“She is, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking,” Galen joked.
“Cool it, peanut gallery,” Marie hissed. “If the time thing bothers you guys that much, why don’t you just leave?”
“Because it’s not that simple,” Alice replied.
Marie opened her mouth to respond, but Alice cut her off.
“Listen,” Alice said urgently. “We know that it’s not uncommon for people from Carth and Carth 2-A to visit the mainland here. They think the time rules here are fun, for whatever reason. It’s becoming a fairly popular vacation spot for rich people, for whatever reason. It wouldn’t be unfeasible for you to pose as a rich Carthigian on a trip, snoop around a little, and figure out what the hell is going on.”
“And why on Earth would I want to do that?” Marie asked, exasperated.
“Because you’re not on Earth anymore,” Elsy said quietly. “And if you do this for us, we’ll help you get back there.”
Marie’s stomach gurgled loudly, and Galen snorted. Marie flushed red.
“I’m not used to eating like this,” she said defensively, as her digestive system complained loudly again. Hershel got up and fetched his med kit from the other room. He fished around for a second and pulled out two shiny, bright yellow pills, long, skinny ovals.
“Here,” he said, and Marie held out her hand.
“What are these?”
“It’ll help with the digestion. Chew and swallow.”
Marie hesitated, but her upset stomach made up her mind for her. She complied. The pills melted on her tongue and she gagged, reaching for her glass. Milo nipped consolingly at her ankle.
“Thanks Hershel,” Marie said. He nodded.
They sat in awkward silence for a while as Marie’s stomach began to settle.
Within five minutes she felt fine.
“That was a miracle pill,” Marie said, breaking the silence.
“It is remarkably efficient, yes.”
“Why don’t you guys have any technology here?” Marie asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Elsy asked.
“You know, computers and stuff like that. I figured since you were apparently advanced enough to duplicate planets, you’d have computers everywhere, and automated stuff, and walls made out of lasers and stuff like that,” Marie explained lamely.
“Why?” she asked.
“You know, so you don’t have to do things by hand as much. Like, where you even get all this food?”
“I have chickens out back,” Elsy said. “One of the people who moved back to Carth 2-A planted a lovely orchard. Hershel gardens, Galen and Alice hunt and forage from time to time. There’s also another town not too far from here, with all the technology and what-not you’re probably expecting, but we’re fairly limited out here in terms of supplies and things like that, and we enjoy life that way.”
It was by far the longest speech Marie had heard from the older woman thus far and she considered it carefully.
“If there’s a town not far from here, why don’t you move there?”
“This is home,” Elsy said simply.
“We do have some technology here,” Galen added, “computers and the like, but we don’t use it much.”
“You guys are like futuristic Amish people,” Marie quipped.
Galen snorted. “Sort of.”
“I don’t understand, though,” Marie said seriously. “This place is so much like home. You all speak English, for heaven’s sakes. The food is the same, from what I’ve seen, the animals are the same. The only thing different so far, really, is the trees and the houses. And the freaky time thing.”
“Think about it this way,” Hershel said gently. “When Barth was created by Aarth, it was essentially a clone of the First Planet, similar in every way, and the Aarththons wanted it that way. Why wouldn’t they, when they were planning on using it as a second home? So on with Carth and Darth, all the way down to Earth and onward. So yes, we speak English – it’s because Aarthons taught us English, and brought down all their various languages and cultures to all the cloned planets waiting to soak it all in.”
“So Earth isn’t original at all,” Marie said sadly.
Hershel shook his head.
“Don’t misunderstand me. We all are similar, yes, but Earth has a distinct flair all its own. Darth checks in from time to time, but the way Darth’s influences affected Earth was all you. No other planet has vegetarians, for example. No other planet has quite such a fascination with music and performance. You’re quite an artistic planet, really. That’s at least something.”
My granny did not care for my Rude Review of apples this week, internet (although I believe ‘did not like’ is perhaps a mild way of putting it), and she has challenged me to write an ode to apples that, in her words, “show[s] off your creative, cerebral and imaginative skills”.
Challenge accepted, Gran-mère.
Ode to Apples.
Where I grew up, there were apples
green and snarled
that fed the neighbour’s worms
amid the craggy branches of a malformed tree,
and where they fell they stayed
and watered their own tree with their meager life’s juices.
When I was small, I plucked those apples,
and took them to my great-grandmother’s
in hopes that she would transform them
or one of her coveted pies.
