Short Story Prompt – 7/18/14

I actually wrote this short a few months ago. I didn’t care for it that much, but it’s an offering nonetheless.

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Short story prompt – A broken wristwatch, peppermints, and a hug that goes too far

Peppermints and Metal

            She rifled around her handbag for peppermints, having suddenly tasted an acerbic combination of the coffee and breakfast omelet she had scarfed down in the car on the way here. She was reaching toward the very bottom of the bag when the receptionist poked her head into the testing room. “Ms. Ritter, Mr. Coleman asked to give him a few minutes. I’ll come back to get you.”

“Thank you.” She wasn’t sure whether her words were directed toward the young woman or the outline of the mint she finally found in her bag. Popping it into her mouth, she closed her eyes as the cool flavor permeated her senses. Quickly opening her eyes, however, lest she was discovered with her eyes closed moments before an interview, Allie attempted to calm herself down. She also stopped herself from logging back into the test module to re-do the entire thing. Having taken long enough to ensure that her answers were correct, the nagging feeling that she had failed miserably—not that atypical for her—would simply have to lie in wait until this part of the day was over.

“All right, time for the gauntlet,” the receptionist announced when she walked in. She winked.

Allie chuckled. “I’ll note your choice of words.”

“Don’t worry; Mr. Coleman is a teddy bear.”

Allie followed her down the quiet hallway. She glanced through the few open doors they passed and noticed that whomever she saw smiled at her. Some even waved. All good signs, she supposed, although at this point, they could throw daggers at her and she would accept the job if it was offered to her. The receptionist led her into a spacious corner office and wished her well before departing. Behind Mr. Coleman’s desk, a breathtaking view of the Los Angeles skyline momentarily diverted Allie’s attention from her trembling hands and wet palms. She wouldn’t be alone for long, however, as she felt a slight draft behind her. The opening of a door. Be charming, she told herself, before standing up.

“Please, please, have a seat.” As he approached her, she was reminded of her grandfather, who was similarly rotund, bearded, and held the same warm demeanor as Robert Coleman. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all. However, her grandfather wasn’t the CEO of a Fortune 500 auditing firm. She gulped, her nerves resuming their frenetic dance. “I hope we didn’t keep you waiting too long.” He walked around his massive desk and sat down.

“Not at all,” she replied.

“Wonderful. Before we get started—” He looked toward the door and nodded. “Ah, there he is. I wanted to bring in our Senior Vice President to sit with us. He’s in charge of the division you’ll be potentially supporting.”

Should anyone ever ask, Allie was certain that she now knew what shock, anger, and nausea tasted like when they converged: like metal. Pure metal settled itself on her tongue, diminishing anything the tiny peppermint had achieved.

He took her hand in his, delving into her eyes with a fixed gaze. She firmly removed her wet hand from his iron grip and sat back down. Turning her attention to Coleman, she peripherally saw him pull up a chair.

“Let’s get started, shall we?” Coleman began. He opened a file folder on his desk. “I was very impressed by your qualifications, Ms. Ritter, and your test scores were—”

His voice drifted further and further away. Allie had returned to the dark days of the past, when she was married to a man whose idea of fidelity was skewed; he was devoted to one woman, sure, but that woman wasn’t her. The divorce had been ugly, his words and actions even uglier. She chided herself for not fully researching the company, short of a quick scan on the “About” link on their website. She would have seen that the Senior Vice President was her former husband; she would have stopped herself from applying to the Administrative Coordinator position; she would have kept the bitter taste of metal from infiltrating her tongue.

“Ms. Ritter?” Coleman asked.

“Yes?”

“Please, tell us a little about yourself.”

Continuing to focus only on Coleman, she gave a brief rundown of her schooling and where she grew up.

“Bob, I would like to actually ask specific questions about Ms. Ritter’s skills and how they’ll work for our team. Do you mind if we have a few minutes?” he asked.

“Not all. The floor is yours.” Robert Coleman smiled at her and ambled out of the office.

Allie swallowed thickly. They were alone.

“Do you believe in destiny?” he asked, walking around the desk and sitting on its edge. “That after three years, we were meant to be together once again?”

She remained silent, focusing on the skyline behind him.

“I’ve missed you, Allie. I hate calling you ‘Ms. Ritter.’ I remember when we shared the same last name.”

God, help me, she prayed. I want to kill him.

“I still have it, you know,” he then said softly. He pulled it out of his shirt pocket. She eyed the watch, with its frayed leather strap and the crack on its exterior. She had given it to him on their wedding day, only to drop it while attempting to put it on his wrist. They had laughed, joking about her famously shaky fingers when she was nervous. He had promised to always keep it.

