This weekend, Trifecta has asked us to write a new fable in just 33 words. Mr. Aesop and I have never been on what you would call close terms. So I’m afraid I took advantage of my fable to thumb my nose at him.
She had been backstage, keeping an eye on things, watching out for security hassles. And then she urgently needed air that didn’t taste stale.
Those are (almost word for word) the first 33 words of my novel Divorce: A Love Story. And if you want to read the other 73,000 or so of them, you can always buy it in the links in my sidebar. (It’s an e-book. It’s $3, and you can read it on your PC. Kindle and Nook both have features that allow you to enjoy e-books without an e-reader.) This shameless pandering has been brought to you by those crazy people over at Trifecta, who asked for the first 33 words of our novels.
The editors at Trifecta reminded us that 43 years ago yesterday, Neil Armstrong took his famous moon walk (which is different from a moonwalk; but I digress). They challenged us to write 33 words about a giant leap. Mine is not for humankind, but for myself. And it is coming. (And to be clear, because in my family ones needs to be clear around certain subjects, if things go right, it will be a POSITIVE leap. The things that could go wrong are many, but none of them potentially fatal.)
“Horrible.” I took another bite of cereal.
She turned to our mother. “I think he died last night.”
“Nichole Ann, that’s rude.”
“I’m serious Mom!” Nikki balled up her fists. You don’t have to walk past him every morning. Why did you even ask him to come?”
“Walter’s only been here three days, and he’ll be up soon. Show some respect.”
“Respect. Hah. He’s dead.” Nikki grabbed a bowl and sat beside me.
Uncle Walt always stank. He called himself a ‘bath optional’ kind of guy. My first memory of him is throwing up from the stench when he picked me up. Yesterday, he switched from some cartoon marathon, to the game console, to the DVD player all day. Everyone but Mom got tired of the odor and constant shifts and left.
Today, Mom had to work, and Nikki and I were supposed to entertain the old stinker. Nikki looked close to tears. “I’ll go check,” I whispered.
“Callie put your bowl in the sink!” Mom snapped as soon as I stood up.
“I’ll be right back.”
I darted out of the kitchen. Walt’s smell met me in the stairwell, and I nudged open the guestroom door. Walt lay on his back, the blankets all kicked to one side. A brown smear started at one side of the mattress and trailed over to his pajama bottoms. He shit the bed and died!
I drew a deep breath and screamed. But that infested my lungs with toxic air, and my freshly eaten breakfast rose in my gorge, gagging off my voice. I bolted from the room, still trying to shout. I heard Mom’s feet on the stairs as I reeled into the bathroom. As I threw myself down in front of the toilet, I realized my first memory of Walt was going to be the same as my last one. I would be an old woman, and I would have his dead stink in my nostrils.
This weekend, Trifextra claims houseguests stink after three days. What say you?
I spent my childhood chasing other people’s cows. The farmers who rented our fields were supposed to keep up the fences, but they never did. And the cows never got out during the day. No, they escaped at midnight or two AM, so that we all had to scramble out of bed looking for feed when someone banged on the door. And I slept downstairs, so I always heard the knock.
I hated those cows. I wanted them to die. But, especially once we bought the house and land, a wreck would have been on our insurance. While Mom tried to raise the cow’s owner, I tramped up State Route 286 in my nightgown chanting, “Come on cow, stupid cow, gonna get us both killed cow.” And then she’d join me in the car, and we’d herd the bovine slowly down the road, me leading the animal by the halter with a feed bucket, her following with the flashers on.
We lived in a sharp curve. Drunks regularly got tangled in our trees. (One memorable fellow actually knocked one over. Broke his own neck, too, that night. Worst neck break the hospital had seen where the victim walked away six weeks later.) So I watched for headlights behind me as I paraded backwards down the street, the cow and my mother following.
When I was twelve, I used to sleep in only my underpants. So when I went to answer the man pounding on the door at oh-dark-thirty, I actually managed to humiliate a neighborhood father with my breasts, which were far too large to be called ‘buds’ at that point.
By the time I was twenty one, all the roles had swapped and swapped again. My sister drove and I walked. Only, where Mom followed slowly with the flashers, Amye zoomed past in her Mazda, slammed on the brakes and screamed a 360 before coming in behind the cow, her red eyes haunting behind the wheel as she pursued us to safety.
