Archive for the ‘Three Minute Fiction’ Tag

Kissed by your Dream

I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

You know that hoary chestnut: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Well, I’m living proof of that. Only I didn’t wish for this. I should have listened to my father.

Once I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world to be kissed by your dream. I stumbled on it accidentally, my dream that is. I was 13 and perusing the stacks of my public library when I found it: Guardian Angel by Robert Colombo.

The world fell away when I pulled that book down off the shelf and saw my father’s picture on the back cover. My father – a writer? I turned that book over and over in my hands marveling that my father had written a horror novel. The only thing I’d ever seen him read was the sports section of our local paper.

I knew right then I wanted to be a writer, just like him. I slipped that book inside my jacket and stole it out of the library. Okay. It was in the adult section and I would have needed his permission to check it out. Somehow I didn’t want him to know I knew his secret.

That book was my ticket out of reality. I read it over and over again trying to absorb some of my father’s magic and writing bits and pieces of flotsam.

I never told him.

But, one day, that book was gone along with all my notebooks. In their place was a one word note: “Stop.” We never spoke of it. That was how it was in my family.

I put my dream away and got a sensible job. I became an accountant and I was good at it until the firm laid me off…well…okay…I was fired. I never was suited for life in a cubicle world.

I found the book in a box in the attic when I was cleaning out my parent’s house after they died. Somehow my dream was always waiting for me to find my way back to it.

The book stands on a corner of my desk. The desk where I’ve written 10 books, five of which made the New York Times Best Seller list. I can’t complain. It’s been a hell of a ride. Except…

Where was I? Right. I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. He’s standing here with a gun pointing at my head. Why? Ask him. He…sorry, I know you want to remain anonymous.

H…okay…it. Hey, if I can’t use h or h, it will have to do. It breaks into my house and points a loaded gun at my head.

What? Sorry, I was talking to it. It wants notoriety, it said. It wants me to tell its story.

Me? Right. I’ve got nothing. Zero. Zip. Nil. Listen, I know I’m a writer but you expect me to perform well under pressure with a gun pointing at my head. Hell, if I could do that, I’d still be in cubicle world. Okay?

I should have listened to my father. I should have stopped. But it’s too late now. I’m sitting here with a loaded gun pointing….yes, yes, I know I’ve said that already but it’s kind of hard not to notice the gun pointing at my head. If I could turn back the clock and forget I ever saw that book sitting on that library shelf, I would. But I can’t give it back.

Oh, shut up, you’re not the one staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Goodbye, Mom

Here is my NPR Three Minute Fiction contest entry:

Hi, mom? Are you there? Pick up. It’s me, Jenna.

(She pours a shot of Jameson’s, takes a long sip.)

I’ve missed you. I know that’s hard to believe…considering. You just made me so angry sometimes.  I don’t blame you for what you did.

(She takes another sip of whiskey).

I want to come home. It’s been so long. I haven’t seen you in, what, ten years.

There’s so much I want to tell you. God, I hate talking to machines. Why don’t you pick up?

(She rubs her forehead.)

Fine, then. Don’t pick up. What are you waiting for? Do you want to hear me say I’m sorry? Well, I’m not, okay. You’re the one that should be sorry.

(She downs the whiskey, pours another drink. She rolls the whiskey bottle between her palms, takes a deep breath, holds it, lets it out.)

Do you know what it was like? I was fifteen years old and living on the streets. Do you have any idea what that was like?

(She slams her fist on the table.)

How could you? What kind of mother does that to their own child?

(She watches her four-year-old playing with her doll in the living room.)

There were times when I couldn’t find a place to sleep I’d come home and curl up on the porch swing. Did you know I was out there? Would you have asked me to come in? I’d stare at the house and imagine what it must be like to be inside where it was all warm and cozy and safe. Then my stomach would growl and I’d remember I hadn’t eaten in three days. I hated you so much.

(She gulps her drink, swipes away the tears.)

Why, mom? Why did you do it? I know I wasn’t the easiest person in the world to get along with but I was your daughter. Did you even love me?

(She pours another drink.)

“Tough love” that’s what you called it. Tough love. Yeah, it was tough alright. But I survived. You made me a stronger, tougher, person because of it.

(She runs her fingers through her hair, takes a sip of whiskey.)

My shrink tells me I need to stop living in the past. But I can’t. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. It’s what defines me as a person.

That night, when I came home, I saw you watching me from the window. You probably thought I’d been out drinking, didn’t you. Well, you were wrong. A friend of mine died that night. Overdose.

When I walked in, you started screaming at me. Calling me a useless drunk just like my father. You said I’d never amount to anything. That’s when I hit you.

You kicked me to the curb like yesterday’s garbage. I ran before the cops got there.

(She wraps her hands around the whiskey glass.

You were wrong. I made it. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. You taught me I could survive anything.

Even this.

(She takes another drink of whiskey.)

