Turns out super serious writing isn’t really my bag anymore. I’ve turned my efforts into humour writing, and if you’re looking for a laugh, head on over there for a couple good ones. Love you kiddies.
Turns out super serious writing isn’t really my bag anymore. I’ve turned my efforts into humour writing, and if you’re looking for a laugh, head on over there for a couple good ones. Love you kiddies.
My grandmother’s cupboard was always filled with jars of sprouting lentils. She said that it was important to know how to grow your own food, that when you understood where something came from, you better respected and cherished it. Every Saturday we’d have coffee together. I always laboured over my coffee, careful not to burn it, attempting to get the full flavour out of each bean. Her? Instant. Cold. Tap water coffee. Always. Ever since I was a kid. I’d always give her a hard time about her horrible coffee choices. She’d giggle, her laugh lines becoming more pronounced as the corners of her mouth curled into a smile.
“A little old lady like me doesn’t have time to make coffee.”
After coffee, we’d discuss books. Just finished The Education of Little Tree, just started A Hundred Years of Solitude. Should we go to the second hand store and find some more? She’d describe how reading the piano tuner made her weep, and how reading the latest issue of The Atlantic had her fuming. There’s never enough time to read all the things you’d like, she’d sigh. Don’t bother.
Then her soul would get heavy. The weight of the world. How did we get here? She’d frown. What happened to our sense of community, our environment, for goodness sakes, US!? Had we lost ourselves in the drudgery of modern life? Those aren’t things that you should be worrying about, I’d try and assure her. Enjoy your life, now.
Then she’d tell me that her bones ached, and that she was starting to forget things, misplace things. Who was I going to call? Where did I put my …
She’s far away now. But every time I see lentils, instant coffee or a great book, I know, she’s with me.
“Come! Quickly!” My mother shouted as she waved her hand toward the entrance to the train. Beads of sweat had collected on the side of her face. She frantically looked around to make sure all three of us were present. Johnny, Louise and I. We had just shy of two minutes to board the train before it departed to the southern most tip of America. Weeks of travelling we ended up in the north west corner of this new country, anxious to get to our final destination. The train signaled it’s departure. Three sharp blasts. I stood nervously inside of the train, my eye fixated on my mothers figure. Louise jumped on at the last minute after hearing my mother scream for the third and final time.
“Where to now, Mamma?” Louise asked as we settled into our seats.
“Home baby. Home.”
147 words. This is a response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a weekly writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. Photo graciously provided by The Storyteller’s Abode.
“Think you’d survive if you jumped?” Andrea asked me, looking at me with sorrow in her eyes. We both looked down at the ground laying underneath. The forest was finally starting to come back after the tornado hit four years prior.
“Probably just enough to bust your ankles, I guess. I don’t think you’d actually die.” I replied after pulling myself out of my head. We rolled a joint for the walk. Often we found ourselves back in this spot. After each storm came and went, this was one of the last remaining havens to be able to come to, after all the dust finally settled. The bridge had been decommissioned for years when the first storm had hit. The years had taught us to be prepared for the worst. Andrea lit the joint and inhaled.
“Beats staying here, waiting for the next storm.” She coughed as she exhaled, passing it to me.
“Isn’t that the truth.” I laughed.
This is a response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, graciously hosted by Priceless Joy. Photo provided by Dawn M. Miller.
I ran my fingers across the gritty, coarse surface of the rock formation. Completely upright, it lent itself to my hands. The small crevices and valleys allowed my fingers to rise and fall as my feet made their way into circle after circle. It had been three years since my mother passed; not without silence. We had come here together so often to sit, backs against the side by side forms. We gazed at the sky as the sun descended into it’s routine rest. She’d recite poetry, I’d listen with open ears.
That on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms
And my roots will set off to seek another land.”
On that day, at the hour, she did lift her arms. And she did, find roots in another land. Till I reunite with her, this is the space in which we find each other again, momentarily.
This is a response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Photo prompt graciously provided by Louise with “The Storyteller’s Abode”.
