Tag Archives: narrative

Teacups

The story that this scene belongs to met with fairly mixed reviews in class. I’m interested to see what you make of it. 🙂

**

Grab the wheel, honey, the polished circled. The illusion of control makes the ride bearable.

His eyes washed over his daughter’s pale gentle cheeks. Worry painted her features; he only gave advice at the worst moments, in the face of impending unpleasantness. He wondered whether she wasn’t entirely unlike a dog, associating his advice with the master’s harsh and sometimes inexplicable hand of judgement.

Fear struck as the wheel began to spin faster than he was pulling. When he used his hands to resist it, the force tossed his hands away like a parent might slap rougly the hands of a child. His wrists popped and his hands flew with a loud plastic clunk into the inside wall of the cup. He looked at his giggling daughter; in mirth, she had closed her eyes. Perhaps she felt safe, still assuming he was in control.

Her laughter stopped abruptly and her brown eyes caught his off-guard. She held his eyes through his terror with a steady and confidence gaze that contradicted and complemented her youthful brightness and pushed him further into fear. Then, “Daddy,” she asked, “why don’t you tell me you love me?”

A thunderous crack drowned out his dumb response, and the cup teetered like a dying top. A sudden nausea struck him, but he noticed the teetering detract; the spinning became violent, clamping him against the bench. This can’t be happening, he thought madly. This can’t be real!

A second audible crack preceded a more violent swaying. John turned his head from side to side and felt the summer of the concrete and the winter of the humid air. The speed increased the tilt; he clenched his muscles, forcing shut his eyes and closing off his senses, leaving only his reeling consciousness inside the darkness.

His daughter’s eerie calmness and the absurdity of her question convinced him to open his eyes again. Behind her, the world spun into colored lines with indefinite borders. She alone remained in clear focus—even the cup blurred around the wheeling vortex, but he could distinguish her through the whirlwind.

Concern coated her features and he voice as she said once more, “Daddy?” A third crack dislodged the cup, which turned sideways, harped against the concrete floor, and bolted off, tossing two cups and the riding families aside, their bodies flying lifelessly, casualties.

The cup crashed into the dark hall of Space Mountain, and his daughter closed her eyes and fell limp. A loud crash deafened him as the cup collided with the track, rolling downhill and ripping out accelerator chains.

His daughter began to shake and squirm as the cup penetrated a neon orange tunnel. Her loose hands tightened into fists, and her head rolled from side to side randomly, quickly sometimes and slowly. Her teeth pressed against and then pierced her lower lip, and he saw her tongue lick blood off of her chin.

He reached against the hostile wind and the careening force of the cart. Even his own arms seemed to resist as if bound to his torso by rubber bands. He managed to reach six inches out, and then a foot. At the wheel’s circumference, his fingers and then his wrists and then his arms broke within a second, one tri-part crack. John wailed in  pain and anger, pushing with his legs towards his daughter even as his useless arms fell back.

But the passion only lasted a moment. Through the surreal howl he heard his recognition that even if he reached her now, his ineffectual grip could not wake her, would only cause him pain as he tried with broken bones to seize her. His hollowed-out sense of paternal protection felt as vacant and vague as the false orange stars.

The cup hit a crest and at once derailed, breaking again the rollercoaster’s shell. Through the air he and she sailed; her eyes opened and her shrill and terrified scream beat out the freight-train tone for a moment. Her cheeks had turned ghastly and hollow in her momentous horror.

The cup fell magnificently into the ocean, but just before they hit the girl’s face lit up with a smile, and she seemed al of a sudden placid. The porcelene plastic shattered on impact, and John’s body skipped like a stone against the harsh and salty surface.

He crashed into a cresting wave that repelled him like an immortal wall, and he saw his daughter one last time through his pained delirium. She stood atop the final wave smiling. He sunk into the blue.

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Writing

Theme Thursday: Hatred

I may have misread Hazlitt’s “On the Pleasure of Hating,” a homework assignment for my nonfiction literature course. It’s not a unique experience for me, but since one dimension by which I can track my philosophic pursuits is the systematic deletion of my hatreds, the message I missed surprised me.

