I've decided to self-publish one of my novels through Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon.com. My hope is to have it available by Christmas. Don't forget to subscribe or check back regularly--within the next few weeks will be the title release, and maybe some sample chapters.
Your Story Dies With You
Your Story Dies With You. It's rather self-explanitory, but anyway, the idea is that every person on this earth (that's right, every last one of us) has a story to tell, and it should be told before it's too late. For thousands of years, storytelling has been a central part of how humans have communicated--stories have been passed down through generations, sharing knowledge, family history, and the odd tale with a moral that was forgotten years ago. Everyone has a story to tell, and you should tell it, now while you have the chance, because your story dies with you.
Monday, October 22, 2012
A wind blows through the property, stirring the grass and the leaves of the tree from which the old rope swing hangs. The rope sways, twisting and turning in the breeze as if seized in the hands of a phantom swinging back and forth. On the grass next to the pond, not far from the rope swing, stands a couple, their arms entwined about each other, eyes riveted to the old rope swing that they had hung for their son so very long ago.
Sunlight reflects off the surface of the pond, blinding Rachel for an instant as she stands barefoot in the lush green grass, watching as Henry climbs higher and higher into the tree, scampering up the trunk as easily as a child, while little David clings to her hand. She can feel his sweaty palm in hers, soft fingers wrapping around hers with love and trust.
Henry crawls out onto a thick branch, and Rachel tightens her grasp on David’s warm palm, despite the knowledge that the branch is large and strong. They watch, mother and son, as Henry knots the rope with his large, steady hands, and tosses it over the side. It falls gracefully through the air, arcing as it makes its way towards the ground, moving rapidly through the heat with a swishing noise and swinging back and forth over the grass beside the pond until it slows and comes to a half stop, twisting idly in the breeze.
“Give it a yank!” Henry calls from his high perch.
Rachel feels David trying to pull his little hand free of her grasp, and finds herself clutching his small hand so tightly that her fingers have left white marks in his soft flesh.
David runs over to the rope on his short, chubby legs and grasps the rope tightly in both small hands, swinging with all his might. His five-year-old body goes flying through the air like a trapeze artist, carried by the rope as it swings wildly from the branch. Rachel gives a cry of horror, but from Henry comes a rousing laugh and she relaxes. The rope holds. Her little boy does not go crashing down to earth in a tumble of arms and legs as she had feared, but rather he flies, his little face alight with joy, split by a wide, beaming grin that causes his round cheeks to dimple.
A laugh forces itself free from her lips, full of relief and gladness at the happy expression on her son’s small face. “Henry, come down before you fall and break your neck!” she calls up to her husband, still anxious as he perches precariously on the branch, high above the ground.
Henry laughs away her fears but begins the descent. Only when his feet touch the green grass does she relax and turn her attention back to David as he swings back and forth.
“It works,” Henry laughs, slipping his arm about her waist and pulling her close.
Rachel nods. “It looks good,” she smiles. She pecks him on the cheek and relaxes against him, content to enjoy the view of her new backyard while the white farmhouse looms behind her.
“Over the pond, David! Use it for what it’s meant for!” Henry bellows, his deep laugh booming out over the lawn. She can feel the vibrations as they make their way through his chest.
David swings out over the lake and lets go with a whoop. He falls into the water with a splash, water spraying over the surface of the pond, dimpling the water as the droplets fall back to rejoin the masses that make up the contents of the peaceful pond.
Rachel tenses, eyes glued to the ripples spreading out across the water, searching for David’s little head and mop of auburn hair. He pops up and draws a deep breath before giving another whoop, and Rachel feels the wind rush from her lungs and her shoulders slump with relief as she sees her son resurface, the mother’s fear of losing her son once again beaten back into submission, lurking in the very darkest corners of her heart.
They laugh and Henry raises his arm, signaling David to swim back to the shore. Rachel smiles and leans her head against Henry’s shoulder, anticipating the joy that the rope swing would bring in the years to come, dreaming of the distant day when she would see her young son become the man she knew he would be. But the day seems distant in the happy sunlight that floods the grass, reflecting off the surface of the pond with a brilliance that blinds her. She watches as David climbs out of the water, droplets glistening on his skin. And she smiles.
