Tag Archives: short story

Unremembered (Part 8)

 

Just now joining the Unremembered party (or need a refresher)? Click here to start from the beginning, then follow the link at the bottom to part 2, etc. And don’t forget to watch out for more installments!

***

 

I didn’t hear the ringing at first, my head was buried so far beneath a tower of pillows in an attempt to stop the spinning in my brain. My skull ached with regret as I replayed the kiss I’d planted on Jamie the night before.

The caller didn’t let up. I fought my way out of the tangled sheets and somehow made it onto my feet and to the phone on the dresser. He was clearing his throat as I picked up.

“Hey, Detective Mills,” I started.

“Mr. Hamilton. How are you?”

His usual, pointless greeting. I stood up a little straighter, waiting to hear what “incriminating” evidence he’d found while tearing apart our home. A lock of hair? A mysterious foot print? A kitchen knife that looked a little too dull?

Then my mind flickered to the person who claimed to know what happened to my wife, and suddenly my knees were made of jelly because I couldn’t believe that in all my scrambled thinking and the hurricane that had recently become my life that I had somehow tucked away the single most important piece of I don’t know what, and right then I was angry, so very angry that Detective Mills had failed to mention more past a single obscure phone call just before he accused me of murdering Lily. And now that it had all flooded back in my heart was sinking and so was I, right back to the floor like the first time.

I think he sensed it, knew all the questions that had just now started seething from my chest. We were both silent, for minutes, I think.

“That other person,” I started, choking on the rest of the words.

“I was beginning to wonder why you weren’t more curious about that,” he said. The calm in his voice sent a warning jolt through my stomach.

“I guess it fell to the bottom of my priority list once you asked me if I killed my wife.” My mouth was a desert.

“She claimed to be a friend of Lily’s, went to college with her. Really pretty girl, a blonde. She said this isn’t the first time Lily’s gone missing, and probably won’t be the last. I thought it was a little strange but her story didn’t really lead anywhere, so we tossed it.”

Jamie. I muttered a thanks, a goodbye, placed the phone on the receiver and threw up in our clothes hamper.

***

Continue reading here with Part 9.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Writing

Unremembered (Part 5)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Like the day Lily disappeared, I lost all the in between moments of my consciousness – putting on my shoes, getting in the car, driving to the police station. In my mind I’d gone from phone call to bland interrogation room, the fluorescent lighting overhead making my eyes squint. The only two chairs reminded me of the scratchy waiting room kind one would find in a doctor’s office; I sat in one, Detective Mills sat in the other. He folded his hands on the table and stared at a spot on the wall behind my shoulder for a while.

I shifted uncomfortably, like a criminal. Was I about to be accused of something, or told my wife was dead? I bit my lip to avoid asking where other person was, the one who said they knew what happened to her. Finally, Mills opened his mouth and darkness came out.

“Mr. Hamilton, did you kill your wife?”

I blinked several times, trying to remove the spots that had formed in front of my eyes. The small interrogation room had suddenly become a runaway carousel and I gripped the arms of my chair to keep from falling off. I said nothing although my jaw hung loose with shock. If I cried, banged my fists on the table, fell to my knees in despair, would it matter? Like an innocent man accused of rape or abuse, once the accusations take flight he is doomed, forever – guilty or not. The scowls and whispers become infinite. Unless Lily walked into the room right then, Detective Mills had already dubbed me guilty of murder; but I had to defend myself, with whatever piece of soul I had left.

I cleared my throat, raised my eyes to his. “No,” I said, calm, direct. No fireworks, just truth.

“Would you mind if we took a look around your home?”

The invasion had begun.

***

Click here for Part 6.

18 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Unremembered (Part 4)

Only joining now? Click here to start from the beginning.

