Story 365

24th May
2012
written by amber

Dear John,

It’s over. I won’t be seeing you anymore.

You must realize that this is mostly your fault. You have never treated me well. You’ve always taken me for granted – that I would be there when you needed me, but the rest of the time you didn’t involve me in your life. It has always been a one-dimensional relationship.

In fact, relationship is a far-too generous way of describing it. Right now, the only word I can think of is abuse.

Don’t deny it – you’ve hurt me again and again. You might try to explain it away. You got too excited. You think that’s the way I like it. You were stressed and you took it out on me. But I think the emotional pain was worse. You made me feel worthless, ugly, shallow, shameful. Dirty.

I know this surprises you, this change in me, that I won’t be there the next time you come by. You never expected me to change, because change is foreign to you. You’re stuck at age 14, or maybe even 4. You assume you will always get what you want because you want it. You see nothing wrong with that. And if your wife or girlfriend won’t give you what you want, then it’s up to me. Or someone like me.

But I had a little accident and now I’m pregnant. Believe it or not, I had a good mother who set a good example to me of what a good mother should be. She believed in herself and she believed in me. For too many years, I have betrayed that belief, but I won’t do that any longer.

I am ashamed of what I did, but what I did is not who I am. I wasn’t true to who I am, but I never could erase it, the shining heart of me. It will shine again.

And so, John, all of you, I won’t be on the corner any longer, waiting for you.

I’m better than that.

StoryADay asked for an epistolary story today, based on a letter. So I decided to do a Dear John letter, with a twist.

22nd May
2012
written by amber

The Hidden Room

You always knew it was there, from the moment you decided to buy the house.

You said to your wife, “I love this house – it has charm, it has mystery.”

Yet it took a year for your inner sense of dimension to reveal the discrepancy to you, that between the guest bedroom wall and the upper landing of the staircase existed a block of unexplained, inaccessible space.

“Have you noticed that there’s too much space between this wall and the staircase landing?” you asked your wife.

“Not really.”

“Well, there is.”

“These old houses have thick walls, that’s all.”

“I think there’s a hidden room.”

“Don’t you dare,” was all she said, and she walked away.

The guest bedroom, the last room to be redone, had just been completed with vintage wallpaper above the original wainscotting. The staircase landing was finished the month after you moved in, with antique crown mouldings and neutral ivory paint to showcase the family heritage paintings that this new house, of all the houses you and your wife have owned, displays properly.

You will not be allowed to make holes in those walls. But you could wield your measuring tape while your wife wasn’t around to ascertain the size and shape of the room – rectangular, a narrow five feet wide and 20 feet long. From the garden, you see that it has a tall thin window, stained glass with an image of a heron.

You begin to dream about the room.

Four months later, when your wife goes away for the weekend, you can’t contain your curiosity any longer. In such a short space of time, you won’t be able to breach the walls and repair them, but you have a new plan – to make a small hole beneath the Aubusson carpet in your bedroom. Just to take a look.

You don’t know what you will find. A secret laboratory filled with mysterious glass bottles and strange electrical devices? Or a child’s playroom with charming wind-up toys and steam trains and long-forgotten board games, boarded up after the child’s untimely death? Or a nursery lovingly prepared yet never used? Or the illicit burial chamber of a wife unfaithful or mad?

The hole is small, yet large enough to dangle a small powerful flashlight on a string. As it slowly rotates, you see – what do you see?

I jumped the gun on this one. Yesterday, StoryADay encouraged us to write in First Person, so I figured today was Second Person – always a fun challenge. So I started and later discovered we were to write in Third Person Limited. Oh well. It’s only a suggestion, and if they do recommend Second Person, then I can do the Third Person.

20th May
2012
written by amber

Probability of Revenge

She thought it was nothing, my twin sister thought it was nothing when she stole my first boyfriend in Grade 6.

And my mother thought it was nothing too.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Audrey. You’re too young to have a real boyfriend, and I’m sure it was just a crush anyhow. You know how shy Steffy is. It’s easier for her to invite a boy she knows to the sock hop.”

Good demure Stephanie – at home. At school it was a whole other story. She didn’t invite Barry to the sock hop because she happened to know him from the times he walked me home from school and hung around talking to me, to us. She knew him at school, and she hadn’t given him a second look until he started being friendly to me.

“He was only hanging around with you to get my attention,” she hissed at me across the gap between our beds.

“And you only asked him to the dance to be mean to me,” I tried to hiss back, but couldn’t because I was blubbing too much.

It’s not fair for twins to be so different. I know, identical twins have their own problems, but it’s not easy being a short stumpy girl with bad skin and big ears having to watch people when they hear you’re twins and seeing them compare you to Stephanie, so tall, willowy, gorgeous. It’s not easy hearing them say, “I can’t believe you’re twins. You look nothing alike.”

After that, I took a different path, adopting a style she’d never stoop to, dating grotty boys with safety pins in their noses and ears, boys she’d never want to steal from me. And I never forgave her for stealing Barry.

And now it’s her wedding day. I’m still short but my skin is better and I wasn’t such a punk as to refuse when Dad offered to foot the bill to get my ears pinned back, I’m comfortable with my style and myself. Stephanie, on the other hand, is still gorgeous but that’s about all she is.

In Craig, she landed herself a real catch. He’s good-looking, on the path of a great career, and he’s smart. She’s smart too, but being pretty seems to have conditioned her to repress it.

I met him at their engagement party and we got into some deep discussions of current events, movies, art, the meaning of life. That sort of stuff. She seemed a bit miffed at me, but we weren’t shutting everyone else out. We were the heart of the party, but others could join in. Some of them did, I’m sure.

Mom noticed, of course. She called me the next day to warn me off.

