The Retelling – Indie Ink Writing Challenge, week 2


My second week of the writing challenge:

It doesn’t seem possible, but this man on top of her seems to have inadvertently synchronized his thrusts with the whomp-whomp-whomp of the misaligned, black lacquered ceiling fan blade currently raining dust onto their sticky bodies. She considers just for a second asking him if he’s done this on purpose. “By the by, sir”, she would whisper, whiskey perfume into his sweaty ear. “But is this a trick you perform by design, for all the whores?”

In the retelling she’ll have asked him for real, just like that.  But in her version, he won’t be twice her age and dripping Jack Daniels sweat onto her carefully airbrushed face.  She’ll edit him with broad strokes when she resurrects this scene for her writer’s group on Saturday, when she turns their meal into a bistro dinner with an excellent bottle of Chardonnay and this room into a bungalow at the edge of that village on the lake.

On Saturday that 80’s era muscle car with the pop up lights and faded blue racing stripes becomes something else. Lexus sedan maybe dark blue or silver, leather interior lit blue with digital instrument panel, thumping mp3s filling up the space while they rode instead of the scratchy skipping CDs that littered the floor earlier tonight. On Saturday, she won’t tell how she fumbled for her inhaler in the car, unsure whether it was the smoke or ammonia from old urine stains in the carpet that made her need it.

When she uncaps her tortoiseshell pen tomorrow she knows she can erase the weathered brick red face that now fills the sky when she opens her eyes. Pen to paper, she’ll begin her edits from the top of his head right where the first thinning hair begins to comb over the first pink spot of shiny skin.

Stubby fingers punctuated with worker’s nails ringed with black reach out to brush hair out of her eyes. He’d like her to look at him, but he is new at this she realizes with a start. The expression on his face is tentative, as is his touch-a question. He doesn’t yet know that he can command her to do so.

She harnesses the grateful heat that washes over her with the realization of that last, lets it flow from her eyes and mouth as, with one slow blink, she mentally arranges his features into those of her first lover.

Teresa was a sprightly, small breasted woman with the longest, reddest hair she’d ever seen. She’d aspired to look like Ariel, so much so that she carried a child’s lunchbox as a purse. In the best or the worst of times, the girl could conjure Teresa because she was quite possibly the most colorful person she’d ever known. Teresa was nearly covered in tattoos and wore her fuchsia hair in a different style every day. Conjuring her during sex is a delicious flashcard game: behind her eyelids is a different Teresa every time she blinks and she is never disappointed.

In the living room, “I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done” catches her ear and becomes the mantra for this scene. Hoarse, slurring raucous voices scream along with the music and she wonders how she stepped into this world where this happens and people sing these songs by heart; this place she, for crap’s sake, is lying on her side holding money while an old man, layering himself protectively in flannel and denim, looks everywhere in this matchbox room but her body.

When the words float across the room to her she is sure that she can see them: “Would you mind if I see you again?” Hanging in the air. Perhaps they are in a Trebuchet or maybe a serif font, is that a Georgia?

In the retelling, of which there will of course be several, she will have said lightly, with just the slightest wry lilt but not too mean, “Honey, did you ever even see me at all?”. It is true that only at this explosive moment of unadulterated awkwardness, stripped bare of pretense, money in hand, dead condom on the patched linoleum floor of a yellow diamond pattern she thinks, she only just this moment stops to consider what the man may have been looking at. Only right at this instant she considers, deflated, that she was quite possibly invisible to him, too.

“No” She says simply, and hopes that is enough, turning over in the bed to wrap herself up in the dingy red and white striped sheet. Whose house is this? Not his house.  He’s leaving, and anyway he was wearing a wedding ring, embossed gold with a diamond if she remembers correctly but-no it was on his pinky. Maybe he’d gained some weight.

In the retelling, she has wrapped herself in white Egyptian cotton sheets and has posed herself gracefully against a padded headboard, smoking, while he dresses and makes his exit.  Maybe she carries a glass of champagne. She will hold her pose until the click of a faded gold tinted door handle releases her.

Whomp-whomp-whomp. She synchronizes her hops to the fan as she steps into her jeans. Then she simply gathers her things, sweeps bills off a dingy floral bedspread, kicks the dead condom in the general direction of a wicker trashcan, and mentally recomposes her evening on her way out the door. Like that’s just that.

When she publishes her memoirs, the story goes like this: Once upon a time, a high priced call girl met attractive wealthy business men for just a very few brief, luxurious affairs that paid her way through a quite respectable college career.

In the retelling, over flights of red wine with the closest of friends one night, she admits tearfully that her book contains a few lies, some embellishments that were her editor’s idea. It’s that single admission that changes everything.  She can see it in his face  when she makes the reveal, the man who one day will become her husband. She knows right then, sitting at the table clinking glasses tearfully expressing gratitude to her friends for their unconditional acceptance of her fallibility, that she has made the perfect edits.

