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A Thousand Points of Light

This has turned into a series of fiction. If you tend to skip days, and you’ve skipped the past couple, you might want to backtrack before reading this post. This story begins with the fictional post, Expecting the Unexpected. Click here to begin at the beginning. And, thank you. Of all the hundreds of thousands of existing options for entertaining blog reading, I am honored you stopped here and chose me.

Halos. Auras. Bright squigglies. They all fill her sight lines as she peels away from the life she flees and ridicule her drive toward the  existence she escaped. Oncoming headlights dance in mockery, a visual party on the windshield of the wreck of a truck. Her little brother sleeps with his head in her lap. It’s for him that she keeps the machine in the road, fighting the glare of the approaching beams two-by-two.

She rubs her eyes with the back of one hand. Is someone following her? Orbs flutter in the rearview mirror. Approach-and-drop-back, a pattern that continues for miles of mindless country road. Just when she feels the tentacles of terror encircle her lungs and squeeze the air, rueful paranoia takes their place. After all, if he were chasing her, he wouldn’t wait until she was practically back to the home place before overtaking them.

Her head hurts. She massages her temple and tries to recall the last time she really slept, the oblivion of the child passed out with his head on one of her legs. Did she ever know slumber so sweet?

Her mouth fills with the taste of metal as the ancient truck lurches. Light fills the cab and explodes like fireworks before her eyes. Was it a bump in the road, or did another vehicle just rear end her? She scrabbles for the mirror, but she can only see another series of fireworks, streaking reds and blues and oranges wherever she tries to focus. Desperate, she tries to see her hands. They look like grooved leather, scattered with spots and freckles. When did she get so old? A glimpse of her face in the mirror reveals a crone in place of the girl she was, her life sprawling before her.

Did she waste that life? Chain reactions in her brain obscure her memory. All she knows for certain, before the stroke scrubs her brain clean, is that she faced a crossroads that long-ago night, the night she left her first husband. It’s the reel that plays continuously as she loses her wits, slips into a world without feeling.

Her first chance to take an unexpected path is the one she’s lived her life regretting. It’s the snippet of searing regret that will play behind her eyelids in a thousand points of light.

For all time.

Denise at Adeeyoyo wrote an exquisite poem yesterday. It accompanies this series perfectly. Please follow this link to read her words.

Redemption Isn’t Free

This has turned into a series of fiction. If you tend to skip days, and you’ve skipped the past couple, you might want to backtrack before reading this post. This story begins with the fictional post, Expecting the Unexpected. Click here to begin at the beginning. And, thank you. Of all the hundreds of thousands of existing options for entertaining blog reading, I am honored you stopped here and chose me.

My feet sink into the humid dewey grass. Clods of dirt make walking tough, and this blasted rifle isn’t helping. Dad always makes me carry this one, and it’s too big for me. Plus, there’s no way everybody in the neighborhood doesn’t know we’re here, with him practically crashing through the front of the building in glaring announcement. He’s stooped and creeping along ahead of me, weaving this way and that in what he thinks are evasive tactics but are really just him being drunk.

I stop and hold my breath. We’re in that crazy part of the morn. The night critters boom like the bass section of an orchestra, reverberating in the chest, until they just stop. In the minutes before the birds start singing, there’s nothing. No sound. It’s like the world up and died.

I don’t want to go in there during the deadest part of night. I might never be able to leave.

With a shudder, I pick up my pace and get right behind my Dad. He’s trying to see through the little square window in the front door, the one that’s too high for me. He takes a step backward and falls on top of me, dragging three loaded guns and our bodies onto the hard concrete. I feel the barrel of a gun in my side, pinned there under his passed-out heft. His breath oozes from his face like cooped-up air in a distillery. I’m afraid to move. Every time I try to inch my way out from under him, the cool steel digs into my ribs. Panic isn’t going to help me rescue my sister, but I feel my heart thrashing in my throat with the realization that the slightest mistake could pull a happy trigger. I close my eyes and breathe deep, try to control my scattering thoughts and make them pleas.

A sucking sound punctures my reverie. Light streams from the open front door and silhouettes a man. HIM.

You need to take that drunk and go on home now he snarls. Your sister is fine. I take pristine care of her.

He’s wearing a get-up that, from this angle on the ground, looks like a woman’s house dress. Backlighting illumines ruffles around the collar. His stubby feet are smooth and at my eye level, just beyond my reach. He stands there, twirling the sash of his girly-looking garb and leering down at me. Bitter bile fills the back of my throat.

She begged me not to fail her.

He backs into the house and starts to slam the door when an explosion rocks through me. I’m hit! I’m hit!  I hear myself screaming down the tunnel of reverberation, only to realize HE’S running down the street with his stupid dress fluttering behind him. Is HE shot?

Summoning all my strength, I heave my father’s bulk off of me. It’s his pistol that fired and took a piece out of the corner of the front door. He’s still snoring in his own liquored-up world.

I run through the apartment, shouting her name. Bathroom! I hear her scream over the cascading sound of running water. She meets me at the top of the stairs and grabs my hand. You have to help me pack up the truck with as much stuff as we can take before he gets back. She starts loading up her arms with trinkets, her eyes spinning and feral.

It’s moments like these that transform little boys into men. My voice sounds different when I say one word: Now. I turn on my heel and walk out, dragging my father by his collar to the truck. I am slamming him into the bed when she comes up beside me and takes my blistered hand.

I’ll drive she says.