 

It felt like hours had passed before I peeled myself out of the chair in our living room. My body ached and I felt hollow and strangely hungry, though the hunger pains were quickly replaced by nausea brought on by the idea of actual food. The room was empty now except for me. Our parents had skittered off to various parts of the house to run their fingers over objects and dab at their eyes with wrinkled tissues; nothing productive, nothing helpful.

Yet I couldn’t bring myself to feel anger at their blaming of me, or even at their unwillingness to make frantic phone calls or attach eight-by-tens of Lily’s face to utility poles. The police had promised to explore every possible lead, comb through every area of town. They felt small and helpless, so instead they shrunk into corners and pointed fingers until someone else could make it all better; and slowly, reluctantly, I accepted that it was all I could do, too.

I spent the next few days like a child feeling for a new, comfortable routine: wake, shower, dress, eat (maybe), make a phone call grasping for updates. The other end of the line was always the same officer, sighing in the same way, feeding me the same empty words he likely presented to all families of cases that seemed to be going nowhere.

I’d already scanned Lily’s side of the sheets at least fifty times, sifted through her end of the closet, checked under the bed; I had no idea what I was hoping to find, maybe a clue, maybe my sanity. I retraced her usual jogging route, sat again where I’d curled into myself and released a siren in the underbrush. When the sun had fallen and risen so many times I’d lost count I found myself scooping toast crumbs into a zip lock bag, the ones beneath the toaster left from her breakfast the morning she disappeared; crazy, grieving things.

It was a Wednesday when the phone rang with forcefulness, a tone of urgency I hadn’t heard before. I was in the bedroom closet dusting Lily’s endless collection of shoes when it began, and something told me to drop everything and rush downstairs before the answering machine – that still chirped her voice – chimed in.

“Hello?”

I was slightly breathless after a mix of inhaling cleaner and rushing down the staircase. I knew who it was before the voice on the other line even started.

“Mr. Hamilton, how are you?” Standard, even though we both knew the answer.

“Fine, Detective, thank you.”

A pause pulled taught, longer than usual. My knuckles whitened around the phone. Deep breaths from his end.

“We have someone here who claims he knows what happened to Lily.”

I stumbled backwards, slid helplessly down the wall, pulled my knees to my chest.

***

Click here to begin reading this series from the very beginning.

Go here for Part 5.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

The Most Outlandish Tale About Anxiety and Depression Ever Told.

 

Wait wait, the story doesn’t start here!  This is a blog hop, people!  Click HERE to start from the beginning.

I have the tendency to park at least 8,000 miles away from the mall, somewhere near that one overhead light that blew out weeks ago and no one ever fixed, the only sign of civilization a flattened soda bottle and an empty fast food wrapper and some guy in dirty jeans and a windbreaker in the middle of July smoking a cigarette by the soda bottle and fast food wrapper.

So now I was half walking half running to my car, fully expecting the elderly lady with the white hair to pop out from the shadows with a nail file pointed in my direction. My stomach was in knots and suddenly my fingers had turned into carrots, and there I was fumbling with my keys horror movie style while the invisible villain breathed down my neck.

Finally inside, I locked the doors and whirled around to check the backseat. As usual, no serial killers.

 
Almost home, my breath had finally gone from about-to-give-birth to some definition of normal, and instead of searching for a paper bag to breathe into I was now in want of wine, tightly drawn curtains and some depressing ‘90s alternative rock, so I changed into the Disney pajama pants I hadn’t washed in at least two weeks (they smelled a little questionable but I put them on anyway) and crawled into bed, ready to break the world record for feeling the most sorry for myself.

Click HERE to continue the story.

19 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Unremembered (Part 2)

 

The sun was just beginning to dust the sky in pinks and greys and we were still on her doorstep, a modest collection of empty beer bottles at our ankles. It was early October, the air clean and brittle, and our voices floated unnoticed into the still sleeping morning. She tucked her chin into my shoulder and I inhaled her – sweet, floral, like home.

“My parents will be up soon,” she said. I knew it was time to tear myself away from her, at least for now.

“Will I see you again?”

