Bea polished the dining room. The lemon oil glimmered over the dark veins of wood. She placed the square glass vase in the center of the table. Her roses fell to one side bleeding red petals on to the freshly polished surface. Tenderly Bea gathered the petals in her hand and carried them to the trash. She thought she heard the mailman coming early. Nothing. Bea went through her shelf of vases and chose a curvy milk glass one. Carefully Bea transferred the roses from the clear vase to the white one. More petals rained into the sink.
The mailbox lid creaked. Bea hurried to the door and then slowed her steps. Her mail was two advertisements, some bills, and flyer from her old school for upcoming Harvest Festival.
Memories flooded into her of the pumpkin painting, apple bobbing contests, corn husk dolls and the children laughing and the heady sweetness of warm mulled cider and Mrs. Weismann’s homemade bread and butter pickles. Bea had been on that committee for eleven years and had chaired it for seven before the bitches from Language Arts took over everything. She flung the flyer into the trash. As she closed the door Bea noticed the oblong box leaning by the door. She didn’t remember what it was at first then realized it was the insect habitat she had ordered for the kids. She hadn’t wanted the summer to be all princess tea parties; she wanted science and adventure. What she got was a box of praying mantids.
Sighing, Bea bought the box over to the counter, thought better of it and set the box on the bench by the back door. She moved the flowers from the white vase back to the clear and returned the square vase to the table trailing scarlet petals all the way.
(blogging University Writing 101 day 14)
With the phone cradled between her shoulder and her ear, Bea listened to her daughter gently lie.
“I just don’t understand. I thought this was all arranged. The girls would stay with me the first two weeks after school ended.” Bea tried to control her voice.
“I know, I know, but Taylor has this new tutor and camp is starting earlier than I thought,” Monica stuttered. Her words rushing over one another. “I mean if there was anything I could do.”
“So Aaron wants the kids to go to his parents” house, right? We can share the time. Let me talk to him–”
“No!” Monica suddenly snapped. “Please Mom this is not about Sarah and Norm.”
“So what is it about?”
Monica went silent. Bea gripped the phone desperate to catch every word. Monica exhaled.
“Look, Mommy, try to understand. You know what it is like trying to make everyone happy and being caught in the middle and the drive is so long and you know how Aaron gets and you know how it is.” Monica said.
Bea leaned her back against the wall to keep the room from spinning. “I understand.”
“Maybe we could do something at the end of summer?”
Bea let her daughter babble on until the conversation dwindled down and stopped. She hung up the phone hard. A card from the French memo board fell to the floor. Happy Birthday, hope you have the happiest of day all my love Bobby. She could tell that the card was signed by his wife, Mika. She wrote the same thing every year. Bea returned the card to the board and went to put away the chest of dress up clothes and boxes of arts and crafts that she had set up on the dining room table.
(Writing 101 prompts Day 11, 12 & 13)
Bea bolted upright and smacked the large display digital alarm clock. She would love to linger in bed, roll in the sheets, make a mountain of pillows, but laying in bed is for lazy people. Quickly and efficiently, Bea made the bed. She smoothed the already smooth sheets and lovingly patted Leo’s side. Next she straighten up the bedroom wiping away imaginary dust and rearranging the large stack of magazines, journals, and books on her side of the bed. Leo’s nightstand held only a tall, narrow lamp and a snowglobe of a country house and barn from their trip to Lancaster. Bea held it in her hand. She had grown up in a house like this with six brothers and sisters. As the fourth child, second daughter her chief duties were laundry and not getting in the way. When she was young Bea would steal away to the barn to draw pictures on butcher paper and stare out at the sky. Bea liked to think Leo kept this snowglobe to remind him of her but she knew he liked it because it was heavy and kept his letters from blowing away.
The phone rang breaking Bea’s thoughts.
“Hey, Mom. Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No, sweetheart, I can always make time for you.” Bea tighten her stomach for disappointment.
