Tag Archives: Studio 30+ writing prompt

Unreliable Witness

internet-archive-book-imagesThat shabby little house sat back off the road behind trees limbs so dense they hid it from the sight of any passersby. You could only catch a glimpse driving by slowly in the wintertime or after the leave began to fall. Faded clapboards on the exterior looked nearly pink with age and negligence. The place resembled a shed with dust mites and rusted lawnmowers inside instead of anywhere a human being might sleep.

No one saw the accursed man who lived there, though. People said he got riled easily when kids snuck around there after dark, which many of them did on a dare at Halloween time. Smeared window panes kept people from seeing inside, though many children tried to look.

“We didn’t think he was there. Looked empty to us,” the older, Darius, later told the police officer. “That old dude snuck up on us – not the other way around.”

Those Barton boys lied so much, police officers didn’t believe the tales they told afterward. Juvenile delinquents, all of them. Having crack-head parents meant they spent a lot of time in foster care. Even though they grew up hard, they’d rend even the best situation into an utter mess. Wound up in juvenile hall over the incident at the house.

Even the most craven of people from town knew what happened was wrong. That old man should’ve been left to himself out there. Unfortunately, the Barton brothers either didn’t know any better or didn’t care.

“It was like something from a spooky campfire story,” the younger brother said later. “We went in through the back door ‘cause it was unlocked. So Darius said it was okay.” Dale worshipped his older brother and did whatever he instructed. The cops released Dale back to the foster parents, deciding he was too young to be held culpable.

Through all the denial from Darius, Dale told the truth. “He was waiting behind the door when we went in the kitchen. Smelled horrible, like he never took a bath. He breathed all over my face when he grabbed me.” Dale sobbed as he recounted the details, kept begging to see Darius.

“My brother hit the old coot to make him let me go. Darius told him to, but he wouldn’t do it.” His big eyes pleaded with them, gray crescents hollowing his face even more than fear but had no more impact than to accentuate the weariness of such a young child.

“It was so gross in there. Smelled like something dead,” he told them. “Something on the floor made it slick. That’s why they slipped and fell. That’s why that old man hit his head on the counter. Darius didn’t do it.”

The foster mother had to practically drag Dale out of the police station without his brother. Interrogators doubted such an elderly man posed much of an imposing threat, which cast doubt on the boys’ version of the facts. Officers said he might not make it through the night to tell his own side of what happened.

Dale cried even harder when they drove past the house on the way home. He blinked back tears and coughed through gasping bouts of trying to breathe.

Every light had been extinguished when emergency vehicles left there and the ambulance departed for the hospital. The place was different when Dale looked at it from the passing car. A pole barn light behind the shack was illuminated, which cast an eerie glow around its entirety and backlit the interior through its darkened windows.

Dale knew what he saw. Someone stood behind that grimy front glass, and the person seemed to watch their car. Everyone knew that old man lived out there alone. Though he’d been taken for medical treatment, someone was still in that house. Dale saw it that night, but no one believed him. He’d never pass the house again in his life.

He told his brother about it years later when Darius was released from serving time for manslaughter plus breaking and entering. He believed Dale. They’d been inside that house, and both boys knew better.

*Studio 30 Plus writing prompt – accursed s30p

image: Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr

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Reunited

punch glass

final installment in Reunion series – following New Old Friends

Gwen and Jennifer continued their conversation with Gwen’s husband, Cameron, while sipping vodka-spiked punch that kept the trio in a celebratory mood. They rose glass after glass to toast health and friendship, and the awkward confrontation with Jennifer’s ex earlier in the evening was soon forgotten.

Other classmates stared from adjacent seats, perhaps jealous of their lively exchange, and seemed catatonic in comparison. Laughter exploded from their table and even caught the attention of Matt’s young wife. Despite her bedazzling appearance with no lines emerging  on her face like everyone else’s there, the poor woman looked trapped in a dutiful gloom of boredom. Anyone watching the scene would feel her palpable disappointment at coming to his 20-year high school class reunion.

She could’ve used a drink if not for her husband’s self-proclaimed, if not pretentious, victory over his alcoholism. Jennifer remembered their teenage dalliances during what seemed a short time but actually happened over two decades ago, how she and Matt practiced anything but safe sex. They, as stupid kids, drank a lot and took more chances than other not-so-lucky couples.

