|1 July, 2011||Posted by BobbiJaye under Fiction, The Red Dress Club, Writing|
I sat on the living room floor, surrounded by empty boxes and bubble wrap. In the seven hours since Ryan left for work, I had nearly finished the unpacking. Forks, spoons, and knives in the kitchen drawers. Neatly folded towels in the linen closet. The gravy boat I didn’t remember registering for in the back of a cabinet, where I was sure it would remain untouched, for the next twenty years or so. A place for everything.
Now I eyed the box in front of me. I’d moved it around all day, tucking it into corners and under tables, hoping it would just disappear. I knew what was in it. Just last week, I’d packed the things away and scrawled “Jenna’s Stuff” across the side in black Sharpie. Sighing, I pulled it forward and slit the tape with my box cutter.
These were my things, and maybe that was the problem. Artifacts from a different era — B.R. Before Ryan. I pulled the objects and took inventory.
Photo album, 4 B.R. Freshman year at NYU. Containing at least three embarrassing pictures of me wearing a toga.
Red Hot Chili Peppers poster, 6 B.R. From the concert that got me grounded for a month after I snuck out to see it.
Four track medals, 7 B.R. Second place at nationals in the 400 meter relay.
I looked around the living room. I didn’t know what to do with this stuff. There was no room here for the remnants of a life that didn’t exist anymore. Before Ryan there was me. In After Ryan, there was only we and us.
I reached into the box again, not bothering to look. My hand found the smooth, hard surface of a book. I pulled it out and laughed when I saw what it was.
One pink Hello Kitty Diary circa second grade.
I settled back against the couch, prepared to read. The diary opened to a spot in the middle, but there was nothing written there— just a dogeared piece of torn notebook paper, folded twice in half and tucked between the lined pages. My chunky second-grade handwriting stared up at me. Four sloppy letters spelled out “Sara.”
Embarrassment flooded my cheeks. I knew what this was. I remembered writing it, sitting in the back of Mrs. Wexler’s room. It smelled like crayons and the potting soil. I wrote the note during math, when I should have been doing multiplication, and passed it to the girl sitting next to me.
Now, I gently unfolded the paper and read what I’d written to Sara.
I like your blue dress. I will push you on the swing at recess if you want. Your hair is really pretty too.
Do you like me? Check yes or no.
Then I’d drawn two boxes. There was an x marking the box under yes.
That day, I pushed her on the swings and she gave me one of the cookies at lunch. Then she told me that she thought Jason Farmer was cute and I knew she hadn’t understood my note.
I hated Jason Farmer until he transferred schools in sixth grade.
Just as much as I thought I loved Sara.
I folded the note back into the diary and tossed it in the box again, along with the photo album and the poster and the track medals.
Things I outgrew.
Thoughts I wasn’t allowed to have anymore.
I picked the box up and carried it to the bedroom, where I shoved it in the back of the closet.
Ryan would be home soon.
I wanted to write an entirely different story with a different character, but Jenna demanded that I pay her some more attention. This is a much earlier part of her story, well before the happy ending I gave her a few weeks ago. Sneaky, sneaky character… I had no idea she’d been married.
Thanks for reading! Concrit WELCOME and Appreciated
|27 June, 2011||Posted by BobbiJaye under Non-Fiction, The Red Dress Club, Writing|
I will never forget the look on that face of the man with the overalls. It’s funny, the things we remember.
I rubbed my eyes and scratched my nose. Hay always made me sneeze. But I liked it here. It smelled good, like clover and horses and earth, and if you closed your eyes and listened, you could hear a symphony. Buzzing and whinnying, wind rustling leaves, farmers shouting to be heard over the low grumble of tractor engines. And the excited chatter of fifteen kindergarteners on a field trip.
We followed our teacher to the fence behind the barn, and climbed onto the wooden railing. I hung my arms over the top rail and let them dangle, while the big man in overalls talked about different kinds of corn— white corn, yellow corn, Jubilee Supersweet, Spring Snow, the Honey and Cream yellow-white mix my granddaddy grew in his garden at home. We’d eat it off the cob, dripping with butter.
