Posted in Storytime

Used: A Short Story

The morning air was frigid, sending chills up my spine as I briskly walked to the train stop. I could feel my nose and ears turning red in anger towards the freezing wind, but eventually they settled after I stopped underneath the heating lamp. Several other frozen figures waited anxiously for the train to make its appearance around the corner.

I closed my eyes and hung my head back to feel the warmth of the lamp on my face. It was soothing. Footsteps rustled and bags shifted as the unmistakable sound of a train horn made its way to the platform. We all filtered into the train doors as soon as they opened, reveling in the sudden warmth of the train.

I sat next to the same lady as I always did at 6:07 AM in the morning. She was small in stature with brown hair wisped into a bob. She never looked up from her game of solitaire on her phone as I placed myself beside her. She was clutching her usual silver travel mug in her lap and the scent of Folgers’s and too much powder Coffee Mate surrounded me once again.

The light rail lurched forward, sending a few unsuspecting “train surfers” tumbling forward. It feels like some sort of unsaid standard that if you want to look cool when riding the light rail, one must not utilize the handrails. That is, until you almost biff it. Then it is recommended to avoid further humiliation.

The shadows of lampposts fly by creating short spurts of interrupted sunlight. As it flashes across my face, I catch a glimpse of a young man’s jacket. It wasn’t hard to spot, being it was bright red. But I couldn’t help but notice the slight cracks in the leather. They appeared to be concentrated around his shoulders, indicating a heavy use of a backpack of sorts. The others were in the middle of his chest, where it bends when he sits down.

But the strangest thing about it, was that this jacket was incredibly well worn, but definitely not by that young man. I could tell by the way the jacket puffed out on his shoulders and was stretched around the bottom of the jacket. Like somebody much larger and older than him originally wore this jacket.

My imagination took hold and I wondered if it was a son wearing the jacket of his father. Or a brother wearing the jacket of his older brother. Or the grandson wearing the jacket of his grandfather. A jacket that has been used and abused.

Used and abused. My thoughts immediately shifted. I wish they would stop doing that, taking a mind of their own and remembering things I would rather leave in the past. But I can’t help it. Nobody really can. When I’m alone with my thoughts on a 25 minute trip to work on a quiet train, it becomes nearly impossible to resist.

I wonder if he actually cared. Or did he just use his loving words to fill the blanks of a relationship he knew wouldn’t last. But I knew from my better judgment that he most certainly didn’t care in the least. I was just the crazy one that fell too hard too fast. But I would rather be the “crazy one” than the one that used another person for their own self-confidence and abused the relationship. How could a person lie like that to another person? How could somebody tell you to your face that you’re special and then dump you like yesterday’s garbage?

But I guess that’s why I moved on and found somebody else. Somebody who looked at the red leather jacket of my heart and saw something so used, so bent, so tattered, but still saw its worth. Still decided that it meant something to them and that’s why they will hold on to it for years to come.

Because of their love for possibly a father, a brother, a grandfather, and, in this case, a girl whose heart had been broken.

Because that somebody saw her heart as a used red leather jacket. It will still keep you warm from the blistering winds. It will still cost you a few bucks at a thrift store. It will still remind you of the good times or the bad. And it will still stand out amongst a crowded train at 6:07 AM.

However, the red leather jacket, like my heart, will always remain “used”.

But maybe this time, not abused as well.

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Posted in Storytime

Love and Happiness: A Short Story

“Don’t you be giving me that judging look,” Eleanor sat crossed-legged on her bed in her Star Wars pajamas. She was memorizing the lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody while spooning cookies and cream ice cream straight from the container into her mouth.

Rudy, her pug and best confidant, was curled up on the corner of her queen sized mattress, giving her an unenthusiastic glare. Eleanor set the ice cream aside and cleared her throat.

“Mamaaaaaaa just killed a man.” Eleanor stood up on her bed, Rudy didn’t even flinch. “Put a gun against his head, pulled my…the…his…trigger now he’s gone…dead.”

Eleanor let out a loud sigh and plopped back down on the bed.

“I thought I had it this time, Rudy. I really did.”

Rudy groaned.

“Oh, don’t be giving me that sass. It was a good effort,” Eleanor said, “besides, I’m pretty sure Ashley won’t mind if I don’t get every word right tonight. It was her idea to go to karaoke in the first place.”

