The Beginning (Fiction)

10-3 trees

Evelyn pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked from left to right. Nothing. She spotted an old wooden sign in the distance, erected in another era, no doubt. Squinting against the harsh sunlight, she dragged herself in that direction. For some reason, her legs wouldn’t move and the dead weight made progress slow. She didn’t know how long it took, but the sun had dropped to about three finger widths from the horizon by the time she approached reading distance.

Unbelievable.

Nothing.

The sign had no writing. No clues. Just two arrows pointing in opposite directions. Absolutely nothing to reveal where she’d landed after dropping through the portal. Surrounded by lush greenery, she knew she wasn’t in Phoenix anymore. In exhaustion, her arms gave out and she crumpled to the ground.

“Eve?”

She turned her head toward the nude man running toward her and then averted her gaze.

“His promise is true!”

She surveyed her own body. Her Fila T-shirt and Adidas yoga pants were gone. Absent socks and New Balance running shoes revealed her poorly-manicured toenails. Never before had she wished for a bra, but in her nakedness, she would’ve been grateful for one. “Let me guess… Adam?”

He smiled. “Of course, my love.”

She scanned the horizon. “Okay, so it’s day six. Where are the trees? Flowers? Forbidden fruit? I wonder if it really tasted that good.”

He looked confused. “Come, there’s much to see in the garden.” He extended his arm.

Evelyn hesitated before grasping his hand. His biceps flexed as he pulled her weight. She smiled- maybe kicking around the garden with him wouldn’t be so bad. Her legs were wobbly at first, but the muscles managed to hold her. She instinctively crossed her arms over her front.

He glanced at her, puzzled. “What are you doing?”

“We didn’t fall yet. Um, never mind. Let’s go chill in the garden.”

“Chill?”

“Oh. Partake in the garden’s majesty?”

Adam smiled. “I know the perfect place.” He took her hand, leading her up the slight hill.

Evelyn looked at the ground and marveled at how the clover felt spongy under her feet, like a sea of little green pillows. She’d never walked barefoot outside before, heeding warnings of the dangers of stinging ants, broken glass and “filth” littering the ground.

“What’s on your mind?”

She paused. She couldn’t possibly tell the truth; that she lived in the future and landed here quite by accident. No way could she explain that she’d gone through a portal to escape Pinky, the man who’d held her captive for two years. She shivered at the thought of Pinky. His name didn’t sound like it, but he had a reputation as the most ruthless pimp roaming the streets of Phoenix. Legend held that he’d snapped the pinky right off a rival; it dangled from a chain around his neck.

They crested the hill and she gasped. “It’s beautiful!” The sun sat on the horizon, minutes away from turning the sky over to the stars. Stars. She hadn’t seen those since childhood camping trips.

“Do you want to help name some animals?”

Evelyn smiled. “Sure.”

They bounded down the hill, bursting through the thick foliage. Momentum slowed and the tallest tree she’d ever seen stood in front of them.

“We mustn’t eat from that tree,” Adam said, pointing.

Her skin prickled. She knew the story; they’d entered the serpent’s favorite haunt, and it was only a matter of time.

“I’m going to get some huckleberries,” Adam said. “Huckleberries… isn’t that a fun word to say?”

“Almost as fun as hippopotamus.” Her gaze darted from trees to brush. “I’ll wait here.”

His footfalls disappeared. The bird song wafting through the dusk air put her at ease, so she decided to rest. She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes, oblivious to the rustling behind her until the undulating movement crossed over her legs.

Pinky!

“Do you know why you mustn’t eat from that tree?”

She knew the serpent spoke, but still, seeing it was weird. “Because you’re evil!” She wrapped both hands around the serpent and squeezed. “You ruin the world! You invade our hearts! You. Need. To. Die!” She tightened her grip with each word.

“Eve, no!” Adam sprinted toward her.

“We mustn’t kill the animals!”

Evelyn relaxed her fingers and the serpent slithered out of reach before pausing to glare at her. She knew he’d be back.

She’d be ready.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Suzanne at Apoplectic Apostrophes has a new writing challenge site, so even though I’d sworn off the distraction of writing challenges a  few months ago, I couldn’t resist joining in her inaugural challenge.  She’s always been supportive of my writing and I’m thrilled to participate in her new venture 🙂

The challenge: Write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 739) and (1) reference the photo prompt published on her site, and (2) include the word “haunt” – used as a noun, not a verb.

It’s October and I’d vowed to write creepy this month. And with a prompt word like ‘haunt’ you’d, think I could do that, right?  Apparently not! I saw this challenge late last night and this is the story that wouldn’t get out of my head- a goofy, humorous, time-travel-gone-wrong story.

I’d better scare up some creepy soon, or October is going to laugh me all the way to December. Thanks for reading – oh, and if you want to join in, or check out other responses, click the badge below!

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“Compromise:” Coercion’s Civilized Cousin

A history lesson may be helpful to tie in last week’s post with today’s post, which depicts a situation that took me through the five stages to humor.  Don’t worry, this will be the Cliff’s Notes version – I wouldn’t want to air my dirty laundry (um, the bad laundry joke will make sense later, I promise.)

Eleven years ago, my hubby had a job where he worked long hours, so I took over many of the household tasks (except yard maintenance) that he had previously handled.  After a year, he changed jobs.  The problem?  He didn’t take any of the chores back.  This didn’t become a big issue until after we had children (over eight years ago).

