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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Momentary Lapse (I Should've Cleaned the Toilets Instead)

I am weak. I told myself not to, but I couldn't resist. It taunted me. Enticed me. Reeled me in. I knew it would lead to no good, but I just had to.

I got into a Facebook argument.

I know, I know. Why couldn't I leave it alone? Who cares if someone's status update is ill-informed, ill-conceived, offensive, insensitive, judgmental, short-sighted, egotistical, racist, sexist, anti-SAHM, anti-working mom, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, and/or promotes animal cruelty? I could go on and on and on. But seriously--what good is engaging the poster in a debate? They're only words on a screen. I should've rolled my eyes and scrolled down to see what hilarious meme George Takei just posted.

Opinions are like assholes: Everybody has one and some people's stink more than others'. Your opinion (and--for that matter--your asshole) does not impact my life. Even if your status update or comment blatantly disparages sarcastic, large-breasted, fiscally conservative, socially liberal, 5'4", black, female bloggers who love all things Disney; it's of no consequence to me.

Fingers have been known to type more than mouths would say; in those cases it's not really an authentic debate. Where's the fun in that? And if said argument occurs on their timeline, their friends, family members, ex-coworkers, and that weird neighbor of theirs who yells at himself will all rush to their side. Pack mentality and Internet bravado will always win out. Always.

There are more worthwhile, more fulfilling things I could do with my time than allowing myself to get sucked into a Facebook pissing match. I could deep clean the five toilets in my house. I could root out that ingrown hair on my inner thigh. I could forage through the dog poop in our yard to confirm my suspicion that one of our pooches ate my dangly earring.

So I am publicly vowing to stop getting into Facebook arguments ... unless someone suggests Chris Hemsworth is not the absolute hottest man on this planet. Don't go there. I will virtually tear you apart.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Pieces

Dozens of white clay baskets lined the art room shelves. I had etched tiny tulips—Mother’s favorite—into mine. Throughout the week, we glazed our baskets and Ms. Huck fired them.

I put my masterpiece in a glitter-adorned paper sack and carefully placed it in the bottom of my locker. I was convinced Mother would come back once she saw the beautiful basket I made for her.

The night Mother left, we’d eaten tater tot casserole. (It’s funny the little details you recall.) After dinner, Mother shooed Cass, Gigi and me outside. She didn’t make us put on shoes, and we reveled in the rare opportunity to run around the backyard barefoot. We picked mulberries, transporting them in our shirts. Mother and Daddy were still at the dinner table as we padded by. I was relieved they were too engrossed in conversation to yell at us for our berry-stained clothes and feet.

Mother was gone the next morning.

Two weeks would pass before we saw her again. Mother’s Day. She was meeting us at the Dairy Queen and we were spending the afternoon with her. I chose a nice shirt for Daddy, ironed Cass and Gigi’s dresses and fixed their ponytails. In the car, I held the paper bag gingerly in my lap.

Mother came alone. Mr. Morris had taken his kids to visit their grandmother. She mashed us into a teary, four-person embrace. Mother looked the same, but smelled different. Fresh peaches. She and Daddy hugged like reluctant acquaintances. They talked outside as we finished our cones. Daddy waved goodbye sporting the desolate expression that had become his trademark.

Mother’s new home was bigger and had a pool. We swam, ate lunch on her manicured lawn and watched a movie. Although it was her special day, Mother gave us gifts: a giggling baby doll for Cass, a purple stuffed bear for Gigi, and a Barbie styling head for me. I presented her with the clay basket. Mother gushed, displacing a marble statue to showcase my creation on her mantel.

Cass and Gigi fell asleep as Mother drove us home. She and Daddy carried them into bed. Mother stayed for coffee. For those brief minutes, all the puzzle pieces were in place.

Then Mother left.

Over the next three years, we saw less and less of her. Mr. Morris’s children lived with their mother and had access to ours every other weekend. Meanwhile, I shopped for my first bra with Mrs. Devereux, our neighbor. When Gigi started losing teeth, Mother wasn’t there with her supply of silver dollars, so the tooth fairy switched to bills. Cass eventually stopped screaming for Mother whenever she awoke from a nightmare.

