Losing Control

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Pamela’s sister yelled from behind the window, “What in the world were you thinking?” The woman didn’t know how she always seemed to get herself into such predicaments. With her car in the shrubbery, its bumper dented and headlight smashed, she had yet to suss the situation, much less defend or refute any accusations from an angry sibling.

“What was I thinking … I don’t even know where I am,” Pamela mumbled. Her head ached and a thin trickle of blood leaked down her forehead as she lifted it from the top arc of the steering wheel. Confused, she asked herself, “Where the hell am I?” She looked past the dashboard to where her sister stood at the plate-glass window in shocked surprise with her arms spread wide to hold open the living room curtains. A plume of steam rose into the air above the Accord’s crunched hood.

She gritted her teeth and beat a fist on the wheel. “It’s that goddamn Ambien! I should’ve known not to take that last night when I got home from the bar.” Now, facing her sibling, she was at a loss to explain her actions. As if losing her job wasn’t enough, begging forgiveness for ruining such carefully-sculpted greenery would be her next humiliation.

She didn’t have to open the driver’s door to feel how her sister would assail her with accusations. Such a one-sided conversation happened before. “What it is now, Pamela? When are you going to get your shit together?” Their mother’s expression on her sister Margaret’s face bore down on her. No disapproving words were unnecessary.

That glare made Pamela feel lower than she already felt about herself, if possible. Margaret’s judgment filled in for their mother’s absence, and her punishing opinion only added to Pamela’s miserable self-concept. Mother’s disdain was palpable all the way from her vault at Peaceful Acres on Parkridge Drive.

Pamela’s stomach turned at seeing the crumpled front bumper. No way could she afford the insurance deductible this time. She’d just have to drive it as-is. “I don’t remember starting the car, much less driving … or ending up here,” she explained in a futile attempt to quell Margaret’s anger.

Had the Honda veered into a guardrail on the freeway, her suffering may’ve finally ended. Instead, the landscaping of the house where desperate circumstances left her to live off a family member had cushioned her sleep-aid-fueled escapade.

Margaret stood, her arms crossed in front of her, stabbing Pamela with an all too familiar steely glare. Although Pamela loved her sister and was grateful for the hospitality of a place to stay after losing her apartment, the woman’s condescending attitude grew to an intolerable level.

“I’m so sick of this shit,” she spat, got back in the car, and slammed the door. The tires dug ruts in the formerly-pristine sod when she threw the gear shift into reverse, spun out onto the pavement, and sped down the street. Radiator be damned.

“Hmmm,” Margaret pondered, giving a slight shrug. “Guess I get to watch the new X-Files by myself tonight. Good.” She went back inside and closed the curtains.

(photo – joshboyd studios via Flickr)

Studio 30+ writing prompt – vault s30p

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Self-realization

champagne

Before she even had a chance to blow a noisemaker and ring in the new year, the party took a sudden turn for the worst when a fight broke out on the alcove. The capacious room shrunk to a crowded mess when a huge man with bulging eyes punched the guy across from him. Fists began swinging to and fro, barely missing the smaller fellow’s petite date beside him as he took a right hook to the jaw.

The jocular atmosphere and all air was sucked from the room with a unanimous guffaw as the little guy collapsed to the floor. His lady friend glanced down at him before bellowing, “Oh, no, you didn’t!” She descended on the brute who struck him.

She turned into a human dynamo, blasting the aggressor with a verbal and physical assault he neither expected nor from which he could defend himself. Other partygoers grabbed the woman from behind to pull her off the man who hurt her partner and restrained her from doing further damage. Her arms and legs flailed, and her black party dress swirled violently around her body.

Expletives continued to fly as she was carried away, a champagne flute flung in her wake. The woman’s poor boyfriend was still rubbing his jaw as he sheepishly followed her out into the hallway.

“Damn, that woman packed a helluva punch,” said the big guy. “Should given her have a chance to fight instead of walloping that little boyfriend.” A buddy asked him, “What started it all in the first place?”

