Nanowrimo – Warmup Day 6

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I’ve been doing some catching up this morning.  Here’s my Day 6 (minimum 600 words) on a story based on street art.


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

walt whitman street art

Barry needed the waiter to drop the check as soon as possible.  Brunch had been disastrous, though it’s very possible no one else in Sweet Sensations knew it.  His wife Elenor sat across from him and perused through her purse without offering any explanation or reason for doing so.  He assumed it was to bide time until he could pay and they could leave and she wouldn’t have to look at him any longer. Their child, a boy neatened up for the Sunday morning meal, fidgeted idly with a plastic toy made to look like a cell phone.  It didn’t beep, but Barry almost wished it would so they could react to some type of sound.

He knew she was lying about the night before and he couldn’t think of what to do.  As a wedding coordinator, she was often gone for twelve- to fourteen hours many Saturdays, especially during the fall months when some brides prefer the backdrop of crunchy, colored leaves and the ability to be hot and outside but not uncomfortable.  Elenor had, over her nine year career, developed business friendships with photographers, bakers, caterers, priests, ministers, disc jockeys, and hotel managers. In the early years, she focused so much on the business that she never allowed herself time to become too social outside of the events themselves.  Five years earlier, when she’d become a little disappointed with the dip in business, Barry encouraged her to re-brand herself and helped her invest in advertising. It worked to a degree and she was rejuvenated with the bookings that bolstered her position in town as a reputable and fairly priced wedding photographer.  

Then they had Dominick and she was torn because she loved the baby endlessly but her business suffered.  The season was dry with business because she turned down some offers without telling him. The desire to sleep next to her first baby on a rainy Saturday morning, waking only to feed him and coo with him and tickle his minuscule feet swept any cash she’d make taking photos under the rug.  For the most part, Barry didn’t mind. He loved having her home too. Being a dad meant a new series of responsibilities and adventures virtually every day. On the days Elenor was gone, he found himself taking their son to the mall, the park, and even an art museum.

It was at brunch today, however, that art re-entered their lives.  With the check finally paid, Barry, Elenor and the baby exited the restaurant and walked in silence toward nothing in particular.  The damp air was warming rapidly as the sun emerged from behind thick white clouds. Downtown was brightening up and more and more cars were populating the main drags of the sleepy city.  They turned at a corner and he stopped. A large mural of Walt Whitman covered by springtime flowers looked back at the three of them. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that Elenor had lied about the night before.  She didn’t know he’d found a phone number on the floor of their bedroom. For all he knew, she didn’t even know she had it herself. He no longer cared who “Mike” was and chose not to picture the two of them dancing, kissing, or anything else.  Barry had been a supportive husband, but in this moment, staring back at one of his writing idols, he realized that feeling betrayed was useless. Confronting her for having a good time–something he’d stopped doing since their son was born–was completely unfair.  He reached for her hand and she took it. Her grasp indicated that Barry’s suspicions were true, but in this moment it was irrelevant. He hard kissed her and pushed the small of her back into his waist. Their son giggled at a bird or something below them.

 

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Day 16 – 1600+ words (Someone Gets Fired)

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“Mason”

 

Mason’s mother told him to go to his room.  That always meant something bad was about to happen.  The toys in his room didn’t seem like toys when he was sent there.  He didn’t bother saying anything back because his mother used the Tone.  There were two Tones: one he heard from either of them after he did shit like knock over a soda can or pound the floor in frustration.  A second distinct Tone when they were made at each other.

The front door opened and Mason’s father dropped his keys into the tray by the door.

“Why are you home?” he heard his mother ask.  The afternoon was breezy and Mason tried to listen to the wind sneak into the gaps of his windows.  He picked up an faded green plastic car.  The miniature people that were supposed to fit inside were lost months earlier, but the car remained.  He ran it along the floor and made whirring sounds.

“Not now, Christine,” his father said.

“What did you just say?”

“Jesus Fucking Christ, Christine!  I said gimme a minute!”

A door slammed.  The bathroom door.  Maybe their bedroom door.  But a close-by door for sure.  Mason looked toward his bed and then his door.  He was safe in here tonight.  They were mad about something, which was weird because he just got home.

“If we need to talk, you better not be in there another half hour!”

He replied something back, but Mason couldn’t quite hear it.

Then the toilet seat slammed home.  He definitely heard that. When that door burst open, the handle smacked into the wall.  Mason thought of the little crack it made like a smiley face.

“Christine, goddammit!  I’m sorry.  I had to take a shit.  I didn’t know I had to fucking give you a play-by-play!”

“What happened?  Why are you home?”

