Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Girl Sitting On The Wall Outside The Fine Arts Building

Had he only spoken to her.  

The girl who, for virtually the entire semester, had been there every day when he left Fine Arts for the short walk to the dining hall.  That girl.  The one who smiled at him - not once, but three times, this year.  He didn't know her name, and neither did his friends.  It was concluded that she must have been a transfer from another college, as she did not look young enough to be a freshman.  She had fair skin and freckles, startling gold-flecked blue eyes, and a smile that seemed to contain a hundred teeth.  Her hair was the kind of fiery red that girls without it would pay a king's ransom to have, and which girls with it seemed to hate.

Most days, she had two or three girlfriends hanging around, but not today.  Today, the second-to-last day of classes, before next week's final exams, she was alone.  She was sitting atop the short brick wall, smoking and tapping her dangling feet to unheard music.  She wore torn jeans (possibly ironically-torn) and a Waterboys t-shirt, which strained slightly to fit itself around her, for she was not one of those stick-figure girls who seemed to ever rule the campus.

Had he spoken to her, he would have tried to open with something about how he liked the Waterboys, and had just bought "Fisherman's Blues," but how he didn't like it nearly as much as their earlier work.  If that failed to send her fleeing in search of someone - anyone - else to talk to, he would have added that his favorite Waterboys song was either "A Church Not Made With Hands," or "A Pagan Place."  Beyond that, he had no plan.

When he saw her, she was already looking at him, and he could have sworn that smile number four was being offered in his direction.  That's it, he thought, I have to talk to this girl, before I graduate and never see her again - or some frat boy swoops in and takes her away in his golden Camaro.  He picked his way through the fast-moving cross-traffic that funneled through this intersection of red-brick campus walkways, mentally reviewing his Waterboys opener.  About halfway across, he looked up to see that a couple of the girl's friends had joined her.  

He swallowed his rehearsed lines, turned right, and headed toward the dining hall, rationalizing that he'd have one more chance before finals.  She peeked around her friends, disappointed.  Again.

Had he only spoken to her, he would have found his insights into that obscure t-shirt band to be a well-received ice-breaker.  He would have learned that her name was Erin.  Each would have quickly learned the other's year, major, residence hall address, hometown etc..  A date would have been efficiently arranged, almost without either party officially asking.  She had been looking forward to this conversation since January, and now there was only going to be one more chance to make it happen.  Apparently, starting it was to be her responsibility.  

Two days later, the girl with the hair like a sunrise wasn't sitting on the short wall outside the Fine Arts building.

Had he only spoken to her, she would not have had to be the first to speak.  She was on the near side of the brick-lined confluence of walkways, smiling directly at him as he emerged into the noonday sun.

"Hey," she said.

This one comes in response to another STUDIO 30-PLUS writing prompt.  This time, my friends chose a fragment of one of my own posts, so I had to reuse "Her hair was the kind of fiery red" in a new post.  Kinda weird, but I enjoyed it.  Hope you did, too!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Is It Semi-permanent Self-medication If I Do It All The Time?

Callista burst into the apartment, somewhat short of breath, locked the door, and announced, "I'm back.  You ready?"  She turned toward the living room and found Edward waiting for her, grinning, with one hand behind his back.  "Oh - hi, sweetie!"

He held up a quarter.  "Hey - heads, we're drinking Patron silver."

She tilted her head, quizzically.  "That depends.  What's tails?"

Edward thought for a moment.  "Tails... Tails, and we're drinking the resposado, I guess."

"And that," she smiled, wrapping her arms around him, "Is why I love you."

"For my mastery of the win-win scenario?"

"Sure, let's go with that," she agreed, holding up a small grocery bag, "I may not have found Bingo, but I got limes!"

Tails.  Patron Resposado.  Two souvenir shot glasses from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were produced.  The cutting board took its place on the kitchen counter, along with two small bowls - one with salt, for Callista, and one with sugar, for Edward.  In a skillful blur of kitchen knifesmanship, Edward turned lime number one into eight wedges.

He raised his shot.  "Here's to...."

"To Bingo?" Callista suggested.  "Furry little illegal pain in my ass."


"I'm sorry, but she's been nothing but trouble.  Plus, she hates me."

"She doesn't hate you.  She's just a ferret.  Apparently, she's not ready to be BFFs, yet - with either of us.  But that's not tonight's first wedge."

"No?  What gets first wedge, then?  Blink, blink," she actually blinked, for once.

A wry smile crept into the corners of Edwards mouth.  "Happy anniversary, Callista Jane.  To us..."

She checked a mental calendar, which was more easily said than done, because it was blurry.  "Oh.  My.  God."


"You're an anniversary rememberer."

"Huh.  Yeah, I guess I am.  At least, I think I am.  I'm pretty sure it's been one year since I used my best terrible pick-up line on you..."

"And it worked," she said, clinking shot glasses.  "It totally worked.  Okay.  My turn.  Wedge number two..."

"Whoa - no ten minutes?  Straight to the next wedge?"

"Yep!  Do not pass 'Go,' do not collect two hundred dollars, babe.  Wedge two is for Buck.  He may have been a grumpy, stinky old hobo, but I miss him."

Buck Mope's Ghost, and The Signals at Magnolia Cut

"To Buck Mope," Edward toasted.  "We should stick with one lime, though.  I gotta get back to looking for Bingo, and I need to stay sharp."

