Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Taste of All You Eat and Drink

You can taste the ocean before you see it. Three miles out, the salt settles on your tongue, coating it with a thin sheen, forever altering the taste of all that you eat and drink.  Altering, too, the words coming from your mouth.  Some words stick in your throat, refusing to pass the salted chamber.  Other words, lies generally, go better with seasoning.  They seem to slide out more easily, tripping across the tongue and falling into hot and humid air; hanging there like invisible raindrops refusing to shatter.


Kiwi Tristan balled up the paper she’d been writing on and jumped up.  “Cecilia!  You surprised me.”

“You were talking yourself again.”

Kiwi nodded and tucked the paper in her pocket.  “I’m fine.”

“I brought you a lemonade.  I’ll just set it on your correspondence table.”  She crossed the room.  “It’s warm today”

Kiwi smiled and fingered the edge of her gold letter opener, a gift from her mother-in-law.  “Nothing I can’t tolerate.”

Cecilia took up her broom and began to sweep Kiwi’s study.  “Seems like ever since Miss Sophie got home, there’s sand everywhere.”
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Sunday, July 29, 2012


Well, it’s two days before V’s next driving test.  Naturally, she wanted to practice parallel parking again.  We got up early this morning and headed to the testing station before it got crowded.

“OK,” I said confidently.  “You’ve got this.”

“Uh, Mom?”


“Could you be the cone?”
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Saturday, July 28, 2012


Squints and I were talking about pocket knives the other day.  “Why would a kid want one of those, Mom?”  He asked, glancing up from his iPod. 

“I dunno’,” I replied.  “I’ve always wanted one.”
He squinted at me suspiciously.  Why?”

“To whittle?”
He rolled his eyes.  “Mom, kids today are different.”  And he returned to his iPod.

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First Lines

This week Trifecta asked for a 33 word opening line for our works in progress.  This is the first line from a story that's spending the summer in a drawer. 

The thin red second hand of the clock swept along without pause, bitterly discarded moments urging it forward, forward, forward as if time itself couldn’t wait to get along and see the future.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Thanks to Rose and Thorn for publishing one of my stories and, more recently, the story behind that story.
You can read both here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

There is That

Andrea looked up from her computer screen, scowling.  “You mean to tell me that your father and I saved for eighteen years so that you could pursue a degree in English

William swallowed.  Croaked out a yes that was more a question than response.  He tried on a grin.  “It’s your fault, yours and Dad’s.  For naming me.”

Andrea shook her head.  “That was your grandfather’s doing.”


“Dad’s father.”

“Grandfather Pauling?  You never told me that.”
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Friday, July 20, 2012


“Daddy, come play.”

“I’m working.”  Stan sighed.  Tweeted: kid wants me to play a damn game #annoying.

@StanLew Unplug your damn computer  #theygrowuptoofast.

Stan looked at his modem cord.  Got a scissors. 


This was written for The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  We were to write a 33-word story about someone taking a leap.  

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Almighty Dollar

Miles Mayhem sat on the leather chair, strategically placed by his wife’s decorator in the corner of the room to let him observe the entire party at a glance.  But Miles wasn’t watching.  Truth be told, he really didn’t care.

He’d closed his eyes so as to distance himself from all the fuss that surrounded him, fingering the thin cotton blanket someone had shaken over him despite the fact that he’d said he didn’t want it.

“You’ll be more comfortable,” a familiar-looking woman had said, tucking it around his lap.

The young generation always and forever thought they knew better than their elders, Miles mused.  He listened to snippets of conversation that went on around him as people stood in line for the buffet table.
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Just Beneath

The senior portrait saga begins with a one-hour, fifty dollar (plus tax) photo shoot at the studio, a converted Victorian on a piece of property with lush gardens, brick sidewalks, and a beautiful front porch straight out of Country Living

Then four or so weeks later, we return to paradise to preview—and, more importantly order—graduation photos.  If we desire, we can also purchase a deck of playing cards… white boards… heck, we can probably even have life-sized posters of our daughter made up if we asked for it. 

We arrive precisely at eleven for our preview.  We press the intercom.  We are admitted.  
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Monday, July 16, 2012

Fourteen Cardboard Boxes and a Weary Dresser

The house at 38 Sycamore Street sold in a day.  Most of the neighbors were glad to see it picked up so quickly: The previous occupants, renters, had been drug dealers—meth mainly, cooked up a couple of miles out of town—but other junk as well.

The neighbors watched and waited and hoped that a good family would move in.
Lauren Dimkowitz claimed to be the first person to actually see the new neighbor.  At the time, she was squeezing a blemish in the mirror over her dresser.  She caught a reflection of movement in the dimming light.  She dashed to the window, watched a man slide a key into the back door and step inside. 

Moments later, the kitchen lights at 38 Sycamore Street came on, filling Lauren with a cozy feeling.  Kitchen lights did that to a person.  For a few moments, she watched him move about the empty room, opening the fridge; testing the stove; putting something into the pantry. 
Suddenly, he looked up at her window.  His eyes met hers.  Goose pimples rose up on her skin.  And then the shades were drawn.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

That Three Day Smell

 “You may place the cats on the front porch,” Dee said.

Phil looked at me.  “You want these monsters inside?”
 I peered into the crate.  A Siamese poked a paw through the bars.  “She never remembers I’m allergic.”

“Driver,” Dee indicated the crate.
“His name’s Phil, Dee.  I’m sure you remember your old neighbor.  What are we going to do with these cats?”

