Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

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

Monday, October 29, 2012


Margaret stands at the window, parting the curtain with one hand. “You missed quite a storm, George,” she says. George doesn't respond, of course, having been dead for eight months. But after fifty-two years, she has become accustomed to speaking with George. And so she prattles on, outlining the silences of her day with meaningless words, filling in the rest with television.

Three people trudge down the sidewalk, heads bent against the persistent wind. One clutches the handle of a Radio Flyer wagon. “You won't get around that tree,” Margaret murmurs. They glance at the window. Margaret pulls away. Ever since George died, she's been afraid. Now she is terrified: The power has been out for nine days. The dog has been eating her frozen dinners. The water is gone.

The trio heads up her front walk. Somebody rings the bell.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Observations From the Seventh Floor

By eight o'clock, the tailgate party has begun. We gather at the window of the hotel room, staring down into the the parking lot. A few men, shrugged into heavy coats of black and gold, weave through the lot, looking for tickets to the game.

A black pickup pulls into the lot. The driver shells out thirty-five dollars and and backs into his space. There's only one row of parking here and a six foot space behind each truck to set up shop. Further down the row, there's a man wearing a gold apron around his waist and a Steelers jersey bearing number 94 He has five eight-foot tables covered in white plastic. Gigantic coolers—red and blue and yellow and black, of course, littler the ground. Number 94 stirs a pot of chili; offers a spoonful to number 83 for a taste. Other men and one women mill about, hands jammed into pockets, watching. Number 94 dishes up five aluminum containers with chilli, places lids on them, and carries them to the lot attendant's booth, stacking them in the window before shaking the attendent's hand and returning to his pot of chili. Someone asks for a picture. Numbers 94 and 83 lean in, arms around each other, hold the pose for a moment.
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Saturday, October 27, 2012


“What if I said you could forget it all?”

“I'd do it in a minute. You know I would.”

Derrick smiled. “Drink.”

Eloise sniffed. “Herbal tea?”

“You could say that.”

This piece was written in response to this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge.

This weekend is our last opportunity for a Halloween-inspired Trifextra, and of course, we can't pass that up.  In 1937, a naked woman was found limping through the streets of Haiti.  Upon interrogation, she was unable to give any details as to her identity.  The woman was eventually identified in hospital as Felicia Felix-Mentor.  The only issue is that Felicia Felix-Mentor had been dead for nearly twenty years.  Felicia was, therefore, a zombie.

It so happens that well-known author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston was in Haiti researching a book at that time.  Hurston met and photographed the woman/zombie, and pop culture took the story from there.  Not surprisingly, there are a ton of internet articles discussing the authenticity of the claim of zombification, the chemical mix needed to create such a phenomenon, and then, of course, instruction on how we should all behave in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  There is even a video on Youtube of Hurston describing the encounter.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


“Hugo's going as a ballerina,” Phillip said.

“Isn't he a football player?” Christina asked.

“Six-ten; two-forty.” Phillip nodded. “Kids these days. “Always clowning around. Kind of like Norman and Fred here.” He gestured to his left where the men sat wearing rubber masks, sucking on unlit cigarettes, chuckling softly whenever someone new entered the room and startled.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Breaking Point

As she did every year, Amanda Kramer opted to take the entire day off. At seven fifty-five, she entered the waiting room of her doctor's office. A television blared from one corner, tuned to The Today Show. On the opposite side of the room, there was a large tank of fish lazily swimming. Amanda approached the receptionist's desk and looked for the clipboard. The receptionist—a different one from last year, Amanda thought—slid open the glass door. Amanda smiled. “I'm trying to sign in. Is there a …?”

“We have a new system.” The receptionist gestured to a small device on the counter. It was about the size of a computer mouse. Its center glowed red. “Name?”

“Amanda Kramer.”

“Put your finger there.” The receptionist pointed to the device.
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Friday, October 19, 2012


I wished him into being.

Three times, I wished a man to complete me.

“You asked for it,” he says, as bruises bloom across my cheek.

For a moment, I believe him.

This was written for this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  

On to the weekend challenge.  The Monkey's Paw, a short story by W.W. Jacobs, is about the strings that come with granted wishes.  We are asking you to write 33 words exactly about three wishes that come at a high price to the wisher.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Nathaniel pauses to let the dog take a leak. He inventories the Johnson's trash heaped curbside: portable hose cart; giant snowflake, weeping glitter; American flag, one of those jobs you wave at Memorial Day parades with a kid sitting upon your shoulders kicking innocent feet.