Because Hazlitt spews bile, I carried the preconception that he discussed hatred as a means of moving forward even as he stated contrary cases. For example, we should hate organized religion because organized religion preaches love while providing a worn-smooth channel for the expression of hatred.

This circular argument disappoints me primarily because it spits in the face of perennial philosophic and mystic traditions. While I have no love of organized religion, I do cherish criticism, but only as a tool of love. We give attention to those things that we love, and our attention natural slips not into hatred but into criticism; when we take criticism past its logical purpose, it becomes judgment, and judgment begets hate.

However, perhaps the lesson of the essay serves as a primer to the examined life. If I can recognize that I hate, I can recognize my existence and begin to temper my actions. If I can recognize my loss of self under the guise of partisan tyranny, I can reclaim myself. And I am a wrathful person. I harbor hate even to this day.

This week’s theme: Hatred

I despise pop culture, everything from gossip to television to commercials; another way to say it is that I loath shallowness and those who are shallow. I disparage politics and politicians, and I scorn any understanding of social progress even as I fight for moderation and an adoption of humanistic equivalence. I resent my sister. Even as we’ve grown closer over the years, I bear a grudge that shows itself as plainly as any scar when I attempt to write about her and our relationship, and anyone could witness tension build in me even as I talk about our past.

I know that I carry these with me. They continue to exist despite my protest against them, for what vice flees before mere desire? The first step to cleansing myself of them is a recognition that I have them, and thank God that step is done with for these, though they are hardly the sum total. The next step is to wrestle with them and attempt to understand or even subdue them. I call this ongoing process maturation.

Let’s live up to this interpretation of Hazlitt’s call and write a story about our hatreds. I know that emotion is hard to control when we start talking about our fragile core, but spiritual growth necessitates vulnerability.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

Leave a comment

Filed under Criticism, Features, Humanistic, Theme Thursdays

So it’s time to get this train back on the road

Er… wait. Yeah, I mean what I said. Trains go on road sometimes. You know, like at intersections. Whatever, don’t judge me.

In the mode of our modern frilly psuedo-philosophy, I’m going to make an attempt to make this blog sustainable. (I’m 0 and 2 for metaphors tonight, or is that 0 and 3? Damn, maybe I should’ve waited another week… ;-p)

Here’s the deal:

1) Less Twitter and Facebook updates. The energy to properly market this blog was KILLING me. No more of that silly shit.

2) A whole list of theme days to make generation easier on me and community building through content contribution more compelling for you! 🙂
a) Microstory Mondays
b) Trackback Tuesdays
c) Guest Wednesdays
d) Theme Thursdays
e) Greg Fridays

This is all still up for consideration, of course. But I had to make a choice. I had to either decide to try and monetize this thing, what with the independent server and the ads and maybe some Quarterly Reviews and other well-thought-out concepts, or I had to back WAY off. I made the latter choice.

In that mode, welcome to your first Microstory Monday.

The challenge

Write a full story in less than three sentences. Fact, fiction, whatever.

The prize!

I’ll ask for your permission to rewrite the story to be posted next week. HOLY COW BEST PRIZE EVAR ZOMG!?!?

No stories? No problem. I’ll keep doing this until I get something or get tired of it. I’m hoping that at least a few of you out there like this sort of thing as much as I do, and I’m hoping that you decide to do it here instead of somewhere else for no particular reason. Now let’s see how this goes!

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

8 Comments

Filed under Features, Microstory Mondays, Statement of purpose

A Highschool Story: Ms. Young

I don’t often couch stories with extraneous information, but here it seems relevant. If you’re not interested, please continue on to the story, which I feel is just as good without.

My friends know (my family may not) that I loathed Plano with every inch of my being while I was there. It started with the classroom and moved further out to the manicured lawns and streets. My entire sentient life there I spent attempting to leave in one form or another. Not the least reason for my frustration was my consistent poor performance in school.

