so i dreamed i got another tattoo
The coffee had just changed from the drip to the steady stream in the pot. He contemplated just sticking his face in position to shoot it straight down his throat, but he didn’t think he could fit his head and even if he could, he’d singe (at least) the back of his hair.
Bugs Bunny noises followed by giggles made it into the kitchen. He was proud somehow that the munchkins liked old cartoons. He liked the style of them. ‘Course, he made sure to have serious conversations about racist ones, but when they were good, they were really good.
The kitchen should have looked different after she left. There was no teenage daughter grating the cheese, sitting on the counter, even though she knew her dad hated it. The off-white counters imperceptibly scratched by her jeans. Mom ran her fingers over the marks only she could see before wiping them down before bed. Eighteen years in this kitchen with Julie at her feet, at her hip, at the stove, and on the counters. The kitchen wasn’t changed without her, it would wait patiently for Thanksgiving when new stories would fill it.
The air in the kitchen was bubbly. Mom wondered if Julie was remembering to breathe as she talked through the first semester. The phone calls hadn’t been enough to really capture it. The friends, the seasons, the air, the classes. Julie rolled out the pie crust over her scratches, grinding the dusted flour in. Mom shared her stories at the stove, making the filling, but left a few key details out.
She scrubbed at the counter-top. Grimed of some form had settled into the seams and scratches. They couldn’t afford to replace it while Julie finished college. Elbow grease and stubbornness would get it looking like new. Julie han’t come home for the summer, like Mom had hoped. Her internship was in a different city, a different state. Thanksgiving was out as well. She was heading to a professor’s house or doing a dorm meal. Something. College was supposed to be exciting and new experiences, but Mom wanted her little girl home. Just for a few days. Mom ran her right nail into Julie’s scratches, coaxing out whatever green gunk had gotten in there.
Julie sat on the counter over her scratches, kicking the cabinets, eyes glued to her phone. Mom’s attempts to get a story or some help were met with mild acknowledgment of her existence. The vegan sausages, carefully separated from the others, started to smoke, asking to be turned. “Julie! Please put the phone down and make a salad for dinner!” Julie’s parents-are-so-whatever sigh harmonized with scraping across the counter as she slid off. “Watch the counters!” “Why? Their gross, Mom. That looks like mold.” Julie’s scratches had turned black.
Mom hadn’t been able to stop sliding her hands across the new granite counter-tops. They were unbelievable smooth. She ran her fingers over it mindlessly as she watched her daughter, trying not to stare. Julie sat at the kitchen table, phone down, looking out the window. No sitting in jeans on the counters this time. “That’s okay, Mom, I can just sit here.” She’d been home for a month, not talking more than yes and no and I don’t want to talk about that right now. Mom ached to fix whatever had happened. She’d somehow thought just getting her baby home would do it.
The nicks in the counter were from wear and tear but had ended up on the same piece of counter-top real estate where Julie’s had been. She was home from her new job in the city. Close enough to visit but far enough to be separate. Mom sat at the table, as Julie made dinner. Still quiet in the kitchen, but the job was there to ground her, to give her something safe to discuss. She was doing well, getting back on her feet, planning for what was next. Mom listened.
Julie wiped down the kitchen counters and looked around at the boxes. Mom finished labeling them and surveyed the space. Julie’s partner and son were out in the yard, staying mostly out of the way and out of trouble. Mom opened the fridge and pulled out last thing left. She tossed the wine cork into the trash bag, hopped up on the counter, scratching her jeans along it. After taking a long swig, she patted the space next to her, and Julie jumped up. Julie leaned into her mom and rested her head on her shoulder. “I’m gonna miss this place.” Mom handed her the wine bottle. “Yeah, me too.”
Today’s prompt was to find a contest or submission deadline with a theme we liked. I found this one after searching probably for too long. Content warning for panic attacks, dissociative episodes, and suicidal thoughts.
The venti latte wasn’t hot anymore. He hated cold coffee, which was why he’d braved the cocked eyebrows when he ordered it, an oasis of heat in a desert of frappucinos. He didn’t drink it right away, cause he thought she would be here soon. Then he didn’t drink it so he could convincingly say, “Oh, it’s fine. I just got here right before you.” Then he finally took a sip to look like he had a reason to be sitting at the table and it was cold.
He’s stared at it, annoyed at the waste, and wondering what to do. His head jerked up at the sound of the door for the hundredth time, but it’s another soccer mom with fanny pack. He dropped his head down again so fewer people could see him wipe away a tear.
