Short Story Prompt #2 – 12/25/13

Short Story Prompt – Fashion a story using these five things:
1. A rotten gala apple
2. A pair of lime green sneakers
3. A missed appointment
4. A pig
5. A goodbye hug

Lime Green and Time Machines

“What time is it?” she asked, out of breath, as she came bounding into the bedroom. “I’m so late. I think I missed the appointment. God, this will be the fourth time.”

Quietly, he gazed at her from the bed, pausing in his tapping of the keyboard. As he took in her splotchy, red face, the sweat-stained exercise clothes, and those unfortunate lime green sneakers, he couldn’t stop the disdain that crept into his chest.

“I lost track of time. It was such a good run, honey,” she went on, pulling off her clothes and throwing them to the floor. “You would have loved it. Sandy found this trail by Miller’s Lane, and there were these beautiful creeks and brooks. It was so picturesque.”

After the baby, he was the one who introduced her to running when all the dieting and convoluted weight loss plans became ineffectual. She had taken to it immediately, increasing their twice-a-week morning runs to once a day a month shortly after they started. Eventually, he was replaced by a neighborhood running group. (“Honey, you work so hard. You can sleep in and I’ll run with the group.”) They called themselves The HouseMiles, a silly play on the fact that all of them were housewives. He wasn’t sure what annoyed him more: the mornings when the women showed up at the house at dawn, disturbing their home at such an early hour with their obnoxious laughter, or the fact that she hadn’t lost one bit of weight in the six months since she had started running. If anything, as he regarded her bulbous, equally splotchy belly, she seemed to have inexplicably gained more weight.

“I should call Mrs. Appleton, shouldn’t I? I should call her.” With that, she walked over to the bedside table near him and picked up the telephone to call their son’s teacher. “Hello, Mrs. Appleton, it’s Mallory Renaud…yes, I’m so sorry…I lost track of time…is there a way to reschedule…oh, you can’t? I understand that this is the fourth appointment I’ve missed. No, my husband injured his foot, so he won’t be able to…yes, I know how disappointed you must be. Yes, yes, I’ll hold.”

He watched her close her eyes and take a prolonged, deep breath. She was obviously embarrassed at having missed another appointment. He didn’t feel sorry for her. If she spent less time gossiping with those hens after their runs, perhaps she would have arrived home at a reasonable time.

“Yes, I’m here. Next Tuesday at 7:30? That sounds perfect. Thank you, Mrs. Appleton. We really appreciate it.” She hung up the phone and sat down on the bed in a huff. “That woman will be the death of me. I’m sure she’s told the other parents what a horrible mother I am.”

As the pungent scent of her sweaty body consumed his senses, he wished she had put on a bathrobe instead of sitting here like this, in a wet bra and underwear.

“What are we going to do, Lewis?” she asked, shaking her head.

Here come the waterworks. Sure enough, as she began to softly cry, he wished there was a time machine somewhere in the house, something to take him back to last week. He’d been so stupid last week, heading down the stairs without paying attention. That’s when he slipped and tumbled all the way down. With the time machine, things would be so different. No toy, no fall, no two-week long condemnation in a house he could hardly bear.

“Why is he this way, Lewis? What are we doing wrong?” she asked, tears falling down her chubby face.

A month ago, their 11-year old son had decided to pull yet another prank on his teacher. During recess, LJ took advantage of his empty classroom and filled Mrs. Appleton’s desk (as well as the coat closet) with rotting and/or rotted Gala apples. There was no investigation on who could do such a thing; his track record having been proven since the beginning of the year, it was obvious who the culprit was. Apparently, he had saved a month’s worth of apples for the plan, hiding them in his room until the time was right. His reason for the prank? Mrs. Appleton’s last name. It just seemed perfect for a prank, the boy said.

“Maybe we’re not—we’re not strict enough with him. We spoil him.”

