Friday Fictioneers: Jack’s Bistro

A true story.

Photo courtesy:  Douglas M. Macilroy

Photo courtesy: Douglas M. Macilroy

Jack’s Bistro

Word count:  98

At the end of the patio is a large, square stone pond, raised up from the ground so that the kids could sit safely on the edge, and drop bits of food in for the fish. Grandpa taught them how to fool the fish into thinking that their fingertips were tasty morsels.  It is cold now, and the water is still and dark.  No more fish or children. No more Grandpa. The patio has become hard and unwelcoming; its perimeter bushes thorny and overgrown.

The fish died. So did our restaurant. But our love for it never will.

Ten

Our tenth wedding anniversary approaches. We’ve been through some very tough times, I think to myself frequently. I also say it out loud a lot. Perhaps to remind myself just how far we’ve come. Verbalizing the memories brings a crack to my voice, and tears are apt to fill my eyes. On the heels of the statement, like flapping coattails, I also know that many, many couples go through hard times in their relationships – illness, financial worries, death, uncertainty, knocks from left and right, rugs pulled so swiftly as to leave a couple knocked onto their asses.

Sometimes it’s unthinkable the things that happen.

I spent many years assigning blame; pointing fingers at family members (one of which I’m not sad to admit, is probably broken beyond repair), my husband included. I always tried to divert the pointing away from him because I knew how hard he was working and how he suffered for our little family but it was there all the same, shouting into the vast silences, or picking and niggling out of my mouth without any remorse.

At our lowest, at our most far apart, and when he left for work, often it felt as blank as closing the door on an empty house. In another room, I would become aware of his leaving, and feel floundered but at the same time I didn’t care. We could be in the same room but the balance of our relationship had shifted so that we couldn’t relate to one another. We didn’t know how to navigate the waters together so we stumbled angry, haughty, and defensive through the turmoil. Each of us aware of the other but too stubborn, or we didn’t know how, or just didn’t want to make the effort, to reach out and tap the other on that cold shoulder. Fearing rejection? Fearing taking the first step? Fearing the hard battle to right things?cebc9807e533ca803f1ad0072b52ccc4

Visually speaking, I see the journey like a scab, which isn’t appealing but then again, marriage has its hard, dark side. The deeply wounded part of our journey; stuck and welting red under the hardened skin I could liken to our worst four years. As the scab gets better around the outside, the sore becomes lighter and stronger. The skin is thin, and tenuous but pinker. As the edges spread, the scab is no longer needed because the skin has become firmer, more solid.

These have become good years. We still struggle somewhat, but there’s an honesty and humor that wasn’t there before. It appears that we have sailed the storm, both with the same destination and we have arrived together to sunnier shores.

I love my husband with all my heart and I have no regrets about anything I have done or said in the last six years (and I have done and said some not-so-good things) because without all the experiences, the challenges, the hardship, the sadness, the shame, the silence,  we would still be skating on the surface. Holding hands and smiling, sure, but without the deep knowledge that can be seen in the quickest of glances.

That said, I would not want to relive it!

Friday Fictioneers: Shady Painting

Photo courtesy - Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Photo courtesy – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Shady Painting

Word count:  99

She had told him not to rest the keys on the wall. He had replied, “yes dear” and done it anyway. He knew how long it had taken to paint the room, and she hadn’t given up despite the color not drying the olive green she wanted. It was the principle of the thing! He hadn’t listened! Just like always… She sighed angrily, reached out to lift the keys away, and saw no marks. She paused, replaced them and pressed hard back and forth, quickly, purposefully. He entered the room. She jerked back.

“Look! Now I have to repaint!”

What is this

Remembering to pause.

Mindfulbalance

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At a retreat once in the UK with Martine Bachelor, I heard her talk of a practice which was taught in the monastery where she was as a nun. It seemed simple  – to keep repeating the words “What is this” when involved in the different activities of the day. It was an exercise designed to allow the person create a gap or a pause, and notice what was before them, therefore encouraging them to enter more deeply into whatever was happening in that moment. It is a good practice for getting in touch with the felt sense in our body. It slows down the tendency to spin off into our stories and our fears. It develops our ability to fully experience the moment we are having, and this may strengthen our capacity for joy.

All religions point to the fact that being fully present is the only…

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Weekly Writing Challenge: the Difference a Point of View Makes

Weekly Writing Challenge

In today’s challenge, you’ll tell the same story from two or more unique perspectives. You can choose from the prompts below, or create your own prompt. The length of your story is up to you — you can write a sentence from each perspective, or whole poems from each perspective or a paragraph from each point of view. The structure is loose so that you can adapt the challenge as you see fit.