This post came easy. It’s the first one all week that has. Of course, ‘easy’ for me is always relative. Anyway, when I saw the picture Trifecta posted for our photo response this weekend, my mind went home. The only difference here is that the little girl in this picture doesn’t seem to care, or even notice, that the cow is walking down the road. Perhaps she’s in a country where such is common. I always cared. I always hated.
It wasn’t the first time. I want to travel. I want to ride Eurail and sleep on the Berlin Night Express. I want to wear metal shoes, let scream my brakes, and chuff down the line to forever.
This weekend at Trifecta, we get to add our 33 words to the five “It wasn’t the first time”. In case you wonder, because Madame Syntax would, the tense change is deliberate.
And hey, notice anything DIFFERENT? Looks nothing like my test, does it? That’s because I got awesome feedback about what looked good and what didn’t. And it’s also because the amazingly generous Marie Nichole of My Cyber House Rules made me a header and a button.. It’s a gift I could never have asked for, and it’s seriously something that would have been out of my budget. Especially one this perfect. She also gave me some excellent specific design tips. I’ll be tweaking with a couple more of them in the next few days. Please, share the love with her from me, because her work has shaped the blog design from top to bottom. Thank you Marie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Look across the night and hear me.
In death, there is no silence.
There is the weeping, wailing, mourning
Of those you leave behind.
Your silence is my darkness.
Come back sister bright.
I’m not much of a poet. I have a healthy respect for poets’ fluidity with metaphor, and I incorporate elements of poetry in my prose. But I am primarily a prose writer. Most of my poetry is deliberately exaggerated, bad on purpose to be silly. I rarely, rarely, rarely write the serious stuff. And when I do, it sticks with me. I wrote this when I was seventeen, the first time my sister tried to kill herself. I hesitate to include it here, because its story is no longer true. And I’m not sure how true it ever was. My sister was never anybody’s joyful beacon. Still, when she was twelve, I would have missed her. Her death would have been a weight, and not a lightening. And it is, by coincidence, 33 words long. Which makes it perfect for this weekend’s Trifextra.
The editors at Trifecta have given us a photo prompt this weekend. We are responding to a picture of a man carrying a shit-ton of luggage through some kind of a terminal, and for me, the central question is “Why does he have a carseat?“
Julie would have met him at the airport. Brian could have turned around and been on the next flight. But it eased things for all of them if he took one extra day to say goodbye. Macy’s carseat thumped every time he swung his arms. But by bringing it to use in the rental, he held onto her fruit candy scent a little while longer after he went back home. Three months wasn’t enough.
At Julie’s, the kids threw themselves at their mother, then dashed out into the back yard with her giant dog. Julie said, “It sounds like they still get along really well with Cerise. Not as much of an adjustment as when I married Mark.”
“Like a house afire.” But Brian remembered those ‘adjustment’ calls. Trying to calm Josh from four hundred miles away without denigrating either his ex-wife or her new spouse to the children they held between them.
“That makes what I need to tell you a little easier, I guess.”
“And what would that be?”
“This travel is bad for the kids, Brian. We need to make it stop. We need to change our custody arrangement.” A thousand protests rose into his mind, but before he could voice them, Julie continued. “Mark starts a new job in October. It’s all travel. We’ll barely see him. It doesn’t matter where we live. We’re moving.”
“Moving where?” Brian tried to keep his voice level, but he knew it rose.
“If it wouldn’t make you and Cerise uncomfortable, we could even come to the same neighborhood. And I think it would be best for Josh to start the school year with you, even if Mark and I wind up living on the other side of town.”
Brian concealed his shaking hands by gripping Julie’s counter. The car seat. The luggage. Never again. In that moment, he loved his ex-wife more than he had for years before their divorce.
The houseguests emerged. Butterflies don’t typically breed in captivity, but last night we are pretty sure ours did. We think, in fact, that this weekend we will be releasing an egg-heavy butterfly mother.
This weekend at Trifextra, we can write whatever we want, but it can only be 33 words long, and it has to include the word mother.
We didn’t take any pictures, but here’s youtube video that looks like it was made by people whose butterflies came from the same place. That habitat looks a lot like ours.