What she couldn’t recall was how she and Gwen ever became friends. Was it in class, at lunch, maybe even in the principal’s office? Jen saw enough of the administrative wing back when she spent several days in detention for skipping school with Matt.

Gwen seemed to read her mind. The woman confessed, “We only had one class together, Jennifer. Gym in freshman year. Back when so many girls bullied me because I was big. Bigger than any of them anyway.” Jennifer looked down at her lap in hopes she wasn’t one of them.

“Oh, no,” Gwen said efficaciously. “Not you. You were the only one nice to me in P.E.” Jennifer exhaled, glad to know she hadn’t been one of the culprits. “Or at least took up for me, though you didn’t really know me. You told them to shut up and leave me alone.”

Jennifer nodded, relieved. “I have to admit I don’t remember. Some of those girls were such jerks, I tried to not act like them. They could be so mean. At least I didn’t participate in that.”

Gwen’s husband sat quietly listening to their conversation and reached over to clasp his wife’s folded hands as she stared blankly across the room. Cameron sensed the subject’s obvious sensitivity, as Gwen absentmindedly rubbed the inside of one wrist. After the awkward silence, she nodded toward a group of people standing beside the dance floor. “A couple of them are right over there.”

Cameron and Jennifer turned to look at the bunch, and Jennifer recognized two girls she’d ran around with back in school. Gwen continued, “I was pretty torn up about all that for a while. Even into college when I met Cameron.” She squeezed her husband’s hand, and he smiled at her reassuringly.

“It was hard for me to come tonight, but I vowed to never let people like that bother me again. To be proud of who I am.” Gwen shrugged and laughed, “Cameron always tells me I’m beautiful, even though I know he’s exaggerating.”

“You are to me, hon,” Cameron said. He got up to refresh their empty punch glasses.

A brief silence followed his leaving before Jennifer finally said, “I’m really glad you came up to talk to me tonight, Gwen. I was pretty nervous about coming here myself because I didn’t want to see Matt. You’ve made it fun, and I forgot all about that despicable person. So thanks.”

“You’re welcome. And I want to thank you, too. You made my freshman year a lot more tolerable. Even if you didn’t remember me tonight.” She winked at Jennifer.

Jennifer’s mouth fell open in fake shock. “Was it that obvious?” They laughed.

“No worries,” Gwen told her. “It doesn’t matter, because we’re friends now.” She glanced up at her husband’s return to the table. He held three partially-filled glasses of punch, and Gwen pulled a bottle of clear alcohol out of her purse to fill the remaining space in each. “Let’s toast to that!”

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – efficacious s30p

Image: blogto.com

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Dying Embers

Part two of Reunion series: continued from previous post – The Past Catches Up

punch

The doors opened onto a festive ballroom full of balloons, streamers, and white strings of light that ensconced friends from what seemed like a previous lifetime. A large paper banner reading, “Welcome Class of 1996” spanned the stage above a rock-n-roll cover band. Classmates gathered in small clusters, much like cliques in a long-ago lunchroom.

Listeners nodded at talking heads across from them, plastic smiles plastered on faces pretending to be happier and more successful than their lives actually made them. Spouses stood slumped-shouldered at being forced to attend a party among strangers and people they may not otherwise associate with in public. Some looked up every few minutes to affect interest.

She ripped an adhesive name badge from its paper backing and moved into the space with the purpose of mingling. It’s not like the old days when I had to find my pack. I can talk to anyone I want here, she told herself. Spanning the room, she questioned herself, But who would that be? A few familiar faces made eye contact and grinned subtle acknowledgement, yet she wanted to get a lay of the land before approaching anyone in particular.

An exceptionally tall woman wearing an embroidered sweater vest approached to ask, “Jennifer, Jennifer Stockton? Is that you?” She searched her memory to decipher who the seemingly ancient woman could possibly be but found no answer lurking in her grey matter. How could I possibly have graduated with someone so old? Jennifer pondered.