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Indie Adams challenged me with “Sometimes truth is fiction” and I challenged Sherree with “That is the ugliest baby I have ever seen”.


Coffee Talk

Everybody said I was crazy keepin a handgun under my mattress but who’s laughin now?

We live in crazy times, you know. I mean you really just never know. There was that one lady, she took away the rapist’s gun and shot him with it? A story like that sticks with you. So when my husband died, hell yeah I did. I put his gun right under my mattress and told my kids I’d tan their hides if I ever found out they touched it. Ever. But I damn well felt safer knowin it was there.

Even with all those no trespassin signs we still get scrappers. Like I said, it’s crazy times. Desperate times. Nobody cares about dogs in your yard or signs. I got No Trespassin, I got Private Property, I got No Soliciting. My yard lights up like a damn ball field you take one step into it after dark. Makes me feel a little safer, but damn if that don’t set Leon’s rooster to crowin all hours. He’s lucky I don’t shoot that nasty bird.

Desperate people don’t care. They gon’ try and get what they can get. Soon as they sniff out it’s just me and the kids, we look weak to them. I can tell. I knew it was just a matter of time so I called those alarm guys. Cost me a pretty penny, too, with the window sensors and everything.

That night when it happened? That damn alarm didn’t even go off. Damn teenagers. Dumbest thing I ever did, givin her that code. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

What saved us though? That new kitten we picked up at the feed store, no crap. She scared crapless of a man. She took off like a bat outa hell down the hall when he came in, all spits and growls, hissed like a rattlesnake. She sounded like a little herd of elephants, slidin every whichaways into the walls on her mad dash to the first open door. Soon as she came barrelin in there I clicked that door shut real soft and I scooped her up along with my babies and shoved em all three out the window onto the deck. I figure that jackass was probly standing still as a statue in that pile of broken glass in my living room, hopin the kitty didn’t wake anybody with her train ride done the hall.

Best thing we ever did, puttin in those custom windows in the master bedroom. Low to the ground, extra wide? So expensive we couldn’t afford the custom screens that went along with ’em. You can climb right through onto the deck furniture, and don’t think we didn’t do it a time or two back in the day, in reverse, when we been drinkin a little too much out by the fire. Right in through the window and collapse in a heap onto the bed, we did. Hell, that’s how we ended up with a baby 7 years younger than our middle child! Girl, but I guess I won’t be tellin stories like that much anymore though will I.

My kids, they not much for reminiscing lately, not even the oldest one. One thing I can say though is they got tight like a little knot after their daddy died, somethin I’ve been wantin for a long time. Those girls don’t go nowhere without their little brother and I know that’s real hard for em too, what with him bein such a carbon copy of his old man. Maybe they talk to each other, I don’t know. I get sad in the late night, even with em all piled up in the king sized bed with me keepin me company, all gangly arms and legs up under my gramma’s oldest holiday quilt. I can’t sleep if I don’t have my babies in there. My therapist, she said it’s just fine, me havin my kids sleep there in that big ole bed with me. She said it’s real common after kids lose their dad. But I didn’t tell her yet it’s mostly my idea.

But it’s a damn good thing though, right? Cause if they couldn’t of got right to the window? If they’d of had to get all the way across the hall with that man somewhere in the house, looking’ for them? Well I just don’t even want to go there.

Anyway. That window seen a lot of action, ain’t it?

My kids landed right on the couch and I told em run! Run to your uncle Grady’s house! Lucky for the full moon that night, all bloated and orange from pollution I’m told but I don’t care, I’ll write a thank you letter to pollution then, because it’s dark as hell out there most nights. Lotta nights those kids would’ve been twisted up in the vines not twenty feet off the yard, squealin for their mama.

You wanted to know what happened that night? Why they had me up in there all that time and why every-body’s trying’ to talk to me now? Well. I’m no’t especially proud of it, but here’s what: I just got so mad, you know? To invade my house like that, scare my babies! You feel violated is what you feel. If you never been in that situation, you don’t know, you see? You feel violated and this instinct takes over. First it’s all about protecting your kids, and all that. But I did that, you know? I got them out the house and sent them away. So I hunkered down on that deck couch, aimed my Glock right through my favorite window and waited for that motherfucker to open my bedroom door.

For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Lindsey challenged me with “Look Up from your computer. Now. Right now. Fall in love with the first thing you see.”> and I challenged Toby with “Look around you right now, pick an item and write a story around it”.

The Neverending Funeral, the Addict, Love and the Ring

He intended the ring to be a romantic gesture, but he made the decision hastily, desperately, in a fit of anguish. Overcome with emotion and unwilling to allow one more public tear to fall, he began to feel as if the maple wainscoting of the mortician’s office itself resembled a coffin. So he picked something and stuck with it, just as he’d been instructed to do a thousand times before by Her. Guided by her, still. God.

