Get Busy, Missy

After last week’s Freshly Pressed whirlwind of fun, I’ve finally settled back into some kind of normal, which feels a little bit like this:

At least, that’s the face I made this morning after I saw Wordsmith.org’s choice for the word of the day (which I couldn’t even pronounce right):

onomancy. noun. Divination by the letters of a name.

Who needs Cardio in the morning when you have a word prompt like that to get your blood pumping.

Like a nervous contestant in a Spelling Bee, I stalled for time by begging for details. I read this note following the definition:

Some parents name their children after careful consideration of onomancy to assure the best possible future for them.

Though helpful, the note didn’t make today’s writing exercise any easier. Then again, writing isn’t easy. If it were, I’d be cranking out more than one post a week.

I’d have that novel finished by now.

Heck, I might even have your novel finished by now.

But I digress.

Here’s to practicing what I was preaching by turning onomancy into some kind of story…any kind of story…boy, oh boy.

*****

An Exercise in Naming

Some days Marilyn would wake up calm, confident, and feeling like God. Other days she would storm out of bed and tear through the house as if she were the Devil on a losing streak, kicking trash cans and cursing laundry.

Pregnancy had brought on a surge of hormones and, with it, a sense of power offset by worry. She ate whatever she wanted, but she questioned the affect of each morsel as it slid down her throat. Her emotions made her feel invincible and then suddenly depressed, so that she wondered if she might give birth to someone bipolar.

Her keen sense of smell made working the perfume counter precarious for the first trimester, but it was the simple question from her co-worker, Bethany, that sent Marilyn’s stomach into convulsions long after the morning sickness subsided.

“What are you thinking about for names?”

Marilyn covered her mouth with the sleeve of her white cosmetic coat and took off for the bathroom.

“Names,” Marilyn repeated when it was all over, and she wiped her mouth with toilet paper. She shook her head as she turned on the faucet to splash water on her face. When she headed towards the door and saw her reflection in the full length mirror, she pulled her shirt taut over her growing belly.

It wasn’t as if she had ignored the idea of a name; she was simply afraid to make a choice. Suppose she picked the wrong one, a name like Hercules with so many expectations attached? Of course, she wouldn’t name her baby Hercules, she told herself. But, even “Donald” might mark the baby for failure if he grew up believing he had to be a financial tycoon but couldn’t pass High School Economics.

A name says a lot about a person. She thought of Jackson, the baby’s father. Jackson had brown hair with loose curls and manicured nails and a smile that forced her to say yes. Yes, she’d love to attend a wine tasting with him. Yes, she’d said as she packaged up the bottle of Coco Chanel he just bought for someone else. He was irresistible.

Marilyn still teared up at the thought of his mocking expression when she told him the baby was his.

“Baby!” he’d said, a little too loud over dinner at Antonio’s Little Italy. “Impossible,” he laughed.

He took three huge bites of his Creamy Penne Pasta – even the words made Marilyn weak in the stomach – and he left without paying. Marilyn got stuck with the bill and a permanent reminder of the night he took her out, got her drunk, and ignored her mention of “precaution.” She should have listened to her mother, who’d said anyone with a last name for their first name couldn’t be trusted.

Marilyn did not want to screw up her baby’s name.

She spent the next few weeks scouring the shelves at every book store for every book on baby names. She researched sites on the internet. She wrotes lists and asked her co-workers and customers to vote for their favorites. She even asked her mother.

“Gertrude,” her mother said.

She went back to the perfume counter for advice.

And then, her water broke.

Bethany rushed Marilyn to the hospital with just her purse and her insurance card. The list of names sat next to the cash register under a sample bottle of Eternity.

Marilyn gave birth to a healthy seven pound girl with a full head of straight blond hair. The next morning, Bethany showed up with flowers. Marilyn sat in bed with the baby resting in her arms.

“So, what did you decide to call her?” Bethany asked.

“Helen,” Marilyn said. She kissed the baby’s forehead.

“Hmm.” Bethany pulled the list of names from her purse. “I don’t see that one on your list.”

“No,” Marilyn smiled. “It just came to me, like someone whispered her name in my ear when she was born. Helen.”

“Maybe it was just the drugs,” Bethany cocked her head.

“Maybe.”

But Marilyn hadn’t felt this sure of herself since the year she turned twenty-one, moved out into her own apartment, and bought herself a couch to celebrate. Marilyn cupped both hands underneath Helen’s small body and held her up. Helen kicked her feet and opened her eyes.

“But, what does it mean?” Bethany asked.

“It means, she likes it,” Marilyn said. “Helen.”

Watch the official video of New Soul here.

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19 responses to “Get Busy, Missy

  1. Another great story, Christi! I really like it! Helen, and she likes it. Perfect ending. Endings are important. Cool! Listening to the music! Ah! Happy end is in the song!

  2. this is beautiful. I’ve recently had a baby girl – after delivery, the doc said “what are you going to call her” and we told him a name… and half an hour later, we renamed her. And the second name, was always going to be her name… we just didn’t know it – but she did. Only after we renamed her did she quieten down and stop crying :).

  3. This is great, Christi! You know how when we read there are times when a single line jumps out, and for some reason we just love it? Well, this line just made me giggle. “She went back to the perfume counter for advice.”

  4. What a great story! A name is very important! For religious and family considerations I ended up naming my son and having his initials BAD. Thanks so much for sharing your discipline with us! I’m reading John Irving now and I read somewhere that he said when he starts a novel, he writes the last paragraph first. Do you think he’s on the level or do others do that too?

    • kuby2u,

      Thanks for stopping by again.

      Everyone’s writing process is different, and what fun to get a glimpse into John Irving’s process. I’ve heard that people sometimes write the story backwards. That style would certainly force me to focus on structure and plot holes, which are generally two areas in which I struggle. I don’t know if I could write a novel that way, but I’d might try writing a short story backwards some time! Maybe I’d get away with less rewrites…. πŸ™‚

  5. Brilliant story. And I admire your discipline, even one story a week shows dedication. I suppose it’s not just the naming of things that’s a difficult matter. I’m looking forward to reading more next week.

  6. Another good one. Not sure how you do it each week. And keep up with your super-mom duties. But you do. Kudos!

  7. Awesome! A great story that took me right back to the birth of my mini-me. πŸ™‚

  8. Glad you enjoyed it, Sam!

  9. What a great story! You did a great job weaving in back story, very subtle and full of an ocean of detail behind a few words. I loved her mother’s comment about a man with a last name for a first name.

    • Cathryn, Thanks for this: an ocean of detail behind a few words. What a lovely phrase.

      By the way, I just took a Flash Fiction Workshop today. Wish we lived closer so we could have coffee and talk about it. It was fun and informative at the same time — a great mix for a workshop.

  10. Wouldn’t that be fun, discussing flash over coffee 😦
    That is a great mix: fun/informative.

  11. I just found your blog through SheWrites. Great story. Thanks for sharing. I’m adding you to my subscriptions.

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