Escaping the mass evacuation we had found ourselves at the bottom of Angel Falls. I cupped my hands and dipped them into the cool water. Bringing the water to my mouth, I felt the cold water run down my throat. Derek looked up at the throng of people shuffling across the wobbly bridge towards camp.
“We have about 20 minutes before they realize we’re gone, Kat.” He whispered. Our eyes connected, and we both knew that it was time to move on. In the distance the sky filled with smoke and the earth rumbled. Sirens and gunshots.
“Lets go.” I groaned. The echo of the leaders message rippled through the trees. This is the new order, if you chose to fight against the order, you will be taken care of. I grabbed his arm and we disappeared into the forest.
This is a response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Photo graciously provided by Etol Bagam.
For so many years I’ve experienced a soul-wrenching, gut churning painful type of sadness. It has left a hollow in my heart and a hunger in my belly. For reasons I may never know, I’ve lived with it and struggled with it for as long as I can remember. It seems that one of the many possible answers for my ailment is a firm sense of home. As long as I can remember, I’ve always attributed it to being a place. A house, or a city. A place you can come back to, time and time again, knowing it will be there for you when you return. So often, this place has been with my mother. Regardless of where I get swept off to, I always have a warm bed and a safe haven within the walls of my mothers house. The more I age, the more I realize that the concept of home is fluid, in the sense that you can attribute it more to a feeling, rather than a place. This ensures its survival among all the terrors and misgivings of life. This feeling can evolve, no doubt. It can change among the years, and as you age. But it is no doubt, the same place that you’ll return to at the end of each and every day.
I’m 10 years old. I have a pet hamster named Ned. I share a bedroom with my mother, separated by a dusty white sheet. This is our home. This is where we spent less than a year. We have a dog named Red. A roommate named Lindsay, who came with bags packed and a cat named Fred. It was a small condo, a stones throw away from my school. It had old carpet, and a piano in the front room. This is where my mother made chilli, and played piano. This is where she studied for school and took me to the park. This is where we read, we laughed and we ate.
I’m 17 years old. Although in the same town, my mother has moved into a new home. This home came with a yard, and a rickety fence. Peeled paint. All the rooms in this house are a different colour. Orange for the sitting room, chocolate brown for the bonus room, yellow for the upstairs walls, blue for bedroom 1 and red for bedroom 2. The windows are large, sunlight floods all the rooms, when it rises from it’s nightly slumber. This was home, for many years. Two children came into to the world into this house. Tears were shed, laughter was shared and love was realized, in the most sincere, genuine way.
I’m 20 years old. I’ve fallen in love for the first time in my entire life. This was home. This love, this spark. The day began and ended with this love. The kind that wraps your soul and leaves you burning for more. It was within his house, and his arms, that I found myself home. Accepted, encouraged. Loved. It satisfied my soul in an indescribable way. Two years later, home left. Packed it’s bags in search of something new. Someplace different. One year later, I left with it. Broken down by disappointment and personal resentment. His best, was not good enough, and it broke my heart. Home became something different then.
I’m 23 years old. I’m in a white bed with purple sheets. In my mothers house. The same house as before. New fence, no more peeled paint. New cupboards, same floor. We sit outside and share cigarettes under the moon. Faces dark in the night. The sound of my mothers voice carries me to the feeling of home. It’s back again. Although my sadness still rests within my heart and my belly, I know I’m home. Again. For the 10th or 11th time. I’ve found it again. It may leave, and if it does, I’ll follow it, in a never ending search.
Home. Where we all come to at the end of the day. The sound of someone playing the piano, the smell of coffee. Lemon water. Books. Laughing children, the sound of the bell on a bike. The smell of a breeze that’s travelled many miles. Soft music, funny sitcoms. Peace, calm and contentment. It is what it is, and it will always be.
