Tag Archives: fear

The Comfort Zone

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A few months ago, I accepted an invitation from Lili Taylor to join her for a yoga class at a new studio she hadn’t yet tried. Her latest role in a horror film had taken a toll, and she wanted to release some tension at this restorative session. Lili is generally a very down-to-earth person, but she’s accustomed to the swankier sections of L.A. I was a novice not only to the class but that area of the city as well.

The scent of jasmine greeted us upon crossing the threshold of a lavish studio, with its freshly polished teak floors and low lighting that helped immediately reduce our blood pressure. I felt an instantaneous state of Zen. Lili pursed her lips in an affected kiss when I cast her a sideways glance in wide-eyed surprise. The place was amazing!

She warned me, “Now, remember, I don’t know much about the class. An instructor I met on set recommended I come try it out.” Her right eyebrow rose slightly, and she tilted her head to one side. “She seemed a little flaky, though.”

Everything about the studio appeared legitimate — its fancy foyer and decor, a receptionist who greeted us with an indiscernible yet exotic accent, the upscale location. I asked Lili, “What? Does something make you distrust her judgment?” She met some kooky people from time to time.

Nothing in her facial expression made me doubt her, but the steep shrug of her shoulders worried me. “Um, let’s just say that Starfire has a mercurial personality. That’s all.”

I thought I’d heard her correctly but asked, “Your friend’s name is Starfire?” A dubious feeling crept into my stomach. My friends had names like Amanda and Kirsten. Or Lili, for fuck sake. Lili, who noticed a concerned furrow developing in my brow-line. “I’m not used to all this hippy dippy Hollywood stuff,” I whispered to her.

Lili only smirked a little and said, “Come on. It’s supposed to be in the back.” I think I heard her laugh as I followed her down a red, crushed velvet wallpapered hallway.

Starfire stood in front of last doorway, her petite frame ensconced in a short, green Kimono. A thick crown of curls sat piled atop the woman’s head in an unbalanced fulcrum. She looked liked she could tip over at any moment. Instead, she smiled and a bold greeting billowed from her wide mouth. “Oh, Lili, I’m so glad you could make it! You can change in there.” Her hand swept forward in a broad gesture toward an adjacent shower room.

“It’s okay. We’re dressed already,” Lili responded, wagging a finger back and forth between us. As Starfire stepped aside to let two other participants wearing bath robes enter the room, we saw a sign on the door behind her that read, “Yoga with Starfire – Clothing Optional.”

I don’t know what Lili decided to do. I turned and ran back out to the street too quickly to find out.

***

Generated from Studio 30+ writing prompt “mercurialStudio30

Wouldn’t it be fun to go to yoga with Lili Taylor???

(Image: Joel Nilsson Nelson used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

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The Fence Post

She wasn’t very good at the task she was given. Then again, no nine-year old would be … at least not one who weighed 60 pounds soaking wet and was used to her regular t.v. lineup every day after school instead of hanging out by a broken down barbed-wire fence. The job at hand was one usually meant for a ranch hand, a blue heeler, or some other fool willing to stand flailing her arms around in hopes of not being stampeded.

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Kelly Piet via Flickr

Casey’s imagination ran wild wondering how much that mare weighed and what her own body would look like once it was stomped down to a bloody pulp on the dried-out grass beneath her dirty bare feet. In her mind’s eye, she could see horseshoe-shaped indentations in her flattened skull as they hauled her off to the morgue.

A big dapple-assed horse just missed its targeted gate and went to the field’s other end, giving her a short reprieve. She was catapulted to the past when, at another time in an also seemingly empty pasture, she found herself facing a similarly formidable opponent. Casey remembered walking back to where her family waited at the car when her dad hollered at her to turn around and look behind her.

They all considered it quite funny when she did an about-face and found herself almost eye-to-eye with a giant spotted pig … two times her size and bigger than any creature she’d been near in her short life. It grunted at her, and she screamed bloody murder.  Casey stumbled over divots left in the once rain-soaked ground that had dried into ankle-breakers and sprinted toward the others. Her dad laughed and remarked he’d never seen her feet move so fast. They all yucked it up while she almost wet herself.

Her memory was full of such beasts, like the slaughtered hog once hung by its hind feet from a tree down by their pond. It was shot, gutted, and cleaned for the sake of its meat and swung there as if a sacrifice suspended from a monolith. Blood dripped from its descendant snout, a streaming red remnant of its then absent life.

One of her parents remarked how the damn porkchops tasted good, so the kids should hush up about how they ended up on their plates. “Turn your head if you don’t like it,” they’d said. “You won’t complain when your stomach’s full.”