Now, years later, they are standing on the lawn again as they had many times before over the years, hair graying and faces wrinkled. Their son hangs from the rope swing again, on the verge of manhood but unwilling to let go of the sweet years of childhood and face a life where innocence is dead. The rope, well worn by hands and time, is knotted about his neck. His feet brush the surface of the pond, just as they had many a time before. But this time there is no joyful whoop—only silence, broken by the occasional creak of the rope or groan of the old tree.
A sob splits the air and Rachel covers her mouth with her pale fingers, hot tears sliding down her cheeks and onto her hand, tasting bitter on her lips.
All those years for nothing. All the worry, sacrifices, and dreams; all for naught. The fruit of her labors, the light of her life; her hope, her love, her future—hangs from the rope swing.
Buried Alive: The Story of Octavia Hatcher
Slap! Her hand smacked down uselessly on the tanned skin of her forearm, the fly taking to the air and buzzing about her head as if mocking her for her failure to extinguish even its small life. She sighed irritably and glowered at it, massaging the bite on her arm. Just then the wail of an infant pierced the muggy air inside the small cabin, weak and pitiful. She struggled to her feet, body screaming in protest, still weary from the labors of childbirth. The cold winter did nothing to aid her recovery, but on the contrary did everything to hinder it, the four walls of their small house holding her prisoner in the frigid mountain air and refusing to retain the scanty heat of the fire.
Octavia crossed the floor and scooped up the frail little boy, planting a kiss on his red and wrinkled forehead with tender affection. He whimpered and his small hand flailed in the air, curled weakly into a tiny fist, before it fell back to rest uselessly at his side.
"Jacob," Octavia cooed, taking her son's small hand in hers, treasuring the smooth skin and warmth his palm emitted. She cradled him against her breast, abandoning the half kneaded bread dough on the scrubbed wooden table that now bore a dusting of flour. The small boy turned his head from his mother's breast with a pitiful whimper, refusing to suck. Octavia sighed miserably before laying him back down with a gentle kiss and setting the cradle to rock.
When next she looked up from placing the bread on the hearth to rise, the cradle had ceased rocking. It stood ominously still in the corner, the pile of blankets shielding Jacob from her view. Dusting off her hands, Octavia rose to her feet and slowly tip-toed over to the cradle to avoid waking the sleeping child. Peering down into the cradle she saw that his eyes were closed, face relaxed in sleep. Bending down she threaded her finger into his small hand. It was cold.
A scream split the air, tearing unbidden from her lips as she seized the small child in the throes of her panic. The thud of booted feet and roar of her husband's voice never fell upon her ears, blocked out by her rushing blood and pounding heart.
"Octavia, let him go!" James cried as he reached his stricken wife. "Put him down!"
"Wake up!" Octavia screamed, eyes wild.
"Don't shake him," James ordered, succeeding in wrestling their child from her iron-like grip, only to stare in horror at his infant son, now stiff and cold in death.
"He's dead," Octavia wailed, collapsing to her knees beside the empty cradle. "He's dead..."
She walked to the house in a trance, haunting the small cemetery when evening fell like a ghost, wailing occasionally so that her cries echoed through the mountains. Her hands were constantly stained with dirt, earth encrusting her formerly polished nails, as she clawed desperately at the clumps of soil and black dirt that covered her son's tiny grave.
Months passed and Octavia withered. Her silky brown hair grew greasy and matted; the color faded from her cheeks and the light from her eyes. Even the red color of her lips drained away as the flesh vanished from her thin frame.
The cradle remained in the corner, a constant reminder of their loss. Spring came on. Even in the early days of May, the heat was almost intolerable as she lay abed, growing too weak to even walk across the floor to the empty cradle that her eyes constantly sought as if hoping to find it filled by some miracle.
James watched as she burned with fever, occasionally taking her bone-thin hand in his calloused palm.
"Depression," was the doctor’s diagnosis as he departed her bedside with a sad expression. "She's wasting away."
The flies buzzed above her, landing on her bare arms and taunting her for the futility of her burning glares, for her arms had grown too weak to lift even their own weight and she could not lift a finger to shoo them away.
"Go to sleep," James whispered as he kissed her good night.
"Good night," she called after him as he began to climb up to the attic, her voice faint.
He froze, on foot on the stairs, convinced that she had said "good-bye." Shaking his head to dispel the thought, he climbed the stairs to bed.
She slumbered for hours. The whole night through she did not wake. Her eyelids fluttered once as if to open but remained shut, hiding her blue eyes from view. Even when James bent down to kiss her peaceful face she remained locked in a deep sleep. Evening came and still she lay still, never moving or giving a sign of life much like the child she had buried.
