Casualties at Home

Denise tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she turned left at the green light. There was absolutely no way that Charles was going to beat her to the restaurant today. She started getting ready for their date a full hour earlier than usual. Even with the extra special care she took with her hair and makeup, she still left nearly forty-five minutes earlier than she normally would have.

The problem was that there was no problem. Denise just ran into new and different problems every time she left the house.

Take last week, for example. How was she to know that she was going to turn down a one way street blocked by a broken down garbage truck? It had just happened, and it wasn’t even on the traffic report later, so she honestly didn’t have any way of knowing.

And last month, when those protesters decided to let the monkeys loose from the city zoo. Nobody could have predicted such a thing, nor that two orangutans would set up shop in the middle of the very street that Denise chose as her best route to the library.

The next light was red, and Denise toed the brake, adjusting the collar of her denim jacket as she slowed. She hummed along with the melody whispering from the car stereo, then reached for the volume knob to turn it up enough to hear the words.

peaceBut when she lifted her eyes back to the road ahead of her, a tank. A tank? Cruising down the street in the middle of a major metropolitan area? Denise threw the car in park and threw her hands in the air in defeat.

“I’m just going to stay home and write my poetry from now on. Charles is just going to have to survive on takeout and home cooking, that’s all there is to it.” She dug through her purse until she found her cell phone, and called Charles to repeat herself.

“A freaking tank, Charles. It’s unbelievable, I know. I’m not sure if I should even try to turn around and drive back home. I might get trampled by a brontosaur stampede,” she was beginning to sob. “What did I do to deserve this, Charles? For crying out loud, I can’t even go to the grocery store without a freak hailstorm destroying my windshield.”

That one happened three weeks ago.

Charles did his best to calm down his beloved, but she grew more and more hysterical with each passing second. Finally, he interrupted her long enough to state firmly that he was going to come and pick her up, and he would park her car somewhere safe nearby and come back to get it the next day.

Denise agreed, snot dribbling down her upper lip. She got off the phone and leaned over to open her glove compartment for some napkins to clean up. She straightened in her seat and blew her nose, and sat calmly and quietly, waiting for Charles to show up.

It only took him about ten minutes. With a shock of guilt, Denise realized how close she was to his work, and that he must have skipped out early to come and help her in her hysterical state. She got out of her car and threw her arms around his neck.

“You’re my hero, Charles,” she exclaimed, kissing him. “I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m so sorry for the drama and making you leave work and…”

He interrupted her for the second time, before she broke down again. “It’s perfectly okay, sweetheart. Come on.” He escorted her around to the passenger side of his car. “Now, just wait here a moment, and I’ll go park you right over there,” he said, pointing at the Chipotle across the street. “I won’t be but a few minutes, okay?”

Denise nodded, and as she waited for Charles to return, suddenly wondered where everyone else was. A tank was blocking the road before her, yes, but surely at least one other driver should have come up behind her at this light while she waited for Charles.

The thought occupied her mind so thoroughly that she didn’t even notice Charles come back to his car, and she nearly jumped out of her skin when he opened the door and got into the driver’s seat. She swiped at her nose once more with the napkin and cocked her head at him.

“Where is everyone else today?” The genuine confusion in her tone took Charles by surprise.

“They’re all gone, Denise,” he answered, now feeling as puzzled as she looked. “Don’t you remember? The city closed yesterday. They’re evacuating all of us in two days.” His grew more concerned by the second as he realized that none of this was ringing a bell with her. “Denise, are you even packed yet?”

“But where are we going? And why?” The tears were back in her eyes, the napkin forgotten in the loose fist that lay in her lap.

“Wherever there is room for us, my love. Because of the war.” Charles reached out a hand to comfort her, but Denise flinched away.

“None of this is making any sense, Charles. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just let me out! You’re lying!” The napkin tumbled from her hand as she scrabbled at the door handle, struggling to work it without unlocking it first.