We? Yeah, right. He was the one who refused to pamper the boy, suggesting that they send the boy to military school for a dose of hard reality. Nevertheless, with her constant waterworks at the idea of sending the boy away, he stopped arguing. Let the boy be a terror, he told her the last time. And now, as she cried and blamed herself, he did nothing to dissuade her. It was her fault. Moreover, their 10-month old baby would be the same way as his older brother: spoiled rotten. Again, as he watched her weep, the disdain crept up in his heart. He could no longer decipher whether the feeling came as a result of isolated moments like this, or whether it had always been there.

Just then, the squealing, screeching welcome of the boy’s pet pig pierced the bedroom. He leaned back against the pillows, wanting to punch something. As usual, their son left that blasted cage open, and she, naturally, left the bedroom door open. Wiping her face, she scooped up the miniature pig from the ground, holding the squealing animal to her chest. “You escaped again, Kumquat. What are we going to do with you?” she cooed. “Isn’t he adorable, Lewis?”

He had said “no” to the pig, as well.

“Hon, I’m going to throw on a robe and check on the baby,” she said, turning toward him. Before leaving, she leaned forward and hugged him tightly, the pig’s fur rubbing against his chin. “Everything will be all right, won’t it? Won’t it, Lewis?” Without waiting for an answer, she hugged him again and kissed his forehead.

As he watched her go, he silently uttered his second wish of the day: that her hug had meant goodbye.

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35.

35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. — Oscar Wilde

Oscar ain't never lied...
Oscar ain’t never lied…
Reflecting: we’ve been together for three months now, me and 35, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it so far. A few things…

1. Keeping it All in Perspective. My back hurts, you know? I need an Advil, not your complaint about the long line in the store.

2. I Sing the Body Electric. I accept that I will never have a flat stomach, or abs, or actual, visible hips. I’m so ok with that right now in my life. So, so, so ok with that. I’m not entirely sure where this peace of mind about my body and loving it came from, but I will take it.

3. Some Things Need to Be Said. I tend to shy away from confrontation. (My Sissy will dispute this, but whatever you do, don’t listen to her.) I’d rather let it go and leave it most of the time. But these days…certain things need to be said, acknowledged, dealt with, and then let go. If you say something silly that bears discussion, we will discuss it. K? 

4. This.

5. My Mother, my Friend. I think my mother and I are at a stage where we can really be friends. Although I very much respect her role as mother, parent, and all-around CEO of everything, I still think we can chat, laugh, and joke without me worrying about not being able to sit down because of being swatted on my rump. Within reason. Within reason.

6. This Writing Life. I’ve experienced the following phases with my life as a writer: joy, confusion, comparison, quiet, returning, acceptance, joy. The latter phase is what I feel at present, and I believe I feel this way because I stopped comparing my work to the works of others; stopped putting pressure on myself, stopped giving in to the excuse that there was nothing there, creatively, for me to work with. Once I left many toxic habits behind, my writing and the process itself has taken on a completely different and exciting feel.

35. What whaaat?

In the Corner of the Center of Your World.

so I revolve around your world, do I?
the gravitational pull within your cosmos?
believe what you want,
dearest,
but I fear the truth is shinier than the
stars above your supposedly impassioned head.
here I am,
in the corner of the center of your world,
relegated to afterthought, vague memory, the fabric of a lingering dream.
I starve for your attention while you fool me with galaxies.
well, simply leave me in the corner of the center of your world,
dearest,
in my tiny niche, my nook, my cranny,
and let me enjoy the real stars.

Stories about Words. (Aplomb)

I’ve been a lover of words since I can remember, especially when my father bought me my first dictionary when I was 10 years old. (Being 10 and randomly finding the definition for decade one day made things even sweeter.) Once in a while, I’ll tell you some memorable stories about my ongoing love affair with words.

Aplomb (noun) – complete and confident composure or self-assurance.

I was 17 years old. He sat behind me in our English class. Every day, while our teacher (who shared the same name with the leading actress from The Excorcist, a fact we discussed almost every day in light of her very uncheerful demeanor) lectured in front of the classroom, I felt tiny stings coming from the back of my head. You see, I began to gray when I was about 14 years old, an inheritance from my father, who began to gray when he was 20. Every day, he would gently pull out some of my gray hair. I rarely reacted to this tender assault to my scalp, being that 1) I wanted them out of there, as well, and didn’t fully believe that when one came out, 100 replaced it; 2) I kind of liked the feeling, because I’m a weirdo; and 3) this had been happening since I was 14 years old, random kids behind me in class pulling out my gray hair.

