Category Archives: fiction

Hang Ups

It’s 1981, you’re 12 years old.

You wait for your parents to leave, you know they won’t approve of what you’re about to do. You watch until the taillights of the family Pinto disappear around the curve of your cul-de-sac, and then walk to the kitchen.

Leaning against the door of the pantry, you reach over and lift the receiver from the phone on the wall. You inhale deeply and exhale slowly as you dial his number, your index finger moving in seven separate, arduous arcs.

One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy. Three. The butterflies in your stomach take flight and fill your throat with a sharp tickle of panicky giggles. Four rings. “Hello?” answers the voice of the cutest boy in school. You slam your hand on the hook, ending the call, and quickly hang up.

You can do this all night. He’ll never know it was you.

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Filed under autobigraphy, communication, dating, essay, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, memoir, relationships, sarcasm, the 80's, women

Bitches Be Crazy

2015-10-20 20.49.40This is what it looks like when you make chocolate chip cookies on the Georgie. It would be a waste of energy (Washington Gas) to heat up the whole oven for just two cookies, and it’s too much energy (oh, my aching back) to climb up to the shelf and get the toaster oven, so I made cookies on the Georgie.

I swear my friend J told me she did this before with good results. But that was in the late nineties, when we got all “holistic,” ate quinoa, went off our meds, and did things like make cookies on the Georgie. “Bitches be crazy” comes to mind.

Last night I shared my cookies and some stories I wrote with my neighbor. I turned my head to look out the window while he read, but I could see the reflection of his face in the glass. He smiled some. He shook his head some. More shaking than smiling. When he finished the last story, he tapped the papers together and looked at me. “Is this true?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “I change the names and sometimes add things here and there, but mostly it’s true.”

“No, I mean the way the women act. Don’t they have any self-esteem? They keep chasing after guys, well, pretty much the same guy – the one who is the least interested in them. They’re totally disconnected from reality. In every single one of these stories they have a chance to learn something, to change, but they don’t. They just blow it all off with some crap about true love and keep right on making themselves miserable. What the hell?”

I folded my hands in my lap, lifted my chin, and took a deep breath. “Yes,” I said. “It’s the curse of being a romantic.” My neighbor groaned. “That’s bullshit and you know it,” he said.

“Let’s say you’re right,” I replied. “Let’s say there is no such thing as true love. Can’t you pursue it anyway? There are plenty of people looking for the Loch Ness monster, Atlantis, buried Aztec treasure. What if dating is your hobby? What does it hurt if you keep playing the game? When the game involves phone calls, and dresses, and dinners and heartache? It’s exhilarating. It feels. It’s fun.”

“Did you say fun?” my neighbor asked.

“Yes, and entertaining, too. How else could Harlequin and Hollywood stay in business? Women love this stuff.”

“Women. Well that explains it. Bitches be crazy.”

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Dating is Like a Chocolate Pecan Cupcake

Yesterday I wanted Pecan Pie. I also wanted Chocolate Cupcakes. So, I decided to put the two together. Seeking guidance, I turned to the internet, where I found dozens of recipes, all written by witty ladies and teeming with glamorous photos of food.

My photo doesn’t look like that. Mine looks like this:  20150809_115211-1

Messy. Complicated. A work in progress.

And so, I bring you: Dating Is Like A Chocolate Pecan Cupcake.

The photo shows you my first tentative efforts. I’ve got the ingredients, I’m ready to go. I’ve told all my friends I’m going to pursue this, so I’m pretty much committed.

The internet ladies didn’t mention that there would be a cat in the kitchen, the one that wove itself between and around my legs while I tried to cook. The cat represents the things about the dating relationship that were cute at the beginning, but soon become a major annoyance, like his snoring or the way I sing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” all day on Sunday when I do, well, the laundry.

Let’s say you get past the cat (although it never leaves the kitchen), and you make it to the point where you’ve got all the ingredients mixed together, the batter in the little fluted papers, and the pan in the oven. You look on the counter and there you see the pecans, which were supposed to go in the batter, and the Hershey’s Cocoa, which wasn’t even in the recipe. These are the little things you didn’t expect, like his friends being complete assholes or your insisting that he go with you to the “80’s Retro Dance Party” on the third Saturday of every month.

You try to recoup by pulling the pan out of the oven and sprinkling the pecans on top of the half baked cupcakes. The pecans are the guy in the accounting department who you keep flirting with, just in case your new relationship crashes and burns and you need a last minute date to your cousin Yvonne’s wedding next April. Speaking of crashing and burning, the pecans begin to smoke. No need to explain this, you all know the beginning of the end when you smell it.

But you remain hopeful, and leave the cupcakes in that 350-degree heat for another little while.

When you finally admit that they’re done, your friends look at your ruined cupcakes and put on fake smiles. “It’s not that bad,” they say. “You can try again another time, maybe use a new recipe.” That’s what all happily married women with 2.5 beautiful children say to their hopelessly single friends.

And now you’re stuck with the dishes. You’ve used every pot and pan you own to make this mess. You fill the sink and squirt in the detergent, you pull on the worn yellow gloves. You can hear your friends telling you that it won’t take as long as you think it will, that you’ll feel so much better when it’s done. You vow that next time you’ll do things differently, you’ll read the recipe all the way through, you’ll, you’ll – oh screw it, there is no positive spin to this. Everyone hates to do the dishes.

