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The Youngest One in Curls

Joleen woke with one eye fixed on faux wood-grain paneled wall of a tiny 4×4 room in her mother’s house trailer. Her tongue seemed velcroed to the roof of her mouth, and she had to think for a minute where she was. The room became another temporary stay-over after getting fired from her Sunoco cashier job and losing the old rental house. Inside her skull felt like a ball peen hammer rapped against the frontal lobe.

The other eye didn’t open, as it was swollen shut, another telltale sign of the previous night’s inebriation. Apparently a fist glued it closed when her loose lips pissed somebody off at the bar, a conversation the young woman couldn’t quite call to memory.

She yelled toward the bedroom door, “What the hell is all that racket?” The volume of her raspy voice intensified the headache she suddenly realized came from all the beers she lost count drinking.

No one answered her question, but the noise continued. Joleen started to question whether it was real or just the pounding of her headache. She tried again. “Anybody here?”

“You’re the one yelling,” Joleen’s mother answered from the adjacent bathroom. “That’s the only thing I hear, girl. I’m trying to enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.”

Her mother’s husband must’ve already left for the day, so the woman retreated in the john instead of him for a change. Their house usually reeked to high heaven. With more than two adults squatting in a space that small, bathroom smells tend to stink up a place.

Joleen never imagined herself living with the pair of them. This certainly wasn’t what she’d envisioned for herself, her childhood hopes merely fairy tales of what she’d wished would come true. It wasn’t until much later she discovered everything they’d told her as a kid was a lie. Television, teachers, everybody touted the same bullshit philosophies.

Being so young and naive, she believed it all. Why should she think they fabricated the dream at the time? Experience taught her otherwise.

“Girl, you better get your ass outta that bed before that social worker gets here.” Her mother stood in the bedroom doorway zipping the fly of her pants. “If you want to keep up that unemployment check, wash that greasy hair and make yourself presentable. Show her something besides that shiner on your face.”

Joleen grumbled and covered her head with the blanket. “What happened to ya anyways? Looks like ya didn’t get the best of the situation,” the older woman chuckled. “Thought I learned ya better than that.”

“I don’t know exactly, but I don’t need you bitchin’ at me about it,” she answered sarcastically. “That rag social worker will be doing that soon enough. She’ll clean her car with bleach wipes when I get out of it whether I shower or not. Thinks I got lice or something.”

Her mom laughed out loud and turned around in the cramped hallway to retreat to the living room. A laugh-track of a Brady Bunch re-run rang out from the television.

“And turn that damn t.v. down. My head’s about to split open,” she spat at the woman’s back. Another chuckle came in response.

The musical clatter of the show’s closing credits assaulted her eardrums, but at least its loudness subsided. The song, which she knew by heart, then mentally repeated with the beat of her temporal pulse.

“I wonder where you got yer glowing personality, Joleen,” her mom said. “Musta been yer daddy’s side.” Contempt leaked from her tone. “No wonder somebody dotted yer eye.”

“Oh, thanks, Momma. Your motherly love and concern warms my heart.” Joleen grumbled again, shot her the finger behind her back, and rolled over trying to sneak in just another five minutes to quell her throbbing forehead.

“I’m tellin’ ya. You best get outta there and wash yer ass, Joleen!” A sudden pounding slogged from the front door down the hall to yank her upright on the mattress.

“Oh, shit,” her mother guffawed. “Too late!”

 

*Our Write Side writing prompt: fabricated

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On a Mission

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 …

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Going on a Run

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, an…

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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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Seeing Ghosts

images9NLVBF3RA night-time knock on Molly’s door brought an unexpected shock but long-anticipated revelation. The man’s face showing through the peephole looked sincere enough when he said the gift he possessed might answer questions about her birthright. The statement sent  a chill down her spine, and she gasped, “You knew my mother?”

Molly invited Byron into her living room, not with trepidation but surprised excitement. She’d long dreamed of finding out her birth mother’s identity but never expected the news to come from an unshaven visitor with a hangdog expression.

Shocked at how much Delilah and Molly looked alike, his head wagged back and forth at the striking resemblance. Those deep, sorrowful green eyes. For a second he thought maybe he’d crossed a threshold back in time 20 years or so and found Delilah herself. Maybe she wasn’t actually dead.

He gave his head a shake to clear the impossible thought from his mind, but he stared straight at her face. “I don’t mean to be rude … you are her split image. It’s unbelievable.”

