I’m Five Again

WordPress Daily Prompt – Cringe

For a moment I’m five again. Strolling through an outdated theme park, taking in the toothless vendors and their unique but not at all unique wares. I grab a hold of the nearest bag before glancing up to realize that it doesn’t belong to any of my family. My heart skips a beat as I jerk my hand away and run ahead.

Luckily my family was there, though still unaware that I had fallen behind.

We’re in the Ozarks, a spread of vast mountains and hidden streams. My grandfather gifts me a baby doll because it’s almost my birthday. She’s perfect and clothed in a small white dress with blue flowers.

I drag her to the river with me where I insist on bathing her. My grandfather laughs and helps me dip her into the water.

My father stands behind, steam practically billowing from his ears.

“This is stupid. Don’t let her put the doll in the water.” He rambles on about how clumsy five year old me is and guarantees that I’ll drop the doll and she’ll float away.

It grates my young nerves. I’ve already spent five years being indirectly reminded that my father never wanted children. Despite that fact he already has two with a third on the way.

For a moment I lose my balance and let go of the baby doll to steady myself.

“See?!” My father snatches my new toy from the water and refuses to return her. “You’ll just lose it anyway.”

Now I’m ten, again in the Ozarks with my grandfather. It’s the first time I’ve seen him or his wife since I almost lost the doll years earlier.

My grandfather’s wife, much younger than he, feeds me all of the cookie crisp I could want. I lament about never having it at home. She takes my chin in her hand and leans in close, “I’ll buy you a couple boxes to take.”

She insists on buying me an ice cream cake and letting me watch Heidi on the Disney channel. Luxuries we can’t afford at home.

My father claims I need neither and sends me outside with my sisters while they discuss.

After dinner and cake she pulls me into their darkened den alone. “Your dad doesn’t want me to give you this, but here.” She pushes a cassette player and a Nat King Cole cassette into my hands. “Hide it.”

But it’s too late as my father wanders into the den to find out what we’re doing.

I smuggle the cassette player home but the Nat King Cole cassette is deemed “too grown up” and I’m forced to leave it behind. I hide myself in the corner of the dark den at midnight to listen to it before I have to leave.

The next time I see my grandfather I’m seventeen. It’s a Saturday and I’ve been at work all day. I don’t know if my father didn’t know my grandfather was in town or if he purposely didn’t tell me. I come home from my shift and find him leaving. He nods, hugs me, then is gone before I can even say anything.

I ask my dad about the visit. He cringes, shrugs and walks away. Years later, after my grandfather’s death I would find pictures from a full family get together that morning. Pictures that include my aunt, my sisters and my great aunt but not me.

And for a moment, I’m five again. Lost in an outdated theme park, upset that my family hasn’t realized that they’ve left me behind.

 

B-Boy

WordPress Daily Prompt – Meddle

There was something about the smooth green steel that the trash bins were made of. It was smooth, cool to the touch and something about it was strangely comforting. John leaned against one allowing the bin to cool his bald sweating head.

It wasn’t particularly hot that evening but John had been drinking, much like every evening. He’d found himself being walked out of the bar by his favorite bar tender just moments before.

You’ve had too much, you need to go.

John may have paid attention had he had less to drink. Instead he focused on the bar tenders ample cleavage.

You’re so perfect. 

She simply shook her head before thrusting him through the wooden door.

Go home John.

Maybe John would have seen the group of college jocks who watched the ordeal with sly smirks and maybe John would have been aware of the subtle approach of multiple pairs of sneakers but the cool trash bin was easing the pulsing headache he had.

“You’re him aren’t ya?” A sharp kick to the knee sent John tumbling the opposite direction. “Fuck, he can’t even sit up. Jackson. Pull him up.”

A rough pair of large hands hauled John to his knees. A lanky blonde with scattered acne knelt to his level.

“You’re him.” Another hand, smaller than the pair currently keeping John upright, slapped his cheek playfully. “Yeah ya are.” In John’s vision the boy split into two before dancing back together.

“Who am I?” John mumbled. Beyond the blonde more legs gathered though John couldn’t tell if there were truly many pairs or just one moving through his blurring vision.

“Who am I?” A deeper voice chuckled from behind him. “You are. What did they call you?” The blonde glanced behind him as if expecting the answer but received only silence. “Oh yeah, I remember now. You would be so forgettable but how could we forget a name like Bitchboy?” Laughter echoed through the alley.

