Why I did NOT write a story for last week’s Friday Fictioneers

A couple of weeks back, after a conversation with my Mom about her grieving process (if you don’t know, we lost my Sister December 19, 2013), I suddenly had the strange feeling that 4+ months into this gig, I had not even begun to grieve her passing. Never mind the stuff I’ve written about her death, the talk/song I shared at her funeral service, and all of the tears already shed …

A day or so after that conversation, I ran into a wonderful blog site about grief; specifically the post dealt with grief having no expiration date. It occurred to me that being so far from her (in proximity) for so many years prior to her death along with her inability to carry on our normal phone conversations during her final couple of years combined to make it that much more difficult for me to know she’s really gone. While I have no clue what the next step in my process will be, I suspect it involves some intense ‘realization.’ Not something I’m particularly looking forward to.

On Wednesday, the following photo showed up as the Friday Fictioneers prompt (I won’t even try to explain why a Friday photo prompt shows up on Wednesdays 😉 ):

Copyright – Björn Rudberg

My gut reaction was how familiar the picture was – not that I’d seen it before, but that I saw myself in a similar photo-memory of what I now think of as my former life. The emotions that boiled up to the surface when I saw the prompt surprised me a bit. A mixture of nostalgia and excitement, fondness and regret coalesced inside me to produce one clear thought in my head: “I can’t write a story about this. Not now, not maybe ever. This isn’t fiction; it’s too *real.”

In a conversation with my son about humor I told him that for me to find something funny, it has to be true, to ring true. Fiction for me is quite the opposite. Sure, the characters have to be true – to themselves, and believable – to the reader. But the more fantastical the story, the more I am drawn to it. Maybe that’s why I prefer tales about dragons, fairies, magic, and aliens more than historical fiction (Seabiscuit notwithstanding).

As I’m sure you’ve already begun to grasp, seeing what looked like the scraps of an old life of mine reminded me again of my recent loss. It was as if writing about the picture would have been a step in the direction of dealing with my sister’s death. I don’t feel ready for that right now, for lots of reasons.

First, I’m daily faced with the raging hormones of a 15-yr. old son. Having raised 2 daughters, you’d think I’d have been up to the challenge. Whole. Different. World. I’m literally at the end of myself and my ideas about how to navigate these waters. Most days I throw up my hands and just ask God to take it. Hopefully He’s listening.

Second, there are huge financial outflows facing us right now: my husband has been renovating the upstairs of our house having been out of work for 7 months; June 1, 2014 he will restart his counseling business; my daughter is getting married in October; and I would love to find a way to block my noisy neighbor before then. Being the primary breadwinner (hubby still serves as a Reservist) can be stressful in today’s economy – especially as a woman.

Third, my parents have both had rough years health-wise. 85 and 84 respectively, my Dad and Mom continue to manage on their own, but we all lose the battle against Father Time eventually. With the recent loss of my sister, their well-being is pretty much on my mind 25 hours every day.

Sunday afternoon I did some shopping to find a dress for the wedding. I knew it was a mistake when I looked into the mirror and saw almost the exact replica of the one my sister wore to her son’s wedding:

My Sister dancing with Hubby
My Sister dancing with her Hubby

It wasn’t exact, but the color, the tiers … I said out loud to myself, “I can’t look like her.” Fortunately, it was the last of the 3 dresses I tried. I hung it up with the other disasters and promptly walked out, giving up the search for the moment. So many memories, at every turn they hit me.

I looked back at the photo prompt Sunday night, glad I had left it alone. I want to push myself to write like I want to push myself to get through the grief – I’ve never been known for my patience. I’m not ready. I’m learning to be okay with that, to give myself permission to breathe. Sometimes even that hurts too much.

*Actually, my favorite part of this video is the (probably drunken) man dancing in front of me. 😀

 

Kidnapped!

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, the place where Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts weekly flash fiction based on a photo prompt. The challenge is to write a complete story in approx. 100 words. The link for other entries is below. Come join us!

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

100 words:

The odd things at Bernie’s grandmother’s house fascinated Joey. It surprised him how well the old helmet fit. “Does he have it on?” Joey barely heard the question through the thick metal. Turning around he jumped back. Standing in the doorway were Bernie and Mona in spacesuits!

Joey fumbled with the helmet, trying to take it off. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Mona pointing at the window. Looking through the glass, he saw the houses around them falling away. “You’d best get this on,” she said, holding out a suit. Bernie smiled as Joey began screaming.

 

 

 

 

Homecoming – Part 4

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, the place where Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts weekly flash fiction based on a photo prompt. The challenge is to write a complete story in approx. 100 words. The link for other entries is at the bottom.

I’m continuing a series of glimpses from a larger story begun 4 weeks ago. You can check out my previous parts here: Homecoming  Part 2  Part 3

 

copyright - DLovering

100 words:

Things were not going as planned. Kelsey had followed Grant’s instructions to the letter, but the chair sat empty. She still didn’t have what she needed.

