Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Main Street

At this hour of the morning, before the main of humanity has awakened from its slumber, Main Street, a product of those who sleep, is largely silent and still. The stores along Main—Irvin's Hardware; Andee Miller's beauty shoppe; the Laundromat—are still locked, their window shades pulled to. Even at Harvey's Diner, the sign is flipped to Closed. But at Harvey's the lights are on inside. A warm glow flows through the diner like a heartbeat and spills through the glass of the front door and onto the sidewalk.

Bleary-eyed waitresses bustle around inside, tying aprons around waists gone soft, setting out paper placemats, putting on pots of coffee. Deidree Hazlett suddenly pauses in her work and laughs, slack-jawed. She folds herself neatly in half and holds onto her sides.

"Ain't nuthin' that funny at this hour of t'day," Winnie Jamison observes before returning to the handful of spoons she's buffing.
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Monday, February 25, 2013


Ellen picks up on the first ring. "Hello."

"Ellen." Sharon. BFF and all that.


"You ever take a look at those online dating sites?"

"Sharon, I've been officially divorced for.." Ellen consults her watch. "...all of two hours and twenty-seven minutes. Lemmie let it sink in."
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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Woods Are Wild...

The old house was hidden beneath pine needles. Ribs and bones; Entrails of life past; Remnants discovered in the woods by children. Quiescence.

The woods are wild: A gentle lapping to devour corporeality.

This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. Pick 33 words at random from page 33 of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

All Exits Are Final

"I hate the way you rattle your paper about." Cheryl frowns.

Frank glances at her and grins as he shakes the newspaper violently.

"Stop that."

"Are you feeling OK, Cheryl?" He takes a sip of coffee, long and over-loud.

"I hate the way you slurp your coffee. Where is your dignity?" Cheryl says. "Where is your refinement?"

Frank sets down his mug. "If I recall, dear, beneath that fancy dress, your under-drawers aren't all that refined."
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Months Shy of Nine

Frank gestures to the Post-it Notes decorating three walls of Phillip's cardboard box. "I know you ain't wrote these yourself, 'cause I know you can't read and write."

Phillip hangs his head. His mother had tried to teach him for four years, slapping him when the words he tried so hard to fit into his brain refused to cooperate. In the end, she'd turned him out, two months shy of nine. He's spent the better part of the past eight years living in cardboard boxes. "The words never stuck," Phillip says now, ashamed.
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Saturday, February 16, 2013


She watches the fallout as he chews open-mouthed.

She snaps open the newspaper. He recoils at the gale.

"Feels like we bin married a thousand years."

He pokes at a crumb and nods.

This was written for this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge in which we were to use hyperbole in thirty-three words.


Thursday, February 14, 2013


"You know what will sell your house?" Mabel Pyle leaned against the Remax sign recently planted in David Hickman's front yard. David, being a serious man, tucked his hands into his back pockets to ponder Mabel's question. "Some new annuals," he said, considering the flowerbeds, newly awakening. "A welcome mat."

"No, no, no." Mabel frowned. "That's not it at all."

"Paint?" David said.


"Well, I'm not buying a new roof." David studied his roof. It would hold. He hoped.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of Community

February 13 and the crocuses are already in bloom, white and purple petals in stark contrast to the dingy lawns I pass as I walk with the dog. Snow threatens. And yet, it's still unseasonably warm. Music blasts from a car with Maryland plates. A man driving a van bearing the advertisement "Equestrian Dentistry" turns around in a driveway, obviously lost.

Of the few people I encounter on my walk, I recognize nobody.

Nobody says hello.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pocketful of Taconite

It was the opening and closing of her fists that got to me. As if Mrs. Johnson thought she could grab her son by his torn shirttails and yank him out of the afterlife all of a piece again.

“Jimmy jumped into a train.” Her eyes were wide and staring. Her hands clenched and released empty air.

LouAnne Henderson traced concentric circles around Mrs. Johnson's back, ever smaller, smaller, until there was just a dot in the middle before she worked her way back out again. I glanced at Stu.

“Jimmy jumped into a train,” Mrs. Johnson said again. The words were hard enough to hear in the first telling. I couldn't bear to hear them again.

Stu sidled up to me. “They found his cowboy boots sitting neat and pretty beside the tracks, almost as if he'd stepped out of 'em afore he jumped.”

I nodded. “Probly he did. He was right proud of them boots, bragging about them near every chance he got.”
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Meditations on a Plane

Then I see our plane nose daringly into gray mist,
      And there is nothing,
      Nothing ahead or behind,
      Nothing above nor below,
      Nothing to see nor to do,
But to sit still, trusting...

From "Meditations on a Plane," by my great-grandmother, Lettie M. Reid, b. 1885.

For this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge, we were to post thirty-three of the best words we could find. I chose to post my great-grandmother's words. Having nine children and a farm and house to tend with her husband, Lettie Reid still managed to find time to write. I have no excuses for not writing.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

River of Regret

Somewhere on Pioneer Trail, in a quiet and wooded place; somewhere between Mantua and Ravenna, is a spring. There, at the side of the road, is a face of rock, stained red beneath from the iron-rich water that flows from a thin metal pipe. Lush wildflowers grow there: black-eyed Susan, daisies, sweet peas.

Whenever she took Pioneer Trail to transport her grandchildren to or from the hundred-acre farm she shared with her husband, my grandmother would pull her white Mustang to the side of the road. My sisters and I would scoot off the red vinyl seats and emerge to pick flowers to fashion into jewelry or to take home to wrap in a vase of wet paper towels and foil. After we drank our fill of the water, icy and fresh and thick with minerals, my grandmother would take two or three plastic milk jugs from the trunk and fill them at the spring.

This was my introduction to bottled water.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


“Much of your life is handed to you upon a plate of destiny.” Steve gave Alicia a pen and watched her sign.

“Destiny. Bosh.” She scribbled her name at the bottom of the document and lit a cigarette. “You choose your destiny. You make your destiny.” She inhaled and curled her lips in a sneer. Her next words floated out upon a bed of smoke: “That is why I am rich and you are not.”
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Compatibility Test

Member them squishy toilet seats?
The vinyl ones? Foam-stuffed?
I loved them. Troubles kinda' sank away.
Imagine cleaning.
While yer lawyerin', I'll clean.
No. Horrible things.
Gimmie my ring back. We ain't compatible.

This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. We were to write thirty-three words of dialogue.