May I just say…it took their butterflies ages to move past ‘mating ritual’ into ‘actual mating’. It took ours …. days? Hours? Not long at all. Caroline came in and said, “I think something is wrong. Two of the butterflies are stuck together.” And yes, two butterflies were pretty much glued to each other. SO I explained butterfly sex. She was … interested. Mostly, she was relieved nothing was wrong.
Thank you for eating today’s hot dog. You’ve bought us all twelve more hours until the inevitable. And maybe twelve more after that, if you’ll let me feed you another. This morning, when it took two of us to guide you to the door, and still your legs splayed out four times, I thought we had run out of time. But you revived. Found your footing. Ate the hot dog. The walking, at least, would be simpler if you stayed on the carpet or your bed.
You are old. Eleven. You have dysplasia in front and back. And yet, you will sleep on the hardwood.
Every morning still, you tack down the hall, asking to go to the bathroom at three or five, your bladder still waking you before dawn. The sound rattles down my spine. And yet I will miss it. And the tick of your walking is nothing to the thunder of silence that will be your absence. I will tear a hole in this green earth asking why. Why the thunder? Why the thunder? Why the thunder?
But there is no question I can ask, no song I can sing, no food I can feed you that will reverse this . And the thunder echoes so loudly here. I can barely hear you for the silence.
As you can see, the computer dudes at Office Depot have gotten the motherfucking Pink Slip virus OFF MY machine. The computer is better. The dog is … not. This has been coming, and Scott and I are looking at things pretty clear eyed. The time will come soon, very soon, when we have to admit that we can be kinder to our pets than to each other. (Those are my mother’s words, by the way). The kids are sad. We’re sad. The dog is…flipping hilarious. Is it OK if I admit he made me laugh out loud twice today?
Like when he took the hot dog. He’d been rejecting things. Dog food’s been off his menu for a week. But he turned down Lunch meat. Plain broth. Everything. And then, I wandered through the room eating MY lunch, and suddenly the dog was scrambling up to standing, and he devoured it and half of another in two giant ‘Jesus, there’s the dog I knew’ gulps. Even though he rejected the hot dogs as beneath him just yesterday. Whatever appeals dude.
Then heading out, he was in a hurry, didn’t want to wait for me to support his legs, and so he kept going faster like maybe speed would fix the sliding. And for reasons I cannot fathom, it worked. And when I got to the door to open it, he looked back at me like, “See, I got this Mom.” But then it failed colossally the next time he tried it, and he looked so damned apologetic.
Anyway, this is my extremely weird and metaphorical thunder for Trifecta.
This weekend, those madcap editors at Trifecta want us to write the same exact scene from three different viewpoints, each only 33 words long. So. This scene follows several hours after this one, from another extremely short Trifextra prompt.
When the demon arose choking and spluttering, the child and I dashed around the wizard’s studio madly gathering kittens. But the mama cat arched her back and hissed, ready to battle her foe.
Dander choked me like poison. The time to force this puny wizard’s spell and break the box had arrived, but my eyes watered and I gasped instead for reprieve. Thwarted by a cat!
Flori flitted down the alley, a crisp twenty folded in her hand. She tossed the wallet in the dumpster. She wasn’t big time; she didn’t fool with the credit cards. Urre and Kulta, who needed drugs, took bolder risks. Flori emptied out enough to eat and kept a low profile.
A sound at the alley’s mouth alerted her. She looked back long enough to see the tourist’s head, the same distinctive ponytail she had noticed when peeling the wallet free of his pocket. “Shit,” she muttered. Then she yelled, “check the trash mister,” and made a show of running straight into the dead end wall, only to whip around and charge when he was nearly on top of her.
For a moment, she wished she did take more from her lifts, wished she kept enough to buy just a gram of lartë. With a gram, she could change into a cat and dart between the man’s legs right now. Instead, she ducked under his arm and sped on past him back out onto the street. She heard him follow.
He chased her several blocks, shouting all the while for the gendarmerie. “Son of a bitch,” she muttered. Sooner or later, one of the flics would pay attention to his racket, especially as they got closer to the better end of town. Damned if she was giving his cash back now.