“Hi,” she began and offered a hand to greet the woman but lost both arms to her bear-hug grip instead. “What’s with this shaking business? Come here, you!” she giggled, explosively invading her personal space with gangly limbs encircling her body. Her height towered above Jennifer so that her face smashed into one of the rose appliques on the pilled cotton sweater.

“Come on over and meet my husband,” the lady urged. “He’s over here eating, of course, just like always.” For the life of her, Jennifer couldn’t place her new-old friend’s name but followed obediently to the food table. An incessant monologue ensued, complete with career explanations and offspring descriptions. Jennifer thought the woman would prattle on forever, but she heard none of it.

Instead, her eyes locked on him from across the buffet. His visage was unmistakable regardless of the balding pate and sallow complexion. How could a person so previously handsome become so pasty? Maybe it was years of heavy drinking.

Matt looked bored. He stared into the pink concoction in his clear plastic punch cup, and a woman next to him yammered on at the couple standing next to them. Matt scanned the room until his gaze caught her own, but his dour countenance indicated no hint of recognition. Jennifer thought, How can he not know who I am?

The guy was and always would be a wannabe. He pretended to be important, almost an attempt to make others think he was as special as he found himself to be. He was unique alright … just like everyone else. Matt was a fraud and she knew it. He knew she knew it, although he tried to pretend he didn’t. Even back in school.

Yet her fondness for him stayed with her over the years regardless of it not being reciprocated. She felt an aching in the space behind her heart, that orange glowing space that so wanted to be filled.

Their eyes remained locked until his expression turned to one of surprised recognition.

Jennifer’s brow furrowed in disappointment at the delayed reaction. Why wouldn’t he remember me? She tried to concentrate on what Sweater Vest was saying, but she struggled to feign interest. Catching Matt’s approach out of the corner of her eye flustered her even more. She stared at Sweater Vest, nodding, faking a laugh. Anything to make Matt know he didn’t deserve her attention.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. Matt beckoned, “Jennifer, is that you?” Turning to face him, she acted shocked to see him. “Hello there, Matt,” she crooned and plastered a toothy grin across her face.

Jerking his head backward, he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Oh, my God. Are you drunk? You smell like booze.” Jennifer felt mortified.

Studio30

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – prattle

(photo: the drink nation)

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Girl Guides Gone

butterfly Their absentmindedness had gotten them into “quite a pickle,” as Blythe’s grandmother was wont to say. Realizing their folly, the girls began to shout for the rest of the group when they noticed no one else about. A search for the elusive blue butterfly the pair spied took them on a side jaunt with no wooden cross in sight to mark a foot path. Usually quite conscientious on a journey such as this one, the girls had ventured off trail and into an unfamiliar territory despite their leader’s warnings against doing so.

Troop Troubadour was a newly-organized group of Girl Guides and only meant to take a day trip exploring nature. Ten-year old Blythe and her compatriot, Molly, ended up in an Amber Alert bulletin and the subjects of a county-wide search by that evening.

A dense stand of forest encompassed the girls and gave them a total sense of loss. Twenty minutes prior the two wandered along without a care in the world before the thick cover of trees encircled them with impending doom. Blythe had first spotted the mariposa and goaded her friend to follow as they tried to identify it for badge points, entomology being the latest project.

Her gaze once straight ahead in her quest, she stopped to look backward toward their origin and pondered aloud, “Hey, where’d everybody go? Before they knew it, the plucky pair had trampled into unknown territory.

Gigantic leaves filtered sunlight  overhead into sparse illumination that grew dimmer as minutes ticked by and turned into hours. Turning around to double-back proved fruitless and side treks confused them even more than when they began. Not to be discouraged, though, they followed their troop’s motto and “Ventured on to their daring destination.”

Despite imminent darkness, growing hunger and mosquitos nipping at flesh, insect repellent long since divested of its effectiveness, they sipped on water bottles as a sole source of energy. Molly spoke, if not in true desire, at least to hear her own voice instead of the sounds of the oncoming night. “I wish we’d thought to bring t.p.” They tramped onward, hand-in-hand, intent to find a way out of the trees.

Blythe reached across her friend’s chest and stopped her in her tracks, much like her mother did when suddenly braking the car. She asked, “Do you hear that?” A familiar sound of trickling water drew the girls’ attention and gave them hope of finding something familiar.