Looking through a fucking glossy catalog of ways to display his dead wife was beginning to make him feel like he was on the world’s longest, worst mushroom trip. The whole experience sucked and he wished he could have been drunk all the way through it but they weren’t Irish or whichever denomination allowed drunken funerals. They were the sober kind of mourners, with the white flowers, boring food, and white music. And tears.

He felt embarrassed to admit that he forgot about the ring until summoned down to the Armenian jeweler’s shop to pick it up. The jeweler, a stocky, sweaty man with enough hair for both of them wanted to make conversation with him based on the sheer novelty of it. It was the first time the Armenian jeweler had ever crafted a ring from a dead person and he was excited to share the process with ring’s spouse. The widower felt sick from the smell of jewelry cleaner, whatever greasy crap those fuckers had for lunch not to mention the beer he smells on this guy’s breath. He just wants out: away from this pathetic row of shops in this anorexic downtown, obviously struggling to survive despite the story laid out by the commercials and gentrification nearby. The curb littered with potholes, beer bottles. The usual cast of stinky characters occupied the vacant doorways around him as he made he way dazedly back to the car with his hand pinkie finger concealed carefully in his pocket, hot with promise.

The Widower isn’t a pinkie ring guy, but he wears this one because by now he misses her and this is a little humiliating to admit, but you know- he MISSES her. For a while he slept with a photo of her pinned to the pillow but then he started to feel a little crazy, especially when he began telling the pillow good night and asking it what he should pick on the tivo. Then, when the housekeeper saw it and called his daughter that was it for the pillowspouse.

The ring is white gold, a manly width and fairly gaudy if you want to know the truth. He wanted it crafted into a wedding band, but those sadists only offered the pinkie style. So he walks around with his right hand in his pocket a lot. Understated can only take you so far when you’re wearing a pinkie ring. The stone made from his wife is a lovely, preternatural, shade of blue reserved for colored contacts, photo-shopped pictures of vacations, and one little girl he sees around town. It’s not a human color, is his problem and he knows she would have hated it. As soon as he slips the ring on he believes he hears her laugh softly. His shoulders relax, he cocks his head to the side and he is right where he wants to be.

Alone with his wife.

Which is how he finds himself addicted to masturbating thinking of his dead wife, seeking therapy, and wondering if he’s finally falling off the misanthropic deep end from which is there is just no fucking return.

At work he is Gollum, nearly helpless to resist the temptation of the flashing stone. He’d been nearly caught in the office bathroom, lost in a memory of the two of them pulled over under a bridge during a rainstorm when the windshield wipers were broken on their first car, an impossibly dinged up Chevrolet station wagon with a bench front seat. He stumbled back to his desk on shaky legs wondering how long it might take him to pound his way through twenty-three years of lusty memories. He wonders if he’ll do this without getting arrested or injuring himself, and will the ring then finally lose its power? Does he even want that? He not so shamefully admits to himself that he enjoys the fantastical idea that she exists inside this ring and that he can summon her ghost with his cock.

He moves the ring to his left hand and finds to his dismay, and shamefully excited surprise, that he is an ambidextrous mastubator. He thought ambimasturbators were legend- in the seventh grade when he broke his arm that time skateboarding down the 18th Street hill and he truly needed to be one, he could not master the skill.

While at the therapist’s office the widower learns that there is a support group for people who whack off to their dead spouse’s memory. Wait, what? If Marla Singer is there, he will pay his therapist ten million dollars because he’s sure at this moment that she is also a psychic and knows he would absolutely be able to fuck Marla Singer even with a ring made of his dead wife on his hand.

At the rec center he takes a seat in the circle and checks out every hand in the group. No one has a ring like his, which makes him feel unique just like that time he was forced to attend A.A.meetings (in his ear his wife softly whispers, “like how you decided you weren’t an alcoholic because of your special drinking rules, except you were an alcoholic after all and we almost got a divorce?” and chuckles) so he sits there quietly cursing his wife, contemplating hurling the ring across the room. Then when he reaches over to take it off he feels that telltale warmth spread across his chest and crotch, so he stops.

After an hour be believes he’s picked out the support group junkie in the room and he plans to confront her because even though she’s not Marla Singer she’s pretty hot. Otherwise the group seems to be just full of pathetic people who are jacking off to photos taped to their wall.

They are amateurs. Nothing more. Nothing compared to him, his ring, his wife, his needs. There’s nothing for him here. He arranges his features into a vacant smile and carefully folds his naked hand over the hand containing his wife and waits for the clock and the closing prayer to tell him that it’s time to take her home.

In the Wee Small Hours of The Morning


Concentrated heat against my spine
Tiny arm lazily draped over my shoulder,
Little fingertips graze my cheek

And then a soft snore.

I am compiling a list
Of reasons to wake up each day
And you are on it

I love the promise that,

No matter what our day is like

At the end of it,
The soft snore
The pocket of heat
The tickle of little hands

Will erase my fear
Quiet my mind
Banish the demons
And give me the will to go on.