March 7, 2018: Albertine and Josephine
I placed twenty-dollar bills into his hand, making sure he saw each one. BB looked at me, showing a little bit of sorrow on his face. He knew who they truly belonged to. He also missed her as much as I did. I should’ve invited him to the river when I sprinkled the last of Josephine’s ashes. We frequented this area since we were in grade school. We shared our deepest secrets underneath the trees. It seemed not long ago we were ten years old.
I was asking Josephine to braid her hair. She didn’t like others messing with her auburn locks, and would tell me no. She’d leap up and run off. Her legs were faster than mine. I would still chase her until we found ourselves bumping into each other and laughing as we fell onto the grass.
It was incredibly hard to watch my best friend submerge into the water, be carried away, and all the while I heard our last conversation.
“Albertine, how much I will miss you. Saying your name. Hearing you say mine. You know how much I love my hair, but giving you a lock of it might be a good thing.”
I had been waiting for her to say that since the beginning of our friendship. I had decided if she wasn’t willing to give me a piece of her hair, I was going to take some of it after she died. Thankfully, it never came to that, but I was always ready. I pulled out a scissors from my coat pocket.
“Here, let me do it,” I said. “I’ll be sure to only take a little bit.”
“Take it near my face, but not too close. I don’t want you to accidentally nick me. And I want to see it.”
After I had separated the strands I was taking, I further separated it with string.
“Hold still now,” I said.
She gasped a little bit when she heard the scissors close shut. For the first time in her life, Josephine was asymmetrical when it came to her hair. I held it out in front of her face, but not before tugging on the tiny knot.
“Not even enough to miss.”
She nodded slightly, picked up the mirror beside her, and inspected the area where I clipped her hair.
“I could always count on you to do things right,” said Josephine. “I hope you know that.”
“I do.” I said with some sass. “Isn’t that why you kept me around all these years?”
“Stop it.” She wiped her misty eyes. “I’m going to miss you so much. Your words. Your face. You know I love you like a sister.”
These words lingered in my memory as she took her last breaths. She was unable to speak during her last days. It was excruciating for me. I had difficulty concentrating. All I could do was hold her hand during this time. Of course, I loved her in return, and told her this every morning and night. We had been best friends for most of our lives. I placed her hands on her chest when she was gone. I kissed her forehead and recited her favorite prayer. She had already closed her eyes for me.
There were a handful still alive from our high school class. We used to wonder who would die first between us. I now knew the answer.
Josephine did have some surprises even as she reached her golden years. The night she invited me for a nice car ride comes to mind. She had recently turned seventy. She wouldn’t tell me where we were going when I asked her. I followed her into a building, and found myself standing behind her in a semi-lit room. It was spacious enough to put your arms out, but as the night progressed, it became crowded.
This was my introduction to the secret world of gambling of a different kind. I watched her give money to a stranger. I later learned his name was Bruce Bowman. My friend had gone from the innocent girl of a farmer father and stay at home mother to taking part in shady activity. She blamed it on her second cousin, half-joking.
“That’s not fair to Harold.” I said, half-joking too.
Harold had gotten into trouble with the local authorities for letting nearby farm livestock run wild. He said cows should run free once in a while, but he really only wanted to laugh at their confusion once the gate was open and after he took a swipe at their backside. He was known around town as a troublemaker. While he never did anything serious, it was enough for people to never give him a chance. He worked on her father’s farm, and even survived an accident that took his left leg from the knee down.
It was no surprise that she gave him a sizable chunk to him when she sold her father’s farm and surrounding land. He gave her a handmade card. It never said thanks, but told her she had done the right thing of spreading some of the family butter onto his bread. He lived out his remaining years exceptionally close to his cousin. She confided in him as much as me about her troubled marriage. He gave her advice while strumming his four-stringed guitar. His advice never amounted to much of anything because her marriage was doomed from the start. He eagerly listened, and she appreciated this. We all agreed it had been a good thing when Edgar died from a car accident.
As winter thawed into spring, Harold ended up dying in the summer. She invited me to the funeral, just the two of us, and we buried him in the local cemetery. There was no one left alive from her immediate family and her extended family were far removed. She had no one to leave her inheritance with so she left it to me, her best friend, and it served me well.
It took several attempts for me to withdraw any amount of money from her account. The closest I got was the bank door the first time. I couldn’t even put my fingers around the handle. The feeling of irresponsibility stopped me. When I got the courage to finally enter the bank, I asked for one hundred one dollar bills. The teller gave me what I asked for, but not without giving me a funny look. I sat in my car making sure the top of George Washington’s head was to the right before I left the parking lot.