"Octavia," James murmured, giving his wife a gentle shake of the shoulder. A strand of hair fell across the pillow but Octavia never moved.
Heat pressed in on them like a thick woolen blanket in the heat of summer, threatening to suffocate them in its folds. The simple pine coffin was built hurriedly and Octavia's still body placed inside with one last parting kiss. The fresh earth scented the mountain air with its smell of dirt and decaying leaves. The service lasted bare minutes before they shoveled the dirt back into the hole where it hit the coffin lid with a hollow thud, accompanied by a cry of grief from James, who stood with bowed head before the graves of his wife and child, dug within months of each other. Then it was over, just as others began to fall prey to the same sleeping sickness that appeared to have taken Octavia's life when she should have been in the flower of her youth, blooming with the glow of new motherhood. Instead she was buried in the cool earth beside the small box that held the body of her newborn son.
"More have fallen ill," the doctor informed James, settling uneasily into the stiff-backed chair and casting a sorrowful glance at the cradle, which still remained in the corner, occasionally rocking back and forth--as if Jacob still lay within--when stirred by the mountain breezes that swept through the open door.
"With what?" James asked grimly, his face emaciated, dark circles residing beneath his green eyes, brown hair matted and unkempt, bearing signs of repeated tearing by roughened hands.
"Sleeping sickness." The doctor himself appeared ill as he spoke the words.
James sighed wearily and laid his head in his hands."We'll all die!" he lamented.
"James, that is not my worry," the doctor replied in a low voice, leaning in to whisper his next words in James' ear, his breath warm and uncomfortable against James' face. "They're waking," he hissed. "They're not dead!"
Horror seized them and they sat frozen at the table, which had grown dirty without Octavia to wipe it clean. A breeze swept through the room, carrying with it the scent of pine, rocking the cradle and causing it to creak loudly in the silence that held the room in its icy cold grip.
She woke from her slumber, hungry and cold, to find herself not on the down mattress that had been her wedding gift, but on a wooden board, surrounded by utter darkness. The fear that struck her instantly called an ear splitting scream to her lips, but it never left the close confines of the box. The coffin was dark and rough to touch, the walls and lid pressing in closely like prison walls, not even affording her bars at which to clutch. The earth was cold and heavy, threatening to collapse the thin pine boards and crush her beneath the weight of the dirt above her.
Octavia screamed, but no one heard her, buried alive in the mountains beside the body of her son and those of friends and family who had died.
She could feel the splinters as they buried themselves in the soft flesh of her fingertips, and feel the stabs of pain as her fingernails were torn from her fingers, embedded in the wooden lid of the coffin as she clawed at it with all her might, screaming all the while, desperate for escape. She was still screaming when the oxygen ran out.
The two men grunted, lifting the heavy box out of the deep hole and laying it on the grass. Wiping sweat from his brow James began to pry the lid off his wife's coffin. With a final heave and the loud splintering of wood it came free and the two men anxiously peered inside.
They recoiled in shock and horror, cries of terror springing from their lips as they laid eyes on Octavia. She lay contorted in the box, hands bloodied and dress stained with the blood that was just beginning to turn the brown color of rust. Her eyes were open wide in terror and mouth stretched wide in a scream. Her fingernails decorated the splintered underside of the coffin lid, bearing witness to her desperate struggle for escape.
The doctor bent low over the body. "She's dead," he announced, face ashen in the twilight of the mountain night.
James fell to his knees, unable to stifle his cry of grief. "What do we do?" he demanded.
The doctor shrugged. "We got here too late," he said sadly. "Cover her up and put her back in her grave...and never tell a soul."
They shoveled the earth back over the coffin and hastily departed the graveyard. The next morning James was gone, unable to remain in the house so close to the place where his wife and child were buried and where Octavia had met her terrifying end.
"She must have been so afraid," he lamented, "to have woken all alone in the dark."
"She's gone," the doctor counseled, "let her be."
"I buried her alive!"
"She's dead now," returned the doctor. "May she rest in peace."
Octavia Hatcher lived in Pikeville, Kentucky, during the late 1800s. She was born Octavia Smith and married James Hatcher in 1889. She bore him a son, Jacob Hatcher, in January of 1891, but he was sickly and died only a few days after birth. Not long after the death of her son Octavia fell ill and was confined to her bed. She slipped into a coma and was thought to have died on May 2nd, 1891; due to the unusually warm spring her family chose to forego embalming and she was buried quickly before the heat began to rot her body.