And my great-grandmother smiled,
and left my apples as an offering for the birds and the raccoons,
and took me to market
and showed me the granny smiths
and the blushing galas
and the jovially striped honey crisps.
and together we bathed their flesh in butter and spice
and put them to rest
and covered them with dough.
As our creation baked, the crabapples disappeared
giving themselves up to the woodland creatures
attracted by the strong scent of cinnamon
and roasting butter
and sweet apples.
and we had tea
and were none the wiser for the loss.
The metro station was pulsing with light, flickering from the dying bulbs overhead, emanating from open cell phones and getting caught in glasses frames and the reflective coverings on posters for upcoming movies and political campaigns. Voices bounced off of surfaces and whirled willy-nilly in the void of the open station where the trains rushed to and fro, many languages mixing in the open spaces and nooks and crannies to froth against the waves of people who moved against each other every ten minutes like clockwork, mingling together like milk and coffee in a travel mug.
In the hallways street musicians played franglish music on poorly tuned guitars, bilingual cardboard sign propped up against the portable xylophone played by a girl with dreadlocks and a rainbow colored skirt. The toonie thrown into the case by the boy walking with the dark haired girl bounced against the sides and settled into the small pile of gold and silver change. The singer nodded his head as they passed, and the dark haired girl squeezed the boy’s hand.
In the corner, an old woman rests her head against the cool porcelain tiles of the wall, long corduroy skirt trailing on the floor as she waits for the train to come. Her gnarled hands skitter on the handles of her bag and the vibrations tremble up her arm and through the tattered windbreaker. The soft rustling of the fabric announces her presence in the station and heads turn to find the source of the noise. She meets the eyes of a girl with long dark hair who is walking hand and hand with a boy in a baseball cap. The girl nods her head slightly in her direction. The train comes.
“It’s a simple fucking question with a yes or no answer. Did you sleep with her or not?”
“Come on, babe-”
“Yes or no, asshole.”
“Do we really have to-”
“Answer the fucking question or these pictures are going to the police.”
“Yeah I fucked her, Edith, are you fucking happy now?”
“You piece of shit! How could you do this to me? We talked about this!”
“It was just a one time deal, babe, it didn’t mean anything.”
“Yeah, well snorting blow was a one time thing that’s gonna look real bad on your record when the police get this envelope. How are you going to explain this one to your constituents, huh Sam?”
“You’re going to screw with my career because I banged some bar floozy once? Real mature.”
“You know what’s real mature? Throwing away four years for a tart with big tits and fake fingernails.”
“I told you, it was a one time thing.”
“How many more one time things are you going to have, Sam?”
“You’re making this into something worse than it is.”
“How would you like it if I went home with the first suit to buy me a drink?”
“That’s different and you know it.”
“Not to them it isn’t.”
“Give me the envelope.”
“Oh, that’s real mature”
“I can’t even deal with you right now. I’m leaving. Don’t wait up.”
“Wait… come on, Edith, don’t be like this.”
“How exactly do you want me to be, then? Naïve, like your tarty little tramps? How could you expect to pull the wool over my eyes after we’ve been together this long? For god’s sake, we’re supposed to be getting married, Sam. What happens in September after the ceremony? You’re supposed to be in love with me and you’re off in dive bars buying tequila shots for cheap dates and hookers.”
“Jesus, babe, you’re getting carried away with yourself. Like I said, it was a goddamn one-time thing. The marriage is still on. You still get the money and the house and the keys to the city. Stop getting hysterical.”
“Stop staying it was a one time thing and for fuck’s sake don’t keep calling me babe. You make me sick. You’re damn right it’s not gonna happen again and I’m keeping these photos for insurance. We’ve come too far to get slammed by one of your stupid screw-ups.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t look elsewhere if my fiancée was a little more understanding of my needs…”
“Don’t fucking touch me! You disgust me.”
“You’re going to have to get used to it, babe, if we’re going to pull off this whole marriage act, and don’t even think of backing out now, I have my own form of job insurance.”
“Oh yeah? Like what.”
“You don’t remember your ex Marissa? Because she remembers you.”
“How did you-”
“I got friends in low places. Don’t worry, I bought her silence- for now. Let’s be clear, sweetheart, if this thing goes south, we’re both going down with the ship. Once we’re on some cozy, remote beach with a few million to burn, you can have all the Isabellas and Christines you want. But until then, both of us need to keep our fuckups to a minimum. And if you screw me over, God help me I’ll kill you before either of us are in handcuffs. Understood?”
“Thata girl. Now hand over that envelope and go pick out floral arrangements with your bridesmaids and if I get one hint of any funny business, I swear-”
“I got it Sam, okay? Jesus.”
