Nanowrimo – Warm-up Day 9

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Tues. 10/23 Day 9 – 900 words two or three “super-short” stories (I have 3 separate stories below)

The flyswatter was in the kitchen, hanging on a hook he thought he’d put there for oven mitts–hot pads, his wife called them.  The book he was reading in his lap was for graduate school, but this fly in the room could care less if Tommy’s paper was done on time.   Swoosh. Land. Fly near face. Scatter toward TV. Read a paragraph. It’s back. On page 62. The book is over two hundred pages long and the fly hates it almost as much as Tommy does.  Getting up, retrieving the death device, seemed like it would interrupt his reading flow even more. Then, Tommy considered if he was hungry. If he’s hungry, he won’t be able to concentrate on the book.  He’ll read a few pages, swat the fly away again, come across a word like ‘souffle’ or ‘tapioca’ or ‘whisky’ and think of reasons he should probably just get up and go to the kitchen. Get the damn flyswatter.  End this fucker’s life. Pour two fingers of Jameson. Try to get through this atrocious, pretentious novel. A dog barks outside. He thinks it’s Jasper, their mutt, but then he remembers that he had to bury Jasper two springs ago while his wife Dana cried in the bathroom over their divorce papers.  

—-

Barney ordered his coffee and didn’t move out of the way for the next customer.  He just stood there, staring at a picture he’d been sent on his phone. The cashier talked over his shoulder, assuming he’d click back into humandom and move the fuck over.  He didn’t. The woman behind him was kind and almost too polite to make the person behind her upset that this is not what society has become, is it? Minor acts of civility and manners fall off each day–today from this jackhole who’s too busy looking at his five-inch screen with hair screaming out from under a baseball cap.  The second customer takes the longest possible path to avoid Barney and waits patiently near the area underneath the large Pick-Up/App Orders Here sign.

But no one but Barney knows what the picture is.  No one cares either. Even if he explained. It was her calf.  It was Lindsey’s calf, surrounded by gray bed sheets that he remembered buying for his sister Marie.  Of course, when Lindsey didn’t come home, he assumed she’d stay with someone. She’d stopped texting at eleven or so, and he went to sleep.  But the fact that she ended up at his adopted sister’s apartment across town made him wonder for the next forty years if his lesbian sister screwed his wife and proudly sent him evidence of it while he stood, waiting dumbly for his white chocolate latte with skim milk.

—-

So my neighbor knocked on my door seconds after I settled a fight between my two children that began when one of them threw spaghetti noodles at the other’s face.  Gina, collected as always, discussed appropriate behavior with them in her authoritative voice while I stuffed meatball after meatball in my mouth so I wouldn’t blow up.  She doesn’t like it when I yell at them; she thinks it sends them the wrong message about maturity. Instead of saying or doing anything, I just washed the one-inch think, canned-sauce-slathered meat spheres down with a Michelob Ultra, a beer my wife thinks will help me lose weight.

I answered the door and Dave, my neighbor of ten years and friend of five months, stood there with his hands linked together.  He wore a plaid shirt that was tucked into pleated tan pants. He’d probably just arrived home from his job at the high school my kids were destined to attend.  “Hey, Rick,” he said as I pushed open the squeaky screen door. I eased out after he backed up a step. “Didn’t interrupt dinner, did I?”

“Just finishing.  What’s up?”

“Catch that Mets game?”

He always did this.  He always begins a serious concern by getting me to think about sports or my motorcycle or something nice my wife did out in the lawn.  It’s a great technique to prepare someone for bad news, don’t get me wrong. I’ve done it at work for as long as I can remember. It’s a little insulting, however, because I know exactly what he’s doing, and he knows I know it.  

“Yeah.  Close one.  That closer may not have a job next week though.”

He agreed.  “Listen, I wanted you to know something.  I know you don’t have Facebook anymore, right?”  I nodded. “Somebody in the neighborhood group said something that I thought you should be aware of.”

“What, another complaint about kids walking in the grass?  Trash getting picked up too late?”

He chucked, nervously.  “No, not this time. Someone said something about how sad it was that people didn’t put out their flags on holidays anymore.”  Without realizing it, he glanced to my left to where the owners before us had placed a slot for flags to be displayed. They’d even left one carefully placed in the garage along with a note about the rules of flag flying.

I just sighed.  I wanted another beer at that moment.  He knew I wasn’t going to change anything about what I believed or how I chose not to put a flag out while every other house on the cul-de-sac did so, ceremonially.  I could tell he didn’t want to tell me, but he thought I should know.

“Well, thanks for telling me.  I hope you and Carla have a good night.”

“You too, buddy,” he said.  “Go Mets!”

“Go Mets,” I said, as I stepped inside and closed the door.  

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Nanowrimo 2018

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Below are this year’s suggested warm-up writing prompts to get ready to be in writing mode throughout November!  Have a great month, everyone!