Others in Pikeville began to fall ill, showing the same symptoms that Octavia had displayed, and falling prey to the coma that had taken Octavia. Research by Herma Shelton has shown that the sleeping sickness that caused Octavia to be buried alive was caused by the bite of a fly.
When others who had fallen ill began to reawaken from their comas, Octavia’s family panicked, realizing their mistake. They hurriedly exhumed the grave, only to find the coffin splintered and torn, and Octavia’s face stretched in a scream that must have lasted until she perished in the dark.
The people of Pikeville claim that Octavia’s ghost still haunts the graveyard where she and her infant son are buried, some saying that when night falls they can hear a woman crying in the graveyard.
The grass is soft under my feet, springing up nimbly as my small shoes trod over it as I skip across the field, doll in hand, beside my sister while my mother and two younger brothers follow behind. We conclude our fruitless search of the grass for my sister’s lost doll shoe, and Samantha wears only one shoe home. Looking back, I think that shoe just might have saved our lives.
I glance up at the trees, my blonde hair swinging from side to side as I chase after my sister, the tall boughs far above my head swaying in the gentle breeze, the sun shining brilliantly. We cut to the left, towards the cracked sidewalk and street and away from the small cemetery that seems large to me from my small viewpoint. Being six doesn’t give you much height from which to view the world.
We run across the street, my sister and I, laughing, leaping over the grass and dirt of the front yard and up the two cement steps to the white porch and screen door. We are laughing as we pull it open, our arms laden down with carrying Kirsten and Samantha, our ever faithful companions. The robin’s egg blue floorboards of the porch are chipping under our feet, but we don’t even see them as we push open the heavier front door and step into the living room with its pale green walls and wood floors with knots and grease stains. Building toys are spread across the floor: Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, wooden building blocks, Legos, most of the morning’s creations stomped into the floor by small feet or swept aside by little hands. No matter, they will be rebuilt, bigger and better than before.
My sister and I slip off our shoes, still disappointed at the loss of the shiny black shoe that is absent from Samantha’s foot, but we will have to find boots for her to wear instead. Up the stairs with bare feet scuffing on the floor, we go, turning the corner of the hall and into our bedroom with its ugly, pink floral wallpaper that we do not even see. We are hell bent on the tub that holds the doll clothes, in desperate search of shoes for Samantha’s feet. We find them, little mauve boots that are ugly as sin, but we think they are beautiful, and on they go, onto the little doll feet so that Kirsten and Samantha are now wearing matching shoes.
Mommy is calling for us downstairs, her voice echoing in the stairwell. Up we get, leaving the mess we have made and taking our dolls as we thunder down the stairs, our little feet making a noise that could be likened to thunder.
“Get your shoes on,” she says. “Let’s go see Daddy.”
We scamper to where we have left our shoes beside the door, eager to make the short trek through the cemetery to the campus where Daddy teaches and climb the stairs to the little, dusty attic office where our artwork is taped to the door. Maybe we can go to the library, and run through the empty rows listening to the echo of our footsteps or stand at the windows and stare at our house from stories up. Maybe. But we don’t.
Daddy comes through the door, but my sister and I aren’t paying much attention. We look up and smile, say hello, then focus again on putting on our shoes while the dolls sit beside us.
“There’s a gunman on campus,” I hear Daddy say.
Mommy doesn’t believe him. “You’re joking.” She almost laughs, but not quite. The shock keeps her from laughing.
“No, I’m not. There’s a gunman on campus.”
I don’t exactly know what was happening. Gunmen do not exist in my world. Or they didn’t, up until then. I imagine an old man with silver white hair and a hunting rifle. At least, I think I did. That’s what I imagined years later, anyway. Just then I was staring at my shoes on my little feet, and wondering if maybe we had left Samantha’s shoe at the neighbors’ or if it is still in the field beside the cemetery, waiting to be found.
I watch from the porch at times, from the screen door at other times, my hands pressed against the glass. The big white house I call home has become a safe house to more people than just me and my family. People come flocking over from the campus, through the cemetery, and stand on the porch or in the living room.
