Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: June 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Evening the Score

We entered by the front door.  “Grab what you can.”  He looked at his watch.  “Ten minutes.  Checkbook.  Laptop.  Credit cards.  Any cash.”  His hands were shaking.  “Jewelry,” he added, looking at me.  “Do you have any jewelry?”

I nodded. 

“Get it.  Now.

When I emerged from the bedroom, he was carrying the computer out the front door.  “That’s not important.”
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Times True

“I’m leaving him,” I said on Father’s Day.
He threaded a worm onto the hook; cast out his line.  He shook his head.  “You young ones are hitched for fifteen minutes before you begin wondering if you’ve made a mistake.  Your mother and me were married for forty-seven years.  We had our share of ups and downs.”  His voice trailed off.  He landed a bass, flapping against the muddy shore as he extracted the hook from its lip.  “Give it time.”  He held up the fish, grinning.  I snapped a picture.  “You fishing some more?”
I watched the bass circle around the bucket of muddy water.  “No,” I said.  “I’m done.”

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The six-nineteen pulls into Penn Station right on time, all in a clatter of whooshing winds and flashing lights and hot steamy air that makes it hard to breathe.  The doors glide open and the passengers disembark, shoving past the crowd, glancing at watches, holding cell phones to their ears as they stream as one body towards the escalator.

Judith can spot the new ones easily enough.  This one wears a cheap polyester suit, pinstripe, the jacket folded neatly over his left arm.  He’s got shiny leather shoes.  Carries a leather bag that his father probably bought for him after he graduated college with a degree in accounting or perhaps international finance.  There are two pens—blue and black—tucked in the pocket of his dress shirt.  A thin tie, baby blue, covers the line of buttons tracking down the front of his shirt.  This one doesn’t look at his watch.  This one has stopped, dead still, in the middle of the busyness of the station.  She smiles.  She enjoys the new ones.  She likes seeing people surprised by the city.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Forever This Time

I kiss Louise goodnight and tuck the blanket around her tiny shoulders.  It’s a woven synthetic, scratchy like wool and just as heavy in the middle of the summer.  Edged in smooth satin.  And that’s the only saving grace of this cheap blanket: that smoothness over the scratchiness that soothes Louise to sleep.  She grasps the satin, rubs her thumb along the top.  I hear a rumble of thunder and go to her window, wrestling it closed against thick layers of paint that flakes in my hand.    

“Sleep tight, Louie,” I whisper.  From her dresser, I pick up a picture of my mother—a mother who died giving birth to me—and whisper a silent prayer to that smiling woman behind glass—Let her be happy.  Let her be safe—before tiptoeing from the room and closing the door quietly behind me.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

A Billion Billion Teardrops

“I see things,” she says, knowing that this confession will likely end their relationship before it’s begun. 

He smiles broadly.  “A woman’s intuition, perhaps?”  He wraps an arm around her waist, nuzzles in her hair.  “And what does your intuition tell you about us?”

She shakes her head.  “It’s not like that.  I see…”She pulls away and sits on the couch and runs her thumb along red velvet.  It reverberates through her thumb, this feeling, and for a moment, all is connected.  She is the couch.  She is red velvet.  She simply is.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Sidewalk Extending into Forever

Seth knelt before me; took my hand.  “Marry me, Cecilia.”

I’d dreaded this day since my eighteenth birthday.  I looked at the ring he’d slipped onto my finger, stuck at my knuckle.

I slid the ring off and handed it back.  “No.”

He stood.  “We can size it…We…”

“I don’t love you Seth.”  Despite thirteen years of Catholic education, I found the lie slipped off my tongue easier than the truth of Madame Maria. 
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Très Cher

So this new swanky tea place opened up at the mall.  Everyone’s talking about it.  How exotic the teas are…how delicious…how expensive. 

“Can we try it, Mom?”  Squints asked.
I pointed to the pantry, overflowing with tea.  “When all that tea’s gone, I’ll take you to pick out something small,” I told him.  “We’re on a budget.”  Then I laughed to myself.  No one was going to drink the peppermint that sounded so good but tasted horrible.  No one would drink the five hundred dollar green tea my husband got tricked into buying the first time he went to China. 