Last week, while his wife dithered at the window and the house shuddered, the paving crew scraped away the street's dingy gray outfit, scooping it into a truck and carting it off before returning with an outfit of black, slowly ironing it into place before moving on. An improvement for sure. Bound to increase the value of the house.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

What to Throw Away

Evenings, they sit in companionable silence, listening to NPR, the backgammon board spread on a table between them. Now, Celeste pours two mugs of tea and brings them to the table. She sits across from Philip and smiles. The fire snaps. A log falls, sending angry sparks through the black mesh screen to the concrete floor. Philip rises and crosses to the window of the lodge. He parts the heavy curtain to stare outside at the storm.

His skin has acquired a ruddy cast. Leathery, almost. “I'm glad you brought me here,” she tells his back. She's not really. She hates being here, stuck at the top of some quiet lonely mountain with nothing but the snow and her husband and the board games of her youth: Clue... checkers... backgammon, of course.
He turns. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
She rubs her left wrist where arthritis has recently settled in. “Very much.” Another lie.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Count to Three

Channel Five broadcast the threetwoone cutting of ribbons with oversized shears. Sparkling teeth birthed words: economy, growth. Sunglassed faces red-lipped canapes and plastic straws. The farmer drank fertilizer; curled up behind the barn.

This post was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  

This weekend we are challenging you to write 33 of your own words to build upon the following:
On the count of three...
You can choose to include those words if you want, but they do not count toward the 33 words of your own. 

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I don't know why I remember those baby birds lying twisted and dead upon the cement floor of the garage of the second house I lived in. The front of the garage had a set of tall built-in shelves, more than likely constructed by my father. Likely, too, given his affinity for the color, they were painted grey. Or perhaps white.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Small Impressions

Get lost,” her mother spat. “I have company coming over.”

Cassidy stared out the rain-streaked window. “Where should I go?”

I don't care. Take a walk. A long walk.”

Cassidy watched her mother lean into the mirror and apply her lipstick. “When should I come back?”

Her mother blotted her lips on a folded tissue. “Your father wanted children, not me.”
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Monday, October 8, 2012


“I am Death,” Death declared, taking a seat across from Lillian Jacobs.

Lillian shoved a cracker in her mouth. “Hold on.” She put up an index finger and leaned in towards the glowing light of her monitor. “Let me finish this paragraph.”

Death sighed and let his scythe clatter to the floor.

“You weren't supposed to get home until Tuesday.”
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Friday, October 5, 2012


Fourteen hour days and pesticide-laced dreams. Sixty dollars a day to feed the children. Air-conditioned men in business suits watch through backward-facing binoculars calculating profits. This is your pleasure. This is our bondage.

This was linked up to this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  We were to write a metaphor based upon one of several photographic prompts.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

In the city, you learn when to breathe. You learn when to hold your breath.

You learn not to breathe when you pass that homeless man sleeping on a bench beneath the flag of New Zealand on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, that mile-long boulevard connecting Love Park with the Philadelphia Art Museum, yes, that same museum where Rocky Balboa charged up all those stairs. Today you will find people of all ages and races running up those steps before turning back to pump their arms in triumph while smiling friends snap pictures to keep the memory alive. You can even buy a tee shirt from the man who hangs out at the Rocky statue.

But we're done at the Art Museum. We're heading back. We're approaching that man sleeping upon the park bench beneath the flag of New Zealand.

Know that you will taste him, if you don't hold your breath. You will feel him settle upon your tongue like the stale communion host you had this morning in church. You will taste urine and body odor and hopelessness.

Even in your innocence, you will taste guilt.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meaningless Small Packages

The eight o'clock commuter blasted a plaintive wail as it left the station, the sound trailing behind it in wispy whorls of loneliness. The escalator was littered with cigarette butts and discarded candy wrappers.

Karen walked the eight blocks to her home in darkness, brittle leaves raining from the trees onto the sidewalk. She let herself in, immediately locking the door behind her. Her cell rang.


“You OK, Mom?”

“I'm fine.” Of course Eileen would remember: This was the weekend her parents had been scheduled to hike a twenty mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
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