The Grapes and Wrath

The grapes lay in a puddle on the kitchen counter. Connie put her hands on her hips and shook her head. She cocked her head and yelled over her shoulder. “Carl, what have I told you about using a dishtowel?” She tapped her foot on the floor as she waited for a response.Carl steeped around the corner. “Um, to use one?” His eyebrows were raised in honest confusion. Connie gestured toward the grapes. “Oh, that.” Carl grinned sheepishly at her.

“No sir, that boyish charm is not gonna get you out of this one,” she sternly replied. “Clean up this dang mess before I have to give you what for.”She couldn’t hold back any longer, and burst into laughter.

“See, I knew that charm would do the trick. Works every time!” Carl snagged a clean dishtowel from the cabinet beneath the sink and set the dripping colander of grapes in the sink before drying off the counter. He leaned in and kissed Connie on the cheek. “Sorry I forgot, babe.”

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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


Cosmo and Wanda

I blew out a breath, directing it upwards to flutter my bangs across my forehead. This wasn’t going to work out. I pushed away from my desk, the carefully aligned row of Erlenmeyer flasks and the murky deformity that lay within the last one to the right.

“What’s for dinner, babe?” I hollered down the hall. My partner was in his own office, proofreading college essays. A thankless job, but it brought in enough extra money that we could afford a fancy dress date night once a month.

He didn’t respond. This wasn’t entirely unusual; sometimes he got super engrossed in whatever cockamamie theory some student was proposing and tuned out the rest of the world.

I tiptoed down the hall to the door of his office, where I paused to listen quietly. Sometimes a soft chuckle would escape the confines of his office, but I didn’t hear the occasional paper shuffle that usually accompanied it.

I lifted a finger and tapped gently on the door, then more insistently when he didn’t answer me. Maybe he had his headphones on again, but he hardly ever turned the volume up loud enough to not be able to hear me yell if I needed something, which was pretty dang often.

I’m pretty accident prone, and in spite of a ton of safety equipment, I’ve been known to stab myself with a needle. Once I even got a tiny droplet of extremely corrosive acid up and over my safety goggles. I still have the little scar right next to my left eye. Man oh man, that was a scary day, let me tell you.

I dropped my still-gloved hand to the knob and turned it as I pushed on the door. And there he was, the man of my dreams, kicked back in his recliner and watching YouTube videos on his phone.

“Instead of working like a responsible adult!” I hoped that I raised my voice enough for him to hear me over whatever garbage he was watching. I had.

He slammed the footrest of the recliner down and closed and quickly snatched the headphone cord out of the jack in his phone. “Oh, hey, babe, I didn’t hear you knock. You did knock, didn’t you?” He raised an eyebrow at me.

“You’re not gonna get off that easy, mister. I know we have our rules to leave each other alone while we’re working, but you didn’t answer when I did knock, loudly, and besides, it sure looks like you’re not actually working anyway. Are you? Is this some new sort of research that you’ve embarked upon?” I was pretty upset that he’d accused me of being a jerk when he was the one being a jerk. The jerk.

He raised his palms in submission. “Okay, okay, you’re right. I”m not working. But I’m just taking a quick break from working, so I might as well be. Jeez, calm down.” He turned his wrist to check his watch. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late. Let’s go get something for dinner, shall we?” He rose and gave me a kiss on my cheek as he passed by, towards our bedroom where I’m sure he was going to get a fresh pair of socks from the dresser.

How can I stay mad at that? I can’t. “Did you have something in mind for dinner?” I whined as I followed him to the bedroom, where sure enough, he was digging furiously through the sock drawer, brows knit in fierce concentration.

“Have you seen my green socks? They’re not in here.” He trailed off, pouting his lower lip out the tiniest bit. “I could have sworn I washed them when I did laundry last weekend. I specifically remember folding them and tucking them back into the sock drawer.” He looked up at me. “Have you seen them?”

I hung my head, abashed. “See, you were sleeping so good this morning that I didn’t want to turn the light on wand wake you up, so I just grabbed the first pair that my hand touched when I went in the sock drawer, and well,” I grasped my pant legs and slowly raised them. “Sorry.”

He laughed and gave me a kiss. “But where’s the other one, silly goose?”

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A Hundred Visions and Revisions

“Where we are going is here.”

The statement came out of his mouth so matter-of-factly that Cheryl didn’t even consider the that he’d just thrown a dart at a map of the country. Stephen followed it up with another statement, this one even more unsettling.

“Pack your shit, it’s time to go.”

She blinked at him, temporarily frozen in her surprise. “Right now? Stephen, you can’t be serious. It’s the middle of the night!” The paralysis wore off, and she gestured at the open window next to him.

milky-way-071015.jpgHe turned to regard the twinkling stars and flowing galaxies high above the rooftops of the houses across the street. With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned back to look her in the eye again. “So what?”