“Oh, and Edith?”
“I love you.”
I took this prompt from a contest at FanStory.com.
Write an ode poem about any subject.
Ode to the bird outside my window, who sits and sings
in the early morning
when the light in the spring is like champagne;
bubbly and golden, tickling my back wall with irreverent fingertips.
Ode to the bird who’s built his nest of found and forgotten things
high in the branches of the maple tree that was planted a long time ago
for exactly this purpose.
Ode to he who has kept me cheerful company:
this lonely sparrow, who, miserly, lives away from his fellows in the backyard
and prefers the quietude of my window
to any other scene.
To he, who, above any other, is my companion,
Among seasons warm and cold
With his unchanging and lonely cry.
Who has safeguarded my cozy space
and kept away the blackbirds and the crows
who would otherwise crowd my window
with their black eyes
and unclean feathers.
Although he is not flashy, with his modest plumage,
he sings well,
and satisfied to bask on my windowsill
as I ready myself for the day,
he and I
share the space
Two hours to Montreal. Take 89 straight shot though the border, pass countryside and farm town until you get on the QEW right after the Arrête Papa! ice cream shop with the badly rendered sign outside, two young children with their mouths open in a cry for the cones just out of their reach. Enter bigger towns, ones with prominent churches next to movie theaters next to barns. Drive straight through them. Weave through the steadily increasing traffic with ease. Merge dangerously close to other cars.
Sing oldies music at the top of your lungs with the other people in your car. Open the windows, then shut them. Turn on the air conditioning. Hand your passports to the border guard. Declare nothing. Talk about tonight. Talk about your excitement. Talk about Montreal. Talk about how hungry you are. Don’t talk about the things that have been unsaid for weeks. Let Jake pick the music. Pretend not to notice the lyrics of the songs that he picks.
Jake’s been your best friend for three long years. You’ve dated his good friends. You’ve cried on his shoulder. You’ve gone with him to see bad movies, watched hockey on his couch, drawn him for art class. He’s called you up in the middle of the day just to hang out. You went shopping with him for a new belt and tie, you helped him navigate a rocky relationship with your close friend. You can tell the relationship dynamics have been changing and it makes you nervous. You no longer tell him you love him, because now you’re afraid of what he might think that means.
You sit across from your boyfriend. Tell him Jake asked you to go to the formal in Montreal. Ask him if he cares if you go. He does not. Realize that he really could care less. Think that maybe you wish he did. Change topics. Talk about the game. Talk about how you probably failed the pop quiz this morning. Talk about his upcoming visitors from home. Talk about the weather, the snow-storms. Tell him you sharpened your skis for this weekend. He will tell you he can drive to the mountain. He will ask you if you would like a beer. You would. You will sit drinking it despite the fact that you don’t like beer and you have told him this a million times. He might turn on the TV so you guys can watch something stupid, or you might continue talking about nothing in particular, it doesn’t really matter.
Later, his friends will stop by. You will order a pizza. You will pick off all the mushrooms. Jake will stop in. You will leap up to give him a hug. He will ask you how your day was. You will say fine. You will tell him you can go to the formal. He will say that’s great. Your boyfriend will watch you.
Later, everyone will have gone. You will probably have sex. It will probably be mediocre.
It’s 6 on a Thursday night. You’re over in your neighbour’s apartment wearing the dress you bought this afternoon, a simple black piece that works well on your body, flows nicely, hugs all the right curves. You, your roommate and your neighbours are surrounded by pairs of shoes. You sit on the floor, defeated by the task at hand. They tell you this would have been much easier if the dress you picked didn’t match everything. You laugh. Your roommate groans. You’ve gone through every pair you own and some that belong to other people. It seems like this weekend’s outfit is becoming a team effort.
They all know Jake. They speculate about how well they evening will go. They asks you if you will kiss him. You vehemently declare that you could never ever kiss Jake. You’ve been friends for way too long. Your friends share knowing glances.
Deep down, you wonder about whether you ever could. Maybe if you hadn’t dated his fraternity brothers. Maybe if he hadn’t dated your friend. Maybe if he wasn’t graduating in two weeks. Maybe if he wasn’t your best friend. Maybe if you weren’t so desperately afraid.
Your boyfriend hugs you goodbye as you are getting ready to go to Montreal. Jake watches from the car. Kiss your boyfriend. Pretend like it matters. Pretend like you care. Pretend like going to Montreal doesn’t mean anything at all. Get in the car. Watch your boyfriend watch you leave. Pretend like he cares. Pretend like you don’t care. Look at Jake at that moment and right then and there, chicken out. Suddenly, desperately, wish you weren’t going at all.
