Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Yeah Write #92: Unspoken ( #amwriting #flashfiction )

Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam. They’d probably roam right to the cashier’s throat. Momma’s rings cut off circulation in her fist when her fingers curled under.

“Momma,” I whispered, tentative like Kwai Chang Caine on rice paper. She shot back a hard-lipped look.  The outlet store walls offered no hope.

The cashier riffled through the colored papers in her hand. “Not sure I can use these.”

My forest-green tights were slipping down again. I shifted feet; sweat soaked my shirt. My coat, heavy for the weather and too small, choked. The zipper stuck.

“Wasn’t a problem last month.” Momma snorted, her glare almost melting the other woman’s plastic badge. “I got the right stuff.”

The registers dinged. Cold whooshed from the door, cooled my face, and shot up my skirt. I bit my lip. I’d make it if we left now. I scanned the line. An cigar-smelling old-timer smiled and a tall woman behind him grumbled, “Come on!”

Staring at the factory store’s high ceilings made me woozy. I lost the rhythm of my go-go-dance.

“Snotty bitch,” Momma huffed under her breath. She snatched back the papers and grabbed my arm, pulling until my desperate muscles had to move forward. “This shit… Every. Damn. Time.”

“Ma’am!” the cashier called over the abandoned food and toiletries.

Hot rivulets slithered down my tights and soaked my scuffed saddle shoes, puddling on the concrete. I sighed relieved at the same time my eyes welled. Wet footprints stalked us to the exit:  Hey, look, the fifth-grader peed herself!

I swallowed back the blubbering, but my eyes and nose dripped anyway.  We’d borrowed Grandpa’s orange car. It wasn’t hard to find in the packed lot.

“Shit,” Momma sighed when she saw — or smelled — the problem. The newspapers she put on the front seat crinkled under my bottom. I held my breath as she drove to the Sunbread Outlet Bakery for the off-date bread. The yells didn’t come. I sunk my neck into my coat. Home lectures were serious business.

Momma gripped the steering wheel, her knuckles tight. The vein in her neck pulsed and her bangles jangled on her wrist. “Wait here,” she said, slamming the heavy door hard enough to rock the suspension.

Fresh malasadas and gufong wafted trough the cracked window.  Mrs. Nunes’ rear stoop faced the backside of the bakery and she sometimes sold the sugared dough from her kitchen window. I slumped in the seat, hiding from passersby.

I jumped when Momma plunked a paper bag on the back floor, plopped in, and started the engine. Her eyes were red and the cool mist in the air had flattened her barrel curls.

At home, my cold tights squidged in my shoes. We had to go through the front side of the florist to get to our above apartment because the back door was nailed shut. The owner and landlady burst through the glass shop doors in a wash of pink and yellow and yoohooed at us.

“I’ll have the rent tomorrow, Mrs. Livramento.” Momma held the paper sack tighter and stepped in front of me.

“No, no!” She smiled, her perfectly arranged gray hair was stiff against the gusts. “You’re not late, hon.”

Momma shoved the grocery bag and keys at me, shooing me up the stairs as Mrs. Livramento handed off two huge Corning Ware dishes.

I let myself in and heel-walked to the tub.

Mrs. Livramento fed us. A lot. We’d never had leftovers until we moved over the shop. Momma always smiled her gratitude, but whenever she served the pastas and roasts and veggies and little pies her forehead tightened. She’d cut through casseroles too hard and ate standing up.

On Momma’s birthday, Mrs. Livramento picked a pretty, little rosemary plant from her greenhouse and dressed it up with orange peonies in water tubes. She’d locked herself in the bathroom and turned on the battery radio after the lavender-scented old lady left .

I’d never heard her cry like that.

After bathing, I soaked my clothes then peeked out the kitchen window where the rosemary thrived. The back of Momma’s head bobbed and shook side to side. Mrs. Livramento patted her hand. They hugged.

I unpacked the groceries: Bread to freeze, two malasadas, and cheese curls. The cheetah one that cost twenty-two bottle returns. I hugged Chester.

Momma shut the door, hesitated, and took a malasada. She kissed my head. “Don’t make a mess.”