Charles returned his eyes to the horizon. The last time Denise was like this, it took her a full six weeks to come back to him. He pressed his lips together and continued to her house, where he tucked her into bed and packed a bag of essentials for her before falling asleep on the couch.

***

LRose asked for a prompt; I gave her one, but I fell in love with it myself.


Spearmint and Sadness

Jessie Dawson gripped the steering wheel, twisting her hands in opposite directions as she watched the headlights splash down the road before her. Her foot pressed down even more firmly on the gas pedal and she grimaced, remembering Dominick’s last words to her.

Don’t worry about it, babe.”

Garbage words from a garbage person. Gibberish dripping from a mouth full of lies in the moonlight. Her ring finger found a loose thread on the steering wheel cover, and she shifted her hands enough to pick at it with her forefinger.

Lights shone bright in the distance, and she released the accelerator to coast into the convenience store’s parking lot. Safe between the lines, she turned the ignition off and rested her head on her hands on the steering wheel. Her heart felt like the Mongols had used it for target practice.

Dominick. Just his name sent a chill down her spine. She thought he was a dream come true, the perfect man, the one. A small chuff of laughter slipped from between her lips as she thought about the day they met in a shoe store downtown, the shoe store where she worked. file000786678893.jpg

She was bringing a hand towel out front to clean up some syrupy mess one of the million and a half kids that ran around the store had made, and without paying attention to where she was going, she ran straight into Dominick. They both nearly fell down, but he caught himself, and then he caught her. She looked into his eyes and that was it right there. He was a necromancer casting a love spell on her.

She sprang away from him, an unspoken apology resting on her tongue, and her manager came around the corner.

“Jessie! You’re supposed to be cleaning up that mess by the front counter! I’m so sorry sir, what can I help you with?”

Jessie turned to Dominick helplessly, and she relaxed when she laid eyes on him again. He took charge immediately.

“I don’t believe you can help me with a thing, ma’am. Jessie has everything under control.” He raised an eyebrow at the manager, who turned without another word, and then wondered for the rest of the day why exactly had she done that.

“I’m Dominick. It’s nice to meet you.” His smile lit up the world. Jessie couldn’t help but smile back. She took a giddy step backward, and kicked a pair of cypress clogs beneath the towering shelves. Dominick reached out and took her hand, and she dropped the towel.

The two of them left the store, Jessie dropping her apron in the doorway on her way out.

She thought they were going to live happily ever after, but ever after only lasted seven months. Seven months of happiness, and now this. Jessie lifted her head from the steering wheel and looked around the parking lot. Two other cars, but no one in either.

She got out and went into the store and spent twenty minutes perusing the overpriced chips and beef jerky before selecting a single bottle of water and a pack of spearmint gum. Jessie took them back to her car, where she sat until the sun came up, reminiscing about the good old days with Dominick.

Being LRose’s Writer


Near Death Experience

Today I ran into a little problem when I was on my way to work.

I was driving on the highway, 45 miles an hour, and someone pulled out in front of me and stopped in my lane. There was a car in the lane next to me, so all i could do was slam on the brakes and mash frantically on the steering wheel. The horn’s a little high, so I never did manage to honk at her.

And then my brakes quit working. Don’t worry, though, the other car passed so I swerved around the asshole.

I pulled over and sat for a minute before calling my husband. He said to turn the car off and let it sit for a few minutes and maybe the master cylinder would reset itself. So i turned it off and called the store.

I’d forgotten that the manager had some interviews set up today so he needed me there ASAP. I told him what was going on and that if this didn’t work my husband would pick me up and bring me to work.

It didn’t work. When I started the car I still had no pedal. Straight to the floor. So I texted Ian, and he said he’d come check it out. When he got there, he had me pull up a bit, but there wasn’t any fluid on the ground. I popped the hood, and he poured some brake fluid in while I pumped the pedal. He poured far too much fluid, and it didn’t help. He drove the car home, and I followed.