That’s not to say that I tried really hard and failed. I hardly tried and rarely failed, but I was always looking for something that just didn’t seem to be there. Who knows at this point what it might have been, but as my life has progressed, I think the desire has morphed into a search for a mentor, for somebody to believe in me or perhaps just see me for my potential. Teachers, for all their intentions, seem to me incapable of fulfilling this role. I discuss this more in an article on Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti’s Tant Mieux, but suffice to say that teachers have to concern themselves more with your test scores than your potential out of mere practicality.

Some have argued with me, saying that my English teachers’ collective challenge to my ability could have been applied reverse psychology, hoping to make me shape up by telling me that half-assing it wouldn’t cut it. Perhaps if the fact of my performance in the classroom had been limited to one or two teachers, or even to five, I might agree that it’s possible. However, I nearly failed every English course I ever took in high school, I actually failed the only English course I took in college, and the closest course to an English course in my post-grad work is the closest one in which I came close to receiving less than an A.

Another theory, posed by no one who knows me but one I have to pose just to prove the example, is that I can’t think critically. Since I don’t cover all of the angles to any given topic, I deserve my low grade because it’s symptomatic of half-assed work. Well, my work history in addition to standardized test scores disagree with this theory, and hopefully there’s ample proof on this blog alone that such is not the case.

I posit, therefore, that English teachers simply didn’t understand. They didn’t see the promise in my essays not because it didn’t exist but because their academic dogmatism kept them tied to more traditional approaches (those things very near plagiarism that was call “essays,” as much a violation of intellectual property–even if the owner is long dead–as any basic example of unsolicited remix). Call me arrogant if you want, sure, and empty of promise, but in my opinion, English rooms are sterile and stifling environments that squelch creativity and independent thought. I have no love for them at all and, as soon as I had the choice in my academic career, avoided them to what I consider my benefit.

Of course, what’s happened here is that I’ve moved from loathing Plano and it’s English departments to loathing English teachers in general. Baylor had nothing to do with the PISD, and Emerson College in Boston, MA certainly bears no connection. So what do I do with this leftover rage towards Plano, most of which was tied up in my inability to make my peers there understand either my frustration with them or merely my simplest thoughts, a basic communication dilemma that continues to exist to this day? Well–and fuck you, Mani–I still hate Plano, even if I can forgive it this slight little bit.

**

Though in the English hall and an English classroom or Jasper High School, I chose Creative Writing because Ms. Young sold me its distinct image. Her classroom buzzed with energy because of her youth and zeal; unmarried and unburdened by the relentless years of classroom experience that weather away the beautiful composite face comprised of the students who supply her reason for having chosen education as a career, she’s decided to teach a course no other teacher felt willing to shoulder but which helped Plano appear more well-rounded. I’ve never found diversity (especially of thought) in an English classroom, but I decided to give her new course a shot.

Fifteen minutes before the bell rings, Ms. Young asks everyone to stop writing and requests that someone read the work they had accomplished that day. I look around at all the other students, a few of whom keep their eyes down while others look around like I do; white faces all around. No one looks at Ms. Young while she scans the room, afraid to volunteer by eye contact. She really is quite pretty with her long, thick brown hair and her pale but hopeful eyes. Her mouth hangs slightly open as her head turns from side to side, and her body, red sweater, and brown skirt are motionless. When I look away from her, my eyes land on the inspirational poster on the door about walking in footprints on the beach; I roll my eyes, keep my head down.

Marissa leans over and puts her hand on my shoulder so she can whisper, “You shouldn’t be afraid.”

I don’t turn my head to look at her, but I smirk. “Neither should you.”

“I’m not. I didn’t write anything.” I can imagine her crafty smile, resting lightly upon her pretty but slightly scarred face. She’s allergic to her own sweat, which causes her face to constantly break out. I look over my shoulder to make sure it’s there, pleading with me like I expect.

We chuckle quietly together, and I resign to volunteer. I can’t quite claim an alpha personality, and my decision doesn’t really stem from a desire to save Marissa from potential embarrassment. I feel compelled to end inefficiency in how my class spends its time when the silence drags on vulgarly.