I know the exact time when I was reminded time was limited. It was 7:03 on a Saturday night when I asked Josephine why she was giving away her money to a stranger in a strange room.
“I’m not going to live forever,” she said in a matter of fact tone, “and my only wish is to live the remaining years having fun. You might think it’s silly, but it keeps me going.”
She started gambling ones, went to fives, later tens, and only used twenties by the end. She won more than she lost. I encouraged her to find another way to live the good life, which made her sour. She finally admitted she found parts of it ghastly. The body odor that lingered in the air. She used to stuff cotton into her nose, but the smells often went right through it. We both learned to deal with it. The longer you stayed, the less it was an annoyance. Stick around long enough, you win more, which was the whole reason for being there.
I watched people with their body odor give their money to BB. I was amazed at how Josephine hardly looked at him during their exchanges. Most of their talk was through gestures. Before they departed, he gave her a tiny smile. She then grabbed my hand, and moved me through the crowd. I learned the first names of certain people, warned about the unsavory ones, discovered who won the big jackpot the last time, and the unfortunate person named Cliff who wasn’t liked by anyone. He had a habit of eating Rice Crispy Bars and touching people with his sticky fingers.
I learned what “dinner time” meant. It started when the lights dimmed. The predator appeared with its owner. They varied as much as the prey. The first time I saw dinner time I was shocked. The hawk was normal size, but one of the mice was small and the other large. Josephine had bet the larger mouse would be eaten first in the enclosure. She was right. Raptors were just as popular as the snakes.
There had been one anomaly where a falcon had killed both mice at the same time. They had huddled together, almost paralyzed, and neither made a sound until they were both snatched up. Things changed, the main one being a divider preventing the prey from meeting in the middle. People claimed it was confusing to the predator. Josephine pitied the person who kept track of which side it was released each time.
She had a good eye for winners. I had even a better one. I made it a habit of being near the entrance when the predator was ushered into the room. It allowed me to see how it was acting and responding especially when released from its cage or given a little more freedom. I didn’t go to school for this, but observation goes a long way. I owe all my winnings to taking mental notes, and maybe, a tiny fraction of luck. I seldom gave bad advice to Josephine, and now that I frequent this room alone, it turned out I was the better gambler. Not too shabby for a person who thought this whole thing was farcical on her first visit.
Josephine’s final appearance and goodbye left a bitter taste in her mouth. She was leaving familiar faces behind, but not one of them she could call a true friend. They were only acquaintances. Yet, she would still miss the multiple conversations buzzing all around. It softened the blow upon learning her biggest regret was partly her fault. This I know because she told me that same night as I forced her to be a passenger in her own car.
Since her death, BB and I became friends. He took my money inside the room, but outside of it we only talked. We ate lunch at the local diner each month. I gave him stories. He gave me laughter. I respected him more when I learned he was struggling to make ends meet after his wife left him. His two daughters often had to take care of themselves. It didn’t take long for me to sign the remaining money Josephine had left me and all my gambling profits to BB.
I could live off the remaining money I had, and still I felt sadness when he hugged me. I wanted it to be Josephine’s hands. She would never know what I withheld from her year after year. I should have said more, but misgivings are wasted time when you’re old like me. The only thing that mattered now were my ashes. I instructed BB to put them in the same spot Josephine had entered. Our friendship was evolving into something else. There was nothing more for me to do except wait and be patient because that is the final definition of life and death.
March 1, 2018: Where’s the Short Stories?
I’m working on them and will be posting soon.
January 3, 2018: More Production and Less Promising
I feel like George R.R. Martin right now. I’m having trouble producing anything substantial with my short stories or novel ideas. I was having trouble period where I didn’t want to even work on my blog. I’m slowly finding the energy, motivation, and urge to get to busy again. Writing is a lonely hobby and/or interest. You do it alone. You have to or else you won’t get anything done. I’m going to try my best to keep the momentum with my life goals this year. No more excuses. You either do it or not. There’s something to be said when your mentality actually mirrors your actions. I still have a ways to go, but I’ll get there. I was born a fighter and doer. There’s still a lot more to do. Charging ahead.
December 3, 2017: More Reflections on Writing
It took five months to finish one simple, short story. That is how I roll. I hope to have two other short stories by the end of the month, and continue working on my rewrite. I’m way past my deadline, two years ago now, but hopefully will be done in 2018.
December 3, 2017: When a Father Creeps like a Spider on a Chessboard
These simple two words sent me back to the past. The words I often heard. His voice always thunderous above my head, even if I was standing level to him. He made me look up to him, always. He made me come to him when he moved, the most annoying. A father shouldn’t change positions so much, but mine did, constantly.
