, Danny picked up his pace, sensing our need to get to shelter and wait out the storm. The thundering of his massive hooves was now a hollow smacking against the quickly forming mud. We pulled ahead from the pack for only a moment, a moment that will be seared into my memory forever because it was just me and him, us and speed and nature. Going, going, gone.

That’s the last ride I can vividly remember with Danny. All of it was so perfect, so unlike me or him. The rushing through a Georgia rain, the speed and loss of control and care, the final moments of a childhood spent with horses that I hardly ever think of now. Except today. Today is different. Today, I am going, going, gone back to a place and time I will never forget. Back to the frenzied music of a girl on horseback, eating up the rain and the wind.




Write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”

Maybe it’s a time that you danced to a special song. Maybe it’s a period of your life during which the days were marked by a distinct pattern. Or maybe it’s a time that you couldn’t catch your breath because life just kept coming at your randomly.

It’s up to you.

Let’s see if you can convey that rhythm using your writing, and not the word itself. Word limit is 600. Come back here Tuesday and link up!



Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Goose Who Didn't Go






The goose who didn’t go
Refused to fly away
She didn’t care for flying
And wanted just to stay.

Her sisters and her brothers
Flew into a sky of gray
But for this goose a different fate
Awaited her that day.

I wasn’t like all the others. I wasn’t ready to leave home, to explore the great, vast world. I was perfectly comfortable in my own little nest on my own familiar pond.

I watched them all leave, day after day, seeking the thrills and adventures of a life in flight, but I didn’t envy their journey. I didn’t even consider their path in life for myself. I was destined for something altogether different, and while I might not have known what it was at the time, I was sure that it was great.

Mother and Father worried over me. They honked and fussed, kept insisting that I try to fly, that I give my wings a chance. But I knew my own heart, and I knew I couldn’t leave my pond, at least not until I learned what my true purpose was.

I didn’t have to wait long. My fellow fledglings had already left the pond, soaring south as our instincts demanded. Only a few members of my flock remained. Mother and Father were growing desperate, but I was steadfast in my wishes; I insisted that they go on without me.

You’ll freeze! You’ll starve! You’ll be eaten by a fox! Mother exclaimed frantically; her desperation made her honks high-pitched and pitiful. I tried to ignore the twinge of guilt I felt. You’ll freeze, and your wings will fall off, and then where will you be!!??

I wondered where she thought I’d be if I left. Just like all the rest. Another goose living a goose life, flying south and back and south and back. I wanted something different. I wanted something new. I tried to make her understand this for what would be the last time. She and Father argued until they could argue no more. Their stubborn gosling was just a stubborn goose, and there was no helping it. They left me standing on the shore of our pond; they refused to look back or even say goodbye.

On this the day I didn’t go, I felt a little lonely. I stood on the shore for what seemed like an eternity, watching the spot where Mother and Father and all the others had disappeared into a vast sky, a sky that didn’t beckon me or call my name. I waddled around the banks, snapping at the random beetle bug, sifting through the grass for seed. It was while I was sifting through the grass that I met my true purpose and began to understand why I didn’t feel the call of flight.

I poked my bill through the thick grass of the bank. Something smelled interesting in that specific spot, so I stuck my bill in again just for another moment.

Ow!

The squeak was so soft I might have missed it altogether if it hadn’t been accompanied by a quick swat to my bill. I took a couple of steps back and flapped my wings in the most threatening of ways. Whatever lay hidden deep in the grass didn’t move a muscle. I waddled a bit closer. Hello?

My greeting was met by a low growling sound. Don’t come any closer.

I stretched my neck, peered deeper into that thick grass. Some black fur was nestled in the tall stems, a peak of white.  Who are you?  I asked quietly. All kinds of creatures lived near the pond, but I knew I’d never seen one with black and white fur before. I vainly wished another goose was there to help figure out this curious critter.

The growling sound was replaced by a pitiful mew. I’m no one. I’ve lost who I am.

Lost who you are? How was that even possible? This creature was very strange indeed. I honked a platitude and nosed in closer. Two perfect black ears poked out from the top of the grass, glowing yellow eyes followed. For a moment, I grew a little frightened. Perhaps this was one of those fox things Mother had warned me about.

Then the rest of its head appeared. If this was a fox, it was far too cute to be threatening. Its golden eyes blinked at me. You’re a goose.

Yes, I am, and what are you?