Ms. Young smiles at me while I tremble in front of the class, my nerves suffering under a weird mix of terror and excitement. There’s only twelve students scattered amongst the tables in the classroom. I know everyone in here by name. I shouldn’t feel scared of them.

A wizard stands on a cliff ledge overlooking a village that trusted him for protection. (Already the shaking has subsided.) The flames from the village are strong enough to light his face, scarred more than wrinkled, experienced more than wise. (I forget the classroom; only the page and my scrawl exist.) He has failed them; he wants to shoulder their burden, the weight of his failure measured out by the ashes of burnt homes and the bodies of murdered victims, but finds himself unable. (I am the wizard; no, I am his sorrow and his guilt. No, I am the world he wants to bear. No.) His arms reach towards the stars as he screams out a long, undulating cry to the heavens: “I’m sorry!” (I’d never make it as an actor; I’m suddenly conscious of the other students again.) He leans forwards, finds himself capable after all.

I beam with pride. Students applaud lightly and nervously, not really sure about what they’ve just heard. Marissa smiles, the vain Catholic. The bell rings, and she and the other students bolt. I return to my seat and shove the paper in haphazardly.

“I don’t get it,” says Ms. Young.

I answer her quietly: “I know.” I’m not sure she hears me.

I leave the classroom without discussing the story with her. It wasn’t complicated, or maybe it was, but at any rate my mind had rushed to other subjects than my creation. Ms. Young had implied a request for me to breakdown the story; she had asked for me to treat it like literature and explain it to her. She claimed that she didn’t understand, but could she really not have? I wonder briefly, Can my incomprehensibility cover my life to such an extent as to umbrella every instance of  communication, both the fantastic and the academic?

I leave the carpeted English corridor and emerge over the polished tile of the hallway. In front of me, a metal banister splits the stairway in half. I approach it and rest my right hand on it, looking at the reflection of a florescent light obscured by my head and shoulders, the floor too opaque to show my reflection in detail. The bell rings for class to begin, but I’m lost in thought and not the type of student who frets over punctuality anyway.

English teachers pose literature as my nemesis with their superficial questions and their polite challenges and impolite grading, but I know truth doesn’t reside in rebellion. I don’t want to feel the weight of the world of ideas in my mind or to criticize anyone’s arrangement of words in an educated manner, but not because I don’t enjoy reading or thinking. Actively engaging a story takes away the passive pleasure of reading it, and I’m content with the passive pleasure, aren’t I, the satisfaction of writing, of reading, of thinking abstractly without criticizing specifically? I would have to submit to my formally recognized enemy, my teachers, if I engaged a work actively, wouldn’t I?

I’ve been told that by imposing academic structure on my mind, I will broaden my understanding of the world and multiply the number of subjects I can ponder. But the fact of the matter is—as I prove when I sit in the reigning creative silence of Ms. Young’s room—that I can hardly get my mind to shut up. The last thing I need from it is coherent categorical thoughts.

I utter words and phrases that apparently only I can understand. I formulate ideas that only I can stomach, only my tongue decipher. I’m not convinced that educating myself in the manner my teachers have suggested will help them understand me. Not only do I doubt their conjectures, I feel almost certain they are wrong.

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

1 Comment

Filed under Creative nonfiction, Criticism, Fiction, Humanistic, Writing

Theme Thursday: Cleanliness

I know that school is starting up and that it puts a crunch on readership both to see the site and too contribute. The majority of readers are either students or teachers at one level of education or another (and I, myself, am a student). Participate when you can, and no hard feelings if you miss a week or five.

Also remember, though, that this is not a commercial publication and that while around three hundred people may see your entry, it doesn’t have to consistently be your best. I won’t chew you out for posting something raw one week, and the entries–as some were two weeks ago–can be as short as a sentence or as long as a fully flushed-out essay. There’s no structure to this game other than theme, and you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with making sure that your submission is crystal clear and flawless.

Thank you for all of the new entries, contributors, and I look forward to this new week of posts!

This week’s theme: Cleanliness

It’s next to godliness. Perhaps I could’ve saved it for spring, but now seems as good a time as any!

