Rita is offered a choice: either stay in the job she hates, or take a chance. The Choice was the first piece of short fiction that I published on this blog. Check it out, and find out what Rita chooses… and the consequences of that choice.
I’m very excited about NaNoWriMo this year. Please check out this post to learn why. If you’ve read it before, you’ll notice it’s been updated.
This is a work of fiction, and was inspired by this
from Mims the Word.
The street light I can see from my window is broken. I’m nineteen, and Dad took away my nightlight when I was ten. We’re in lockdown, but I’m a lot more afraid of the dark than of COVID-19.
That’s why I’m in the basement storage room with my hands deep inside a drawer, looking for it. It’s full of old tools. I sigh and check through the contents, but my nightlight isn’t there.
All this lockdown stuff wouldn’t be so bad if Mom hadn’t just come home from the hospital with my big surprise of a little sister. Well, okay, she wasn’t a total surprise. I knew about her a few months ago. At first, I thought Mom was just eating too much pistachio ice cream. Luckily for me, I didn’t say anything like that to her, and one day, she said something about the baby moving. So that was the big surprise, except she didn’t know it was a girl then. I didn’t want to know, so I just bent my head over my college textbooks and ignored the whole thing for as long as I could.
Now though, I can’t really do that so well. She’s here. Our house only has two bedrooms, and I don’t think any of us will be able to sleep in the garage, so I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be sleeping once she’s old enough to need her own room.
I tug on the next drawer, but it’s either stuck shut or locked. Mom and Dad have the keys. I pull harder. It squeaks, but doesn’t slide out. I try the next one. Bingo. My nightlight’s on top of an old transistor radio Dad inherited from his father. I take out my nightlight, close the drawer, and go back upstairs. I hope nobody will catch me taking it into my room. I guess it’s weird, I mean, I haven’t used it in nine years, so I should be over my fear of the dark, right? Except I’m not — not completely. Maybe it’s my new sister, or maybe it’s lockdown weirdness, but the dark is really getting to me again. It doesn’t help that Mom likes to turn off all the lights at nine; she says it helps to regulate her and my sister’s sleep-wake cycle. All I know is that it’s definitely not helping to regulate my passing-college-with-flying-colors cycle. Lying awake with your heart and mind racing isn’t exactly conducive to getting through online classes the next morning.
I almost make it to my room undetected, but Mom’s in the hallway outside her and Dad and my sister’s room and she sees me.
“Oh, that was considerate of you. Thanks, Billy. I’ll keep it on so Mona’s not in the dark on her first night here.” She takes it from me, smiles, and goes back into their room. I could cry, but there’s no point. I’ll have to try and sleep without any light at all.
It doesn’t work, just like I knew it wouldn’t. It’s midnight, and I’ve been lying here for an hour.
“Waaaaaaaaaaa!” I know it’s Mona, but the sound still makes me jump. “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
Can’t Mom and Dad hear that? Apparently not, because she keeps it up for a minute before I hear Mom’s voice.
“What’s going on?” She sounds really scared. “Bill, what’s happening?” She means Dad, not me. I don’t get why they didn’t change my name when they adopted me. I mean, I was only three, for crying out loud. Speaking of crying, Mona does it again.
“Bill, what’s that sound?” Mom says. “Bill! Wake up!” Dad mumbles something, and Mom says, “What?”
More loudly, he says, “It’s Mona.”
“Mona?” Mom says, as if she’s never heard of her, “what?”
“It’s our new baby, Mona,” Dad says. “She’s crying.”
“Oh,” Mom says. “Mona, I’m sorry. I got so confused, please stop crying and go back to sleep.”
Mona cries louder.
“Remember what the nurse said,” Dad says. “If she wakes up at night, feed her.”
“Oh, did she say that?” I put the covers over my head and try not to listen to them anymore. I’m so tired, but I don’t fall asleep until after the second time Mona wakes up, which I think is about four.
Mona’s crying wakes me up. I roll over and look at the clock. It’s eight. I have an online class in half an hour, so there’s no time to go back to sleep. I rub my eyes and heave myself out of bed. I throw on yesterday’s clothes and hope Mom won’t notice and demand that I shower and change.
I wash up, grab a coffee, open my laptop, and log in. I’m practically asleep at my desk as the professor talks about calculus. Why can’t we record these lectures and watch them when we’re awake?
“So, do you have questions about integrals?” he asks. I do, but I’m too exhausted and befuddled to pose them. I look at my notes and realize the page is blank. Great. I’ll have to slog through the textbook and hope I can make sense of it. Not now, that’s for sure.
I don’t have another class until ten, so I go into the kitchen and open the fridge. It’s completely empty. I check the freezer. There’s nothing in there that I can cook without a detailed recipe and a lot of time. The cupboards are empty. The sink is full of dirty dishes and the trash needs to be taken out.