Eleanor flopped to her back, tracing her finger along the patches of the quilt she was laying on.

“I don’t even know why she wants to go out tonight. I mean, I get it that she broke up with Graham and wants to get wasted to forget about it, but seriously, when has that ever worked?”

She rolled her head to the side to glace at Rudy, he hadn’t moved an inch, but was still looking towards her in a listening fashion.

“The last time this happened with her and Will’s tragic end to their romantic two week fling, I had to literally carry her out of Zeke’s Pub on my shoulder while she sang ‘Sweet Caroline’. When the Uber showed up, she laid down on the sidewalk and refused to get up because the ‘gravity was pushing her down’. I mean, I guess it wasn’t as bad as when David ended their two month love affair. She stood on the bar, belting Shakira. But when the ‘hips’ part came, she slipped and landed on my mojito glass.” Eleanor paused, “at least the nurse was pretty cute at the hospital that night.”

“Babe,” Devon called.

“I’m up here with Rudy,” Eleanor yelled.

Rudy shuffled on the bed and scrambled down his little bed stairs. Devon came into the room and was greeted with snorting and slobbery kisses.

“It’s good to see you too Rudy. How’s my favorite little man, huh?” he looked up to the ice cream container on the nightstand, “dibs.”

“No way! That one’s mine, go get your own.”

Devon lunged for the ice cream, but Eleanor snatched the spoon away. He tackled her to the bed, reaching for the spoon, but Rudy had other plans as she snatched it from her hand and ran for it.

“Rudy, you little shit, get back here!” Devon laughed.

“Oh well. He deserves it. I was telling him about Ashley’s newest heartbreak remedy she’s come up with. Karaoke.”

“Oh boy. I can already hear ‘Dancing Queen’ over the loudspeakers. When are we going?”

“In a couple hours. I was just waiting for my favorite nurse to get home.”

“Well I’m hoping that you’re talking about this nurse,” Devon said as he gestured to himself.

“Of course. Who else?” Eleanor smirked.

“We just have to make sure she stays off the bar this time. Wouldn’t want to end up at the hospital again and you meet another nurse to ask on a date.”

Eleanor laughed, “Alright, sounds like a plan.”

“Let’s go get the spoon from Rudy before he buries it in the backyard,” Devon got up off the bed and helped Eleanor to her feet.

“You know, we could always stay in tonight. Hannah said that she was going and would make sure Ash got home okay,” Eleanor said.

“So you’re asking whether or not I would like to stay here with you in our nice cozy apartment or go out to a dingy, smelly bar and listen to drunk people sing overdone 80’s tunes?”

“Basically.”

“I love you so much. How did I manage to land a girl like you?” Devon laughed.

Eleanor could only smile back. Because she knew that both of them had been through hell and high water to get to where they are now. The broken hearts, the frustrating days at work, the pressure for perfection. But now, as she’s bouncing on her mattress in her PJ’s, belting out the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody with Devon, she couldn’t help but be thankful for the happiness she always kept through it all. Because she never gave up hope, and never gave up the happiness she knew she deserved.

Even if that meant ending the night digging up the backyard with Devon, looking for the spoon Rudy buried.

 

“Do not set aside your happiness. Do not wait to be happy in the future. The best time to be happy is always now.” ― Roy T. Bennett

 

Posted in Storytime

A Big Deal: A Short Story

His fingers curled around the door handle and gripped it tight. The nervous energy in his stomach was beginning to make him feel nauseous. He took a few steps back, eventually releasing his hand from the handle.

Why am I so nervous? I shouldn’t feel like this. It’s not THAT big of a deal, Miles. He thought to himself, attempting to soothe his anxiety with a lie. Miles was experiencing something far from being “not a big deal”.

It reminded him of one particular day when he was seven years old. His father had taken him to the park and let him run rampant with the other children while he flirted up the doting mothers. Even though Mile’s mother had been gone for three years at that point, it still bothered him to see his father’s attention poured on anyone else.

The children were playing a game of freeze tag, throwing themselves up the playground stairs and dodging outstretched hands like a hot iron. Miles became trapped at a dead end about 15 minutes into the game. Tommy Anderson had him cornered with no way out. Miles heart began to beat faster with every menacing step Tommy took. His head darted around, searching for a way out.