She smiled, effortlessly mysterious. I hung on her gestures, the constant, brilliant glow of her.

A month passed before I saw her again. I’d deflated weeks before; intoxicated after one long, hazy night, I’d drifted through the week with nothing more than silence on her end. One phone call attempt went ignored, and so I quickly gave up. Obsessiveness never looked good on me.

I was trekking back home with a sandwich and a carton of milk when I saw her, smoking a cigarette and chatting with a friend outside of a brick-walled corner bar one block from my place. She wore a wool scarf that swallowed her neck and chin, black leather boots that hugged her legs just below the knee. I didn’t remember her smoking when we met.

After a second of debate I tucked the milk and sandwich under one arm and approached her.

“Lily?” I forced a smile. There was something different about her now – instead of comfort I felt purely uncomfortable. She turned to me and for a moment there was a look of concern on her face as she scanned over me, as if she was trying to remember how we knew each other. Internally, I was collapsing. Quickly I began to feel small, pathetic, and childlike. How could she forget?

Then something changed, like the imaginary light bulb had clicked on and her lips parted in a sunburst of a smile.

“Matt!” She yelled, and threw her arms around me like an old friend. My own arms hung limply at my sides for a moment, then slowly I wrapped them around her waist. I couldn’t stop myself, even in all the confusion. Her friend, a pale girl with long brown hair, looked bored as she pulled out another cigarette.

“How have you been?” she said, stomping out her own cigarette with one leather boot.

“Um,” I opened and closed my mouth awkwardly, ransacking my brain for words, for anything. “I was surprised I never heard from you.” I couldn’t help but get to the point.

“Sorry,” she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “I’ve just been busy, I guess.”

She didn’t look busy now, standing on the corner, beer on her breath. Still, that warm, familiar rush began to return until I’d forgotten the strangeness of it all and we were melting into each other on two bar stools in the middle of the day, my milk souring on the floor beneath us.

***

Click here to start from the beginning; follow along for more installments!

Click here for Part 3.

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Hold Your Tongue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always known myself to be a patchwork of spindly arms and legs, a little thicker in the center, a little fuller in the cheeks. My appearance see-sawed from plump to almost sickly throughout high school, scrutinized nonetheless; kids are, were, so uninhibited, so cruel, always heaping together like frightened mice then breaking apart, only then with a few less pieces of themselves. Undaunted bumper cars they are, always coming back together again. Adolescence is frightening that way; either we befriend those who whisper about us in the locker room or we spend lunch with the only other kid who decided to trade loyalty for self-respecting loneliness. No one realizes at the time that he is the only genius in the room – he’s already glimpsed the future, where high school is just another burning bridge.

After mucking through four years of rolling emotions and even a bit of education, I was working my first job behind the cash register of a small store with bad lighting; the green rug was always covered in lint and everything cost a dollar. Each time I walked through the door the slightly stinging scent of powdered dish detergent met my nostrils and it was like plunging straight down to the gates of Hell, only instead of the Devil himself I was always met by half-deflated Mylar balloons and an old gumball machine.

One hot afternoon I was glued to my usual spot, twisting the ribbon attached to a nearby balloon, when a woman with a short haircut and an unlit cigarette hanging from her lips approached the counter. She mumbled something I couldn’t make out, but her voice was deep and grainy. I don’t remember her buying anything, I only remember thinking she was on drugs, and the hazy way she laughed after asking if I was pregnant. After that, I can only assume she stumbled out of the store while I hid my face and tried to swallow the bowling ball that was forming in my throat.

Before that, my broken body image had always floated cautiously at the forefront of my young brain – the usual watering hole for self-consciousness in most girls (and boys) – but after that day I realized it must have been lurking in the shadows, begging for that perfect lapse in my own awareness where it could make its move and upgrade to the penthouse that is my here and now. That shattered reflection is now an invisible yet so perfectly noticeable extension of me, like a missing limb; I’ve learned to function again, but the damage is permanent.

