There’s Nothing Wrong With Me – A Prompt

Karen Craven, over at Table for 1 really loves to send us (Sorryless and me) some crazy things to work with.  Now she’s been a tad busy with her new job and all and is not posting nearly enough – yes, I am complaining – though she did finally share  a few lately.  Anyhow, she overheard this woman on the train the other day and this was part of the one-sided conversation she heard:

“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.
Give me all my expired things.
I need you to get a job.”

And issued us a challenge to use this.  So, being just the right amount of crazy, we accepted.  Here’s my submission.  Sorryless’ fantabulously wonderful answer to the prompt is here.  Karen’s wonderfully fantabulous submission is here

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With Me

It was a regular Friday commute as folks boarded the 6:02 train towards home.  People jostled, trying to find seats or at least a pole to hang on to while others, as I, just leaned against the back doors or sides.  Books were taken out as well as iPods and cell phones, earbuds firmly in place.  A wall erected by those wanting to remain in their own world, not interested in their surroundings, not inviting exchanges.  I, on the other hand, love to people watch, see what they are reading, guess at what is going on in their lives, create whole scenarios in my mind based on what they are reading.

The students take out their books and papers to try to catch up on homework, business-folk break out the laptops and furiously crunch numbers because the days of doing work at work are over; you are now expected to work on your own time as well to get ahead.  A sad state of affairs, really. Everyone absorbed in their own microcosm.

Suddenly, a cellphone rings with an old-fashioned rotary phone ring.  “Dring, Dring!”  I look around to see who it belongs to and find myself eavesdropping, barely subtly, in fact.  The woman is seated in the single seat facing me, is in her late seventies, maybe early eighties.  She’s slight, her clothes hang on her frail body, two sizes too large and look like they’ve been rescued from a garbage bin.  Her stockings have runs in them and her shoes are laced up and seem the only thing she owns that doesn’t date back twenty years.  Her hands are those of a woman who has worked hard; they are overly large for her wrists with knobby knuckles and jagged nails that haven’t ever seen a manicure. Not that she would ever waste money on such a thing.  Between her legs are a trio of bags, filled with who knows what.  Her purse rests on her lap.

She digs into her purse and pulls out an old Blackberry.  “Hallo? …  “Oh hi, Doris. … Yeah, I’m on the train now.  Should be home by seven-ish.”

“What do you mean, you’re at my house? Why are you at my house?  Who let you in?”

“Right  I forgot you had the key.  Still, I don’t care, nothing is yours to touch.  Those are my things.  I don’t care what the neighbours say.  What smell?  I don’t need you to clean out my stuff.”

“Yes, I know I have lots of cans of beans and boxes of macaroni. They were on special.  And yes, I do need them all.  Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.”

What do you mean I don’t even like the stuff?  Of course I do!  What do you care, anyway?  It’s none of your business.  And no, they don’t go bad.  Don’t you dare throw any of them out. You wait until I get there.  And stay out of my fridge!”

The older woman closed her eyes, a mixture confusion and frustration lining her face.  I couldn’t help but wonder what was really at hand.  There was a feeling that this was not the first time this type of exchange had taken place.

“Just give me all my expired things…they’re still good. Expiration dates are a bunch of hogwash,” she almost whispered.

Voice raised:  “No, it’s not true.  Best Before does not mean no good after!” … “What, three years old?  It’s friggen boxed macaroni, Doris!  How bad can dried macaroni with powdered fluorescent cheese get?  The expiry date is obligatory by the government.  Just stop, already.  Don’t even think of throwing anything out.”

She pulled the phone away from her ear and held it on her purse.  I could hear her daughter’s voice raised in anger, “You are confused, Mother.  I’m worried about you living on you own.  You need to leave your apartment and move into a home for the elderly. I have already found the perfect place for you.  Mother?  Mother?  Can you hear me?”

I couldn’t help but feel for the poor woman and, at the same time, for the daughter.  Experience had taught me that early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s meant there were very lucid moments but also very confused ones.  I imagined the old woman had become a hoarder of sorts and the daughter had a helluva job ahead of her.

The woman put the phone back to her ear.  “Yes, I hear you. No, I don’t need to move into a home.  I visit people there, I don’t live there!  There is nothing wrong with me!  I need you to get a job.  You obviously have too much time on your hands to find  yourself rummaging through my personal belongings.  Get out of my house!”