His eyes happened to land on a small slit in the old playground plywood that surrounded them. Without much thought, Miles stuck his right foot into the hole and heaved his body over the wall. He fell several feet before landing on the mulch with a thud. He could feel his right arm snap under the pressure of his body and he let out a howl of pain.

Tommy and the other kids quickly dispersed to their mothers for protection as his father came flying into the scene. He was cursing and shouting at Miles as he pulled him to his feet.

“It’s not that big of a deal, Dad.”

“Really? That’s what you have to say for yourself? It’s not a big deal to be tagged in a stupid game, it is, though, a big deal to break your damn arm to avoid it. Why in the world did you jump ya idiot?”

“I don’t know.”

Mile’s father scoffed at his response. He put his hands over his eyes and ran them down his face. When they dropped to his sides, he stepped closer to Miles. He grabbed his shoulders and leaned into Mile’s face, “Look at me Miles.”

Mile’s eyes traveled up his father’s figure until their eyes met.

“I’m sorry I yelled,” His father said, “But please remember, I only yelled because I love you and you’re a big deal to me.”

Miles gave him a quizzical look. His father sighed, “You’ll understand one day when you become a parent.”

He would never forget the way his father’s gray eyes looked at him, full of love despite what he had done.

I don’t even think I’m capable of that kind of love. Miles thought.

He never had much luck with love. He especially felt this way the day he walked out on her. The way her brown eyes glistened with tears as he slowly cracked her heart to pieces with every word he spat. He watched it shatter as she pushed herself up off the couch and formed her lips around the word coward. He knew he was, but he would never admit it to anyone. Especially her.

Miles turned around one last time to look at her before opening the door to leave. My god she was beautiful.

For some reason, he only managed to walk half a block before he ran back to her door. He pushed it open, huffing and puffing from sprinting. He walked over to her as she held her face in her hands and he wrapped his arms around her.

“I love you. And no matter what, we will get through this together, “Miles said.

She turned her head and nestled it into his shoulder, “You don’t have to be afraid, Miles.”

He knew that he didn’t have to be frightened, but he still couldn’t get himself to open the door in front of him. Sweat was beginning to run down the back of his neck. He dabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt against his forehead. He dropped his hands to his side and felt the trembling that ran from his toes all the way to his head. His adrenaline was high and his heart pounded harder and harder.

Then, a soft call came from behind the door, “Miles, I know you’re out there. Please, come in. You need to see her.”

He mustered up all the strength he had and pushed himself off of the wall towards the door. He snatched the handle, gave it a swift push, and flung the door open. It creaked as it swung open, making a soft thump as it hit the doorstop. It bounced back a little, but Miles caught it with the palm of his hand.

He made his way into the room. With every step he took, the numbness of his anxiety spread through him and made him feel as if he was floating.

When he reached her bedside, a wave of an unfamiliar emotion washed over him. My god she’s beautiful.

Nestled in a small bundle, a new little life. Half him, half her. A wondrous concoction of two chaotic minds. She held her up to him, and he gingerly wrapped his hands around her fragile figure. He held her like a china doll, afraid that he might break her. But when her nose wrinkled up and her little fingers brushed past his, every ounce of fear drained from his body and all he was left with was a love he never knew he possessed. He finally understood what his father meant and she was indeed “a big deal”.

Posted in Storytime

The Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About: Act II

He pushed the pencil to the end of the desk, making a clear path in the grit that covered it. I need to clean this s*** he thought.

He returned to the pad of paper sitting in front of him:

She was like a soft summer rain. Beautiful in every way. Her laugh could brighten my day. We would sit by the fire, swapping stories like we did as kids, her arms tangled in mine.

Tahir could hear those familiar footsteps trotting down the hall at full speed. He quickly whipped open the drawer by his right knee and threw the pad of paper into it, slamming it shut just before the footsteps reached the door.

“Tahir! What’s up, man?” Derek said as he peeked around the corner of the office door. He pushed his wiry frame against the doorway, leaning in like a curious dog, tail wagging and everything.

“Uh, not much. Just trying to write my short story for this week’s column.”

“Oh, come on. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I really don’t know what you mean, Derek.”

“The cutie at the front desk with the brown eyes, what you wrote about last night on your blog.”

Tahir stared, confused.