Looking up at the streamers she wondered what to do. “Kel?” Kelsey jumped at the sound of her name.

Looking at Jim with relief, she smiled, “You came.”

“I wouldn’t have missed this,” he said. “Here,” he sat down and set a box on the table between them. “I have something for you.”

Kelsey looked at the carefully wrapped package. Knowing how much she needed what was inside did nothing to calm her fears.

 

Open Your Heart and Drink

Just imagine what could happen if everyone in the world opened their heart and drank of the truths in this video. I imagine an end to poverty, hunger, racism, hatred, discrimination, and even war. If you don’t watch anything else today, this week, this month, or this year, watch this. It could change your life. It could change the world.

 

The Reluctant Wedding Planner – A Cautionary Tale

If you read my recent post about my back yard, you are aware that I am in the middle of planning my daughter’s wedding. I now have less than 6 months in which to accomplish this Herculean task. We have (obviously) ruled out my back yard (mostly), but how does one find an affordable venue to hold a reception? Booking a church for the ceremony is relatively easy compared to the other details: flowers, photographers, caterers, bartenders, bands, tables, linens, decorations, hair stylists, Master of Ceremonies, invitations, dresses, suits, hotel rooms, & a reception venue (if you have a daughter and that list didn’t make you start to sweat, you might want to check your pulse).

Sometimes I feel like I have too many choices. Then I remember we have a specific date and are trying to stay within a budget. That’s when the panic attack comes on. This morning I found a venue in our price range that might have the date available, only to find out it’s a historic house that doesn’t allow speakers, DJ’s or a live band inside. Um, have you priced a tent, tables, & chairs for 75 lately? I have, and it ain’t pretty within the budget. But what if it rains??

I had this all worked out 2 days ago … to the tune of – you guessed it – ten THOUSAND dollars (all told)! Too bad I didn’t win the lottery last week (extremely difficult without a ticket). Last night I decided I did not want to spend the cost of an exceptional used car on a one-day event. Instead, I trashed all of the previous quotes and started over from scratch. I’m pretty sure my ulcer reappeared that instant.

It’s really frustrating because I love my daughter and my future son-in-law (a rarity in itself), but there just isn’t enough room in the national debt tank for me to pull this off. At times like these I start to think about what’s really important in life. These thoughts often take me in two opposing directions:

1. All that matters is the people, relationships, and the fun we have making memories together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or costly for it to be great. My daughter understands this and is as committed to the budget as we are. All true.

2. It’s only money … you can’t take it with you … the Country’s going down whether I add my piddly debt or not … Screw it! spend, SPEND, SPEND!! (My son will probably forgive us before we die for blowing his freshman year of college on his older sister’s wedding.) Also (mostly) true.

I really do want to be responsible and not frivolous. I really do want to honor my daughter and her fiancé with the coolest wedding they can imagine. Unfortunately, these two ideas are in our case mutually exclusive.

So, back to square one. I have sent emails apologizing to vendors who quoted me too high and more emails to new vendors to request (hopefully lower) quotes. All the while my brain is just tired of thinking about it all! I told my daughter yesterday that when this wedding is over I’m the one who’s going to need a honeymoon vacation in Hawaii!!

Meanwhile, the back yard is looking better and better everyday.

This is actually the side yard ... oh, right, tent, chairs = too steep!
This is actually the side yard the way it looked last August … at least I know I have this amazing view to look forward to!

 

Tales from the Old Country – Part 3

Every year when I was a child my Father’s family of origin would gather together on Christmas Day to celebrate. Part of our celebration always included a retelling of Papa’s (my paternal grandfather) coming to America. As a child, my *Fambly’s Story made its mark on me, especially since I never knew any of my grandparents – all I had of them were the stories. 

This is the final part of the series. You can read the other two here and here.

*FamblyThe First Generation’s distinctive name for themselves and their progeny is believed to have originated as a typo in a letter passed around between the siblings (true story). To this day, ‘Fambly’ embodies the closeness, love, and commitment to one another we all share.

The following work of fiction is based on the true story of why my Grandfather emigrated to America.

 ~   ~   ~

“It is well past your bedtime, Saiad, we can talk more about this tomorrow,” I said. The evening air had cooled along with my temper.  As Saiad gathered together his paper and pencils, Watfy looked at me questioningly. Your shame shames us all, her eyes seemed to accuse. She only said, “You know I am proud of you, don’t you, Ahmed? The whole Fambly is proud of you!”

 

You don’t understand; how could you? I thought. The kitchen seemed to fall away as the memories took hold.