The field that just minutes before had been subject to a search by children for a doll’s shoe is now a parking lot for emergency vehicles. Ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, news vehicles... They fill the field, trampling the soft grass into the earth with wheels and feet much bigger than my own so that it cannot just spring up again and be just the same as it was before. Off in the distance, I see a helicopter land. It comes down slowly, landing in another nearby field. It’s an emergency helicopter, but I don’t care. I don’t care that it is here to airlift injured people to the hospital because the ambulance is not fast enough. Life Flight means nothing to me. It’s just a helicopter, and I don’t often get to watch one land, so I cannot take my eyes from it. I can feel my sister beside me, her eyes fixed on it as well, captivated as I am.
“Mommy! There’s a helicopter!” I yell, and Mommy comes over and watches the helicopter for a minute, but it isn’t as fun for her as it is for me. It means something different to Mommy.
After a while Mommy and Daddy put on a movie and I sit between my brother and sister on the sofa, watching The Hobbit unfold on the old TV. I’m not even distracted by the people milling around. All I care about is the story.
“Can we check the news?” Daddy asks nicely just as we reach the part where Smaug is lying on his bed of gold.
My siblings and I nod, knowing that Daddy is only being polite and they are going to check the news anyway. On the table next to the TV is a little black radio, a little dusty, and a voice is issuing from it. I don’t pay attention to the radio, but watch as black and gray fuzzy lines wave across the screen and obscure Smaug from view.
The gunman shot four people, all of them monks. Friends of ours had to lock themselves in the basement and pray that they would be safe. Of the four shot, two died. The gunman, once he had wreaked havoc on this little world of monks and people who live in peace, entered the church, and slipped into the back pew where my family always sat. And shot himself.
Daddy is going to the funeral Mass. Daddy always went to work without me, so I don’t feel left behind. But then he comes home so that Mommy can go, too. And then I want to go. Mommy never goes anywhere without me, and I fuss to be brought along. But the answer is no.
I watch as Mommy dresses for the funeral. She never really wears dark colors, so she only owns a navy dress with big white polka dots. I watch her as she stands in the yellow bedroom, slipping into that dress, and then I watch as she walks to the full-length mirror with its big oak frame, where it sits in a corner. She is crying. Tears are sliding down her face, her hands pulling at the dress to straighten it. I am still unhappy that I am not going with her, but I am sad that Mommy is crying. Mommy does not cry. It is the first time I can ever recall seeing Mommy cry. But cry she does as she walks out the door and across the street and through the cemetery to the funeral, her back to me as I watch from the porch window, this time all alone. I watch her go, and then I turn and go inside to play with my brother and sister until Mommy returns. I don’t remember if she was crying when she comes back. I don’t remember her coming back at all. She did, but all I remember is watching her walk away in the polka dot dress.
On Sunday, Mommy walks into the church, beautiful and composed. Mothers are always beautiful, but not all mothers are strong. And mine is strong. She leads the way, carrying my youngest brother, and enters the pew. The very last pew. And we follow her, never questioning. All throughout Mass I am bored, and I stare at the wood of the pew in front of us, wondering if there is still blood on it. Everything had been cleaned away, but not a soul there can ignore the fact that the peace of the little world, even in the sanctuary of the church, had not gone unaltered.
After Mass, Father comes and kisses Mommy’s forehead, tears in his eyes, and he thanks her for taking her seat.
This pew is where Mommy always sits, kneels down to say her prayers, and scolds us for misbehaving, and she will take her seat, blood or no blood having been spilt there. That’s the kind of strong Mommy is.
I skip home, through campus and across the street, climbing the steps to the cemetery under the shade of the tree, innocent and happy, flanked by my brother and sister. But only a few steps into that blessed yard of stones, Mommy calls to us, telling us to stop and pray. She leads us to the graves, no stones marking them, and tells us to say a prayer for the poor souls who had died. She knows we can’t put faces to the names, because the good men we had lost were people to us, not just the names on the little plastic markers.
We say our prayers quickly, eager to go home and change into clothes for play, but as my brother toddles away and my sister hurriedly concludes her prayer, I slow down to finish mine.
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death...
I can smell the grass and the fresh turned earth as I crouch next to the two fresh graves, all the colors saturated and the breeze blowing, stirring my hair and clothes. I can’t resist, and I reach out, almost guiltily, knowing that I should leave the grave untouched. My small fingers touch the fresh dirt and I scoop up a small handful, letting it trickle down through my fingers, leaving a fine dust on my hand along with the scent of earth.
I finish the prayer and stand up quickly, dusting my hand off on my skirt, and run over the grass towards my family, eager to catch up with my sister so I’m not alone, leaving the graves behind me.
We never did find that shoe.