They wouldn’t be hopelessly lost in the woods if they could find the stream, babbling brook, or whatever the source of the running water they heard. “I think we should find it and get the heck outta here,” Molly said.

Several hundred yards in front of them, the tall Chinquapins began to part. Picking up the pace, the girls started toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It was as if the moon waited where the path had seemingly opened up for them. A small, fast-moving river ran along a gravel bar not far from the woods’ end, and a filling of sweet relief washed over them both.

N. Tonelli

“Look at the bank over there, Blythe,” Molly exclaimed. They’d reached the water via sound and smell, not by sight, and discovered a cairn along its edge. “I’ve read about these rock pilings in my badge book,” she explained. The Girl Guides’ credo to “leave no trace behind” in the wilderness led the youngsters to know the stack of stones was built by people … intruders, imposters on that water, no matter the negative label naysayers gave them … and not of natural origin.

There the two waited until searchers found them in a few hours huddled together by the rock tower, only a slight chill in the night air bringing any discomfort. A song missing from her lips and usual happy demeanor, Molly burst into tears when discovered wrapped in the arms of her consoling friend.

The author of a previous article in the town’s newspaper redacted an original premise about adverse effects of constructing man-made structures in parks and natural areas. With citing several credible sources, including wildlife experts and park administrators, she found no other notable worth in building rock structures beyond official marking of trails. Blythe and Molly found the purpose that particular stack of river stones served much more than simply beauty.

Troop Troubadour and their leader greeted Blythe and Molly, elated, at the ranger station. The girls materialized from the moonlight to bathe at home that night, pull ticks from around their sock cuffs, and plaster more itch cream on their arms and legs than they’d like, but remained fairly unscathed. A bit of scratching such a small price to pay.

In the case of the missing Girl Guides, the anonymous outdoor enthusiasts who balanced those stones became the families’ unknown heroes. The newspaper writer quoted Blythe’s grandmother as stating, “Whoever defied the rules of park administration, if not Isaac Newton’s theory, saved Blythe and Molly as far as I’m concerned. They’d wandered even further off the beaten path into certain danger had it not been for that little stack of grandeur.” A smiling trio stood next to the artistic piece in a picture accompanying the write-up – and even changed the author’s mind a bit.

Studio 30+ prompt – absentmindedness

(photo: N. Tonelli on Flickr)Studio30

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Frenemies

imagesR2TX8I3R Team sports were never my thing. They seemed to be for the goody, goody kids. The ones who studied all the time and still went to church as teenagers. Not that I was a bad kid. We just partied too much for our own good. Truthfully, it probably took more effort than I was willing to expend.

My son’s a likable little fella. When he was starting Kindergarten a couple years ago, I asked him how he thought he might go about meeting classmates on his first day. He said he would walk up to someone and propose, “Hey, you wanna be my friend? I’m a pretty good guy.” So sweet, and so naïve.

It wasn’t long before he was in full-on sports mode. He wanted to play all varieties of ball, which is fine until kids start getting hurt. Both physically and emotionally.

The concept of becoming a team was innocent enough at first. They learned the basics of the games, supposedly got schooled on sportsmanship, but also quickly fell into the dynamics of society at large — the fundamentals of not only the sport being played but how people act in groups. Groupthink. Behavior that became another lesson to learn along the way.

These boys already split off into factions that gang up on each other, pair up and pick on someone else they sense as weaker. A more sensitive boys perhaps, like my son. He tells me things some kids say that break a mom’s heart. I thought the stereotype fell on mean girls and didn’t appear until around middle school.

Some of the kids are great, and he excitedly went to a teammate’s 8th birthday party at a pool. Other teammates being there meant he felt a little less out of place with the birthday boy’s unfamiliar friends from school. I watched my boy making his way around the water, looking for a trustworthy playmate.

One of those so-called buddies didn’t act like one at the party. He pushed him up the stairs to the slide to make another boy laugh. My son told him repeatedly to stop it, but the other kid just mockingly parroted him. What a friend.

