Clara’s pointy toed shoes tapped a warning to her coworkers; she was in a bad mood, and her walk reflected that. Every cubicle she passed contained someone typing industriously, scanning a sheaf of printout, or making an important phone call.
The problem wasn’t her mood, it was her hyper-criticality on days like these. Anyone caught slacking knew they’d be in for a dressing-down like no other.
Clara’s office door slammed behind her, and the whispering began. Everyone was dying to know the cause. Was it her mother again? Had she and Brian finally broken up? Or was it as boring as the time she fired Stephen over the barista sweetening her coffee?
Clara sat behind her desk, staring into space. She knew the whole office was talking about her. She wasn’t an idiot, for chrissake. She knew she was harder on them when she was going through a tough time, but by god, all they had to do was be competent.
It was neither her mother nor her boyfriend, and her coffee remained as dark and bitter as her soul. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Clara herself had no idea what was wrong with her, only that she’d woken up this way.
She pushed herself away from the desk and spun to look out the window. She crossed her arms and stared up at the wisps of whiteness streaking the sky.
Even in her black mood, Clara was able to admit to herself that the current team was possibly the best she’d ever supervised. If she left her office and started firing people over dirty fingernails and insignificant typos, she might actually have to answer to the big boss for her actions this time. She blew out a sharp breath through her nostrils.
She put her coat on as she stood and grabbed her bag.
Pointy toed shoes echoed all the way to the elevator, and when the doors slid closed behind her, the team breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was pretty great to have a boss who knew when she was going to be too much of a hardass.
The thought chased its own tail through all the mazes of Andi’s mind, repeating itself relentlessly as it gnawed at her morale. Out loud, however, she simply chanted the numbers.
“One hundred!!” The triumph in her voice was palpable, and she eased herself to the ground, unable to do one more push-up if her life depended on it. She had every right to be proud; she’d gone from nine to one hundred push-ups in less than seven weeks.
The goal was arbitrary; she’d plucked it out of the air a few days after Thanksgiving when she realized that her favorite pair of jeans no longer buttoned. Andi hadn’t told a soul about what she was doing, but a couple of her closest friends and coworkers noticed that she was holding her head up a little higher these days.
The best part? Andi’s ex, who unfortunately worked in her building–thankfully on another floor–was on paternity leave after the birth of his first child with his new wife, for whom he’d dumped Andi less than a year ago. Daniel had no idea that Andi was undertaking this journey of self-discovery, and he certainly had no idea that she had finally found her way out of pining for him.
She chuckled, still face down on the carpet. He’s going to expect me to still be in love with him, but I’m finally in love with myself. It’s going to be a glorious new year!
Andi rolled over and spread her arms, stretching as far as she could reach. It felt good to achieve, and it felt great to achieve for herself. She chuckled again, thinking how proud her sister would be. Her sister, who always said that Daniel was all wrong for her. Well, she was right, after all.
She closed her eyes and reveled in her victory.
When she leaned down to retrieve her bag from the passenger floorboard she caught a glimpse of movement in the side mirror. She smiled crookedly as she opened the door, waiting for him to wrap his arms around her, holding her close in that special way that kept her warm in the cold northern nights.
He didn’t, and she turned around, a question on her face. He wasn’t there at all. The movement must have been more of the falling leaves that blanketed the ground as far as she could see, except for her pair of tire tracks weaving among the trees.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and slammed the car door. A tear tracked its way down her left cheek as she stepped carefully around to the back of the truck to gather the grocery bags. Some days, it felt like he’d been gone at least a hundred years, and some days like he had just stepped outside for a quick smoke.
Two bags swinging softly in each hand, she trekked through the yard and onto the front porch, where she spun once, scanning the acres between her steps and the long dirt road to nowhere.
Not a soul.
She sniffed, and rubbed the tear from her face with the back of her hand.
As she unpacked the groceries she realized that she’d bought his favorites once again: mac and cheese and those stupidly expensive all-beef bun-length hot dogs. She left everything where it was on the kitchen counter and walked, head down, to their–her–bedroom to throw herself down on the mattress and sob and sob and sob until she was red and puffy.
It was the next morning when she woke with swollen eyes and a throbbing headache. She opened her eyes and stared at the thin strip of sunlight tapering across the wallpaper next to the bathroom door.
His voice echoed in her head, “just where it gets in my eyes when I try to shave.”
She closed her own eyes again, squeezing them until all she saw was the brilliant kaleidoscope of pressure on her optic nerves. This time, when she opened her eyes, his presence was completely gone.