I’m going to take them inside.”
“Let’s keep them out here.”

“In this heat?  That won’t do.”

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Poltergeist Party

“Morning, Jeb.”  Phil Hawkins eased his way onto the stool one cheek at a time.  He rubbed at his bad knee; flexed it once or twice.

“Phil.”  Jeb lifted his cup of coffee, decaf of course, Jeb’s body not being able to handle caffeine in the usual manner. 

Phil gestured to Bitsy and turned over his coffee cup.  He noticed a ring of wet in the saucer, poured it out onto the paper placemat and watched the water stain the red you are here flag indicating their approximate location in the southeast corner of the state of Ohio.  “We need rain a awful lot.”

Jeb nodded.  “We do.”  Jeb never was one for the small talk.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Worn Too Many

I dress with care: White cotton skirt.  Blue shirt, crisp linen.  My fingers work the buttons slowly.  Precision is important. 

I hear my children playing outside.  Their laughter still startles me.  I cross the room and part the sheer curtains my mother made fifteen years ago, when I was still supposed to be living in this house.  My father is in the backyard, pushing Curtis on the swing set while Lizzie pokes around in the strawberries, looking for one last treat.

I drop the curtains.  I polish my toenails—strawberry red.  Fingernails, too.

I arrange my hair so that it falls forward.

Justin told me he liked that, once upon a time, the way my hair hid my face from other men. 

As best as I can, I make up my face.
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Sunday, July 8, 2012

First Batch

Well, after twenty years of marriage, I finally got up the courage to make my first batch of jam.  I’ve been putting it off all these years because I was afraid that somehow, I would manage to poison my family with homemade jam, despite having watched my mother make jam for years.

And I have to confess that it wasn’t so much that I suddenly worked up the courage necessary to make the jam.  The truth is, this morning, as I tucked fourteen quarts of blueberries into the downstairs freezer, I discovered several quarts of last year’s strawberries. 

I had to get rid of last year’s fruit to make room for this year’s.

And throwing it out was not an option.
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Three Days

Mitch McCrory awoke as the television roared to life.  He fumbled for his glasses; sat up in bed; stared at the screen.  Pretty faces gummed canned words, spoon-feeding glossy news to a dulled and passive audience.  Bobble head news.  “Why do you watch this, Deb?”  He poked his wife’s back, curved in slumber.

The newscaster reminded Mitch of his first love: Long brown hair.  Pretty blue eyes, a streak of contrived concern between them. 

“…predicting the end of the world.”  From her square and scripted world, she smiled at the audience.  Three days.  What would you do?”
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Lighter Shade Beneath

Liese watches the car pull up to the tollbooth; notices its Ohio plates.  Someone coming home, then.  She shoves her cigarette though the gaping mouth of the empty can of pop; hears it sizzle out.  She puts a flat hand out the window and waits for the ticket.

“Err…We have a bit of a problem.”

She looks up.  Problems are rare in the tollbooth. 
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Father was a quiet man.  A particular man.  You could nearly call him fussy.  Even on Saturdays, he wore a white button down shirt with a blue tie.  Even on Saturdays, he wore a hat. 

Every morning at five o’clock, he would take the New York Times from our front porch and fan out the sections before him on the antique table dominating our kitchen.  “You have to know what’s going on in your world,” he would say.    
My mother would rise and measure coffee into the silver basket of the percolator, taking care not to spill a single grind into the pot.  Father would get the first cup of the day.

Father would read the sports.
My mother would fry the bacon to a perfect crisp and lay it to drain, as instructed, in neat north-south rows.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

All of the Septembers

The birds woke me.  I lay in bed wondering what was significant about the day.  Something was happening today…What was it?

Then I remembered: It was my eldest’s last day of high school.

I stumbled out of bed and headed down the hallway, pausing at each of the kids’ bedroom doors, time to get up-ing them before going downstairs to put on a pot of coffee.  I tried not to get depressed.

As the coffee brewed, I thought about all of the Septembers—all of the first days of school, preserved in photographs neatly arranged in scrapbooks: Preschool—dressed entirely in pink, a stuffed tiger tucked beneath her arm.  Kindergarten—a yellow bus tag safety pinned to the shirt I’d sewn over the summer.  First grade—a uniform: a blue and black jumper with the school emblem neatly sewn on.  White button-up shirt.  Her shoes were polished and her socks were pulled up neatly.  She wore a new pink and purple backpack and carried a blue lunchbox. 
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To Color My Dreams

I lie in my bed, heart pounding, wondering what it is that has awakened me.  I stare into the dark, listening and waiting, trying to make sense of my confusion.  Is there a raccoon at the bird feeder again?  Trouble at work?  I rise and go to the window.  Part the curtains and peer into the darkness.

There is nothing.

I turn to the bed and I am flooded with memories.


I switch on the light.  She stands there at the door, in pajamas too small.  Her hair is knotted.  I wonder if she brushed her teeth before she went to bed.  I wonder when she went to bed.  If.  I sit in the rocking chair Liese bought for my thirty-eighth birthday and pat my knee.  Tess wiggles her way onto my lap and leans against my chest. 

“I’m afraid, Daddy.”  She sticks her thumb in her mouth, a habit my sister comments on every time she stops over with another one of her crappy casseroles.

I begin rocking.  “What are you scared of, Baby?”

She pulls the thumb from her mouth to whisper.  “Forgetting.”
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