I go into the living room, where Dad’s reading the paper. Strange how things have changed. He used to be gone by seven, but now he sleeps in and doesn’t have online meetings until one or so, because one of his coworkers is homeschooling her kids in the morning.
Part 2 will be posted on Friday, July 24.
Due to illness (not COVID-19), much of what I post this week will be previous content.
I had a lot of fun with How to Overcome the Fear of Plotholes in Your Fiction, and A Couple of Great Reasons to Write Fiction.
I hope to be back next week with new stuff.
Let’s help each other,
Encouragement means a lot,
As we live our lives.
This tweet by @mims_words and the comments are great “resources” if you want to fire off writing insults, but be warned. If you go on the attack with these, expect it right back and so, so much worse. I will never use these on you and request the same courtesy. They are great and I just had to share them.
Happy Fourth of July!
This is a work of fiction.
It was a crisp July day and everybody was complaining that summer wasn’t acting very summery, but the cool air was perfect for the day ahead with my grandkids: Curly (Benjamin), Sammy (Samuel), Freckles (David), and Lydia. She was like me in that we were both girls, shared the same first name, and neither of us had a nickname. Unlike me, she was quiet, shy, and had dark brown skin. The boys didn’t like her much because she still had both of her biological parents, wouldn’t look them in the eye, and worst of all, called them by their full names if she dared to speak at all.
I put on my cowboy boots and the hat that went with them, and looked at the clock. I was ready, and right on time. I had loaded up my van the previous evening, so all I had to do was climb in, start the engine, and pull out of the garage.
The drive to pick up the kids took only twenty minutes, and soon, I was parking in front of their large, white house. I grabbed my purse and got out of the car. The grass looked like it could do with a good mow, but the garden was cheerful with flowers and I decided not to say anything to anyone about the state of the lawn.
I ascended the steps and pressed the bell.
Ten seconds later, Stacey, my daughter, opened the door.
“Hi Mom. Only Lydia’s awake. Come on in. Would you like coffee?”
“If it’s already made, yes please.”
“Come and sit down and I’ll see if Chuck’s left you any.”
As I entered, I couldn’t help but cast a slightly critical eye around. Somebody’s winter coat still hung from a peg, and the floor could have done with a good clean. The place did smell nice, and I followed Stacey into the kitchen, where I found Lydia sitting at the table, eating a bowl of yogurt and fruit. I smiled and she smiled back, but didn’t speak.
Stacey walked over to the counter and looked at the coffee pot.
“Sorry Mom. He only left a splash.”
I could see that the stove needed to be cleaned; there was blackened stuff on the front burners.
“That’s okay,” I said.
There were no dishes in the sink, but I could smell the trash, although I couldn’t see it. I needed to stop judging her. Abe (Abraham), her first husband, had been the one to do most of the cleaning while she cooked. The boys had also had chores to do, and she and Chuck were probably still working things out about who did what.
“Would you like a strawberry yogurt? It’s only good until Thursday.”
“Sure, I’d love it if you’re sure one of the boys won’t.”
“They all claim to hate whatever food I offer. It’s been kind of hectic lately.” She put the yogurt down in front of me, along with a spoon. “Speaking of the boys, I’d better go and drag them out of bed.”
“They’re too big,” Lydia said softly.
“What?” Stacey said. Lydia didn’t answer, and Stacey shrugged.
I ddn’t know if Lydia would want me to repeat what she’d said, so I asked, “Where’s Chuck?”
“He’s doing his last minute packing. Be right back.” She dashed up the stairs and I heard her opening a door. “It’s time to get up! Grandma’s here.” I heard a lot of groaning, but no distinct words came from the boys.
“They don’t want to go,” Lydia said. She spooned the last of her breakfast into her mouth, took the bowl and spoon to the sink, and rinsed them.
I couldn’t think of how to respond to that, and then Chuck came down the stairs, carrying a huge suitcase as if it weighed nothing. His skin was the same color as Lydia’s, but unlike her, he towered six and a half feet tall, had strong, broad shoulders, a cheerful face, and could talk your ear off.
“Hello, Lydia,” he said.
I was pretty sure he meant me, but his daughter said, “Hi Daddy.”
“Good morning, Chuck,” I said. “How are you?”
“Great! I’d better go back up and help Stacey with the boys.” He put down the suitcase and ran up the stairs.
Ten minutes later, Stacey and Chuck came down again, trailed by the three boys. Curly’s hair was a tangled mess, Sammy’s shirt was on backwards, and Freckles’s jeans had a large hole at the knee, but at least they were awake and dressed.
Sammy yawned and said, “I’m hungry. What’s for breakfast?”
“There isn’t time,” Stacey said. “Grandma can take you to get something.”
“I want yogurt,” he said, spying the unopened container in front of me.