Daddy dated some, but nothing ever came of it. His heart wasn’t his to give. Once Mother and Mr. Morris got engaged, Daddy resigned himself to a life alone. I resigned myself to having one parent who wasn’t there and one who was there but wasn’t. I bandaged the boo-boos, packed the lunches and kept the little ones quiet while Daddy slept, which was often.

When Daddy burst into my room that night, he spoke in excited gasps. Mother was coming home. He was leaving to get her and I was to quickly tidy up his room. There wasn’t time for questions.

I was waiting in the living room when they came in. Daddy supported Mother, whose every step brought pained grunts. She held one arm to her chest protectively. Even in the darkness I could see the discoloration on her face. They walked past me and headed to their ... his ... bedroom.

“There was an accident,” Daddy vaguely offered over breakfast. Mother was still sleeping. Cass and Gigi raced down the hall, book bags bouncing wildly against their backs.

“Why is she here?” I whispered. The younger girls weren’t aware Mother had returned. We’ll talk later, his eyes said.

The school day blurred by. I told no one of Mother’s sudden reappearance. Why would I? I seldom mentioned the woman who’d reduced herself to birthday checks, extravagant Christmas gifts and five-minute phone calls.

My bus dropped me off a half hour before Cass and Gigi’s. Mother was sitting by the picture window wearing Daddy’s pajama top, her legs underneath a quilt.

“Hi, sweetie,” she chirped warmly, as she should’ve after every school day for too many months to count.

I sat at the far end of the couch, scrutinizing her blackened eye and the gash in her cheek.

“What happened to you?”

Daddy, who’d taken a personal day, brought her hot tea. They exchanged a glance.

“I had an accident.”

“Bullshit.”

“Rachel!” Daddy scolded.

“It’s OK, Ben.” Mother lifted the cup with her good arm, and then reconsidered. She delicately ran her fingers across her swollen lip.

They never told me the truth, but I overheard snippets about charges and restraining orders. In the days that followed, a truck brought Mother’s essentials and delivered the rest of her possessions to a storage unit to be sorted out later. One morning I noticed the clay basket on our mantel. I knocked it to the floor. Mother never asked about it. She just picked up the pieces.

She threw herself into the mommy role, enrolling Gigi in gymnastics and hosting a lavish party when Cass turned nine (the same age I was when Mother left). When I started my period, she bought me feminine products and took me out for a celebratory dinner. It did feel good to be taken care of.

The night Mother left again, I was reading under my blanket with a flashlight. Creaky floorboards ratted her out. We met in the hallway; I was the only thing standing between her and whatever she wasn’t getting from us.

“What should I tell Cass and Gigi?” The words burned my throat.

Mother reached out to caress my face. I surprised us both by letting her. She silently bent to grab her duffle.

And then Mother left me to pick up the pieces.


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I wrote this 1000-word piece for the It Takes Two writing contest hosted by Write on Edge and Bannerwing. 
 
The details:

“It takes two to make an accident.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

  • 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
  • linky is open until Friday, February 21, at 11:55pm Pacific
  • Use the Fitzgerald quote above as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
  • Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
  • Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
  • All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A (Passive-Aggressive) Letter to My Dear Hubs

Hey, Babe!

I bet you're having a fantastic time in Italy. I know you're "working" and you go there as often as most people go to Publix, but you're enjoying yourself at least a little bit, right? Gosh, I sure hope so. One of my Facebook ads this morning asked me if I needed a trip to Italy. Everyone's a freakin' comedian these days.

Speaking of Facebook, I saw the photo you posted last night. That spaghetti and Chianti looked sublime. Makes me feel less guilty about you missing out on the Arby's feast we have planned for tonight.

The kids are fine. They still can't find any of the twelve wastebaskets in the house, nor have they figured out what that mystical lever on the toilet tank does. But, otherwise, they're peachy. School finally resumed Tuesday after a week off for Snowmageddon 2014 and Monday's scheduled holiday. It's a good thing, too. All that forced togetherness had me wondering how much I could get on the black market for a curly-haired Instagram addict and a tall, skinny kid who eats more than all the morbidly obese toddlers on Maury combined.