Eventually, we began to have intriguing conversations in class when our crazy teacher allowed us to discuss a novel or something else we were reading. With his bright blue eyes gleaming, he asked if I felt him pulling my hair. I said yes. You never react, he said. No need, I replied, smiling. A few weeks later, he said the following: “You have such aplomb. I love that about you.” I remember replying, I’m a ploom? Aplomb, he repeated, laughing. “You’re so poised. You never react.”

Later, I looked up the word in the dictionary and smiled at his mispronunciation (I’m really a plum, not a ploom), and at the compliment itself. If only he knew the complete lack of self-assurance I felt most of the time, the teenaged/puberty/girl storm raging inside of me. Nevertheless, it gave me a warm feeling to know that he thought I had poise. We were already becoming fast friends–I loved his quirky personality, his brilliant mind, and those eyes–but that word seemed to make him even cooler.

Alas, people drift apart after high school. Last I heard, he’s an attorney living on the West Coast. If we saw each other now, I’d ask whether those court cases are being argued with aplomb. And then I’d gently yank any gray hairs I find on his big head.

how not to be ignorant about Africa.

We won’t get into exactly what inspired this post, only that its absolute necessity is imperative. Shall we, then?

africa
Image courtesy of Free World Maps. Link here: http://www.freeworldmaps.net/africa/

  1. Africa is a continent. Not a country.
  2. When something weird happens in a country within the continent of Africa, it does not represent the entire country where it happened, the people in that particular country, or the people that live on the street/town/city where the weird thing happened. It is an isolated incident, borne from the choices that particular individual or group made.
  3. When someone is from Africa, do not assume that those sad commercials in which flies mill about the crying faces of starving children with distended bellies applies to them and/or represents where they came from. Yes, abject poverty and starvation exist in Africa, but the assumption that all Africans either lived in abject poverty or came from such is ridiculous and inane. Even if they did, how about not assuming?
  4. Disney’s The Lion King. I can’t even. That Swahili in the beginning of the movie? Is not the universal language spoken on the continent. Stop asking Africans what it means.
  5. Speaking of asking Africans random questions, it is 2013. We live in a Google world. There’s likely a library in the vicinity of your home. If you have a question about the continent, kindly research it on your own.
  6. I am proud to be an African woman. I am also an American woman. The fact that I do not have the dough to regularly visit the country of my birth does not diminish the fact that it is the country of my birth, or that I am proud of it.
  7. Oh, you thought this was just about the ignorance of non-Africans, huh?
  8. Ignorance is universal.
  9. Believe that.
  10. We all possess a level of ignorance about things we don’t understand. Rather than relying on age-old prejudices and/or foolery, take the time to sincerely find things out. You will be happier and the possibility of major side eye coming from me will be significantly reduced.

Africa3

Wednesday Writers’ Spotlight: L. Taylor

Because this blog, first and foremost, is about writing. Every Wednesday, I’ll spotlight a fellow writer and bring you his or her thoughts about this writing crafts of ours by way of a brief interview. First up is Ms. L. Taylor, a wonderful friend of mine and an equally amazing writer. I’m not just saying that; one of her short stories recently blew this mind of mine. And it was a sweet, sweet implosion. She also provided the writing prompt for the short story I wrote and shared this week, so another yay for her. Read on, won’t you?