Callista nearly choked on her lime juice.  "Sharp?  Really?  You've been in a semi-permanent state of self-medication since she disappeared."

"Is it 'semi-permanent' if I do it all the time?"

She poured the third round, then stopped and looked at Edward.  "Of course it is.  As long as you don't do it forever, it is semi-permanent - pretty much by definition, actually.  You're fine.  I'll be the first to tell you when you're not.  Trust me."

"And that," he declared, holding the next shot aloft, "is why I love you.  Wedge three is for Bingo.  Wherever you are, little stinker, here's to you."

"To Bingo, the illegal endangered orphaned black-footed ferret!  Hang in there, sweetie."  Callista slammed her glass down for emphasis.

Edward poured the fourth round, took a few deep breaths, and shoved his final piece of lime into the sugar, which crunched deliciously.  "So.  What's wedge number four?"

"Four..." Callista cleared her throat.  "Four is... To you finishing the book, so the world can know old Buck and Bingo, and love them as we have."

He shook his head and chuckled, but eventually raised his lime wedge to her glass.

"Glass?"  She suggested.

"Oops.  Yes.  Can't clink with a lime wedge.  To the book!" he toasted.


Today, I was writing in response to another Studio 30 Plus prompt, the phrase "semi-permanent state of self-medication," courtesy of Katy's fine post Just Like A Dream.  Go!  Read it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cecelia Graveside and The Dead Hope

"It all turned on a dime," she said, shaking her head as if still trying to come to grips with it, fourteen years later.  "One minute, we were living high on the hog.  I had more dresses than I could count at age five, and it seemed my hair was never without a ribbon.  Mother and Father belonged to the country club, and they had martinis every night with Mr. and Mrs. Loy from across the street.  The next minute, Father was gone, having jumped to his death from the roof of the Stock Exchange, and Mother had transformed into a monster.  I was too young to understand much of it, of course, but I was told that something called a depression was on, and that it was the cause of Father's suicide, and that it was the reason for our moving from Manhattan to a tiny, smelly apartment in Queens."

"That's all well and good, ma'am, but like I said, you're gonna have to clear out of here," the policeman repeated, his patience straining.  "There's still a war on, and we've got a troop train due to stop here in the next half-hour, and there's a trainload of brand-new tanks coming out of the yard ahead of that."

"I understand," Cecelia Graveside said, careful not to meet the officer's eyes.

"So listen," he continued, "I got a heart, lady.  Really, I do.  You can come back here tonight, if this campsite is so important to you--"

"It is important," she insisted.

"But the Army don't want a bunch of hoboes hangin' around the tracks, you know?  And when the MPs show up, trust me, they ain't gonna be as nice about this as I am.  So I'm asking you one last time..."

"I'm going, I'm going," she said, slinging her stick and bindle over a shoulder, and patting the makeshift grave marker of her late hobo husband.  "I'll be back dear," she whispered to it.  She stepped past the officer and toward the town square, across the tracks.  Between her and the square, a couple of dozen newly-enlisted men gathered, worried wives and flag-waving children in tow.  Cecelia plotted a route that she hoped would help her avoid the whole scene.  She sighed heavily.

"Ma'am?" the cop called after her.  She stopped, but did not turn back.  "I know it's none of my business and all, but, well..."


"I was just wondering if you've tried signing up for one of those jobs at the factory - you know, like Rosie the Riveter."

"I have not," she said flatly.  "That is to say, not at that particular factory."

"Well, I heard they're still at least two dozen hands short - even on the first shift.  I heard they're taking everybody.  They got free training.  They might even have some spots left in the workers' dormitory.  I know it's not my place - I'm just tryin' to help..."

Cecelia turned to face the earnest young peace officer, and a tear made a surprise exit from her eye and onto her cheek, where it was made to feel so profoundly unwelcome that it leapt off, fell to the ground and exploded.  "Mister, I know better than to get in line outside that factory.  Don't get me wrong - it's a swell idea, and I'm not sore at you for the suggestion.  But you see, since I lost my dear husband, I've tried twenty other factories, just like that one - from New York City to Chicago and back again.  Every time, I've gone in with a smile on my face, hope in my heart, and a firm handshake.  I still have my handshake, but that's about it.  I can't take another rejection.  Mother used to say that hope springs eternal, but I can tell you, it doesn't."

"I understand," the policeman said.  "I don't blame you."  A loud, throaty steam whistle echoed through the town.  "That'll be the tank train.  Time to move along.  Take care of yourself, okay?"

"I will."  Cecelia Graveside made her way around the gathering military conscripts and their loved ones, up Main Street to the town square.  

She stopped.  Hope hung in tatters above her.  

Her dreams, she had often said, were the stray dogs that ran around the rail yard, and sometimes followed her.  She looked to her right, at the road that led to the next town.  She turned to her left, where the smokestacks of the factory peeked above the low skyline.  She sighed, looked up at the sun, shook her head slowly, and started walking.

...eternal.  Photo by [Maris].

This one springs forth from yet another STUDIO 30 PLUS writing prompt.  This time, the goal was to use "hung in tatters above her," a phrase lifted from fellow blogger Tara at THIN SPIRAL NOTEBOOK.