Fiction Fix

Fiction Fix: The Smell of Freedom

“Mama,” I swallowed the tickle from the back of my throat and forced myself to take slow, even breaths, “I’m leaving.”

I quietly set my bags down next to the sagging front door. It was time. I wasn’t, until this very moment, sure that I had the courage to actually go through with it.

Breathe in, breathe out, I silently reminded myself. I could feel my heart slamming against my ribs and a low squeeze in my kidneys.

I suddenly had to go to the bathroom.

My mother continued to sit on the living room sofa, a cigarette dangling from one hand, her other hand buried deep into a bag of potato chips. The room was dark save for the small, lonely light above the stovetop and I immediately wished I had thought to turn it out before making my announcement; I felt exposed and raw, like a weeping wound. The light shone directly on my face; she would be able to see my hope, my deep seated need to leave the hellhole I was forced to call home.

I wished with all my heart the light would simply flicker and die in that moment, somehow that would have seemed fitting – a perfect summary of my life.

My mother snorted and roused herself from her television-induced stupor. The bluish-gray light from the box sliced across my mother’s large frame and cast ugly shadows across her hard face. She didn’t turn around to look at me, nor move from her position on the sofa, but her voice projected so clear and sharp I felt like she was standing right next to me.

“Come here, girl.”

I had expected the summons, but I jumped, nevertheless.

I shuffled my feet across the dirty, threadbare carpet, my secondhand moccasins making a soft swishing noise as I moved to stand near her, but far enough away that she couldn’t reach me if she were to reach for me. I had learned, from years of experience, to always be on my guard around my mother.

“What did you say?” she asked as I completed my journey across the room.

I knew she had heard me, she had excellent hearing. In fact, her hearing was almost canine in nature. She could hear the slightest sigh or the softest mumble the entire length of our trailer, with the doors closed and the television volume turned all the way up. In fact, her hearing was so acute, that I used to wonder if my mother didn’t somehow have super natural powers.

“I, uh,” I mumbled and I jumped once again at my mother’s sharp tone of voice.

“Speak up, girl. You know I can’t stand it when you act like a whipped dog.”

Now there was an apt description, I thought bitterly to myself.

I stood next to the ratty, stained sofa and absently stared at the reddish-brown stain that nearly covered on threadbare arm. That stain had prompted several questions and numerous jokes over the years – the stain remained a mystery.

I could feel my mother’s coal black eyes staring a hole into my face. My answering blush only teased my sense of anxiety and small beads of sweat began lining my upper lip.

“You better answer me now, girl. You’re making me miss my soaps.”

I could feel my shoulders slump and my body curl inward, my confidence began to ebb and I forced a dry, blob of nervousness back with a swallow. My counselor told me this might happen. He also told me what to do when it did.

My eyes shifted toward the TV, now boldly airing a commercial for a female hygiene product. I wanted to laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity of the situation – didn’t they know that women like my mother would never elect to spend their precious cigarette money on something as inconsequential as feminine wash?

And as if the thought provoked the smell, or maybe the smell had been there all along and I only now recognized it for what it was, I could smell my mother’s sour body. The origin of the smell originated somewhere deep beneath the dirt, sweat, beer, smoke and oily skin – it was somewhat yeasty and not altogether unpleasant.

“Damn it!” She pounded a meaty fist on top of the mysterious reddish-brown stain and I involuntarily flinched at the movement. “Are you trying to piss me off, girl?”

Girl. I straightened at the term, for that was all my mother every called me. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time she had actually said my name.

“She will likely mock you,” my counselor’s voice rang in my ears. “Do not allow her to make you feel guilty or insecure. You deserve this. You deserve to start your own life.”

I smiled at the thought. Not because of the unkind things my mother has said over the years, but at the thought of someone having faith in me, in my future.

My mother’s brow arched at my smile. “What the hell is wrong with you, child. Are you on drugs?”

No, that’s your thing, mother,” is what I wanted to say, but instead I simply cleared my throat and repeated my earlier words. “I’m leaving, mama.”

She stared at me for long moments. Her face was expressionless, her eyes cold and hard, her lips a thin, straight line of disapproval and then, without warning or provocation, her mouth began to tremble and a low rumbling sounded in the back of her throat.

For a split moment, I thought she was going to start choking and I quickly ran various emergency procedures through my head.

But I needn’t have worried; my mother wasn’t choking, she was laughing. The sound that squeezed past her fat lips was a cross between a squeaky wheel and a burbling brook.

“Yer what?” She repeated, gasping for air. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere. You ain’t got no friends and you certainly ain’t got no man,” she stopped abruptly and narrowed her eyes at me. “You ain’t got ya a man, do you?”

“No mama,” I said quietly and she nodded once in approval.

“I didn’t think so. Don’t you go and git yerself tangled up with no man. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble, hear me?” She lifted a pudgy arm and swiped the back of her hand across her nose, smearing a thin line of mucus across her upper lip. “They’ll screw you, take yer money and then leave ya high and dry.”