There were times he crept around like a spider, feeling the vibrations on his legs. I fooled myself many times thinking he was something to not be afraid of. Other times he hopped around, out of control, like a child on a pogo stick, leaving impressionable dents to the floor and my pride. No one ever felt safe around my father. My friends didn’t understand him.
This wasn’t even the worst part. It was when he questioned your existence that made you feel tiny, as if your right to breathe the same air as he did was a tragedy. The constant taunting about how he wanted to drain my blood and refill it with someone else so we had one thing less in common.
“Did you hear me? You overstepped your boundaries again.”
He put enough emphasis on the word, again, that I thought he was done. He was not.
“Did I raise a daughter so stupid? Is this my last reward for being your father? You blessing me with utter senselessness! I don’t even know how you live with your pitiful self.”
I glanced at his wrinkled face. He seemed to have aged a few years in the past ten minutes. I could tell he was at a breaking point. The point when he felt when his personal welfare was threatened. Whatever left was inside him unhinged more, making his half empty heart, emptier. His face twisted into a disturbing expression. This was a record for him. I believe he had reached a personal best.
You must keep screaming inside so your lungs don’t give out. You must picture your flailing arms calm when they are anxious. This was what my brother told me in order to deal with him. How easy for him to say. He stayed in his little bubble until the day he turned 18, and never turned back when he left home.
I had worn my game face before, and because this was definitely a game, I made sure I had additional layers this time. I wasn’t willing to be a pawn anymore on this family chessboard. As I knocked every demand and threat he said to me from the board, I faced the realism of it all. As I tossed every shameful thing he did into the burning garbage can below, I was up for the challenge. As I was no longer willing to have him spit such hatred at me, I was prepared.
Eventually, the king will be knocked off his pedestal, and I intended to do just that. His tall shadow wouldn’t belong to him much longer, but first I said some words.
“Yes, father, I heard you, and no, you didn’t raise me to be stupid. I’m actually quite smart if you cared to notice.”
The past twenty years came up in my throat like a bad case of indigestion. I was ready to get rid of it. I was ready to move forward.
“Now, I believe it is my turn to ask you some questions.”
He looked at me, holding surprise at the corners of his mouth, and I knew. If you take away a spider’s legs before a fight has begun, there isn’t much to stand on but false hope and flawed expectations.
November 25, 2017
I’m working on three different short stories. One is a story between a parent and child. Two is a story about a man with special gifts. Three is a story about a man-eating pumpkins as I started this one in October.
September 14, 2017
My short stories are officially on the back burner again. I wish there were more hours of each day and week. I’m finding myself starting short stories and stopping in the middle of them. I apologize for my indecision, but I tend to live a more fluid life instead of rigid as in the past. I’m truly hoping I finish my rewrite by the end of this year and if not then early next year. On top of bringing back some attention to reading and coloring more, I’m reintroducing exercise into my weekly routine. This leads to the conclusion of I wonder how others seem to have it all worked out.
August 18, 2017
The heat came back on. I couldn’t stay away for too long. I’m going to be posting some short stories soon. The heart wants what the mind does not. My lack of creativity did not last long. I guess I have to stay true to myself and continue along my path.
July 30, 2017
I decided due to the many personal projects I have currently going on that my short stories are going to take a back burner. They actually won’t be getting any heat. Therefore, the rest of the year (Gregorian calendar) I’m not going to dabble in forcing these stories that I’m having trouble concentrating on even during my creative periods. I hope to resume these fun short stories, but not until these remaining five months are done. I need to hunker down and focus on my rewrite, which I have not been doing. I feel like George R.R. Martin except it’s only one book. I have a feeling I will really feel like him when I start my trilogy, but will be keeping it to only three books, or at least, I hope and pray this is the case.
July 21, 2017
I’m having trouble writing a short story. Not going to lie because it’s proving to be a little more difficult. Actually, a lot more difficult. I’m not sure why, but hoping to get over this hump soon.
Reflection/July 3, 2017
I didn’t write any short story in June!!! I’m going to try writing, at least, one short story each month until the end of this year!!! I’m hoping to write a short story soon!!!
A Nightly Encounter/May 27, 2017
As the sun began its vanishing act, the moon became a sliver with its true radiance obscured behind a cloud. It was on this night I managed to catch a glimpse of his being before he retreated into the darkness. His posture was menacing as the black opal dangling from a chain around his neck.
I waited patiently for him to speak. There was no choice. My life depended on it.