I’m outside.  We need to talk. Not like this. Face to face. It was my shrink’s idea, okay, not mine. I don’t want anything to do with you. You’re dead to me.

(Silence.)

She erases the answering machine tape, reaches across the kitchen table and takes her mother’s lifeless hand. “Goodbye, mom.”

Sins of the Mothers

Below is my round eight entry for NPRs Three Minute Fiction. For reasons I will not discuss, I have chosen to withdraw it for consideration in the contest. This has nothing to do with the fine staff at NPR who coordinate and run this contest.

Sins of the Mothers

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Her decision was made.

She stepped outside onto the wide wraparound porch and stared out across the land. The fallow field ran back to the distant tree line. Somewhere an owl hooted and was still. She hugged herself against the crisp night air.

The wind shifted, bringing with it the dry dusty smell of corn from a neighboring field.

Her baby kicked. She placed her hand on her belly, could feel its tiny feet beneath her skin. Five months along, two months longer than her first pregnancy. This was her miracle baby.

A wave of nausea swept over her. She sank down onto the porch steps. Crooning an old familiar Scottish lullaby, she rocked back and forth, soothing herself as much as her baby.

She had grown up here, had entertained thoughts of moving back and raising her child here. This land was MacMillan land.

Her husband didn’t understand. He’d grown up in the city, had never felt dirt squish between his toes or plunged his hands into rich dark soil warm from the summer sun.

“It’s a fair offer,” her attorney had said, when he called her. “The land isn’t good for anything.”

“It’s my family’s land,” she‘d said. Though truth was, it had been years since she’d set foot on it.

“Think about it,” he’d said, before disconnecting.

Her husband wanted her to sell it.

“It’s my decision,” she’d argued, packing a suitcase. “I’m the last one.”

She found the book jammed behind an empty shoebox in the back of once had been her parent’s closet. She shivered as her fingers brushed across the worn leather. She pulled it out and turned the small volume over in her hands. Embossed on the cover in gold calligraphy was “The Book of Naming.” Her fingertips tingled as she cracked it open.

Inside was an accounting. The book was a litany of horrors. A story of human sacrifices, ancient rituals practiced to a forgotten fertility god, rites passed down in her family from one generation to the next.

Alpin

Coleen

Payton

Heather

Constance

Kenneth

Andrew

Colin

Douglas

Christine

Beth

Logan 

Lynsey

Rose

Wallace

Eric

Wynda

She stared up at the harvest moon and whispered each name. Sixteen children. Sixteen small sacrifices. Their forgotten bones buried in the field behind the house.

Wynda. She spoke the last name aloud. Her name.

She picked out Orion’s Belt, the Summer Triangle, and the Big Dipper. She used the pointer stars in the Big Dipper to find the North Star. Her father had taught her the names of the constellations before they’d moved away when she was five, too young to understand. She only remembered raised voices, sudden silences when she walked into a room and, more than once, her mother crying, silent sobs shaking her shoulders.

Her parents chose to give her the gift of life. They paid a high price for their disobedience. The land failed them. They had sacrificed everything for her, as they struggled to eke out a hardscrabble existence.

Tomorrow this land would belong to the TRC Development Corporation. The sins of the mothers buried beneath concrete and asphalt.

Her baby kicked again, harder. She rubbed her belly, watching the Milky Way wheel overhead.

She doubled over with a hard cramp. It felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach with an iron fist. Her baby’s kicking stuttered, paused, ceased.

She struggled to her feet, as she felt wetness between her legs.

Change

I have lost my voice. On March 2, I was hit by lightning while walking across a parking lot. As a result, because of extensive nerve and muscle damage, I no longer have full use of my right hand. I am typing this post left-handed. It is a rather slow and tedious process.

There was severe weather in the area. We were having a full-out thunderstorm with driving rain. I had my umbrella up. At one point, there was a simultaneous thunder boom and lightning flash. Part of the lightning stroke arced over and hit my umbrella, what is called a side flash. I smelled something burning, felt an electric shock in my right hand (the one holding the umbrella handle) and saw sparks shoot out the handle of the umbrella. My first thought was: “Did I just get hit by lightning?” Other than a damaged hand and a singed umbrella, I was otherwise unhurt. I’m fairly lucky.

I am adjusting to a one-handed life. I’m reminded of an old Mash episode where Major Charles Winchester operates on a young soldier and has to amputate his right hand. When the soldier wakes up, he lashes out at Winchester for cutting off his hand. It turns out the soldier is a concert pianist. I feel a little like that soldier.

I am a writer by trade. My life has been on hold this past month. Other than for a story submission to NPRs Three Minute Fiction contest, I have not done any writing. I have deadlines and commitments. I have an article to write for the Illinois Times. I have various writing projects I want to pursue. I have spent the past month bemoaning the loss of my voice.