What a shit week. Overdrew his checking account (he’d forgotten to deposit his tips from the bar). Ripped his favorite pair of jeans (they made girls (and boys) turn and stare at his ass). Injured his right knee (he helped out his 78 year old neighbor … in his favorite jeans). He had just been off somehow all week, not quite himself. No one else seemed to notice. But now this.
He looked out the window one last time. A laughing couple walked by. He saw her golden hair, pink lips, and his silvering hair and laugh lines, but he understood them as dead, skeletons pretending at life. His eyes darted back to his cup. Air staccatoed in and out of his lungs. His entire body prepped for danger under the soft jazz and the caffeine-infused conversations. The room shrunk around him. His latte spilled over the cup, ran across the table, and rained into a puddle on the floor. The cup followed, shattering, becoming what his mind new it already was.
The shop saw his terrorized eyes as this giant, strong man tried to leave as quickly but casually as possible.
Outside he drew the fresh air into his lungs. The part of himself that was still latched onto reality told him this was a panic attack, but the lost part of him screamed back that his panic attacks don’t come with hallucinations. He started moving, cursing himself for choosing a spot so far from home. He couldn’t get on a bus right now, couldn’t touch people right now. No cab either. No, couldn’t … just dangerous. Can’t do that right now.
He looked up into the face of the regular homeless guy on the corner, hand out for change, and the empty sockets of a skull grinned back at him. Don’t look at people. He looked up to the sky, still walking, just trying to get home. The twenty story apartment complex fell away into a gutted, bombed out shell of a building. Don’t look at buildings. This city was just people and buildings; he couldn’t just walk home with his eyes shut. Holding up a hand, needing to find some sort of anchor, he only saw his own death in the delicate play of the wrist bones turning his hand over.
His eyes went to the ground directly in front of his feet. He walked faster. The concrete was breaking, threatening to fall away; death was chasing him. The steadily shrinking aware piece of him repeated that it was not real not real not real and just get home just get home. The sounds of the city fell away, shooting his stress level higher. Piercing through the swirl of chaos was one, clear thought:
If this is my life, I will kill myself.
His head shot up and his jaw clenched. He started running, almost faster than his brain could make skeletons of the pedestrians, focusing on his target. The sharp pain in his knee threatened to stop him, but he screamed it into submission just in time to meet the five flights of stairs to his apartment. They were solid, not yet crumbling away. He doesn’t remember most of getting here, but he can’t think about that now.
He takes them two at a time until he tripped on floor three and slammed his right kneecap into the edge of the stair. He howls out his pain, but he keeps going, crawling up and dragging that leg behind for two flights until it was ready to work again. The 78 year old opened her door as he pulled himself to standing at his door, fumbling the keys.
“Are you okay, dear?” He couldn’t look at her. Looking at her would wish it on her. He whined out his nose and waved her back into her apartment. “Let me know if I can help.” He heard the door click closed and finally found the key that went with this lock.
Inside his apartment, he let the door slam (against apartment rules – the downstairs neighbor was going to say something again) and slid down the wall onto the floor. His body shaking, refusing his orders stop.
His kitten padded in and mewed at him. He forgot not to look at her, but she was okay, for now. She looked at him and mewed.
“Daddy’s not okay right now, kitty.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. She climbed up into his lap and stood on his legs, paws on his chest, to reach his face, licking away the salt between his eyebrows and purring louder than should have been possible. Her welcome home greeting. He cuddled her to his chest and then slid them both into the kitchen (this would be the only time that he would be thankful for the incredibly small space).
He gave her a treat (or maybe seven, he couldn’t focus on counting) and then poured himself a glass of red wine. The taste promised calm and soon. He flopped onto the couch, shut his eyes, and waited for the liquid to enter his veins.
Today’s prompt is to write a story that contains the following words: Lettuce, Happen, Basket, Winter, Sister, Monster, Supper, Subject, Puppet.
The boy stared at the problem. He was good at math. Really good. Math was his best subject. He got the most answers done and correct in those timed tests. 9 x __; he could tell you! This was confusing. He closed his eyes and let the numbers and letters swim behind his eyes. He hadn’t finished a single problem. Didn’t even know how to start. He should have paid attention in class, but his hubris – well, it had better thing to do.
He knew what would happen tomorrow. The teacher would make that face she always made when someone else didn’t do their homework. The smirks and judgement of the rest of the class would be for the first time directed at him. And probably more intense. He was the dork in his grade. The smart kid. Everyone loves to watch the powerful fall. Especially when that smart kid scoffed and said things like, “It’s so easy! I don’t know how I’m supposed to explain it to you,” when other kids asked for help.