John tried to measure how many people were laughing, how many voices heckled and bounced the name off the old brick walls.

Without warning the large hands released John’s arms and a dozen kicks from all sides sent him to the ground.

“You know …” The blonde boy came back into view as he leaned over the trembling man. “They say no one could hurt you but I’m pretty sure Bitchboy is crying.” Without pause the blonde boy pushed John onto his back and straddled his waist. A shiny silver switchblade passed in front of John’s face. “Maybe we should just see what it takes to hurt Bitchboy.”

The shiny silver blade leaned against John’s neck as the blonde boy leaned closer to him.

“No one would stop me, no one would care.” The sinister whisper shocked John into some level of soberness. John’s ice blue eyes focuses on the blonde boy’s hazel pair.

“Then do it. You want to impress them then go ahead. Try to kill Bitchboy.” The boy sat back slightly maintaining his smirk. The cool steel blade pushed closer to breaking John’s skin.

“You think you’re badass?” The boy mused. “You think you’re important?”

“I said do it. You wanna kill Bitchboy then kill me.” He gripped the blonde’s collar and pulled him close enough to feel his warm breath. “I’ve tried a hundred times and it’s never worked but by all means, if you think you’re special …”

Everyone Can See

WordPress Daily Prompt – Tender

Tender tones disguised as conversation,
Can’t be hidden when our eyes meet.
Everything melts towards isolation,
I’m sure everyone can see.

Seconds crawl by giving pause to breathe.
Words stuck somewhere between you and I
Despite the struggle they can not be freed.
I’m sure everyone can see.

It no longer matters what we were before,
Or where we believed our paths to lead.
As the moment inches to a close,
I’m sure everyone can see.

Look Crisp

WordPress Daily Prompt – Crisp

My father always said that if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to look crisp. I took that advice to heart and, as I grew, accumulated quite the wardrobe. I gave each hanger a small push as I passed over them.

“Not you. Not you. No.” My fingers paused, poised for the push over a perfectly pressed white button down. Simple, clean … crisp, “You.” I plucked it from the hanger and tossed it around my shoulders. The smooth tortoise shell buttons passed between my fingers easily. “Perfect.”

Now a tie. A tie makes the man, another of my father’s pearls of wisdom. “Hmm.” My eyes scanned each tie carefully. This one had to be perfectly suited. Silk? “Maybe not.” Simple linen? I tapped my fingers against my chin. “I don’t know.” Perhaps a bow tie? “No, far too formal. Maybe for the funeral.”

My eyes landed on a simple blue linen tie. I passed it between my fingers feeling the soft fabric. “Where did you come from beauty?” Pausing in front of the mirror I held the blue tie to my white button down. “Oh, that’s very nice.” Without a second thought I draped it around my neck lightly.

“Hm.” I took in my reflection. “Pants will be necessary.” There was no pause in my search for the perfect trousers, I already knew which pair would be fit for the job. A simple black cotton pair that I returned to often. I tucked in the white button down carefully. I needed to look completely put together. “Crisp.” I laughed quietly, my father had been such a strange man.

My smile faded as I caught a glimpse of my thin figure in the mirror. “This hair will never do.” I had always been a fan of a simple combed back style. The right gel to hold it in place was also essential. With all the jerking movements I was bound to execute I needed my hair to remain firmly in place.

I finished off my crisp look with just the right pair of loafers. ‘Not too formal this time.” I let my gaze linger in the full length mirror as I straightened the tie. “Perfect. Now let’s go kill a man.” I paused for a moment allowing the words to sink in. “That’s quite sexist. It could be a woman too.”

It Comes with the Territory

WordPress Daily Prompt – Territory

Today I’m breaking the mold. I’m writing an actual blog.

Creative writing is my territory, I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been able to write I guess. While other kids were playing barbies and trolls (child of the 80’s/90’s folks) my mom was hauling home boxes of recycled copy paper for me to scrawl little stories across.

After a while I got really savvy and started stapling them into legit little copy paper books. I’m pretty sure my mom still has them.

I remember in one of them a family went on vacation. The two little girls in the back kept asking that dreaded four word question, “are we there yet?” In fact, they asked so much that when they tried to get the parents attention to inform them of an actual issue like, ya know, luggage falling off the top of the car, the parents ignored them.