Just like the soldier in the Mash episode, I have to adjust. As Major Winchester gave the soldier piano scores for the left hand, friends have offered me voice alternatives such as Dragon. I have been resistant to change but am finding I need to open myself to it. I still have a voice. I just need to learn new ways of expressing it.

It feels as though I’ve been granted a new lease on life. This event has marked a turning point in my life. My life has been steered in a new direction. Full of my new-found knowledge about lightning, I am putting together a lightning presentation. I am working on storytelling programs. In fact, I will be telling spider stories for students in the young naturalist program at Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Most importantly, I have realized writing is what I want to pursue. It is what I am. I was happiest while pursuing a freelancing career last year until the work dried up. I was let go from the temp job I was working because I am under medical restrictions. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. I want to be responsible for my own income, not fattening someone else’s pockets.

I recently purchased the May issue of Shambhala Sun. The lead story is about embracing change. I am a Buddhist. A major tenant in Buddhist philosophy is the concept of impermanence. Everything changes. Nothing lasts. By embracing impermanence, recognizing that change is an inevitable, painful part of life, it allows one to come to terms with change. Rather than finding change frightening, one can find within it peace and understanding. With that understanding, one progresses along the path to enlightenment.

Change. It’s a big part of my life right now. According to my hand specialist, it may take up to six months for the nerve damage in my right hand to fully heal, if it ever does. Nerves grow at the rate of one inch per month. We won’t know the full extent of the muscle damage until the nerves heal.

There is a lesson here for me. Nothing happens without reason. I just have to be open to it and accept it.

Here is my entry from Round 7 of the NPR Three Minute Fiction contest.

The First Grandmother

             “Aulea, come sit with me a moment.” Grandmother sits by the fire, warming her hands. The air is chill and her bones ache with the cold.

            The women pause in their work. The caribou hunt was good and there is much to do.

            Aulea blushes and hurries to the fire. “Yes, Grandmother.” She crouches at the far edge.

            “Tell me a story.” Grandmother fingers the worn leather pouch around her neck.

            Aulea fidgets and ducks her head. “I am not a storyteller.”

            “Please humor an old woman.” She has waited a long time to find a successor.

            “Long ago, a time so long ago not even the elders in our village remember it, a woman came out of the winter storms. She was tall and slender with skin the color of night. She carried a wooden staff in one hand and around her neck hung a leather pouch.

            “She stopped at this spot and began to speak. She spoke for seven nights and seven days. She brought the first peoples out of the snow and ice. She called the waters up out of the land and filled the sea with fish. She called forth the polar bear, the seal, the walrus. She filled the land with caribou.”

             Grandmother closes her eyes, listening to the rising and falling cadence of her story. She has chosen wisely.

            “Grandmother?” Aulea touches her shoulder. “Are you alright?”

            Grandmother opens her eyes. “I was listening.”

            Aulea laughs. “You were sleeping, Grandmother.”

            “One listens with the ears, not with the eyes.” She stirs the fire. “You have a strong voice.”

            Aulea ducks her head and stands. “I must go, Grandmother. I have work to do.”

            Grandmother removes the leather pouch from around her neck and holds it in her hand. “This was a gift from The First Grandmother.” She presses it into Aulea’s hands.

            “I cannot accept this, Grandmother.” Aulea strokes the soft leather.

            “I have watched the children when you tell your stories. You have a gift, Granddaughter.”

            Aulea blushes. “I don’t deserve this.”

            Grandmother stares into the fire. “I have emptied it of all my stories. It needs new ones to fill it.”

            The fire pops and crackles, throwing sparks into the night air.

            “Why me?” Aulea sits down, heedless of the stares from the women. Her mother starts to walk towards the fire. Aulea holds up her hand.

            “You remind me of myself when I was your age. I have waited long to find one to take my place.”

            Aulea clasps Grandmother’s hands between hers. “I am honored.”

            Grandmother picks up the wooden staff beside her, holds it out to Granddaughter. “It is time. The world beyond is unfinished. It needs a young voice to breathe life into it.”

            Aulea looks at her village. She has never ventured beyond its outskirts. Her mother turns away, goes inside. The women return to their work. She feels like a ghost. “I’m afraid. Come with me.”

            Grandmother shakes her head. “My time is past, Granddaughter.” Tears glisten on her cheeks. “I chose to remain here.”

            Aulea takes the staff. It feels heavy, solid in her hands. “Where will I go?”

            “Listen to the stories. They will guide you. Stories live through telling.”’ Grandmother’s voice dies away.

            “Grandmother?” Aulea bows her head. “Would you do me the honor?” She hands the leather pouch to Grandmother.

            Her hands shaking, Grandmother places it around her neck.

            Aulea stands, takes a last look at her childhood home.

            Grandmother has fallen asleep by the fire. Aulea kisses her on the cheek.

            “Goodbye, Grandmother,” Granddaughter whispers as she walks into the night.

copyright 2011

Roberta Codemo