She threw her phone into her handbag, rearranged the ones at her feet, patted her hair in that comforting manner women do, and placed her now trembling hands upon her purse.  She stared straight ahead, a mutinous expression on her face.

We arrived at the next station and a large bulk of people disembark.  The seat kitty-corner to the old woman becomes free so I make my way there.

“Good evening, Ma’am.  Mind if I sit here?”

She smiled, “Oh hallo.  No, no, please do.  Do you need more room?  Are my bags in your way?”

“No, not at all and thank you.  I’m fine and have lots of room.  How are you?  Are you okay?”

“Why yes, I’m fine.  There is nothing wrong with me.  Why do you ask?”

“You seemed a tad upset with your phone call just now.  I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”

She looked at me with confusion, “What phone call?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Writing Prompt #63 – Crumble

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.  Thank you Sammi!

Word Prompt

Crumble

Challenge

Life has challenged me
Maybe more than others
I would not know
I have not crumbled
And stand up tall
Square my shoulders
And move forward
I found love once and can again
I am enthusiastic
For what lies ahead
Life must be embraced
No matter how scary
I’d still rather go out there
And take a chance
Than look back and think
Why didn’t I?
How could I know if I don’t go?
So, to Woodstock I drive
And see what the Universe has planned for me

Weekly Writing Prompt #60 – Weave

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments, right here.

Word Prompt

Weave

Challenge

You weave your way into my life

Resistance is futile

Through your magical words

You have created a beautiful motif

Like a master with his loom

 

Magnolia Overture

Karen and Marc are at it again.  They have these little chat sessions and next thing you know… it’s prompt time!  I could definitely NOT refuse this one.  Somehow Magnolia became the object of their desire to write.  OK, OK… when you read Karen’s beautiful post, you’ll understand.  Just so happens, that when it comes to flowering trees?  My ultimate favourite.  Marc’s wonderful story is here.  I honest-to-goodness don’t know how they do it.  But they do it so bloody well.  Instead of telling myself I just can’t play with the big girls and boys, I shall simply strive to do my best.  Now I am quite late to the party but there was no “write-by-date” so…

Magnolia Overture

She loved to walk.  She had her favourite destinations and usually decided on the spur of the moment which one she’d take.  Turn right? Turn left?  Go straight?  Either one would end up bringing her joy.  On this day, she chose right.  Once past the residential houses, she ended up in the first park.  In winter, a hockey rink would have a few people passing a hockey puck, or, depending on the time of day, a solo skater, practicing his shots. In summer this would be full of kids splashing in the water games.  But today it was spring.  The air was warm but now and again a breeze came by, teasing with a hint of cool – just to let her know that it was not yet summer.

She walked across the first park, through a walkway, across a street, through another walkway and bingo!  There it was.  A  huge magnolia tree planted in the middle of a field.  How did that happen?  No way the city would plant such a tree in a park.  It must have been some good Samaritan or lover of spring blooms to have donated such a gift for all peeps to enjoy.

It was an older tree with a good-sized grouping of trunks, the flowers starting just high enough for her to sit beneath.  She had brought a blanket and her book but instead of reading, leaned back and let her memories loose.

They met just as the first magnolia flowers appeared.  Each on a two-week solo vacation, no plans, free to do as they please.  Both expected to spend that time reflecting, visiting, ambling.  One particularly warm day, she was sitting at a table on a terrace, sipping a cool drink watching the passersby.  He arrived and chose a table next to hers and ordered himself a beer.  They smiled at each other and continued their individual reveries.

“This is going to sound ridiculously corny, but, have you been here before?” he queried, smiling.

She laughed in return, “No, actually, I’m on vacation.  You?”

“Same.  Where are you from, if I may ask?”

“Canada.”

“Canada is pretty big.  Care to specify by province, at least?”

“Well now, I am impressed.  Most Yanks don’t even know we have provinces,” she grinned.  “Just teasing.  I’m from British Columbia, more specifically from Victoria.  How about you?”

“The United States of America,” he smirked.  She raised an eyebrow.  “My turn to tease — I’m from Seattle, Washington.”

“Jeez.  We live so close to each other yet meet here, so far from home.  Are you travelling alone?”

“Yep.  I always dreamed of coming to New Orleans, to be here in the spring before it gets hot and disgusting.”

“Nice.  I have never been here in the summer but I have heard it is brutal.  I’m also on my own.  We were supposed to be four girlfriends à la Sex and the City, New Orleans-style but they all flushed me last minute.  I decided that I still wanted to come here.”