1. When did you start writing?

Ms. L. Taylor!
Ms. L. Taylor!
I’ve been writing in journals since I was about 11. That’s how it started, really – chronicling my daily thoughts and feelings. Later, I moved into the realm of teenage angst and began writing poetry. My early twenties saw short fiction stories added to that collection, and I’ve really never stopped writing since.
2. What or who was your inspiration to start writing?
My sister was my inspiration. I don’t think she’s written in a long time, but when I was little, I remember her writing these wonderful short stories that absolutely captivated me. I would always think, “I wish I could write like that.”
3. What are some of the themes you like to explore in your work?
The broad spectrum of human emotion has always been my favorite thing to write about. Heartbreak, loss, self-discovery and appreciation, love – you name the emotion, and I can write about it. I love to explore it all in different ways.
4. What’s your writing schedule?
I have always been able to write best late at night, when the rest of the world is dreaming. That’s when I’ve come up with some of the work I’m most proud of.
5. How do you combat the dreaded writer’s block?
When I have writer’s block, prompts are my best friend. Nothing shakes me out of a block like being given a story idea and meeting the challenge of bringing life to that idea.
6. Conversely, I’ve heard that writer’s block doesn’t exist; it’s actually having too many ideas that’s the problem. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
I can’t speak for all writers, but for me personally, writer’s block is not about having too many ideas, but rather about not knowing how to develop those ideas. As a writer, I find that I always have ideas. What to do with those ideas, though, is sometimes the cause of the block.
7. Who are your favorite authors?
John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott.
8. Do you write only fiction, or do you dabble in poetry and other genres?
I mainly write fiction and poetry. As bad as it probably sounds, I spend a lot of time in my own head, and those genres indulge my inner dreamer and hopeless romantic.
9. Do you think blogging aids in creativity?
Definitely! One reason is because it gives you an outlet for something that might be hiding within, waiting for the right time to come out and develop at the flourish of your own. It gives you a voice, and it’s good practice in letting other people read (and sometimes critique) your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Thanks, L!!

I see we have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to when our journeys as writers began, as well as the overall themes in our work. If you’d like to read more from Ms. L. Taylor, check out her blog at www.passionatevoice.tumblr.com.

And if you’re a writer and would like to be featured in the Spotlight, feel free to contact me in the comments or via the email on my Contacts page.

The Quaint Questionnaire.

Inspired by a great idea from Natalie of Natalie’s Lovely Blog (follow her, won’t you?) and her friend McKenna Ryan , my pal and fellow blogger Toia B. of Luv To B Natural (check her out!) and I decided to interview each other on current fashion loves and likes and can’t-live-withouts. Natalie and McKenna’s fun idea consisted of finding a blogging friend and exchanging the Quaint Questionnaire with them. Feel free to do the same, and be sure to tag Natalie and McKenna if you do!

Below are Toia’s awesome answers; head over to her blog to see my answers to the same questions.

Describe your perfect winter outfit.

Let’s see… a dark rinsed pair of jeans, cognac riding boots, a chambray button-down and a v-neck sweater. Layering for warmth with coordination for flyness!

Infinity or rectangle scarves?

While I own a gaggle of rectangular scarves, I LOVE a nice infinity/circle scarf. They just make sense!

Color you can wear all year round?

Teal! As of last year, it’s my new favorite color. I found myself wearing it during the winter right into summer when I often paired it with coral. Lovely combo!

What is your take on the Fall 2013 knee-high sock comeback?

I actually love it! I may be turning 34 next month but hey, I like what I like… and I like that look. Ya know, when you wear it with some boots and have a bit of it peeking out over the top? Yeah, so cute!

What is an accessory you can’t leave the house without?

Earrings. Even if I’m just making a trip to the supermarket or running a quick errand to the post office, I’ve gotta put on some hoops or something. Just gotta! I keep a gold pair and a silver pair right where I can grab them on my way out.

How do you relax during those cold wintry nights?

Recently, I’ve been winding down with a Cosby Show mini-marathon, a PB&J sandwich, a large mug of hot chocolate and my fuzzy socks.

Where have you been finding your fashionspiration as of late?

Hmmm… that’s a toughy. I’d like to think that my style is really my own but I do enjoy the fashion sense of style bloggers like Cyn of Addicted to Etsy, Folake of Style Pantry, Eboni of The Fashionista Next Door and Ashlei of Kinks are the New Pink.

Song you can’t get out of your head?

Royals by Lorde. Sure, it’s been around for a minute but that beat… those hooks…I just can’t get enough!

What is a trend you hope never ever ever goes out of style?

Jeans paired with a blazer. It’s so basic and easy to execute that I don’t think we’d have to worry about that. Definitely my go-to.

Ankle booties or knee high boots?

