Friday, April 30, 2010
Today's muse: Based on a true story.
* * *
The Break Up
“Tell me everything,” Ellen says, as she drops her purse on the floor and slumps into the chair across from me. “And don’t leave anything out.”
“Thanks for coming,” I tell her, and take her hand. She gives me a reassuring squeeze and I attempt a brave smile.
Ellen signals our favourite waiter--a self-proclaimed Diva--who sashays over to our table.
“Dry martini.” says Ellen. “Straight up. Bombay Sapphire. Olives.” Ellen is serious about her martinis.
The Diva responds with an approving “Mhmmm!”
They turn to me. Ellen raises a questioning eyebrow and The Diva cocks his head. Out of nowhere, the weight of the world falls on me and I can’t make a decision; as though the choice between a Cosmo or an Apple Martini is going to topple the scales of life and nothing will ever be the same.
Tears well up and my lip trembles.
“Oh, honey!” The Diva whips a tissue out from an invisible pocket and dabs at my eyes, careful not to smudge my mascara.
“Make it two martinis,” says Ellen. The Diva nods and scurries away.
I shake my head, mortified at making a scene. “I don’t know where to start.” I lift my hands in a hopeless gesture and let them drop to the table.
“Why don’t you tell me why you’re leaving him,” Ellen prompts.
I take a deep breath and let it out in a shaky puff. “It’s just not working anymore.” I shrug, not really sure how to express how I feel. Ellen rests her elbows on the table, cups her chin in her hands. And waits.
“Things were going so well, for so long,” I begin. “Josh was perfect.” I stare up at the ceiling and Ellen nods, prompting me to continue.
“He listened when I talked. He really seemed to care, you know? When I got that promotion, he snuck in two mini bottles of scotch so we could celebrate. And no matter how late it was, he’d drop everything and make time for me.”
“Then why are you leaving him?”
I sigh. “It’s so hard to make the time to fit him in.”
Ellen nods, and I know she understands, without judgement.
“Almost every time I make plans to see him, something comes up at work and I’m rushing out to see him. Most of the time, I go back to work when we’re done, just to finish up a few things. It’s ridiculous.”
I bury my face in my hands and groan. “It’s too stressful. I need to find someone closer to home. Someone I can see on the weekend.”
The Diva returns and places our martinis on the table.
“Boyfriend?” he asks Ellen, flicking his head toward me.
She shakes her head.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Today's muse: One Minute Writer
Prompt: Describe the most beautiful sound you've ever heard.
* * *
Hush Now Child
My pace slows and I come to a stop. I stand on my toes to see above the grass that sways in the breeze. The blades brush against one another making a sound much like a mother hushing a frightened child. It soothes me and I continue walking, my eyes scanning the horizon.
Then I see them—the tops, at least. As I crest the hill, they come in full view and I realize how enormous they really are. And more than a little intimidating.
They swing open as a deep melodic voice greets me.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Today's muse: The One-Minute Writer
The Prompt: Complete this thought: "I wish I'd paid more attention when..."
* * *
I wish I'd paid more attention
when the gods whispered in my ear
and explained my reason for being,
why they left me here.
Is it to help the homeless man
I see on the corner each day,
who holds his cardboard sign up,
and blesses me on my way?
Is it to lift the others
who have lived a life like mine,
to make them strong to face the day,
and leave abuse behind?
Is it to raise my children
and watch them as they grow,
to be loving, kind and fair,
and have children of their own?
Or is my lifelong mission,
the reason I am here,
to know that You are with me,
that You are always near?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Today's muse: Daily Writing Practice
* * *
Staring at the blue prints, I try to imagine his vision.
“It’s too boxy here,” he says, with a vague wave. “This all needs to come out.” He swishes his hand in a sweeping motion, as though this small gesture will magically fix everything.
I nod. He’s probably right, though I don’t think it’s possible. Isn’t some of that structural?
“And here,” he taps the paper. “We could add something here, just for aesthetics.” He makes a few marks with his pen. “See?”
“I just don’t know,” I say, not sure I want to commit to such an extensive overhaul.
I squint, trying to visualize what he’s trying to tell me.
“Is this all really necessary?” I don’t want to offend him. After all, he is the professional in this scenario.
He raises an eyebrow as if to say, Of course it is.
I back off, raise a hand to signal a truce.
“When I’m done,” he assures me, “you will wonder how you lived with it before.” He sees my hesitation. “You won’t regret it. I promise.”
I sigh. “Alright.”
And shake hands with my plastic surgeon.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Today's muse: Seven Days Seven Answers
Checklist: A list of words will be accompanied by a scenario in which to use them.
