Tag Archives: growing up

And So It Begins


That red blob looked more like a flat kidney bean than gum someone spit out next to the metal trashcan. Vertical lines running across it marked where someone’s shoe leveled the originally gelatinous mass post-chew. Shawna shuddered to think of the saliva and germs encompassing the wad before it fell from the child’s mouth to hit the pavement. Imagining the bacteria triggered her gag reflex so badly she could barely look.

She practically faded into the waffle weave of the fence behind her. The temperature made everything too hot to touch, so she dared not lean back on the metal and just sat staring at the ABC gum regardless of the nausea it induced. Some loudmouthed kids ran around Shawna sitting atop a beach towel and nearly fading into the swimming pool sidewalk. No one acknowledged her positioned there, even the boys who leaped over her body in a clumsy game of chase.

“Look out!” a boy yelled, but Shawna didn’t notice. She was oblivious to all the chaos around her, fixated on that nasty clump there by the bin. Angled toward the parking lot, this was the best vantage point to spot their family station wagon when it finally arrived. Otherwise, she’d have waited elsewhere.

Shawna finally glanced up to check the street. “Where is she? I’ve got to get out of here.” Jumping back in the water sounded great, but Mom had a thing about getting the car seat wet with a swimming suit. “Come on, come on.” The minutes ticked by in slow motion.

A dented-up car caught her attention in the search. A long one with four doors and a man sitting behind the wheel who watched the kids through the chain-link. She’d seen the bumper almost hanging off when she entered the pool gate two hours beforehand but didn’t notice the man. Maybe his children were swimming.

Maybe not. The girl got an uneasy feeling when his gaze moved in her direction. Hairs on her arms prickled as if static dried them to rise from beneath a layer of sweat. His eyes locked on hers, and he raised one hand in an undulating finger wave. Shawna could’ve sworn an unnatural smile crossed his face – not at all like one from last year’s teacher, Mr. Swan, or from the man who checked her season pass at the desk. She looked down quickly to avoid his stare.

Just then, one of the obnoxious kids came racing by and tripped across her outstretched limbs. Another boy had pushed him and caused the punk to fall over her legs and onto the concrete, which shocked Shawna back to the moment. “Whoa, watch what you’re doing!” She pushed the kid away, not caring about his skinned knee or the blood dripping from it.

A sharp whistle blast drew their attention to the lifeguard stand. “No running or pushing!” A guy in Speedos and a visor shading his face pointed a finger down at them. “You’re outta here!”

Unsure if the command was aimed at her, Shawna’s fight-or-flight response kicked in anyway. Regardless of her mother being there or not, she was getting away from those jerks and that creepy man’s ogling. To balance herself to stand, she put a hand down on the sidewalk … right on top of the gum splat.

Shawna shrieked, scrambled to her feet, and knocked over the trashcan in the process. It began to roll in a path paralleling her own as she ran to the bathroom and immediately wash her hand. She peeked around the gate afterward to find the station wagon idling in a parking space. Her mother honked the horn to hurry her along.

Fortunately, the saggy-bumpered car and its perverted driver were nowhere to be seen. She loosened the towel wrapped tightly around all the bare skin she could cover, pulled it off to slip under her on the seat, and moved swiftly to the car.

* Two Word Tuesday writing prompt – vociferous or loudmouthed

image: Markus Spiske via Flickr


Filed under creative non-fiction, writing

The Birds & the Bees on TV

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The clunking sound of pans and plates being rocked by the spray of water in the dishwasher covered an annoying chatter of television sports announcers emitting from the adjoining room. Fortunately, the rotating whoosh sound fairly drowned out the strange mentions of “dog legs” on golf courses and commentators’ snappy banter about ball scores and one another’s tie on the cast that day. Her son’s attraction to such boring fare was beyond her understanding.

She asked him, “Why don’t you go outside and play, honey?” Apparently the boy was in rapture of the reporting and didn’t answer. She raised her voice to get his attention. “Hey, there! It’s a beautiful day outside. You ought to go ride your bicycle,” the woman suggested. Imagining the silence in the house, she relished the idea of sitting at the kitchen table with the enormous cat dozing in her lap at the chance of reading the final pages of her book.

“Oh, come on, Mom. I’m watching ESPN,” he told her. Personally, she’d rather listen to the sound of jackhammers outside the door than the squeak of athletic shoes on a basketball court or another jaunty jingle in a beer commercial. The same stereotypical advertisements filled the network’s breaks between segments. Maybe programmers knew their market, but her boy didn’t need to choose shaver brands quite yet.