She kicked off her shoes and went downstairs to finish putting the food away, but had to stop and laugh at the wreck the neighbor’s dog had made of her kitchen. She knew it was old Rider; the devil was lying underneath her kitchen table, tongue hanging out on the floor, shreds of fancy hot dog wrapper scattered around his swollen gut.
“I didn’t give the front door that extra push, did I, boy?” She laughed again, louder. “I forgot how poorly you resist temptation.”
Rider startled awake at the sound of her voice, and began to scramble guiltily to his feet, but she knelt to scratch behind his ears.
“Good boy, Rider. Good boy.”
When I woke up this morning I felt freaking amazing. Swear. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I opened my eyes and hopped out of bed and wanted to fly to the moon when my feet hit the floor.
See, I got back problems. It’s been probably eight or nine years since I could physically hop out of bed. Ever since the accident at the factory, I’m crunched up and slow moving. For a while there, it was touch and go as to whether or not I was going to make it.
But this morning. Man! It was like I had one in the chamber and the bullseye was six inches away. Just the best. And it’s not like I did anything any differently, last night or yesterday, or hell, the past six months.
I’m running on a full tank again, and I love it. I whooped, and shouted, “Soy muy hocicon!” But since I haven’t used my high school Spanish in the past thirty years, I have no idea what I said. That wasn’t the point though; the point was the emotion behind the exclamation.
I tried again. “Escuchame!”
My neighbor started pounding on the wall. I could hear him hollering something at me, but I couldn’t understand him. Besides, he wasn’t going to spoil today for me. I felt great! It didn’t matter if no one cared. Not one single solitary bit!
I opened my bottom dresser drawer, mostly because I hadn’t been able to open that drawer in years. All I found was old cargo pants, but I went ahead and put them on, because by God I was going somewhere today, and most people wouldn’t like it if I went naked.
I grabbed my work boots from the hall closet and jammed my feet in them as I struggled into yesterday’s tee shirt.
When I threw the door open, the birds where chirping like I was Snow White. Glorious.
I took two steps before I tripped over my own feet and came crashing to the pavement.
And just like that, my back hurt again.
I groaned and rolled over to stare at the clouds crawling across the blue sky. Just my damn luck. I closed my eyes and gave up.
And then I woke up. Not feeling as amazing as I had in my dream, but I was still pretty optimistic about getting that bottom drawer open. Today’s the day!
Gloria traced the rough texture of the bricks, the abrasive particles of sand and grit catching the tender skin of her fingertips. A concavity caught her attention, and she paused, cocking her head in curiosity. She scratched at the small hole, widening it, and flakes of mortar tumbled to the ground at her feet, littering her shoelaces with their crystalline dandruff.
She reached the bottom quickly enough, and lost interest when nothing of note appeared. She continued on her way, meandering back and forth across the sidewalk, never stepping on a crack for fear of breaking her mother’s back.
Cedric leaned against the street sign catty-corner to Gloria’s wandering dance, and he watched her with bright eyes. Such a girl would likely have some interesting stories to tell, he thought. His mind made up, he crossed the street, Gloria in his crosshairs.
Gloria froze, her sneaker toe millimeters from a large insect blundering its way across her path. She squatted and squinted at the poor thing–a beetle, she judged. She reached out a hand to touch it, and like that, it spread its wings and disappeared into the bright blue sky without a trace. Gloria smiled broadly, unperturbed that her plans had been so swiftly shattered by such an insignificant creature.
She stood back up and prepared to continue on her way, but a man blocked her.
Cedric knew that with his fighter’s build, he could bed intimidating, but he had spent years perfecting his kindly and disarming smile. He used that smile on Gloria, to an unexpected effect.
“And that’s how your mother and I met, kids.”
Ann’s shameful hunger remained unsatisfied. Her fingers curled into claws at the ache in her midsection; the bloodlust was growing. A knock on the window startled her from her reverie, but it was only an acorn tapping on its way down to the ground.
The chicken lottery was scheduled for next week, but Ann didn’t believe she was going to make it that long. She picked up her phone to call the Lord Chamberlain.
After half an hour on the phone, arguing back and forth, the Lord Chamberlain agreed to give Ann an extra entry for every conversion she achieved in the next week. Ann grumbled, because those extra entries did nothing to assuage her hunger now, but she knew this was the best she was going to get.
One of my favorite things to do is go to this random word generator and make something with what I get. Today it was: bloodlust chicken lottery lord conversion shameful. So just keep in mind, when I share something totally off the wall, it’s probably because of six random words.