Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Longest Drive

Preface: I've become addicted to writing prompts. The following was provided by writer's digest. 

You are having the worst day of your life when someone calls and changes it for the better. Who calls, what’s it about and what series of events follow that call to help brighten your day?
The Longest Drive

I stood at the edge of the bridge contemplating the churning water below me. The wind whipped passed my ears with alarming force, however it was the man who stood near me that made me feel ill at ease. “What are you waiting for?” Damien asked me.
He had hijacked me that morning. He dragged me through the convalescent home where my mother lay belligerent, drooling, and forgotten. We watched my husband rape his secretary up against the window in his corner office. He led me to my daughter’s elementary school so I could see her dealing drugs to her sixth grade peers. Now we were on the bridge that my little brother drove off of years ago. I tore my gaze away from the water and shot him the darkest look I could muster. “An explanation. Why me?”
“Because unlike everyone who abandoned you,” he paused, a grin of pure evil plastered across his face, “I believe that you have value.”
I peered over the edge of the bridge again, dangerously close to yielding to the stranger’s foul suggestion. Give me strength, I prayed silently. “Yeah, sure. I believe that,” the sarcasm oozed between my clenched teeth.
“Just jump, Cassie,” he said with counterfeit sympathy. “You are forsaken, left behind by all you love and hold dear.”
“Go to hell, Damien,” I hissed. “I’ll not do your bidding.”
He grabbed my neck and forced me back. I felt the weight of my heels drop off the edge of the bridge as I struggled to breathe. The wind became hot and dry, and stung my eyes.
“It can all be over. Just jump,” he urged; his voice a ghost of a whisper.
“No,” I choked, my heart racing wildly within my chest. His fingers burned into me and the pain was almost too much to bear. I clawed at his wrists, clinging to the last thread of hope for my survival. Fearful, but resolved, I closed my eyes. “NO!” I repeated with the last ounce of force my adrenaline could fuel.
A cell phone rang from within the confines of the stranger’s jacket. He reluctantly pulled me back from the edge as the phone rang a second time and at the third ring, he released my neck. Finally, he removed the phone from a pocket and handed it to me.
I stared blankly at the phone that advertized a restricted number. It rang a fourth time. “Is this a joke?” I asked him suspiciously through the fifth ring.
“Answer it,” he barked.
“It’s not my phone.”
“It’s your call.”
Finally, on the eighth ring I answered, “Hello?”
“Cassandra Sellers, you are free to go,” a bright, ageless voice said through the line.
“Do I know you?”
“Better than Damien believed, yes. Go back to your car. This will be as if it never was.”
My voice shook and sounded strange to me, “My family? I saw…”
“Fear not, Cassandra. Deception is a tool much favored by the wicked.”
I turned back to confront the stranger only to find him gone, a vapor of sulfuric odors lingering in his stead. I cast one last look towards the churning waters and asked timidly, “What comes next?”
There was no response.
The closer I moved towards my car, the calmer I became. I sank into the Camry’s interior, inserted the key into the ignition, and found I was back in my driveway. The green numbers on the clock indicated a quarter after eight. I had been transported to the moment the stranger jumped in my car introducing himself as Damien. I clutched the wheel, bracing myself for a repeat of the nightmare, but it never came. The voice on the phone had kept his promise. Glancing down at the passenger seat where I had tossed the devil’s phone, I spied a single white feather, glistening in the early morning shadows. “The Lord is my shepherd,” I whispered, breathing deeply. The day was definitely brighter now. If I could defeat a devil, I could certainly handle rush hour traffic.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Two Thousand Generations and Counting...