Such were the bugbears of her disturbed slumber. It baffled her mother why she was so haunted by these trifling bugaboos, but they were very real to Casey. Dreamlife or not.

The mare’s whinny brought her back to the present and offered Casey a fleeting frisson as the animal’s gait reversed in her direction. She shook herself into action, jumping up and down in place and yelling, “Heyah, yah!” at the behemoth. Terror was momentarily overridden by the necessity of action.

It hurt her feelings more than anything that her dad didn’t realize how much acting as a tiny human stop-and-go light scared her. She wasn’t meant for this type of duty, and he should consider her safety more important than some inanimate object. Or a horse.

Besides … Gilligan’s Island had already started at 4 o’clock, and the theme music was well past by then. She was sure to miss Laverne and Shirley up next, too. Pondering the on-screen lineup helped her at least mentally escape the present dire straits.

Casey tried to make herself as large and daunting as possible, a veritable giant, in volume if not stature. Her heart could make her voice become as big as necessary to keep from being trampled, and her dad and this horse would learn just how much larger than life she could be.

Studio30This post generated from the writing prompt “hurt” at Studio 30 Plus

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The Dark – Studio 30+ weekly prompt

The window panes leaked a bit, so water dripped incessantly down the wall. There were so many repairs to be made to the house that some of them remained ignored. While the small river running down the eggshell sheetrock was hard to ignore, the sound of the summer shower was a more reassuring presence. It lulled the drowsy girls into a somnambulistic sense of safety that fooled them into believing they were alone and safe on their hillside plot in its remote location.

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flickr.com/photos/easypickle/

Whoever had paid them an unwelcome visit before, the one they spied from a darkened living room crouched behind a bulging old couch, was apparently lurking outside again. The uninvited “guest” out in the rain made enough noise to not mask his or her location behind the smaller trees and brush along the western wall of the sun porch. Its wire mesh gave no sound barrier, revealing someone was out there, and provided little camouflage of the coward’s hiding place.

They could hear a faint rustling of the leaves, more of a damp brushing of clothing against the dense limbs, that gave away the close proximity of the intruder to the house. Silently chastising herself for not automatically going for Grandpa’s dusty rifle hidden at the ready behind her bedroom door, Thea herded Paula behind the island in the kitchen. “I know you’re scared, but let go of my wrist – dang,” Paula whispered between clenched teeth.

Thea loosened her grip but remained frozen, as if the slightest move might spring a trap on them. They listened intently for any more movement outside their open windows, the soft patter of the raindrops providing a backdrop to the otherwise silent surroundings. Thea’s shoulders began to stiffen at the muscle strain of hunching down in her huddled position. She looked at her friend, whose eyebrows raised to question their next move.

With the unacceptable reply of a shrug, Paula began to unfold herself from the cramped position behind wooden shelving where they cowered. She muttered, “Errr … will not stay here like a sitting duck,” in a scramble to rise and finally huffed out, “Who’s out there?”  Her voice resounded through the sun porch entryway, its door fully ajar, and penetrated the porch walls’ webbed wiring. Paula slammed her hands down on the island counter top for full effect of her anger at the violation. There was no response.

Moments drug by in a seeming vacuum, save for the tick of the fireplace mantle clock and the sluggish drip of water running off the porch’s guttering. Any other time Thea may have joined in her friend’s vehemence at the situation. She instead grappled for Paula’s arm when the young woman shook off her stillness and began to stomp around the side of the counter.

She pleaded with her, “No, Paula, wait …” A leery fear kept Thea pinioned in place. Paula wasn’t going to stay frozen in fear cowering beneath the pine counter, much like paper plates stashed behind its plaid cotton curtains.

Knots in the wood were like eyes that stared at Thea accusingly in her submissive position below shelves of pans and other service ware. The frightened girl flinched from self-doubt, pinched her eyes shut, and scolded herself for her inaction.

She took an extra-deep, cleansing breath and blew it out … loudly … exhaling it into an exclamation, “Yeaaah! Who’s out there?” She and slowly rose up to standing and stepped around the counter to join her friend in the doorway. Their view was obstructed by the deepening darkness and its veil of precipitation, but solidarity strengthened their resolve to fight a mutual fear. They stood together against what was hiding there in the shadows, threatened mainly by an imagined danger.

Paula yelled, “We know you were here before and are back again!”  The girls clasped hands to solidify their intent to fight back.

Thea projected her wavering voice into the lingering rain, out into the cover of wet leaves, of tree trunks and limbs.  “This is my house — not yours!”  She cleared her throat to regain composure, and clamped her left hand into a tighter entwine with Paula’s right.  She yelled, “Get the hell out of here, whoever you are!  We’re not scared of you!”  Thea grabbed the door with her free hand and slammed it shut, the sound echoing across the property.