I talk to myself sometimes, forever the struggling mentor. More, similar experiences piled up after that one – each putting another notch in my psyche’s bedpost. At times I shrink so far into my dark wallowing that I need hands that aren’t my own to lift me out, and then the cycle can begin again.

If there’s two things I’ve learned, it’s that every human experience, no matter how miniscule, is shrouded in possibility; and that words aren’t just noise we send out into the world – instead they are the foundation upon which we see ourselves, how we see others.

So please, hold your tongue. Because somewhere, just now, a young girl’s world has gone dark.

* * *

Click the image below to check out this week’s writing challenge over at Yeah Write!

challenge154

26 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Taking In the Night

I couldn’t quite figure out what had brought me to the moment – a road less traveled, a flip of a switch, fate? Yes, good old reliable fate. It was the only explanation, anyway, that managed to place a roadblock in my racing mind while I lifted the last shovelfuls of soil into the ditch.

I’d rolled him in face down – or he happened to land that way – and I was grateful for only having to look at the back of his head. My arms and back throbbed from hours of digging into the earth so I planted the shovel into a patch of grass and sat down for a cigarette. I fumbled for a lighter in the pocket of my jeans and ignited a tiny flame that brought one last spark to the dying afternoon.

I scanned the area, breathing in images of reds and oranges and the hard scent of early autumn that always reminded me of highways at night and the coming of snow. Memories washed over me as I assumed they always do when you lose a loved one, of holidays and one of kissing Charlie in our driveway. I blew them away with the smoke and flicked the butt into the ditch. It landed on his pant leg; I used the shovel to get it off.

Another hour’s worth of packing dirt and he was gone, and I stood looking for my own hands in the dark. I took out the lighter again and gave one last look at where I’d left him.

“Thanks for nothing,” I whispered to no one, and let the flame go out again.

We’d married young, as most did in those days, living off of whims instead of income. Soon after we’d already checked “home” and “baby” off of the list, and I’d grown bored. He worked in a factory, taking in sweat and metal and the whirring of giant machines, telling dirty jokes at lunch; I made batches of iced tea and looked forward to afternoon naps.

Our whims were quickly sealed in concrete. My hair had not yet grayed, but I had already lost the energy to break them free. “Yes dear” “No dear” were the only things that parted my lips with the exception of lullabies and a bottle of vodka in a stray kitchen cabinet. Wake up, feed child, feed husband, clean house, rinse and repeat.

I hadn’t thought much about what would happen after the sun went down, and now I’d found myself in the thick dark of the woods, ten miles from home but much further in the night. The lighter illuminated only my face and the hanging tips of tree branches, so I shoved it back in my pocket and resorted to finding my way as a zombie, arms straight out and stiff, rows of cool bark at my fingertips. I staggered through brush and remnants of a bonfire that crushed aluminum cans and paper plates beneath my feet. I smiled through pitch black. Charlie was packed in deep, the barricade of silence he’d always tried to build finally on his side.

Things got less boring as we grew older; I added heavy layers of powder to my daily makeup routine, and Charlie had become the one wielding a bottle of vodka. He didn’t bother with a cabinet to hide it in, and instead had it by his side as he enjoyed his morning paper. It doubled as mouthwash at night. I made an effort only to stay out of his way, tiptoeing through corners of my own home, cooking dinner and trying hard to disappear into the walls.

My breathing grew shallow as time passed. The darkness grew closer to me and every direction soon looked the same. Mentally I scolded myself for my lack of preparation. Finally I’d had the nerve, finally I’d freed myself, and there I was trapped in the very place I was trying so desperately to rid myself of.

He’d complained loudly about the red sauce I’d used. I told him it was the same brand I always bought – the truth. He hadn’t asked if I’d added something new.