Also, a narrative follows, to make you feel a little dirty.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

**

The original (authored by Mani):

I had sex in public, and the police officer told me that it was a felony of the the third degree. Homedepot ended up throwing away the mattress and we were never allowed to return.

The remix:

I held her right hand with my left and carried the bag over my shoulder. The heat in the Texas parking lot made the air shiver with energy. My palm sweated against hers, but that wasn’t what had me excited.

Some of the store clerks looked at us oddly as we passed, but they must’ve assumed the bag was a return since they went back about their business. Her middle finger tickled my palm, and as I looked over at her, she smiled. Her head tucked down, and she used her other hand to pull her long brown hair back. The shame excited her, I could tell, but I didn’t feel ashamed. We were about to put on a hell of a show.

Orange metal framed our experience as we worked deeper into the store. The stale, conditioned air settled in around, making the moisture in my hand tingle. I could also trace goosebumps rolling along the nape of her neck, all the way up under the sensitive skin of her earlobe.

I resisted the temptation to look at the wares as we walked past saws, and I had to pull her past the home decoration section. My hand tugged on hers, and in our briefly connected eyes I saw her desire to escape, to check it out at least before we did the deed. But I wasn’t having any of her guff; we were here for a chore, and by God we were goin’ to do it.

The smell of cedar protected the wood section from the harsh sterile scent of the store. My chest swelled with invigoration and pride, and I gripped her hand a little tighter. A small unsure smile curved her lips. She wouldn’t be so shy in a minute, not after I had my hands on her hips.

I threw down the air mattress and got to work. Pump in, pull out, pump in, etc. At first she looked around to make sure no one was coming–she even giggled, probably at the funny little thought of getting caught. She slipped into boredom as I checked the firmness of the half-full mattress. She looked this way and that, wondering when I’d finish.

I looked her up and down as I continued to pump. The cheap and efficient white lights hung so far overhead flattened out her features, made her look like a model for any of the company’s photo advertisements. I could see the skin of her stomach complaining about the coolness of the store, much like her neck had done. The daisy dukes revealed her legs the same, her muscles dimpled with tiny bumps. Flat and bumpy, that’s how she looked.

When she leaned back against the wood-covered rack, I decided that enough was enough. I grunted at her and held out my right hand, which she took in hers. I pulled her into me and gave her a rough kiss that nearly consumed her gentle lips. She pushed against me with her hands, straining to get away and not to kiss me back; I had known it wasn’t what she wanted, but fuck what she wants. This is about me.

She started to curse when she finally got away, but the tough yank as her shirt pulled tight against her back shut her up quick. The fabric didn’t tear at the seams like I had expected but rather down the front, exposing her black bra and tight stomach. She gasped as I wrestled the rest off as if it were a vest, her arms yielding in surprise as the jersey fabric tugged down her arms.

My left hand had already penetrated her shorts, and she fell to the ground, her legs limp with shock. Instead of moaning, she ground her teeth and looked away. Well, fuck it: this isn’t about her anyway.

I bit the nape of her neck hard, perhaps too hard in my excitement: I tasted blood. Heedless, my left hand pushed aside loose skin and rough hair as my right fumbled for the button of her shorts and I bit my way down her chest. I clenched my teeth on the front-clasp of her bra until it unlocked, slapping me in the nose after pulling at my lips.

I could feel fear set in as her skin cooled under my touch. She had agreed to this, but I had seen her wavering all the way from the car, from when I had first picked her up. Perhaps a movie, she had said. I could invite a friend to come film it. I scoffed a grunt as I finally undid her shorts, and then I ripped them off.

“Hey!” I heard a male voice scream. My head snapped up in his direction, and I saw surprise paint his face. He turned to the side and yelled, “Get security!” before turning back to me and saying, “You can’t do that here, man. This isn’t that kind of shop.”

“Why do you think I’m here?” I snarled. The girl reached for her bra and tried to pry her shorts from my hand.

“Seriously, you can’t–” he started, but we never finished.