Freshly infuriated, Allie looked him square in the eye. “You don’t deserve that watch,” she said. “It was for a different man, from a different time.”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s not fair, Allie. I made mistakes, but I didn’t change.”

She gaped at him, momentarily struck by how thoroughly deluded he was. Nevertheless, she stood up. “Interview over,” she announced.

He was by her side in a flash, it seemed. He put his arms around her and pulled her body into his, hugging her tightly.

She shoved him with all the strength she could muster, causing him to bump into the desk and knocking a few items down. “You don’t get to do that,” Allie said, breathless and angry. “Different man, different time. Not you.” With that, she turned and exited the office. Coleman wasn’t in the hallway, but then she didn’t care.

“How was the gauntlet?” asked the receptionist as Allie passed her desk.

“I made it through.”

Car 54?

Where are you?

I’m here. I try my best to post most of the week, but this week has been filled with stressful days at work, wanting to commit assault because of said stress but ultimately resisting for fear of a jail sentence that won’t be interrupted by my mother paying my bail (she won’t pay, y’all), and other such issues. I try not to talk too much about life at the OK Corral here, but suffice it to say that it’s time for a change. I need a new job. I need a new environment. New faces, a new desk, a new route to work, new, new, new.

Yours in resisting assault and battery convictions,

This Square Peg

The Status Quo.

Last week, I turned on the TV in the morning before beginning my usual routine. This involves bargaining with myself to allow a few more minutes of sleep time, then lecturing myself on the value of actually arriving to work on time, then finally getting up, then turning on the Today show. I watch it every morning. Gone are the days when I longed for Katie and Matt to just like get married or something, their chemistry was so off the charts, but I still watch it and enjoy. (And I’m in love with Matt Lauer. So there you go.) Anyway, how excited was I to see that Tamron Hall, one of the anchors, was sporting her natural hair!

tamron hall

hallroker

 

Earlier this year, I read an interesting article about Tamron and how she’d been natural for a while, but straightened her hair in order to look “professional” on television. (Do I have a problem with that particular choice? No, because I know that TV shows have producers and higher-ups who are telling primarily African-American women in the public eye how they should look. I applaud her for being in a place in her career where the choice became hers.) I remember discussing it with some friends at the time. One friend mentioned that she wished a woman’s decision to return to her natural texture would just be so normal that it’s not even news. That it doesn’t require a big reveal. That it just happens and we accept it and move on. I echoed her feelings, but I also remarked that until most of society lets go of stamped down, twisted ideas of what is “beautiful,” big reveals like Tamron’s will continue to happen. The fact of the matter is that a woman’s return to her natural texture, by and large, is still news. Whether we like it or not.

When I big chopped my hair after 8 months of transitioning, I walked into our house of worship that evening and very much did a big reveal. That wasn’t my intent, of course; I was just walking in like I did every week. Nevertheless, it became a reveal because prior to that evening, most of my friends saw me with my relaxed, shoulder-length hair, or braids/other styles. Moreover, very few women in the room wore their natural textures. So, yeah, the reaction was pretty significant. Most of the reactions were awesome. One male friend was like, you look like a totally different person. It’s becoming. Another friend, female and older, told me that I wouldn’t find a husband. Yeah. Regardless of that, I was so happy to finally reach my goal of natural that I was on cloud nine and still am. But my point is that it was a reveal. When you do something different, something not of this world’s status quo or standard in the area of the world/community you happen to live, it’s a reveal.

As I stated above, what would be awesome, what would really put me on cloud 99, is a change to that status quo. That “straight” hair wouldn’t be the only definition for what is beautiful or what is professional or whatever. That the hair a person was born with wouldn’t be something people need to get “used to.” That Tamron Hall’s natural hair wouldn’t have to be a talking point because it was always there, all along. I’m not straight hair prejudiced, by the way. My problem is anyone having to defend their hair. You shouldn’t have to defend what’s sitting on top of your head. And that goes across the board. I have plenty of girls in my life who prefer their relaxers. However, the overarching issue is that supposed standards of beauty largely do not include coils, Afros, kinks, etc. And sadly, that’s why it will always be news when a woman decides to change things. When people stop categorizing beauty, a woman will walk into a room and won’t be revealing anything except how stinkin’ awesome she is as a woman, a person, and an individual.

 

The Experience.