17 comments on “Yeah Write #92: Unspoken ( #amwriting #flashfiction )

  1. d3athlily
    January 10, 2018

    What a great little story, Tara! I could hear the mother and the clerk as if I was there, in fact, I’m pretty sure I was there when I was little. I appreciated the child’s perspective throughout and the little details like squished shoes and newspaper seat covers, but loved seeing how much the mother really did care and how much the pressure of being poor was weighing her down. only bit of concrit I have is the line, “She’d cut through casseroles a too hard and ate standing up.” I think there’s a typo or missing word. I went over it a couple of times and it still sounded a little wrong. hah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      January 10, 2018

      Thanks. “A” isn’t supposed to be there. Got time to fix it. I know I changed it, but my tablet doesn’t always behave!

      I think we have all been there when we were little 🙂 Glad the “unspoken” parts of the mothers story came through. I worried If was too subtle again 😮


  2. Uma Chellappa
    January 10, 2018

    You captured the details and the child’s embarrassment so well! Loved how you brought out contrasting situations with the clerk and with the landlady.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laissez Faire
    January 10, 2018

    The landlady was a tough one to write. She didn’t pop into my head so easily. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂


  4. Asha Rajan
    January 10, 2018

    I loved the way you developed each of these characters. They unfolded through the story to reveal greater detail and depth. The scene of the child walking out in pee-soaked stockings, little wet footprints following here, was wonderfully poignant. You did such a great job of showing us the conflicts and emotions, rather than telling. Those details, the newspaper crinkling under her bum, the kind florist, the wet stockings, the cashier’s belligerence, her mother’s hands on the steering wheel, gave us such a vivid picture.


    • Anonymous
      January 10, 2018

      You know I love to bob ross my descriptions, I am glad they worked this time. Whew. I panicked a bit towards the last half because I was running out of words. Nice to know though that the other characters came into their own without much dialogue. Thanks Asha 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. innatejames
    January 10, 2018

    Your work is taking these lovely logic leaps between sentences. In this piece, I especially liked “Staring at the factory store’s high ceilings made me woozy. I lost the rhythm of my go-go-dance.” They are giving a lot of energy to your scenes. I had a hard time imagining the rivulets line. “slithered down my tights” makes it sound like the sweat is forming on top of the tights and not the skin. “puddling on the concrete” is missing a modifier. I assume the sweat is puddling, but that word is not in the sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      January 10, 2018

      Ah sorry, “hot rivulets” was supposed to imply urine. Piddling, I thought modified privileges? I wanted to describe the sensation of soaking a pair of tights. It’s a weird feeling. :o. Glad the descriptions worked though 🙂


  6. MM Schreier
    January 10, 2018

    I love how you captured the mother’s pride and sadness and strength and love. Such a beautifully complex character in so few words. I’m not sure if it was important or not, but I wasn’t entirely clear on what was happening at the first store – the exchange with the colored paper and cashier?

    I think my favorite line was the “home lectures” bit – you know mom’s mad if she holds off from scolding you in public!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      January 10, 2018

      Ah, food vouchers / food stamps in the 70s and 80s where I lived (in my recollection) were pastel green or other pastel colors about the size of us dollars. Distinctive. I think they came in books like checks. So if a person was on assistance everyone in line knew it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MM Schreier
        January 10, 2018

        Ahh, I see. The paper ones in my area (pre EBT) were white so it didn’t compute. But that makes far more sense now!


  7. Amy Bee
    January 11, 2018

    So many great and particular details in here. Creates total belief in the narrator.


  8. MichelleH
    January 11, 2018

    The characters in this piece were very strong whether it was the narrator or the shop clerk or the downstairs landlord. I particularly liked the mother. She was so complete: intimidating and embarrassed and harassed and oh so loving. I didn’t quite understand a few of the references you used like “Kwai Chang Caine on rice paper” and “colored papers”, but the spirit of the piece came through.


  9. Donna-Louise Bishop
    January 11, 2018

    So many great lines here, as pointed out by others. I could really visualise this piece. Great take on the prompts and a solid story.


  10. Laura
    January 11, 2018

    You can really feel the mother’s stress even through the child’s perspective. I especially loved the contrast between the mother’s curls collapsing and the landlady’s hair staying in place.


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