I used to be a kitten, but I’ve lost my mother, so I’m not sure what I am anymore. The creature…er, kitten dropped its head sadly. Suddenly, I realized the reason I didn’t want to fly away with the others. I discovered my purpose in this strange being with its black and white fur and soft, mewing voice. I think I had been waiting on it.

I straightened out my neck, smoothed down my wings and tried to look peaceful and comforting. Well, I used to be a goose, but I didn’t fly away, so I’m not sure what I am either. Maybe we can figure out what we are together.

And so we did. 

via

Author's Note: This was written for the Lightning and Lightning Bug prompt: I Need a Vacation. We were instructed to write a story about a vacation or a journey. As usual, I tried to take my response in an unexpected direction. So I wrote about the lack of a journey that led to a journey. 


By the way I'm guest-posting over at Narragansett No. 7 today. I reveal a dark and dirty secret...be sure to check it out!



 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Barefoot in Wet Grass


Via

Barefoot in wet grass
The cool trimmings of
Yesterday’s lawn
Cling to my feet
Like shoes of an
Organic sort, the shoes
Of a childhood spent

Barefoot in wet grass
Bonding with the ground
Grounded to a place tread on   
Many times before by many more
Than just me, just me and
My bare feet, dirty and rough
From many days passed

Barefoot in wet grass
And yet not, freedom wanes
A sensible pair of black flats
Take me through a work day
Blisters and bandages cover
Those beautiful bare feet
While I dream of standing

Barefoot in wet grass.


My poetically prose-y response to this week's Red Writing Hood prompt: shoes. I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I prefer going barefoot.








Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fee Fi Fo Fum

The cowboy boots were at least three sizes too big. The Western-style blouse was not quite Western-style enough. The denim skirt was ill-fitting and spun around my eight-year old waist like a hoola-hoop. It was Cowboy Day at Monroe Academy, and I had insisted on dressing up, despite my severe lack of appropriate clothing.

About mid-morning, I found myself in the girls’ bathroom, painfully awkward in my too-big shoes and dumb-looking shirt. I had locked myself in one of the pale yellow stalls. My friend Ashley Gail stood outside the door, calmly trying to reason with me.

“I look dumb!” I managed to choke out between some pretty pitiful sobs.

Ashley Gail, ever the consummate professional even at eight, let out a small sigh and clucked her tongue. “You don’t look dumb. You look beautiful.”

But I knew I looked pretty dumb. I was already the tallest girl in my class, and the too-big boots made me a couple of inches taller still. I felt like a giant among my classmates. As I stomped around the halls before class, I had the nearly undeniable urge to utter, “Fee Fi Fo Fum.”

My petite friend couldn’t possibly understand my embarrassment, the sheer torture of it all. She barely came up to my shoulder and was super girly and nearly elfin in appearance. Her Cowboy Day garb consisted of perfectly-sized boots, a cute little vest, and a bolo tie. She was the epitome of Cowboy Day. I was What-Not-To-Wear, the cautionary tale of a cowgirl gone sour.

Her calm voice called to me from my seat on the toilet. The stiff skirt kept me from sitting properly, so my legs were kicked out in front of me , my toes sticking out from under the stall door. She crouched down next to the stall door and patted my boot-clad foot. “Come on, Katie. Come out, and we’ll see if we can fix it up a little better.”

There wasn’t much use in arguing with Ashley Gail. She was going to be a District Attorney. She practiced cross-examining me all the time. She would win this case like she won all the others. I surrendered easily, reaching forward and unlocking the stall door so she could see me in all of my tortured glory. “There you are!” She said sweetly. “Now come on over here, and let’s stand in front of the mirror.”

Stand in front of the mirror? This was just what I wanted to do, be made to stare into the eyes of my Cowboy Day shame. I straightened up from my seat on the toilet and stood up. The bathroom stall suddenly felt ten times too small.

Fee.

I crossed over to the mirrors with Ashley Gail. She put her tiny arm around my waist with its pinwheel skirt. I had to duck my head to be able to see our reflections in the mirror.

Fi.

After studying us for a moment, she turned towards me, began tugging at my blouse, adjusting my skirt.

Fo.

She stopped fiddling and stood back, as if to judge her handy work. I imagined her taking two Mother-May-I giant steps backward to be able to take in my entire form. “Hmm…” She clucked again, a mother hen trying to decide how to fix her enormously awkward chick. At a risk of mixing metaphors, I was her ugly duckling.