“Un-fucking-real.”

“What?  I don’t get to know?”

“Where’s Mace?”

“He’s in his room.”

Footsteps thundered toward the boy’s door.

“Don’t you go in there!”

“Why the fuck not?”

“He’s taking a nap.”

“Jesus.”  His father’s feet hovered at the door.  Dark ovals hung there.  He couldn’t know why, but he assumed he was facing the door.

“Did you talk to Jerry?”

“I talked to Jerry.”

“What’d he say?”

“Christine!”

“He said no, didn’t he.”  It wasn’t a question.

“He didn’t…shit.  Yes.  But he didn’t want to.

“What does that mean?”

“I mean it killed him to tell me that.”

“That’s three now, you know.  Jimmy, Hank, and now–”

“I fucking know it’s three.”

His mother sighed and sat down on the creak in the couch.  The shadows drifted away.

“Don’t,” she said.

“What?”

“Kenny, what can we do?”

“It always works out, baby.”

Mason liked this part of their fights.  His dad was always the first one to lower his voice and say something nice.  He called her baby which used to make Mason laugh.

“I don’t know what we can do,” she said.  “I can’t ask my parents.”

“I know.”

She creaked the couch again.  It did that when people sat and when they stood up, but only on that one spot.

“He’s not going to let us stay here, Kenny!”

His father didn’t react at first.  She walked away, Mason could hear.

“Lemme just talk to him,” his father called out.

His mother didn’t respond.  Drawers flew open in the kitchen and silverware rattled.

The boots stomped through the room and into the kitchen.  Mason could tell they were talking but the words were jumbled and indecipherable.

He turned on a light.  The light his dad made in the workshop at the last house.  It was an old lamp they’d found in the attic.

“Wanna see if it works?” he father had asked him.

“Yeah!”

“Maybe we can paint it.”

“Yeah!”

“What color should we paint it?”

“Red!”

“That’s a good choice, son.”

Later that day, after his mother had made them hamburgers at the stove, his father led him out to the workshop.  He explained what all of the old tools that were still there were.  He told Mason not to touch them.  Some were quite sharp.  Dangerous.  “Your mom would have my ass if you got hurt out here, sonny boy,” he’d said.

Mason ran his fingers along the rounded base.  The red paint had chipped a little and the train sticker he got once from the grocery store was ripped off but not totally.

“I can get work, you know,” his father said.  They’d come out of the kitchen and had shook Mason from his memory.

“I can too.”

“I mean, I can go back to the store.  They always need help.  I’ll start at minimum, but it’s something.”

“But who’ll be with him all day?”

When they fought and weren’t yelling, his name became replaced by a pronoun.

“You’ll have to be.  For now.”

“Baby, I’m going to get work.”

“No one’s…”
“No one’s what?” his father said, a stern tone pepped up.

“Just lemme call Gayle.  She’ll probably let me come in Sunday.  Those other girls always wanted Sundays off, remember?”

“But we’re…”

“Are you fucking serious right now, Kenny?”

Every Sunday, Mason’s parents took him to Ringo’s house.  That was his friend.  Ringo’s parents and Mason’s parents sat in the living room and watched movies.  The sound was never on because, Mason’s dad had said, they were playing a game with words.  That was kinda weird.  Ringo and Mason usually played in his room and Ringo would sometimes show him te cigarette buts that he’d found from throughout the house.

Last week, the four adults played the game with shiny blue cans.  Looking through Ringo’s peephole, Mason watched them all drink from those cans at the same time.  They laughed more and more throughout the movie.  Mason looked forward then to watching movies with is dad and the blue cans.  But he wasn’t allowed to play that at home, he’d said.

“You want it so badly, that you’ll let that boy starve so you can get high?”

Mason’s dad had always told him his first word was “Hi!” and that that was pretty dang gone funny.  He almost had the words the way Daddy liked to hear them.  He said “Pwe dag on phffew!” and his dad always translated.

“Can you say, ‘Let’s get high’?” his mother asked him.  Her can was even shinier.  Silver, she called it.  What Mommy said made Daddy laugh a lot.

“Kenny.”  Mason pictured her touching his dad.  They played a lot and wrestled and sometimes they were giggling while they did it and others they were screaming.  Mason wrestled with his Dad once in a while but when he screamed at his dad, his dad would throw him.

“Kenny,” his mother said.  “We’re not getting fucking blitzed anymore.  You know?  We gotta quit that shit.  You know, for now.”

Shit was that word that Mason remembered saying before his mother slapped his face.

“Gawd,” he said.  “You’re so right.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“Thing is…the shit’s already paid for, you know.  ‘Member we used that one money to get it and paid Big Mike last week.”