“Me too,” Freckles said.
“Me three,” Curly said.
“There’s only one left and there isn’t time,” Stacey said. “Chuck and I have to leave for the airport now.”
“Let’s get you loaded up,” Chuck said. He went into the living room. “Sammy, where’s your suitcase?”
“We have to find it,” Chuck said. Stacey went into the living room. “Look,” Chuck said. “Sammy’s isn’t here.”
“It was last night,” she said.
“Lydia, what did you do with my suitcase?” Sammy said. Lydia looked scared and didn’t say a word.
“Yeah, what?” Curly said. “You’re holding us up.”
Freckles said, “She doesn’t want to be without her daddy for three whole big fat weeks.”
“I want my suitcase!” Sammy yelled.
“Calm down,” Stacey said. “We’ll look for it.”
“She touched it,” Freckles said. “It’ll be all covered in gross girl germs!”
“Yuck,” Curly said. “You’ll have to, like, wash everything off.”
Lydia started to cry silently.
“Cry baby!” Freckles said.
“That’s enough,” I said, annoyed that Chuck and Stacey appeared to be more concerned with their luggage than with their kids. A flight could be rescheduled, but helping kids learn to get along couldn’t.
A few minutes later, Chuck came up from the basement, his expression not at all sunny.
“It’s in the utility room,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. It’s open and everything’s all over the floor.”
“Lydia did it!” Curly said.
“Lydia, did you mess with Sammy’s suitcase?” Stacey said.
She couldn’t possible believe that, could she?
Lydia was still crying and didn’t answer.
“Lydia?” Stacey said, her voice loud and impatient. “Tell the truth.”
Freckles burst out laughing.
“This isn’t funny,” Stacey said. “We’re going to miss our flight.”
“No, you’re not,” I said. “I’ll repack the suitcase, check the house over, take out the trash, and lock up. Freckles, did you play with Sammy’s suitcase?”
“Why are you accusing him?” Curly said.
“I’m not. I’m just asking him. Same with you and Sammy. Did anybody here play with the suitcase?”
Freckles said, “We all saw Lydia doing it.”
“So why not tell somebody at the time?” I said. “Why wait until now when it’s time to go?”
“Dunno,” Freckles said.
“Mom, are you sure?” Stacey said.
“Yes,” I said. It would be so much easier without them around, especially since they didn’t seem to notice that the boys were bullying Lydia.
“Bye boys,” Chuck said. He went over to Lydia and tried to pat her on the arm, but she skittered out of his reach. She didn’t like to be touched when she was upset, and Stacey had commented to me on more than one occasion that it drove her crazy when Lydia wouldn’t accept affection and she wondered if she might have something like autism.
“Bye Curly Sammy Freckles Lydia,” Stacey said in one breath. “Oh, and by, Mom!”
“Bye,” I said. “Have fun and don’t forget to buy postcards and souvenirs.”
“Bye,” Sammy said.
“Where are you going?” Freckles said.
“I think Sammy was saying goodbye to Chuck and your mom,” I said.
“No I was saying bye to Lydia,” Sammy said. “She messed up my suitcase so she can stay here all by herself.” He made a scary sound. Stacey and Chuck were too busy running to the car to notice.
“Nobody’s staying here alone,” I said. “Come on, let’s go and repack that suitcase.”
“It’s in the basement,” Freckles said. “There’s about a zillion monsters there ready to eat us up!”
Lydia backed away from the basement stairs.
“There aren’t any monsters, not there, and not in the whole wide world,” I said. “Let’s go.”
“You go, but we don’t want to,” Sammy said.
I decided to go downstairs and see who followed. I didn’t say anything, but walked toward the basement stairs. The boys stayed where they were. Lydia looked at me, at them, and then she got up and walked behind me.
The utility room was an absolute disaster. Sammy’s clothes had been unfolded and stewn all over the floor. A tube of toothpaste was missing its cap, and some of the clothes had toothpaste on them.
“I didn’t do it,” Lydia whispered.
“I know. Do you know who did?”
“If I tell, I’ll get in trouble.”
“Not if you tell me.”
Freckles, just like I’d guessed. Not only had he burst out laughing, practically giving himself away, but he liked to do wild things, most of which were silly, but harmless. It was a real shame that his humorous, playful side wasn’t coming out in a positive way with Lydia, who was far too serious for a little girl of eight.
“Thanks. Let’s get all this packed up.”
“There’s toothpaste on his clothes.”
“I’ll put those ones in his laundry bag and wash them when we get to my house. And don’t worry, I have lots of toothpaste.”
It took us quite a while, but eventually, I hauled the suitcase up the stairs and into the living room. Then the silence hit me. Lydia looked around and our eyes met. Where were the boys?
Part 2 will be posted on Friday, July 17.