 ~   ~   ~

I knew every mark on every wall of my prison cell by heart. My life had been reduced to nothing more than the surrounding stone and the memory of what I had done. Even if I had the will to forget, Malik’s family would not let me – each year on the anniversary of his murder, I was taken to an open area of the prison and beaten while they watched and mourned. The next day my mother and brother were allowed in for their yearly visit to bring me news, fresh clothing, and to dress my wounds.


As a kind of self-made penance, it became my habit to spend the days before my beating remembering the deeds that ended my freedom, all the while asking Allah for forgiveness. I knew Malik’s family would never forgive or forget. So, I remembered everything, beginning with the look of contempt on Malik’s face when he saw me in the grove. He knew what I had been sent there to do. “Malik,” I began, “this night need not end in death. It must look like I tried to kill you, but I do not want to do that.”

 

“Sure you don’t,” Malik sneered. “Since when can the word of a Fakhr-al-din be trusted? Come on, Ahmed, I am not afraid of you. Tonight will be your end, not mine!Despite his smaller stature, Malik had proven stronger and more resourceful than I planned, but he made the mistake of carrying a weapon. By the time I wrested the mallet from him, I was bruised and bloody enough to know that I needed to make the next swing count. I aimed for his already-injured left shoulder hoping to take the fight out of him. Expecting a blow to the head, Malik ducked. A sickening crunch accompanied the impact, and suddenly blood was everywhere. Malik’s still body lay before me and I knew it was really over.

 

My flight through the mountain village was even shorter than the fight had been. Malik’s brother discovered me as I crawled between the needles of my cedar grove hiding place. The trial had been a sham. Families for miles around had known what Malik had done to my cousin, Youssef. No witnesses were needed to convict me of a crime everyone had expected me to commit, the bloody mallet was evidence enough. My mother had cried, but my father’s smiling face I would never forget. His pride in my actions haunts my dreams.

 

Today was the day. It would be the 4th beating in as many years. Each year before, the guards arrived before sunrise; none offered me food or water, only pain. Today my captors were late – hours late. Just as I began to hope I might be overlooked this year – perhaps Allah had forgiven me at last – I heard footsteps approaching my cell. Someone was calling my name. At first, I didn’t recognize the voice. Had they changed my guards again? Wait, was that – ? Could it possibly be my brother’s voice I heard?

 

“George! Is that you?” I whispered as loud as I dared through the small hole in the door to my cell. “What are you doing here?” The next thing I knew someone jimmied the lock and the door to my cell swung open. There before me stood George with Papa and my Uncle.

 

“You are free,” Papa simply said.

 

“What?!” I shouted. “That’s not possible, the guards -“

 

“The guards are gone, vanished into the night,” Papa assured me. “There has been a coup. Chouff is ours once more.”

 ~   ~   ~



Saiad shook his head, eyes wide in disbelief. “They let you go, just like that?” he said.

 

“Not ‘just like that’,” I began, “but yes, I was free … for the moment.” 

 

Watfy tried then, “It is hard for you to understand, Saiad. You did not grow up in Lebanon. It is a different world, not like America. 2 or 3 families fight over who will run an entire region. When they fight, people die. When people die, others take revenge. It is all we have ever known,” she said with a sigh.

 

“What about the police, the government? Congress?” Saiad asked. I shook my head. “Well, if people always take revenge, how did you survive, Papa?”

 

“I would not had I stayed,” I said. “That is why I came to America. It took about a year to make arrangements to leave, and going was hard, but I did not want to live my whole life looking over my shoulder for an assassin who would one day come. I was safe as long as I was in prison; once they could not hold me, my life was forfeit.”

 

“Mama, did you come to America with Papa? What was it like riding a boat all the way across the Atlantic Ocean?” Saiad asked, looking at Watfy in expectation of another long, interesting story.

 

“No, Saiad, I met your father many years after he left Lebanon, but I knew the stories about him since I was a young child. I told you, where I come from, your papa is a hero! But he is right, it is late. I think the story of how we met will keep for another day.”

 

“But, Mama!”

 

Giving Saiad my sternest look, I took a breath to scold him, then stopped. I suddenly realized how quiet the house had become. “Children, where are you hiding?” I said softly.

 

Slowly, one by one, 6 children filed into the kitchen. Watfy smiled as she stood, hands on hips. “And what are you all doing down here? Evelyn, everyone was to be in bed one hour ago,” she scolded playfully.

 

“I know, Mama. Everyone’s ready for bed. We just couldn’t help listening to Papa’s story. He tells tales of such adventure!” Evelyn exclaimed.

 

Reaching my arms out to pull Idell and Fred onto my lap, I asked, “Do you want to know the greatest adventure of my life?” I waited until I saw 6 little heads nod. “You!” And planting a kiss on each one, I ordered, “Now off to bed!”

Front: Saiad, Evelyn, Fred; Back: Aunt Lufta “Sissy”, Idell, Watfy (Mama)

 ~   ~   ~


rtt-new 

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