(Day ten of Writing 101 prompts)
The cake was heavy. A lemon pound cake with vanilla frosting perched on a batter bowl green cake stand. Bea had the sudden urge to put flowers– daisies perhaps–around the base of the cake or silver dragees or jimmies or something. But she knew Leo wouldn’t cotton to that. She carried it into the dining room as Bobby and Monica burst into a giggly off key version of Happy Birthday.
Instead of singing Jamie was playing a tambourine and gyrating around the table.
“All right, all right, settle down!” Leo shouted over the din. The kids sang louder. He patted my hand as I put the cake on the table with no flowers no decorations of any kind. Leo looked up at me with a smile. He lifted his hand to my cheek and the alarm clock went off.
My eyes flew open and I reached for Leo before I remembered he wasn’t there anymore.
“She’s gone,” the left hand whispered. It spasmed violently and then rested on the rough hospital sheet.
I’m sitting on a worn, sun warmed park bench. My back presses against the sturdy wood. turquoise koi pond sparkles at my feet. I watch the large white and orange goldfish swim in lazy loops. I smell lavender and rosemary on the soft breeze. Peacefully, I look down on the space where my hands used to be. I turn my face up to the sun.
“Yes, she’s gone for good,” the right hand replied, patting the left gently.
(Days eight and nine of Writing 101 writing prompts)
“Do we have to?” Liam whines, drawing out each word. “My tummy thurts.” Liam stretched out dramatically on his racecar bed rubbing his round tawny belly.
“Cut the baby talk and get to work,” I snapped.
Zack and Liam jump. Liam rolls off the bed and starts slowly placing brightly colored plastic blocks into clear bins. I rake handfuls of blocks off the checkered flag rug and fling them into bins. I sort through piles of toys and kid clothes and books. Zack grabs a stack of picture books and rushes to his bookcase and drops the stack. Zack turns to me and freezes. I glare at him and keep sorting. He quickly picks up books and places them on the shelves. Books start falling down as Zack shoves more into the shelves.
“I didn’t make this big mess,” I grumble.
“You know if we get this done that’s a big job. We should get a big dessert,” says Liam.
“Why is this my job? If you just put your toys away. How hard is it to put away damn pajamas?”
“We could go to Dairy Queen.” Liam arched his eyebrows. “We doing good job here.”
More books fall. Zack jerks around to catch my eyes, clutching books, piles of books. Zack scrambles to arrange them. I stare at him. My hands moving faster and faster.
“We could go to Rita’s.”
“Why am I doing this?” I sort. Crayons in art boxes, socks in the sock drawer, race cars fly into bins.
“This isn’t me.” Army soldiers rain into a bucket. My hands crush a half finished puzzle.
Zack’s eyes grow wider.
“I like water ice. And Daddy likes water ice. And Mommy you like water ice. ”
The entire top shelf of books cascades to the rug. Tears run down Zack’s face.
“Ooooo, I’m telling. Mommy, Zack knocked over all those books.”
My hands spring to Liam’s mouth crushing blocks into his mouth.
“No, Mommy, please, Mommy,” Zack pleads. He wraps his plump arms around my waist.
My hands return to my lap. Liam sputters and rolls away from me. Zack and Liam embrace. The toys are sorted into blue, green and bins. With swift easy motions, I organize the bookshelves. A row of stuffed animals smile at me from the wooden bureau. The boys watch me from the bottom bunk with cautious eyes I pick up the last of the Legos and leave.
I am folding laundry on our bed. I am surrounded my four stacks of clean clothes. The air smells of Cool Scent Tide and Tropical Breezes Fabric Refresher Beads. There are still toys on the living room floor but the kitchen sink is empty and clean. I fold. Joseph hasn’t brought up the therapist idea again but then we only talk about the kids and the weather. As long as things look okay they are okay. I fold. The piles grow bigger.
Over the armoire hangs a print of Wyeth’s Christina World that Joseph and I got before we were married. I stare into the mildew yellow of the wheat field, I see the tortured twist of her pink dress, I see the farmhouse roof knife the faded blue sky. Christina turns towards me.