My gaze drifted in the direction of an older lady who ambled into the pool area in a terry cloth swimsuit cover-up. Her struggling gait made me doubt whether she could wind her way through all the short scrambling legs that rushed to the poles where pails showered water down on their heads. I wonder if the woman had a child she had worried about the way I do mine.

I realize kids can be crappy. My own son may act bad when I’m not looking. But this isn’t the first time that particular kid was a little shit as soon as his parents, whom I like well enough, had turned their heads. He curses, calls names. I kind of hope he’ll be shiftless and still living in their basement one day instead of going to college. Maybe not.

My immature and more uncivilized side urges me to suggest retaliation. Another part of me says situations like these will help guide his moral compass in the right direction and build my guy’s character. As a young girl, I had no coach tell me about being a good sport or give instructions on how to not let it bother me when people you think you know don’t act like you’re on the same team. I wish I could simply give my son a game plan to help him in all the gray areas. If only there was such a thing I could buy for myself so we could both learn how to come out victors in life.

**

This week’s Studio 30+ writing prompt “shiftless.” (image from zoomwalls.com) Studio30

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Baby steps

option4 Ivy stared at the foam from the shaving cream drizzling down her right leg as it circled the drain. She wondered how long it’d been since she last used a razor. At least two weeks from the looks of the thick, black stubble. More pressing issues occupied her mind lately — or at least they seemed increasingly important in her head.

Living with random negative thoughts inside her head proved the main problem. Ivy’s catastrophizing of manners that other people appeared to easily handle got the best of her. Realizing she lacked coping skills didn’t help her situation any.

Life was actually good. No specific cause brought on such self-doubt and constant anxiety. No one particular reason caused the incessant worry she dealt with almost every day of her life, yet her body teemed with cortisol from grossly exaggerated stressors. It felt like a constant case of “fight or flight syndrome.” The quickest release from that mental hold was to escape into sleep, easing an almost textbook clinical depression diagnosis.

She inwardly cursed herself for becoming a statistic, the typical angst-ridden teen back in college who put on the “freshman fifteen” that later became a troubling twenty pounds remaining on her former slight frame. Forever tugging at her waistband, never comfortable with how she looked, she shamed herself with each bite taken. “I shouldn’t be eating this,” said the inner critic. “You ought to be exercising.” Hatred for her own appearance took its toll.

Every such failure blew up in extreme proportions. Lack of will power. No initiative to advance. Not that anyone else thought these relatively miniscule hiccups such a big damn deal. Only to her, her own worst enemy.

Nothing came soon enough, quick enough, easy enough. She hadn’t reached career and personal goals yet and felt she may never get there. None of her friends had such a heavy cloud hanging above them, an ever-present portent of doom. Ivy turned up the radio on her commute to drown out thoughts of another boring day at the job she’d never love.

The elusive path to happiness, though actually tread one step at a time, stretched ominously in front of her. Almost every day she asked the universe if she’d ever get there. Funny, no one else probably suspected the inner demons she fought, her private war, since she kept up a brave — if not fraudulent — face in public.

A faint buzzing in the background brought her back to awareness when she stepped out of the shower. The cell phone’s vibration atop her wooden dresser, rather than its ringtone, snapped her back. She unenthusiastically answered, “Hullo,” into the bright plastic ladybug that encased her phone. She bought the cover on one of the pick-me-up shopping trips designed to bring on a good mood that usually lasted about as long as the drive home.

Cara’s voice came across light and chipper. Too exhaustingly full of life for Ivy’s liking. “Hey, girl,” her friend quipped, “wanna go for a walk with me? We need to soak in a little Vitamin D from all this sunshine!” Her invitation fell flat.

She drew back the heavy bedroom curtain and answered the question with one of her own, “Is it sunny out today?” She blinked at he bright light bursting forth from behind the fabric.

A happier tone than her own practically pulled Ivy to an alternate world through the telephone line. “Come on,” pleaded Cara. “You have to get out of the house today. It’s the weekend.”

Ivy opened the lingerie drawer in front of her to pull out a jog bra and some socks. She glanced down at a trickle of blood on her thigh bone where she’d unknowingly nicked herself. For at least this one moment, she wouldn’t let it get to her.

With a heavy sigh, Ivy acquiesced, “I’ll meet you at the park in 20 minutes.”