There are only certain kinds of ankle booties that I actually like and I only own one pair (that I can remember) so I’m gonna go with knee-high boots. You can wear ’em with jeans, pair ’em with a skirt or maxi dress to transition from summer to winter… love the versatility.

Describe your idea of a perfect winter day.

Curling up under a blanket or my favorite sweatshirt with some hot chocolate and a good, funny movie!

Hot chocolate or chai tea latte?

Gaaaah! Ya got me! I love them both equally… is that acceptable? :-/

What is a piece you wish you had in your closet right now?

The perfect black pencil skirt. I have yet to find one to fit just right!

Thanks, Toia! Love your responses; I’m also on a quest to find the perfect pencil skirt and can’t live without my earrings.

Short Story Prompt – 12/16/13

Short Story Prompt: Write about a a person whose family member is suffering from amnesia and tries to get that person to remember them.

One year after the search parties had disassembled and the leads had run cold, she decided that it was time to restart her life. She moved back into their bedroom from the guest room; she opened windows and pulled up blinds; she began accepting requests for dinner with family and friends. It wasn’t that the grief was gone; she simply woke up one morning and decided to live with it rather than pretend it simply wasn’t there.

Naturally, when her best friend, Harriet Monroe, asked her to come along for a weekend business trip to New York City, she accepted. The sole hesitation she had, that of Harriet’s demand that Grace make full use of the former’s American Express card, was eventually silenced when her friend regarded her sternly and remarked that she deserved it. You do deserve this, a voice not unlike his, reverberated in the back of her mind.

*

After a Saturday filled with horse-drawn carriage rides, Central Park, and a plenty of food, Grace decided to call it a day. Had she remembered to turn left at 11th Avenue instead of making a right, she would have never walked by the Grotto Café and glanced inside, and she certainly wouldn’t have seen her presumed dead husband sitting at the counter that faced the window, sipping from a coffee mug. But she did make the wrong turn, and there he was.

With a deafening roar in her ears and her vision swimming, she stumbled toward the window and touched it.

He looked up.

She smiled and waved, tears springing to her eyes.

He looked behind him, then back at her, clearly puzzled.

She tapped at the glass repeatedly, as if to communicate, if she could speak in that moment, for him to come outside. The fact that the patrons inside the café peered at her in confusion remained unnoticed.

He hailed a waiter and spoke to the young man while gesturing toward her.

Moments later, the freckled-faced waiter stood next to her on the sidewalk. “Ma’am,” he said, “do you need some help? My customer thinks you might be upset.”

Grace glanced at the waiter, wondering why this boy was interrupting their moment. Somehow, amid the deafening roar and the violent shifting in her equilibrium, she found her voice. “Please leave me alone. I’m trying to tell my husband to come outside. In fact, tell him to come outside, please.”

“He’s your husband?”

“Yes, he is. He’s my husband. My God.” With that, Grace burst into tears.

Moments later, her husband joined the alarmed waiter on the sidewalk. Carefully, he touched her elbow. “Is there someone we can call? Someone that can help you?” he asked.

It was the voice she had listened to for the past twelve months. Days after he went missing, she would repeatedly call his cell phone and listen to his outgoing message, allowing the warm timbre of Kyle’s voice to drape over her. That voice had saved her during those harrowing days when taking her own life seemed to be the only option after months of searching for a man that couldn’t be found. Nevertheless, here he was, on a sidewalk in New York City, standing before her.

“Kyle,” she sobbed, before throwing her arms around him.

Behind her, the waiter followed the silent instructions of his customer and went back into the restaurant to call the police. He then patted her back gently, carefully.

“Kyle, hold me,” she said, looking up at him, tears cascading down her face. “Why won’t you hold me?”

“Ma’am…”

The word pierced through her tears, through her engorged, pulsating heart, and landed right in the center of her chest. Ma’am.

Grace stepped back abruptly. “Kyle, what’s wrong with you?” she demanded.

He regarded her sadly, pity etched across his demeanor. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for.”

“Stop that.”

“Stop what, ma’am?”