“I just can’t fathom what you get out of watching that stuff,” she said. “Can you explain it to me?” No reply came. He was lost to the eagle putt again.

Back in her childhood, she loved roaming the neighborhood. All the other kids played in their yards and waved at her walking their dog around the block. Sometimes they’d join her to place pennies on the railroad tracks, which they’d flock to retrieve later in hopes a train had smashed the coins flat. She stayed aloft and out of her parents’ sight in the tallest oak tree if sought for causing trouble.

Remembering those shenanigans made her smile. Being outdoors had been her absolute favorite pastime. Why didn’t kids feel the same way nowadays?

Barely within her realm of acknowledgement, she heard an ad announcer say, “A healthy erection will not last more than four hours.” “Great,” she thought, “here we go.”

Her son called, “Mom?” She closed her paperback and froze in fear of the next question. Being out of his line of sight, maybe he’d think she left the room.

“Mo-om,” he persisted. “What’s an erection?” She remained silent. She’d dreaded this day coming. He was too young to know about these things yet. “Damn, you Golf Channel marketing department,” she pondered. “Why did you make this conversation necessary so soon?”

She remained perfectly still. Maybe she didn’t have to respond. Looking out the window, she wished she could climb the nearest tree and hide.

*Studio 30+ writing prompt – shenanigans s30p

Image: Katy B.


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untitled (4) She kept her head bowed in what she hoped was an acceptable fashion in the congregation, especially to her mother and Brother Welks. Eleven-year old Angelique felt caviled by adults and relegated to silence during the service. The pastor’s deep baritone blasting from the pulpit almost demanded respect and adherence. Such high expectations meant the girl could expect a sound thump on her head if she dared utter a peep during the prayer.

Her eyes cast downward, she glanced to her right where Mr. Lundgren sat with his leg twitching a mile a minute. “He must be as bored as I am,” thought Angelique, pondering the nervous jitter. The polyester of his gray perma-press pant legs jumped up and down, the solid seams pointing in the direction of the hymnal rack attached to the pew in front of him. Lundgren’s wife sat beside him, her hands lay splayed across her lap and open in upturned supplication. The elderly couple bemused Angelique, and she emitted a tiny snort of ponder before she could stop herself.

A sharp flick of her mother’s middle digit and thumb shocked her back into submission quick as a wink. All it took was a quip of “Ssst,” just like a snake, to quiet Angelique, who quickly looked back down at her own legs. As the preacher’s words continued, the girl clenched her fingers more tightly around each other.

Walnut creaked under the heavy load of parishioners in the pew, and they shuffled in their uncomfortable seats. Angelique’s little body fidgeted for a minute, her bottom wiggling for a new position. She agonized, “How many more minutes? How many more minutes?”

The girl sensed a whiff of vegetable soup and wondered if the church ladies fixed an after-service meal. An acrid mix of Campbell’s tomato base laced with a toxic sodium level invaded her nostrils and took her thoughts back to their kitchen at home. She so longed to return to her new Shaun Cassidy album and whatever lunch her mother had in store there.

A woman beside her mother sniffed audibly, so Angelique opened her eyes again to steal a sideways peek. Miss Harriet sat stock still with spindly fingers cupped in prayer, ropy blue veins bulging out from the pressure of her grip. A splash of water dropped onto them, and Angelique’s curiosity outweighed her better judgment. She spied a tear rolling down Miss Harriet’s age-spotted cheek, and it saddened her.

She nudged her mother and whispered, “Momma, somethin’ is wrong with Miss Harriet.” The surly woman’s quick snap and disapproving look were all it took for her daughter to realize her error. Such admonishment spurred Angelique to dread waking up on Sunday mornings. Now witnessing someone cry in church reinforced that desire to instead be home in her bed reading a Nancy Drew mystery or perched on the sofa watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. She’d much rather hear Marlin Perkins talk about lion cubs than someone drone on about the wages of sin.

A hard slap of Brother Welks’ hand against the speaker stand made Angelique jump in the pew. She gasped for breath, tightened the squeeze of her fingers, and asked God for release from the church’s sanctuary. They’d all be set free upon utterance of the morning’s final “Amen.” The pastor prayed and persuaded all he could, but no one took the invitation to come forward, so his job remained unfinished.

Another whiff of soup blew past Angelique’s face. Imagining the taste of Saltines in her mouth made the girl lick her lips in anticipation, and a hungry grumble stirred in her stomach. She knew all the words to Hey, Deanie and couldn’t wait to get to her record player to hear them again. Her mother grasped Angelique’s hand and tugged her to standing so they could finally follow everyone else out.