You are back from Montreal. The roommate asks first, then the calls roll in. You did not kiss Jake. You wonder why everyone sounds so disappointed. You wonder if maybe you sound disappointed. You wonder if maybe you are. You think about Jake’s dark brown eyes, his hands on your hips. You think about dancing with Jake. You think about Jake’s hands on your breasts. You even think about maybe sleeping with Jake, but you don’t let yourself go there. You think about that brief second when you turned your face away from his. You think about the confession you swallowed. You think about the moment when his face turned from yours. You think that probably this is for the better.
Call your boyfriend.
Tell him you love him.
Pretend that you do.
For today’s fiction friday, my roommate, Varenka, challenged me to write a series of limericks about our new apartment, Gallifrey.
Two ladies moved into some new digs
Not accounting the fact both lived like pigs.
There are clothes on the floor
But there’s none in the drawers
So there’s no place to host their shindigs.
Gallifrey’s decently spacious,
Though the decor is something hellicious
The floral wallpaper
Is due for a scraper
And the pink tile bath’s ostentatious.
Our new apartment is baller
But the girls living upstairs are scholars
Through the day, not a peep
Until we go to sleep
And that’s when they hoot and they holler.
I leaned back into the plush sofa and let my compatriots listen to the timorous sounds of their own egos, swirling my glass and watch dozens of tiny bubbles fly up to suicide themselves against the border of liquid gold. It made me feel slightly better.
Around me, ugly people in pretty clothes were eating tiny bites of food saturated in truffle oil. The women were leaving territorial marks of lipstick on everything they came into contact with – their glasses, their ornamental toothpicks, their husbands, other people’s husbands – all smeared in variations of Revlon red.
The men were standing around in clusters with their hands deep in their pockets. They were pretending not to watch the wait staff who flitted in and out, agile on impossibly precarious heels, skinny girls in short white dresses, obviously meant to blend in with the all white decor. How they could manage to keep the outside furniture sure a pristine shade, I couldn’t fathom. I imagine they must have to constantly retouch every surface, dry-clean the out fabrics on a regular basis, and tirelessly scrub the sand off the marble floor. All this so rich men with trophy wives could sip exotic drinks and feel like they have experienced the island.
Drumming my fingers on the armrest of the couch, I watched the wait-staff’s best efforts to discourage a growing army of pigeons from besieging the cocktail party. A small flock of birds had descended earlier, summoned by a single misplaced finger-sandwich. They wove skillfully in and out of the parade of leather driving moccasins and designer heels, pecking at cubes of tuna speckled with caviar, chunks of lobster, and the occasional proscuitto-wrapped melon ball. They seemed dressed for the party, with their feathers freshly preened and the iridescent purple-green shimmer of their plumage.
When the squabbling over a duck confit empanada had more or less ended, a large grey male meandering in my direction fixed me with a beady eye. His bobbing head moving in rhythm with his pink-legged strut forcibly reminded me of the self-important, sauntering gait of my fiancé, who often walked in the wrong direction while looking as if he had somewhere to be. The pigeon, with his neck feathers plumped and his wings neatly arranged, clearly had plans for my untouched plate. Chuckling to myself, I dropped him an expensive sounding canapé. He scrambled over, his head bobbing frantically, wings askew. I pictured Laurent running after his latest celebrity client and burst out laughing as the whole flock came running over, cooing in alarm, feathers plump, jostling over the morsel. I left my feathery fiancé lookalike to fend for himself as the horde hopped up onto the seat I had vacated and pecked my whole selection of snacks to shreds.
Today’s story prompt is from Nancy Stohlman.
Find a story you’ve written that isn’t quite working. Chop it down to exactly 100 words. Give it a new title.
This is Drift, the story from my week-long writing challenge, reworked. I love it.
Return to Sender
“Hey,” I said, sitting down next to my fiancée on the bed. Sarah’s eyes were red and puffy.
“Hey,” she said, handing me the wedding RSVP her best friend had sent back through the mail, unopened. “Alissa will not be in attendance.”
I looked at the pale blue envelope, dotted a darker color where her tears had stained the paper. In the weeks since Alissa had told my fiancée she was in love with her, Sarah had sent her five invitations. The bitch had not deigned to reply.
I ripped the invitation in half.
“More food for me.”
Continued from here.