Every few months, I’d compile a list of the tasks each of us regularly handled.  He would agree that my list was longer.  I would ask him which items he wanted to take over from my list.  He would tell me he appreciated everything I did and that I did them better than he could.  My frustration level increased as the years went on.  I told him I didn’t want appreciation, I wanted less “stuff” to do around the house.

Nothing changed…until I recently pounced on opportunity like a cougar on a lone sheep.  Here’s a replay of the attack conversation:

Hubby:  “I’m gaining too much weight.”

Me:  “If you’d make lunches following the low sugar/carb plan again, you’d lose weight again.”

Hubby:  “It’s too much work.  It’s easier when you do it.”

Me:  “Of course it is.  Because you don’t have to do anything and a cooked lunch appears – like magic.”  <Yes, I said it just as snarky as it reads>  After a moment, I added, “Maybe we can make a deal.”

Hubby:  “What kind of deal?” <I wonder if he got the feeling he was about to sell his soul to the devil?>

Me:  “I’ll make your lunches if you do the laundry.”

Hubby:  “But I thought you didn’t want me ruining your clothes.” <Aha!  I suspected he purposely botched laundry to get out of it.>

Me:  “I keep my clothes separate.  I’ll do those.  You do everything else.”

Hubby:  <after several seconds of silence> “Okay.”

A laundry star is born!

The next weekend, after he’d eaten a week’s worth of lunches, I reminded him that all of the laundry included towels and sheets (from all three beds).  He balked, but we had a deal – a compromise; a negotiation where we each gained something from the exchange (his gain was nine loads of laundry a week :))  It crossed my mind that the lunches-for-laundry deal could have been a product of coercion; maybe the years of pressure about my domestic overload finally got to him… No, it was definitely a compromise.

In the last several weeks, I’ve seen some disturbing things:

  • My younger son wore his older brother’s socks to school (the heel of the sock bunched up on the back of his ankle, over his tennis shoe);
  • My older son wore his younger brother’s long sleeved shirt to school (he didn’t notice the barely covered midriff and the ¾ length sleeves?!);
  • A shirt I wore camping was laundered and hung up wrong-side-out (because he thought that’s how I wanted it…even though we have NEVER hung clothes that way);
  • My socks are being trashed worn by the kids; and
  • <gasp> He’s washing all clothes in hot water.

I’m convinced that some of the “errors” are his way of making me sorry I turned laundry over to him, but I’m not taking the bait.  The kids will learn that just because it’s in their closet/drawers, doesn’t mean it’s fit to wear.  When I can’t find a pair of socks anywhere, I will go buy more.  I am too stubborn to give in to the aggravation of inside-out clothing.

I can overlook his laundry shortcomings because he has many of my deficiencies to stew over excuse, too.  For instance, I never put my dishes in the dishwasher.  I don’t have to because he can’t stand dishes in the sink.  I dislike talking on the telephone, so whenever possible, I delegate phone-speaking to him.  Stacks of “I’ll get to it later” papers clutter our desktop.  He would like to see the desk cleared and polished, I’m sure.  In fact, so would I.

Maybe if I hold out long enough, he will do it?

Eh, I didn’t think so either.

You know what they say, “She who does less laundry laughs loudest.”  No?

What do you think is the line that separates compromise and coercion?  Have you engaged in similar “compromises?”

When a Rock and Hard Place Meet

Today was supposed to be a guest post, but due to unresolved creative differences, the post swap will not take place.  I feel like the parent who promised the kids a Disneyland trip and took them to the shoe store instead.  So, instead of reading another writer’s words (spinning on the Teacup ride at Disneyland), you’re gazing at another post by me (browsing the rows of shoes on display.)  Which do you like better – the wedges or flats?

The events of the last day or so have prompted me to do some thinking about writing.  As writers, we are faced with being true to ourselves, while taking care that our words are inspired by joy – not hate or negativity.  Even with care, it’s possible that our words may offend someone.  When the offense is brought to our attention, with no alternative presented, we are forced to evaluate them and decide:

1)      Do we modify or remove the offending material to satisfy the reader? or

2)      Should we keep the material unchanged to retain the integrity of the message?

I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that my potential guest post contained elements that the other person did not want on their blog.  I do respect their boundaries, and recognize that we all have different opinions about what is acceptable.  I tried to find a suitable alternative for the photo, but that was rejected also.  Based on the nature of the photo, an acceptable version doesn’t exist.  I did not agree with the second issue, nor could I find a viable substitution.  So that is where the rock and hard place come together.

Because I chose my creative message over censorship, I am now seen as “not wanting to compromise.”   According to Webster (my trusty dictionary) compromise means “a settlement in which each side gives up some demands or makes concessions.” 

Being that the person’s demands for change were never once modified, the only chance for resolution was my full compliance.  That is NOT compromise.  I’ve been married for fourteen years – I know all about compromise.  It feels like a night in Vegas after you win $50 and then gamble it away a couple hours later.  You lose what you gained, but had some fun in the process.

The benefit of this experience is that I have learned a few things:

  • Clarify any post rules/restrictions BEFORE accepting a guest
  • Communicate my standards to a guest before agreeing to host them
  • Allow a full week to swap and review posts to determine if they are a fit, and give time for any needed revisions
  • If differences cannot be resolved, it’s okay to walk away.  I don’t have to make changes I’m not comfortable with just because I already announced an upcoming guest.

Sandwiched between the rock (staying true to myself) and the hard place (others’ values) isn’t an enviable place to be.  But I’d rather be a solid mass, confident in my own words, than the air moving freely in between without any ties to the words I write. 

 

Lots of Beautiful Places to Get Stuck...