Mon.    10/15 Day 1 – 100 words short story with anagram name, age, “…was just found”

Tues.   10/16 Day 2 – 200 words character commenting on a news item from 2018

Wed.    10/17 Day 3 – 300 words   description of someone at a surprise party

Thurs. 10/18 Day 4 – 400 words   story told from a criminal’s point of view

Fri. 10/19 Day 5 – 500 words   description of a personally significant place

Sat. 10/20 Day 6 –  600 words story based on a picture of street art found online

Sun. 10/21 Day 7 – 700 words “autobiography” of a parent (in 1st person POV)

 

Mon. 10/22 Day 8 – 800 words a short story that includes a found heirloom

Tues. 10/23 Day 9 – 900 words two or three “super-short” stories

Wed. 10/24 Day 10 – 1000 words an evil character is avenged in a bizarre way

Thurs. 10/25 Day 11 – 1100 words description of an inspiring teacher/coach/neighbor, etc.

Fri. 10/26 Day 12 – 1200 words dialogue-only skit between two people in an argument

Sat. 10/27 Day 13 – 1300 words  dialogue-free prose depicting someone having a bad day

Sun. 10/28 Day 14 – 1400 words a completely new short story involving a domestic animal

 

Mon. 10/29 Day 15 – 1500 words  a room where something incredible or sinister has taken place

Tues. 10/30 Day 16 – 1600 words  short story including someone getting hired/fired

Wed. 10/31 Day 17 – 1667 words  two speeches from people arguing a hot-button issue

-or-

Wed.    10/31 Day 17 – 1667 words four “super-short” stories (~400 words apiece) that intertwine

700+ Words (autobio of parent)

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**Again, the prompt was interesting at first, but then it took a turn as I continued…***

I grew up in the United States.  It’s hard to say which location to call the home of my childhood because I spent time in Indiana and Texas, two states with much different lifestyles–at least back then they were.  In Texas, I grew up believing that God had not only invented football, but He had set up HQ in the western part of the state.  That’s great if you want to love the sport, but I preferred my pencils and canvases.

I was born over a dozen years after my lone sibling.  I made friends, of course, but those friendships back then did not have the sustainability after leaving town that young people have today.  I finished high school in the late 50s in the South.  I had always thought that equality for all was a no-brainer, but who really cared what a middle-class white girl thought back then?  I trumped off to school to study art–specifically interior design–but couldn’t finish my degree.

That’s when I made the leap to the west coast.  I lived with a friend outside of Los Angeles for some time before I met someone.  That relationship damaged my opinion of men in those days.  We were together arguably way longer than we should have been, but we did produce two sons.  When our relationship became, in my eyes, the environment my boys were not going to live in, we left.  Three of us.  On a plane.  And we joined my mother in Indiana.  Those boys were about 6 and nearly 2 at the time.

The closest their father ever got to them from then on was in the form of support checks that arrived rather infrequently before they completely stopped around eight years after moving.

But my boys flourished in Indiana.  With the help of their “Gram” we four figured things out.  I missed a lot of concerts and games, but I also had a steady job for the rest of my working days.

I became a grandmother for the first time in 1994, a second time in 1996; more recently, my other son has become a father to two as well (2012 and 2014).  My mother passed in 2003 at the ripe age of 95.  I’ve lived in the same house I did since we moved here in 1978.  Upon my retirement, I found a lot of opportunities to return to my love of the arts, but recently my budget won’t allow those niceties.

I’m a reader.  I’ve loved books as long as I can remember and have spent way too much money on first editions of contemporary authors such as Maeve Binchy, John Grisham, Danielle Steele (years ago), and Sue Grafton.  I raised two boys who share so many personality traits, but only one is a reader.  My older son has always been a numbers and technology person.

One of my regrets as a younger mother was the period when I smoked.  I used to smoke Salems, and I never did it in front of my boys.  The house has a basement, and when I was needing it most, I simply smoked down there–usually after they were asleep.  When my work shift changed in the 90s, I smoked less and less and eventually decided to quit.  Like everyone else who quits, I replaced those cigarettes with snacks, which of course was just as unhealthy but more accepted by society for some reason.  I smoked for the same reasons other people smoke, snack, run, drink, paint, or destroy—because it was my outlet of tension.  I rarely even finished most of the cigarettes I lit.

As a mother, I found the most effective tool to curtail bad behavior was a combination of stern dissatisfaction and squelching episodes of frustration.  I spanked when it seemed that nothing else would get my point across.  I preferred laughing with them most of the time.  Like a lot of parents, I probably let them both get away with more than I should.  But during that, I instilled in them respect for all–women especially–and that hard work can pay off.  Both my boys, ironically, are procrastinators more often than I’d wished they’d be.  I love that they both do whatever they can for me.  I must have done a few things right over the years.