Flori bolted down another alley, this one a twisting affair that ultimately separated into two narrow streets. By the time she reached the split, she could no longer see the man when she stole a glance behind her, though she could still hear him shouting. She darted into a restaurant and dropped into a seat facing the window.
The table’s former occupant had been drinking a coffee. Now, he was arguing loudly at the counter. Flori took a sip of his drink. Too hot by half. She spat it back into the cup and moved to another seat just as the customer turned from the counter and came back to his chair.
“Hey,” said the counterman, “What do you want?”
“Coffee,” Flori answered.
A cup grew out of the table in front of her, and she grimaced. Food delivered by magic was always too cold. She carried it to the counter and flicked her coin down beside it. The counterman sighed heavily, lifted the pot, and topped her off. She took a sip before she returned to her seat and smiled. Just right.
She stayed nearly twenty minutes, but when she left the shop and walked out of the alley-street, the damned tourist was sitting at a café, watching for her. The two streets didn’t diverge far before they came out on a main avenue. Not far enough, anyhow. He could watch both from his vantage, and she regretted going forward instead of turning back when she left the restaurant. Flori saw him a hairsbreadth before he saw her, and she ran again. “Why you got such a hard on about twenty bucks?” she yelled. “I threw the wallet away.”
“Nobody steals from me!”
One of those. At least he hadn’t picked up any flics while he waited. Flori ran back up the alley-street, looking for the family of three she had just seen walking out their front door. She hadn’t paid much attention to them. But now, it seemed very important that they hadn’t suddenly decided to go home. Because Flori didn’t remember seeing one of them reach back to lock the door. They were still haggling with the greengrocer. Perfect.
Although she was in plain sight of the man, she darted up the family’s front steps and tried the handle. Open! She let herself in and clattered through the narrow house, rapidly scooting furniture behind her to trip the tourist up and slow him down. Not all magic required drugs.
She heard him struggling, and the crack of wood suggested he was trying to clear the path with his own spell. Excellent. Flori regretted the property destruction, but no tourist was going to beat her over twenty dollars. (And would he stop at beating? Flori didn’t want to find out.)
Initially, Flori’s plan was to sneak in the front then right out the back again. But from the sounds, her tourist was well trapped. So she popped into the toilet to take care of the coffee, which suddenly pressed to escape her bladder. She sat on the commode while the man thrashed, cracking chairs as he tried to free himself.
She heard other voices now, another man’s bearlike roar carrying in from outside. She had to guess that was the individual she had seen holding a head of cabbage like a weapon. Man of the house. It was impossible to tell if he understood the trapped tourist’s explanations. Then, she saw three vials sitting in a neat row on the sink directly across from the toilet. “That’s not perfume,” she whispered. “Lartë.”
She flushed and rose. Everywhere outside the bathroom, the furniture creaked, her little spell holding out against not only the tourist, now, but also the returning family. Flori’s spell just caught up all their magic like it was more furniture and added it to the mess.
She closed her hand around all three tiny bottles. She tucked them in her pocket and sprinted out the back door, feeling a pang of guilt as she heard a child’s voice for a moment above the adults. “My chair!” it wailed. “My chair, my chair, my chair.”
Nothing for it right now. The back door opened into a courtyard that separated four houses. This house and its neighbor backed up to two others that opened into the opposite alley-street. A little fence between the courtyard and the alley was a small obstacle, easy to vault over, but she didn’t want to vault. She wanted to fly.
She quickly studied her bottles of lartë, each labeled for strength. The first one measured two grams. Too hard. She wasn’t a regular user, and she doubted she could either manage a trip that strong or moderate her intake to consume only half of it in a hurry. The second bottle was only half a gram. Too soft. But the third bottle was exactly one gram. Just right. Just exactly right.
She set the two wrong bottles under her toes, then broke the seal and turned the right bottle into her mouth. After the *pop* that told her the transformation was complete, she collected the vials awkwardly in her talons and lifted above the courtyard, above the houses, above the city, looking for a church where she could rest and cry sanctuary when the change wore off.
Late that night, rested, unpursued, Flori returned to the house in her own form. She realized at once that the largest part of the splintering racket had been the front door, which had twisted off its hinges and snapped in half. They would have to wait for her spell to ebb before they could clear the damage. She looked in the windows for a long time, until she was certain everything inside was still.
