Temperamental Time

It’s Wednesday’s Word, and you know what that means: write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. Past results from this fun writing exercise can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

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From a writer’s perspective, Time is a friend and a foe.

The more time I take to practice the craft, the better I become at writing. Yet, time is exactly the one thing I’m lacking most days. Take today, for example. My calendar tells me I’m due for a writing challenge, but my day job insists that I work late into the evening (darn those paying jobs). I considered passing on the challenge this week and publishing a back-up post, for the sake of time. Then, I read today’s word:

miry. adjective: 1. Resembling mire. 2. Muddy; swampy.

Something about that word whispered “time” to me and hinted at a story that I couldn’t resist writing. Plus (I should have known), once I clicked on the website and actually read the word, I couldn’t back down.

*****

Unpredictable

Rosemarie finally put her finger on it: the last two weeks were like riding a roller coaster in the dark. She couldn’t predict when life would shift from warp speed to a full stop, and she never knew, until it was too late, when it might pull her down, hard and fast. It took her breath away. That was what she told her friends when they asked her “how does it feel?”

How does it feel to lose your mom?

Those words still didn’t register in Rosemarie’s mind any more than the doctor’s excuse of “aneurysm.” What did make sense was something her mother repeated each time Rosemarie pushed her to the limits.

“Rosemarie Helen Lewis! I’m gonna to blow a gasket!”

That’s exactly what her mother said the night before the morning she didn’t wake up. Rosemarie’s High School graduation was just a few weeks away. Her mother had been scrambling for days to get the invitations out, to plan the party, to buy herself a new outfit. Rosemarie only borrowed her mother’s cashmere sweater for the party at Karen’s on Friday night. There were rumors that a few college friends of Karen’s older brother might show. Rosemarie needed something special, just for the night. She didn’t even cut out the tag.

Then, some freshman idiot bumped into her when things got wild and spilled his giant glass of Mountain Dew all over her front.

Rosemarie apologized to her mother and offered to pay for the dry cleaning out of her allowance, but she shook her head. Her mother’s face turned red. She started talking low then slowly lifted her fists into the air and ended up screaming. Her mother stomped off into her bathroom to cool down and went to bed that night with a killer headache.

The next week was a mix of time moving too fast or too slow. Too slow at the funeral, which seemed to last all day. Too fast at the burial where the priest rattled through prayers and incantations and suddenly they were lowering her body.

“Don’t we get a little more time?” Rosemarie asked the priest.

The funeral director looked at his watch. Rosemarie’s father put his arm around her shoulder. They lowered her mother’s body anyway. Rosemarie then spent, what felt like eternity, staring at a paper plate filled with baked ham and bundt cake.

Every waking moment was painful. She laid in bed and willed the sun not to come up. She stared at the clock and tried to make the numbers change to midnight.  She decided she should just give up. At four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, she jerked the curtains on her bedroom window closed, slammed her door, and covered her face with her pillow.

She would simply ignore life going on.

As soon as her breathing fell into a rhythm, her father called her to dinner. His rounded shoulders and the bags under his eyes made him look old as he stood at the counter over a pot of something hot.

“Grab some bowls, would you?”

Rosemarie set the table for two. She felt funny leaving her mother’s place empty, so she moved the pile of mail in front of her mother’s chair. Her father spooned dinner into her bowl. Rosemarie studied the food. She couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be soup or stew. The base was a thick sludge of rice and broth. It was a mixture of leftovers from the refrigerator and vegetables on the verge of rotten. Her father hadn’t thought to chop the baby carrots, so orange tips poked out of the sludge like logs. She tried to cut into a potato and found that it was pure mush.

“What do you call this?” she asked.

He pushed and stirred and patted the soup stew with his spoon.

“Shit,” he said, “a big bowl of shit.”

He let out a deep sigh and took her hand. And, the brief smile he managed was just enough.

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14 responses to “Temperamental Time

  1. I enjoyed reading this, Christi. I love the final scene at the dinner table — the mail taking the mother’s place is sad and telling. And, the father’s final line? Perfect.

  2. Well written sad story, Christy. The empty seat brought back memories. It takes a long time for the empty seat to lose its association with its absent tenant. Death is the last enemy. Blessings to you…

  3. This was told with such restraint, I’m amazed how well you crafted it. The emotions were so strong, yet you kept them from flattening the reader. The ending gave such a light of hope to a dark situation. It takes my breath away.

    • Thanks for your comment, Cathryn. I like your description, “flattening the reader.” It speaks so well of the tricky balance we have to maintain when writing emotion. I’m glad this story worked well in that sense, and I’m going to keep your phrase in the back of my mind — it’s a great one to remember!

  4. A powerful story, Christi, with a nice ending of strength yet gentleness. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Lovely and rich and visual. The way you carved the edges of sentimentality really grabbed me. Excellent!

  6. Hello Christi,
    Great story! As far as time goes, all the great artist in our history have faced the choice between pursuing their art and working a day job. The great ones all chose to pursue their art… and, furthermore, all the crazy things that they did in order to make that choice work not only made them unique characters in their own right, but also had huge impacts on the direction of their art.

    Keep on with the great writing,
    Craig

    • Thanks for stopping by.

      Isn’t that a writer’s constant struggle (at least these days when a paying job=benefits) – the decision of when to head full force into writing? Though, one good thing about my day job is that it keeps my mind stimulated, and I’m surrounded by stories, in one way or another. In that sense, it feeds my writer self just the same.

      Happy Writing to you, Craig!

  7. Wonderful, Christi, as always. I loved that at the last with her father, and feel that strangeness in time when everything we know and have shifts so dramatically forever. The song too is just perfect.

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