He dragged his chair closer to hers.  “You mind?”

“No, not at all.  Why don’t you just join me officially?”  She held out her hand, “My name’s Charlotte.  Most of my friends call me Charlie”

His warm hand clasped hers, “Pleased to meet you, Charlotte.  Such a beautiful name.  I’m Dante.”

“As in inferno?” she could not help but ask, tongue firmly in cheek.

“For you to find out!” he laughed, eyebrows wiggling up and down.

She smiled, ever more curious about this handsome stranger.

Afternoon turned to twilight, turned to evening.  Soft jazz played in the background.  Their conversation never waned, food was ordered, eaten, neither remembering what they ate.  They left the restaurant and walked the streets of New Orleans, hand in hand, their conversation ebbing and flowing as if they’d known each other forever.

They spent their two-week vacation wrapped in each other.  Loving, talking, sharing, eating, laughing.  One room got cancelled and their solo vacations became a couple one.  They visited whatever took their fancy and come evening, visited each other.  Listening, touching, tasting, feeling, whispering.  Every day, as they left to explore, they marvelled at the magnolia tree planted right outside her Air BnB.  The blooms so much larger than either had ever seen in their hometowns.  “So beautiful,” one or the other would comment. and off they’d go.  Museums, Bourbon Street, French Quarter, City Park, Garden District, they played it by ear, deciding as they went along.

On their last day together, a sudden wind swept through, blowing most of the blooms off “their” magnolia tree and sending them in all directions, save the ones that swirled around them, encouraging them, embracing them as they held each other close, loathe to separate.  They swore they would return.  While neither of them was married they laughed and said it could be like Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year.  Both film buffs, they needed no explanation.

However, that also implied they would only see each other once per year…

 

 

Birthday Dinner

I swear, those two! Karen and Marc have done it again. This time they’ve dragged Frank in as well. Will be interesting if he plays with us this time. You see, Karen read an article, shared it with Marc, they extracted 11 words then emailed me, sending me a copy of the text that inspired this craziness (no, you cannot read it). Karen’s story is here. Marc’s is coming tomorrow, he said. Mine follows. And yes. It is my birthday today so, I went with that 😉

Birthday Dinner

She was invited to join her friends at the Clubhouse Bistro Bar to celebrate her birthday but declined, choosing to stay quietly at home, in her new comfy chair, with a TCM movie, a glass of wine and a burger picked up from the drive-thru. No cooking today. However, on her way out, she ran into that busybody Ethel with her passion for Jesus. What she would give to dunk that self-righteous Dinosaur‘s head in a bowl of Holy Water! Desperate to get away from Ethel, she quickly retraced her steps.

Sans burger, it looked like the Twinkies, sent by her friend, Marc, who was trying to bring her to the dark side after all their joking around about the merits of the “cake”, would be her meal. She couldn’t be cross with him now could she? She even gave him absolution now that she had nothing else to eat.

*******************

Now, I know this was shortlived, however, it did traumatize certain, peeps…

Metamorphosis to a Painted Lady

Karen, over at Table For One, bless her heart, got all wrapped up in PBS’ “Nature – Sex, Lies, and Butterflies” the other night, and got all excited with ideas for a prompt.  She “promptly” (I’m such a comedienne, aren’t I?) emailed both Marc at Sorryless and me with this challenge.   Now, originally, we, Marc and I, both thought that we could pick and choose between the following ten words:

  • Metamorphosis
  • Virgin
  • Flight
  • Rudder
  • Hover
  • Antenna
  • Clap
  • Control
  • Painted Lady
  • Juvenile

But noooooo… as her post today shows, Karen used all TEN WORDS in one post!  Sneaky one, that Karen is.  Of course, the gauntlet has been not only drawn, but thrown down, so what’s a girl to do?

Her best.  That’s all she can do.  Her best.

 

Metamorphosis to a Painted Lady

Katie was now a young woman, as far as she was concerned.  She was no longer a juvenile 13-year old. At 14, she was ready to face the world as a woman did.  Her mother would never cease to hover over her and try to control everything she did and everywhere she went and everyone she hung out with, as long as she remained under her roof.  Katie swore that woman had antennae and could sense her every move!  She was done with it.  After all, there were cultures where girls got married at 14, some even younger.  Proof that she was definitely grown up.

At midnight, when the household was asleep, Katie emptied her piggy-bank, packed her backpack and took flight.  She was going to go to the big city and prove she was now a woman, capable of taking care of herself.  She hopped on the bus, chose one of the many empty seats, leaned her head against the window and dreamed of the possibilities awaiting her.