Dirty dishes piled in the sink. Clean laundry on the living room floor. Toys strewed from the mud room to the back door. I lay out the good china next to the bucket of fried chicken.
Joseph sits down at the head of the dining room table and his eyes say, takeout again?
Burning, my eyes retort, if you don’t like it cook dinner your damn self.
Zack and Liam run to their places.
“Yeah, chicken!” Liam shouts. Zack applauds the abruptly stops.
Joseph moves a stack of coloring books off the table while looking at me. I elbow an open box of crayons onto the floor.
“Oopsie Momsy.” Liam climbs under the table after the crayons.
“Did ya know George Washington? We learned about him at school,” Liam asked. “He’s president.”
“No he’s not,” Zack snapped. “Ben Franklin is president.”
“Uh uh Washington is president and he’s bestest.” The boys begin to kick each other under the table.
My eyes plead with Joseph to handle something for once.
Joseph’s eyes say, I don’t work two jobs to come home to this.
My hands are trembling. I bury my hands under the table and stamp my feet.
Zack sticks out his tongue.
“Mommy who’s bestest?”
“It’s best, moron.”
“Mommy mommy mommy.”
I squeeze my sides. “Washington and Franklin are both wonderful. I’ve always loved Edith Wharton. Daddy and I visited her house before you were born. She’s a writer like Mommy.”
I turn to look at Joseph. His head is buried in the plate. He looks up at gtee boys and me. “Yeah just like mommy.”
My hands suddenly throw my glass on the floor.
(Day 4 of Writing 101 writing prompt series)
I have been cleaning for eight days straight. Straight. Organizing our books, throwing out useless junk, polishing the tops of each spice bottle, I have been cleaning for eight straight days. Last night at around two, Joe came down into the basement where I was sorting through the kids’ baby clothes for Good Will and he asked me to take it easy. He said we should talk. He said maybe we should talk to someone together. He said he wanted me to be happy. He said I haven’t been happy for a long time.
No shit, Sherlock. So I’m taking it easy. Because I know what he’s really saying is that I have to cut the crap. So today is easy. I watched Rosalind Russell movies all day after the kids went to school. What could be easier than “His Girl Friday?” I put my wicker knitting basket on my lap and picked out a half a sock. A Soleful Sock what could be easier. The unfinished baby blanket sitting upstairs mocking me that’s a bitch but this sock pattern was easy peasy. I start knitting in the round as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trade jabs. I look down I’m knitting backwards. I frog and start my row over. Drop stitch, redo, drop stitch, redo, work for ten rows, notice ladder, throw project across room. I looked down at my hands.
When I was a kid, a little kid, I used to hide in a secret room in my bedroom. No one knew about not even my sister. No one could know about it or it would disappear. It was between the door jamb and the corner and I would slip into my invisible room with my pillow, my blanket, and Mr. Moneybanks and disappear too.
I looked down at those hands that looked almost exactly like mine and then I went upstairs.
Cat videos. If I were on a mission to Mars that went terribly wrong and I could never get home again. I would of course miss my family and friends and chocolate cake and Van Gogh paintings and that Twilight Zone episode, but what I would really miss is sitting under my giant ugly toasty warm lighthouse blanket on my office futon with a Big Gulp of diet Coke and a box of Mike and Ike’s to make up for the healthy coke and a laptop full of crazy cat videos.
It is not because I love cats. I do. I love dogs too and rabbits and I don’t even mind ferrets. But I love cats doing silly things because they are kind of wild and can’t be really taught so the silly things are all their own. And I love that people would bother to video their cats, which is sillier than the cats themselves.
But what I really love is that it is the perfect waste of time with no redeeming value. And they are funny. I really need to write. I need to clean the house, make lunches, find where in the hell are my husband’s tan dress pants and then figure out why that is my problem and then I need to write again. But first I am going to look at some kittens sleeping in shoes.
The house is dead quiet. Everything is dark and everyone is asleep except for me. Wait, maybe I am asleep. I turn my device and read writing I don’t recognize. Who wrote this? My fingers are silent.