When I pulled in the driveway next to him I could see a puddle already by the driver’s side front tire. He switched cars and I drove to work. I almost had to pull over to throw up. I was still a little shaken.

My manager called to see how much longer I would be, and it was then that I remembered his interviews. Oh, well.

I would be perfectly fine not having that experience ever again, thank you. Brakes are pretty handy. But I did learn that you can pop a brake line by trying not to T-bone someone. Good to know.

 

 


Map, Ode, Metaphor

I remember when we met at first:
You lay easy on the rack; uncursed
Standing tall, proud, smooth, and glossy
The black wire rack near the self-serve coffee.

Remember when we left that town?
You were flat and smooth, your edges down.
The car was warm, the car was dry
And you and I, we learned to fly.

Your crinkling would break the silence
I’d fold you carefully, never with violence.
My finger traced tracks along your planes
And my love for cartography never wanes.

How far to Milwaukee? I’d ask, and you’d say:
Six hours and a quarter, if we go this way.
But detours were nice in their own sense of being,
I learned miles and the clock weren’t always so agreeing.

I miss you often; I long for you so–
I never imagined how soon you would go.
TomTom and Google, they just aren’t the same
We would travel forever; the road was a game.

An entire generation has grown up this way
Without real maps to guide them on the roads of today
I’m glad that we had an amazing experience
And traveled the highways, nearly no interference.

Writing 201: Poetry


Interstate 49 in Louisiana, Told in Water Towers

Shreveport  
 Natchitoches  
 Alexandria 


The Scenic Route

For backstory, I’ll give you this: my friend was having some problems and needed a ride. Fifty-nine miles away and in another state.

So I was driving.

I’d started the trip thinking about how I’ve become completely unable to resist someone in the midst of a crisis, simply because no one had been there for me in the midst of my own. If you call me crying, and I care the least little bit about you (which of course I do, because otherwise you wouldn’t have my number), I’ll do whatever I can to help you. It’s the fault in my stars.

As I neared the state line, I stopped thinking about that, and moved on to my surroundings. I passed an old abandoned hotel, named after the hamlet in which it was located. It only had about sixteen rooms, and may in fact have had less square footage than the home I’m living in now. Most of the rooms were open to the elements, either with wide open doors or missing them completely. I thought about what an incredibly tempting place to explore that would be, were it closer to home. I wondered who had stayed there, who had owned the place, and what they had been like. I would have stopped for a picture, but remember, I was on a mission.

So I kept going.

And I passed more homes, out in the middle of nowhere, some with cows or donkeys or horses grazing, some with rusted out old cars, some with nothing but woods nearly up to the house.

I passed a blue and white plaid couch on the side of the road, upside down, discarded amongst the trees.

Then I crossed the state line, and I entered the land of county roads, where there are so many they don’t even have names other than their numbers. Narrow and bumpy and pitted, these roads still led to so many homes, so many people.

And for the first time that I can think of, I wanted to know about their lives. Not just their big adventures, but their small, day-to-day ones as well. I wondered about what they did when they woke up in the morning, and what their fondest memories of childhood were, and how often they rearranged their furniture.

I’ve driven the roads around here so many times, they’ve become so familiar, that I don’t think about the people whose homes I pass every day. Their places are my places; we share convenience stores and movie theaters and restaurants. I don’t know them, but I’m sure I’ve at least seen most of them with my own eyes, somewhere, sometime.

This was all new to me, and suddenly, these people who have lives just like anyone else’s seemed shiny and new and interesting. Even though it isn’t really that far, and I do live within the sprawling suburban fingers of their nearest big city. I probably have seen some of them on the road or at a festival or a casino. But I didn’t think about any of that right then.

I only wondered.

I wondered who was going to write their stories. And I thought about how dearly I’d love to read them.

Especially that hotel. It was a hulk, but it was beautiful.

I should have taken a picture.