Her stomach fluttering in excitement, she stepped off the bus, right in the centre of town.  She had never been there by herself, and definitely not at one o’clock in the morning!  She felt like spreading her arms wide and turning around à la Mary Tyler Moore.  Her mom loved that show and owned all the DVD’s and made her watch them.  The thought of her mom brought an immediate lump to her throat and a falter to her step.

No!  Stop thinking like that!  You are not a boat without a rudder, you are on a path to womanhood.  Having shaken off the doubt, she lifted her chin, squared her jaw and took a step forward.  The City was not for babies and she was out to prove she wasn’t one.  Katie was awfully glad it was not winter and that her light jacket was warm enough.  She didn’t have to worry about freezing to death.

Ah.  Finally.  The main drag.  People. Lights. Life!  A nice-looking man came up to her, smiling, and asked if she was lost.  She shook her head no and kept walking.  He turned and quickly adjusted his step to hers.  “So, young lady, where are you headed?”

“I’m just walking around, taking in the sights.”

“Mind if I keep you company?”

“Yes, I do mind.  Please leave me alone.”

“I can’t do that.  There are rough people out there just looking for a nice young thing like you.”

“Why is that?”

“Come on now, Sweetie.  Why do you think?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.  No one would come looking for me.”

“I bet you are a virgin, aren’t you?”  Not waiting for her response, he continued, “Do you know how much some men would pay for such a treat?  To be the first one to screw you?”

Hey eyes wide, she looked at him and sputtered, “Wh-wh-wh-at?  Sh-sh-sh-surely not.  Why are you such an awful thing to me?”

“What’s your name, Sweetie?”

“Katie.  Katherine, actually.”

“Katie, my name is Steve.  Walk with me. I want to show you something, okay?”

She knew she shouldn’t follow a stranger, a male one at that, but she nodded her head yes and followed him.  They approached an intersection and he nodded towards a small group.  “See those girls over there?”

“Yes.  They look like young women, to me.”

“Well, they’re not.  They are about your age and have been living on the street for a couple of years already.  We call them the Painted Ladies.”

“Why is that?”

He sighed. “They are hoookers. They sell their bodies for money.  Probably half of them already have the clap.”

“The clap?  What’s that?”

“A venereal disease you, young fool.  One of many you could catch.”

Her mouth formed an O and she looked at him, her lip trembling.  “I’m not going to be one of them.”

“Honey, you stay out here all by yourself, you will become one of them.  I would really hate for you to go through that type of metamorphosis.  I can tell by the look of you that you come a good family.  One that is probably going crazy looking for you right now.”

With that, Katie felt her whole body deflate.  She knew he was right.  She was so not an adult yet and now was regretting her rash decision.

Steve took out his cellphone and handed it to Katie.  “How about we call your folks, have them pick you up?  I’ll wait right here with you till they show up.”

 

 

Ringmaster to Her Circus

Finally.  After suggesting this prompt, I am the last to join in.  Go figure.  Karen over at TableFor1 already posted hers and so did Marc over at Sorryless  Funny how these prompts came about through simple comments back and forth.  It has been a fabulous journey playing with these two.  They sure push me to do better.

The stage was set:  bathtub filled with hot, sudsy water; candles lit, strategically placed all around;  lights dimmed; iPad propped to watch something on Netflix – if the inspiration hit; current book; journal; pen.  All at the ready for whatever inspired her.  Or didn’t.  There were no rules for the next hour or so.  Don’t forget the bathmat or the towel.  Perfection.  She disrobed and slowly sank into the hot bubbles, sliding down until the water covered her shoulders.  Ahhhh.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the two-man tub that permitted both boobs and knees to be covered in hot water.  Not possible in a standard tub when you are almost 5’9″.  One must appreciate what one has.

She closed her eyes and felt all her daily stresses slip away and for a few moments, all thoughts were silenced.  Not a sound.  It was bliss.  It didn’t last long.  Fucking hamster has to show up here too?  Couldn’t he wait for his usual 3:00 a.m. appearance?  Was there no other way besides drugs to obliterate that pesky rassembleur of thoughts and to-do lists?

And so it starts.