The boys on the end of the fence were restless. They poked and prodded and jabbed their elbows into each other’s ribs, each trying to claim the fence as his own. Silly boys. Icky boys, I thought.
Then the man in the overalls held up another ear of corn.
“Now,” he said. “How many of ya’ll like to eat popcorn?”
The word was magic. Fifteen hands shot into the air, including the boys’. Even they wanted to know about the popcorn. I leaned a little harder into the fence, trying to get as close as possible.
“All of you?” He grinned. “Me too. Popcorn is mighty good. And it’s real interesting too. I’ll bet none of you know what makes popcorn pop.”
My hand shot into the air. The man hadn’t asked a question, but he wasn’t right, and I wanted to tell him.
I knew why popcorn popped.
He stopped and pointed at me.
“Popcorn pops because there’s water inside that turns to steam when it gets hot and makes the kernel bust open because there’s too much pressure like when you blow too much air into a balloon,” I said, all in one breath. When I stopped talking, everyone was quiet.
The man in the overalls tilted his head and looked at me.
“How old are you?” He asked.
I raised my chin a little. “Five,” I answered.
“And where’d you learn about popcorn?”
I didn’t understand why he was asking me these questions. I knew I was right about the popcorn getting too hot.
“My granddaddy has a book about corn,” I said. When the man didn’t respond, I added, “I read it there. I like to read.”
“And you’re five?” He asked again. I nodded.
“Well,” he said, “I guess I lost the bet on that one.”
The wind blew my pigtails across the back of my neck. They tickled. The sun was warm on my arms. The man in the overalls went on to talk about the history of popcorn.
Over the next several years, I would get used to the looks that grownups gave me when I spouted off facts they thought I was too young to know. And every time I watched the popcorn kernels spin in my granddaddy’s old popper, I would think about the steam inside them and wonder why everybody didn’t know what made popcorn pop.
Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!
|24 June, 2011||Posted by BobbiJaye under Fiction, The Red Dress Club, Writing|
300 words? Evil. So. Evil.
Flash Fiction can be fun and a real challenge. This week focus on the words and the strength of each to contribute to your story. Write a 300 word piece using the following word for inspiration: LIFE.
Life or Death
She knelt in the soapy water, knees aching in her wet jeans. She stared down at the white kitchen floor.
It had been an hour, but it wasn’t clean.
She started again, methodically scrubbing the tile in front of her.
Top left corner, down the side, across the bottom.
It had to be right.
It had to be clean.
She pushed the rag hard against the floor, scraping her knuckles in the grout and gritting her teeth against the sting of soap on her raw skin. She rocked back onto her feet and fought through the ache spreading through her back. Darkness creeping in.
There was still a spot. She abandoned the rag and scraped with her fingernail. Imperfections would not be tolerated. She would have to start again.
Top left corner, down the side, across the bottom.
If it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t right.
And it had to be right.
A bead of sweat ran from the base of her neck to her waist.
Harder. She had to scrub harder.
In her mind, she saw the crash. The metal crumpled like paper, erupting into flames. Cars twisted. Faces cut by shattered glass.
People lying bloody and broken.
Flashing ambulance lights.
No. She wouldn’t let it happen. She had to make it right.
It wasn’t rational. There was no car. There were no people. But what if there were?
The breath caught in the back of her throat.
What if she was wrong?
What if she missed a spot?
She knew it was the OCD. But she scrubbed, because she couldn’t be sure that spotless tiles weren’t a matter of life or death.
This is fiction based on reality.
It isn’t the OCD you see in Monk. Television shows you the cleanliness, but never the thought process. This is called flashing. For someone with OCD, it can feel very real. The magical thinking that you know is completely irrational, but you still feel compelled to do the ritual anyway, because if you don’t, the pictures in your head might come true.
My best friend still teases me about her all-powerful broom. I rarely sweep to prevent car crashes anymore. Though I did clean my door jambs before my niece was born. Just in case.
Thanks for reading! Concrit WELCOME and Appreciated!