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Filed under aging, autobigraphy, chocolate, communication, conflict, cupcakes, dance, divorce, fiction, flash fiction, food, friendship, humor, irony, relationships, sarcasm, the 80's, women, writing

arachnid facial infestation

A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face.
The turgid mass has grown so large that surely, at any moment, it will burst and spew forth dozens of arachnid progeny. I am certain of this.

The lump is definitely not a massive zit that I have manhandled to the point where the resultant purple and yellow bruise is scaring small children.

No. A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face. I am certain of this.

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Freeway Funk

Leslie had never wanted to drive on the freeway. She never wanted to go that fast. She didn’t ski, she didn’t bike, she didn’t rollerblade for the same reason. Going fast wasn’t desirable. Going fast risked being out of control, at the whim of gravity and unpredictable factors like angry drivers, roads in poor condition and stray animals. No, freeways were laden with dangers, rife with the chance of pain and death.

Not that death was that scary. There were plenty of days that death seemed appealing. A way to stop all the hopelessness and anxiety. What if I’m in this job forever?  How will I ever find another job if I lose this one?  How can I have a PhD and be so unqualified for anything?

So, most days she was open to death. It was the pain that worried her. Dismembered, brain damaged, these were the real dangers of going fast. A rock on a bike path could throw her off balance and crack her skull. A mogul, coming up too soon, could incite a swerve into a gully and break her legs. A bear, wandering onto the freeway… and so on. So many scenarios that could bring pain and a longer, more miserable life than the one she had now.

Fairytales would have her meet a man or take up a hobby that filled her soul and brought her joy. She wasn’t keen on either of those.

What brought her a reluctant sense of relief was to stop going on about how depressed she felt, get up from her desk and fucking do something like, for example, get dressed and go to work.

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Hosed.

Fade in.

I’m soaking wet, but I don’t mind. In fact, it feels good. I’m tired, my back aches, and I am utterly clueless as to where I am or what I’m doing. What day is it? I ask myself. That’s always a good place to start. Friday, okay. Friday. So what am I… oh. I close my eyes. It’s Friday morning. I’m in the shower. I open my eyes and look around. How long have I been here? Have I soaped yet? Shampooed? Is it time for the conditioner or should I reach for the face scrub? I have no idea. I have not a clue about what I’m doing, but it’s okay.

I’m barely conscious of what goes on after that. I find myself eating breakfast and drinking tea, so I presume I toasted Eggos and boiled water. The cat seems to be happy so I must have given her some kibble and cleaned out her litter box. My next awareness is that I’m at an office; I have to assume I dressed myself and drove the half hour it takes to get here. I cop a quick feel to make sure I’m wearing a bra. Yes. Good.

I’m sitting at a desk dominated by two monstrous monitors and covered with piles of papers. Budget projections, pricing proposals, requests for equitable adjustments. It washes over me that I work in accounting. For a government contractor. This is my job? Me, with a degree in ceramic arts? Me, an aspiring writer? I look at the papers and the jumble of Excel spreadsheets on the monitors. I don’t know what to do next, not even where to start. I have not a clue about what I’m doing, but it’s payday.

jenny rained for 40 days BIG

 

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Writing Group Angst

Let’s say you’re in a hotel conference room, attending your very first meeting of the Low Country Writers’ Group (Mount Pleasant Chapter). It’s a panel talk on “Getting Closer to Getting Published.” While you wait for the guest speakers to arrive, you look back through the notebook you’ve brought with you – the one you always bring to things like this – and, becoming aware of wetness under your arms and realizing how appallingly ineffective your new deodorant is, you see that the two-word notes you’ve been leaving for yourself, snippets of story ideas jotted down in your almost illegible shorthand, meant to inspire future writing, are utterly worthless. “Cherry Pie = Pizza Pie”, “Baby, not Piano”, “Aqua Velva and Farts.” Seriously? You can’t even be sure if those are references to personal experiences or things you saw on late night comedy shows. Who knows.

The moderator cheerfully kicks off the opening ice breaker: “Tell us your name and what you’re working on,” she says. You take a quick look around the room. In so doing, you identify a group of thirty-two people, of which you are in a minority, the minority comprised of three attendees under the age of 50. As the introductions go around the table you meet a woman with three books published, another woman who is trying to decide which agent she wants to go with, and a man – one of the men in your under-50 group – who has a PhD and teaches creative writing at the College of Charleston. You think of what you will tell these people when it is your turn to speak. You have about twenty-five short stories in various stages of completion. Your mother says they’re really good, always adding, “… and I’m not just saying that because you’re my daughter.” Head down, you smell a funk waft up from your armpits as evidence of your deodorant’s epic fail. You look up to tally the people who will talk before you have to, and this glance reveals you to be in another minority, a minority of one: those who are grossly overdressed. And, although your mother has always said that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, you begin to formulate the rebuttal you will give to any of the shorts and flip-flop clad strangers when they ask why you are wearing a floral wrap dress and heels – you will tell them you are on your way to a baby shower, a wedding, a bris… something important, something adult, anything that might lend credibility to you – the most uncomfortable person in the room.

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