**********************************

The house.  So much has to be done to make it ready for sale.  It’s too big to keep.  I don’t need all this space.  I hate housecleaning.  I need to downsize.   The boys are not much help.  Well, that’s not true.  When I blow a gasket, start yelling like a banshee, they then pitch in.  Well one of them does.  He’s been pretty darn good.  The other is going through anxiety at turning 20.  20.  Seriously, Dude?  Fuckssakes.  On top of that, he is “his own man and doesn’t like to be told what to do”.  Oh excuse me.  Sucks to be you.   Guess what?  In real life, sometimes you have to follow orders.  And, it’s not like I even ordered you.  I have asked you.  Repeatedly.  So very glad you can’t wait to get out of this house but don’t want to lift a bloody finger to make it ready. Oh, you want to help but not when we want you to help.  And yet, I know if I don’t nag, eventually you will do what needs to be done.  You just don’t understand – or want to –  how each piece needs to be put in place for the next one to be taken care of.

The mother-in-law, Jean.  Ah hell.  It’s become a full-time job trying to juggle all her shit.  Her landlord – he wants his 3-months’ rent.  The pharmacy at the home want to stop giving her her meds because the bill is up to $500.  The home is owed 4 months rent.  I can’t do anything because the friggen co-mandatory won’t sign the document resigning her part in the mandate. And now blocks my calls.  Bitch.  No access to her funds – and I sure as hell cannot afford to cover her expenses.  Cannot have her mail redirected to me.  Must keep driving out the 40-minute drive to her appartment to pick up her mail.  Can’t sign her Income Tax Papers.  Get phonecalls from Jean where she gives me hell for putting her in that god-forsaken place.  Reassure her I had nothing to do with it.  Promise to visit her.  Put it off.  Get the boys to come with me to visit her for her 83rd birthday on Sunday.  She is getting worse.  Never could tell them apart.  Repeats that she loves A’s hair.  Repeats she loves I’s sweater.  Lists off the birthdays and for the first time, she gets them all wrong.  Definitely getting worse.  Remembers she asked me for her “papers”.  I ask her which ones.  She says the ones regarding her funeral arrangements.  Oh, no worries, I assure her, I have those.  Asks me if I brought her her papers.  Sigh.  One-and-a-half hours later, I am done.  The boys are done.  Promises are made to go back and visit.

The finances.  Seems every time I turn around, it’s costing me another $300 here $400 there, etc.  The damages caused by water leakages and impatient kids and bad quality items needing replacement, and appliances failing needing repair, etc. are making my head spin.  I know I’ll be able to recuperate all once this house is sold but till then… gulp!  I try not to focus on stuff – you know, the Universe is listening so I don’t want it to think I want more things to break!

The boyfriend.  I hate to admit his going away for two weeks to lie on a beach sans me still bugs the shit out of me.  I barely missed him – probably too angry to.  Mind you, I kept myself busy with friends and house stuff but should I not have felt a small twinge? Was I feeding the situation with unnecessary negativity?  Or was my gut telling me something?   It doesn’t help when I am asked where’s the boyfriend?  And I answer gone on vacation and I get the response, without you?  Then it all starts roiling again.  So confused about this one.  Will have to let it play out when he gets back.

The mother.  I worry about her heart, her health.  Taking care of her husband, who had a stroke two years ago and is paralyzed on the left side, is exhausting her.  My sisters do a lot for her and I try to do my share as well but we still worry.  It is not an easy situation.  We sometimes worry she will kick the bucket before he does simply by burning herself out.  It scares me.

**********************************

These thoughts criss-crossed her mind, one colliding after another, balling up inside her belly and turning her shoulders into knots.   Enough was enough and time to shut down that hamster wheel so she turned on the iPad to listen to some Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel and whatever else followed.  YouTube was good for keeping one in the mood.   Ahhh… eyes closed, each tensed muscle began to relax, her mind once again emptying itself.

An hour later, sufficiently pruned, she started to shiver, the water no longer comfortably warm.  Time to get out.

As she was towelling off, her mind started up again.  The boyfriend liked to call her the Captain of her ship and her boys, her sailors.  He said she was in charge of the household and responsible for its functioning and for keeping her sailors on point.  She didn’t like that analogy.  Did not fancy the idea of being the one who went down with the ship should it sink.  Nope.  Another title was in order.

How about Ringmaster of a crazy five-ring (or was it six?) circus.  So many things to juggle, so many acts going on at the same time, not all with the same intensity, but each requiring her attention.  Yeah, that was more like it.  Ringmaster.  Had more pizzazz than Captain.  This was definitely her circus and maybe some, but not all, were her monkeys.