They finally arrive at their destination to find a trail of spilled suitcases in their wake. Classic. I even drew little pictures. The people were stick figures but come on, I had just penned a masterpiece, the pictures were not my concern.

I did this for years, I wrote stories any time I figured I was about to fail a class. Inevitably the teacher would say I had great talent and pass me. This may explain why I have no firm grounding in math yet am half way through a master’s degree in economics (with a 3.7 thank ya very much).

I never took any formal creative writing classes until my senior year of high school.

Imagine my shock when I barely passed.

How could that be?! I was good at writing! It was the only thing I considered myself to be good at!

I was good at writing but absolute junk at editing. In fact I don’t think I had ever consciously edited anything I wrote. And grammar, commas, semi-colons … oh my. Let’s not discuss those.

The point to all of this is something that has been on my mind pretty heavy lately. That is living with passion. Passion for who you are, for what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

There is nothing more attractive than that passion for life, for music or art or whatever your poison of choice is.

Everyday we make a conscious choice. We decide, over and over, how we’re going to live; what path we’re going to walk. That choice affects everything, not only ourselves but the things we interact with.

Call me a hippie, I’ll own it, but we’re connected in every way to each other and to the universe around us. We may not fully understand it yet, we may live our entire lives wondering just how exactly it works but there’s no denying that we are.

So my call to action today is this. Own your territory. Find it, love it, embrace it and be passionate about it. Use it for the better, use it for others but most of all, use it for yourself. If you find that one thing, one person, one moment that can light your world on fire, grab it and do not let go.

Fountain of Youth

WordPress Daily Prompt – Elixir

“It’s through here.” The older man’s rough voice teemed with excitement. “I can’t believe it. All these years …” He trailed off as the small team pushed through the tunnel.

Alice Benson examined her team mates. Childlike excitement danced across each face.

“This will be the discovery of the century Benson.” The man next to her ran a hand over his tired eyes. “We’re lucky it didn’t take a century to find.”

“It did, kind of.” Alice ventured. “I mean, think about it, how long has it been a central part of literature? I mean … I can’t remember off the top of my head … but perhaps since before we started writing stories down.” Ahead of her another woman, slightly older, let out a chuckle while she rubbed her glasses against her torn and faded button down.

“Benson’s got a point. The fountain of youth ring any bells?” The trio giggled like children on Christmas.

“We’re almost there.” The older man’s rough voice brought them back to reality. “Just through these vines here.”

“Hold on.” Alice suddenly felt the urge to run. Adrenaline pumped through her, fueling the heightening vibrations she felt pulsing through her body. “We need to take a minute. This is going to be the greatest discovery … ever maybe.” She watched as the realization dawned on the face of each member of the team. “Rob, how long have you searched? How many years ago was it that you pulled us together for this?”

The older man’s rough voice cracked with emotion, “So long.”

“And Gina, Gina, how many nights have we spent on this? Pouring over research? Drawing up maps? Throwing out ‘what if’ scenarios?” The slightly older woman nodded somberly. Alice couldn’t help but notice the tears in the corners of her eyes. “And Josh, Jesus, you’ve been on this almost as long as Rob. Without you two … without you two we wouldn’t be here.”

Josh closed his eyes in quiet reverence. “We would have found a way to search for centuries if that was what it took.”

“In a way we have.” Gina pressed her palms together and rested her fingertips against her chin. “And here we are.”

“Here we are.” Alice finished. “Let’s just take a moment. We’re about to make history.” The lump in her throat grew as tears threatened to spill over. Each member of the team stood quietly, staring into space, considering the possibilities. Where would they all be if they weren’t here? What would this change?

“It’ll change everything.” Josh quietly answered the question hanging in the air.

“Let’s go make history folks.” Rob broke away from the group and took the first steps towards the vine covered opening.

The cavern glowed with warm blues and purples. The coolness of the tunnels evaporated into a humid mist. Positioned directly in the middle of the cavern was a well made of smooth limestone.

“Man made?” The question emerged from Gina’s lips as a sigh in the silence. Alice ran her fingers slowly along the slick limestone.

“Not natural for sure.” The condensation on the rocks was warm. “Maybe it’s built over a spring? This is warm.” Alice peered into the well, through the steam she could see a thick dark liquid swirling inside.

“Let me get a sample.” Rob leaned in close to Alice. “Looks kind of sinister doesn’t it?” Alice watched the liquid swirling gently.