“Oh, shit, you’re right,” his mother said.  “Well,” she kinda laughed.  That was the one that she made when she said we’d have lunch but the refrigerator was empty.  Or when Mason told her there was no butt paper on the spinny in his bathroom.  One time she made him sit there for a long time while she left.  Daddy couldn’t know she left though.  It was the first time she ever made him understand Secret.

“Yeah,” his father said.  You know Big Mike’s probably gonna tap that shit if we don’t come.  Won’t smoke it all or nothin’ but he’d take a piece.  Fucker.”

One time after the blue cans game was over, Mason said fucker and was told he had to get down and smell the poop.  Put his bitch ass nose right to it.  Ginger made poops on the floor a few times.  Ginger did it too much and was kicked by the door.  Dad told Mason she had to go see her mommy dog and daddy dog.  That was before the ice cream day.

There was the ice cream book.  Mason’s mom read to him from a book with a big ice cream cone on the front page.

“Ice cream, ice cream, we all scream for ice cream,” his mother sang.

Mason giggled when she made the monster face and screamed “scream.”

“Do you want to get some ice cream?” she asked.

Mason whispered in her ear Yes because he was tired but wanted to put his head on her shoulder.

“I’ll make daddy go with you,” she told him.

Mason pulled the book down and skipped to the last page.  Daddy told him he was supposed to start at the frong but Mommy yelled at him and said he can start wherever.  Kid’s fucking three, Kenny.  He just likes the pictures.”  He found the clown and the guy with the white beard and said beard.

“I gotta call Gayle.”

“Good fucking luck.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Phones’re fucking dead.”

We didn’t–”

Kenny shook his head.

“Fuck!” she yelled.  She threw the phone and it hit and broke something.

“Jesus!”

“Oh, shit.”

“You fuckin’ broke that frame, godddammit!”

She ran over and crouched down.  “Shit!  Honey, don’t!”

“You’re going to cut–”

“Ow! Fuck!”
“I told you…”

“Fuck you, you told me.  You fucking did this!  Least his picture’s not fucking broken.”

“Broken?”

“Torn.  What the fuck, you know what I mean!”

Christine laughed.  “Get some….nevermind.  Go turn on the water.  Cold.  Numbs it.”

“I know, I know,” his father said in a faded way.

His mother was alone, but she was talking.

“Goddammit, girl,” she said.  “The one fucking picture you have of him.”

Day 14 – 1400+ words (Completely New Story)

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Marv Hamblin had a problem–one that would make his father disown him and his children abhor him.  Okay, maybe that’s a little rough.  He’s my husband, so I should start a little differently.  Accurately.  Marv had committment issues, but then again, what man doesn’t?  When we first started dating–can it be thirty years ago, really?–he was young.  I was too, but he was adventurous.  He had ambition.  Driven was a word I used to describe him to my father prior to Marv’s first Thanksgiving at my childhood home.

As a young father, Marv embraced his children.  O f course, I mean more than literally.  He didn’t quite live vicariously through them or anything, but he certainly put his own goals aside…for decades..and helped me raise them to be responsible adults.  We succeeded as parents, but not as a couple.  Does that sound right?

Before he actually retired, he began talking about it whenever the kids were all home.  He didn’t do it in hopes of having some grand, celebratory send-off or anything; he probably just wanted to hear himself say it more often.  You know, to make it more real.  Like when you teach someone else a skill–you tend to learn more about the skill the longer you explain it.  Perhaps surprisingly, the children–all of them–were relatively indifferent toward his choice to let go.  They certainly didn’t care about the financial rationale, which was the overwhelming theme of his narratives.

Also before he left his job for good, I began to see that old spark.  I know it’s cliche to say, but our entire relationship had accumulated decades of normalcy.  The old spark to which I now speak contained mixed messages of road trips, new hobbies, extravagant dinners–the things we did before having children and responsibilities.

But they were just words, I learned.  Then I began to think back throughout our marriage how often he did that.  He calmed me down with words, but he also filled me with so many hopes that never took flight.  Do I feel manipulated?  A little.  However, did I adopt the same behavior and use it toward him–and our children?  I’d be lying if I said no.

Marv has had an affair.  I don’t really want to find out the exact length because it could be longer and this may not be the only one.  I found out over the course of a few days.

It began with me answering the phone, even though either the number was not recognized or was somehow not shown on my screen.  My eyes may be bad, but they could clearly see the words “Unknown Number.”  A therapist might offer a solid analysis as to why someone my age would wish to suddenly answer the phone in situations such as these.