“I have a boyfriend, Mom. I was just being sociable with Craig. Don’t you want me to like my sister’s future husband?”

“Just stay away from him, Audrey. You know how sensitive Steffy is. I don’t want her getting her heart broken. She’s not tough like you.”

Me, tough? Carapaced maybe, but hardly tough.

Stephanie had to ask me to be her Maid of Honour. Anything else would be unimaginable. And then she decided to have the Stag and Stagette at the same time. I suspect she wanted to keep her eye on Craig, but it threw the two of us together again, but neither of us were into the silly games and drunken flirting. We weren’t flirting, but I could tell. I could get him if I wanted to.

Seduce your twin sister’s husband on their wedding day to get back for a boyfriend stolen in Grade 6. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do.

I probably won’t do it.

Probably.

This story was inspired by StoryADay’s suggestion to write about revenge and also by a wedding here at the Ranch today (no twins, no revenge).

19th May
2012
written by amber

The Quest

This is not the best part of town, yet my trail has led me here.

I’ve been on the trail of my mother’s cat, Everett. He went missing five weeks ago and at first we feared the worst – his crushed body on the street or in the yard of the Rottweiler down the street – but Mother insisted on putting up a poster and soon reports started rolling in.

Our theory is that Everett’s new veterinarian-prescribed low fat diet sent the amiable but undeniably gluttonous feline on a search for better eats.

A woman two blocks over took him in; she said she thought he was a stray. Yeah, sure, a 16 pound perfectly groomed stray. He stayed with her only one day. She said that he never developed a taste for the vegan cat food that her two tabbies ‘adore.’

Three days later he was sighted in the elementary school yard where he benefited from innumerable tuna fish sandwiches the children seemed happy to donate to his cause until the principal put the run on him.

We had to widen our poster campaign to pick up his trail after that because it turns out he hitched a ride with the woman who delivers early morning newspapers. She was certain he resembled a cat missing in her neighbourhood. Everett is so car-phobic that she didn’t really get a good look at him – not enough to know he was a ‘him.’ One minute she was holding a purring affectionate pussycat, then she slipped him into her car and he turned into a yowling furry pinball rocketing around until she’d driven him to her neighbour’s house. When she opened the door, he shot out and hid in some bushes. She woke her neighbour who took one look and declared, “No, that’s not our Pusskins,” and went back to bed.

Everett meanwhile slunk away, no doubt afraid another car ride was in the offing. He stayed on that block four days, each day taken in and fed (usually cans of human-intended salmon or tuna, once he got canned shrimp) by someone who thought he was Pusskins. Then they’d kick him out, each and every one with the apology to me that he seemed well-fed so they thought he’d find his own way home.

An old widower on the next block was Everett’s next port of call. The man had every intention of taking him to the animal shelter, but the girl who comes in to cut his toenails told him that they euthanise most of the cats and dogs, so he followed her suggestion that she take the cat to live in the factory downtown where her mother sews knock-off handbags in an attic room with 30 or 40 other women. The place is plagued with rats, so they figured a cat would be a good idea.

And so it might be, but not Everett. He’s afraid of mice. A rat would be his worst nightmare. He spent one night in the sweat shop and bolted out the door when they arrived at 5 a.m.

And now he was downtown.

And soon he was in the area of flop houses and soup kitchens, pawn shops and back alley drug deals. So I’m here too.

The people here call him ‘Boss.’ He’s been here less than two weeks, but everyone seems to know and love him. They boast about finding tasty tidbits for him in dumpsters, the ones who sleep on the street try to tempt him to sleep under their blanket and share his warmth and gentleness with them.

“Angie, she loves him best,” a social worker told me. “She really shouldn’t be on the street. She’s a 22 year old schizophrenic, pregnant with her third child. She’s such an addict, they took the first two away from her pretty much at birth. I’ve never seen her as calm and, well, normal as she is with that cat. She came by and asked if I could get her a new prescription for her meds – she’s afraid she’ll have an incident and…”

“And what?”

“She said she was afraid she’d lose that cat’s respect.”

I watched as the social worker brought a meal to Angie from the soup kitchen (no pets allowed inside). I watched her eat and share her food with Everett aka Boss.

“I found a room for her where the cat will be allowed,” she told me, and gave me a look.

Mother still has Pablo and Essie. I wonder if I can convince her to do without Everett.

StoryADay’s challenge to us today was to write a story about a quest.

18th May
2012
written by amber

The Hermit – (a teaser)

After seven years on his own, the hermit came into town but there was no one there.

The doors hung open, sagging on their hinges, the walls had lost their angles, the windows were blinded by tiny pits from the eternally-blowing sand.

The hermit walked into the first house he arrived at. There were bowls on the table, each with a dry wizened mess in the bottom. There were leathery dead people on the chairs at the table, their clothing in rags and their bones poking through their desiccated skin.

The hermit walked out of that house and along the street toward the centre of the town. He didn’t go into any more houses. The wind made shushing sounds as it siphoned fine sand from one place to another. The wind made creaky metallic sounds as it worried at the ragged edges of the houses.

Dear Readers – this is just part of a story. One of the problematic aspects of Story 365 is that many of the markets to which I usually submit stories will not accept previously published stories. Stories on my blog are considered to be previously published.

StoryADay gave us the assignment today to write about a loner, and I had the first line in my head all day. I’m quite pleased with the story that resulted, and it’s a little longer than many of my stories, so I’m giving you just the first few paragraphs and I’m going to submit it to Daily Science Fiction. I’ll let you know how it is received.

Meanwhile, if any of you want the entire story, I’d be happy to email it to you, as that is not considered to be publication. Just leave a comment with your address.

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