She shivers by the window. Breath settling to a decent rhythm.
“Drink.” His clammy hand on her shoulder.
Steam rising, she brings the mug to her lips, prays it’s poison.
word count: 30
She shivers by the window. Breath settling to a decent rhythm.
“Drink.” His clammy hand on her shoulder.
Steam rising, she brings the mug to her lips, prays it’s poison.
word count: 30
Lisa’s “Baby’s First Christmas” in my hand. Trinkets Josiah and I bought on our many travels by my feet. On the treetop, the angel, whose skin Tessa and I hand-painted brown, its only decoration.
The night before Christmas, and I stand before a naked tree, drying, surrounded by boxes of ornaments, and a lifetime of memories.
Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. Last Monday’s Christmas-themed prompt was one word: ornament.
“She’s way out of my price range.” I shake my head and turn back down the aisle. Plastic and artificial will have to do for another year. The memory of Bernadette’s acrylic nails piercing the skin of my back last Christmas Eve makes me wince.
I hate plastic and artificial.
“No way, man,” Michael says. “The company finally recognized all your hard work and sacrifice with a Christmas bonus. Treat yourself. Get the show-stopper.”
On the opposite end of the aisle I spot a guy, with half his face covered behind a bulky, padded winter coat, eyeing my prize. We both make a dash for it, but I, being closer and quick on my feet—those years running track in high school finally pay off—get to her first.
The woman trims the needles of the tree twice her size in height and girth. I glance down at her nametag: Marie.
At least it’s not Mary. Mary wore dentures. I found that out the first time I tongue kissed her.
“Let me stop you right there.” She holds the shears over her shoulder as if she’s about to sling them like an ax. “I think it’s so sweet…how you let your friend encourage you to try and talk to me…”
I look past her. Homeboy is frozen in mid-stride, ready to pounce the second I’m denied.
But I won’t be denied.
“Yes,” she says, and winks. Her back to my competition, she perks up her chest, and they look real. Proportional to her body, no nipples the size of bottle caps busting through her shirt like steel; soft, squishy—at least from what I can see—not hard like melon rinds, or unusually round and firm like apples. She takes a two-inch pencil missing the eraser out of the front pocket of her apron to write down her phone number.
A check right before the holidays, and to match, maybe even a date with a hot chick whose body parts didn’t come with a price tag—this is turning out to be the best Christmas ever!
I pinch the end of a lengthy branch she’s missed cutting, rub the sap between my thumb and index finger. Sticky. No paper cuts from the fibers. Sweet satisfaction.
At what I really wanted was the tree.
Hey, sometimes the answer is yes! 😉Written for #LyricalFictionFriday, a challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: I think it’s so sweet…how you let your friends encourage you to try and talk to me…but let me stop you there…
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
And I spend it alone—again— watching another Hallmark original.
“There must be something to these sappy Christmas movies.”
I glance outside my window, at a flower dying yet withstanding the blizzard, close my eyes and exhale, hoping my breath will blow the dusting of snow off the flower’s bulb, and my Christmas wish will come knocking, at last.
Written for last Monday’s One-Minute Fiction prompt, kicking off the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas! #1MinFiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided.
I’m not running from him.
I know what it looks like. A one-way ticket to Bora Bora two days after his wedding. But it’s not what you think…
…Maybe it is….
Who am I kidding?
He texted me that night. When he should’ve been consummating the vows he made to Justine. Probably snuck out onto the balcony of their honeymoon suite afterward with his phone, while she was in the bathroom freshening up.
“Why do I feel like I just made the biggest mistake of my life?”
It felt oddly like deja vu. Maybe because it was almost verbatim to what I had said when I called things off with Sean, expecting him to come running. We had been going round and round with the lovers and friend charade for years. We were never available for each other, except on late, lonely nights, when the people we loved weren’t enough. Finally, I took the risk, dove head first from the highest plank into the deep end, assuming he would catch me, but he asked Justine to marry him instead.
“We’ve been together for so long. And she’s been talking about it a lot, and about kids. I just couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t–”
He didn’t have to finish his sentence for me. I know what it’s like for a woman to invest her whole life into a relationship, only to have it crumble at her feet, and try to pretend like it doesn’t kill her inside.