“It was pretty strange,” he answered. “We were talking about New Year’s resolutions, and her boyfriend said he wanted to work out more.” The other man looked at him quizzically and shrugged.

The big guy tipped his head sideways and continued. “I agreed with the dude, that he could stand to beef up his physique. She, on the other hand, said she wanted to lose some weight. And I agreed.”

“Oh, no, man,” his friend replied. “You didn’t!”

The tough one nodded smugly, broad shoulders shaking as he laughed. “Yeah, I said she should join her man at the gym. So she got insulted and started mouthing off to me. The little bastard poked me in the chest, trying to take up for his woman, which was pretty ballsy for someone so small. I couldn’t let the punk get away with it. Then she went nutso.”

The two of them clinked their drinks together in a jesting manner. The bigger man breathed deeply, which puffed up his chest, and let out a heavy sigh. “Yea, maybe she should look into some anger management, too. Quite a way to ruin the party.”

His friend giggled nervously in disbelief, mumbled a quick New Year’s salutation, and excused himself to the restroom.

*Studio 30+ writing prompts – jocular & jesting

Image via Flickr s30p

 

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On a Mission

Observing Christmas Eve …

katy brandes writes

Image via Joseph on Flickr

The clash of pool balls smacking together greeted Eve as she opened the heavy door. She knew which direction to go when she heard the familiar sound. The room was dim with the limited illumination from glass-hooded lights above the tables, so it was hard to see through the thick haze of cigarette smoke that hovered all the way up to the ceiling. Eve stood just over four feet tall, short for her 12 years, so the gray cloud lingered right above her hairline. Bud Light placards and Nascar signs lined the dingy walls adorned with deer head trophies there so long the hair looked mangy and antlers colorless and whittled away with age.

She stomped slush off her feet and scanned the room for the man she searched for so many times before. Eve hoped to spot him from just inside the door so she’d escape…

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Fresh Wounds

IMG_0923.JPGAn azure sky promised a blistering hot day as the first canoe broke the water’s surface that morning. The women knew the temperature and humidity would be soothed by the icy-cold river and rushed to get their float underway – 15 miles being the goal for the day.

“Let’s get this show on the road, ladies. I’ve got a cooler full of beer to drink,” Casey belted out, always ready to pop that first tab. “I lost my watch, but it’s happy hour somewhere,” she said. Used to her brand of merriment, the others laughed and joined in her toast with drinks raised in the air.

They got together for such adventures as often as possible, maybe from some strongly-held friendships over the years since high school, or perhaps simply from a collective longing to rekindle the nostalgia of their shared past. Whatever the impetus, they enjoyed escaping the responsibilities of everyday life, and for a few short days other adult commitments be damned.

All fairly adept at navigating either a canoe or a kayak, the group went at the oars with great vigor and followed the current between deep green deciduous forest lining both banks. Most had some background in outdoor expeditions from growing up in the Midwest region. The beauty of such a place sometimes still got taken for granted, but plush reminders surrounded them on either side of the waterway. Rushing rivulets beneath their boats replaced the concrete confines of work and traffic, drudgery of lawn-mowing and trips to the grocery store, and the monotony of laundry and checking kids’ homework. Laughter became an elixir for any lingering worries about life.

“There’s no way you girls are gonna finish off that mess,” the van driver from the outfitter company warned them at drop-off. Their unanimous laughter scoffed his prediction, as drinking on the river practically became an art in their youth, and their big jug of Kansas City Iced Water already  began to diminish by lunchtime. Denise commented how much lighter the container already felt when she lugged it onto a sandbar where they pulled off to eat.

Smaller coolers of sandwiches sat on rocky nest of the riverbank — a tapestry of gray, tan, some darker brown, and even pink quartzite among the riprap there keeping the shores from eroding away. Schools of tiny minnows nibbled at toes left dangling in the water as the women ate potato chips crushed in the dry bags stowed aboard. Kay threw the small fish some crumbs to keep them from nipping at her feet.

She tossed a few fragments downstream hoping to draw them away when an airborne scuffle there caught her eye. “Whoa .. you guys look at that,” she exclaimed, pointing to the opposite bank.