She didn’t have an answer for that.

The face-off lasted less than a minute before Cheryl gave in and left the room to pack the few things that she wanted to keep with her on this adventure. Excitement began to blossom deep in her stomach as she zipped the bag closed and trotted back out to the living room. He was standing in the same spot, arms crossed over his barrel chest, staring out the window again.

The dart had fallen from the map and rested on the floor beneath it.

“Stephen,” she began, timidly. “Do you remember where you hit the map?”

He grunted, still standing at the window.

She tried again to capture his attention. “Do you want to throw it again?”

His head straightened abruptly, as though he’d awoken from a deep sleep. “What was that?” he asked, turning to face her. His eyes dropped to the bag in her hand. “Where do you think you’re going?” His eyebrows drew together and that gruffness that she hadn’t heard in so long, that gruffness that she feared so much, crept into his voice.

The bag slipped from her loosened grip to land softly on the carpeted floor. “I-I…you just…nowhere, Stephen.”

His glare softened. “Well, don’t just stand there, Cher, bring it to the truck. We’ve got to get–” he turned to look at the map and noticed that the dart was missing. “Shit. These walls must be too solid. You wanna throw it this time, girl?”

She shook her head, but stepped forward to retrieve the errant dart and pass it to him. He took it from her hand with a caress, and winked at her as he did so. “Let’s go somewhere sunny,” he whispered in her ear. “You look beautiful on the beach.”

He took her in his arm, and as their lips met, he threw the dart again, and it thunked solidly through the glossy paper map and into the plaster behind.

“Southern California, here we come,” he murmured, brushing her hair out of the way with his nose and kissing her beneath her ear, in the spot that made her breathing heavy and her muscles weak. He broke away and slapped her ass. “Pack it up!”

Cheryl ran back to the bag she’d just dropped, and when she straightened, the smile was back on her face.

 


The Moonlit Sky

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Tara stared out the window, her chin resting lightly on her fist as she swiveled her head. “It’s a haiku moon tonight,” she mused.

Gregory looked up from his phone, startled when she spoke aloud. “What’d you say?”

“A haiku moon,” she repeated. “Have a look.” She leaned back slightly so that he could see when he leaned forward. “Full moon, with gentle, wispy clouds surrounding it. The twisty branches of that dead tree framing it just so. It’s like if a haiku were a picture.” She smiled at him, waiting for a response.

“That’s one of the dumbest things I ever heard, Tara,” Gregory frowned at her, rolling his eyes before lifting his phone back into his field of vision. “It’s the same moon as every night, jeez.”

Tara shrugged off his response. She had learned a long time ago that it took an act of God for Gregory to be the slightest bit mindful or appreciative. She kicked her right foot in a slow rhythm while the left foot lay tucked underneath, and watched the moon crawl across the sky, her breathing slow and even.

Many thanks to tnkerr for the inspiration.


The Leaving

Steven sat on the wooden bench at the waterside, the wooden slats digging into the backs of his knees in that comfortingly familiar way that they had since he was small enough to swing his feet. The absurdity of the situation struck him as he shook the small paper bag of birdseed, the sound centering him nearly as much as the physical heft of the bag.

a77ef2b3a334187a43a914a51d7816a1The pigeons gathered around his feet, pecking at the handful of seeds he’d already scattered on the concrete in front of himself. The soft sounds of their feet and beaks was music to his ears. On the other side of the park, a woman laughed, and reality came crashing back around Steven’s ankles. Sierra was gone.

She was gone, and she wasn’t coming back.

He closed his eyes, trying somehow to block out the last three and a half years that they’d lived together in their apartment. His apartment. He hadn’t decided yet if he was going to move or not. Moving was far too much of a commitment for him to make right now. Even thinking about moving. He turned his minds to lighter things, and shook the paper bag again, drawing two more pigeons to his retinue.

She was gone.

He didn’t even see it coming, that was the kicker. And she didn’t have the guts to come right out and tell him, either. They both got up that morning, just like every day. Got dressed, drank coffee, laughed about not having breakfast. Just like every other day. She left for work, he left for work, and when he came home for lunch, he read the note on the sofa table by the front door.

She was gone.

She didn’t answer her phone when he called seventeen times. She didn’t respond to his texts. It wasn’t any kind of sick joke, as he half hoped. It was real and final and happening right now.

She was gone.

The bag slipped from Steven’s fingers and burst on the ground before him, and the pigeons rushed in to fight each other for the treasure trove of seeds.

Steven dropped his head to his hands and his shoulders heaved up and down as his body was wracked by great, choking sobs.

On the other side of the park, the woman laughed again, unaware of the tragedy in Steven’s life, unaware of Steven’s life.