Eventually I gave up on finding direction. I could feel my face grow hot with embarrassment although there was no one there to witness my failure as a first-time criminal. I felt below me for a patch of ground and lowered myself to my knees. I sat still, taking in the night, calm in my new-found glory and the serenity of the unknown draped at my feet.

“At least I’m finally alone,” I whispered.

I had time for one last panicked inhale before his hands were wrapped like vines around my neck and I was flailing like a rag-doll in a dying sliver of moonlight. He smelled like earth, that sweet must after a rainstorm. I thought of the grit on my skin and how my entire life had been a series of exciting beginnings and disappointing ends. I think I smiled as the moon disappeared. I think I thanked him.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Shaking Your Face From My Fingertips

A coffee cup on a kitchen counter makes quite a different melody when no quiet breathing from behind some wall works to fill the space between the snapping of my lighter and the static from the radio. Where do I set my plate when your elbows aren’t spread like wings so rude across the breakfast table? The last thing I remember, when your voice was still fresh in my head, I was cross-legged on a snow pile in a mall parking lot; pay no mind to the crazy woman with her head between her knees, melting the ice with her eyes. No one looked at me. I knew even though I never looked back.

Somehow I was back in our home – my home now – feet curled to one side like I should have been reading the latest romance novel with a cup of earl grey in one hand. Instead I curled fingers around a paisley printed box of tissues while distant family cooked dinner in our kitchen, not knowing where we kept the silverware. They roamed like tourists. When someone handed me a plate I abandoned my fork and wrote your name in strands of spaghetti.

“Eat,” a voice said. An uncle? A cousin, maybe. My chin rarely stopped kissing my chest. I moved in increments of someone twice my age and continued to trace your name in entrees and desserts. Eventually everyone held their plates above bent arms, an ethereal beauty about the living room in splashes of marinara red and apple pie tan calling for me to forge your signature. A hand on my shoulder begged get some rest but my artist’s mind was twisting through a snow storm.

Like a cinematic fast-forward I am having lunch years later but it was yesterday you died, and quietly I am ordering another glass of red, shaking your face from my fingertips.

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

A Crossroads

cabin

We are all, at some point in our lives, handed an envelope of sorts. In that envelope – sometimes crisp, sometimes worn and wrinkled, depending – are two decisions. One from your bones, one from your brainwashed head. If you lack passion, go for the head. But I say go for the bones.

Always go for the bones.

I met my first crossroads when I was eighteen. The day after graduation I was behind the wheel of my father’s pickup, winding my back way from a friend’s, when I spotted her: sweat pants, loose tee, the curve of one shoulder on point in the sinking sunlight. An old handbag clapped against her side as she weaved through trash and high grass on the side of a back road. Before the stop sign I’d already noticed her thumbing it like clockwork. I still don’t know what pressed my foot to the break pedal instead of the gas.

A jumble of words filled the air and she was in the leather cab, the handbag on the seat between us. I cleared my throat, she shifted and rested an elbow on the windowsill. The window was up and she turned her head towards blurred houses. Her fogged breath sprayed in circles on the glass. I focused on green lights until there was a red one and I asked her name as the truck idled.

“Nancy,” she said. She had some kind of accent, something nasally. I though of the city, what she was doing here. I nodded and twisted my grip on the steering wheel. “Take me to the nearest motel,” she’d asked. I managed to avoid passing any in town, and headed far out with methodical turns. She stayed relaxed. My mind raced.

“Here” I said, parking. A tan, rectangular building and a neon sign, that was all. The highest curve of the sun was peaking from behind it. I smiled. “Let me pay, it’s the least I can do.” As if the ride hadn’t been enough, she didn’t object.

I slipped the credit card back into my wallet, we headed through the parking lot to 32B, I opened the door. She had nothing but the handbag, nothing I could offer to carry. “Thanks,” she mumbled, holding the knob. Suddenly her face was a landside of realization. I stared at the navy carpet from the doorway. Her grip loosened like the waving of a white flag. Her whole, complicated life, had it all come to this? Maybe it was nothing new.