“Stop calling me that! I’m—” The words I’m your wife sat on the edge of her tongue, waiting to be uttered, to be screamed. Instead, she took a deep breath and attempted to steady herself, finally recognizing, amid the rush of senses, that something wasn’t quite right here. “Your—your name is Kyle Walsh, isn’t it?” she asked.

“No, ma’am, it’s Henry Baylor.”

Henry Baylor.

“Is this your first time in the city? It can be overwhelming, with all these people. And it can be very easy to confuse one person with someone else.”

Her husband, the only man she had ever loved and trusted, was speaking to her as if she was a child. “It’s me,” she muttered to the ground. “It’s me.”

“Don’t worry; someone will be here to help.”

“It’s me,” she repeated, louder this time. Some passerby turned and glanced in their direction, a feat in a city where nothing seemed to faze its residents or turn their heads. “It’s me. It’s me.”

“I’m really sorry. I don’t know who you are.”

With shaking hands, she dug into her handbag and pulled out her wallet. Opening it, she shoved it toward him and tapped at the photo behind the plastic cover.

He frowned and gazed at the photo. A bride and a groom stood on white sands, the waves of a nearly translucent blue ocean crashing behind them. The bride and groom grinned happily at the camera and held each other tightly. The bride, lovely in her long, white gown, resembled the woman that stood before him. Her dark hair was longer in the photo, but it was indeed her; the same big, brown eyes that now peered at him in bewilderment looked at the camera, albeit happier and beaming with joy. And the groom…

The groom had his face. The same sharp jaw, the same tiny mole underneath his left eye, the same dimpled cheeks.

He looked up at her, blinking rapidly. The strange buzz that he occasionally heard, like a fly let loose inside his head, started up again. After dozens of MRIs and brain scans, the doctors still couldn’t tell him where it came from, other than that he could have possibly suffered from a fall or blow to the head. It was louder this time, the strange buzz, pronounced. Did he and this woman truly know each other?

She came toward him again. “Your name is Kyle Matthew Walsh. I fell in love with you on our first date,” she said softly, her voice quivering. “You proposed to me on our third date. We got married on that beach in Antigua, five years ago. You’ve been—you went missing a year ago. If you can’t remember what you were doing a year ago, then something is wrong.”

This strange woman…with her big, brown eyes that seemed awfully familiar. And, no, he could barely recall events beyond the current year. He strained and pushed, but had resigned himself to being a simple man with no real memories.

Moments later, Grace took his hand into hers and steered them away from the café. She wasn’t sure where they were going; perhaps to find Harriet, to find a hospital; to fly back home. All she knew that was her husband didn’t let go of her hand.

Weekend Vignettes.

I went to NYC this weekend, on a Saturday and back on a Saturday, and visited the Met museum.

I met a man who wore humility like a coat. It was refreshing.

I froze in NYC and was reminded of my very strong feelings about the city.

I said my peace.

I think I’m getting sick.

I won’t go Negative Nancy on you.

Just know that NYC is the pits. (Oh, but NN strikes again…)

If anyone is wondering, I would very much like to eat, sleep, and breathe in a museum. You’ll find me under a Rembrandt.

How was your weekend? Any vignettes you’d like to share?

What ‘tude? Gratitude.

In line with an interesting conversation I had with a pair of lovely friends last night, I decided that every Friday is now Gratitude Friday. Why, exactly?

I tend to be a Negative Nancy. It’s really Negative Ninja Nancy, because when I’m being so-called positive, I’m quietly, methodically sneaking in complaints like nobody’s business. (I eat the same way.) So every Friday, I’ll list 10 things I’m grateful for. Simple gratitude.

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1. My faith.
2. My mother.
3. My sissy and younger bros.
4. My…oh, God, it hurts…my job.
5. My creativity.
6. My late father’s sense of humor, love of eclectic music, and sitcoms, all of which I inherited.
7. A roof over my head.
8. Amazing, amazing, amazing friends and extended family. They’re incredible, all of them.
9. Life.
10. My 4th grade librarian, who let an extremely shy girl hide in the library instead of going to recess. I discovered some of my most beloved books in that library.

Ten more next week!

Tell me what you’re grateful for, won’t you?