As we were leaving for school this morning, I noticed a bike on our neighbors' front lawn.

Me: "Is that your bike?"
Son: "No."
Me: "Are you sure?"
Son: "I'm not 100% sure."
Me: "THEN GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GO LOOOOOOK!"
Son: "Oh, OK."

The punchline: Daughter put Son's bike in our innocent neighbors' yard in retaliation for Son putting her iPod on top of my car. Isn't that hilarious? I laughed at an unnaturally high volume for a full minute. Those little jokesters of ours!

They both had soccer practice Monday night. Drop offs at 7:00 and 7:30 at two different fields went smoothly. In between the 8:00 and 9:00 pick-up times, I sat in my car eating leftover, lukewarm Pizza Hut and wondering if you were sleeping well all alone in your quiet hotel room.

Oh, I had to buy daughter new cleats because she inherited your giant feet. Did you know the poor dear can't play well unless she's wearing cute, overly-priced shoes?

Our three Yorkshire Terrorists are living up to their nickname. Old, senile Sassy is still pissing in the house every chance she gets. She stepped up her game today by taking a dump in the living room. And the pups (hmmm ... maybe if we quit calling our 2-year-old dogs "puppies," they'd quit behaving like puppies) are still absconding with everything that isn't nailed down. Socks, hair bows, expensive American Doll accessories, important papers--anything that fits through the pet door. By the look of the backyard, our goal of starting our own landfill is coming along great.

Don't worry: our vow renewal plans are going swimmingly. My seamstress is soooooo creative. She's doing all sorts of things I never even imagined (or asked for). You won't see my dress until we're on the beach celebrating 15 years of wedded bliss. But I think I'll be just as surprised as you are by the finished product.

I don't want to give you the impression things are all bad. Why just an hour ago, I received an email from a lovely gentleman who apparently met me on some beach. Now he wants to give me a cut of $18 mil in unclaimed funds that his deceased customer left behind. No strings attached! I don't know why he picked me. After seeing me in a swimsuit, he probably realized how desperately I need lipo and laser hair removal. Anyway, I better go so I can email him our bank account information.

Ciao, mi amore!

Monday, February 10, 2014

No Love, No Tears, No Pain, Etc.

This week's Trifecta Writing Challenge is to come up with 33 words about love gone wrong; however, the piece cannot include the following words:

love, sad, tears, wept, heart, pain

Here are my 33:

Whispers yell
Rumors swell

My past sin
Your chagrin

Passion wanes
Our knot strains

Your mistrust
Breeds my lust

"Lock the door,
Paramour"

You suspect
I deflect

And you stay
While I stray

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Complicated

I realize I haven’t been very attentive lately. And when I did finally see you the other night, all I did was criticize you. I felt shitty about that. I just didn’t like some of the stuff I saw. You were pretty messed up. I felt it was my duty to straighten you out.

We’ve hit some rough patches, but I think we should ride this thing out. I promise to keep a more open mind and try not to be so disparaging.

You know at one point I actually thought about bringing someone else in to … um … spice things up. I‘m too possessive, though. The thought of anyone else touching you freaks me out. That doesn't mean I won’t pass you around like Thanksgiving yams when I’m finished with you. (Haha!) But right now, let’s keep this between us.

Look, it won’t always be good. Some days I will lavish attention on you. And then weeks might go by without any word from me. Not a single word. It’s not as if I’m trying to neglect you. I do have other stuff going on and people who depend on me. I have a family, remember? I refuse to feel guilty about that. It doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you. I think about you all the time.

I guess I’m a little gun shy. My track record up to this point hasn’t exactly been stellar. I won't manipulate history: It was me, not them. I take full responsibility. We’d be going along great and—all of a sudden—I’d lose interest. Either that or something felt off, and I didn’t know how to fix it, so I bailed.

I want this time to be different because I think you’re the one. I’m not just saying that. It’s going to take more than a little writer’s block to make me quit on you. So, as-yet-untitled first draft, my schedule is wide open today. How about we spend a couple hours between your sheets?



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This week's Trifecta Writing Challenge: The entry must be 33-333 words and include the word "manipulate" as defined below:

MANIPULATE
to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one's purpose : to doctor


Word count: 333