Just like it’s killing me to send this text two days later while sitting at the window seat of a Boeing 777 taxing from the terminal gate as I type.
“It makes no sense to be falling…you’ve got her, I’ve got him, shouldn’t even be calling…”
I turn off my phone before his reply has a chance to come through. If I’m lucky, I was premature in hitting the power button and the message never even sent. Then I won’t have to worry about seeing a response that might convince me to stay, or come back.
But in twelve hours, none of it will matter. There’s no need for a phone. I won’t have service where I’m going. I drop the phone in the seat pocket in front of me, behind the Sky Jet magazines and onboard menus, to be forgotten.
The pilot’s muffled voice comes over the speakers—we’ve been cleared for take-off. The engines underneath me rise, the plane jolts forward, my stomach lifts as the ground below slowly disappears.
I close the window shade to the sunset outside, and then my eyes, hoping that the next time I open them, I’ll wake to a beautiful sunrise, a new life, and maybe, just maybe, a new love too.
Written for #LyricalFictionFriday, a challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: It makes no sense to be falling…you’ve got her, I’ve got him, should not even be calling…
“All this over a toy,” his mom says.
It wasn’t just a toy, it was a collector’s item. Fifty percent off, the cheapest he’s ever seen it, and it was almost his until that beast of a woman drove her elbow through his eye socket.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’s had his ass handed to him by a girl, but this would be the first time he’s gotten arrested for it.
Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. Today’s photo prompt alludes to Black Friday and all the chaos that ensues just 24 hours after we were all thankful for the things we already had…
“I just have to know,” she says, drumming her fingers against the manila folder.
“Don’t look for what you don’t want to find,” Drayton says, but the words have lost their sincerity over the years. A quarter century in the business, and every women who’s hired him has been the same.
She curls her fingers under the edge of the folder, begins to peel it back, then quickly closes it, slamming her hand down on top. “Can’t you just tell me?”
He shakes his head. “My job is to do the research.” It still surprises him that he even has a job. He’s not like a private eye, who follows his charge around, takes pictures, captures him in the act. He digs into the past, which, if this bride-to-be really wanted to know, a simple Google search would have sufficed—changes of residences, voting history, criminal history, even school records if he was heavily involved in sports or academics. Old social media posts could have also given her a glimpse into his past life.
All these things she could have done herself, without give up $500. But like all the other women before her, she has waited until the day she walks down the aisle to decide she wants to know the man she’s marrying. And like them all, she doesn’t want to be responsible for what she finds.
“Do you love him?” he asks.
“More than anything.”
“Then why isn’t it enough?”
Like Rachel, who’s fiancé’s last relationship was with another man. Or Brenda, who’s fiancé never told her about his previous marriage. Or Jessica, who’s fiancé’s deceased father was a Klansman, and before he met his black bride, he shared his father’s beliefs.
Why was it never enough to let the past stay buried, to continue forward with the new life they’d already begun to build? Did not the flowers still rise from the ashes left behind by the destruction of fire? Did not the sun still rise after the darkest hour of the night?
“I just have to know.”
She opens the folder, and all the air left in the room is sucked into her lungs.
Another marriage, ended, before it’s had a chance to begin.
Written for #LyricalFictionFriday, a challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: Don’t look for what you don’t want to find…
The turkey was undercooked. Ma planned to roast it overnight, have the whole house smelling like a Thanksgiving feast by morning. But we woke up freezing, a surprise dusting of snow on the lawn, enough to slick the roads, but not enough to delay the holiday traffic.
Tony and Kerry arrived at noon, arguing again, though I’d stopped caring what for. Something about Kerry wanting to move back to Raleigh after Tony just got a promotion. Let her go. She wasn’t the one for him, but Tony married her anyway. He doesn’t listen—he never listens.