“Not everyone flies, and not everyone floats. I do not know what will happen until the very end. You might do neither or you might do both. That will ultimately be up to you.”
I felt a shock in my head when he said this. It started at my left temple and zigzagged its way to the right. I had heard he could be persuasive in a way that left you wanting more. I wondered how long I could resist his temptations.
I could hardly see anything in front of me, and when my ears registered the ambient noises, I wasn’t certain what was making the sound. He had put me in a dizzy haze. I was sure of it, but my ears perked up when he finally spoke.
“Do not take my silence as a form of approval.” He uttered from deep within, like a dog giving a warning growl. “Despite what you believe to know about me, there is nothing accurate about any of it.”
I constructed an image of his likeness as he became quiet again. He was an equal opportunist with his weight distribution. He did not favor the left over the right leg. His elongated fingers, manicured and durable, were often covered by stylish black leather gloves. There were a few times he allowed nature to touch them, but this was only when he was alone. He was born into an aristocratic family, and given a fitting name of Arthur, Theodore, or Samuel, or maybe he had parents a little more daring and bestowed the name of Magnus to him. He did not like people referring to him by his name. I was in process of determining his facial features when he spoke, his voice echoing.
“I could be by your side before you know I’m even there. Would you be fine begging for your life if it came to it? I imagine you want the night to unfold differently. Where you don’t have to crawl on your hands and knees to freedom. Where the little decency stored in your bones is not used against you.”
His words rattled me, sending a chill from the base of my neck to the place where my trousers sat on my waist. His authority loomed over me like an invisible shadow. He had cast his net, and caught his prize. I felt helpless much like the first time I had misjudged.
“Why should I give you any courtesy when you don’t play by the rules with the life you currently have?”
A twig broke in the distance.
“It is time for something a little more playful, do you not agree?”
I remained silent.
“Do you not agree, Nicholas?”
It was my turn to speak, but nothing came out of my mouth.
“You give me an answer as if you never matriculated from a respectable university.”
“My, my apologies.”
“It makes me wonder if the only course of action is to extinguish you now. It appears destroying the misery you feel inside would be a blessing for you.”
“I feel no misery.”
“Be that as it may, I don’t see any reason to allow you to live.” He seemed closer now. “Unless, of course, you want to try your hand at persuasion.”
“Then, by all means, proceed, Mr. Nicholas Hatcher. But, time is wasting, and patience may very well be a thing of the past.”
“Should I face a certain way?”
“Tick tock, Nicholas. Tick tock.”
“Yes, sorry. I’ll begin again.” I swallowed, but the large cotton ball in my throat remained. “I… I… might not have the same riches as some of my friends, but I have never harbored ill will toward any of them. Sure, there were times I might’ve wished to have what they had, but everybody does this. My children are fed a good breakfast in the morning, and they don’t go to bed hungry at night. My wife is most pleased. I would do anything for them.”
“Including sacrificing yourself for their well-being?”
“There are always dangers in this.”
“If I protect them, nothing else matters.”
“But you served your interests first not too long ago.”
“That’s not true.”
“I saw you lying with unkempt girls when you should have been home.”
“That was before the children were born.”
“But you were still committed.”
“I was younger then.”
“What would you do if I told you little Nicholas Jr. and his dear sister do not have much longer to live? That the plague will bring them pain they wished never came knocking? Would you believe me? Or, would you carry on with your life, not heeding my warning?”
“I would need proof.”
“The stamp of authenticity.”
“It’s only fair.”
“But life is not fair. You know this. And, I would not give you the benefit of seeing it on a declaration because I know things.”
His fingers wrapped around my neck in a fierce grip, pushing me against a tree effortlessly, and yet he allowed me to breathe. I’m certain he knew the correct amount of pressure to use on my chest in order not to kill me. I felt the bark digging into my back at all the right places. His face was mostly obscured by his hat and how he positioned his head. I saw his mouth and nothing more. His lips seemed to be the color of maroon.
“You cannot bring back the dead.” He methodically brought his other hand to my face, and covered my eyes. “Horribly, you sent an innocent man to his death. He will breathe no more like I have decided you will breathe no more.” I remained in his grasp, for what seemed forever, when he released me.
My body crumpled to the ground. I had no feeling in my legs. It was as if he drained all my energy. My arms were useless. I couldn’t lift them into the air. I could only muster a shallow inhale and then exhale.
“If you let me explain,” barely whispering, “you will know I tell the truth.”
“A liar in front of me.”
“I saw what you did to him.” His voice became guttural to the point I thought a part of his physiology might have changed. “You are not the one dictating the rules. You are not the one who gives orders. And your insignificant brain seems not to understand that soon you will find yourself in a grand finale.