My mother told me once (if she told me a million times) that two thousand generations of my ancestors follow me wherever I go.
As a child, it struck me as a silly notion. I mean, just where did they fit in our Mercury Linx coup when my family of four and three Cabbage Patch dolls crossed the United States at break-neck speed because we only had two weeks to see all those rusty tractors? Were they in the bathroom when I took showers? Did they expect me to share my ice cream cone with them?
And if two thousand generations of my ancestors followed me wherever I went, what about my cousins? I have many cousins, and only two of them lived within a 5 mile radius of my childhood home. Could my ancestors really be in several states at once? Did they take turns? Did they get recess when I slept or ate dinner because I wasn’t going anywhere?
That’s a massive amount of pressure to put on the mind of an oversensitive child when I didn’t even completely grasp my own existence in the world.
Needless to say, I’ve never questioned the existence of Santa Claus. His accomplishments are completely doable in the scheme of ancestors.
I digress.
What I have come to understand as an adult (mostly, I still haven’t completely convinced my parents) is that I represent two thousand generations of my ancestors. In this precise moment, I am the reason they existed at all. That’s a massive amount of pressure to put on the mind of an oversensitive almost-adult. Although I no longer fear that my ancestors watch me shower, I still have questions. How do my behavior and the choices I make in this world reflect on them? Are they disappointed or embarrassed? Or am I already so far removed from them that there is no impact to all those linked to my lineage?
And if I’m representing daily the two thousand generations of souls involved in my DNA, is it enough that I attempt to be a better human being each day, or must I achieve perfection before my sins are washed from my gene pool? Maybe all they need is respect and honor. That’s all I have to give them anyway. It’s not like I can share my ice cream cone with any of them. I strive to be the best person I can be. In the end, isn’t that all that matters?
Now I’ve told my niece and nephew that two thousand generations of their ancestors follow them wherever they go. It’s nothing that they haven’t already heard from my parents. I’m sure my mother has told them at least once if not a thousand times. As an almost-adult, however, I couldn’t help but add that “when I become one of those pesky ancestors, I expect ice cream.”
Sorry, Mom.  I’m still working on my ancestor skills.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Write On Edge Tattoo Challenge

I was torn with this prompt. At first I didn't think I could participate. I dislike most tattoos on most people. Yesterday however I typed up not one, but two responses. The challenge was written on by in Red Writing Hood Prompts. 300 words or less to compose a piece where a tattoo is featured prominently. I apologize if I'm cheating, but both these stories screamed for attention and I, as their parent, didn't have the heart to choose between them.

The first offering: For Grandfather

Five numbers lined up on his leathered skin, distorted from age. 32897.

It was rare when he showed it. Most days it remained hidden under the sleeve of his ever present grey sweater. It was taboo to discuss it. I mentioned it once at dinner and my mother kicked me under the table. I didn’t understand at the time. I was five years old.

He died. After a long battle, cancer finally claimed him. That afternoon I walked into a tattoo parlor. The artist Mina asked if there was something specific I was looking for.

I nodded, the conversation I had with my mother still fresh on my mind.

I had summoned up the courage to ask my mother about the numbers as we congregated in the hospital hallway. She flashed a nervous smile and sighed, “Your grandfather was only three when the Nazis marched into Warsaw,” she said. I couldn’t tell if her voice was shaking because of pride or grief, or perhaps a bit of both. “His family was sent to a concentration camp not long after…”

I knew of course, at least understood that there was more pain than even my dry history books could remember. There was no need for details. She didn’t offer any. “You never said,” I accused her meekly.

I had unintentionally wounded her with those words. She spoke apologetically, “It wasn’t my secret to tell Tova. He came here after, well where could he go really? The Fidels adopted him. He’s only talked about it twice in his life. Once to your grandmother, once to me…There’s so much pain he tried to keep from us, to protect us.”

“I know what I want,” I said pushing the unopened book back to Mina. “Five numbers in a line, 32897.”

Second Offering: Homecoming

“What if he doesn’t like me?” Faith asked her mother with wide blue eyes.

They stood at the dock, waiting anxiously for the prisoners to be released from the ship. Somewhere among those hardened criminals was an innocent man, a husband and father, and his was a homecoming six long years in the making. Sally gripped her daughter’s hand fighting tears of joy. It had been a long fight to free him, and it was almost over.