The news of my grandmother’s death reached me half a world away, in a small Italian town on the edge of the world. Vernazza, Italy was where I found myself. After having spent my entire childhood struggling to break free of the chains that bound me in my father’s house, I uprooted to the farthest place I could think of. Vernazza is a haven away from the chaos that was my life back home. The message came from my hysterical mother, not a surprise that she was creating a whirlwind of disaster around something that affected other people, and not just herself.
Skylar! Skylar! You must come home, Baba is dead and the whole house is upheaval. Your father is maniacal; he spends all of his time going through her things. He just sits in her room, with old photos in her lap. I can’t possibly cope, Skylar. Come home now! Call me the second you get this. Oh! And bring that piece of man-candy you call a boyfriend. You can’t hide him forever!
I heard her shout at someone as she hung up the phone. Baba had been sick for a long time, we knew it was coming but it didn’t make it sting any less. Everything is always worse when my mother is around. My mother. Our childhood was her play of which she chose to play her part as she saw fit. My father took on the load of the household while my mother was off gallivanting. So often she would return home past midnight, alcohol on her breath. She’d come into my room, sitting beside me while I pretended to sleep. She would brush the hair away from my face and whisper with gin breath that she was sorry she wasn’t a better mother. My sweet father did everything he could to facilitate her dreams. They uprooted to a small town in Eastern Canada, into a house by the ocean so she could work on her novel that never quite got past the first page. I used to hear her scream at him, up late in a never-ending tirade.
I simply can’t work under these conditions, John. You know that! I need space, I need freedom and that fucking kid is eliminating any possibility of me actualizing my dreams!
My Baba came with us wherever we went, of course. She always knew my mother was a train wreck. She used to say to me, “That’s just your mum, Sky. You’ve got to just accept how she is. Some people aren’t capable of carrying all the weight, that’s why we carry it for them. We don’t fault or punish them, you just learn not to expect anything from them.” She’d cook all our meals, clean the house and always make sure we had clean clothes and linens. She taught me how to read my first novel, and spell my first words. “You’ve gotta learn to take care of yourself, Sky,” she used to say to me, “the world is sometimes unfair, and you have to learn to survive.” She taught me that resilience comes in the form of education and that we were fortunate to be provided with many good opportunities and that we would be fools to not take advantage of them. “I worked for 25 cents an hour at the ice cream parlour, Sky. When I got pregnant with your father, I was forced to rely on your Babi for everything. And now look at what a pickle we’re in, chasing after your father cause I can’t manage on my own. You better pray you don’t end up in the same position as me.”
I remember looking up at her while she’d kneed dough, or cook dinner, eyes wide. Back then, she seemed so tall; a matriarch of our family. Visiting when she was sick, I remember she had gotten so frail, so small. Her husband, my Babi, had died when I was a newborn. She spoke fondly of him, remembered him as a gentle, soft soul that wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“That’s not what we saw…” my mother used to whisper to me under her breath, “Baba could rip a strip off of him like no other.”
I remember countless nights were spent alone with Baba while Pops worked and Mum was gone. “Baba where’s mum?” I remember asking her, tugging at her pant leg.
“Oh hush now Sky. She’s out.” She scoffed. “You won’t get anywhere good, bein’ soft like that. Your mother is a complicated woman, you might as well not put so much effort into worrying about her.” But I did worry about her. I wanted so much to be like my mother, admiring her endless supply of life. But, as the older I got, the more I realized it seemed exhausting to be her, and the less I wanted to resemble her, in any way. Though my grandmother was a good stand in, teaching me invaluable lessons, I yearned for someone soft to embrace me and teach me about the more humane, the more visceral. So, I worked relentlessly, in a simultaneous effort to both be as far away from the house as possible and to accumulate as much money as I could. From a young age, I worked around our neighbourhood, shovelling walkways and mowing lawns. Baba was of course proud that I was making a living, but it always came back to my studies.
“Baba, I’ve got a 3.8 grade point average, that’s more than most people can say for my age and working full time.” I’d whine exasperated when she’d come down on me.