Don’t think about it, she tells herself. Just write.
The computer screen glares out at her, the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting off the surface, their glowing neon colors dancing before her eyes every time she tries to close them to block out the view of the blank white page waiting for her words. The page is waiting for words she doesn’t want to write. The rage boils within her, waiting to be spilled out in black ink that will roll across the page and form words that will spew anger and hate and betray her broken heart. Black letters for a bitter tale on this Christmas Eve, telling a story that she had never thought would be hers.
It had no right to be her story, really. She’d worked so hard all these years, staining her fingers black and leaving wrinkles of stress on her face and dark circles under her eyes from all those sleepless nights working late, writing the stories the newspaper craved. She’d fought her way up the ladder, rung by rung, struggling past the stragglers, determined to reach the top. She’d nursed her daughter, cared for her, brought her up to be the beautiful young woman she was now, caring for her every step of the way until college and giving her all she had. She had worked for her large, beautiful house; had paid hard-earned money for her luxurious car. She’d lived in a dingy apartment for years until she and her husband could afford a house. She’d driven a rusty, worn-down Ford with the red paint chipping until it had bitten the dust. And that wasn’t all she had done.
She had struggled through twenty years of marriage, making the best of it, all for love of her husband. She’d come home to him with fingers aching from late hours at her typewriter, and later her computer, and cooked a late dinner, taking the time to listen to the tale of his day, even when she was so tired she didn’t give a shit. She’d done everything and now she was left, forty-five years old, sitting at her computer beside the Christmas tree on this Christmas Eve, spending it alone. No teenage daughter to sit up late with her, drinking milk and eating cookies; no husband to cuddle up beside on the couch. Just her and the computer screen staring into each other’s faces, waiting for one of them to make the first move.
Her fingers have already begun to ache before they strike the first key. She can’t stop now. Not after everything she has gone through. She’d be damned before she walks away with this story left untold. This is payback, this is protection for her daughter, and this is her right. Her story to tell and she is going to tell it. Satisfaction is sweeter than Christmas cookies. Not that that was hard. This year, to her they tasted like sawdust. And no one else had been here to taste them and tell her different.
My dear family and friends,
I wish you a Merry Christmas this Holiday Season. I hope this letter finds you well and in better spirits than I am. I hope your year was a whole lot better than mine. I know this letter comes a little late this year, but I decided last minute not to break the tradition. That and I had nothing to do this Christmas Eve with Sarah gone off to college and Andrew a worthless sack of shit.
A professional woman should never display her personal troubles to the public. They should be kept just that, personal. No one has a right to know, no one wants to know. That’s the way it should be; the way it has been and always should. I would say “will be” but you’ve probably guessed that I’ve decided to let that part of the phrase go down the drain. As a matter of fact, I really don’t believe the “should be” part, either. But you have to say something, so why not that?
Sarah left for college this fall, finally deciding on her choice of university. Ivy League. I couldn’t be a prouder mother. It is partly for her sake that I am sharing my troubles with you, to protect her by warning you in the only way I can not to give any information of her whereabouts to her scumbag of a father. The other part is for me. He’s not half the man I thought he was when I married him twenty years ago, or even half the man he was for most of our marriage. Last year you are aware that things began to go downhill for us. They reached their all-time low and as for me, I’m starting to climb back up. For him, I hope he stays at the God-forsaken bottom where he belongs.
Early in March, Andrew started a new medicine for his Parkinson’s. I won’t go into the precise side effects, but they were numerous and less than desirable. I pleaded with the doctor to stop prescribing it, but he refused, continuing to put Andrew on a medicine that increased his needs to where I could not meet them and incapacitated him in his decision making, causing him to be prone to making the wrong choices, and unable to exercise any self control.
A couple months ago I would be loath to inform you that in late August, Andrew took his car and left without a backward glance. I found out two weeks later that he had driven all the way to Oregon and shacked up with a former prostitute. Now, I am glad to tell you of it, in the hopes that you will see him for what he is: a worthless son-of-a-bitch.
The damn idiot met her in bar and they hit it off oh so nicely. Two weeks later they were shopping with the credit card from our SHARED account. Andrew bought her a Mercedes Benz. Bright red. My favorite color, how ironic. I like to think that it’s in reference to her being a “scarlet woman” but he’s too stupid to see the irony, I’m quite sure.
