Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Travel Section

Every evening at eight thirty-two, after he starts the dishwasher and sweeps the kitchen floor and waters the plants on the patio, Thomas McMillan puts the box of cat food—Friskies—on the second shelf of the pantry to the immediate right of the flour.

For days after getting the cat, he'd debated whether he ought to put the cat food beside the currents or move the flour—Gold Medal—next to the gravy mix.

In the end, he settled for the present arrangement.

He's stuck to it faithfully ever since.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Silver Creek

We found her at the mouth of Silver Creek.

We found her beside a tree stump sharpened to a point by the beavers who regularly felled the trees to transform Silver Creek into a pond quiet and anonymous and secret.

Thirty years back, we used to step across that creek. How many gallons of water filled this place now?

We found her where I've stood with my hands in the back pockets of my jeans, watching the concentric circles—echoes of a stone thrown—widen and ripple before fading away to stillness.

But a body of water—even a pond—is never stagnant, even when it appears to be. And my daughter, so silent and still, is so much more than people think she is.

I hate when her schoolmates mock her.

I hate it more when they ignore her.

I'd told her time and time again not to come down here alone. There are hunters in these woods. And the water is deep.

But how can you keep a child from nature?

And should you, even if you could?

We found her facing the cattails growing in the icy marshland and I remembered, as I ran, how I tried once upon a time to catch a trout with one, and failed.

We found one of her red boots turned upside down in the snow. We found her orange scarf coated with ice. We found her sitting on a log staring out over the water.

“Cari!” I shouted.

She turned and gave me a toothless grin. She stood barefoot in the snow and laughed.

I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed. “We found her.” I picked her up and wrapped her in my jacket. “Let's go home,” I said.

The beavers will continue cutting their trees.

Her classmates will continue laughing at my daughter.

And she will continue to find solace among nature, beside the laughing stream.

This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word was mouth.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

The Gap Between Stitches

My daughter is teaching herself to knit.

Her college friends mock her: It's a rocking-chair hobby, they tell her. An old-lady hobby. Still, she persists.

She frowns over her work, each hand tightly clutching a gold needle, a multi-colored scarf slowly taking shape between them. I watch her take up the yarn and incorporate it into the scarf. I listen to the clacking of the needles in the perfect stillness of the house. Listening, I am reminded of my mother and my grandmother and the work that has come from their needles: scarfs and hats; dishcloths and blankets and the long-outgrown sweaters that I keep in my trunk for my children's children.

My daughter sighs. The clacking stops. She holds up the scarf revealing another dropped stitch. “I hate knitting.” The comfortable quiet is replaced with frustration. “Should I tear it all out?”

“No,” I tell her. “Just keep going.”

“Then the problem will just continue,” she says, taking up her needles again.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Lilly Jean hefted a box onto the truck. She rooted around in her bra until she found a handkerchief which she used to mop her forehead. “Hell's bells, it's hot.”

Spank grinned. “I thought ladies weren't supposed to perspire.”

“Ladies ain't supposed to be lifting all this shit, Spank. Whatever happened to chivalry?”
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Monday, January 21, 2013


Oxygen masks and monitors. Stainless steel trays. Sterile sheet stretched across a thin mattress covered in plastic. Among the stillness, Bethany Lowe lay quiet, the sun glinting off the diamond solitaire she'd worn for the past twenty-seven years.

The doctor looked at Bethany. “The car that hit hers must've been going at least eighty miles an hour.” He shook his head. “Time of death: six forth-one. Internal trauma.”

Caroline shook her head. “You're wrong, Doctor. Bethany died years ago. She died of a broken heart.”

He frowned.

Room 412.”

The comatose patient?”

Eric Whyte. Bethany's fiance for twenty-eight years.”

The doctor nodded and snapped off his gloves. He tossed them on the tray and headed out the door, leaving Caroline to pick up the pieces of Bethany's death.

What happened?”