“Just tell me what you want.”
He flung me against the same tree, pine needles stabbing my flesh when I landed face first. I scrambled onto my knees, and removed the needles sticking out of my palms. “If I’ve lost all chances of living, just kill me already!” My anger increased substantially. “Don’t think I don’t know you’ve been following me since that night. I know you have weaknesses too even though you claim to have none.” I had clearly misspoken. It was one thing to accept your impending death. It is something completely different to invite death, knowing there was the chance of further brutality.
I waited for him to extinguish my life. I waited and waited. He never showed himself to me again that night. I am not certain why. Hundreds of reasons entered my mind of why he departed, but not one correlated to the actual truth.
I needed to get home to my family, but my body was so weak from my ordeal. I was certain my arm was broken. My eyes closed, and I fell asleep, my hand intercepting the pine needles from touching my face. I dreamed of him watching me from far away.
The next morning I was greeted by insistent chirping of birds. The sunlight filtered through the tree tops. It warmed my face as I looked upward. I felt for my glasses. They weren’t there. I could hardly see as I stumbled away. I hadn’t comprehended my predicament until I returned to civilization. There it was in my grasp. I locked my eyes on the blurry black opal with the chain limply hanging from it.
“Curses. Revenge would be coming another day.”
He would return for this. It was only a matter of time.
When he would make his grand appearance, I would be ready.
Dear Diary/May 14, 2017
The screams coming from our house were heard by the next door neighbors on both sides of my parents’ house that day. Mrs. Lambert lived to the right of us. She pushed on her screen door, loosening the hinges even more, with her bony hand to investigate. She was married twice. I don’t know what happened to her first husband, but she looked like a skeleton.
Whenever my mom invited her over for dinner, she always declined with a shake of her head. It isn’t polite to stare, but I couldn’t turn away from her beady eyes in the middle of her shrunken head. It was like she was scared of being in a normal house with normal people. I was glad she had never set foot inside my parents’ house, but I kept this to myself.
Our windows were open all the time except during the rainy days. I hoped my mom didn’t tell Mrs. Lambert about my birthday party. I doubted she would come, but this was the last person I wanted to see because she would ruin it. I didn’t like how she talked either. Her voice was high-pitched and nasally. Her conversations usually went the same way with my mom.
“You know how Jonathan doesn’t like me eating past six o’clock.”
“I’m well aware.” My mom gave her a short eye roll and prolonged her exhalation, all the signals of annoyance.
“Oh, stop it! Jonny means nothing by it.” This sounded convincing enough to me, but not my mom.
“Your flimsy justification doesn’t erase the sting behind his words, and the last time I saw Jonny, it seemed he had put on weight himself.
Mrs. Lambert stammered out her words. “Well, I didn’t come over here to argue. I just wanted to wish you a good day.” And with that, she left without another word. My mom later confessed she probably shouldn’t have made those comments about our neighbors. She didn’t exactly feel bad enough to apologize to either one of them, but expressed her regret. She had been friends with her since grade school. I’m not sure about her husband.
Our neighbors to the right were more personable. I didn’t mind calling them by their first names. Pamela and Marcus were the only adults invited to my birthday party. I made sure of it.
The day prior to my birthday I arranged the top of my desk with an assortment of balloons, paper streamers of my favorite colors, birthday paper plates and napkins, and random noise makers. I wanted everything related to my birthday as close to me as possible minus my presents. My parents had hidden them in their bedroom. It was off-limits to my sisters, and I didn’t feel like getting into trouble even though I was dying to know if anything on my wish list was in their bedroom.
My dad had already eaten breakfast by the time I came into the kitchen. He was sipping his coffee as I waited patiently for my eggs and pancakes. They smelled good and tasted better. His glances at me became longer and longer. I could tell he had some fatherly advice to give.
“Jackie, don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. If you want to do it, then do it. Once you have it in your head you can’t, you might as well give up the ghost.”
“Thanks, dad.” “I’m not kidding around.” “I know.”
“Things like that don’t leave, and set you up for failure again and again.” His advice would be over when he would knock his knuckles on the table. He hadn’t done that yet. I hoped it would be soon. “I want you to see things the way you see them. I want you to see things with your own eyes. I want you to be your own person, Jackie, but carefully.”
“That’s what I want to hear.”
I wondered how many times my sisters had heard this. They had no problem tuning him out during dinner time even when he pointed his index finger at them. That finger always lingered when he came to me. It made me feel important and anxious at the same time. He would end his speech with our responsibilities to one another.