Their attention shifted to two birds that swooped at each other in a swift but embittered battle, with a long-necked heron getting a beating along the way. A smaller bird resembling a hawk yanked at the other’s wing with its sharp beak, tearing away feathers in the process. The larger one’s long neck stretched away in a desperate attempt to escape the slighter but mighty predator.

Their flying fight ended with the more aggressive bird, an osprey, taking to the air after when the rowdy group of women whooped in shock with varying shrieks loud enough to scare off any animal. The heron’s right wing flapped clumsily to flee them as well, although it only scuffed the water’s surface, fresh wounds impairing the ability to flee any other potential danger.

Its injuries kept the majestic bird from escaping the group of boaters, or perhaps the animal instinctively sensed no humans there meant it harm. Marie clambered toward the bird, thinking something could be done for it, practically capsizing her canoe. The woman then realized her own helplessness. She lost a whole beer in the process, and the half-submerged can sailed past the heron’s resting place beside a water-logged walnut bough. What did she know about helping an injured wild bird?

A bale of turtles sat sunning themselves on the downed tree limb but scattered off in different directions when the heron settled near them. Kay said, “What a unique-looking bird. It’s beautiful in it own way, huh?” The women sat ruminating on the notion until she commented, “Surely there’s something we can do for it.”

“You better leave that thing alone,” Casey warned. “It’s hurt and scared … and might hurt you, too.” The others either sat atop beverage coolers or rested on their own rocky nests by the water’s edge, the bunch studying the heron, a sudden pall cast over their otherwise exuberant day.

Marie made her way back to the others on the shore and joined them to reverently study the silently suffering bird. They watched as it hid behind the big limb, wings ruffling, almost trying to shake off its wounds. Kay broke the silence. “My husband hates those things. He says herons always bug him when he goes fishing. They try to steal all the fish,” she said.

Casey shook her head and countered, “Well, that’s just them doing what they do. You know — eat. Everything’s gotta eat. That’s natural.” She usually made a lot of sense even though she might drink too much on occasion.

“It’s beautiful,” said Marie. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something act so graceful under the circumstances. Can’t imagine how much pain it’s in.”

A distant shriek echoed off a cliff bank further down the river, perhaps even from that same osprey that caused the damage. Maybe it meant to remind them of its power. At the sound, the heron stretched its wings and launched itself from the water. A few of the women gasped at the sight.

“No way,” remarked Denise as a wistful smile crossed her face. “I wondered if maybe it might give up … but look!” They watched it soar off into the air, graceful regardless of the harmed appendage.

Casey popped open another beer and held it aloft. “Here’s to you, bird. Keep flyin’.”

A few jaws still agape, the group lifted their drinks in salute. A tear slid down Kay’s cheek, her being the softest-hearted of the bunch, and she swiped at it with her empty hand. “Some wild things are just too much for this world,” she whispered.

Casey grasped her around the shoulder and motioned toward the canoes. “Come on, now, girl. We’ve got beers left to drink.”

___

Studio 30+ writing prompt – aggressive Studio30

Thank you, Mary, for always reading and commenting on my writing. You will be forever missed.

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Instinct

flat tire.jpgThe gray sky and chilly mist set a sullen mood for car trouble that left Carolyn stranded on the shoulder of Highway 14. As if an impending holiday dinner with extended family weren’t enough, the car dying made her even more uneasy. She glanced at her watch and swore, “Damn, I hate Daylight Saving Time. It’s gonna start getting dark any minute now.”

She drummed the steering wheel with her fingers and kept her gaze fixed on the rearview mirror to watch for a tow truck. Her patience dissolved in direct proportion to the minutes ticking away in wait. Mom expected everyone before 7:00, and Carolyn would never hear the end of it if she arrived late.

An older blue Impala or Malibu, covered in enough rust to almost make it look red, pulled up behind her car. She wondered, “Who the hell is this guy?” Maybe it was the shit-eating grin on his face as he sauntered up to her driver’s door. Maybe it was the worn out blue jeans he held up with one hand on his waistband as he flicked a cigarette into the ditch with the other one. “Sure, asshole, start a grass fire,” she mentally accused. “You’re lucky it’s raining.”