Fum. 
                                    
“I’ve got just the thing!” Her pixie face brightened as she grabbed her denim and tasseled purse from the bathroom floor. Yes, Ashley Gail, the perfect example of a perfect Cowboy Day cowgirl, even had a matching Cowboy Day purse.

Triumphantly, she pulled out a red bandana and waved it like a victory flag. She tied the darn thing around my neck and claimed it “fixed” me.

The rest of the day I stomped around Monroe Academy in my too-big boots, ugly blouse, and ill-fitting denim skirt. But it was okay, because Ashley Gail’s red bandana fixed everything. 





This week's prompt asked us to remember an "embarrassing moment." I had plenty, but this Cowboy Day fail stands out. Keep in mind no one forced me to dress up. Oh, no...I brought the pain and humiliation on my own self. I went 63 words over the limit. I couldn't stop the therapeutic healing right in the middle of everything.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Still Waiting


As she stood on the cool, wet grass of her parent’s lawn, the sparks fell to the Earth all around her. The neighbors and spectators were beginning to disperse, and she was left standing alone on this muggy night, wishing vainly for the night sky to light up in spectacular color once again. A reflection of her entire night was captured in those transient and quickly fading bursts of light, and now they were over, departing as quickly as her happiness had departed and leaving the sky as empty and silent as she felt.

When she’d imagined this night only days before, she’d imagined laughter chasing away the darkness, beauty filling her heart as it filled the sky. She’d imagined holding Joe’s hand, her head resting on his shoulder. Together they would watch the annual fireworks show from the comfort of her parent’s front yard. It would be her first date; Joe might even give her that elusive first kiss.

But the night had played out very differently indeed. First, Joe never showed up. She waited on her front porch; all dolled up in that new dress her mama had bought her especially for this occasion. The possibilities of the night played out in front of her like a symphony, and she waited.

The show started. Each spark seemed to race for its place in the sky, eager to be the first to dazzle and amaze. She sat in the porch swing, waiting for Joe, refusing her parent’s when they asked her to join them on the lawn to watch the show. Joe would be there any moment, so she waited.

Streets and yards filled up with familiar faces, oh-ing and ah-ing over the spectacle. The neighborhood kids chased each other around, playing hide and seek with the explosions of color and light. And she waited.

The beauty and perfection of the night stole breath away. From her position on the porch swing, she smiled as she watched her mama and daddy hold hands, her mama’s head resting on her daddy’s shoulder. She sighed as a couple standing in her neighbor’s yard stole a quick kiss just as the entire street was illuminated for a brief moment. She took this all in, and she waited.

It wasn’t until the big finale began that she realized she’d been stood up, that her heart so full of hope and earnest excitement was destined to break. Her mama finally talked her into going out onto the lawn, to watch the last few explosions of light reach their crescendo in what should have been a culmination of a perfect evening.

And now the sparks fell to the Earth all around her, and instead of bursting with light, she felt nothing but darkness. She couldn’t bear the sympathy she saw on her parent’s faces, so she hugged them good night and told them she was fine with a forced smile. They mercifully left her standing on that cool, wet grass, alone with her thoughts, alone as she’d come to expect.

She was nineteen years old. She felt old and young all at once, waiting for her first date, waiting for her first kiss, waiting for her life to begin. Still waiting. 


This fiction was written in response to the Lightning and Lightning Bug prompt: Baby, You're a Firework.




Saturday, July 9, 2011

Miss Unpopularity



Originally, this post was titled Miss Popularity in my drafts. It was written in letter form to the elusive creature that I have spent my life chasing. Throughout my school days, I lived in this creature's shadow, constantly wondering at her social ease, her ability to attract people with a mere toss of her lovely hair, her sheer likability. But the more I wrote of my letter the more I realized that this post was about me and not her, so I deleted the letter and renamed the draft.

Essentially, I am the title of this post, and yet, I'm not. I probably wouldn't ever describe myself as "unpopular," because I don't think I'm actively disliked. No, I very seriously doubt many people would think of me enough to actively dislike me. The true title should probably be something like Miss Wallflower or Miss Loner Girl, but those didn't sound quite as catchy. The point is that even now I walk in the shadow of the charismatic Miss Popularity. Ever since I was a child, I've lusted after her and her legions of fans, and recently, I began wondering why.