He continued, “I’ve been around here longer than you and your sisters put together.”
I knew this wasn’t true. I was almost eleven. My sister Margery was seventeen and Alice was fifteen. I knew how to count. My dad wasn’t forty-seven. He nodded a few times at his own words, and finally knocked on the table with his knuckles. This was my cue to put my plate in the sink and grab a plastic bag from the cabinet.
My plan was to help my parents after breakfast, but now I wanted to be by myself. My excitement of turning a year older bubbled inside me as it did earlier. After I closed my bedroom door, I removed my diary under my mattress, and scribbled the date with my special pen. It had my name on the side of it, and was a gift from my best friend, Sherry, from last year’s birthday.
July 2, 1981
Tomorrow is my birthday. I can hardly wait. turn eleven. I can’t believe this. I’m four years away from being a woman. My mom says you become a woman when you’re able to have children. I think you become a woman when you can wear a bra. I’m still flat chested unlike my sisters. I wish I could be like them. Don’t tell anyone. They would rub it in my face. I try not to show my disappointment in being treated as a girl by my parents because I don’t feel like a girl anymore. I’m no longer in the single digits. At least my mom doesn’t tell the story of how I was a blessing even though I know I was an accident. My sisters will always be better than me. It isn’t fair. I wish I had been born first. Then they could be jealous of me. My parents probably got me stupid gifts. If my mom actually knew me, she’d know I really wanted a white bra with lace around the edges. I wish I could wear a dress like Margery. And why don’t boys call me? Other girls in my grade have boyfriends already. It isn’t fair. Sherry told me she’s a woman now. Her mom let’s her wear a bra. You want to know what my mom did when I asked her to buy me a bra? She touched my chest. How embarrassing! IT’S SO NOT FAIR!!! I stormed out of the room. We haven’t talked about it since. This was two weeks ago. I’m going to be the only one not wearing a bra to my party. How lame! I just want everything to go perfect tomorrow. I haven’t felt this nervous since I don’t know when. I almost feel like vomiting. I better go downstairs before my parents look for me. They have no idea I have this. I promise to write soon.
P.S: I think I love Danny.
P.S.S: I think Sherry does too.
I thought I had brought the birthday decorations back to my room. I guess I hadn’t because when I went to the living room my dad had already ripped open the red balloons. His cheeks were getting their workout. I counted his progress. There were
fifteen. I tore into the blue ones, and handed him one. I watched him take a deep breath, then blow. His process was a sight to see.
My mom was in the kitchen making my vanilla cake. I requested a lemon filling and frosting. It smelled so good. I knew she would let me have a taste of the frosting if I went in there, but I wanted to help my dad instead. She usually saved some for me anyway.
My dad and I were making good time when one of the balloons broke in his grip, making a loud pop. We both jumped a little bit. He then exaggerated his movements, and it sent us into a fit of giggles. After all the balloons were gone, and our cheeks couldn’t take anymore, they were ready to be hung. I handed them one by one to him in the archway. We next coiled streamers to be hung in the archway and outside the front door. The house was looking more and more like a party celebration.
I was thinking how I would remember this day for the rest of my life when someone knocked on our door. My parents didn’t hear it the first time, but I sure did. I guess girls have better hearing than their parents.
“Someone’s at the door, dad.”
“Are you sure?”
Before I could answer, the knock became more insistent. This time because he put down the streamers on the floor.
“I can get the door, dad.”
“Let me see who it is first.”
My dad could be overly protective. He turned halfway to me. “This better not be one of your sisters.” I smiled. I wished it was. She would be in so much trouble. There was a time for pranks. This wasn’t one of them.
I followed slowly behind him to see who was at the door. The third loud knock brought my mom out of the kitchen. She nudged me aside and went to my dad. He opened the door enough for me to see a police man.
He said politely, “Mr. and Mrs. Simms.”
“Yes.” They said in unison.
“May I speak with you in private?”
The police man must’ve seen me because he pointed in my direction. My dad ushered my mom outside and closed the door behind them. I wondered what they were talking about, and it didn’t take long to hear my mom’s voice.
“Oh, God! Not Margery!” I scrambled to the door and pressed my ear to it.
“I think you should sit down with your husband, ma’am.”
“I want to see her.”
“Let’s give it some time, ma’am.”
“Where is she?”
“The scene is still being processed.”
“My poor baby. Was she decent?”
“Yes, she was found clothed.”
There was silence, and I moved just in time when the door swung open. It hit the wall with a thud. I stood there, unable to move, inches from my parents and the policeman. I had not obeyed my dad. He didn’t say anything. I watched him help my mom inside. She looked out of it, not sure of where she was.