I couldn’t help but wonder which of the long line of men my mother might be referring to. None of them had been any better than abusive beggars.

Continue reading “Fiction Fix: The Smell of Freedom”

Prompt Fiction

Picture Fiction: Gemini

Still busy.

Still INSANELY busy. School starts Monday here and I’m up to my eyeballs posting updates and syllabi on the seven school websites I maintain. Well, actually, I maintain six but I’m uploading a new high school website today! (Ack! Pray it goes well!!)

And I’m finishing templates for a new school website as we speak. (By the way, if your school needs a website, I’m the woman for the job!! Contact me and let’s talk!) I’ll post links to “my” schools soon.

Anyhoo, I don’t have time to write new fiction this week, so I’ll post an oldie (and hopefully a goodie). This was originally published on my self-hosted blog January 11, 2006. It’s what I call “Picture Fiction” – where I take a Creative Commons picture from Flickr and write a short story around it. I should start doing this again – it’s really fun and challenging. *makes note to self*

Catch ya later!

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Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

Taking a random photograph from Flickr and weaving a short story around it. It’s Picture Fiction!
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Gemini

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There was something wrong with me. I knew it. I felt it. There was a splitting of souls inside the dark, smelly place I called a heart, one good, the other, not so much. I never knew who was in control. The loving husband who doted on his three-year-old son; or the promiscuous thirty-eight year old man who disappeared for hours at a time after work only to collapse on his front stoop, drunk and reeking of urine?

Why can’t I control the blackness? Why do I find myself succumbing to its seductive allure more and more?

I hear Sharon’s cries. I see the confusion in little Anthony. I can smell their fear. I can hear her, I can see him, I can sense their apprehensions, and yet, I do not care. A cold, evil animal lurks deep in my gut and no amount of coaxing will persuade the beast to venture out of his cave and seek the warmth his family offers on a daily basis.

A part of me is scared and dying. It’s as if I’m in a boat, looking toward shore, and see the good part of me sadly waving goodbye. This goodness shrinks with each passing stroke of the oar while the evil monster inside grows in both size and strength hogging the vessel more and more.

I cannot stop it. It has consumed me. The animal has been released and no one dares capture it.

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Digging It Up

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I actually began this story with the intention of using the following three words from Three Word Wednesday: Change, Dizzy and Key. However, it came out so fast that I completely forgot to use the words. lol

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“Mom, come here and look at this.”

Hope continued to evaluate herself in the mirror. “What about this one?” she asked her 17-year old daughter while nodding at her reflection and staring at the peach sleeveless turtleneck she held up against her torso. “This one looks dressy.”

“That color is all wrong for you, mom. It makes you look like an albino,” Edie responded without taking her eyes off the scene outside.

“Really?” Hope’s voice trailed off in disappointment. “But I thought this looked good on me.”

“Nope. And you’re whining again.”

“Well, thanks for shattering my self-confidence.” She threw the top onto the bed in a fit of temper and moved to rummage through the rest of her closet. She had lost nearly twenty pounds in the past three months and nothing in her wardrobe appeared to fit her anymore. She wasn’t sure she had very many more clothes she could try on.

“Seriously, mom, you need to see this.”

“I’m sort of busy right now! I need to meet your father for lunch in 45 minutes!” Her voice was laced with tension and she felt a twinge of disgust at her desperation. Since when had she become so desperate to be someone she wasn’t?

Since her husband had been working longer hours and was home a lot less, that’s when.

The children weren’t aware of how shaky things had become between her and William lately. She wanted to look drop-dead gorgeous for their lunch date and remind her husband, if not verbally, then subliminally, how good he really had it.

“There are strange men with bulldozers crawling all over our yard,” Edie said in a breathy timbre.

“What?” Hope continued to grab handfuls of clothes and toss them out of the closet. She felt a bubble of a giggle percolate deep in her belly as she pictured someone walking into the bedroom and seeing various articles of clothing being tossed into the air and no one visibly throwing them. I’m hysterical, she thought. I’m going to have a nervous breakdown and then where will I be? “On my own with four children to support and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs, that’s where,” she mumbled under her breath.

She continued to empty her closet and felt like screaming in frustration. She’d have one hell of a mess to clean up later, but she didn’t care. She NEEDED to find something, anything at this point that would accentuate her weight loss. Maybe Edie had something she could wear …

“MOM!”

Hope jumped and issued a small squeal of surprise. She paused, her arms over her head, to glare at her daughter. “WHAT?” she yelled back.

“Come here, now.”

“Don’t talk to me like that young –”

“These guys are ripping up our driveway!”

“WHAT?” Hope repeated, only this time, the lone word was yelled in confusion.

Edie disappeared from view and Hope followed her to the window that overlooked the back of the house. Her daughter stood to one side and with one hand, flicked a grand gesture to the scene outside. “Our driveway is gone.”