Caroline jumped and turned. She'd forgotten about the college kid, Beryl something. The kid was spending three weeks at the hospital. Some community service thing.

The day of her wedding...oh you should have seen her. She stood in the church basement posing for the photographer just radiating happiness. I was her maid of honor.”

The kid nodded. Stared at Bethany.

She wore her grandmother's dress and carried a bouquet of wildflowers.”

Sounds beautiful.”

Eric was late. We kept delaying the wedding. Ten minutes. Ten minutes more. We thought Eric had gotten cold feet.” Caroline began picking up tubes and sponges. “All of a sudden, the best man burst into the basement. He told us that Eric had been hurt. That Bethany needed to get to the hospital.”

What happened to him?”

Shot. He'd been running late, as usual. Eric was late for everything. He decided to take a shortcut and got caught up in some street fight.” Caroline remembered how Bethany had dropped the bouquet on the floor. “She ran up the basement stairs and out of the church into the limo. She sat by his bedside for days, begging him to wake up,” Caroline told the kid. “Every day, after school, Bethany would come to the hospital to visit Eric.”

Sounds romantic.”

She talked for hours, telling him all about the kids at her school and what was happening in town. When she got tired of talking, she would read to him. Eric loved mysteries.” Carolyn sighed. “Everyone told her to let him go, but she refused.” Carolyn blinked and walked to the window. Birds were scattered across the sky like stars.

My God. To love someone so long.”

I loved him longer,” Carolyn whispered.


I introduced them. Eric and I were supposed to get engaged. Then I introduced him to Bethany.” She heard a commotion from the hallway. “What the hell's going on?”

A nurse burst into the room. “Room 412 just woke up. He's asking for water.”

Want to go see?” Caroline asked the kid.


Caroline waited for the kid to go before pulling the ring from Carolyn's finger and slipping it into her pocket beside the syringe. She headed down the hallway to room 412 and opened the door.

You're too late,” the kid said to Eric.

Nonsense,” Carolyn replied. “I'm here.”


For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Kurt at http://muzzlediaries.blogspot.com gave me this prompt: If death is certain, and time of death is uncertain...

I gave Diane Trujillo at http://theschmorgasboard.comthis prompt: She studied the grain of the wood, wondering if...

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Helium Balloons

People say that the boy is stuck in poverty; that he'll never escape.
Yet from across the water, the trees rise up like helium balloons.
The little boy laughs and smiles in wonder.

This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. We were supposed to write 33 words on one photograph. This is the one I chose:

VinothChandar / Nature Photos / CC BY
Photo credit: VinothChandar / Foter.com / CC BY


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Lillian Jamison stands on the sidewalk appraising her home. After she'd bought it, Lillian had hired a designer to pull the house together. They'd consulted for hours, discussing color charts and throw rugs and plush pillows. One piece at a time, she and her designer had constructed perfection.

Only one thing was missing.

“Soon,” she tells herself.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I feel your eyes upon me. Eyes of pity. Eyes of blame. Eyes of hate.
I frighten you.
I fill your head with what ifs and maybes.

I am the mirror you wish to avoid.

I am the mirror of possibilities.

I am Idleman.
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trash Day

Thursday. Trash day. I walk along the sidewalk past garbage cans heaped with refuse. A deer lay on its side, adorned in white Christmas lights, metal legs bent backwards as it waits to be scooped up and tossed into the back of the garbage truck. On this trash day, I walk past stuffed animals; plastic toy kitchens; empty hamster cages.

At around six o'clock every Wednesday, a man drives through my neighborhood, inspecting the wares. Occasionally, he'll stop to claim a bike or a table and load it into the bed of his truck.

Now, the wind picks up and sends garbage blowing down the street: newspapers; discarded Christmas cards; empty cans and plastic milk jugs. As it blows past, I wrestle with myself, part of me saying I ought to pick up the trash, the other part saying it does not belong to me. It is not my responsibility.