Don’t you know about telemarketers, Susan?

Are you aware that hackers exist, Susan?

People will go to great lengths to hide their identity Susan.  Just don’t answer it.

Marv was sleeping in more and more and I had given up trying to find any good television programs in the mid-mornings.  I thought about reading again, but I felt I was getting too old to start reading authors outside my comfort zone.  When you age, you tend to worry about odd things connected with your mortality such as “What if I start a series and never get a chance to finish it before I die?”  Some of the popular writers my girls and the girls at the office read not only have racier material than I remember, but their series sometimes take up an entire alphabet!

So when I answer the unknown number the first time, I only remember staring into my chamomile tea while the young woman spoke.

“M’am,” she said after a long pause.  She thought I’d hung up, I suppose.

“Yes, I’m here.”  I cleared my throat but didn’t plan to say anything else.

“I can only imagine how upset this makes you.  Please know this was a call I’d considered making for some time.”

It didn’t help, but I was glad she said it.

“You have to know, m’am, that whatever happened between your husband and my mother had to have been short-term at best.  For years, I was told my father died in a fishing accident and never doubted my mother.  Who does at that age, you know?”

I thought of the girls and the few white lies I supplied whenever I fielded life’s tougher inquisitions.  I had to agree with her.

“M’am?”

“Yes, I’m here.  I’m sorry. I’m…”
“I understand,” she said.

I must say, those two words pissed me off.

But I stayed mute and let her continue.

“My mother and I have always been fairly honest with one another.  I’m an only child and she never re-married.”

Re-married?”

“Excuse me.  No.  Never married.  Forgive me, I’m so used to telling this story under my previous assumptions of what happened to my father.”

A long pause.  The idea that Marv had a whole other marriage to attend to jump started the ticker Dr. Patel said needs “nourishment” and “rest.”

“M’am?”

“Yes, I’m here.”  Then a short silence.  “You were saying?”

She was crying.  I had no idea then what she looked like, but I pictured a thin woman beside a window–perhaps in a hotel–and putting the phone to her chest to mute her uncontrollable bursts of emotion.

A sniffle.  “My future husband,” she began.

“What’s that?”
For a few seconds more I listened to her attempt to overcome her obvious attachment to whatever she was about to say.  I took the phone away and listened closely for words, not sobs.

“A medical history…” she eventually said.  “I was sick a little while ago and eventually ended up talking to my GP about my history.”

Over the next few minutes, I learned that her mother had gone with her, offering the expected level of comfort in that situation.  When the more personal questions arose, the doctor sensed something from the mother once questions about the woman’s father–evidently my husband–came up.  He casually stepped out of the exam room with her mother.  Muffled voices after that.  Then, however, her mother came back into the room alone and broke the news about her father not dying years ago as she had described.

“M’am?” she asked.

“I’m here.” Then I interrupted her before she could continue.  “Forgive me, though.  How did you happen to call me about this?”

She began to answer but I stopped her again.  Weirdly, it felt good.  I controlled the moment.

“How am I to know any of this is true?  What is it you want?  Why am I still talking to you?”

She must have sensed my urgent frustration because she pleaded with me not to hang up.  “I’m sorry, m’am.  I know it’s…well, this whole thing for me has been…”

Unable to finish her thoughts, I was left piecing her frame of mind together.

“You make coffee?” Marv asked from another room.  I didn’t have to turn my head to know he was in the kitchen staring at the empty carafe.

“Miss?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Could you give me your mother’s name?  Perhaps where she was living when you were born?”

She provided both, the second as if she were reading from the notes she’d scribbled on the thin pad some hotels provide.

“Call back in a few minutes.  Rather, is your mother around?”

“No.”

“Well, then,” I thought.  “Call back anyway and identify yourself as your mother.  Say nothing more.  My husband will answer it and I’ll watch his face to what you tell him.”

“I’m…I mean…okay, but…”

“It’ll be fine dear.  I have to do a little acting here so he’ll pick up.”
“You want some?” Marv hollered.  I could hear him unlocking the clasped canister.

“Miss?”

“Yes.  I’m here.”

“Ten minutes, okay?”

“Okay.  But please know my doctor needs my family history this afternoon.”

“Just call.”

I clicked the red button without saying anything formal and turned my head   “No, hon.  None for me.  I had tea earlier.”  I found him in the kitchen filling up the carafe at the sink.  I placed my phone on the counter at the room’s threshold.

“Marv?”

“Yeah, hon?”

“When was the last time you took me out for brunch?”

He laughed and stopped the water.  “This morning, looks like.”

We kissed.

“Need your phone?” he said as we left the room.