Dinner was scheduled for 1:00, but at 2:30, I sat alone by the window, watching for Gregory’s car to pull to the curb. I hadn’t seen him since his birthday a week before Halloween, and it was terrifying to see him then. He looked as if he had grown six inches. His face was fuller, half covered in a thick, coarse beard, but the rest of him was so thin and frail, he almost looked like Tony, a physical characteristic the two brothers never shared. While Tony was the spitting image of his father, both in name and appearance, Gregory favored me—the short, stubby fingers, the flat nose, the extra weight around the stomach and arms. But his arms were toned, muscular, the outline of them seen through the thin, sweat resistant shirt he wore, too cool even for mid-fall.
It was Tammi who texted me they’d be over for dinner. Gregory’s phone was off—he hadn’t paid the bill. Gregory had been missing a lot of bills lately—puzzling because his father and I taught him how to be a good steward over his finances. It was as if all of his upbringing left him the moment he met her. Over and over he asked me for money, a car note here, rent there. Tammi’s parking tickets, which I flat out refused. But I didn’t want to completely abandon him, so I slipped him change when I could. The more I gave, the less I saw of him, and when I realized he only came home for money, I stopped giving all together, and his visits became more infrequent.
Before his birthday, June was the last time I’d seen him. He’d even missed our Fourth of July family cookout in Ma’s backyard. After it got dark, we would climb up Ma’s roof and watch the fireworks shot off from the high school football field while enjoying burnt hotdogs and Carolina burgers with chili and slaw. It had been a family tradition since Antonio, Sr. was alive. No one ever skipped it, rain or shine.
I could hear Ma scrambling in the kitchen. Not much to cook with a twenty pound bird taking up most of the oven, but we had to eat something—it was Thanksgiving after all. With a shrunken menu, the sweet potato casserole, became plain stovetop yams, the mac and cheese from a box, the dressing stuffed inside the turkey to cook them both at the same time, while on the back burners, the greens boiled.
Ma kicked me out of the kitchen shortly after she realized she never turned the oven on last night. “You know you’ve never been a cook,” she said. “You’ll only slow me down.” I was given the assignment to make Tony and Kerry chicken salad sandwiches—the salad already prepared, all I had to do was spread it over the bread—to hold them over to dinner and hopefully to quell their arguing.
And it worked. We had silence for a while . . . until Tammi and her mother showed up.
I had never met Jacquelyn. She’d tried to introduce herself several times before—calling to explain why she had allowed my son to live with her and her daughter in their overcrowded trailer, knocking on my door in the middle of the night to tell me she’d kicked them out. The vibrations in her voice told me she was nothing but drama then, and now she was standing right before me expecting a free meal, and she didn’t even bother to bring Gregory with her. And the striking resemblance between her and Tammi—how old was she when she had her? Any stranger would think they were sisters.
“Where’s my son?” I had no interest in shaking hands, fake smiles, or “how do you do’s.” These people overstayed their welcome the second they stepped foot on Ma’s front porch.
“He at work.” Tammi smacked her lips. Her nonchalant attitude quickly got under my skin.
“I was expecting to spend Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I don’t know you.”
Tammi’s mother reached out her hand. “Hi I’m Jacqui—”
“And I don’t care to!” I snapped.
Ma entered, putting the oven mitts she was wearing under her arm. “We may need another hour. That turkey just won’t cook.” When she noticed the tense atmosphere at her front door, she said, “Who’s this?”
“Tammi, and Jacqui,” I cut my eyes at the mother, “decided to invite themselves without Gregory.”
“Where’s Gregory?” Ma asked.
“He had to work,” Jacqui answered.
Jacqui started to say something, but quickly closed her mouth. By the way they shrugged their shoulders, avoided eye contact, it was obvious they were lying. But if he wasn’t at work, where was he?
I heard Tony barge down the hall, and I knew things would quickly escalate with him in the room.
“You know they’re getting married, right?”
Tony pointed to Tammi.
“Yea, we engaged.” Tammi shrugged her shoulders, flashed the small diamond on her left hand.
A ring? He bought her a ring? With what money?
I remembered those times he called, whining that his lights were about to get turned off, that he would be evicted if he didn’t pay rent by the end of the week, that he couldn’t afford to have his car repossessed because then he’d have no way to get to work. Were they all lies? The money I’d been giving him—a little here, a little there—had he been collecting it until he had enough to buy a ring and propose? No, no. Heaven forbid I inherit another lethargic, unappreciative daughter-in-law like Kerry, who had secluded herself away in the dining room to pretend she was crying.