***

This week Studio 30+ offered up a writing prompt of “portent.”  Studio30

Image: http://www.cam.ac.uk

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The Comfort Zone

imagesWZ4SLKGP

A few months ago, I accepted an invitation from Lili Taylor to join her for a yoga class at a new studio she hadn’t yet tried. Her latest role in a horror film had taken a toll, and she wanted to release some tension at this restorative session. Lili is generally a very down-to-earth person, but she’s accustomed to the swankier sections of L.A. I was a novice not only to the class but that area of the city as well.

The scent of jasmine greeted us upon crossing the threshold of a lavish studio, with its freshly polished teak floors and low lighting that helped immediately reduce our blood pressure. I felt an instantaneous state of Zen. Lili pursed her lips in an affected kiss when I cast her a sideways glance in wide-eyed surprise. The place was amazing!

She warned me, “Now, remember, I don’t know much about the class. An instructor I met on set recommended I come try it out.” Her right eyebrow rose slightly, and she tilted her head to one side. “She seemed a little flaky, though.”

Everything about the studio appeared legitimate — its fancy foyer and decor, a receptionist who greeted us with an indiscernible yet exotic accent, the upscale location. I asked Lili, “What? Does something make you distrust her judgment?” She met some kooky people from time to time.

Nothing in her facial expression made me doubt her, but the steep shrug of her shoulders worried me. “Um, let’s just say that Starfire has a mercurial personality. That’s all.”

I thought I’d heard her correctly but asked, “Your friend’s name is Starfire?” A dubious feeling crept into my stomach. My friends had names like Amanda and Kirsten. Or Lili, for fuck sake. Lili, who noticed a concerned furrow developing in my brow-line. “I’m not used to all this hippy dippy Hollywood stuff,” I whispered to her.

Lili only smirked a little and said, “Come on. It’s supposed to be in the back.” I think I heard her laugh as I followed her down a red, crushed velvet wallpapered hallway.

Starfire stood in front of last doorway, her petite frame ensconced in a short, green Kimono. A thick crown of curls sat piled atop the woman’s head in an unbalanced fulcrum. She looked liked she could tip over at any moment. Instead, she smiled and a bold greeting billowed from her wide mouth. “Oh, Lili, I’m so glad you could make it! You can change in there.” Her hand swept forward in a broad gesture toward an adjacent shower room.

“It’s okay. We’re dressed already,” Lili responded, wagging a finger back and forth between us. As Starfire stepped aside to let two other participants wearing bath robes enter the room, we saw a sign on the door behind her that read, “Yoga with Starfire – Clothing Optional.”

I don’t know what Lili decided to do. I turned and ran back out to the street too quickly to find out.

***

Generated from Studio 30+ writing prompt “mercurialStudio30

Wouldn’t it be fun to go to yoga with Lili Taylor???

(Image: Joel Nilsson Nelson used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

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Role Reversal

imagesI8336AGI

The bathroom faucet ran full blast while Ann Marie scrubbed her hands with antibacterial soap, wringing them over and over and willing the foam to cleanse her system of any germs she might happen to miss washing away. All the water being wasted never entered her mind as she muttered to herself, “Gotta get under the nails.” Her obsession to get them clean overrode even her previous distraction with the tasks that first dirtied them.

She swore she’d never admit it aloud to anyone. Not her mother or even her friends. She didn’t feel any natural inclination toward caretaking whatsoever and was ashamed of herself for it.

Fully realizing she wasn’t cut out for this type of work, she felt a responsibility to help out anyway. Ann Marie just loathed the aroma of it all. Such a noisome bother to her delicate sensibilities.

Cleaning up after other people’s bodily functions made her almost sick to her stomach, no matter how close the familial connection. Nursing was not Ann Marie’s forte.

Even a faint whiff of vomit or just the sound of another person breaking wind triggered her gag reflex and sent her scrambling for a waste basket. So helping care for her grandfather, at her mother’s insistence, exceeded her comfort level. She begged for any other task than his personal care – manicuring the lawn, cleaning out gutters, dusting the ceiling fans – anything except clipping ear hair or rinsing bed pans. Hearing other people’s bodily functions was just too intimate, especially at such close range in his tiny little house.