Words and scenario: You are stranded on an island with only the following: spoon, ukulele, yarn, hand sanitizer, feather boa
* * *
For weeks the sun has risen into a cloudless sky, burning everything in its path. I sit by the water’s edge, scrunching my toes in the sand, as I watch the orange orb dip into the ocean.
The island is thick with vegetation, but not animal life. Except for that one thing that keeps rustling in the dense brush when the sun goes down. I am quite sure it is tall—taller than me, at least—as the golden orbs that peer out at me are much higher than my shoulder. He hasn’t attempted to communicate, nor have I. We seem to have an unspoken understanding, the Beast and I. I will live on the open beach, sheltered by the broken fuselage that has washed ashore, and he will stay hidden in the dense jungle that consumes most of this tiny mass of land.
With an oversized serving spoon salvaged from the 747’s kitchenette, I scoop ash from last night’s fire, making a crevice for the flat rock I use for cooking. Dried wood is steepled around it and I light the miniature pyre to heat the rock to an angry red.
Well away from the tide, the other odds and ends that washed up on shore are lined up like an open-air market. Too bad there are no buyers.
As the roaring fire dies down, I set the filleted fish on the rock and it gives off a satisfying sizzle. It smells good and my mouth waters in anticipation.
I hear a rustle in the foliage and squint to peer through the darkness. I know the Beast watches, but turn back to my cooking, confident that he will go back to his side of the island and not bother me.
I assume far too much.
He walks to the opposite side of the fire, his footsteps silent on the pale sand, and crouches down, bringing his face level with mine.
Expecting a hideous creature that will devour me, I’m surprised that the man before me is quite handsome. His skin is dark, baked to perfection by the tropical sun. His sun-bleached hair is long and tied back with a paisley necktie. The growth around his chin, though undisciplined, adds a ruggedness to his features. I recognize the designer suit he wears, though I’m sure the pants were never meant to be hacked off at the knees and he should be wearing a shirt beneath the tailored jacket. Then again, the sinewy muscles that ripple across his body wouldn’t be visible. A bow tie is centred around his throat, giving him the distinct look of a Chippendale dancer.
It occurs to me that he could still devour me, though I’m quite certain I won’t mind.
“I thought I should dress for dinner,” he says, by way of explanation, looking down at his modified attire. I nod, not trusting my voice to be steady. “Seeing as you went to so much trouble.” He gestures at the fillet that continues to sizzle.
I rise, self conscious in my worn shorts and meagre t-shirt.
“I’ll be right back.”
In the fuselage, I sift through clothing rescued from the crash, rummaging through folded piles stacked in the overhead compartments, like an enormous walk-in closet. I recall the beautiful tranny that sat in 23B, who had great legs and a killer outfit.
Letting out a cry of triumph as I spy the red silk dress, I pull it out and slip it over my head. Without a mirror, I can’t be sure how it looks, but I can tell the fabric clings in all the right places. Standing on my toes, I scan the bin and see the pink feathers peaking between the Airline’s bright blue flannel blankets. Jackpot! I hang the feather boa around my shoulders and saunter back to the fire.
I note that the Beast—he is still a beast, though of a different calibre now—has taken the liberty of shopping at my makeshift flea market. He sits cross-legged, strumming a ukulele that I know was left to dry in the sun. One of the strings is broken, but he manages to seduce a melody from the small instrument.
He glances up at me and smiles. “Love the outfit.”
I fling one end of the boa over my left shoulder. “What? This old thing?”
After dinner, he tells me how he came to be on this island, spinning a tragic yarn of sinking ships and drowning loved ones. His golden eyes bore into me the entire time, never looking away. I’m overwhelmed by his stoic behaviour and I tell him that I’m impressed with this bravery.
He shrugs, dismissing my praise. “Let’s eat,” he says, changing the subject.
“Are you still hungry?” I jump up, my mind already spinning, concocting a special meal just for the Beast.
“Honey,” he whispers, “it’s time for lunch.”
I glance down at my bare wrist. How does he know what time it is? Besides, the sun went down hours ago. It must be at least ten o’clock.
I look back up at him and the sun pierces my eyes, a sharp jab in the middle of my forehead. Pale blue eyes peer down at me, frowning with concern.
I close my eyes again. Not that I don’t want to see my husband’s clean-shaven face, pinking from too much sun. But I want to melt back into that spell and curl up with the Beast. Just for a few moments.
I hear a lid snap open and he pours hand sanitizer into my hands.
“Wash up,” he says.
“I’m not hungry,” I mutter, as I rub the liquid over my hands. The smell of alcohol mixes with chlorine and coconut.
I lay back down on the recliner and recall a crackling fire, a starlit night and the lustful promise of a god-like stranger.
“I just ate.”
Monday, April 12, 2010
Today's muse: Daily Writing Practice
Four lines of prose.