“Mom? Are you okay?”
“Not now, Jackie. Go to your room.” When I didn’t move, he raised his voice. “Right now, Jackie!”
I stood my ground, but it was no use. The police man knew what to do in these situations. He took my hand and led me away from my parents. I asked questions along the way, but he gave no answers I wanted to hear. We entered the kitchen instead, and around the same time my mom let out her first scream.
I had known friendly policemen, but he was not so friendly. The way he looked at me scared me too. I didn’t want to see him anymore, and turned my back to him. This is when I noticed my mom had taken my birthday cake out of the oven. It rested on the stove burner. I wanted a bite, but I didn’t have any for fear he might tell my parents what I had done. He finally left the kitchen when he heard commotion, but not before ordering me to stay in the kitchen.
I finally learned what happened in between all the sobbing and talking of Mrs. Lambert with my parents. I was for once happy she had come into our house. My sister liked to take long walks. My parents saw our town as home sweet home. Young children played outside without any danger. Boys rode their bikes up and down the roads all hours of the day without fear. Girls ran back and forth among their houses without a care in the world.
This changed when Margery was discovered by an elderly man walking his dog. He had noticed her legs sticking out of the bushes. I couldn’t believe someone would be so cruel to my sister. She was annoying at times, but she didn’t deserve to be beaten. She had been the first murder in over five decades.
It became almost unbearable for my sister Alice after her death. My parents never let her out of their sight, and dad insisted on having a strong teenage boy with her every time she left the house. I wish he had said that to me. If I wanted to go anywhere, it would be him with me. He didn’t think the boys in my grade could protect me. He didn’t know the strength of Danny.
I cursed at Margery for ruining my birthday as I laid in bed that night. It wasn’t right of me to feel this way, but I did because mom never frosted my cake, and dad blew up the balloons for nothing. The streamers were useless. The plates and napkins wouldn’t be unwrapped. My friends would never see me blow out eleven candles. I never would eat any of the food I requested.
As my eyes finally closed, I stayed sleeping until late into the next morning. I spotted them before I sat up. My parents had not forgotten. There were more presents than I imagined. The biggest one was wrapped in shiny red paper. I hopped off the bed and went to my knees. I tore off the wrapping paper. This present was on my list. I had finally gotten a boom box. I was so happy. I wanted this feeling to last.
I grabbed another one. It was from Margery. She must’ve given it to my parents before she went for her walk. She liked to leave things until the very end. Tears fell down my face as I tore off the wrapping. I opened the box. It was a necklace with my initials on it. It was the similar to the one she wore. She had never taken it off. She wore it everywhere. I closed my eyes and promised to Margery I would do the same.
Three Novel Excerpts/April 15, 2017
My goal has been to write a novel per year, at least the first draft, but I’ve passed my timeline already in my rewrite. I’m still in this phase with The Forever Stairs, and trying to better outline my trilogy idea in my head and on paper. I hope to self publish my first novel, which I refer to as my “love story” within the year. The love and hate of being a writer in the ever demanding world. There really is not enough time when it comes to my life.
Excerpt from Untitled Serial Killer Story
I sat across him at a restaurant table. When he pointed out his faulty pen, all I could do was look at the blue ink on his tip of his finger. I should’ve felt sorry for him, but the only thing crossing my mind was why couldn’t this guy afford nicer pens. The blue circle on his finger kept getting bigger the more he rubbed his spit onto his skin. I imagined his dermis getting stuck on the bottom of innocent shoes walking by. MY GOD! This was getting worse by the second. I felt the vomit rising in my throat at the thought of him touching me.
After I couldn’t take him anymore spitting on his finger, I excused myself for the bathroom because my tension headache was banging against my temples. When you have to leave, you have to leave. I never should’ve opened my apartment door. I never should’ve hopped the subway. I never shouldn’t been so damn desperate. I hadn’t been taking my profession seriously. There was no stopping the brown whale as my mother used to say once he wants to wipe you out.
My head turned for a brief moment to look back at the disaster sitting at my table. Unknown to my dear friend who arranged this blind date at my pleading, this night would eventually take an unfortunate and random turn. I won’t deny I’d become lazy over the last year. I wanted the same rewards with the least amount of effort. You get what you pay for, and by the looks of it this wasn’t such a great bargain.