It broke her heart to so loath such closeness. The sights, the sounds, the smells.

Tears flowed from her eyes as water rushed into the kitchen sink. Having her hands submerged in floating food particles and dinner’s remnants didn’t compare, because she couldn’t see anything gross. Soap suds across the surface made washing dishes a thoughtless and impersonal action, one that lacked any human offal. Only imperceptible organic leftovers. No gas, urine or mucous.

She would willingly complete any other menial chore, clean the house or take out the trash. Flashes came to mind of how her parents left her with her grandpa when she was a toddler. He read her stories and helped teach her to ride a bike. No doubt he’d changed his share of her diapers, but she couldn’t fathom doing the same for him. Life’s circle brought her around to reciprocate nonetheless.

He called from the bedroom, “Ann Marie, come in here please.” His voice resounded with the pain that wracked his withering body, no longer the sturdy frame that previously towered above everyone throughout her comparatively short life span. An overwhelming odor took over her senses in crossing the door’s threshold. She blinked back a reaction so he couldn’t sense her disgust.

She feigned a smile and asked, “What do you need, Grandpa?” His kind eyes and gentle smile reminded Ann Marie how much he meant to her, how much she loved him. That’s why she was there. The phrase repeated in her head, “I can do this. I can do this.” Flipping on the table-top fan to sweep the smelly air in the opposite direction, she told him, “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

*The writing prompts “noisome or smelly” came from Studio 30+.

Studio30(top image: goodhusbanding.com)

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A picture is worth a thousand screams

tongue

I sat nodding in agreement looking at the pictures. People getting attacked by the animals with whom they tried to stage “selfies” had become quite an engulfing habit of mine.

What did they think was going to happen?

“This raccoon looks so cuddly. Maybe it wants me to touch it.” Fourteen rabies shots later she figured out she was very wrong. It didn’t want to be fed dog food.

An elephant doesn’t need any help in procuring hay. The gargantuan animal can handle its own mastication, thanks. Bet that smack to the head is going to hurt in the morning. Maybe the sign by the exhibit was meant to be taken seriously.

Drive-through animal parks are fun, eh? Unfortunately, the poor schmuck at the car wash will have to clean up the llama slobber instead of its owner. He’d wear rubber gloves if he knew that slime’s origin. If only the driver had to remove the mucus all over the steering wheel.

Surprise or not, growling might prove a prescient warning of impending doom. Flattened ears are a dead give-away (pun intended). Take the clue to back off. Better yet, how about you stay away in the first place?

Regardless of whether your plan is a slapdash attempt to secure the most popular pic on Instagram – a viral success with your followers’ adoration – ignorance precedes your photographic prowess. It’s a paradoxical certainty you will end up with a bandage or two. Maybe even a few scars. (*fingers crossed*)

It’s a wild animal after all.

+The Studio 30+ prompt this week, “nodding in agreement,” originally came from Tara. Studio30

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Seeking help

pillsThe doctor said not to be too concerned about the change. I told him, “There’s just such a distinct difference. The personality changes are so pronounced.” This being the first time he’d seen her, the man wouldn’t necessarily know any better. He saw so many patients in a day that he probably only knew them from what he wrote down in their files. A prescription pad might be all he felt he needed.

Dr. Franklin sat shaking his head unapologetically while my pulse raced and feelings of hopelessness spun out of control. “You can’t understand, she wasn’t like this before. She … I … you just don’t know her.” The dull affect was a first warning sign. Her personality had changed. Something was missing although I was at a loss to explain it to him, the so-called professional. Shouldn’t he have learned about these things in medical school?

I looked out the three-paned window at the dreary winter sky, stratified in bleak layers of gray, pale pink and slate blue. The coldness it foreshadowed chilled me to the bone. Turning back to the doctor, I noticed a look of impatience on his face.

The man didn’t seem to take notice of my mother sitting in a wheelchair beside his desk, her gaze turned blankly to the wall. He said, “I’m sorry, but we need to hurry this along. Other patients are waiting.”

*The weekly writing prompt at Studio 30+ was something was missing. (image via John on Flickr)

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Filed under creative non-fiction, writing