I don’t dwell in dark places.
What lurks in the recesses,
the lonely parts
of my mind, frightens
me more than monsters
haunting stuffed closets and
Inspiration: I wrote this recently while struggling with the sadness that settles over me at times. I didn’t have a reason to be anything other than content, which is why this recurring ‘darkness’ gets to me. I don’t understand it, can’t explain it, and never know how long it will last, which is why I fear it. I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to find a monster in the closet, but at least I can comprehend that… and would have a chance to beat it into submission :)
I hope you have a beautiful Monday. I’m glad you stopped by today!
Last year, my older son had a sometimes job of exercising an elderly lady’s dog. She had been ill, so it’d been over a week since the dog had been walked. One Sunday, Sarah* called. (Coincidentally, this was the day following the lice debacle and the kids decided the day must begin for me after a mere four hours of sleep.) She asked if I could run some errands for her because her helper didn’t show up. I told her I could.
We arrived half an hour later, as she requested. On her counter, she had a list of items she needed. She crossed off paper towel. She read through the list again and crossed off a couple more items. I saw orange marmalade and water and asked her if she had brands she preferred. “You don’t need to worry about that stuff,” she said as she crossed those items off as well. “I just need a couple things to get me through the holidays.”
“Okay. Which things do you need?”
“I need a carton of cigarettes.”
“And a bottle of LTD.”
I had no idea what that was, until she opened her cabinet and pulled out a nearly-empty bottle of Canadian whiskey.
I smiled and stifled a laugh. Cigarettes and whiskey to get through the holidays. Maybe I should try that!
She handed me her car keys, but I insisted on using my own car. Then she handed me her bank card. “Are you comfortable with using this?”
I hesitated. “Um. Okay.” What I meant to say was, Are you crazy? Of course I’m not okay with it!
“I’ve never had an issue with it before. I have plenty of bucks in the bank,” she assured.
I drove to the place she told me to get the cigarettes. What if she’s setting me up and she reported this card stolen? I shrugged the nagging thought off and chalked it up to writing too much fiction.
I handed the gal behind the counter the empty cigarette pack. “I need a carton of these, please.” I’m sure I didn’t ask like a smoker would. She set the carton on the counter and I handed her the card. Please don’t ask for ID. If she asks for ID, do I run or try to explain why I have a bank card that wasn’t mine?
She didn’t ask for ID. I returned her wish for a Merry Christmas and breathed a sigh of relief, still unable to believe a carton of cigarettes was nearly $57 dollars.
Next, I pulled into the parking lot of the liquor store she said to go to. I wonder if LTD is a secret code for something illegal? Again, I shook off the worries and blamed it on watching too much crime TV.
I don’t drink (except for Lipton on the rocks) so I stepped inside and marveled at the sheer number of bottles. I found the bottle I’d snapped a photo of. Mission almost accomplished. I wondered if I was tempting fate and jail time by using this card a second time.
Again, as I checked out, they didn’t ask for ID. As I drove back to her house, another worry crept into my mind. What if this was a test? She might ask me to score some medical marijuana next time.
Oh no, there wouldn’t be a next time. She’d have to wait for her helper.
The constant worry confirmed what I always knew: I was not cut out for a life of crime (or using someone else’s bank card with permission.) But I did walk away with a new bit of wisdom imparted by our elderly acquaintance. If the holidays get too much, I now know that whiskey and cigarettes can get me through!
*Name changed to protect the wise :)
Do you have any secrets (legal or not) for making it through the holidays? I love this time of year, so I don’t usually get too stressed… but it doesn’t hurt to keep ideas on hand!
I leaned on the rickety horse fence an’ stared at the only standing wall of my home. My gaze settled on the sheer fabric flappin’ in the wind. Mama helped me sew them curtains when I got married an’ moved here with Roy fourteen years ago.
“I been sayin’ that one of these gosh darn days you’d burn the place down. Well, ya’ finally gone and done it,” Gertie said with arms folded across her ample chest. Her already thin lips pressed into an even thinner line.
I knowed Gertie ever since we was knee high to a grasshopper. She meant well, but bein’ two years older, she tried to be the boss of me. She shoulda asked Roy- I don’t need nobody to be my boss.
“So what was it this time?” Gertie asked. “Lamp tipped over? Quilt caught fire after burnin’ loose thread? Log rolled outta the fireplace and caught yer rug on fire?”
Me an’ fire went back a long way. I useta steal papa’s flint and would spark grass after school. No amounta Gertie’s scolding could make me stop. Like men at a saloon on Saturday night, my relationship with fire tended to get outta hand an’ somethin’ always got burned. “No. Not any those things,” I mumbled.
“You gonna make me pull it outta ya? What happened?”
“Stove burnt up.”
She furrowed her brow. “Stove burnt up? How in the-” She paused and took a deep breath. “Even fer you, that’s a stretch. How in tarnation could ya’ burn up somethin’ that’s supposed to hold fire?”
“My potholder caught fire gettin’ biscuits.”
“And Roy couldn’t snuff it out?” Gertie threw me a skeptical look.
I focused on the billowing white cloth, rather than Gertie’s scrutiny. “It burnt too fast. No way he coulda stopped it.” On account of I’d already knocked him upside the head with my cast iron skillet an’ threw lard on the flames. I didn’t say that part, though.