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

7 Comments

Filed under Features, Fiction, Theme Thursdays, Writing

Theme Thursday: A seasonal affair

In some ways, projects mirror conversation. In particular, if you put your hands on either in an attempt to force it to go your way, you will most certainly fail. Words may be said, items may get checked, but in the end either your partner or your underling will resent you, breaking the human connection of conversation and productivity, respectively.

The temptation the first week was to beg people I know to contribute, which I largely avoided. (Should the admission that I didn’t wholly avoid it embarrass me, here? Probably not.) The temptation the second week was to fear that I had made the game too hard by raising the bar a notch.

I want to promote this project. I don’t want to constrain friends and fans. I want people to contribute, but I don’t want them to feel compelled to do so. These Theme Thursdays should be games, should be fun! And we’re (here in the north hemisphere) wrapping up our summer, which means it’s prime time for fun!

Therefore, a broad and unrestrained topic, rich in both memory and metaphor:

This week’s theme: Summer

Have fun. 🙂 Remember, all forms of narrative are fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry, along with photos.

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

**

Now for the first remixing of my chosen story from the game two weeks ago (one week for them to write the comment, one week for me to write the remix). The new piece is entirely fiction and not fed by the author except by the original post. Here goes!

The original (authored by Claire):

My mother is the kitchen, her smooth edges and pillowy white skin, soft and yielding and warm. The kitchen is sensuality in form of mother-love, my youth and my upbringing, my salty tears boiling over, my dishpan hands longing to be held.

When I miss my mother, I go to my kitchen. I make tea, the whistling kettle becoming her voice, the steam her fingers on my own. I fix it the way she likes it, orange pekoe, condensed milk, only I slip in two teaspoons of white sugar, the colour of her inner arms. She’d cringe at the sacrilege, but I need the sweetness of her words to cut the harshness of her reality when she impresses upon me to sit up, to buck up, to not feel so sorry for myself, to not sit alone and cry, to be proctive! to smile! to make friends!

But I feel sorry for myself in the kitchen. I cower with mug in hand and stare into the murky liquid that is only the colour of tea and let it wash over me, warmth, comfort, soft, yielding. My mother. My kitchen. me.

The remix:

“Smile,” she says to me. “You wouldn’t have it so bad if you made some friends.” Her voice is harsh but falsely polished, like the linoleum floor. It reflects light sure enough, but it makes the incandescent bulb look cooly flourescent. “Smile, God damnit!” I close my eyes and lick my lips. My toes curl as my head sinks, chin falling to my breasts. “God damnit,” she sighs, turning back to her cutting board.

Her knife moves fluidly like quicksilver. You wouldn’t know it was steel if you hadn’t felt its cut. I can feel her eyes flicking between what she’s doing and her peripheral so she might see if I’ve regained my composure. I think she takes pleasure in breaking me down; she doesn’t bother insulting me if I’m visibly subdued.

Her teeth grind. “Smile.” The word hurtles her mouth quietly, like a sand storm. It corrodes my skin, could cut to the bone. Her voice recognizes no armor. I am nude in front of it and damaged in its wake.

Said. “Smile,” she said. My head shakes of its own accord, my hair shaking loosely like horsemane, and my eyes open to a different kitchen. My kitchen, suburban, with the bright windows and the pink marble countertops. Light in my mother’s house always seemed filtered; here it feels so clean. There it seemed dirty; here, sterile.

I can’t tell if this is helping, this psychological experiment of mine. I escaped my mother so long ago, but I want to remember her without the childhood fear. I make the tea, orange pekoe with condensed milk, just like she has it in my nightmares. The smell doesn’t bring back anything definite, but my muscles tense, making my head fall to my chest and my eyes close. I bear all the same reactions from my childhood. A friend called it emotional regression, but I like to think I’m moving forward.

She is my mother. I want to remember her without fear. I want to connect the encouragement I see now that she was giving me with those words from my memories. Make friends had sounded so cruel, nearly impossible, nearly a curse. What if I had made friends? Would I have heard her the same way?

No, that’s not where I want to go. I relax my muscles and let my head fall back so that I’m looking at the ceiling. I breathe, deeply. As I exhale, my chin falls to my chest again, and the tea kettle whistles in earnest.