* * *
The guys at school were relentless, teasing him about the stains on his knees, though he tried night after night to wash them out. They made crass gestures as he walked by—thrusting motions with their hands at their mouths—often accompanied with obscene sucking noises. He kept his head high as he walked by them, his face carefully blank, void of emotion. They don’t understand, he whispered, as he knelt before the etched stone that marked his mother’s grave.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Today's muse: Sunday Scribblings
* * *
“You need to tilt like this,” he says, as he re-positions my hand. I adjust the slant of my knife and it slices more easily. I nod my understanding.
“Cleaning up afterwards is just as important,” he continues. “Perhaps more so.”
I wipe the sharp knife, taking particular care to clean the custom bone handle. He smiles at me and nods his approval. I look up at the man who has taken me under his wing, the man who has treated me like a son.
“Are you sure you want to retire?” I ask him for the hundredth time.
He claps me on the shoulder. “It’s time.”
I nod as though I understand. I don’t, but I know he doesn’t want to talk about it. Although this man is a legend—hated and loved by so many—he is modest and will not acknowledge his achievements. His pale grey eyes stare back at me. I can see the pride in them. He has selected me to carry on his work. I only hope I will not shame him.
We look down at my handiwork and I wait for his criticism. Nerves dance up and down my back. He makes some indistinguishable noises, then smiles.
“It’s beautiful work, son.” He wraps an arm around my shoulder and I try to hide my grin. “I think you’re ready.”
My head snaps up and I stare into his smiling face. “Really?”
He laughs. “Really.”
He picks up the bone-handled knife—the knife he has used for twelve long years—and presses it into my hands.
“This is yours now.”
Never one for sentiment or ceremony, he breaks the moment before it becomes emotional.
“Let’s get rid of the body, then we’ll find someone for your first solo.”
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Today's muse: Seven Days Seven Answers
Tuesday's prompt was Checklist: A list of words will be accompanied by a scenario in which to use them.
Todays words: Sangria, Lost, Monkey, Book
Scenario: Tell me about your vacation.
* * *
Under the shelter of the covered porch, I stare across the expanse of green lawn barely visible through the pouring rain. What happened to the sunny day the Weather Man promised? Idiot, I mutter, cursing him under my breath.
Steven joins me, dragging with him two folding lounge chairs.
“It’ll be like we’re outside,” he says, “only drier.” He is over-enthusiastic. I know he’s trying to cheer me up, but he won’t succeed. Not because he can’t, but because I won’t let him.
“Whatever,” I mumble, with a shrug.
He pulls his Monkey Face, the one that always makes me laugh. But today it doesn’t. Today was supposed to be our special day. We don’t get a lot of time together, so whatever little time we do get is precious to us. Almost sacred. Our days off are like mini-vacations to us, planned with the same attention to detail as a three-month cruise.
Today we were planning on hiking through the Moraine, stopping for an elaborate picnic lunch and taking hundreds of pictures. Pictures of peaks and valleys bathed in brilliant sunshine.
I flop down on a lounge chair and snatch my book from the little wicker table. I open it to the bookmarked page with such violence that I crack the spine.
Steven clamps his lips between his teeth, wise enough to keep quiet. I glare at him, daring him to say something. He holds his hand up, palm facing me, thrusts it at me once. The message is clear: Wait!
As he walks back into the house, I release a heavy sigh loud enough for the neighbours to hear. Any hope for a romantic day with my husband is now lost.
Soon, the porch door creeks open. Steven backs in, hiding his burden as he walks over to the pair of antique milk crates that double as a table. He sets down what is obviously a tray and turns to face me, careful to block my view.
He bends down and takes my face in his hands, kisses me soundly with a loud smacking noise.
“I love you, you know.” He kisses me again. “Even though it’s raining.”
I roll my eyes. I’m determined to be grumpy, but I can feel my resolve cracking. He is, after all, trying very hard to cheer me up.
“And you know what they say, don’t you?”
I narrow my eyes. I may be weakening, but I’m in no mood for his silliness.
He grins at me. “When life hands you lemons...”
I raise an eyebrow. Is he serious? A lemonade cliche? I get up. I don’t want to listen to his crap. Not today.
Steven steps aside, exposing the tray he kept hidden from me. Neatly arranged on the ancient crates are two tall glasses standing sentry next to a large pitcher. More than a dozen lemon slices float in the dark liquid.
A huge chasm tears my resolve. I smile.
“Not lemonade,” I say, shaking my head.
“Lemonade?” He stares at me with mock disdain. “Who the hell wants to drink lemonade on a rainy day? No, my dear,” he says. “When life hands you lemons, you make Sangria.”
* * *
This piece won over at Seven Days Seven Answers!