“How come you got out an’ he didn’t”
I sighed. “I dunno”. I din’t wanna say no more, but my tongue kept goin’. “Maybe ‘cause I wasn’t hung over after boozin’ all night and rompin’ with Angie Flowers.”
Gertie gasped. “Roy wouldn’t do that. Mighta been a dim-witted fool, but no man could be that daft.”
Gertie’s eyes narrowed. “I oughta slap yer smart mouth!”
“Just statin’ fact. Yer husband was a daft fool, indeed.” I nudged her elbow. “Why else would Ernie dally with her an’ leave you waitin’ alone?”
Gertie let out a sigh and a wistful smile played on her lips. “S’pose so. Prob’ly got what he deserved with that plow, ya’ know.”
I smiled. ‘S’pose he did.” I’d never tell it wasn’t no accident.
Inspiration: The photo at the beginning of this story wasn’t actually what inspired this story - this one was. Writing a story for Emilio’s photo was kind of a side challenge, and I’m all for anything that distracts me from what I should be working on. Squirrel!!
Seriously, though, this was a nice break from some other projects, but it’s back to work now. Oh- if you are feeling the stress of the holidays, I’m going to share the secret to surviving in my next post. I discovered this “secret” last Christmas from an elderly woman who lives in town. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out :)
Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.
“Are you okay, Mackie?”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.
“I’m not so sure.”
“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”
“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.
Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”
“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”
She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”
I’d say the most unexpected part of marriage was holidays with my husband’s family. After seventeen years, I can still see stark differences. Sometimes the differences are frustrating and aggravating, but examined with a sense of humor, they can be amusing.
Of course, I choose to view life through a lens of humor!
My husband’s mother and one of his brothers (along with his youngest two children) stayed with us for several days. Our Thanksgiving dinner was an eclectic mix of traditional food (my fare) and more ethnic food (compliments of their Greek heritage.)
I am not adventurous in my food, so I didn’t partake of the pastitsio my mother-in-law made. The lamb, noodles, two sticks of butter and aromatic Greek cheeses didn’t appeal to me. My brother-in law made turkey – I was excited for some ‘normal’ food. I didn’t know he would go all Emeril Lagasse on the bird, though. It came out with a strong garlic/citrus taste. My husband said it tasted like the waste from a living organism (well, he didn’t say exactly that, but I’d like to keep this a PG blog.) My assessment was a bit kinder: I ate it. (However, days later, I’m thinking the ice chest the turkey marinated in may never be the same.)
On the flip side, I’m sure my stuffing was bland for their palates. The green beans with onions and bacon were probably a few notches below boring. But they ate it anyway. My pumpkin pie may have been passable smothered in whipped cream, but I still had leftovers.
Despite out differences in taste, we did manage to agree on one thing: we were thankful to be able to spend the holiday together.
Their early departure indicated there is at least one other thing we agree on: four days is enough family time for one visit.
How long is long enough for family to visit? I’d love to know your response!
Sometimes life happens
when death seems imminent.
Devastating when death happens
instead of expected life.
How easily I forget-
each day is a gift;
to make a difference.
Who am I,
to expect a tomorrow?
to live like time isn’t borrowed?
Selfish, I am,
with my wasted dreams
but amidst loss is blessing,
a sort of silver lining:
reflection brings change-
recognition of today.
Inspiration: Death has a way of making me pause and ponder life. I found out Saturday that within the span of a week, a baby was born and died. To me, this is especially sad because I expected the child to have a long life – because many of us do have the opportunity to grow old.
That’s how this poem came about. The phrase “expected life” made me think about my own life and expectations. In this poem, I chastise myself for all the things I don’t do today. It doesn’t often cross my mind that my tomorrows are limited.
I chose the photo because I always pause when I see a cactus growing on a rock. It looks like nothing should be able to grow on rock. But, as I discovered during some recent reading for a story I wrote, the lichen that grow on rocks can indeed provide nutrients for plant life. Interesting, that I have killed a cactus or two in my life. Go figure. They can grow in inhospitable conditions, but they can’t survive my inept care.
This may be my only post this week, as Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and in-laws will be at our house. The fiction story I hinted about last week will have to wait another week. Um, that is, if I’m blessed with another week here!
Have a beautiful week, and I hope you embrace today :)
Shielding her eyes from the mid-day sun, Geri stumbled from the opening of the shallow cave that had been her shelter. Her muscles twitched after huddling in the small space for so long.
Her head swirled as if she’d been blindfolded and spun in circles. A relieved sigh escaped when she spotted the water pipeline in the distance. Before time ran out, they’d agreed to meet there.
Geri slumped against a support pole, borrowing a sliver of shade. Growing sleepy under the warming rays, silence augmented her isolation.
Maybe she won?
Hide-and-seek (or winning) never felt so lonely.
I decided to go ‘short’ for a couple reasons (1) to give your eyes a break (most of my fiction ends up being around 1,000 words) and (2) to practice writing short again. I’m hoping to come up with an entry for a micro-fiction contest but it’s been months since I’ve attempted to write a story in 100 words or less. This one came in at 98 words.
There really wasn’t any inspiration for this, other than this photo I had on hand, taken earlier this year during a hike on the Mogollon Rim (Arizona.) I’d hoped the story would have an end-of-the-world feel at the beginning, the twist being the revelation that it was a game of hide-and-seek.
Whether it worked or not, I don’t know – you tell me! (Really, I would love the feedback :) )
Have a great Thursday!