I claim no innocence in this tossing. My cans, too, overflow with the stuff of life and of death. Plastic bags of dog waste, neatly knotted. Tissues. A bathroom sink.

Opportunity. Costs.

Trash day reminds me of all we have purchased to make our lives simple; to entertain ourselves and to distract our children. We buy to fill ourselves up and end up empty.

Trash day reminds me of that we have wasted; all we have willingly thrown away.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Megan parks her Taurus behind the line of BMWs and Porches, neatly waxed. She doesn't bother locking the car. She's not even sure the locks work anymore. Her trips to this house have always been infrequent. This would be her last. She pauses at the end of the brick sidewalk to stare at the house, big and imposing. Perhaps she should have changed from her jeans into something more appropriate. Too late now.

She approaches the front door, flanked on either side by marble lions frozen in snarling anger and time. Why had she been invited to this? She was only a distant relative. Perhaps the invitation was merely a duty paid to family obligations; a recognition of a connection, however tenuous.

“Megan.” Her mother's cousin Sophie is framed by the open door. Her arms are crossed. “Everyone has been waiting.”

Megan continues up the sidewalk reluctantly. She wants no part of this dividing. How to split up a life?
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Words Unsaid

Cheryl pulls open the heavy wooden door and steps into a cool darkness backlight by stained glass. Her neat heels echo on the marble floor. The backs of her hands are blue... red... yellow. The church smells of the stillness of flowers, of incense, of words unsaid.

Every year, her mother had helped to clean this church, lugging a red bucket of soapy water down each aisle, scrubbing at the pews as if she could personally wash away sin. No matter how much elbow grease her mother had applied, some things—swear words and names carved into wood—could not be rubbed away.

These words pained her mother. Every time she encountered one, she would set down her rag and head to the front of the church to light a candle and say a prayer for the poor sinner.
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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mourn Not

Mourn not your youthful beauty. It has served you well. But beauty will fade to birth the soul; to strip away all pretence and allow the self to emerge, strong, courageous, and true.

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

"As you'll recall from your elementary science class days, the structure of the earth can be divided most simply into three sections: core, mantle, crust."


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Yesterday's Soup

The snow falls thick and heavy from a sky made up in soft sheets of grey. Beatrice putters about her kitchen, watching the flakes soundlessly fall. She pauses to look out the window. William Harris trudges behind his prancing dog Trudi, who wears a red jacket with shiny sequins. Although she cannot see them today, Beatrice knows that Trudi's nails are painted red: William's wife gives the dog a manicure every Sunday after church.

The tea kettle whistles and she turns off the gas. She studies her assortment of teas, decides upon a good, strong Earl Grey. She sets the bag in her mug and pours water on top. Outside, the roads are silent and still. “Snow day today, I'll bet,” she tells the cat, who sits at her feet, tail curled around his toes. She sits at the kitchen table with her tea and watches the birds gather at her feeders: goldfinch and sparrows. A few chickadees.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013


You come to me, contrite and silver-tongued, apologies dripping from your lips like sweet nectar. Tears glisten in your eyes as you look upon the scars you have dealt, my blackened eyes a pair of deuces.

I have lost this hand.

I have lost this game.

You stroke my hair with silken fingers. You beg me to take you back. It won't happen again, you tell me over and over.

Forgive and forget and all that.

What else am I to do?

I am shattered glass.

I am shattered.

And yet...

Glass shattered will still survive.

True, it loses form, growing ever smaller until it is unrecognizeable.



Glass shattered nearly disappears.

And yet it still goes on, the remains gathered up again by the tender arms of the earth and molded back into something new.

I am not shattered.

I am a rock, glistening with broken glass, facets of me you thought you ruined.

I cannot be destroyed.

When you pick up a piece of sandstone, hold it to the sunlight and watch it glisten. Know that I am there.

Look upon my many faces and recognize me.

And should you try to crush me still, know that one day, I will become the looking glass in which you finally see yourself.


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