Then, she climbed noiselessly over the door. Even in human form, she made a good cat (a far better cat than a bird.) She picked around in the rubble with a flashlight until she found what she wanted, the finished headrest of a child’s chair. She carried it back into the narrow street with her and walked far enough away that she wouldn’t just be feeding her own spell.
She stroked the wood and called softly for the other pieces, the seat and legs, the back and rockers. (She would have missed the rockers if not for the pegs in the legs. ) While she petted the chair, it pulled back into its proper shape. Other wood came too, extra pieces caught in the tangle. The finished chair was at first too lumpy thanks to the embedded mess. Flori removed the extra bits, but that left the chair too smooth, too new. Well, she wasn’t much bigger than a child herself. Flori sat rocking in the night while she cast her spell, until the chair shaped itself to the contours of her body. Just right.
At dawn, she carried it back and left it on the stairs for its young owner, a small apology for a chaotic day. She wondered about the tourist, whether he’d been believed or arrested, whether he regretted chasing her down over such a little bit of cash. But not for long. Like the chair, the tourist was part of the past, part of yesterday.
Today, Flori had other things in mind. She would look for Urre and Kulta. See if they still had room for a third. See if they would teach her how to improve her use of lartë. Next time she had to be a bird, she didn’t want to hear the grackles laughing at her poor form.
I hope I didn’t bore the editors at Trifecta, who were foolish enough to give me more than 333 words for my story this weekend for Trifextra. The only stipulation was that it should be a recognizable retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Somehow, that never really happened. However, in my defense:
1) Flori means gold. In Albanian. Ulta and Kurre mean Gold in …. two other languages. Dear GOD I love Google Translate.
2) There WERE three people in the family, and I did give the father a bearlike roar.
3) The kid’s chair got broken.
4) I got in too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft, too lumpy, too smooth, and just right.
Dear Mrs. McIntyre,
I’m sorry I ran over your mailbox with Dad’s car. I thout I hit the braks. I guess not. I’ll pay you the $65 slowly cos I only ern five dollrs a week.
This is my entry for this week’s Trifextra. We are to write an apology in 33 words (salutation and closing don’t count against). I owe credit to my co-author, Caroline, who helped me with the spelling and posed as Lexi. However, she wants everyone to know she would never steal Dad’s car, and that our car is just ‘our car’, not ‘Dad’s car’. The handwriting is mine – I’m a lefty and that’s what it looks like when I write with my right hand.
She gives me a credit card, and I go for the pretzel. We’re shorthanded, so I’m my own runner.
“Get me one,” Brady calls from his register.
“The syrup’s out in the diet cola,” Kelly shouts.
Their voices blend together with the clanging, whirring, and popping that is a ballpark concession stand. The PTA gets funds, Minor League baseball gets good neighbor points, and I get a headache. I can’t hear the score over the cacophony.
I’d really like to know how the guys are doing. My brother’s on that team, after all. But all I know is we’re in the 7th, and I’m not going anyplace except back to my register with the pretzel. “Cheese?” I ask Ms. Pink.
“Nah, but don’t forget my candy.”
Finally, the printer spits out a receipt for the woman to sign. “What’s the score?” I ask as I hand her a pen.
“We’re winning three to nothing.”
Another crash in the background means I barely hear her. Mandy shouts, “Ah crap, I just dumped magic soap everywhere!”
“It’s hand sanitizer,” scolds one of the adults, like the real problem is Mandy calling it by a preschool name.
“Whatever. It’s all over the floor back here now. Watch your step.”
I take the receipt from the woman and put it in my drawer. “Three to nothing?” I repeat.
She’s walking away now, but she says, “Yeah, Claymore’s working on a perfect game.”
Suddenly, I tear off my apron and hoist the counter to let myself through. They yell after me, but I don’t hear their words. I smack two insects off my arm, but I don’t even feel the sting from the blood they’ve drawn. The visitors can’t get so much as a hit, and that’s my brother on the mound. That’s my brother on the mound.
This weekend at Trifextra, we have between 33 and 333 words to use the words cacophony, soap, and insects in order. The timer’s ticking if you want to come play!