Hope looked out of the window and her soft blue eyes, the color of aged denim, widened in shock. “What the heck are they doing?”

“Ripping up our driveway,” Edie shot back, her voice laced with sarcasm.

“I can see that, Ms Smarty-Pants. I mean, why are they doing it?”

“Because it’s their job?” her daughter offered helpfully.

Hope ignored her and wracked her brain for an explanation. She didn’t remember talking to anyone about coming out to dig up their driveway. And she didn’t recall William saying anything to her about setting something like this up. Maybe they had the wrong address?

“Um mom,” Edie fidgeted nervously next to her. “You might want to find out what’s going on?” She gestured to a huge backhoe that was positioning itself just before her asphalt driveway, the claw-like scoop lowering slowly toward the edge of their property line.

“Crap!” Hope whirled around and stuck her feet into her floral flip-flops and rushed out of the bedroom.

“MOM!” Edie called after her.

Hope whirled around in a huff. “Edie! You’re seriously getting on my nerves.” She stuck her hands on her hips, “What now?”

Edie smiled and Hope bristled. Her daughter gestured to her bra and panties. “You’re sort of underdressed for a confrontation, don’t you think?”

Hope glanced down at her body and growled. “Damn it. WHERE is my head today?” She hurried back to her bedroom and hurriedly shrugged into a t-shirt and old gym shorts. “I’ll be right back.”

“What, are you kidding me? I’m coming with you. Those guys are hot.”

Hope rolled her eyes and brushed past her daughter. She ignored her as she stopped to primp in the hallway mirror before hurrying to catch up with her.

Hope threw open the doors and half walked, half ran, toward the small cluster of dark, tanned men gathered around her driveway.

“Excuse me!” She said, raising her voice to be heard over the roar of the bulldozer’s engine. “Excuse me!”

One of the men, a heavyset man in his 50’s caught a glimpse of her and motioned for the man in the bulldozer to cut the engine by making a slicing motion across his throat. The noise abruptly stopped and Hope skidded to a halt, Edie so close behind her she nearly stumbled into her.

“Hi.” Hope said, her voice overly bright and cheery. “Um, what are you doing?” She gestured to the large chunks of dirt, gravel and asphalt three feet from where they were standing.

The heavyset man took off his construction helmet and ran a hand over his sweaty brow. “Uh, digging up your driveway.”

Hope felt like screaming. “Yes, I can see that. But WHY are you digging up my driveway?”

A mixture of emotions skidded across the man’s face: annoyance, alarm and confusion. “Because we were hired …” the words came out in a halting flow of Irish brogue. “Tom!” He turned to bark at the impossibly thin man behind him. “Check our work papers.”

He continued to smile and shift his bulk awkwardly from foot to foot as he waited for Tom to walk back to the truck and retrieve the work order. Hope flashed a polite, but tolerant smile and Edie batted her lashes at the cute, dark man who looked like he might be of Latino descent.

Hope gave the man Edie was oogling the once over and a warning look. When the man noticed her glare, he coughed and quickly got back to work. Edie huffed in irritation next to her.

“Okay, here we are,” the man said while taking the work order from his employee’s hands. “Is this 421 N. Pickwick?”

“Yes,” Hope confirmed quietly. She brushed her hair out of her eyes and sighed. “Who authorized this?”

“Uh,” the man squinted to read the name. “A William Stone.”

Hope’s heart sank and she nodded. “Right. That’s my husband. Okay, I’ll call him and see what’s going on. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“No problem,” the man shrugged and waved for his guys to get back to work.

“What’s the big deal, mom?” Edie asked as they walked back into the house. “So, our driveway is being repaved, big deal.”

“It’s not a big deal,” said Hope.

“Then why are you getting so bent of out shape?”

Hope didn’t answer her and instead went right for the phone. She dialed her husband’s office and impatiently tapped her manicured nails against the kitchen countertop.

“Mom?”

“Ssh. … hey, it’s me.” Hope said as soon as her husband answered.

“What’s up?”

“Did you authorize some guys to come out and repave our driveway?”

There was a long moment of silence before he responded. “Yeah. It needed it.”

He sounded defensive. Hope softened her tone. “Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?”

“Why?”

“Why?” she sputtered. “How much is this costing?”

“Why do you care? I’m paying for it.”

She closed her eyes and absorbed the barb. Her lack of financial contribution to the family had been a sore spot between them for the past several months. “It would have been nice to have been consulted, that’s all.”

She waited for him to respond. When the silence stretched out for long seconds, she cleared her throat and asked, “Do you really think it needed it?” Though they had lived in their house for the past 20 years, they had been vigilant in making sure everything was properly maintained. And in her opinion, the driveway had been fine.

Several long, silent seconds stretched between them again before he answered, “It adds value to the house.”

She blinked. “Why would that matter?”

His answer was cold and hollow, “Because I just put the house up for sale.”