“Maggie McCoy, I’m on the list.” She stared the doorman straight in the eyes and tucked a stray lock of her long blonde hair behind an ear. “Would you mind either checking the list or stepping aside, please?” She raised an eyebrow at him, because he still hadn’t moved.
“This is just perfect,” she muttered to herself, as she took a deep breath and prepared to duck around him, but he finally lifted the clipboard into his field of vision. She let out the breath and smiled, much more pleasantly this time. The smile faded abruptly as he dropped the clipboard back down the the desk before him.
Maggie fumed. “This is ludicrous,” she began. “You know as well as I do that I’m here at least twice a week to pick Kat up, and I come to every one of these parties that she throws, whether they’re once a month or every day for a week straight. You’ve worked here about four years now, and it’s always the same–“She broke off in shock.
The doorman turned to open the door for the person who had walked up while Maggie was ranting.
Maggie was too stunned to move, and as soon as the doorman stepped back in front of the entrance, she kicked herself for not ducking around his sorry ass when she had the chance. I won’t waste the next one, she promised herself. Someone else will be along any minute.
“As I was saying,” she continued, “It’s always the same thing. You won’t let me in even thought you have to recognize me by now, and so you check your stupid little list, and I’m on it, so you let me in. Every freaking time. So tell me, why is this time any different?”
The doorman looked through her. Jeez, talking to this guy was like talking to a hologram or something. Maggie tried taking a half step in the direction that he seemed to be making eye contact, but she guessed wrong.
“God, what is with you, man?” Maggie stomped her foot like a child. “There isn’t even one of those stupid parties tonight. There’s nothing going on! Maggie McCoy, here to see Kat Sanders, 312, how hard is that? Let’s get a move on, dude!”
She was so mad that she didn’t even notice at first when the doorman slid aside to let another resident enter. It was only as he was moving back into her path that she realized that she’d missed yet another opportunity to dodge this jerk.
What was the deal? None of this was like her. The impatience, the throwing an actual fit, berating this poor man on the street like a savage! Maggie took another deep breath. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I’ve forgotten my manners. I’d like for you to let me up so I can visit my friend Kat. Thank you.” She waited, hopefully.
The doorman continued to ignore her.
Maggie was at her wits’ end. She started to take yet another deep breath, then realized that she was hyperventilating over this whole situation, and struggled to breathe slowly and normally. Eventually, it worked.
The doorman didn’t bat an eye.
Maggie burst into tears, and at that exact moment, a cab pulled up to the curb and Kat stepped out, dressed in black from head to toe, with red eyes and a tissue in her hand. The doorman slid aside, inclining his head respectfully towards her.”I’m terribly sorry for your loss, ma’am,” he said.
Maggie’s jaw dropped. No one recognized her. She was here to see Kat for their weekly toast and tea, and Kat wasn’t even home?
Something weird was going on.
A thought struck Maggie. No one was paying any attention to her. Kat wasn’t home. Kat didn’t even see her. Kat was sad. Kat had a loss.
“I’m a ghost,” Maggie said. “I’m a freaking ghost. Isn’t that just perfect.”
Have you ever bought a lovely handmade spearmint bar of soap only to be driven to tears by the strength of the odor when you get it in your shower stall?
Have you ever juiced a carrot?
Have you ever wondered what happened to the giant tiles in office buildings when you see one is cracked?
Have you ever spent an hour trying to train your muscles to move your toes individually?
Have you ever jumped into a public fountain?
Crystal slid the stack of Monopoly money to the side and watched it flutter to the floor before lifting the small decorative box into her lap. She used the first finger of each hand to gently raise the lid, and was crestfallen to see that her stash was critically low. She dug around in the crumpled throw blanket next to her on the couch for her phone and frantically texted Sheep, her dealer.
Are you holding?
Sixteen minutes later, she realized that she was still staring at her phone, waiting for a reply that was possibly not forthcoming. The phone bounced back into the labyrinthine folds of the blanket when it slipped from her hand.
Outside, a backfire sounded from a car muffler long past its prime. Crystal leaped from the couch and yanked the curtains out of her way to peer outside. Yes. Darryl was home from visiting his mother. She dropped the curtain and ran out, letting the screen door bang closed behind her.
He turned at the noise, but readily opened his arms when he saw the smile on Crystal’s face. Darryl wrapped her in a bear hug and spun around twice while her feet kicked out behind her.
“I missed you, girl,” he mumbled into her curls.
“I missed you, too,” she replied. “How’s your mom doing?”
Darryl put her back on the ground and ran his hands down her arms. “She didn’t remember me the whole time I was there. Which is just as well, I guess, since I never did amount to much in her book.” He shrugged. “Good to see my sisters though.”
Crystal rolled a pebble around in a circle on the driveway underneath her shoe, unsure of how to respond. She looked up to meet his gaze. “I did miss you, you know.”
“I know. Hey, I brought you something back. Hold on,” he trailed off as he ducked back into the car to rummage around in the floorboard covered with empty 20 ounce bottles and Grizzly tins. “Here it is!” Darryl emerged triumphant, a small leather pouch in hand.