Byron proceeded to explain his past relationship with her mother, how all these years later he’d paid for Delilah’s burial out of a guilty conscience, how he’d gone back through State adoption records to find the girl and end up on her doorstep. He was purposefully vague about the circumstances of her death, though, not wishing to create any more upheaval in Molly’s life than his coming to see her in the first place.

“Your mom would want you to have this, I’m sure,” he said. The man opened his clasped hand to release a dainty gold chain with a round pendant emblazoned with the letter “M” on it. He’d claimed the necklace when tearfully identifying the woman’s body at the City Morgue a few weeks prior.

The two sat across the coffee table from each other, Molly in for some long-awaited information. “I’ve hoped for this day to come,” she told him, “but I’m surprised you knew my real mother so well.” She choked up a little and blushed. “Now you’re here. In person. It’s hard to take it all in.”

“I’d like to tell you more, if you don’t mind,” he said. The details unfolded of how Delilah served her penitence long after she turned her six-month old baby girl over to an adoption agency. She ate, slept and breathed that huge weight of guilt for the rest of the time he knew Delilah. It niggled away at her, and she never forgave herself for giving up the baby.

“You’ll understand if I don’t offer you anything to drink,” Molly told him. “I wasn’t expecting anyone tonight, and this is all quite a surprise. I don’t know how to respond.” She sat on the worn plaid couch, elbows planted on her knees and her head swinging in disbelief.

Byron’s divulged more details as he understood them from a disclosure Delilah made years prior. They dated for a few months before he invited her to move in with him. Humiliation kept her from letting anyone get close, but a few margaritas one night loosened up her willingness to tell him about her past.

She said pressure from others convinced her of the selfishness of keeping an illegitimate baby with no means of self-sufficiency or a husband to provide for them. Accusations of her not knowing the father exacerbated her guilt. She knew him all right, loved the boy very much, and had dated only him, but his parents couldn’t live with the embarrassment of their son’s irresponsible behavior. Delilah came from the bad part of town where people lived with whom any self-respecting son of theirs would never associate. They wouldn’t have it.

Never looking back, Delilah vowed to make a life for herself on her own and moved away. She lived her remorse through constant self-loathing, as she knew she couldn’t afford to care for the baby girl. She ultimately surrendered her child to a better existence with competent parents who couldn’t have a child of their own.

Self-reliance played the ultimate trick on Delilah, though, when her vortex of circumstance meant she later earned money via desperate and despicable means. No way would she let herself face the shame of returning home after the miserable experience.

“She never wanted to give you up, Molly,” Byron told her. “Your momma woulda done anything in her power to make things turn out differently. She just wanted you to have more than she could give.” He cleared his throat and paused, hoping the girl would take him seriously. “You don’t know me from Adam, but it’s important for you to believe me.”

Molly nodded and thanked him for going out of his way to find her. “I appreciate your concern, but this is all just too much to absorb at once.” She motioned toward the door. “Please forgive me. I have to ask you to leave now.”

Byron respected her wishes but left his contact information with her in case she had questions later. “I appreciate you inviting me into your home,” he told her. “Please remember what I said.”

Pride got in Molly’s way. She never asked him if he knew her father’s name, a tacit truth between them. Neither one really wanted to know who he was. Not knowing meant they could both continue resenting an invisible man. Molly would keep missing a father she never knew, the same as she always had her birth mother.

Missing her mother would be different now, as their introduction was simultaneously a final goodbye. It would be odd to grieve the death of someone she never knew. She closed the door behind her unexpected visitor and, as far as she was concerned, that chapter of her life.

***

Click on the highlighted link above for the previous offering in the multi-part story, Delilah’s Dilemma.

Studio 30+ writing prompt – remorse/penitence Studio30 

image: S. Grebinski via Flickr

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Thanks, @Melissa – great tips here along with an additional craving for chocolate (like I needed that)! Had to re-blog it at https://katybrandes.wordpress.com/.

While We're Paused!

Every writer has dealt with that massive, invisible beast that plants itself squarely on our desks, preferably in front of our computer screens, and leers at us in a mocking sort of way, just daring us to get anything accomplished.  Sometimes this beast teams up with Facebook or another soul-sucking website and we lose hours without knowing where they’ve gone.

And our story sits tragically abandoned.

There are lots of ways to get around writer’s block.  We all have our tried and true methods, so I  thought I’d contribute a couple of mine.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes (quite frequently, actually) I just need to get away from my work.  And I don’t mean Facebook away or even read-a-good-book away.  Those have their places (especially the latter).  But little treats that allow me the sense of escape can make all the difference when it’s…

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