My best friend and I were discussing this very subject the other day. She was frustrated with me, frustrated with my constant need for approval from others, my desperate need to be liked. You see my friend is one of those people who could truly care less what others might think of her; she is who she is and makes no apologies for it. I, on the other hand, am a professional apologizer, a champion people-pleaser. My friend isn't the only one frustrated by these traits of mine. I frustrate myself.

In my heart, I am the person I am. I don't care about the approval of others, and I really wouldn't want to be Miss Popularity. But on the surface, I want both approval and popularity. I want to be that woman who is effortlessly liked, who naturally draws others to her. But why?

I am weird. Y'all know this by now, because recently, I've been proclaiming it quite a bit. I'm trying to become more comfortable with myself, so I'm no longer hiding the person I really am. This is my blog; it should be about who I am, not about who I think others want me to be. So, yes, I'm weird. I'm kind of gothic, a little on the morbid side sometimes.

I'm Southern. I'm damn proud of that, despite the fact that many people have preconceived notions of what "Southern" means. Essentially to me, it means that I am a person who treasures the land I live in, who values my troubled past, who enjoys sweet tea and front porch sitting, who looks to my neighbor for a kind word and a smile, who loves the sound of a slow drawl.

I'm a homebody. I could travel the world and enjoy it, but no matter where I go I always look forward to coming home. Because home is where I'm most comfortable, where I'm able to be completely myself without fear of rejection or disapproval.

I'm a writer. Since I was a child, I've used the written word to express who I really am. Because of those horrible social skills of mine, I can't always say what I mean in a conversation with someone, but I can always write it down. I can always let the words flow from my fingers to paper and share my thoughts and dreams and the entire world of characters, places, and stories inside my head.

I'm Katie. I have self-deprecating tendencies. I love to laugh. I'm easily excited about most anything and everything but most especially road trips, Glee, horses, movies, cats, and books. I have a lazy streak. I love to cook. I have an unnatural fear of spiders. I talk in my sleep. I love my family above all else. I'm married to my soul mate. I believe in ghosts and past lives and zombies. I dream of being published.

I may not be Miss Popularity, but I don't really know that I want to be her anymore. I want to be myself; I want to embrace all of the things that make me unique and weird and interesting and, yes, even likable. I want to stop being a shadow-walker and step out into the sun.

I hesitated to even publish this post because I wondered what people might think of me, how they might react, but then I realized that hesitating or not posting this would be falling into my old patterns and that I wanted to break free of those patterns. So here it is and here I am, like me or not.

via


   

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Last Boyfriend

In my dream, I told him that he’d been replaced.

“Replaced?” He asked absently, keeping his eyes trained on the screen in front of him.

We sat together in the floor of his old apartment, the one with the dreadful orange carpet; he was playing video games, and I was watching, picking at an orange thread and wondering why I was here again. I remember thinking, wow, this is just like real life.

It was a very linear dream. My dreams about him usually were. In response to his question, I said, quite decidedly, “Yes. Replaced.”

“By whom?”

Whom. He’d always been able to remember the who/whom rule, just another infuriating thing about him: his impeccable grammar. I remember sighing in the dream. “Someone. Someone, I think, more special than even you.”

For the first time, he took his eyes off the pixelated characters on the television and looked at me. Mild interest danced in those wide, slightly misshapen orbs. I imagined that his voice took on a feral tone, when he asked, “Really?”

“Yes, really. Replaced completely. I’m fairly certain I’ll never think of you again.” My dream voice was lying, but I didn’t mind. In real life, he’d lied to me plenty, so I figured I owed him by some. With sick satisfaction, I watched his eyes narrow. “Tell me about him.”

He was a video story clerk, and I didn’t know his name. The extent of what I did know about him included the fact that he wore a lip ring and almost completely ignored me. I didn’t tell my last boyfriend any of this. Instead, I said, “his name is Taylor.”

“Taylor.” He tried the name out loud and grimaced at the sound of it, and I couldn’t blame him. It sounded completely fabricated, a soap opera pseudonym. I would have thought that in a dream I could have come up with a better name that Taylor. My last boyfriend said, “Sounds made up.”

“So do most names,” I retorted, “in certain contexts.” For example, in lies, especially dream lies.

He smiled then, a full-out crooked smile that showed that left front tooth he’d chipped on a beer bottle during a night of karaoke and carousing. “It’s made up. I can tell when you lie; your eyelashes flutter, and they’re fluttering now, baby.”