“What is it?” Crystal asked. “I mean, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
Darryl laughed. “Just open it.”
Crystal pulled the mouth of the bag open and poured the contents into her palm. “Seeds?” She looked up, confused. “What kind of seeds? They look like apple seeds.”
“They are apple seeds! I remembered that time you told me how you always wanted an orchard. Well, now you can start one. A small one, anyway.” Darryl reached out and carefully helped Crystal return the seeds to their pouch without losing a single one.
“I’m not so sure I’m cut out for that, Darryl,” she started.
“I think you are. Here, put them in your pocket and help me unpack. I haven’t seen you in a week, and we need to catch up. What have I missed around here?” Darryl took her hand and filled it with the first bag from the trunk.
One year ago today I wrote a pair of drinking limericks. Why have I not written more limericks?
- They’re work. Writing isn’t supposed to be work.
- Well, see #1.
The sound tickled just beneath Clara’s ears, almost subsonic in its depth. She worked her jaw to relieve the pressure, but it didn’t help much. She turned her attention back to the photograph, desperately seeking any reason to label it a hoax.
A bell rang in the next room, startling her away from her studies. Clara rose to check on the brownies. They were done to a perfect chewy toughness, just the way she liked them. She grabbed a bag of candy from the counter and methodically pushed a caramel into the center of each brownie square. By the time the brownies were cool enough to cut and plate, the caramels would be perfectly gooey.
She left dessert unattended on the kitchen counter and returned to her home office. Her head twitched to the right, then back to center. That sound again. She gritted her teeth and sat down at her desk. She would have laughed aloud if that sound weren’t setting all of her nerves on edge. So irritating. And only in here, while she’s trying to work.
Clara gave up for the day, closing her files and returning to the kitchen for a brownie and a nice tall glass of milk.
Carrie’s car backfired, and she jumped, letting go of the clutch and causing it to stall out. She rubbed the tense muscles in the back of her neck and took a deep breath. Some life lessons are easier to learn than others, I guess, she thought.
“Yoo hoo!” Someone called from the garage door. “Anybody home?” It was Carrie’s main accomplice, Sky. Their annual Labor Day Weekend bash was the stuff of legend. Mostly because of that one year when the twins had one too many raspberry mojitos and tried to go home with each other’s boyfriend.
Carrie gratefully exited her vehicle, dropping the keys in the seat behind her. She welcomed Sky’s arrival because it meant tapas were near. “Just let me grab my shoes,” she called.
Sky nodded and bounced back to her own properly maintained car to wait. Carrie was horrible about being ready on time. Today Sky ran ten minutes late on purpose just to see if Carrie would notice. Her bet was on not.
Today, it only took Carrie eight minutes to find the most disgusting pair of sandals she owned. At least, that was Sky’s assumption. They might once have been Birkenstocks, but time and abuse and disfigurement caused them to look like some alien creature had attached itself to Carrie’s flesh. And the color was just gross.
Sky shrugged, and put the car in reverse. Tapas Thursday was a tradition that wasn’t worth losing over a pair of godawful ugly sandals. Besides, Carrie’s existing fashion sense wasn’t ever anything to write home about.
On the way to the restaurant, they passed the train station, which was decorated in a giant banner welcoming some gymnast to the local competition. Sky pointed a finger at it, and Carrie scoffed.
“I haven’t been interested in gymnastics since my mother stopped forcing me to go,” she said. “Not that I was interested before then, either.”
Sky laughed. “I know, silly. Just like me and piano lessons.”
They pulled up to the fine dining establishment where all the Thursday staff knew their names. Sky parked the car, and the pair walked up to the door. A moth flew down from the awning, flapping in Sky’s face, and she flailed her arms wildly at it, panicking.
“It’s just a bug, girl, you look like you’re directing a ship into port,” said Carrie.
Sky’s face was red, and she briefly tried to defend her actions, but quickly gave up and shrugged. “I know, I just don’t like them.”
They went to their usual table in the corner by the kitchen, not normally a popular table, but they liked it because the chance of the waiter dropping their tapas down someone’s back was pretty much nonexistent.
Natalio was their waiter tonight, and he was their definitive favorite. Even before they figured out the near-the-kitchen trick, he’d never dropped a single item from their order.
Sky picked up a dot of sauce with her finger and licked it off before continuing the conversation that had flagged due to their mutual admiration of Natalio.
“So, you don’t think that I’m being stupid about Fletcher, huh?”
Carrie quickly shook her head. “Of course not! He was absolutely faithless assuming that you were going to dump him for losing his job. He’s the one being stupid. I mean, a preemptive breakup over local employment? I know it sucks, but he’s being a jerk.”
“I know, but still…it just breaks my heart. I thought we were so good together. I didn’t know about the big streak of crazy he had until it was too late. But I guess it isn’t too late, since we’re broken up.” Sky shrugged. “What about you? How does your blood work look?”
“Oh, it’s fine, lately. My serum levels are down, which is good. Hopefully it’s just a waiting game now.”
Today I generated a list of twenty random words from this site. I wrote half at work this morning and finished the rest tonight. If you pay attention, you can tell where I started to struggle with the last few words!