Derek tried again, “Short black hair, orange spring dress, beautifully tanned skin…”

“Ah, yeah, that one. Um, it was a story Derek. We never really talked at all.” Tahir said.

Tahir remembered her as he walked into the office this morning. She was a beauty, and he was in love. She had short black hair that hung straight, framing her caramel colored skin. Her eyes were like uneaten chocolate candies sitting on white porcelain plates, fringed with long dark eyelashes that curled to meet her thin brows. Her lips. Her lips is what took his breath away. They were a plush, soft baby pink that when it crept into a smile, they looked supernatural in beauty. The peach silk dress she wore flowed over her body like water, highlighting every curve with vigor.

She was beautiful in every way.

Derek interrupted Tahir’s thoughts, “What? So she’s up for grabs? Dude, I call dibs now.”

“Derek, you can’t!”

“Unless you want me to tell her you like her.”

Tahir sighed, “Don’t just…I got a lot of work to do, Derek. Send in Julia, I need to speak with her.”

Derek huffed, “Fine. But if she says no to you, she’s all mine.”

“Deal” Tahir muttered.

Geez, he’s annoying. It’s not a competition…but if he asks her first, I’m gonna punch his smug little smile right off of his boney face.

“Tahir, you asked for me?” Julia stood in the doorway, gripping a stuffed manila envelope.

She wasn’t anything that beheld much beauty. Her skin was pale, making her gawky in appearance. She had dull hair the shade of a fat-free chocolate and dark beady eyes hidden beneath large purple frames. Her cheeks had a rosy glow, but would be considered too pudgy by any fashion magazine. Her sweater was a bright pink that covered her overused, grey muscle shirt. Her muffin top was highlighted by the flowing khaki’s she wore almost every day, but she was so used to sucking it in, no one could barely notice anymore.

“Ah, Julia, yes. I wanted to ask you how your trip to Ireland was.”

“Oh” Julia hesitated to answer, surprised Tahir remembered, “It was good! I had a lot of fun. It was really beautiful there with the green and rolling hills. I would recommend it the next time you feel like traveling.”

“Awesome, sounds like you had a great time. We’re glad to have you back.”

“Thanks, I’m glad to be back.”

A moment of silence followed, Julia fiddled with the corner of the envelope she was holding while Tahir stared at his empty screen.

“Tahir…I…um…was wondering. Did you…um…want to go…” Before Julia could finish her sentence, Derek flew into the doorway like a hawk and shrieked,

“Dude! Do you know that gorgeous, blonde receptionist you like?

“What about it?” Tahir asked.

“I asked her on a date, and she said yes. Boo yah!” Derek said as he sprinted down the hall towards his office.

“WHAT THE F*** DEREK! Geez, what a prick. I even told him that I really liked that girl. She was the prettiest I had ever seen.” Tahir looked to his window. “I’m never going to find another girl that that.”

“Yeah. Sure. I guess there’s not enough pretty girls to go around.” Julia said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tahir said, surprised at the lack of emotion in Julia’s usually peppy voice.

“Nothing,” Julia took two hard steps forward and tossed the envelope she was holding in her hands. It landed heavily on his desk with a thud, sending dust flying up into the air. Before he could get out another word, Julia was gone.

Tahir immediately stood up and lurched for the door. He grabbed the frame of the doorway and used it to gain momentum towards her office. He counted three doors before forcefully turning the knob on the fourth and pushing it open.

Julia sat at her desk, she didn’t even look up when he came in.

“Julia. What’s wrong?”

“Go away, Tahir.”

“Julia, listen. I didn’t mean to say that you’re not, you know, pretty. I mean…”

“Seriously. You think I’m shallow enough to be upset that you don’t think I’m pretty?”

“Julia!”

“Tahir, I like you.” Julia’s eyes looked straight into his soul as those words spilled from her thin lips.

“I’ve always liked you, Tahir. You’re smart, creative, and kind. I help you with drafts, grammar, spelling, and copying. I go out of my way to help you because I know that you would do the same for me. I like the way the one piece of hair always sticks up on the top of your head, no matter how much hair gel you put in it. I like the way you use your words to describe beautiful people and the love you hope to find. I like the way your awkwardly laugh whenever you’re with people you’re not too familiar with and so much more,” Julia sighed,

“But your view of love is as clear as dust.”