Instinctively, I clawed at Tammi’s hand, snatching off the ring I paid for and a thin layer of skin along with it. She yanked my arm back with one hand— with much more force than her petite frame would lead anyone to believe— and with the other hand, slapped me clear across the face. There was shouting and screaming, and at some point Kerry finally appeared in the kitchen doorway behind Ma.
I felt Tony’s arms around my waist. He and Jacqui pulled Tammi and I apart, and backing up, I tripped over Tony’s size thirteen shoe and hit the side of my back on the back of the couch, re-agitating a muscle I’d pulled a few weeks ago when moving around the furniture in Gregory’s room.
“I ain’t gon stay where I’m not wanted!” Tammi was screaming.
“Then why the fuck are you still here?” Tony yelled.
Suddenly the smoke detector in the kitchen went off, setting off all the others in the house, including the one in the living room right above our heads. The piercing peal silenced us for several seconds.
Ma rushed back into the kitchen, brushing past Kerry. “Jesus, Kerry, you don’t smell my greens burning?” I could hear her in the kitchen stirring the pot, adding water and flicking off the heat to the burner. She grabbed a hand towel and begin flapping it under the detector to clear the smoke.
When the noise finally ceased, I looked directly at Tammi. “You need to leave.”
“Gladly.” She turned around and kicked open the screen door, making a sound like ripped metal and leaving behind a dent in the bottom left corner. Jacqui stayed behind for a brief moment, as if considering an apology, but quickly spun around and followed her daughter to the car. I shut the door behind them and noticed the engagement ring on the floor—it must have fallen out of my hand during the scuffle. I quickly kicked it away. The sight of it disgusted me.
“She’ll be back when she realizes it’s gone,” Kerry mumbled.
“Oh, now you got something to say? Where were you when that bitch was hittin’ my mama?” Tony shouted.
Kerry rolled her eyes and turned away. “I’m not arguing with you, Tony.”
“But you gon listen!” He stormed past me—my throbbing face obviously not too much of a concern—to finish his tirade with Kerry from earlier.
Ma returned from the kitchen, her shoulders hunched. She looked just as defeated as I felt. “Why not Chinese? They’re always open on Thanksgiving. I don’t think I can save this dinner.”
“There’s still the turkey and stuffing.”
“That won’t be for another hour. You know my old stomach has to eat early. I’m feeling lightheaded already.”
I tried to force a smile, but my face was so tight, I probably looked constipated. “Why don’t you sit, and I’ll make us some chicken salad sandwiches.”
“Can we eat them outside? I’m sick of those two yelling, and I need to cool off.”
I nodded and looked back to the window. Eating outside would only make me more anxious about Gregory, wondering if every car that drove by was him. I shook my head. No, there was no sense in waiting for him anymore. He wasn’t coming. And Tammi would surely tell him what happened here. Then, after that, I don’t think he will ever come home.
Happy Throwback Turkey Day! Since we are approaching the homestretch of NaNoWriMo, I thought today’s Thanksgiving Throwback should be a scene from my A to Z planning session earlier this year, featuring characters from my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy.
Originally published April 25, 2017.
Grandma hobbles around the kitchen, fixing everyone’s plate.
She’s deep fried the cornbread, and the turkey. The yams are mostly sugar. So is everything else on the table.
“A salad?” she says, hand on her hip. “Girl, don’t you know Thanksgiving calories don’t count?”
“Thanks, but no thanks, Grandma.”
I’d rather have both my feet than diabetes.
Do you follow the #ThanksgivingClapBack memes on social media? I imagine that last line could easily be one of them, though I wouldn’t dare say it to my Grandma. By the way, she has both her feet. 😉
Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. All November, I’m giving you Thanksgiving-themed prompts. Today’s prompt is thanks, but no thanks
“Why must you yell at traffic?” says my wife, who insisted we drive thirteen hours.
word count: 21
To my readers in the States, will you be traveling for Thanksgiving this week? Whether you’re driving or flying, you should expect delays. So try not to get too frustrated. This is a time to be “thankful” after all.