As a music lovah, nothing thrills me more than standing in a giant stadium filled with thousands of people, lights, that electric sizzle in the air, and my favorite performer(s) standing on a stage before me. Ever since the ‘rents released their sheltering hold on me during those later high school years (oh, it was tight), I’ve been going to concerts. There’ve been memorable ones, weird ones, times when I’ve been trapped in a mosh pit and driven to the front of the stage, thunder, lightning, and so much in-between. Here are a few that I reminisce about to this day (in no order of importance), as well as some artists I’d push an old lady over to see live (what? I’m owed a push!).

1. Dave Matthews Band, 2000

All the guys together, including our dearly departed Leroi Moore on the far right. Sniff.

All the guys together, including our dearly departed Leroi Moore on the far right. Sniff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was my first time seeing the guys. Having been a mild fan, I nevertheless accepted the invitation to join an old friend to the show at RFK Stadium in DC. During the show, a crack of lightning streaked the sky, followed by a boom, then the heavens opened. It.poured. And Dave and the guys never stopped playing. We were drenched, cold, likely developing pneumonia–and yet as they played, we didn’t stop dancing. It was exhilarating. Needless to say, I became a lifelong fan during that wet evening.

2. Bush, 1999

You see that heart, don't you?

You see that heart, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only thing you have to know about this particular rockin’ show was that, after years of loving him from afar, I got to 1) meet Gavin Rossdale after the show and 2) hug him. He smelled like soap and dreams come true. Goodness. (Note: we were told before the meet and greet that we couldn’t hug Gavin or the rest of the band. You see how that worked out, huh?)

3. Stevie Wonder, 2010

Me and my sweet little bro.

Me and my sweet little bro on our way to the show.

The man, the legend, the wonder.

The man, the legend, the wonder.

Stevie in a harmonica-off with another musician. He won, by the way. No surprise there.

Stevie in a harmonica-off with another musician. He won, by the way. No surprise there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok. There are artists I love. And then there are artists that I feel emotionally connected to. And then there are artists that I have no true, lucid words in describing how they make me feel. That’s Stevie. I have no words. Through sheer amazement and a wonderful friend, I was able to score two free tickets to see Stevie Wonderful. Even sweeter was the fact that I surprised my little brother with that second ticket, he being as much of a fan of Stevie as I am. So…I wept the entire show. I couldn’t believe that the man was before me. I couldn’t believe that that voice, his instrument, was filling my senses. The woman next to me merely patted my hand and said, “I know, sweetie. I know.” It was un-be-liev-able.

4. HFStivals, 1994-1998

You can imagine the refreshing aroma in the air with all those people mashed against each other. (No.)

You can imagine the refreshing aroma in the air with all those people mashed against each other. (No.) I was at this show, by the way. Quite the memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These daylong festivals were among the first concerts I attended. Some of the best and prolific modern rock bands in the 90s thrilled us and inspired those evil powerful mosh pits I mentioned earlier. From No Doubt to Everclear to Wyclef Jean to Rage Against the Machine to Jewel (who walked off the stage when a Frisbee struck her in the, uh, chestal area) to tons of others, those sweaty, crazy shows are still pretty memorable. Memorable and completely nothing I would do again. Whew. I’m happily an old lady now. Give me a nice seat during a show.

5. John Mayer, 2004

So groovy.

So groovy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was five girls crammed into my former, ratchet SUV headed to one of the most entertaining shows I’ve been to. We screamed and swooned and laughed and called for him to play out favorite tracks. Maroon 5 opened for him. What a show. Having fallen for Mayer’s incredible songwriting abilities after the release of his first album, to see him play and riff was awesome. Cooler, though, was being around my company of girls and good friends.

Those are a few of the shows that I still tell people about, sometimes against their will. Following are some of the artists I’m slightly frothing at the mouth to see:

  • Adele
  • Emeli Sande
  • Lionel Richie (yes, you read that right)
  • Sam Smith
  • Paul McCartney
  • Bruce Springsteeeeeen
  • Jason Mraz
  • Johnnyswim
  • Billy Joel
  • Sara Bareilles

What memorable concerts do you think about from time to time? And who would you like to see? Tell me….

Belly Love.

I saw this question on a post from The Curvy Fashionista from last year and was moved to answer the call. Thanks for the inspiration, TCF. Ok, here we go.

Dear Belly,

You’re giving me the side eye, aren’t you? Because I chose you as the favorite part of my body? And you’re like, please honey, that is a LIE? Please, let me explain.

I know that I’m unfair to you. I know that when I do my mirror checks my eyes drift down to you and I shake my head at your weird shape and your unwillingness to submit to ab exercises. I tsk tsk at you. I touch you sometimes during the day to check if you’ve transformed into that muffin top thing that invariably happens when I sit down and tsk tsk some more. So, yeah, we’re not pals. You’ve heard me refer to you as my “problem area” time and time again and I get that you’re so through with me. And that’s why I’m professing my love for you.