I stepped inside.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Maybe He’d Found His Wings

 

imagesCAN8Y6OQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was on my second glass of wine when I heard Joe pull up. The dog did her usual tap-dance across the kitchen floor while I headed outside. We both noticed it at just about the same moment, small and squat in the middle of the warm driveway, right on the crack in the concrete where tiny weeds sprout. It was in the shade, at least. I expected it to take off when it saw Joe; I ran when I saw it was still unmoving as he approached.

“Is it hurt?” I asked.

“Not sure.”

I lowered myself to the bird’s level. Its head was round, its body equal in shape but larger. It was the same shade of gray everything turns when the sky goes dark; the only color was a bright yellow feather that stuck out sideways far beneath all the gray.

“I think its neck is broken,” Joe said.

The bird kept its small eyes closed, rolling its head from side to side like Ray Charles playing a beat. I stared, helpless, my hands limp between my knees. What do you do when there’s nothing to be done? Stomping it out of its misery was never an option. When you have nothing to offer, do you stick around for the suffering? Hiding inside until the rain stops is just as torturous.

I wanted to pick it up, to hold it even if it didn’t know what I was doing. “Use these,” Joe said, handing me a pair of work gloves. They smelled of old leather and were rough at the fingertips. I scooped the bird up, cupping him between both of my palms. He struggled a bit then stopped, calm in my hands. My eyes swelled.

“What do we do?” I asked.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Joe said. “I don’t have a BB gun to kill it.”

“We have to do something,” I said, frantic now. This creature, this lost thing in my driveway had somehow become my responsibility. Was it the wine or my heart that kept him in my hands even when we were hidden beside the garage, behind the fence, where the dog wouldn’t get to the poor thing as it slowly passed? My eyes burned. The wind started to pick up.

“What if it’s cold?”

Joe rolled his eyes.

“Can we put it on something? An old rag? Anything?” I grabbed at him.

Appeasing me he took off for the house and came back with a wrinkled piece of paper towel. I placed it in a wheelbarrow and lay our friend on top. He immediately hopped into the shallow rain water that had collected in one corner.

“Somewhere else,” I said, scooping him up again and placing him on a patch of earth cushioned with leaves and other things the trees had shed. I watched him, his eyes still shut, cozied up against old chain-link fence and concrete and forgotten piles of dirt. The burning got worse. My eyes, my throat, my lungs. Joe’s hand on my shoulder weighed like a stone.

When my grandfather died, I faltered. I didn’t see him, this man I’d known all my life. I worked, I lived, I busied myself with the future while he lay with none. One state over the world had stopped turning, but for me it had not.

I stayed crouched beside the shed for minutes that felt like years, in between the dirt and concrete, while inside dinner cooked and the wine sat uncorked. If I gave myself away for just a short time, would I gain or lose? Gain, I thought.

Eventually I was forced away, Joe holding my shoulders as I wiped my cheeks. “Nothing else you can do,” he said. I wasn’t sure I’d done anything at all, but as I escaped back inside my shoulders loosened.

The hours appeared and escaped, the drinks were poured and disappeared. My mind wandered elsewhere for the night, and when the sun showed up again I was somewhere else, until I stepped into the backyard and remembered. He’d checked, Joe told me, and the bird had moved a few feet, hidden elsewhere now among the hardened scenery. I forgot again.

A day later I put the dog inside and made my way to that back gate, to the space beside the shed, and searched. Among the leaves, the plastic, the wheelbarrow, I found nothing. Maybe he’d found his wings, maybe he’d went off to die alone; maybe his pride had been too strong to let him fade away in our backyard.

We all leave the same: alone, shallow, flesh and bone we can’t pack up and take with us. We can’t go together, but we can take the walk side by side, until the fog dissipates and you are still here, and they are there. What if they remember? It might help, it might not. Some final brush with life makes for a better escape than lonesome, unforgiving darkness.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing