Ramblings of a writer.

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Compelled

Here is my noir fiction entry into the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.

 

Compelled

Scalding water couldn’t expel the moist, woody stench from her nostrils, but that never arrested Laura’s attempts to rid her body of the salty film,  sweat dripped and smeared, that coated her delicate frame, the corruption of her mind, after each habitual depravity.

Laura settles onto a brownish pink, salvaged-from-the-junk threadbare vanity stool questioning not her conduct, but if the spaghetti strap of her camisole can be mended. Ribbons of makeup and tears rush to trickle past her jawline—she doesn’t deserve to have them wiped away. In the past, Laura questioned how she was capable of crying for her damned soul any longer. The pain, the shame flows from her, water gushing from the spout to choke the rusted, porcelain cast iron tub with water the equivalent.

The burning pain of the overly hot water fosters her mind to flood her thoughts with Jim. Jim, the light in Laura’s world, a simple man who works hard each day to provide for her. Jim, soft-spoken Jim, impossibly shy, grateful Laura’s in his life, in his arms, in his bed—unaware of her truth, unknowing of her anguish. He picks her wildflowers, takes her to the pond for a dip or the occasional sappy film he doesn’t realize she can’t enjoy, for that will never be her life, her love, her joy.

Laura, ne’er the cocktail waitress, orphan, plain woman Jim believes. Laura, savaged, invaded, distraught, manages through the world her mind demands of shameful, secret, set up, cash-grabbing fornication that drags her senseless to the depths of hell, to remember, to forget, to feel normal.

Normal.

She weeps for the lost child, the lost woman, as though she is not one and the same. She weeps for Jim, who deserves “honor and cherish,” but will only get cherish from her, she has no honor. And so the tears flow.

Financial gain for servicing her mind and the vulgar consumers thirsting to devour her, all given away to local vagrants, the exiled, the undesirable—monies she could never bear celebrate.

The elite, the shocking, the important, the relatives, the neighbors, the teachers of past, the once trusted, once needed, once loved have used, will use her the same—those who created and enforce her normal. She can’t stop.

Survivor is for the past, it is not her present, her future, her reality—it never was—it was never meant to be. And so she sits in a burial case of torrid water, her reddened skin screaming for relief, and she cries. Cries for the molested girl, the raped woman, the sex addict that craves, needs the abuse to feel normal.

She cries for Jim, whose smile warms her desire to be with him. For Jim, who always comes home filthy from work. For Jim, whose truck is rusting around him while he can’t stop smiling to himself, anticipating Laura’s beauty, Laura’s love, Laura’s presence, for he is truly fortunate.

Jim, the beacon in Laura’s life that keeps her alive, keeps her safe, keeps her from suicide.

Lascaux Flash Submission 2016

Rose Would

by Michaelle Wilde

 

…tears streaked my cheeks, my nose reddened. I held my hand against my chest trying to calm the fluttering of my heart. Fifty-two years I waited to meet you. The chill of the day faded and harsh fluorescent lighting dismissed the darkness of the hour. Then there you were, in my arms. Tears dulled my vision, fine details lost in joy. You were thinner than I had expected. I’m sure I had embraced you too tightly.

Falling asleep in the early dawn took some doing. The smile on my face and fresh tears the result of an incredibly joyous day. The thought of seeing you again after I rested and for the remainder of my life reverberated in my mind.

On occasion, you would call out in the wee hours, just as you had done the first time we met. I’d sit with you, recalling humorous events in my life—the black bear lounging on the Oldsmobile, your favorite, maybe it was mine too. I would like to share one last tale with you, William.

John had only worked the mine three years when the Army called on him. I’d wait at the station with the others, hoping he would be on the train that week. Then the Western Union came out to Pa’s farm one evening, about two years had passed I suppose. The message was from your grandfather. He’d be home in a couple weeks and wanted to marry just as soon as he stepped foot off the rail. If I agreed to marry him and Pa found the arrangement favorable, I was to be ready.

Mama altered the passed on white dress that I would wear and Pa worked to convince Pastor Massee to marry us outside the church—he couldn’t of course. Everyone at the station walked with us to the church. Our wedding lifted many weary spirits in the backwoods that day.

Your grandfather gave me that scarf on our wedding night. He’d bought a small box to keep it safe during his journey home. He said he was determined to get that scarf to me in good order. Oh, it isn’t much to look at now, but in its day, that scarf had been the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. There isn’t much pretty in the foothills of Appalachia. I may not have had a wedding ring, but I had that scarf. And I wore it every outing.

When you were very young, you’d poke at the scarf. The smoothness always quieted your tears. Before you began walking, you’d pinch the rolled hem between two chubby fingers, tugging until I warned that you’d undo the hem.

I expect you’ve no memory of the scarf, but for me, it’s a reminder every day of the great love John and I shared. And you, a result of that love. When life offers you respite, William, take the scarf out and remember me. I love you always.

Click!

“That is the end of Ann Margaret Walker’s last will and testament.” Mr. Henderson, Ann Margaret’s lawyer, opened his desk drawer placing the audio recorder inside then pulled a bulging manila envelope from the safe behind his desk. “Mr. Walker, your grandmother asked me to give this to you personally on this day.” Mr. Henderson placed the contents of the envelope in front of William.

William Walker laid his hand upon the scorched lid of a rosewood box. “Her last words,” he choked, tears burning his eyes. “I thought she was talking about someone named Rose and what she would do. It has pained me that I could not understand what Rose would do or what Grandma wanted me to know.”

“Ann Margaret told me that this rosewood box and its contents were among the few articles she could salvage after a cluster of wildfires swept through the valley where they lived.”

“My grandfather died in that fire, saving their baby, my mother.”

Mr. Henderson nodded in sympathy. “Yes.”

William fought to speak clearly, to not burst out in anguish. “She died last year. I have no one left.”

Mr. Henderson walked around the desk to William and gripped his shoulder. “Open the box,” he encouraged William.

On a cushion of threadbare red velvet lay the faint blue silk scarf, its pink flower petals barely discernable from their once green leaves.

“Take it out, look at it, son.” William gingerly lifted the scarf from the box. Though faded from years of use, William could find only one small defect in the scarf. An area of the hem, no longer than a grain of pudding rice, was unrolled and the material had begun to fray. William smiled for the first time in days; for he knew that it had been his “chubby little fingers” that had worked the hem loose.

“There’s a note, William.”

“Would you read it to me, Mr. Henderson?” Williams gaze remained on the hem.

“Certainly.” Mr. Henderson unfolded the piece of unaged note paper and read aloud, “Four of my great loves are now together. Keep them safe, William.”

William looked to Mr. Henderson, puzzled. “What does she mean?”

“Look in the box, William.”

William drew a cracked yellowed photograph from the box. The unsmiling young couple in the photo held an infant. On the back of the picture was written, John William Walker.

“So the four things she loved were Grandpa, my mother, the scarf, and this box.”

“Not the box, William John Walker. You.”

Image

Excuses

Excuses

Enduring Memories

Here is my Lascaux 250 entry. Wish me luck!

 

Enduring Memories

by Michaelle Wilde

 

Nonna Orsini cleaned the stone tiles in our home every night before going to bed. Creeping down the stairs, I would watch her. I never understood why she never seemed to be in a hurry to complete the chore, humming as the mop swayed.

When Nonna’s hands became too arthritic to squeeze the excess water from the cloth mop, she asked me to help her. On the sixth night of our cleaning ritual, I asked Nonna why she cleaned the floor every night and why she didn’t have one of us children do it. Nonna told me she enjoyed the quiet time that allowed her to appreciate the day that had been given to her. I still didn’t understand.

“What about the stains that won’t come up, Nonna?” I asked.

“Ah bambina,” she beamed down at me. “Those are memories. Do you see in front della stufa?” I nodded. “That is when your mother announced she was pregnant with you, our primo nipote!”

I bent down, felt the stain, and then looked at Nonna imploringly, “What made it?”

“Salsa di spaghetti,” she laughed, recalling how far the sauce had splattered. “A pot full!”

“Is that why the big pot has a dent?” Nonna smiled and nodded.

As the weeks went by, Nonna told me amusing stories of other stains that were unwilling to be washed away. I hummed along with her, enjoying the quiet and wondered what memories were yet to come.

Lascaux Flash Piece II

Here it is…my entry in Lascaux’s contest:

Memory Spot
by Michaelle Wilde

There, in the white space between two faux wood picture frames, the memories come to me every night. An autumn sunset dancing across the lake; a lone Chickadee perched in the maple, puffed up against the cold; holding my son, just minutes old. They’re all there, waiting for me. Occasionally, the memories linger, allowing me to feel the sun’s warmth on my face, the mist of a waterfall as it envelopes me. Other times, they flash by as if a child’s picture viewer is in charge.

Doctors, nurses, even my own family, speak as though I’m not in the room. They discuss my “condition,” whatever that is. The nurses regurgitate the update they’ve given my family for months.

I remember the first thing I found beautiful. My mother. Burnt umber waves flowing past her shoulders. Her laugh came easily when I did something amusing. Her attentive nature when I was ill. It must have taken a lot out of her…I was sick a lot. But, she was always there; ready with what medicine she had available.

My memories are truly my own now, for the words to describe their beauty remain inside me, unwilling to pass my lips.

An unwelcome surge of activity interrupts my nightly routine: hushed but urgent commands, a flood of light, I’m wheeled away from the memory spot.

I’m confused for a moment before I realize this life is holding all the memories it can. It is time for the next life to begin storing memories.

Sinister Synopsis

Oh yes, you do! You have to write a synopsis. Why? Because agents want it.

Yeah, I know. I read the doom and gloom surrounding the search to learn the art of synopsis writing too. However, there is plenty of good advice to be found by performing such searches.

Here’s some of what my basket of synopsis information includes:

– A synopsis is highly subjective.

– If the work includes more than one plot line, you may find it necessary to focus solely on one of them—the plot used to move the main story along.

– Prepare no less than three versions: One page (can be more than 250 words), 500 words, and 700 words. Start with the 700-word version. Then, once you’re comfortable with that one, reduce from there.

– Understand that the work will lose most adverbs and adjectives—there will be little room for description. Focus on what moves the plot along.

I know it’s excruciating to dismantle your precious work, but keep in mind that a synopsis is the perfect tool to share the whole of your story rather than depending solely on how well your query is received.

A well-written synopsis can mean the difference between getting an agent’s attention and getting the dreaded generic denial.

I found these sites to have solid information/direction on synopsis writing:

Nathan Bransford  Writing-World.com

Lascaux Flash Piece

Lascaus Flash had a September writing contest that I entered. I had a great time and received some nice feedback.

A special thank you goes out to Nathan Bransford for making me aware of the contest.

This was my entry:

Death of a Dream

As before, with thoughts of grandeur reverberating in my mind, I allow myself to be drawn into yet another adventure, one I know nothing of.

Weeks pass, I’m getting the hang of this! Months pass, I’m confused but plod on. Years later my enthusiasm wanes, but not to the point of giving up.

Then it happens. Anyone who knows me well has seen this coming since the day I embarked on such an undertaking.

A loud bang fills my ears. I close my eyes tight against the searing pain. Tears stream freely as I fight the blinding light. How can this be? My eyes are closed, darkness should prevail. But it doesn’t.

My vision returns, not of my eye sight but of my aspirations. There’s still time! My dream is within reach. I simply need to grasp on.

A guttural roar expels from my throat as I attempt to catch up. I stumble, but any pain is lost to adrenaline.

“What have I done?” I cry out to no one.

Nothing.

I’ve done nothing to capture my desire. I have merely convinced myself that I have worked hard for it. But it’s a lie, and now I have no option but to admit to myself that I have failed…again.

I hold my breath against the deep pain in my chest as the dream shatters. Another opportunity lost to fear.

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