Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Earl Grey

Broken-hearted lovers. Wedgewood china. Every moment a play with lines to memorize.

He steps out of character. "I want a divorce."

She drops her cup, watches the stain creep across the Persian rug.

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

This weekend we are bringing you back to class with a little refresher course on compound modifiers.  We are talking about two words that combine together to describe something.  Such as a well-rounded individual or aone-way street or a lightly-oiled pan.  Here's a fun Trifextra trick: conventionally, if the compound modifier comes BEFORE the word it modifies, it requires a hyphen and counts as one word.  If it comes AFTER the noun, it doesn't need a hyphen and counts as two. 

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good Fortune

"Learn Chinese," Caroline Nickleback read. "Plum:" She frowned and scratched her head. There followed an incomprehensible and unpronounceable series of letters. She studied the pronunciation guide and tried to wrap her lips around the word, spitting out a tiny crumb of fortune cookie as she did so.

Julian laughed and took a sip of his tea, running a thumb up the smooth side of the tiny white mug that was really more suited to shots than oolong.

"Lucky numbers," she continued, "forty, forty-four, forty-one, forty-six, thirty, two." She looked at her husband, shiny and new. "Should we buy a lottery ticket?"

He grinned. "You believe in that?"

"Nah. But my mother is a firm believe in astrology." Caroline leaned forward. "Says we're never going to last."
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Century of Moments

The pendulum wiped away seconds like raindrops, a century of wasted moments smeared and thinned and dissolved back into time which will charge them again with purpose and good intention before they're lost to elements unnecessary.

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

"This weekend we're asking for exactly 33 of your own words plus the following three words:
  • charge
  • century
  • lost
So 33 of yours plus 3 of ours means that everyone will have a 36 word response this time around."

I like the idea of century as a collection of one hundred as well as a marker of time.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Twenty Candles

Well my eldest turned nineteen yesterday, so that meant twenty candles on her birthday cake. I don't know if mine is the only family to add "one to grow on" but we do. As my mother would say, my daughter is now in her twentieth year.

Despite the fact that she and her sister wouldn't get home until nine o'clock, the birthday girl insisted we wait to have dinner. It was her special day, after all. I suggested perhaps having the celebratory dinner on another evening, so we could eat when normal people do. But she'd have none of it: Birthdays are to be celebrated on the correct day, after all. And so we agreed: Dinner was to be served (in the form of takeout pizza) at nine, followed immediately by the cheesecake I'd baked the night before.

At eight forty-five, my husband and son went for pizza. I went to the kitchen, stomach growling, and began peeling carrots for the next day's school lunches.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013


Dani runs her hand against the grain of the old dining room table she inherited from her grandmother, a table that has shrunk progressively every year as she and Cecil removed leaves and pushed the ends together. Years ago, it had been the opposite: As the children were born they'd wrestled the old table open, each of them tugging at either side until there was a gap sufficient to accommodate first one leaf, then two, then, finally, three.

Dani sighs deeply. Cecil doesn't appear to notice: He's reading the newspaper, breathing heavily through his mouth, his elbows holding down the corners of the paper so that the fan blowing hot air behind him doesn't rustle the pages. Cecil's elbows perpetually hold two triangles of smudged ink. Yesterday, the number twenty-seven was inked on Cecil's left elbow. All that day, as she waxed a spotless floor and wiped down counters already clean, she thought on that number. As she tried to assign meaning to a random number stamped on her husband's elbow, she realized something. "I'm bored, Cecil," she says now.


"This house is too quiet. And I'm sick to death of reading the headlines off your elbows."
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With Apologies to New York...

If a place can be said to have complexion, New York City has a color all its own. There's a complexity to New York that perhaps only natives can understand. The city is full of nuances, unspoken rules and contradiction.

On our last trip before leaving the East Coast, we emerged from Penn Station and headed towards Times Square. Elmo was there. Cookie Monster, too. Mario...Mickey Mouse...even the Statue of Liberty greeted us, posing for a picture before requesting a tip.

On Fifth Avenue, a man leaned against the side of a building, a cardboard placard in his hands. There was a supporting length of twine knotted at either end of his sign, giving his arms occasional respite: Why lie? Need money for weed.