A tall, thin man stood out from the others. They hadn’t been in contact with each other since the day they sentenced him to life on that forsaken island, she eight months pregnant. Sally knew her husband anywhere, regardless of the weight loss and the haunted look. He rushed from the plank, pushing passed the columns of the condemned to scoop her up in his strong arms. “I never gave up on you,” she whispered through her tears. When he released her, he knelt eye-level with his daughter. The child he had never seen. He was crying. “Your daughter, Simon. We decided on Faith, remember?”

“Hello Daddy,” Faith said timidly.

“Hello, my beautiful little girl,” Simon voiced. He reached out to touch her cheek, the sleeve of his shirt pulling back just enough for Sally to see a tattoo on his wrist.

Instantly she realized what it meant. It was his tether to life, his reason for holding on in the dark when all hope was lost. Sally watched as all he had endured ebbed away with a tide of tears. She touched his arm gently, and traced the exposed indigo letters of the crude brand.

A simple word etched forever into his skin. Faith.

He clutched them both tightly as if to make up for lost time.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Write On Edge Setting Challenge

So I stumbled across this from an announcement on Twitter. In 200 words, for Red Writing Hood asked for writers to paint a setting as vividly as possible.

This place is drawn loosely from my own memory files. I remember the raw emotion overcoming my entire family as we happened across this very unexpected find.

  It is a crisp Tuesday afternoon. Autumn colors draw me from my home in solitary pilgrimage. Cold, grey clouds clot the sky like eiderdown and play peek-a-boo with the waning sun. The Appalachian earth not yet thawed, crunches like corn chips beneath my feet. The perfectly manicured grass is shock green between seas of fathomless, motionless white markers, the callous account of freedom's ransom. Row after row of these sentinels stand vigilant for those they serve. The loss is immeasurable and washes through me as a torrent. I turn my collar against the contesting breeze laden with the scent of cedar and wild columbine and listen as the song birds hush their melodies in reverence. The valley that once harbored war against brothers now cradles her victims in sheltering arms hidden among the golden ash and rowan, far from the view of the bustling highway. I stand rooted, absorbing the voiceless whispers from forgotten ghosts. The rest, the rest is silence, Hamlet would say. I turn from the dead to take the long walk home, my steps heavy. I am weary and changed like the season, preparing for winter’s slumber and the promise of peace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ooh shiny....

Okay so I've been doing a little spring cleaning. I know it's autumn, but there's something I'm looking for and I can't find it. Not that I would remember what I was looking for once I found it anyway...

Sorry. My mind works like lightning. One brilliant flash and it's gone again.

Anyway I've come across an old journal of mine. It was a class assignment, at least that's how it started out. Then it doubled as a venue to take notes from history class in. It also seems to house a character back-story for some random role I had in drama class. Doodles line the outside edges of the paper, swirling about like melting ice cream. And there it is, smack in the middle of the Whiskey Rebellion, outlined with several sloppy five-point stars.

No, not the object I originally was looking for, although I still can't tell you what that was, or why I was looking for it in the box marked "miscellaneous past".

This little comment I wrote I remember actually submitting to my high school poetry publication.

If the universe only stretched as far as our imaginations, many of us would never see the moon.

Me. I wrote that. I was thirteen-ish. Apparently, I have moments of profound clarity while in the middle of an important task.Where is that girl now, I wonder, as I look at the hearts and flowers tucked into empty spaces between words. Then I laugh. All the years that have passed have not affected my core being. I have not changed. I wrote my 50k for Nanowrimo 2010 in between projects at work. It's as if my creative muse has always taunted me like a pesky sister might,  begging me to come outside and play even though I have a deadline I absolutely have to make. She's tempting me even now. She sent me on a wild goose chase for something I can't find so I'd have something to write about when what I really should be doing right now is going to bed. I have to be at work earlier than normal tomorrow and mornings and I are not mutually compatible as it is.

Okay Muse, you can have one last glass of water while I tell you another short story, but then I'm tucking you in and it's lights out! No, not War and Peace. Les Mis, really? Let's count sheep instead. One two buckle my shoe...Shoes! I was looking for my sneakers...