Baby, as if I were a hundred and forty pound toddler there for his amusement. In my dream, I suddenly realized that he had been replaced but not by what’s-his-name at the video store. No, indeed. My last boyfriend had been replaced by good common sense.

I was with this man, sitting on his ugly orange carpet, poised and ready to do his bidding always, because I actually believed he was the best that I could do, that he was perhaps the last boyfriend I would ever have. My last chance at marriage, procreation, and happiness.

I believed what many other women believed, and because I believed it, I had settled for him. I had allowed myself to be with someone I didn’t really like because I valued a relationship, even a bad one, over being alone.

A linear dream with an obvious message, how very neat and convenient of me.

I left my last boyfriend and his ugly orange carpet behind, in both my dream and in my reality. I dated the video store clerk for awhile, but he wasn’t my last boyfriend either, nor were the other two guys I dated seriously in my twenties.

My last boyfriend actually ended up being my husband, a man who...whom?...I never dreamed of leaving.


Author's Note: This is a work of fiction and a response to the Red Dress Club's Red Writing Hood prompt. This week's prompt was to step out of your comfort zone. I struggled A LOT with what my comfort zone is. I've written from both male and female perspectives, written historical and contemporary fiction, written horror, suspense, etc. I finally determined that my comfort zone is "weird." So this week I tried to write from a more "normal" perspective. A contemporary female's perspective about love. I don't typically write about love or relationships, so this was a challenge for me in a big way.









Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Loneliness and The Golden Girls

I refused to go to bed. Twelve years old with a stubborn head on my shoulders, I absolutely refused to go to bed. I imagine my cousin was exasperated with me, but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember her arguing or being annoyed. I just remember that she went on to bed herself and that Chris had finally fallen asleep as well and that I was left utterly alone.

Lonely can sneak up on you fast when you’re twelve. Fast and mean, so that you’re surprised and overwhelmed when you find yourself curled up on a couch with no one but lonely and The Golden Girls to keep you company.

I had sat up all night twice before. After my seizure when I was eight, they ran all kinds of neurological tests on me, and two of the tests required me to stay up all night. At the time, I had been excited at the prospect of staying up. I had thought, Finally! I get to see what the grown-ups do after I go to bed. Turns out, the grown-ups didn’t do much of anything but sit there and talk, and after a certain point in the night, even television got boring. I didn’t fare too well those two nights, and my parents fought with me all night to keep me awake.

But tonight was different; I was older, more mature, and falling asleep just wasn’t an option. Falling asleep meant that reality might come a-knockin’ and whatever nightmares awaited me in sleep were nothing compared to the nightmare I would face upon waking. So I just wouldn’t sleep. Simple solution to a complex problem.   

I was a child, yes, but I was a child on the cusp of adolescence, and even my na├»ve twelve-year old heart knew what lay in wait that night. The adults, my parents and aunts and uncles, had sent all of us kids home to help shelter us, to somehow help us avoid that initial pain, but we still knew. Pawpaw was dying. He’d fought as long and as hard as he could against the ravenous monster eating away at his body, but the fight was all gone out of him now. The kids, we’d said our goodbyes, leaving the adults to stand vigil and wait for the inevitable.

I didn’t want to sleep, because I knew when I woke up Pawpaw would be gone, and I didn’t want to wake up to a world without Pawpaw.

So, I stayed up as long as I possibly could, watching The Golden Girls and thinking of Pawpaw smiling his gap-toothed smile, telling his Pawpaw tales, loving us “chilluns” with all his heart and soul. Loneliness kept me company that night with a laugh-track as our background music; it’s a memory I never want to remember but one that I can never quite forget. 



This memory was written in response to the following prompt: TV is something that people either watch a lot of or have definite feelings about. This week, we want you to think about tv show from your past. Maybe you watched it, maybe you didn't and it was just something that everyone else talked about.

What feelings does the show evoke? What memories does it trigger?


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fell the Angels

Author's Note: This is the prologue of a much larger piece...much larger. I hesitate to even share this, because this is the beginning of what I will hope to become my novel. I'm sharing this today in the Flicker of Inspiration Link Up - These Shoes Were Made for Talking. It's probably a stretch, but I started about a dozen stories about shoes and wasn't happy with a one of them. This story starts with a strong image of boots, so it's what I'm sharing. Forgive me for leaving everyone hanging. Hopefully, one day you can read this in its entirety in book form. Thank you all for reading and your lovely support of my writing. You've help me to overcome some pretty nasty self-doubt...and I really appreciate your kind support. 