She couldn’t quite place why, but Carolyn didn’t like the looks of the guy. “Hey, there, little lady,” he crooned. “You got troubles? Pop your hood, and I’ll see if I can help.” She rejected the offer for help outright.

Even opening the window only a crack, an overwhelming waft of cheap cologne assaulted her senses. No red warning light came on when the car quit, but an alarming caution went off inside Carolyn’s body, a sharp yellow glow that rushed through her. She’d learned to trust the feeling over the years. It construed a seemingly well-intentioned gesture on this man’s part into a manipulation.

“No, thanks,” Carolyn responded flatly. “Harold’s Roadside Service is on the way.” She shot the guy a blank glare but revealed no sign of the dread building in her stomach.

She didn’t want to feel beholden to him for anything. In fact, she resented feeling like she owed anybody anything. That just wasn’t her style. “How dare he act so familiar with me,” she thought. “I don’t know this dude from the man in the moon.”

Mom’s voice rang in her ear, ”Oh, Carolyn – you are so suspicious. When are you going to let go of all those preconceived notions about people?”

Realizing and even admitting her prejudice, Carolyn wouldn’t try to explain it away. She felt strong in her convictions and just felt how she felt. Some people shouldn’t be trusted.

The man lingered at her window, the rain sliding down his pock-marked forehead. “I could give you a ride wherever you need,” he said. When she shook her head, he waggled his eyebrows at her and asked, “You sure ‘bout that?” Carolyn looked up only far enough to notice pimples nested among the facial hair creeping down his neck into the frayed and yellowed collar of his dirty white t-shirt.

Carolyn shook her head again, vigorously now, and screamed, “No, I don’t need help! Please go away!” The man shrugged and backed slowly to his car. A menacing half-smile rested on his face, a glare locked on the side mirror where she peered sideways at him and, with each step, he glowered at her there. He got in his car, reversed down the shoulder and onto the side road from where he’d first come. She noticed no license plate on the crumpled front bumper.

Harold delivered Carolyn and her ailing vehicle to her mother’s home within the hour. She wanted to forget the scene and the creepy fake Samaritan as quickly as possible. The discord of her family’s loud dinner conversation presented the prefect opportunity to do so. Her nerves repaired by that time, she ate and quickly retired to her warm bed without relaying the earlier events.

The young woman woke late to a similar drizzle outside her window the next morning and returned to the dining room table where everyone else’s dishes revealed she’d overslept. Glad to miss their unruly breakfast time, she was happy to find only a mug of coffee and the day’s newspaper there to greet her.

Carolyn blew on the steaming liquid before taking her first sip. She shook open the paper to read the morning headlines, not expecting much from such a small-town periodical.

She instead gagged on her mouthful of coffee, and its remnants dripped down her chin as she choked when she read the main header. “Victim of Carjacking Missing,” it said. The first line of the paragraph below read, “The driver of a late-model Chevrolet is wanted in the kidnapping of a young woman late last night from a suspected bump-and-rob accident along North Highway 14.”

Carolyn’s hands shook so violently she spilled her remaining coffee on the newspaper and couldn’t read the rest of the article.

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – beholden Studio30

Photo: Owen Iverson via Flickr

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Abundance

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Excitement stirred in the air like mashed potatoes between mixer beaters prior to Thanksgiving dinner in the not-too-distant future. But the girl sat outside the classroom door, settled on the floor amidst a cacophony of noise that usually occurs in the school hallway before any holiday break. Most kids rushed around in a frenzy of anticipatory energy, while Kenzie slumped against the wall with one earbud coursing music into her ear despite her nose being buried in the pages of John Steinbeck.

Ms. Alford leaned down to tap Kenzie’s shoulder before opening the door to her classroom. “You know that book report isn’t due until a week after you return to class,” she told the student.

Kenzie pulled out the lone plug and looked up at her English teacher. “I like this story. Not as boring as that other one. No super sad migrant workers,” she said.