  • A waitress welcomes an elderly regular as he takes his seat at the counter in the diner. The man just got word his wife is dying of cancer. The cook watches through the order window.

*******************

Julia

Mr. Walters had such panache, Julia thought. He wore a houndstooth cap, dark blue blazer, perfectly creased pants, and every morning when he reached the counter, he would exchange his prescription sunglasses for his reading glasses.  As usual, Mr. Walters signaled to Julia even though she had already stationed herself in front of him.

“Mr. Walters.  How are you today?” She chirped despite the fear knocking her heart.

“Well my dear, I’ve been better.” He took in a shuddery breath; his lower lip quivered. “She’s got lung cancer.”

“Oh dear. I’m so sorry.” Julia didn’t know what else to say and began laying out napkins and silverware for two.

Mr. Walters placed a cool, veined hand on hers when she placed the second fork.  He shook his head slowly, twice.

Nobody else in the diner saw the sorrow pass between server and customer that day.

******************

Roman

That Julia; she was one fine piece of ass. Roman picked out a piece of chicken from his front teeth, and nibbled on it. He imagined rough sex with her. He surveyed the diner; pretty full for a Tuesday lunchtime, not bad. No tickets in the window though so he had time to watch all the losers. Table ten; the BLT. Roman smiled. The dude in a shirt and tie took a bite out of the sandwich, not knowing that the bacon had already been thoroughly licked. Roman scratched his beard and pushed the white trilby back on his head. Table six; the tuna melt. Taste good, Mrs stupid fathead? I hope so, it’s got my boogers mixed in for a smooth, creamy texture. Roman’s quiet chuckle faded when he returned his apathetic gaze to Julia. What was going on with the old guy? Holding hands? And where was his stuck up old lady? Roman pieced it together; the bitch had croaked. Oh well. Perhaps he’d give the guy something extra special today.

Afloat in a Shandy Sea.

Creativity is lounging somewhere getting drunk at a bar.  It’s stalled on writing but became ever so quietly excited at Goodwill when I purchased an outfit destined to be zombiefied.  I quietly plan on the sidelines while thinking of other things.  I love that talent.  The ideas form and gel in the background.  I stand back, press my finger to my lips, take out this, add that.  All the while, I’m checking ingredients in food, cooking dinner, doing laundry, thinking about things, worrying about my son.  Life rolls forward in an endless stream but behind the scenes, the nature of me does what it does best:  Plans, creates.  And I know when I have all I need in front of me, the thing that I’ve been visualizing will come to be as imagined.

The practical side has stepped up.  But I have a little bitch with a whip silently berating me for not making any progress with my writing.  I feel guilty which is so not the frame of mind from which to be doing this.  I sit down and write anyway, delete what I’ve written, start again, become dissatisfied and give up altogether.  I think perhaps I put too much pressure on myself to write long.  And by long, I don’t mean the length of time, rather the length of the piece.  It appears that I’m pretty good at flash fiction.  If only, I think, if only I could stretch out those 100 word pieces to thousands.  Driving in the car, I think well, I’m in my mid-forties…maybe I’ll have it together in my fifties – I’ve got plenty of time!

If I do, I do.  If not, well, at least I have two great kids, right?  That’s some wonderful creation right there.

I’m astonished that how day after day, week after week, I’m still surprised at the ebb and flow of life.  Of love.  Of feelings.  Of the past.  Monkeys occasionally jump on for a quick ride (sometimes the same terribly stupid monkey who won’t quit), sometimes I’m up and free of burden, sometimes I’m weighed down and sometimes, like this week, I’m treading water.  It’s probably a good thing to feel astonished because the alternative would be very boring.

At once, I’m feeling ironic.  Opposite.  Paradoxical.  This AND that.  Pushed and pulled.

I’ll keep myself buoyed with some disco. It reminds me of my little nine year-old world that came with this:

photo-of-old-portable-record-playerso that I could play and dance and sing to this.  All lip-syched and cheesy, perfect!

Now is fine.

I stand in front of the mirror applying make up. I am doing this without thought or feeling; simply doing what I do as moment follows moment. Suddenly, happiness rises up. I am, in that moment the happiest soul I can be. For a few seconds in the gap I see clearly, and I feel joy and gratitude. It is fleeting but its imprint stays with me as my day progresses.