Fell the Angels

They’re coming. I can hear their boots, dyed red by our clay – our clay, on the floor overhead. Mama’s arms have tightened around me, and the beating of her heart echoes off the boards around us. I fear they may hear that frantic heartbeat that speaks so loudly of our dread, but I dare not breathe a word to Mama. She could no more stop her pounding heart than the Yankees can; this is the thought that keeps me going. No one will beat my Mama. No one can. Her spirit’s as strong and wild as the coal black colt Daddy rode off to war. No Yankee can break it.

That spirit has been what’s kept us going for months. God bless her. If I step away and look at us from above, I see a tiny woman with stick-thin arms holding a whisper of a girl.

The urge to scream rises up in me so suddenly that I gasp. Mama’s arms tighten like a vise. I can nearly feel her bones rub against mine. Nearly hear the crunch. I wish I could see her calm gray eyes. I wish I could drink her strength through them and burst out of this tiny room and kill every damn Yankee out there. But I can’t. My back is against her breast. Her arms bound tight around me. Her eyes bore into the back of my head, and I must derive my strength from only the memory of them.

In the days and months to come, I will derive most of my strength from only memories. Memories will define my purpose, will keep me living. And a memory is where I’ll begin.



 

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Unfulfilled Promise

The note was carefully folded. Once, then twice over, so that it was just a small paper square, unassuming and mysterious all at once.

The creases in the paper were so well worn that they were almost translucent, making the note appear delicate and nearly beautiful despite its grisly message. It spent most of its life in the darkness of her pocket, but she’d pulled it out and was allowing it to see light. She stressed the fragile creases once more as she unfolded the note again.

The words within it were committed to memory, but she read them anyway, as if to torture herself with their reality and weight. A flurry of activity surrounded her, but she was oblivious to it all, focused only on the note and its message.

As she had dozens of times before, she tried to read between the lines, to find any secrets hidden within the words. Her desperation was palpable. So much was riding on her being able to decipher something from this message; lives were hanging in the balance.

“Excuse me?” The voice barely penetrated her thoughts; she kept staring at the note. “Isn’t it time for your lunch?” Food? How could she possibly think of food? Did no one realize the gravity of this situation? Was she the only one who cared?

Absently, she looked up at the source of the voice. A woman, familiar, but her name escaped her. It didn’t matter. “I’m not hungry.”

“But…”

Her patience was wearing thin. She felt the urge to snap at the woman. “I’m not hungry.” She repeated, dismissing any further conversation by looking back down at the note.

The words came into sharp focus. Hate my life. Giving up. Don’t care anymore. Want to die.  How could she possibly help this lost soul? How could she change the course that they were on? Her heart broke at the thought of the writer of the note, shedding tears over the words that might be their last.

“Mrs. Baldwin?” The man’s voice was powerful, demanding. She reluctantly looked up from the note. “It’s time for your lunch. You have to put that away and eat now.”

He was a very handsome man, she thought, as she stared up at him through old gray eyes. But she didn’t take orders from anyone. Not even handsome men. “Like I was telling that woman before, I’m not hungry. I just want to be left alone. Why don’t you people leave me alone? I need to read this note.”

The handsome man sighed. “Mrs. Baldwin, you’ve read the note before. Thousands of times before. It’ll be waiting for you when you’re done with your lunch. You must eat your lunch. You’ve got to keep your strength up. Your family will be visiting you later today; don’t you want to be at your best when they arrive?”

She was getting tired of fighting; she suddenly remembered that fighting was useless. They always won. Her tight grip on the note fell away, and it dropped silently to the floor. She felt the nurse grab the handles of her wheelchair, found herself being pushed away towards the dining room.

The note, forgotten, lay face up on the floor. Its words hinting at a troubled past, an unfulfilled promise.

Whoever should find this and find me, I want you to know that no one could make me happy or unhappy but myself. This is no one’s fault but my own. I hate my life. I’ve spent so many years trying, keeping up the guise of life, and now I’m giving up that guise and taking charge for once. I don’t care anymore. I just want to die.

Sincerely,

Alayna Baldwin




This was written for The Red Dress Club's Red Writing Hood prompt: You or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life--whether good or bad.  What does it say?  How does it affect you or your character?  What is done with it?





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