She said softly to her friend, “I wish I really meant that.

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This post generated from the Studio 30+ writing prompt shower.  Studio 30+

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Sibling rivalry

They were always teasing her. Hardly a day went by without Kathleen’s sisters trying to get the upper hand or make her do something she didn’t want to do. Once they coaxed her into a smelly public bathroom first to see if anyone was there. At least that time it backfired on them when she found and kept the 85 cents left on the sink.coin30-1

Most of the time they simply pestered Kathleen, pushing her away or not letting her join in their fun.  She was eight years old, after all, opposed to their oh-so-grown-up 11- and 13-year old maturity levels. No way could either of them be seen with her out and about in the neighborhood. She got the cast-off Barbie dolls and hand-me-down bikes, rusted from being left out in the rain. Luckily, her mom at least made her new clothes when her sisters’ were too worn out to pass down the line. The older girls resented her living in “their” bedroom in the family’s small, five-room house. Kathleen’s tiny mirrored vanity, roller skates and books took up space in an otherwise already crowded environment. God forbid she touch any of their eight-track tapes or try on a bra meant to train someone else’s budding breasts, much less put one of her posters on the faux wood panel walls. Small revenge came when she’d try on their jewelry if they went to a friend’s house. 

Her sisters told her it was enough to tolerate her presence without being forced to alternate nights she would share each one’s sleeping space. She suffered the indignity of being kicked from one to the other sister’s bed each evening since there hadn’t been enough disposable income to buy Kathleen her own in the near decade of her life. She’d cover up her scant belongings with a chenille spread and pretend it was her twin bed. Hers was a harassed existence.

The three girls didn’t discuss the most taboo subject out loud during the daylight hours, lest their parents catch wind of the ruse. An ongoing battle stayed whispered under threat of what would happen if Kathleen told on them. As it was, she already spent many restless nights on the divan when the talking upstairs grew too loud and she was quarantined to sleep there.  Daddy’s voice came booming through the ventilation ducts, “Who is making all that noise up there?” The two older voices called out in singsonging accusation, “Ka-a-a-thle-e-e-en!” He always charged, “Girl, you get down here NOW!”  

She clenched her fits in ineffectual rebellion and flung the covers back to shock the cold upon that night’s bed hostess in the process.  “Oh, man …” she grumbled under other audible giggling and fairly tripped over her flannel nightgown as she fumbled down the dark stairway in her housecoat and slippers.  Kathleen shook a crop of mousy brown overgrown bangs out of her eyes and took special care to miss that trick step never repaired although broken several years prior. It scared her to imagine what may lurk below, waiting for her foot to fall through the unsupported board and its threadbare carpet remnant.  

The ominous space below wasn’t the only place in the house to fear. A subject they’d hidden in silence was the most frightening. Her sisters muted her with stories about what was in the closet of their bedroom, and they leveraged the information against her to make her do their bidding. She was forced to turn out the lights when all of them had laid down to go to sleep with a threat of imminent danger in her vicinity.  

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Ann said, “You’re the last one up, so go turn off the light!”  Gay echoed with, “Yeah, it’s your turn!” “It’s always my turn,” protested Kathleen, tip-toeing silently to the switch on the opposite wall that seemed a million miles away.

She’d been told there was a dead maid in the closet who had been there since before they were all born, and the woman’s corpse would come out if she didn’t do what they demanded. Goosebumps crawled down Kathleen’s legs as she slunk back to the bed d’jour.  Her young mind didn’t realize a household with so little money could scarcely afford bills, and certainly not employ a maid, let alone have a dead one’s remains hidden among the Sunday school dresses and old toys. It didn’t occur to her that her sisters would fear a decomposed woman in their midst, too. Her naivete was leveraged for own servitude as well as their resulting cheap thrill.

Revenge came slowly. It was months before Ann found the crack in the Pete Townshend LP sitting unplayed and dormant, put there by a vengeful pre-teen sibling. And it was yet years before Gay was ratted out for having weed in her underwear drawer. Daddy didn’t believe her anyway … not his sweet little girl Gay.

The dead maid’s physical form was never revealed, though her essence loomed there spooking a particular young resident. The house was destroyed by fire after it had long been sold. Faulty electrical wiring, they said, but maybe it was intentional.

For a spiteful little girl’s spirit remained if only in ethereal form, too. She was the one who’d been scolded for playing with a book of matches found alongside some marijuana in a lingerie drawer. Of course, the evidence also burned up. All that was left amid the charred beams, shingles and scant insulation was a single blackened set of twin-sized box springs and a few melted plastic shapes that resembled the faces of Barbie dolls.

 This is a Studio 30+ writing prompt:  taboo

 

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