“Sky, 3.8 isn’t a 4.0 and you’re not going to get a scholarship without a 4.0.” She barked at me. When I become of age to get my first full time job, I was hired as a hostess at a café in town. Every cent I made went into my savings account. Once a month I would treat myself to an ice cream cone. I’d sit by myself at the beach and eat the entire thing, ensuring not to waste anything. Baba’s voice would always echo in the back of my head.
You gonna throw that out? Back in my day it took an entire days labour to buy a loaf of bread, you best be grateful.
I got accepted into the University of Waterloo out of high school. Earning an academic scholarship allowed me to live on campus free of charge for one year. Despite my continual effort at school and at work, I found that I could never do right by Baba. I’d check in with her and life at home once a week. Slowly that faded into once and month and suddenly I’d be lucky to see her on special holidays. Fortunately for me, it was the acceptance into a research position with a university abroad was my ticket out of that life, permanently. I feared that I would ache too much to be with my father, but I knew I must go. Before I left, Baba placed her hands on my shoulders and said, “You better not screw this up. We’re counting on you to make a life for yourself. Lord knows we don’t need any more suckers bottom feeding your fathers income.” Yes Baba. When I told her that I was doing research into the affect social isolation has on the mind, she wanted nothing to do with me. “Why don’t you go into engineering like your father? What kind of a living are you going to make doing that?” The day after I graduated university, I packed up my things and left for Italy.
“Babe?” Enzo smiled at me from across the table. I had been sitting there staring at prices for airline tickets, lost in my own head. I glanced up at him. “Have you decided if you’re going to go?” I looked into his dark eyes. They were tilted upward, always looking like he was smiling.
“Well I have to…” I muttered to myself. I scrolled through pages of listings while Enzo cleared the table off. Half filled cups of coffee, plates with crumbs on them. Papers littered the table and the floor. After an hour of arguing with myself, I finally settled on going.
Enzo offered to help pay for the trip, but I wouldn’t let him. Nor would I let him come either. I flew out on the Sunday. I spent Saturday night pacing my living room and biting all my nails off. Did I have everything I needed? Should I stay in a hotel? I imagine mum will probably insist I stay at the house. “Babe you’re panicking.” Enzo chuckled from the couch, looking past me to try and catch a glimpse of the television.
“I haven’t been home in over 7 years, Enzo!” I retorted. “I never call, I only visited the one time and it took everything in me to not run back to the airport 10 minutes after landing there. What will my mother say? Lord knows.” Enzo listened well, as he always did. He’d nod, every time I found myself in an anxious fit. I often wondered where I found such a caring man. Fortunately, sleep finally found me after a heavy sedative.
It was first thing in the morning that Enzo had to drive me to the airport. The drive was quiet; I listened to the breeze and took in my last breath of ocean air. I’d read somewhere that for people who are born by the sea; salt water runs through their veins. Enzo broke the silence, “Just remember Sky, it’s only for a week and then you’ll be back here. I’ll make sure everything is in order for when you come back.” I sighed, relived. I grasped his hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Skylar! Mum shouted at me, drink in hand. I could hear the ice cubes clanking around in her glass. One day! She barked, you’ll be all grown up and you won’t need me anymore. Jesus Christ, Caroline. Baba would mumble from the corner of the room. Get a hold of yourself. Mum barked something at Baba, slurring her words as she continued to talk at me for the next hour. I learned to tune her out.
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” I snapped out of my head, the stewardess was leaning over me, “Can I get you a drink, ma’am?”
“Oh yes. Sorry. I’ll have a dark rum and coke please.” I folded my tray table down. The stewardess passed me my drink; a tiny little napkin folded under it. The stewardess waited while I fumbled to get money out of my pocket, my hands were clammy. The man sitting next to me waved me off,
“I’ll take care of her drink, and a scotch on the rocks for me please.”
“Thanks. You really didn’t have to do that.” I stammered, careful not to spill anything on myself while I tried to take a sip.
“Don’t worry about it.” The man said. We clanked our plastic cups together and I drank my drink in one foul swoop. I suddenly felt queasy; it must be so apparent that I’m in emotional upheaval. The rest of the flight was turbulent. Fitting.
