Archive for October, 2011

31st October
2011
written by amber

What If?

What if? – she lived her life this way. Everyone told her, from an early age, that none of her what if’s were possible.

“What if you gave me a cookie now?”

“No – you wouldn’t eat your dinner later.” But she knew she would.

“What if there were elves in the garden?”

“There’s no such thing as elves.” But she saw them.

When she was ten years old, she heard her parents discussing the bad marriage of her favourite aunt. “What if we asked Aunt Pattie to come live with us?”

“Oh no, honey, we don’t have enough room.”

Sarah felt it would be better to have a safe room for Aunt Pattie than a sewing room for her mother, but her parents didn’t agree.

In high school, she asked her best friend, “What if Barry Black liked me?” But he didn’t, except in her imagination.

At university, she asked her professor, “What if you gave me credit for my volunteer work at the women’s shelter?”

“That’s not our policy.”

She knew that was a bad policy.

After she graduated and started teaching, she asked her colleagues, “What if I started a college devoted to teaching people how to improve society?”

“There’s no money in that, it can’t be done.”

Twenty-five years later, Sally Andrews established the Healing World College.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This story was written with a first line suggestion from Andrew – thank you, Andrew.

30th October
2011
written by amber

Pathetic

Is there anything more pathetic than old people with old dogs?

Take the Neudorfs in the fifth wheel next to mine. There they go now – he with his cane and she with her walker and the dog, Poopsie, being dragged along, barely able to keep up. He’s stubby legged and presents a pushed-in wrinkled face – some kind of bulldog? I’m sure they’d tell me if I asked. They pull the dog from pillar to tree, pleading, “Come on, Poopsie, do your business.”

That’s the dog’s main problem – constipation. But believe me, he has no trouble passing gas. They have me over for coffee from time to time and the emanations can bring tears to your eyes. They could strip paint.

The dog’s also deaf, deaf to their pleadings and truly deaf too, as is Mr. Neudorf whose hearing aids are the old fashioned kind, prone to high-pitched squealing that torments everyone but him. And Mrs. Neudorf is way overdue for her cataract operation.

A great set – the three of them.

But even more pathetic are the Joys in the bumper pull on the other side of me. There they go now – he hobbling along with his bad hip, she pulling her oxygen cart, calling, “Misty! Misty!” – the perdoodle or whatever pup, dancing just out of reach with Mrs. Joy’s purse in his mouth, tail wagging a mile a minute.

Nothing is more pathetic than old people with young dogs.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

30th October
2011
written by amber

Scrub Spruce

I’ve never seen a forest like this. Dense spruce, all jammed together, thin and misshapen, some with no needles except for a grotesque ball at the top. They grow so close to each other, I can’t get between some, even by turning sideways. And where they keep a short distance apart, our way is barred by prickly balls of red willow, the branches catching and dragging at my skirts like reaching skeletal hands.

We’ve been pushing our way through this hell for five days now, ever since we forded the river and left the grassy plains behind. I hadn’t expected to encounter forest until we reached the mountains. We’re not even in the foothills. This monotonous scrub spruce continues flat and unvarying, broken only by tiny meandering watercourses set so deeply into the mossy floor that I don’t see them until I step down a good foot more than expected and bury my boot in brackish water.

I scout the route and Dan cuts a path, the patient mules moving forward step by slow deliberate step. Our belongings on the wagon – those basic essentials we planned out and purchased three months ago.

Last night, I made a new list – the essentials we can carry on our backs and pack on the mules. Not what we need to start our new life – what we need to vouchsafe our present lives, whether we dare the mountains or turn back.

I know Dan isn’t ready to hear my plan yet, but one more day of scrub spruce will certainly make him more receptive.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

28th October
2011
written by amber

Nurturing 3000

My wife’s therapist says she needs to have a baby. Nothing else will cure her from the depression which has eclipsed more and more of her life, her personality and our relationship over the last two years.
In retrospect, I can see that it started when we had our first child. Annie is a vibrant young woman, a credit to any set of parents but I noticed Cheryl displayed a certain coolness to our daughter during the Bonding Year.
I wasn’t too worried. It’s well-known that this happens sometimes. A wife, no matter how welcome the offspring, has difficulty adjusting to the presence of another woman in the household. Perhaps we should have had our son first. I was confident things would be better when Darryl was delivered.
But it was worse.
Annie left for her job on the new Saturn-orbital station, Darryl moved in and Cheryl stepped further away from being her former self. It became necessary to send Darryl to a foster family for most of his Bonding Year. I doubt he’ll ever forgive us.
Cheryl wasn’t suited for motherhood, I told myself. She’ll bounce back and return to her job and her interests, to me, I told myself. I certainly didn’t expect her to start crying day and night because she ‘missed her children.’
Annie isn’t coming back from Saturn and Darryl isn’t coming back from his new family and now the therapist tells me that Cheryl needs a baby to nurture. We can’t afford a baby. It’s not legal to keep them infantile forever, but the yearly upgrade to a larger and more capable body is expensive and also it’s commonly felt that it’s unethical to retard the intellectual and emotional growth our cy-brains are capable of.
I’ll have to rent a robot baby and dose Cheryl with hormones to enable her to interact with it as if it was real.
And she may take years to get better, so I might be a daddy for 18 or 20 years. And that’s so unnatural.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story written every day and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

27th October
2011
written by amber

Deathbed

At least once a year I pretend that I am going to die. I take to my bed and stop using my inhaler, so that my breath comes ragged and laboured. I stop using rouge, so my naturally sallow skin colour provides a convincing touch of pallor. My friends gather around me, round-shouldered with concern. I don’t invite my family. They know better than to believe my imminent departure drama.

The thing is, I really will die one of these days and why should I miss out on all the final heartfelt messages, the homilies that under normal circumstances fall – literally – on deaf ears? Not to mention the borrowed money and items returned ‘before it’s too late,’ and the casseroles, my god, the casseroles. I know my daughter – she’d throw them out. I usually eat free for at least a month from the casseroles.

“Thank you, my dear,” I always say to a casserole-profferer, “I’ve been feeling too weak to cook lately and when the end comes (sniff), I want to make sure my family doesn’t have to worry about preparing meals.”

I would never tell my daughter or son-in-law this, but on occasion I’ve been offered a bit of cash to help defray the funeral expenses. I always graciously accept.

My performance usually lasts about 3 days, after which I gradually start using the inhaler again and returning artificial colour to my cheeks, preparatory to my ‘miraculous’ recovery. Friends who’ve seen this happen two or three times become dubious about the process, but there are always new friends to be made in time for next year’s deathbed scene.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story written every day and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

Thanks to my friend, Jane Steblyk, for providing this first line.

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