They bought a house, too. A beautiful house, all brick with hardwood floors and over-the-top furnishings. A paved driveway leading up to the place, a gardener-tended garden, patio with a fountain, backyard complete with a pool. And for him, I’m sure he requested a pool boy. Bastard.
I drove all the way to Oregon. All the two thousand miles to find him sitting on his patio smoking a cigar, the God-damned prostitute on his lap. They were all surprise to see me there. They got up and she made a big to-do, but you could see the shock in her face with her plucked brows and make-up covered face. She wore so much of it that the skin on her face was an entirely different color than the rest of her. It certainly didn’t make her any more beautiful, I can tell you. She was ugly as a dog’s ass.
Andrew never said a word to explain his actions. I drove home without him, leaving him to his slut and fancy house, bought with MY money. I sued him for all he was worth. As you might have figured out, I got nothing. Last I checked they were fighting for the house and car, but I couldn’t care less. If he comes knocking at my door asking for handouts I’ll send him packing with the M9 9mm semiautomatic pistol I bought myself for Christmas.
The real reason for this Christmas letter with bad tidings is to request that none of you give my good-for-nothing ex (I am requesting a divorce) any information on my whereabouts or those of my daughter. I have a restraining order after the incident this past October.
Andrew came to my house after I filed the lawsuit. I opened the door to find him standing on the doorstep, his eyes wild. I thought he was still on the drugs, perhaps coming to beg my forgiveness, but I was wrong. The instant I opened the door he lunged at me with an eight-inch kitchen knife I’m sure he procured from the fully stocked kitchen he shared with his whore.
He was so disoriented he stabbed the air about a foot to my right. I screamed and ran for the phone. Andrew stumbled after me, unable to walk or see straight. I grabbed the phone and locked myself in my bedroom while he proceeded to stab the door. By the time help arrived I could see the knife jutting through the wood. The police took him away. When I opened the door the outside of it was scarred as if a bear had broken into the house and mauled it.
Andrew is now forbidden by law to come anywhere near me or my daughter. I hope you will realize the danger he poses to us and give him no information about us. He walked away and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t stay away from now on.
Thank you for your time. I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In the hopes that I will see you soon,
She presses print and sits back to watch the words come spilling out of the printer on the festive Christmas paper; page after page of her hurt and anger typed out for the world to see. The glaring Christmas lights are giving her a headache, throbbing behind her eyes. She closes them for a minute, but the lights still dance in front of her.
The letters finish printing and she picks up the stack of warm paper and begins to slip them into the envelopes she had addressed earlier. After an hour she has sealed them all and stuck the stamps on with satisfaction. She stands, then freezes. Recovering herself, she reaches for a blank envelope and slips a letter into it, addressing it to Andrew and giving no return address. She seals it and grabs a stamp, placing it squarely on the envelope. Lillian walks out into the snow in her pajamas, padding down the frosted sidewalk in her penguin slippers, reaching the mailbox and opening it, fingers blue with cold. Slipping the stack of letters inside and closing it, she shuffles back to the house, chaffing her hands to warm them. She closes the front door and bolts it after stepping into the warmth of her own home.
Glancing at the clock she hears it strike twelve. Midnight. Time for Santa Claus to pay a visit. She is as much a child at heart as anyone, she decides grimly, and begins to set the brightly wrapped gifts under the tree. Sarah would be home tomorrow to celebrate Christmas. She can’t be found falling down on the job.
The day is gray, but not dull. The dark clouds overhead seem to boil, twisting and turning in the stiff breeze like a massive coil of snakes. Purple, gray, blue, and black color the sky, blocking out the sun, and leaving the green grass with a shadow cast over it, blades bowing to the force of the wind.
A group of strangers crowds around a wooden casket, every last one of them foreign to each other, mingling in small groups, their faces bowed and grim, bodies draped in dark black cloth like phantoms hovering over a grave, clinging to the lost soul with icy cold hands. No warmth invades the space the bodies occupy—the cold chaffing their hands and whipping the color from their faces, tearing hair from pins and leaving loose pieces of black cloth to flap about their owners like the wings of bats.
The polished surface of the casket reflects the figures in a warped representation that is more true to their nature; faces elongated; bodies twisted and malformed. Flowers decorate the lid, pale white atop the mahogany wood, the green stems already sucking the life from the delicate petals, leaving them to wilt; already dead, but still pretty, like a body dressed for viewing.