Squabbles between my children, negotiating traffic, obstacles arise throughout but I am flying and smiling, rising above it all. Sure, stuff gets under my skin but there’s always something to bring me back. Some thing that I can do to regroup, to find peace because I’m on a wonderful part of my journey. Nowhere truly special, no vacation, no fabulous happenings…just being here is all it takes.

I wave to the couple moving in across the street. I have been wanting to connect in this small way after I watched their scene unfold last week – she was stressed, he was trying to help. Their neighbor, a young woman, pulled into the parking space next to them and I observed the man look at her a few times in an attempt to establish first contact. But the neighbor utterly ignored them despite the close proximity of all involved. I wondered why. So, I remedied the situation in my own way this morning. They waved and smiled in return. I could tell that my reaching out made them happy and that made me happy too.

Lately, I am doing so very well; my heart is singing. I am humorous and laughing and making others laugh.

Perhaps I have learned to stop fighting certain things. Currently, these things float as if they are lily pads on the surface of a pond. There, I can be curious about them. I think I’m fine with that because these things just can’t be banished no matter how I struggle to fling them away.

Of course, this may change and I may find myself wrestling with them again at some point further down the road.

If so, then that will be then. For now, this is now. And now, I’m doing just fine.

Friday Fictioneers – Reconnaissance

Photo courtesy - E. A. Wicklund

Photo courtesy – E. A. Wicklund

Reconnaissance

Word Count:  103

“Oi!  Watch it!”

“Goodness me, so sorry old chap!” Alistair flapped backwards.

“Blimey!  You nearly took me bloody eye out, you did!  Whatchu playin’ at?”

“I’m not ‘playing’ at anything.  Merely exercising a paragloodlehooblefloop.”

Tony glared and puffed himself up, ready to fight.

“Ju fink I’m daft or sumfink?  Nobody messes with Tony the Blades!”

Alistair, ever polite, cocked his head and smiled.

“Erm…of course not.  I’m part of the Southern Signal Squadron.  Must have slipped away from the team.  So sorry.”

He nodded and flew off at an awkward tilt.

“Squadron Leader.” Alistair spoke into the hidden mic. “Target acquired.  Commence firing.”

On becoming more like a donkey

I can’t say specifically what caused this feeling of the upsweeping to come over me. Not that I’ve been truly on the downturn. Well, perhaps a few weeks ago for a day or so but not for any length of time. Perhaps it was a plateau I had been on, yes that must have been it. Perhaps for two weeks I stood on the plateau taking in my surroundings; looking behind, which I know does no good (there are a bajillion affirmations telling me so after all) but sometimes I do like to remember, to reflect, be a bit wistful. As long as I don’t ‘go down the rabbit hole’ as a dear friend said recently. Of course, going forward is the only other option. And what a vista before me; a slope that beckons to be ambled up. For, as I am constantly learning, these steps in life are to be ambled and bimbled. Tripping ahead, dashing forward would mean missing out on all the things.

And so I find myself forsaking, but not unfeeling the forlorn to bring on the new. New season, my favorite season. New plans in place to run in harmony with what I feed my body. With that point of view comes positivism and a renewed sense of calm from more time spent on the cushion. Financial niggles still…niggle, but I trust that things will work out okay (barring unforeseen circumstances).

Creativity stirs. I know myself in this area fairly well and judging by the number of great starts, I have been collecting an awful lot of sand. I write as my personality dictates; rushing out of the gate like a thoroughbred horse. Except, I haven’t been trained very well and I live on a diet of ice cream and cakes (no, I don’t really but you get the gist). I gallop with gusto for the first quarter mile but shortly thereafter, slow down until I am found, out of breath, out of energy and out of ideas. So perhaps (I consciously say) you take this little kernel of an idea and really really try to write a little each day. Really, really take it slowly. Allow things to grow. Allow characters to take shape. Nurture the storyline.

I’ve been here before and I feel a little like the boy who cried wolf. What makes this point in the journey so different? Why should I believe me? Who’s to say that by this time next week, my little kernel won’t have popped into an old maid, forced to find space on an already crowded shelf?

Like I said, I can’t say specifically, but between this:

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and what E. L. Doctorow said, “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

…I am coming into awareness that this is one facet of my life that must be slowed down. Only then can I get done what I want done.

Not so much the thoroughbred horse on a sweet diet, more like a donkey with a bag of hay.

And, here I am, laughing at so much the last few days:

SI Exif