The cut was long and jagged and ran from the bottom of my ribcage to the top of my snow pants. It was already starting to bruise around the edges. I refused to go the ski patrol so Mark bought a tee shirt from the gift shop, stuffed it with clean snow, and handed it to me. Annoyed, I sat down on an outside bench with a huff and pressed it to my side. Mark sat next to me and tried to lift my shirt up a little so he could see the wound better, but I smacked his hand away.
“Stop poking at me,” I said, and it must have came out a little harsher then I meant it because Mark made a face like I’d spit at him and turned away. I bit my lip. We sat there for a few minutes in silence. The day had turned out to be unusually warm for March and some of the other skiers were walking past us in t-shirts. I was overdressed, having gotten ready in the still frigid morning, and the snowpack felt good against my skin until it started to melt into icy little rivulets that ran down into my base layers and held on. Despite the melt, I held it to my side until the snow inside was all gone, then shook it out and laid it over my knees.
“Ready to go?” I finally asked.
“Why won’t you ever let me help you, Susan?” Mark asked me quietly.
“What?” I blurted out, surprised.
He looked at me for a long moment, and I waited a while before realizing that his patience with my stubbornness was finally wearing out, and that this wasn’t one of those conversations where he was going to let me wiggle my way out. I looked out at the mountains, at the long jagged crest line of the horizon, and thought maybe one of the reasons I loved those peaks so much is that there were plenty of valleys to hide in.
“I know you were heading for the cliff,” Mark said.
I said nothing because it was true and because I didn’t want to make him madder.
“I thought you were going to give it up,” he continued.
“Is this conversation really necessary?” I asked. He stared at me for a long moment.
“Susan, I’m not going to watch you go on a suicide mission so you can prove something to a man who doesn’t even call you on your birthday.”
“But is it untrue?” Mark asked. I recoiled from him and he shut his eyes tightly for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a gentler voice.
“Let’s go get in the line,” I said softly, putting my hand on his shoulder. He didn’t look up.
“Susan, I can’t let you do this. You need to stop pushing yourself so hard.”
“Since when do you make decisions for me?” I spat.
“You can take another run, but it won’t be with me,” Mark said, standing.
“What?” I blurted out, “Just like that?”
“Just like that. You’re being too reckless over something that doesn’t even matter.”
I looked down at my side, at my soaked through shirt, and back up at the mountain. She was glorious today, the sun soaking right into the cracks in the trees and letting little shivers of light track down through the unmarked trails. Far above us now hung the cliff face, the long headwall shimmering white, almost blue. I thought about my father standing on the edge of that cliff as I’d pleaded with him not to drop off it. That day had ended at the hospital with his leg in a cast and his arm in a sling. They said he’d been lucky, and stupid, and dangerously reckless.
“Winners never back down,” he’d said, swallowing the painkillers they’d given him.
The clouds shifted slightly and the cliff was cast in shadow and just like that my bravado faded away. I looked at Mark.
“Let’s go home,” I said softly, and he nodded and stood and swung both pairs of our skis onto his shoulder. For a moment I almost protested, but I let him carry them just this once.
That night we lay on the floor next to the space heater using Elvis as a pillow, a task he submitted to only after a long, hard day of chasing his own tail when he was too tired to complain.
* * *
The last few weeks of the season after that passed without incident. We only got in two more days in the backcountry until the cover was too thin to risk it. On those days, we ranged out far from the cliff and explored the deep gully that ran between the two peaks. Little by little, the snow receded from the bare earth until the final day came.
On the last day of the season we rode the ski lift in t-shirts and our thinnest pairs of snow pants, goggles down to block the brilliant reflection of the sun on the remaining snow. To our right on the other peak, the cliff face seemed like a gaping maw, a dark patch surrounded by budding trees. I watched the cliff until the trees obscured it from view.
“I can’t believe this is it,” Mark said, putting his arm around me. I snuggled towards him.
“It’s not it it, it’s just the end of another season,” I replied.
“Even still. That means summer jobs, which means travelling.”
I was silent, watching the water drip off the shiny metallic edges of my skis down into the trail below us. Mark pulled me in tighter.
“Hey,” he said quietly, “if you asked me to stay, I would stay for you.”
I looked up at him. He pulled his goggles up and smiled.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that for me,” I replied.
“Maybe you should,” he said.
I pulled off my goggles.
“Would you stay?” I asked softly, biting my lip. He nodded yes and leant down to kiss me, his lips soft and slightly cold, and he pulled me in tighter then anyone ever had before.