Let me divert a little bit. I graduated from high school knowing that ending my sentences with a preposition is a grammar sin. Many people grow up being scarred by their English teachers. I was lucky. Mine for the majority was a hot middle-aged man who had an affinity for periods, commas, and capital letters. I read and reread those classics thinking of his different smiles and forearm muscles. He preferred to be called Mister Z. His last name was Zonfield. I don’t remember his first name. All that comes to mind is Stripes, but that isn’t right. What a perfect specimen to be on the end of my first man crush. If only he had been aware of this at the time, but by now I’m sure his knees are wrinkly and his belly a little droopy.
It was while trying hard not to expel my lunch over dinner where I thought again of my blind date. His face bothered me so much. He had that kind of nose with a slight upturn at the end. It only accentuated his receding hairline. Someone should have demanded he get some hair plugs way before I ever came into the picture. I almost felt sorry for him. Key word is almost. The way my blind date dressed was plain awful with no adequate excuses. Just because Target decided to sell the latest attempt at trendy doesn’t mean his body would look good in it. COME ON! GRAB ONTO SOME REALITY! The shirt he was wearing looked a bit too feminine. He was clearly sucking in his gut under that hideous pattern. His butt didn’t look sexy, but lumpy. Maybe if he wasn’t violating every fashion no-no, he’d find men like myself staying instead of screaming horrors on the inside.
After I expelled my lunch, which wasn’t such a bad idea as I had overindulged in a Krispy-Kreme donut earlier, I wiped my mouth to get rid of all the evidence. My mother was a great role model. She made sure to always make sure my movements count. You had to really mean it. Her attention to detail was above all the other mothers. This brought whispers of her inappropriateness when she picked me up after school. The teachers were afraid she was touching me in ways a boy shouldn’t be by his mother. I saw it in their eyes during the parent-teacher conferences. I spit in my fifth grade teacher’s face when she suggested I was lying. No one disrespected my mother, not then, and certainly not now.
We were just that close. She was my best friend. I was a mama’s boy, spelled M-A-M-A, and not a momma’s boy, spelled M-O-M-M-A. There was nothing comedic about our relationship. It was as serious as cancer. I wash my hands three separate times, vigorously pumping the soap dispenser equally three separate times, and dry them thoroughly on paper towels thanks to her. I grab the door handle with a clean paper towel thanks to her. I am confident when I step out of the shower that I cleansed every inch of my body thanks to her. She taught me if I didn’t like someone or something, I could always leave knowing I did the right thing.
This circumstance was no different, but I was in for a little surprise. My body stiffened when I realized my blind date was gone from the table when I returned. Where did his funky nose go? Who gave this guy a right to reject me like this? Wait a second… is that his fugly body under the table? I smiled for the first time that night. Yes, it was him. He was still there. YES! His body was barely visible under the table, but he was most definitely there. As I got closer, I saw his lumpy butt when it should’ve been planted on his chair. He contorted and writhed on the floor like a dying fish, gripping his throat. I could see his face was pale, but nothing like the blue I had imagined.
A waitress gave me a shove as she rushed past me, and fell to her knees besides my blind date. JEEZ! This wasn’t the Pope on the floor. She put an ear to my blind date’s chest. Are you kidding me? He clearly has a pulse! He can’t breath! You idiot! She pushed on his chest, rather lamely. I doubt she even knew what CPR stood for. I wanted her to be my next based on pure stupidity. She wised up and tried her best to expel whatever was lodged in his windpipe. THANK GOD! I must’ve said it too loudly because she turned and looked at me. Someone else had replaced her and was much more convincingly trying to help my blind date.
She sprung to her feet like a coil and was at my side. “Isn’t this where you were sitting? Is he allergic to anything? Where were you? What’s your name? What’s his name?” I didn’t answer her because I’m not one to give credence to a blond-haired bimbo with a poorly done boob job. This bothered her and then yelled with annoyance, “I’’M TALKING TO YOU! HELLO, DO YOU HEAR ME!” My eyes widened with a crazed look. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself, but shouted anyway. “Bitch, everyone heard you including my dead cat.” Her look of horror was satisfaction enough. She backed up with regret. I had regret too: my steak dinner, just the right spices used and now wasted. I licked my lips once and got out of there.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked to my black convertible. No one was following me. No one would be looking for me. I had planned it this way. There was one kink in my plan and that was the blond-haired bimbo. I sped away not sure if my uneasiness about her was warranted. There had to be a pill to help this uncontrollable anxiety I had been having the past few days, but I’m not one to rely on weak remedies. My plan for tonight involved a man dying, but not at the slow pace I thought. He was probably dead by now. This brought the second smile to my lazy face, and then I started chuckling at the thought. If he wanted to be alive, he should’ve brought a pen worthy of his hand.
Excerpt from Jagged Korean Lines