I landed 20 minutes later than expected. I knew that if my mother managed to show up, she’d make a fuss about having to stand around for 20 extra minutes. As if the world was constantly doing her a dis service. Surprisingly, she was there, oversized sunglasses on and a ridiculously large sunhat.
“Skylar!” She was waving and elbowing her way to the front of the horde of people. I expressed a weak smile, reflecting my exhaustion, which was completely lost on her. “Skylar, I’m so glad you’re here. It’s been so draining. Your father just mopes around all day, he doesn’t talk at all! I just don’t know how I’m going to manage. We have to go through all her things, and make funeral preparations and it has to be done soon! Where are we supposed to get the money? I mean your father does well for us, but for this?! God Skylar, I don’t know how we got here…” I eventually tuned her out, as I always did. If Baba were here, she’d be telling Mum to shut her trap. They didn’t get along that great when Baba was alive, but they had an understanding. We stood by the luggage carousel, her talking, me staring into the distance.
“Sky? Sky?” she caught on that I wasn’t listening.
“Yes mum?” I replied.
“Are you even listening?” She complained, frown painted on her face.
“Of course.” She continued talking as we made our way out of the airport, through lines of people and into a cab. I smelt the faint smell of body odour and damp clothes. Her complaints flooded the car as we drove home. I stared out the window. The sky was cloudless.
When we got into the house, it felt empty, too empty. The warm embrace of my father met me at the door. He breathed out a sigh of relief, “I’m so glad you’re home,” he whispered.
“Me too, Pops. I’m so sorry about Baba.” His eyes were red; lack of sleep. Tears welled in his eyes, he turned away from me and walked toward the kitchen.
“Something to eat?” He hollered from the kitchen. I set my suitcases down by the door and shouted back,
“How about some of Baba’s famous grits?” I found my way to the kitchen and sat down on a stool. I remember the stools being much bigger. He turned to meet my gaze, small smile in the corner of his mouth,
“I don’t think I can make them quite like she can, but I’ll try.”
The key to good grits, Sky, is to make sure you salt your water and you whisk ‘em real good. With all of your force! She passed the whisk to me and held my hand as I stirred as best I could. There you go! She’d beam. You’ll make a great cook one day. There was a time when I was too little to disappoint her.
We ate in silence, both knowing that everything had already been said. Small exhales found the stillness. With full bellies, pops and I made our way up to Baba’s room. “We’ve gotta clear it out, before the funeral.” We stood in the doorway, scanning over the small space. An entire lifetime, stuffed in the corners and closets of this small room. I found my way to the bed with a box of photos and placed them on the bed next to me. Pops shuffled to the closet, trying to pick out something for her to wear, for eternity. I held a stack of photos in my hands, flipping through images of her life. Weddings, graduations, first grandchildren and then seconds. A hollow grew bigger in my heart.
Sky you need to do something good for yourself, no more of this research, crap.
I put all the photos in one pile, careful to ensure they didn’t get wrecked. We filled garbage bag after garbage bag of donations to the local second hand store. Clothes, trinkets, books and shoes. Every once in a while, I’d come across something I couldn’t bear to give away. Misty eyed I’d look at pops. “Of course you can keep it, love.” I kept all of the items that reminded me of the good parts of Baba. Like her quick wit, her wry sense of humour and her unbelievable cooking. I kept old recipe books, pictures of her smiling while holding me as a baby. How the time slipped away from us all.
Amidst piles of old papers I found textbooks that she had found at the used book stores including a beginner mathematics book and a university geology book.
If I had time to do it all over again, Sky, I would have gone to school. Woulda been a geologist. Funny how life sometimes happens too fast and dreams fade away. Your father was my whole world, but I knew that I would have been capable of great things.
