Letting Life Lead
This is an exercise I do for myself from time to time. Where I actually listen to a nagging in my head and write something until it is done. No edits. Just raw from my brain. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Wrinkles in the harvest gold table cloth, the voids where china plates once rested, and escaped food were the remains of an afternoon of gluttony. The wax on novelty dinner candles had re-hardened into grotesque blobs of headless turkeys with bleeding breasts. A woman, heavy makeup running from rain, sighed and leaned against the doorway to the dining room. Her short, bright red-violet hair in a whorl of wild spikes and curls clashed with the order of the maroon and gold striped wallpaper. She glanced at the clock’s quartz face as its gold ball pendulum rotated back and forth silently. The roman numerals declared the time — one thirty. She crossed her arms and shook her head looking at the pink slippers on her feet and the damp edges of her jeans. A plate of food appeared under her nose piled high with all the fixings.
“I saved you the good stuffing.” The bringer of the plate smiled and showed her another plate. “Join me? I’m starving.”
“The stickiest with the best pan drippings.”
The offered plate was taken and the numerous rings clanked on the it, “They didn’t wait for me. What family does that?”
“Let’s just eat, Shelly. I’m starving.”
Shelly’s face, pursed into a scowl, softened and she flopped herself heavily into an arm-less padded dining chair and ate with a fueling anger.
“Carol and Yuuji went to get some ice cream and whipped cream for dessert. They’ll be back. The kids are upstairs with Ben. I had to wrestle them for that turkey leg.”
Shelly pointed her fork at her sister, “Your hair. I like it.”
“Really? It still feels kind of naked.” She placed a hand on her exposed nape that used to be hidden by long brown hair and laughed, “Should I dye it?”
“While I would enjoy the backlash immensely, Amanda, it’s just not you. Maybe hats though. Good shaped head for hats.”
Amanda grinned, “I could do that. I always like the ones that look like bells.”
“Yes!” Amanda reached out and touched a bright curl, “I liked the dark violet better. This is a little too crayola.”
“I was thinking of going ombre with blues and violet. Grow my hair out a little.”
“Oh! Did you pierce your eyebrow again? Doesn’t it always get infected?”
“Yeah. But it’s a special occasion.”
Amanda shook her head, but grinned gently. The door to the living room swung upon and their parents emerged from the living room where they retreated after all had said a courtesy hello when Shelly had first arrived. Their father sat and grunted his usual acknowledgement while re-buttoning his shirt, and then spent the remainder of his attention on cleaning his glasses. Their mother returned with two pies and set them on the table, looked at Shelly, and shook her head muttering, “Honestly,”
Amanda pressed her lips together and shot her sister a calming glance. They heard the front door open followed by the sounds the pounding of boots and the frup-frup of shaking umbrellas.
“We’re back! Hey, is Shelly here?”
Then from upstairs came the squeal of children and a low male voice following them. The children burst into the room at speed, then slowed down when they were greeted by their grandmother’s admonishments. They had all been dressed for the occasion, but now their shirts were un-tucked, bows were half-looped and askew, ties were slanted, and coiffed hair jumped in unruly directions.
Retying his tie, their brother, Ben, kissed Shelly’s forehead, “She lives! I saw the squall on the radar.
“Car make it okay? ” Carol asked sitting next to her husband at the table.
“Barely. Had to pull over a few times.”
“You should have left earlier.” Their mother said as she set out plates and special snacks for the children, “Then you wouldn’t have been late. ”
“I had to work,”
“Well, honey, if you put in for time earlier instead of waiting for the last minute…”
Amanda interjected, “Ben got a promotion. Head of marketing for his division.”
“On a trial basis. They liked how I handled an account, and they want to see how I do with a team. And I get to design the campaign from start to finish.”
“Hey, how’s the truck going, Shell?” Yuuji asked passing out slices of pie and ice-cream to the kids with Carol.
“Pretty well, actually. We broke even this year. Might be able to let go of the part-time jobs next year.”
“I still don’t think this food truck is a good idea. All that time in school wasted.”
“Dad, Shelly knows what she’s doing. You know she’s wanted to do this for years, she showed me the plans, and she’s worked really hard,” Amanda offered squeezing her arms close to her body. Her white blouse seemed to curl from the tension.
“I got my degree what more do you want?” Shelly blurted shoving a forkful of pumpkin pie in her mouth with entirely too much ice cream on it inducing a flash headache that made her frown etch deeper on her forehead.
“Coming to dinner on time and dressed nicely for once. Do you dress like that for work? Who wants to buy anything from you dressed like that? You look like you just rolled out of bed. Your hair…I can’t recognize you half the time.”
“Maybe you would if you came up to see me once in a while.”
Carol muttered, “Here we go again,” and rested her face on her hand while she shoved in fork fulls of key-lime pie.
“You moved so far, you can’t expect us to just drop everything.”
“It’s an hour away!”
“Ben, I thought you were going to bring a guest this year? You spend so much time working how do you expect to meet anyone?” Their mother said splitting the conversation’s head.
“Maybe, Shelly, will bring the truck down sometime then over the summer. Good business by the beach you could make it a destination tour,” Ben sunk in his chair and stared up at the ceiling.
“Don’t make promises for your sister that she can’t keep,” their father said looking over his glasses at his daughter at the opposing end of the table.
“I can’t control the weather, Dad.”
“Don’t speak to your father with that tone.”
“What tone? You always say that and no one knows what you mean!”
“Apparently, we can’t have a nice dinner. Do you dress like that just to hurt me?”
“For fuck’s sake just shut up already!” Amanda stabbed her fork into her pie and with the other hand slapped the table hard making her palm sting. The three children who had been filtering the usual arguments suddenly stopped their chatter to stare.
All animations of forks to mouths stopped and all eyes were on Amanda, “I can’t! Thirty-three years and I just can’t! Shelly is always late, but she gets here! She dress like she does because she wants to, only 20% is to annoy you. Yuuji got a job offer in Japan and they are probably going to leave. And, damn, they are getting out! I say don’t even bother to pack. Leave and have a shit free Christmas. Ben is being polite. I’ve met his boyfriend and his girlfriend. He didn’t think he should bring them both to this mess we call family. They might dump him on the spot if they were smart about it. And dammit Mom, when I make something and bring it over would it kill you to serve it first rather than making everyone full so that I have to bring it back home? What the fuck is that about? I don’t get it! I get shit if I bring it, I get shit if I bring nothing. Shit! It was shitty to not wait for Shelly. Ben you abandoned me again to run off like always. I’m tired of the shit! Call home more, people! And stop complaining when they do. Just say hello, how are you. Fucking talk like normal people. And it wouldn’t kill you to dial a phone Mom instead of complaining about it. And dammit Dad, stop fanning the flames. You are a yessman just bringing in the fuel and sucking out all the energy. And can we open a fucking window? It’s hot as hell. No one cares about the freshly pressed curtains! And let me get it all out of the way for you: I’m pregnant and I don’t want to hear any crap, you don’t know the father, I told him not to come, and I don’t want to answer any questions. Aunt Amanda knows plenty of swears; my vagina works just fine; I cut my hair because I wanted to; and I would rather impale myself on our front gate than to bring anyone over for dinner. Just …just…fuck…shut up and eat!”
The shock wave gave Amanda the reprieve she sought and the clock pendulum seemed to slow down as the sounds in the room died in preparation for the impending mushroom cloud.
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Author of suspense novels Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians. As well as the short story collection Time Wasters and (co-author of) The Suspenseful Collection. Columnist for The Conscious Talk Magazine.
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