The wind blows and a few stray drops of rain fall from the sky like tears, landing on upturned faces and gleaming on the casket, some dampening the petals of the flowers like dewdrops. In the distance thunder rumbles, like a groan issuing from some long slumbering beast that is slowly awakening.
Whispers pervade the small crowd like poison, dropping from lips and seeping into the earth to kill the grass that is already trampled by the passing of heavy feet. But all of a sudden, the whispers die, left unspoken on cold lips, as a bright splash of color appears in the midst of so much dark and death; warmth in the cold; but the color is only an illusion. The wearer is just as cold as the rest.
She stands barefoot on the grass, pale toes peeking out from underneath the crimson folds of her dress, swept about her body like a red ribbon twirled around a finger. Her shoulders are slumping gently, as if all the fight has gone, pale in the cold and spotted with a few drops of water that might be rain or tears. Dark hair cascades down around the pale face like bits of shadowy silk, a stark contrast to the pale white of her face. Red lips are twisted; a horrible contortionist’s act that deforms the perfect face. But staring out of the pale face, like pools of glistening oil, are her eyes; dark and tortured beneath long, thick lashes of midnight. In those dark eyes, smolders a fire; just two burning embers in a sea of oil, failing to the light the entire pool, but refusing to give in and go out.
The silence is eerie, every face turned to stare at this stranger. Her eyes do not fall on the faces riveted to hers, but on the casket, wholly absorbed in it as a dog is its master. A single wilted flower slides off the polished surface and hits the ground with an unheard sound that reverberates in the heads of those watching, an imagined thud.
The red lips lose their horrible twist, falling back into place in perfect form, remaining still for an instant before forming their heart-wrenching cry.
Everyone freezes, eyes widening in shock, then they stumble back, cold feet numb with disuse, almost falling into the dewy grass in their haste to distance themselves from the girl and the horrible sound she makes.
Another cry follows the first, and she staggers forward over the wet grass, the hem of her dress dragging over the ground, dampening with the few scattered raindrops that clung to the blades of grass.
“No!” Her pale arms reach out of their own accord, fingers outstretched as if to grasp the departed soul and drag it back to earth. “No, no!”
The whispers start up again, hushed voices now both shocked and disgusted. The red dress stands out like a thorn amongst all the black; one thorn, dripping in brilliant, ruby red blood.
With a sudden sob that is wrenched from the very depths of her breaking heart, she throws herself on the casket, crushing the delicate flowers beneath the weight of her body, releasing their scent of mingling freshness and the sickeningly sweet odor of decay.
“NO!” The hoarse, wrenching sobs are gone, replaced by an ear piercing scream that shatters the stillness as only a woman’s voice can. “PLEASE, NO! PLEASE!”
Her pleas are in vain as she lies across the polished wood, pleading for what she cannot have. A middle-aged woman steps forward, dark dress billowing around her, and reaches out to the young woman, pulling her away from the object of her grief. As she is dragged away, the flowers are swept from the lid, falling to the earth in a cascade of crushed petals and bent stems, the red clothed bosom now stained with their scent. A single white petal clings to the raven hair, stuck like a falling leaf in a gust of wind, no longer part of the tree, but unable to reach the earth where its brethren lie.
The bearers lift the casket and begin to lower it into the grave, the sides of coffin scraping against the dirt walls, causing a waterfall of dirt to precede it into the pit.
The young woman still watches, tears filling her dark eyes, but the fires of grief still refusing to give out and be extinguished by the salty tears. The older woman’s hand is clenched around the pale, slender wrist, keeping her in place, but the free arm is outstretched, straining to reach the grave.
One by one the people clothed in black step forward and look down into the grave. No one throws a clump of dirt or flower; they just look down, as if seeing where death will lead them in the end. When all have gone, the woman releases the girl and she staggers forward, almost falling over the crimson folds of her dress. As she stumbles, her hand stoops to the earth, catching up a crumpled white flower.
If you had looked up from the grave, staring straight up at the young woman with her dark hair and red dress, you would see the tears raining from her eyes as she leans forward and tosses the flower forward into the grave where it falls right in the center of the lid. She scoops up a clump of dirt and lets it sift through her fingers like the sands of time, until her hand is empty save for the smudges on her palm. Then the fires in her eyes go out.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Hi, everyone! Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. I'm a teenage writer trying to make a career out of writing, and I'll be sharing my experiences as I keep trying to get more of my work published. I'll also be sharing some of my stories here for you to read for free. Hope you enjoy, and drop me a line if you have anything to say. I'd love to hear from you!