I was safe.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

City of Cardboard Boxes

“Don’t forget,” he says, as he drops her off at the Sweet Shoppe.

She smiles and promises vaguely.  She unlocks the door and ties on her pink apron and goes about the business of running a business.  It’s this business, this busyness that allows her to get through the day.

She turns on lights and puts on music and runs a feather duster along the shelves.  She gathers wastebaskets and takes them to the back of the building where shopkeepers stow shattered glass and plastic bags—the detritus behind the façade.  Directly behind her shop, a group of homeless people has constructed a city of cardboard. 

She returns to the shop and officially opens for business.  She sips her coffee and calculates overtime and wonders about a new chocolate distributor.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hay Season

Three sisters, our mom, and our baby brother waited in the rickety red wagon, our job to stack the hay as it was baled. Dad positioned the tractor over a row of alfalfa and started the baler, filling the field with a deafening roar.  The baler devoured the hay, sending it into a rectangular  chute where it was compacted and tied into a fifty-pound bale before being shot into the wagon.

It took some time for Dad to perfect his technique.  The bales were too loose and fell apart.  They became tight and heavy as Dad overcorrected his mistake.  And sometimes, if rain threatened, the hay came too fast to stack.

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In the Space Between Contrasts

“That’s such a beautiful chair, Juliette.” Andee sets a cup and saucer on the table at my elbow and pours tea from a porcelain pot. “Shall I add a few logs to the fire? I know that chill gets to your bones.”

I nod. Andee is paid to visit; paid to be polite; paid to be interested in my uninteresting life. Orange Cat leaps onto my lap. I rub my hand across his arched back. He begins kneading on my leg, his claws stabbing and releasing; stabling and releasing; the relentless stabbing and releasing, desire unfulfilled. Outside the storm rages: cold rain streaks down the windows like tears.

“Listen to that wind,” Andee says now, tossing a log on the fire and then jumping back before adding another. “I hope the power doesn’t go out again.” She peers outside the window into the darkness that surrounds the old farmhouse that has contained the pieces of my life for seventy-five years when I bundled up what little life I had and married John. She pours herself a cup of tea and flops on the couch. I admire her lack of decorum. “End of the day, Juliette.” She sighs.

“End of the line for me, I’m afraid.”
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Can't Close...

I stare at the bombs exploding on the plasma screen.  The fish in the tank open and close circular mouths, constantly demanding something I cannot give.

The camera cuts to a boy, newly-orphaned.  Tears wash streaks down grimy cheeks.  He speaks in a language I will never understand.  He lies there among the rubble of his burned out home.  I can make out a cast iron pan.  A mattress.  Too many bodies.  The smoke trails off behind the boy.  Sirens scream in the distance. 
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Monday, June 4, 2012

Skip Hammels

The day Skip Hammels decided to go down on one knee to ask Cherise Devine to marry him bloomed bright.  Watching that ball of fire ease its way up over the horizon, Skip knew: Sure as that sun belonged up there in the sky, Cherise Devine belonged to him.

Skip selected a pair of his best linen slacks and a button-down shirt, baby blue and ironed to perfection.  His tie was red.  His shoes were Italian leather, soft as a baby’s bottom, brown with red undertones. 

He styled his hair, winking at himself once, just to determine if the effect that wink had on the girls would work the same magic on himself.

It did: Skip hadn’t known it was possible for a man to believe in himself even more than he had a moment ago.

Skip left by the front door, taking care to check the lock twice before stepping onto the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, a whistle on his lips. 
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Not the First Time...

It wasn’t the first time he hit her. 
He asked if she’d learned her lesson.
She nodded; patted on concealer.  The bottle was nearly empty.
It wasn’t the first time he hit her.  It wouldn’t be the last.

This was written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge.  We were continue the story that began with the words it wasn't the first time in 33 words.