She grabs the handle violently as I’ve felt her grab my write. That tight grip would’ve left bruises on me, still might. Hot water falls freely from the spout, filling her cup, which already contains the milk and the leaves. I look away, try not to imagine the difference in threshold between her sulfuric grip and the burns of hot water.

“Sit up,” she hisses, her voice only softly carried by the breath. “Your cringing makes me sick.” My eyes close again and my head jitters, a small flinch as I picture her dousing me in that steaming-hot tea, hitting me right in the vulnerable spot of neck exposed to her. The burn would turn my neck red, making my soft, untanned skin different from her ivory near-white. How I yearn to be different from her; give me the burns! I could scream it!

When I feel myself near tears with begging, I open my eyes, and her nose is mere inches from my cheek, cup poised to spill. “Sit up, stop cringing, and smile. You’re not making any friends over how cruel mommy abuses you at home.”

I hear the garage door open, and I’m back in suburbia. Shivers crawl down my body, and I touch the spot on my neck that mere moments before I had silently begged my long-dead mother to purge from my fair flesh. I feel the muscles loosen under my practiced fingers, grateful for their salvation. My husband, when he comes in, will ask me why I made the tea again. He’ll be angry, but I’ll tell him the memories are getting better. I can do this; I can overcome.

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

7 Comments

Filed under Features, Fiction, Theme Thursdays, Writing

A Relationship in Presents, Part Five: The red dog

There’s an interesting discussion of how readers approach posts in this blog in the last post, if you’d like to participate. I also wonder how readers are seeing the posts in this series as style pieces; how do these pieces read differently to you, and what do you think the artistic point is?

Remember to leave stories for this week’s Theme Thursday! We had seven posts for the very first game last week, and I’d like to see that number beat! I’ve also finished the remix of the piece I selected from last week’s games, and I’m really looking forward to showing it to you! 🙂

**

Behind the black bars of the waist-high fence, it pouted at me as if a real dog, kenneled. The red fur looked to me like passion in faux crushed velvet. The synthetic material crowded around the plastic eyes like desire would do to me if it could, if I weren’t buried so deeply down in depression to render it helpless, a child in a well slipping against a wall he thought he could scale.

Its face asked me about abandonment, whys and what could it dos and reallys. He wanted to come along, but I wouldn’t have it. I didn’t even wait to see the arguments played out in the stuffed, unreal face.

“Why do you stay with her?” Renisha had asked me. We worked across Summer Street from each other, me at a financial corporation doing client communications and she social networking, and we met in a Starbucks caddycorner to our separate offices. “Why do you stay with her?” she asked. “You don’t have to.”

The answer was true and horrible and romantic. Like a trumpet call to start a military dirge, it bounded forth, monosyllabic and haunting. I couldn’t maintain eye contact while it hung in the air, but I saw her face drop to the table in my peripheral, expressing a mixture of pity and disgust spiced with a moment of wonder about whether love really boils down to my response. The table had no answer for her, and neither did I. As the relationship with Sarah wore on, my friendship with Renisha waned, forever stealing her chance to solve my riddle.

My love for Sarah held within it a paradox, that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible and yet every moment I spent with her was spent not-quite-with her. And yet her very real absence from our time together made me want to spend even more time with her, up to the point where I cut out all other engagements. The downward spiral had started in the summer we first moved in together, months before that February meeting with Renisha, when Sarah and I ran out of Grey’s Anatomy episode to watch and so she moved into Solitaire.

Her laptop. My laptop. A 64” HDTV. Free Cell. Nintendo emulations. Family Fued.

“You don’t have to stay with her, you know,” Justin had said. He had come up for New Years to see us and gone home. The Thanksgiving after, when I told him that I was breaking down under he relationship, my very real dog resting on the purple microfiber chair to my right behind which the red dog had been stuffed, he told me, “You don’t have to stay with her.” I told him that I loved her, and when he asked if I was sure, I said yes. But I also told him I was breaking down.