Turning the cover over to see the title, Ms. Alford nodded in reply. “You can come on in if you’re here to see me.” She noticed the same ragged jeans the girl wore almost every weekday, holes worn in the knees, and thought of that style being popular back in her own days of high school. This ninth-grader seemed to have no other choice but to wear the dirty pair. Ms. Alford ashamedly recognized how, in her own shallow teenage past, she’d have been embarrassed at untreated acne and an apparent bathroom-mirror haircut.

Kenzie obviously cared more about her grades than her looks, an admirable quality in itself, but probably had no other choice for personal priorities. Her daily survival seemed more evident. The teacher asked her, “Are you trying to work ahead?”

“Just bored, I guess,” she replied. “Gotta watch my brothers when we’re off. They saw their tutor this week, though, so we’re gonna be good.”

“Oh,” Ms. Alford asked, “they’re doing better in Math?” She smiled at her, trying to be supportive.

“They’re okay,” Kenzie said about the twin 12-year olds. “We like it when the tutor comes, ’cause she brings the backpack from Caring Connections. We’ll have something to eat over break.”

Alford flinched. With the impending time away from school, the kids wouldn’t have two regular meals per day they got with public education’s free lunch and breakfast program. The tutor must also represent the community charity that brought backpacks of canned goods to low-income students.

The girl held the dilapidated copy of her assigned reading. Many students owned electronic readers, the newest cell phones, drove their own expensive cars. Kenzie simply loved her used I-pod and borrowed paperbacks.

Who knew what the children faced at home. Alford only heard rumors from the counseling office about attacks some suffered, incarcerated parents, and sensed tension leaching from them as their heads collapsed on desktops. Stress settled on those students like the drool that pooled beneath their tired faces.

Ms. Alford imagined her own upcoming feast, relatives who’d visit and be happy to see each other, their family game night, all the laughs and love they shared. She wondered what Kenzie and her brothers had to look forward to on Thanksgiving.

The teacher realized the limits of her power but  didn’t know if she’d ever let go of feeling responsible for her students’ well-being. Alford hoped to at least stir their interest in literature, make them hunger for knowledge, would possibly write some college recommendation letters for those lucky enough to continue their education. How could she hope to enrich their minds with physical needs much more imminent?

“Let’s check my bookshelf,” she smiled reassuringly and told the girl, “to see what you can find to read over the break. Maybe something fun, a little escapist reading.” She turned away so Kenzie wouldn’t notice her eyes brimming with tears.

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – attack Studio30

Image – Seyemon via Flickr

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Going on a Run

In recognition of deer season in the Midwest …

katy brandes writes

Image benjamin sTone via flickr

Those boys met up every year for deer camp — both buck and anterless — and had done so for 20 or more years. They’d spend the mornings hunting, or “waiting” as J.T.’s wife called it, and the rest of the day and night drinking. She’d have a big breakfast waiting for them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and hot coffee to ward off their hangovers. It was a wonder they could ever get up at sunrise to make it happen, but they were die-hards about their effort.

Deer season was one of the reasons they worked hard year-round and brought home their measly pay. The daily grind of an assembly line certainly wore on a person’s nerves … and knuckles … and knees. The annual trip with its companionship and shared commiseration made the drudgery and mandatory overtime a little more bearable.

J.T. owned a strip…

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Keeping Watch

copper fittings

He squinted his eyes to get a better look at the blue metal building from a safe distance. All he could see was a rusted scoop tractor parked by the door but nobody milling about the structure. “Where do you think he keeps that ol’ shit-eating dog?” he asked his partner in crime, as they hid within a copse of trees just off the property. They preferred their presence go unnoticed there, as the duo planned to break into the place.

“Don’t worry about that mongrel. It don’t have enough teeth to nip either one of us, much less land a bite that’d do any damage,” Cyrill tried to convince him.

They sat still and didn’t say another word to each other for several minutes, anticipating a visitor to the building or the owner himself. The pair hoped no one would arrive. Staking out the place proved to be a much more tedious task than originally thought.