We passed a man wearing a bikini; a man digging through the trash; another man with green hair and a bird perched upon his head, pushing a stroller piled with blankets smothering a poodle. Before I could fix his picture in my mind, he disappeared into the throng of people.

Because New York is fast, too. Before I can wrap my head around a moment, the moment disappears.
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Monday, April 15, 2013

In Commerce We Trust?

On Saturday, I went to a big box store to pick up a water filter and a birthday gift for my daughter. Total charge: $44.00.

"I don't need a bag," I told the cashier.

"Mom," my son nudged me. "You do need a bag. She'll see it."

Right. "Can I change my mind?"

The cashier nodded and slid my purchases into a bag before chasing them with the receipt.

My son pointed. "That's not going to hide anything."

"No," I agreed. "They probably use clear plastic so people don't steal anything." Other stores use similar tactics: garish orange PAID stickers on plastic milk jugs. RFID devices buried inside books. Security cameras...Mirrors...Alarms...
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Center Stage

Jackson opened the closet door, switched on the light and looked around. He loosened his tie and slid it from his neck. "Where did we go?" He stood there, not sure of where to hang his tie, now that everything had changed.

"I'm not sure," Kathy said, taking the tie and folding in half then half again. She slid open the top drawer of a massive dresser that hadn't been there that morning, when the two of them had kissed each other goodbye and left in separate cars for work. "Ties go here now, I guess."

Jackson peeked inside the drawer. His ties were rolled and lined up in a neat five-by-five matrix.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nature's Alchemy

Agnes Jamison wakes to birdsong. She listens for a moment before addressing the poodle curled up at the edge of her bed. "Are you hungry, Jake?"

He opens an eye, wags his tail tentatively.

She rises slowly and walks to the kitchen where she prepares coffee and unwraps the muffin she bought yesterday. She and Jake sit outside watching the schoolchildren trudge up the sidewalk. Agnes breaks her muffin into pieces and feeds some to the dog. "I expect we'll mow today."
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Monday, April 8, 2013


My husband and I went to our son's reading tournament last week. The kids competing in the event sat in two groups on the floor in the center of the room, leaving parents, siblings and grandparents to find seats in the student desks shoved in a tight and hazardous bunch at the room's perimeter. To my immediate left, a woman played a gambling game on her iPhone, sharp red fingernails stabbing at the screen to stop the wheels from spinning, hopefully revealing a lucky combination of cherries or apples or the number seven.

To my right and a bit forward, something much more interesting was going on: There was a man with a bushy grey beard and long silver hair spilling down his back and onto the black windbreaker he wore. The windbreaker was adorned with the name of a local boxing group and a pair of red laced-up gloves. The man wore a baseball cap and reading glasses. He held a yellow mechanical pencil in his right hand. In his left, he held a letter, tri-folded and opened and closed many times. It was written on both sides of two sheets of unlined paper in neat rows straight as the rows of peas and carrots and green beans my father marks in his garden every spring.
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Monday, April 1, 2013


Leandra Jamison studies the cobwebbed ceiling tiles as her hairdresser scrubs a mint shampoo into her hair. "I hate these sinks."

"Why?" Cyndee rubs vigorously, jamming Leandra's neck into cold ceramic.

"They hurt my neck."

"Oh. Here." Cyndee reaches into the cabinet above her head and brings down two thin towels which she doubles over. "Lift." Leandra does and Cyndee shoves the towels beneath her head. "Better?"

No. "Yes. Thanks."
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Evangeline Witherspoon removes one of the lipsticks from the plastic dollar store bag and uses her fingernail to work off the wrapping. She twists the base, watches the lipstick emerge, pretty and unblemished and new, a perfect forty-five degree angle of pure color. She stretches out her lower lip with her bottom teeth and rubs the lipstick back and forth before pressing her lips together. She studies herself intently in the bathroom mirror. Too pink, she decides, wiping off the lipstick with her lavender-scented handkerchief. She takes another from the bag and repeats the process. Too orange. Another. Taupe.

"What are you doing, Mother?" Her daughter Edna limps into the bathroom and squints at her "Why are your lips two different colors?"

Evangeline glances at herself in the mirror. Her top lip is orange. Her bottom lip taupe. She sighs. Edna, she is sure, is convinced that Evangeline is slipping. This lipstick incident won't help. Evangeline wipes her lips clean.
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