You spin the wheel in the teacup ride at Disneyworld, and the cup spins round and round. The tangent force pulls you towards the chair, and you grab harder, pulling yourself forward and spinning, spinning. Eventually your arms fail, and the custodians tell you to stop, and the cup breaks off the ride and takes you for a horrible, unrestrained trip across the theme park, trampling families and employees and cute little crafted bushes, eventually tossing you into the castle’s pond where you drown, destitute and broken. No, nothing breaks; that’s your short little dream before the ride stops and you get ushered out of the cup, at which point you can rejoin the line if you choose or perhaps get a bite to eat.

Sarah said, “You didn’t have to do that,” when I held out her Valentine’s Day present, Lindt chocolate truffles from the store in the hotel two blocks away and a bottle of vodka with a penguin on it. She collected penguins like an obsession. I once, as a child, told friends and families that I was collecting piggy banks, an admission I always regretted, especially after I stopped my collection. Sarah had no regrets.

“It’s Valentine’s Day, and I love you,” I answered, slightly confused. The presents remained in my hand, unwrapped except for an unmarked brown bag and a Lindt plastic bag with a drawstring.

“You just didn’t have to do it is all.” She took the presents, put the vodka on her Crate and Barrel foldable bar. She kept the chocolates in her right hand but picked up a brown box with her left. “This is from my mother.”

A dog toy, a little squeezable thing. Kallion doesn’t play with toys.

“Excellent,” I said before grinding my teeth. Yes, I had bought my presents late, the night of, but it began to dawn on me that she hadn’t bought a present at all.

“I’m stuck,” I told Renisha over a sip of cinnamon cappuccino.

“You’re not,” she answered. “Why don’t you go stay with Shoshanna? You know she’d let you.”

“No dogs allowed,” I said. We paused, thinking. “Is it pathetic that I’m staying with Sarah because of my dog, like parents who won’t divorce because of the children?”

“Yes,” she answered. “It is. Your dog is not your child.”

I put the empty box by the trashcan behind the bar and tried to coax Kalli into playing with the new toy, which she ignored. Sarah watched for a moment and then went downstairs. When she came back up, I had already put myself under my computer and logged into World of Warcraft. She put on her coat from the cheap Target coat stand by the door and left without a word.

Sarah walked down Exeter to Newbury without pausing at Commonwealth—she had already taken pictures of them covered in snow—and then she walked to Fairfield. Inside, she picked up some candy from the seasonal aisle before spotting a red stuffed dog hiding on the banister above the turn in the stairwell to the basement. Retrieving it, she concluded her purchase and returned home, dropping the white plastic bag marked CVS and a large stuffed dog on the couch beside me.

Internally, I scoffed. Externally, I thanked her, petting the cheap, dusty material. I wiped my hand on my pants. She sat down in her chair and refreshed Facebook, and I continued playing World of Warcraft. Ten minutes later, I started to raid, and when I started talking on the microphone with the other players, Sarah rolled her eyes, unplugged her laptop, and went downstairs into her bedroom. As with most nights for the past few months and most to follow, I would sleep on the couch.

When I moved out, I left that red dog behind the fence under the construction docks of the building on the far side of Exeter and Commonwealth, under renovation. I mused whether a construction worker might take it, might give it to a child who could take some joy in the thing. Sarah had set aside effects in a box, items that I had given her that she didn’t want to keep and held no meaning to me: a coffee cup that read Bean, some dog toys, the red dog.

I remembered Justin’s words as I looked at that stuffed animal behind the fence. You don’t have to stay with her, he had said. I mean, I wouldn’t leave her—she’s rich and pretty and funny—but you don’t have to stay. All the pitiful and pathetic moments infected by thoughts like that, a relational virus. Just so, the dog pleaded with me to stay. But I walked away. I wouldn’t engage; I would only remember.

n20531316728_2397Share on Facebook
twitterShare on Twitter
del_icio_usSave to del.icio.us
digg
Digg it
redditSave to Reddit
aolfavEven more ways to bookmark

Author: Greg Freed

2 Comments

Filed under Creative nonfiction, Presents, Writing