“You know, this might not be such a good idea,” Tony offered. “Maybe we oughta just call it a day.” He nudged Cyrill in the back with one shaky hand from behind and dug in his front pocket for a cigarette with the other hand while glancing down at his wavering knuckles. Taking a last drink about 5:30 that morning, before daylight peered over the horizon, meant Tony’s body either wanted another one or desperately needed some sleep. They’d sat hidden in the overhanging branches for about three hours, and his ass felt frozen to the ground below it.

Cyrill turned to glare back at him and crossed a fat, tobacco-stained finger across his lips to shush him. “Shut the hell up, why don’t ya? If anybody’s in there, they’re gonna hear ya.” He’d have never told Tony about the heist if he knew how much belly aching he’d do.

The man waved his hand back and forth in front of Tony’s face and turned away from him, whispering sharply, “Damn, Tony. I can smell your breath from here. Eat a Tic Tac, man!”

Tony’s hand continued to shake as he covered his gaping mouth with it. “’Scuse me,” he replied. “Didn’t mean to upset your delicate sensibilities.”

An undeveloped plan followed the pair out of the bar after closing time. Knowing the bar owner meant they stayed on drinking well after the public left. Too many whiskeys meant they left half-cocked and ready to rip off Old Man Jenkins of all the copper inside the warehouse of his plumbing business and sell it for scrap. Cyrill and Tony’s small-time burglary could still get them put back in County Lockup. Neither man had found work since last released from jail, so they needed any quick cash they could scrounge. Quite a risk for so little return, but their bad habits stayed with them after their previous incarceration.

Tony glared when Cyrill finger-shushed him again. “I just think this is a bad idea. We should get on back to those ol’ boys. Have another beer maybe.” He nodded empathically, trying to convince Cyrill of the error of their ways.

“Go on,” Cyrill said, “if you ain’t got the stomach for it.” He sniffed in disgust and settled himself against a tree stump, shoulders hunched forward, and stared intently at the metal building he continued to watch. Their mission seemed quite fruitless.

The rumble of a rusted-out exhaust pipe woke them both up a few hours later. Old Man Jenkins’ truck stopped on the gravel path several yards from where they sat slumped. Its owner opened the door with a creak and stepped out to address the duo. Hands on his hips, he shook his head and asked, “Now, what have we here?” A fat mutt of a dog tumbled out the door after him, promptly sat down, and briskly scratched behind his ear at an itch that took some digging to remedy.

Tony and Cyrill shook off a hungover sleep still clinging to them and stumbled to standing. Tony practically fell into his friend in front of him, who coughed and spat a long line of phlegm out to his side. They both stammered but couldn’t come up with an explanation of their intentions between the pair of them.

Jenkins assessed the situation as best he could. “I don’t quite know what you’re doing,” he grunted, scratching his head. “My dog don’t seemed too troubled, though, so you must not present too big of a threat.”

He kicked up a cloud of dust in their direction and said, “How ‘bout ya get on outta here, anyway, the both of ya? Do that and I won’t call the Sheriff.” The dog stood up and shook itself all over, floppy ears flipping back and forth across the top of its big head.

Sensing they should take the man at his offer with no more interaction, Tony and Cyrill moved quickly back up the driveway from whence they arrived in the dark of early morning hours. Jenkins motioned toward the truck and opened the door for the dog. “Come on, Pearl. Let’s go back down to the shop. You done yer work for the day.”

*

Image: Tony Hisgett via Flickr

Studio 30+ writing prompt – undeveloped Studio30

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Someone to Watch Over Her

squirrel

“I don’t want to see you ever darken this door again,” her father shouted at Delilah as she stood dazed in the front yard, dead grass crunching under her footsteps in the autumn chill. He apparently didn’t care if the whole neighborhood heard their family row.

She stooped to pick up all the clothing she could carry, a couple t-shirts, a jacket, and two pairs of jeans that wouldn’t fit her much longer. Her mother must have at least put together the overnight bag beside the front door that held her makeup bag and some underwear. For that, the 16-year old was grateful. The girl stuffed everything she could fit inside the bag and sunk down to her knees on the lawn, not knowing where to go.