Everything’s Going Great Guns

Maybe this will be a series of fiction. Maybe it won’t. But, this story begins with the fictional post, Expecting the Unexpected. Click here to begin at the beginning. And, thank you. Of all the hundreds of thousands of existing options for entertaining blog reading, I am honored you stopped here and chose me.

It’s too early to be clattering along in the back of this stupid truck. The big clock on the mantle struck 3am right when I closed the back door with a thud. No sense trying to be quiet. My sisters and my momma are awake, scurrying around making her room all pretty for when we bring her home.

Or, rescue her, Dad keeps shouting from the window of the cab. We’ve got to rescue her! I don’t understand why somebody has to be rescued from marriage, but I’m only twelve. I just thank everything I was deemed too young to be in the wedding. Wearing all that finery would’ve made me sweat and squirm and count the seconds until it was over. She likes finery. Maybe that’s why she married him, to have lots of finery. I don’t know why anybody wants to get hitched in the first place, but the whole finery thing seems like a dumb reason to me.

Dad is swerving all over the road, making me fight to stay in position in the bed of the truck. He’s drunker than usual, but I can’t say as I blame him. This whole marital mess with my sister would cause a tee-totaler to thrash through three counties to find a still. I feel warm inside from the several big swigs I took from the jug under the kitchen sink before we peeled off. Dad offered. It’s not like he would let me say no.

It’s hard to study the sky when Dad’s doing his inebriated swerve all over the road, but it’s real pretty. Like the bottom of a pit mashed up with twinkle lights and shards of glass. I wonder if my sister can see them from wherever he’s put her to keep her from leaving him. Maintaining my position up against the back window isn’t easy when Dad keeps yelling and swerving and yelling some more. He’s too worked up. Code for drunk. He should’ve let me drive. I’d get us there without the added drama.

I’m cold. And sleepy. I’ve got school tomorrow, and I know I’m gonna be up all night long. Rescuing her. Going back to the home place. Getting everyone settled. Keeping Dad from killing him. I’m too little to be a take-charge kind of guy.

The old jalopy acts like the rig we use to plough the back field, making ditches in the dirt in front of her place. My head knocks the freezing window glass as we make a trough in the earth to their front door. Headlights illumine the entry and bank of windows. Everything is aglow.

Okay, son. Let’s move in.

I grasp the wood-and-steel in my hands and let my body fall through mist to the ground. Maybe I’ll become a man tonight.

I’m guessing that’s what I’m doing here.

Making of the Shrew

Maybe this will be a series of fiction. Maybe it won’t. But, this story begins with the fictional post, Expecting the Unexpected. Click here to begin at the beginning. And, thank you. Of all the hundreds of thousands of existing options for entertaining blog reading, I am honored you stopped here and chose me.

She always did her shopping on Thursdays. It really was the most accessible day. Dizzying meal selections were stocked to perfection, ingredients for the complicated recipes she always planned for him. He was still too thin, she thought to herself as she removed one kid leather glove and stuffed it with its companion in her snakeskin bag. Six months of her marital cooking had failed to line his middle with puffy satisfaction. If anything, he worked later, longer, harder, something she found perplexing. He didn’t have to work, the cushion of family money what made his emaciated frame and feminine features attractive to her in the first place. 

With a distracted sigh, her matching snakeskin heels clacked on the smooth floor as she pushed her cart through boxes of fresh tomatoes, their skin taut and glowing. Wasn’t there a tomato recipe she meant to try? Her mind struggling to fire through the pathways of recollection, she found herself lingering instead to watch the young stock boys bend and stoop and sort in their crisp white uniforms. Her face grew warm as she imagined what it might feel like for one of them to take her somewhere in the anonymous back of the store, maybe splayed against a pallet of fine-spun sugar or on the box tops of cereal.

Her fantasies were all she had.

Reality drove her clipped step up and down the aisles, her occupied mind oblivious to what fell into her buggy. What did it matter if she picked up a few unnecessaries? Lord knows, he could afford to buy the whole store. She could, too, she reminded herself. That was the point of this unfulfilled existence, this perpetual game of unconsummated desire.

She caught the bag boy in the rearview mirror, watching her, wondering how a mere girl like her could afford such a sweet ride. Leather and wood. A whiff of cedar scenting the exotic foreignness of the boxy car. Singular and expensive, just like her. Her foot tapped the gas and revved the engine, toying with him. The trunk was barely shut when she gunned the motor and shot into the busy two-lanes of Main Street. Wind met hair. Her custom shopping suit gleamed in the sunlight. Being rich made her feel powerful. Tonight, she would show him how intoxicating that could be.

At the back, she let herself into the ground floor apartment, enjoying the sheen of the top-of-the-line range and refrigerator unmarked by the clutter of shopping bags. She closed her eyes and inhaled a cleansing breath, molecules of air that belonged to her alone. On the exhale, she heard something. A gasp, perhaps, or a moan. Whatever it was, it spooked her enough to perform a cursory search before retrieving the shopping from the car. If her apartment housed some spirit, she could pay it any amount of money to exorcise itself.

She pushed on the door that led to the dining room and checked its swing, like a batter fighting to survive a 3 – 2 count with the bases loaded and two men out. Through the slit, that’s what she saw – two men: her husband of six months being taken on the top-of-the-line dining room table by a man who looked familiar to her.

Her hopeful heart shriveled beneath the silk of her blouse. If he could never love her, would the trappings of wealth be enough to fill her empty chest?

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