Tahir was stunned. His jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Julia…why didn’t you tell me?”

She paused her typing and moved her hands to her lap, spinning slightly in her chair to reveal her eyes glossy with tears.

“Because. I will never look like them or be like them, Tahir, the girls you always seem to write about. I hate thunderstorms, I can’t stand the bugs outside. I wear clothes for comfort. I’m not skinny. My hair doesn’t effortlessly flow down my back. I don’t wear glasses for fun, I wear them to see things. Dresses make me uncomfortable, and I would rather sleep 30 more minutes than put on a full face of make-up.” She paused and looked down at her hands in her lap.

“Plus, we aren’t supposed to talk about this kind of thing. If we like someone we have to keep it hidden like buried treasure. Because no one wants to take the chance. No one wants to get hurt. Please, just go away, Tahir. I’m already embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Julia, I’m…”

“Just, go.”

Tahir slowly backed up to the hallway and could barely feel his legs propelling him forward on his way back to his office. When Tahir got back to his desk. He sat there in some sort of trance. Here he was, thinking he was unlovable only to be loved by the last person he would expect it from.

He picked up the pencil on the edge of his desk and pulled his notepad out of his drawer. He looked at what he wrote earlier. Within seconds he ripped it from the bind, crumpled it up, and pushed the dust filling his desk to the side with it.

Then, he began to write:

Title: The things we never say to each other

“I like you” she said, her glistening brown eyes looking up at me…

Posted in Storytime

100 Years of Dorothy

A frozen breath curled from my lips and vanished into the cold night air. Above the violet, neon signs and the clustered crowds slurring from bar to bar, I could just barely make out those three familiar dots in the sky. Uniformed in a line amidst the constellation Orion. Even through the clouds of dust, deceit, and murky breath the stars still made their routine appearance over my apartment building. Their twinkling eyes peeking through the fire escape like the steady orange glow at the end of a cigarette.

While walking past Leland and Cecile’s, a patron swung the door open and a waft of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils. Most would find it to be revolting, but for me it was the scent of a memory. Her laugh. Her laugh is what played in my head the most. The nasally, asthmatic chuckling of a dedicated smoker. She was so dedicated that she only quit smoking because the cost was too high. Even when the doctors told her she had throat cancer, she quit for a while, but went back to it as soon as she was cleared. It was this sweet, smell of dirty tobacco that rebelled against her body as she did society.

She lived by no one’s rules but her own. A tough and sassy rebel with the kindest of natures. We would sit in the gazebo out back after my parents would drop my sister and I off for the evening. Her, smiling and leaning in to our eager little faces as she whispered for us to keep this our little secret. Click, Inhale, Exhale. The dirtied breath leaving her lungs as the smell of tobacco invaded the springtime air. That’s when her stories began. How the barn blew away in a tornado, how she survived living in a house with only one bathroom (and raising four daughters in it), and how Great Grandpa Bert went to escape all the drama in the garage and danced around to The Eagles while building furniture.

There never seemed to be a dull moment in her life, that is, until her time on earth came closer to its end. Her lively attitude faded slowly as the twinkling stars did when the morning sun crept above the horizon.

She could barely get out of bed. She said that Bert needed her in heaven and to meet him by Orion, so she replied that she wanted a soda. The daughter by her side followed her bidding and gingerly took her time going down both flights of stairs to the basement. The daughter retrieved the drink and went back upstairs. How strange it must have felt to get a soda that was doomed to be left undrunk. I mean, this tough rebel hated soda. She despised soda. But she loved her daughter enough to leave a lasting memory rather than a lasting nightmare.

As my boots softly padded against the concrete with each step, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories she would have told now. Like how she would have laughed watching me try to swing dance, how she would have pinned my picture to the fridge to show me off to her friends, and how she would have hugged me and laughed when I told her I loved the smell of her cigarettes. The story possibilities were infinite, but this short life we live isn’t.

She would have been one hundred today. For one hundred years she would have been here, making memories. But instead I am left to reminisce the ashes of the ones she left behind.

To the world, these past one hundred years may have looked like progress, smelled like success, and sounded like innovation. But to me, it looked like her, smelled like tobacco, and sounded like a rusty laugh.

 

 

*1st place at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Center for Writing Excellence Spring 2017 writing contest (Theme: Centennial or 100)*