Her dad glared at her with disdain and said, “No daughter of mine is going to get knocked up and expect to come live back here. Go back to that boy who done got ya in trouble!” The glass shook when he violently slammed the door to finalize his point.

Delilah looked up from her spot on the ground, searched the sky to beg God’s help in deciding what to do, and spied the tiny brown ceramic squirrels perched on the roof’s eave. Her dad had affixed the puffy-tailed mother and baby rodents there, and she always feared they’d fall down in a strong wind and break. Instead, they now stared accusingly down at her.

A crow in a tree behind the girl squawked its own disapproval at the scene. Delilah had known no other home than the dingy single-story structure before her. A bevy of children existed within those walls. Too many for their parents to control.

Delilah thought back to the halcyon of growing up there with her sisters, playing outside with Barbies, and using cardboard for dollhouses and tissue boxes for little beds. They used any scrap of fabric salvaged from Mom’s sewing basket as a makeshift outfit or blanket, resourceful as they were with few toys. She reminisced over good times they experienced as innocent kids.

She remembered her tea parties with discarded cups and chipped saucers begged for before those wares went to the garbage. Pinkies raised, the girls sat in the garden with the squirrel duo envying the gathering from atop the house. The sisters sipped water while wearing old hats, straw ones with holes or a brother’s ball cap to portray the only man interested in attending such an affair, pretending their soiree included canapes and creamy petit fours.

The brothers bothered them little if roaming the neighborhood or playing stickball in the street. Harassment occurred in the dark of night with Mother unaware. Three sisters shared a single bed, but Norman would slip his hand up beneath the covers without waking up Frannie, Delilah’s older sister. She’d never have let Norman bother Delilah like that had she known.

Delilah learned to distrust Norman and other boys like him. He threatened to hurt their youngest sister if she told, so Delilah lived silently with the abuse to keep the little one safe from him. Her father never suspected a thing. He didn’t realize what Norman did to her when their parents weren’t home.

Her dad didn’t know much of anything, because he never paid any attention. All the girls begged for his affection but only got it on Christmas morning with a slight hug, a peck on the cheek and the slightest smile the man could muster at them. Delilah often wondered why he even wanted to have kids at all if he could only stand to be around the boys.

Those boys were hardly ever disciplined. He didn’t keep Norman from hurting her. And now he wondered why she gone to her boyfriend for love and attention?

“You never cease to amaze me, Daddy,” Delilah muttered defeatedly even though he didn’t hear her. He’d gone back to his television and turned up the volume to shut out the world and signify to any nosey neighbors that the show was over.

She had no other choice but to move on and hoped her friend Jenny’s mother would allow her to stay at their house for awhile. Her boyfriend’s parents were against them dating, much less her expecting his baby. They would freak when they found out, so she didn’t dare ask for hospitality there.

Delilah searched the ground around her to see if anything else she owned was scattered about it, discarded like so much trash, and found a rock within arm’s reach. She picked it up and chucked it toward the Mother squirrel on the edge of the roof. “I hope you fall,” she told it. She sobbed into her sleeve and thought, “You should’ve noticed, Mother. You should’ve seen.”

*Click the link above to read previous installments in Delilah’s Dilemma.

Studio 30+ writing prompt – halcyon Studio30

“What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life

in our bodies, we are determined to rush

to see the sun the other way around?”

Elizabeth Bishop

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Wavering Doubt

hands

Tricia accepted Kevin’s marriage proposal not long after college graduation. Having known each other since freshman year convinced her of their union’s likelihood to succeed. She grew up an only child, and Kevin had five siblings, so the couple had a great basis of comparison to decide they wanted a child to make their family feel more complete. Set on starting a family right away, they tried to conceive for two years before ever considering an adoption.

Breathless from his rush home from work to deliver the news, Kevin told his wife, “You’re never going to believe this, Tricia. My co-worker friend and I were talking about the possibility of a private adoption. He knows someone whose son got a girl pregnant, and they’re going to give up the baby.”

Skepticism usually got the best of her. “Slow down, Kevin,” Tricia replied. “Are you talking about us – like we could get their baby?”