It took us a full day to pack everything up. We hauled bags and boxes downstairs into storage, or into the car. We took a final look at the room, now empty save for a bed and a night table. “Shall I get us a drink?” Pops asked. I nodded. I went over to fluff the pillows, smell them one last time. I picked up the pillow and brought to my face, burrowing into it, a photo fell to the ground out of the pillowcase. I bent over to pick it up. Looking at it, I started laughing hysterically. Tears streamed down my face as I remembered the day of the photo. “What is it?” Pops asked from the doorway, two Tom Collins’ in hand. Baba didn’t drink often, but when she did, a Tom Collins was her favourite. He came to sit next to me on the bed, arm wrapped around my shoulders. I wiped the tears from my face.
“It’s us. Baba and I, at the zoo when I was maybe 6 or 7.” I laughed.
“Looks lovely, but why is it so funny?” He asked as he took a sip of his drink.
“Baba had me convinced that she could make lions roar. For weeks she talked about this gift that she had. I didn’t believe her, of course.”
I’m telling you, Sky. It’s a gift. Passed down from my grandmother, to me. With a flick of the wrist, I can make a lion roar.
No you CAN’T Baba! I don’t believe you. I’d laugh.
Well…you’ll just have to wait and see.
“She had me convinced. So finally, she took me to the zoo to ‘prove it’. I was so excited when the day finally came. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, giddy with anticipation. We made a day of it; we packed a lunch and everything. I had my pink, Mickey Mouse backpack that I loved, remember?”
“Oh yes, I remember. You wouldn’t go anywhere without that thing!” Pops chuckled.
“I know! It was filled with everything I thought I needed. My disposable camera Baba bought me, water, my favourite toy and my note pad. I remember we took a bus there and it was the first time I’d ever been on a bus before. She even gave me the money and let me pay for my own fare. I had this huge grin plastered on my face the entire trip there. When we got there, I was so excited I started running like a maniac in all directions. Baba had to chase after me and tell me I was going the wrong way. We passed monkeys, giraffes and even cheetahs! We finally find our way to the lion enclosure. There were only two lions wandering around, a big male and a smaller female. My eyes were so big, I remember Baba laughing at how my face must have looked. After about 10 minutes of watching them, the bigger lion ended up roaring, and I was 100% convinced that Baba did it. You should have seen my reaction pops! It was like finding out that magic existed. My mouth dropped open and Baba just gave me this look like, ‘told ya so’.” I let out a deep sigh. “I remember thinking, ‘Baba is magic!’ I told all my friends about it at school the next day. None of them believed me, but I knew. I knew Baba was magic. And you know what? Even though I eventually figured it out that she didn’t make the lion roar, I know she was still magic.” I leaned my head on pops shoulder, my tears leaving a dark, circular stain on his shirt.
“She really was, love bug. She really was.”
So I wandered around in search of myself. New smells, new people. Familiar sights, lost friends. For however long I searched, I still couldn’t put a finger on the ever-elusive void. What was it?
I found things to attach myself to. Yoga, writing, mediation. Something. What could I be good at? I yearned for a common breath, shared with people who seemed to have had it figured out. I screamed into the abyss of questionable existence. Silence.
So aggressively shaped by what I wouldn’t do, wouldn’t participate in. I yield to the experience of yes. Don’t overwhelm yourself, love. Stick to what’s manageable. Baby steps and I promise, it won’t eat you alive.
Inspiration eludes me. For however monotonous my daily life is, I can’t seem to find anything to write about, made up or not. As a failing attempt to produce something, anything – I’ve decide to create a weekly instalment called Tattoo Tuesday. Where we celebrate the wonderfully human, sometimes deeply painful reasons people allow the permanency of ink on their skin. I digress.
Please note all names are kept anonymous to protect privacy of individuals who chose to share their stories.
May you always have sunshine in your heart. What made you decide to get it?
RM: My exes dad tried to commit suicide, shortly after he passed away. We found his notebook where he wrote poems, that was one of the titles.
What was your favourite thing about his dad?
RM: He had such a sad life as an addict. But, he was always happy and helping everyone, making jokes and trying to enhance everyone’s quality of life.