“It’s very odd. Warm? Swirling like that? And … it smells. Do you smell that?” Rob inhaled deeply.

“I don’t smell anything but damp rocks and plants.” Josh fished a container of small glass vials from his bag. “Do you smell anything Gina?” Gina focused her camera on one of the plants climbing along the wall.

“Nope.” The flash thew the cavern into sharp contrast for a split second before fading. Alice drew in a sharp breath and jumped back.

“Gina, holy shit. Did you guys see that? Gina bring the camera over here, take a picture of that corner.”

The team watched intently as the flash cast a harsh light onto the corner.

“There!” Alice cried. “Did you guys see that?” The team exchanged glances. “What kind of place is this? Rob, where did you bring us?” Josh placed his hands on Alice’s shoulders.

“Benson what are you looking at? There’s nothing in that corner.”

“What do you mean there’s nothing? You don’t see it? It’s only becoming more clear now. I guess my eyes just needed to adjust.” Tears spilled over Alice’s cheeks.

“Alice.” Rob turned her to face him. “Alice, look at me. There’s nothing in that corner. Come on, I’ve got the samples. Let’s head back out.”

“Yeah.” Gina stared at her small watch. “I’ve completely lost what time it is. This thing isn’t working anymore.”

Josh tapped at his watch impatiently. “Mine too. Doesn’t matter, we haven’t been down here that long. Maybe an hour? We can head back to town and get some grub when we get back.”

“We can’t go back out there.” Alice muttered quietly. “Everything. This changes everything.” Rob slipped a comforting arm around Alice’s shoulders.

“The weight of the discovery. I know, when I found my first big thing it took me days to really have it sink in. Come on, we’ll talk about it over lunch.” The man pulled a stiff Alice towards the opening. “Come on, you have to cooperate a little, the tunnels too small for me to carry you.”

Alice’s legs moved stiffly, the further the team pulled her from the cavern the greater her urge to run back into it became. Josh moved the flashlight rapidly between two openings.

“I thought we just came straight.” The confusion in Gina’s voice echoed through the tunnels.

“Yeah, I don’t remember this split.” Josh ran his fingers through his short hair.

“Maybe we just didn’t notice it.” Rob kept his voice reassuring as he pulled Alice along. “Which one is the straighter of the two?” Josh squinted as he peered down each dark path.

“Neither looks particularly straight …”

“The one on the left seems to veer off more, let’s go right. I definitely don’t remember many twists and turns.” The team moved slowly down the path.

“Do you hear that?” Alice’s voice caused Rob to jump.

“Hear? What exactly?” Gina turned her light back towards the two slower members of the team.

“You don’t hear it?” Alice whispered. “We have to go back.” Rob let out a loud groan.

“No. We’re not going back. Look, we all know this is intense but you have to get it together.”

“Maybe we should have the doc check her out when we get back.” Josh called from ahead. “I see an opening!”

“Finally. Come on.” Rob continued pulling Alice through the tunnel.

“The light is coming from right up here. I’m not sure it’s the way we came in but once we get out we can get a better idea of where we are.”

“Oh shit. It’s hot. Was it this hot when we left?” Gina pulled at her collar. The heat emanating from the cavern entrance was almost overwhelming.

“Well, we are in the jungle.” Rob offered. Even several feet back the heat was causing beads of sweat to form on his forehead. Behind him Alice let out a shrill scream.

“Don’t go!” She cried. “Can you not hear them?! It’s so loud!” Rob watched the young woman drop to her knees and bury her face in her hands.

“We need to get her to the doctor, maybe something bit her in the cave.” Gina wiped the sweat from her neck. “It is freaking hot though.”

“Let’s get out of here and find out where the road is.” Josh turned back to Alice. “I’ll carry her, this is getting ridiculous.” He scooped the woman from the floor and nodded towards Gina. “Lead the way.”


 

I feel good about this.

Baby

WordPress Daily Prompt – Baby

Baby,
I can hear you choking on the word.
Baby,
The strain in your voice is almost too much to take.
Please …
You struggle
Don’t …
The sobs rack your shoulders.

Baby,
I can hear you cry.
Baby,
Barely above a whisper.
Why?
As you fight to make sense.

Baby,
Fades from memory.
Baby,
Half a world away.

Baby,
I’ll never remember.

Baby