Belly, you’re cute. You’re part of the curves. You like music. You help me with digesting. You’re part of this entire body that I’ve learned to love and accept and take care of.

Yes, I’ve long allowed the gazes of others toward my mid-section when I wear certain outfits to mess with my mind. And rather than ignoring their appraisals, I blamed you and myself for not being more disciplined in trying to decrease your roundness. But we’re done with all that. People can look all they want. I certainly will continue with caring less. The fact that is that you are my favorite part of my body. Just like all the other parts. I will continue to nourish you and lather you with lotion. I won’t gaze at you with disdain. I’ll hum Billy Joel’s “Just the Way you Are” whenever you like. I’ll love you, because you’re part of the composite order of me.

So let’s start over, shall we?

Love always,
This Square Peg

Fabu Fashion Wednesday.

Ok, so this post isn’t about music, but the choices I made below are like music to my ears, so we’re going to run with that. Welcome to another intermittent submission for the fashion files. Wanted to share what I wore to the j-o-b today, particularly because it’s a step outside my style comfort zone. Further commentary and details will follow.

Dress2 Dress1

Coral! I mean who would have thunk it? I definitely tend to largely stay in the earth tones family when it comes to my style choices. Nevertheless, when I saw this in the store last summer, it immediately called out to me. I think what I like the most, other than that fun color, is the wavy thing coming down the front. (“wavy thing”–an example of my fashion verbiage. You’re welcome.) But even though it called out to me on the rack, the fact that I waited an entire year to wear it should communicate the whole outside the comfort zone thing. I would glance at the dress in my closet and almost always bypass it. But not this summer, and not this time. It’s light enough for the humid atmosphere outside and dressy enough for the business casual environment (which is usually more dressy than the term implies) here at the job.

Dress - Ross (the go-to place for summer dresses, if you ask me)
Earrings - Target

Now, remember when I mentioned that I would be incorporating more statement necklaces in my outfits? See below!

Necklace

Lovely or what? The necklace was actually a gift from my sweet Mom to me (awwww), something she surprised me with a few weeks ago. (Proof that she is listening to my ramblings, I think.) Can I tell you how much I love this necklace? Beyond the fact that it’s from Mom, it also dresses up any outfit, which I love. I’ve been wearing it all over the place. Speaking of necklaces…

Necklace2

I’ve posted photos on here that show that necklace above, but I wanted to say a bit about it. I purchased it about a year ago at a boutique in Alabama. I adore it, mostly because when I was a teenager, the one thing I wanted was jewelry with my initials on it. However, as I got older, I thought some of the name necklaces looked a bit too teenager-y. Enter this simple but swirly “S” (first initial of the government name). Not only do I wear it constantly, but it’s one of the few pieces I have that I don’t pull off at some point during the day. Remember my weird affinity for pulling off jewelry? Yeah.

Happy Wednesday, party people.

In the Lonely Hour.

I had an Amy Winehouse moment.

A little history: several years ago, when Amy’s indescribable Back to Black album was released, I had my usual listening party on the headphones. I was on an airplane, en route to visit the bestie in Alabama. And then Tears Dry on their Own came on and I shocked the guy next to me by nearly falling out my chair in response. The melody and lyrics and everything slayed me immediately. I closed my eyes; held out my hands before me–I mean, I was having some sort of religious conversion epiphany moment. I don’t know what it was about that song; I don’t know why, when I played the song for my friends, they reacted in a similar way; I don’t know why when I read reviews about the album, most of the critics seemed to highlight that particular song when discussing the richness of that album. It was everything and it still is and I still squeal under my breath when that song comes on my music mix.

SamSmith

Oh, the talent.

Well, I had another AW moment yesterday when listening to In the Lonely Hour, the first album by new Brit artist Sam Smith. (Seriously, whatever they’re putting in the tea and crumpets in Britain is working; most of the best soul singers that have arrived on the music scene and have quickly established their talent.) The entire album had me in epiphany Amy Winehouse mode; it was one song after the next of mind blowing vocals and lyrics that landed right in the center of my chest and culled up memory and moments in time and swelling chords and just good music. Goodness. Honestly, I would list the songs on the album that stand out, but I can’t do that because they all stand out, each and every one of them. I will say that I’ve Told You Now (couldn’t find the album version to link, but Google it up…or buy the album!) did something to me. I don’t know what it did, exactly; I was exercising when it came on and my knees nearly gave out when I heard the chorus. We could attribute that to my actual weak knees, but I have a feeling it’s the song. Anyway…

Purchase this album. You need it in your life.

The end.