Today’s prompt continues with the POV exploration: third person omniscient. Click to read first person, second person, and third person limited versions. Today is the last day of the challenge where I don’t also have a job, so wish me luck finding time to keep working on these!
The two women checked with the guard for when the last bus left. Last bus was a bit of a misnomer. There was one bus back at one time on Sundays. Sundays should be spent at home with family, but tourist dollars were worth small compromises.
One group of tourists broke off and went to the overlook first, but most headed to escape the summer heat with a swim. The scene was typical. Boys running around, risking their necks for smiles from uninterested, but polite women. Women whispering and laughing about how ridiculous the boys were, but letting those laughs look like encouragement.
Today’s prompt is to write a story from the third person limited point of view. I am using my stranded in Guatemala story to explore point of view. Click for first person and second person versions.
She and her friend had a leisurely morning, waiting for the country to finish mass so they could make their way to the reserve and have a day not trying to get anywhere. The coffee burned the roof of her mouth, because she wasn’t awake enough to remember to check how hot it was. The ride was uneventful, and once in the reserve, she let the lazy Sunday afternoon seep into her bones.
Although there were some other small groups playing in the water with them, the day wasn’t for making friends. They watched from their own nook of the river, dipping in and talking about everything but nothing. The whoops and splashes of the flirts at the waterfall put an edge in her relaxation. It was time to get out.
The group that had beelined up to the overlook when they had arrived exited the path just as she and her friend left the swimming area. It had to be deserted now.
“We should go now if we are going to go.” Her friend checked her watch. “We have enough time, right?” It would be close, but it would be worth it, judging by the chatter making its way to the swimming hole. They grabbed their cameras and started up.
Birds and bugs and plants and just a complete explosion of nature. Her heart lightens, shoulders relax; she eases into simply being. Her mind wandered to her mother’s talks of God and miracles, the way everything just fits. Tears gather in her eyes. Her friend placed a hand to her back and ghosted her fingers back and forth. She didn’t have to choke them back or play at some ideal-type emotion.
The climb down proved easier than the climb up. Her feet somehow sure where her friend was tentative. She led the way, picking the easy to grip rocks and roots. They emerge into the field before the gate, finally able to talk about the experience of the overlook, but their chatter died as they looked around.
Her brain knew something was wrong before it let her know exactly what, but her stress system tensed her up without waiting for a final diagnosis.
“Where is the bus? And the rest of the people?” Now that it had been spoken, reality laid in. They ran, “No” dribbling from their lips. It already left. She looked at her watch and showed it to the guard. Leaving late was one thing, but leaving early, the very last bus out couldn’t do that. He shrugged his shoulders and continued to close up for the day, mumbling something about another stop down the road. Her friend coaxed out a general direction and took off. She followed as best as she could. Someone just needed to get there before it left.
They were separated for no more than five minutes. They missed their (second) chance. How were they supposed to get off the backroads of Guatemala on a Sunday before the sun went down? Movement is best option, so they started walking. She was still lagging behind, parched and short of breath.
Her sunglasses don’t do much for how bright it is. Her head started to dully ache. Bright lights and little oxygen probably would do that to you. They should split up, so they had a chance. Her friend refused. No one was getting left alone right now. They kept going. Outpacing most of the New Yorkers they knew. Her lungs had trouble getting air in, and she started breathing through her mouth. This was not a good sign. She had to keep going. They had to get to town. If they slowed down, they would never get even close to making it. Her face felt red and blotchy.
She reached around her bag, and her fingers took forever but finally found her inhaler. She should have done this before they even started climbing, but she avoided medicine as much as possible. This current situation was not possible. Her friend was at the top of the hill by her second puff. They had to slow down. It was too hot, and they had no water. She could keep going, but not at this pace. Just a lovely Sunday stroll to safety.
She apologized as they started moving again. The worried look on her friend’s face changes, softens. Different kinds of worry play differently in the skin. This situation sucks, but they would figure it out. They walked together back up the hill and on to the next one, dust coating their feet. The pace worked for her, and though her headache was stubborn, her feeling of control came back. She picked up the pace a little.
The sounds of a car grinding the dirt as it made the curves they had passed made them stop. Someone was coming, and they wouldn’t have to walk all the way back! The truck appeared, bed half full of other hitchhikers. They jumped in the back, and she breathed in the wind and the dust. She was going to buy the biggest bottle of water she could find as soon as they got back.