The picture above is probably of Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Jim Paduch. I say probably because I’m not sure if I ever reset my little camera from Eastern Time when we moved to Montgomery from Lexington. The camera thinks the picture was taken at 8:43 on July 16, 2011. Meaning it was probably 7:43. Meaning it’s probably the starting pitcher still on the mound. Or rather, stepping off the mound for a second. If not, though, it’s either Frank De Los Santos or Zachary Quate.
“No time,” Charlie gasps. “I’m sorry.” and then the clawed arms shatter the window and plunge through his abdomen. Gore spraying from his wounds, he squeals, “Run baby!” and throws me his keys.
Trifextra this week chose a challenge posed by community member MOV from Word Cut. She asks us to: “Write a horror story in 33 words, without the words blood, scream, died, death, knife, gun, or kill. Good luck.”
You already akimbo, legs apart and arms askew, and I naked before the sun’s wide open eye. How hungry seems the sky, and empty, inviting me to embrace the deep earth with you .
After a day of spiders Thursday, including a quarter sized one in the house, prevented me from finishing my weekly Trifecta entry for the first time since I started participating in the challenge, I was really bummed. So. I’m making sure to get this Trifextra entry done in spite of the moaning over homework from a school absence (kid, you miss three days, you got work to catch up) going on in the kitchen and the clinging preschooler who wants for playing with in the office. Check out the theme and instructions over on the Trifecta page.
Susannah’s fingers sought purchase in the cliff face.
Chris asked, “Are the eggs safe?”
Trying not to disturb the silence, she nodded. Then, squinting into the grotto, Susannah gasped. “Oh look! They’re hatching!”
This is my submission for this weekend’s Trifextra prompt, which asks us to submit a 33 word story with a justifiable exclamation point.
The phone rang at 4AM. “Jesus, Richard!” groaned Patricia, “How many have you had?” Richard’s silence suggested quite a lot.
“Please,” he said.
Grinding her teeth, she growled, “This time only and then no more. This time only.”
This weekend, Trifextra is asking us to finish the story launched by the words “The phone rang at 4am”. Not counting those four, we have 33 words to tell the whole tale.
Those crafty Trifecta editors are at it again, asking us for a retold story in 33 words. Here’s mine. NB: “w/” is one word unconnected with “expertise”. There’s a space.
“Well, that’s a first.” Caren added the last of the bound carpet strips to the furniture piled at the curb.
Todd grunted an answer, but she couldn’t hear him, because he was hunkered behind the sofa, while she stood in front of the recliners. They still needed to flip those up onto the couch in order to fit the whole mountain on the narrow grass stripe between sidewalk and street. These tenants left so much that hauling it and the carpet out took them well into the night.
“We ought to get a management company,” Caren went on. “My back isn’t up for this kind of lifting.”
Todd came around to join her. “Costs more than it’s worth,” he told her. And she thought he was right. Probably.
He stood behind her, and she leaned into him while he slid one hand under her shirt to rub the base of her spine. Above them, the moon waxed heavy and low, some optical illusion driving it down towards the earth.
Caren complained, “I ache.”
“Me too,” Todd agreed. But his voice suggested a different kind of ache entirely from the one caused by lifting too much without a proper dolly.
“You can’t be serious. Here?”
He didn’t answer her with words, but instead pulled their bodies together tight, front to back.
They tumbled awkwardly over the couch arms and left their clothing on the sidewalk. The chairs in front of the couch and the late hour promised sufficient privacy as long as the tenants didn’t suddenly return wanting their possessions.
They wrapped themselves together, one into the other, coiled so it was hard to see where she ended and he began. They bore down on each other like the earth-driven moon. And that moon. Oh the moon. How it yearned to reach the ground.
This week, the Trifextra prompt asked us to write a love scene 3 to 333 words long that neither turned Trifextra in to TrifeXXXtra nor used any of the following 33 words:
Salty waves beneath. Parched sky above. My love, I will die on this ocean.
This weekend, Trifextra launched a new feature and challenged us to write a love story in 33 words. I decided to manipulate historical images of telegrams and train tickets to give my words some context. I’ll be interested to see if this makes sense or if this one really needed more than 33 words.
Take Two: Without the train tickets to leave more room for words on the telegrams.