He continued the story with great aplomb. “Now, keep an open mind here. The boys’ parents don’t want their son forced into a marriage so young. They want him to go to college. I think it sounds like the perfect opportunity for us, and they seem like great people.” After months of speaking with agencies, Kevin hoped to make the transaction as simple and painless as possible. He tried his best to assure his wife of the deal’s simplicity.

Tricia was dubious and eyed him suspiciously. “So, what? We just call our lawyer and have some papers drawn up like we’re buying a new car? If something sounds too good to be true, Kevin, it usually is.”

Shaking his head vehemently and clasping her hands in his, Kevin replied soothingly, knowing the key concepts to mention in order to control any conversation with his wife. “It will be practically effortless, and I’ll take care of everything,” he said. “Just wait and see. All you have to do is shop for a crib and finish preparing the nursery.

His condescension unnerved Tricia, but she realized how Kevin keeping matters under his control was important to him. Otherwise, Tricia’s attitude was badly canted against his hints at superiority. They’d lived together long enough to figure out her husband’s mind games. Still, she acquiesced, “We can at least discuss it with our lawyer.”

A quick six weeks later they signed adoption paperwork and met a social worker at the hospital where little Molly was born. Tricia worried so long that something would inevitably go wrong, and now they were set to take home a newborn. The immediate onset of motherhood overwhelmed her, as most couples wait months to finalize such details, but she also felt some relief when they received their daughter.

A fine blond fuzz covered her perfect little head, and the baby’s tiny finger and toenails were so delicate. One look in those deep blue eyes and Tricia fell in love immediately. “I can’t imagine you belonging to anyone but me,” she told the sleeping infant tightly clenched in her arms.

Tricia suffered the girl’s young lifespan in fear of Molly finding out her birth mother’s identity. What if Molly found out who she was and wanted to be with her instead of Tricia and Kevin? A paranoid fear overwhelmed her at times.

She worried that the woman hadn’t wanted to give her up in the first place and would stop at nothing to get her daughter back. That’s how she imagined herself feeling if the situation was reversed.Tricia was afraid Molly’s “real mom” would someday find the girl and brainwash her into leaving them, disappearing with her into oblivion, and she could barely stand the notion of losing Molly.

Kevin found Tricia crying at times, a sickly pallor to her face from not eating for days, she worked herself up into such a frenzy. “Tricia, honey,” he begged her, “you have to tell me what’s the matter. How can I help you if I don’t know what’s wrong?”

She sobbed, “You just don’t understand. I have no assurance.” She didn’t trust him with her feelings and never shared those fears. Years went by with her wondering about Molly’s maternal origins, agonizing over whether that woman would sneak back into Molly’s life and steal her affection.

Only Kevin knew the reality. His co-worker hadn’t put him in touch with an adoptive family but had sealed the deal himself. The man he contacted, in truth, was Molly’s own grandfather. His son got the young woman in trouble and meant to simply fix the problem for him. The boy’s mother forced her husband and son to make the issue go away, as their precious reputation in the community mattered more to her than the child’s well-being. Kevin and Tricia conveniently agreed to letting legal counsel make quiet arrangements.

Kevin lied to Tricia by omission of that pertinent information, though. Her suspicion of the details was indefinite but not unfounded. It just all happened too easily.

Now, all these years later, a late-night greeting at her adult daughter’s door unveiled the truth about the woman who actually bore Molly — a down-on-her-luck teenager who let her boyfriend and his parents talk her into forfeiting her illegitimate baby. In turn, the act changed her daughter’s destiny.

“I thought I didn’t care to know about my real mother,” Molly pondered, “but now Byron’s revelations have piqued my curiosity. What drove Delilah to do what she did? Why couldn’t she care for me?”

Even though she’d never tell her adoptive mother what she was about to do, Molly bit her lip and slowly opened the desk drawer where she’d stored Byron’s telephone number.


(Click the “late-night greeting” link above to read the previous installment in Delilah’s Dilemma)

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – brainwash  Studio30

image: T. Pierce via Flickr

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