Miss Harriet had already left the row and made it to the exit by then. She even beat the pastor to the door where he always greeted parishioners upon their exodus from the building. The poor woman wouldn’t have a chance to shake his hand in passing.


This week’s Studio 30+ writing prompt was quip.

Studio30 Image Credit: lenwilson.us via Creative Commons

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Role Reversal


The bathroom faucet ran full blast while Ann Marie scrubbed her hands with antibacterial soap, wringing them over and over and willing the foam to cleanse her system of any germs she might happen to miss washing away. All the water being wasted never entered her mind as she muttered to herself, “Gotta get under the nails.” Her obsession to get them clean overrode even her previous distraction with the tasks that first dirtied them.

She swore she’d never admit it aloud to anyone. Not her mother or even her friends. She didn’t feel any natural inclination toward caretaking whatsoever and was ashamed of herself for it.

Fully realizing she wasn’t cut out for this type of work, she felt a responsibility to help out anyway. Ann Marie just loathed the aroma of it all. Such a noisome bother to her delicate sensibilities.

Cleaning up after other people’s bodily functions made her almost sick to her stomach, no matter how close the familial connection. Nursing was not Ann Marie’s forte.

Even a faint whiff of vomit or just the sound of another person breaking wind triggered her gag reflex and sent her scrambling for a waste basket. So helping care for her grandfather, at her mother’s insistence, exceeded her comfort level. She begged for any other task than his personal care – manicuring the lawn, cleaning out gutters, dusting the ceiling fans – anything except clipping ear hair or rinsing bed pans. Hearing other people’s bodily functions was just too intimate, especially at such close range in his tiny little house.

It broke her heart to so loath such closeness. The sights, the sounds, the smells.

Tears flowed from her eyes as water rushed into the kitchen sink. Having her hands submerged in floating food particles and dinner’s remnants didn’t compare, because she couldn’t see anything gross. Soap suds across the surface made washing dishes a thoughtless and impersonal action, one that lacked any human offal. Only imperceptible organic leftovers. No gas, urine or mucous.

She would willingly complete any other menial chore, clean the house or take out the trash. Flashes came to mind of how her parents left her with her grandpa when she was a toddler. He read her stories and helped teach her to ride a bike. No doubt he’d changed his share of her diapers, but she couldn’t fathom doing the same for him. Life’s circle brought her around to reciprocate nonetheless.

He called from the bedroom, “Ann Marie, come in here please.” His voice resounded with the pain that wracked his withering body, no longer the sturdy frame that previously towered above everyone throughout her comparatively short life span. An overwhelming odor took over her senses in crossing the door’s threshold. She blinked back a reaction so he couldn’t sense her disgust.

She feigned a smile and asked, “What do you need, Grandpa?” His kind eyes and gentle smile reminded Ann Marie how much he meant to her, how much she loved him. That’s why she was there. The phrase repeated in her head, “I can do this. I can do this.” Flipping on the table-top fan to sweep the smelly air in the opposite direction, she told him, “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

*The writing prompts “noisome or smelly” came from Studio 30+.

Studio30(top image: goodhusbanding.com)


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Waking Up 13


The radio blasts Freddie Mercury’s frenetic cries into my brain, as his Scaramouche-ish lyrics act in evil coercion with the alarm clock. The bus will be here in 30 minutes. The calendar shows it’s Friday, which means a Math test today, but I still refuse to believe numbers and letters can exist together in any equation no matter what Ms. Kipling says. A blinding shine off her bald spot keeps me too distracted to concentrate on learning Algebra. I feel sorry for any woman who is losing her hair, even if it’s Ms. Kipling.

At least there’s a party at Holly’s house to look forward to tonight. Her family lives in a very nice house with a finished basement that has a big shag-carpeted family room with faux wood paneling. She said this is the first time she’ll get to use the disco ball she got for Christmas. It’s not as big as the one on Saturday Night Fever, but it spins so light from  other lamps will shimmer off it.

We usually have snacks from a card table in the linoleum-covered corner and listen to music from an older brother’s stereo system. Holly only gets to use it if she promises to not touch his 8-tracks. Many of us bring records from home in hopes our favorite songs be played, most girls begging for the love ballad currently topping the radio charts. Some guy will joke about playing Spin the Bottle, but parents usually keep that from happening if the song’s volume dips low enough to be noticed from upstairs. Audible clues like that can foretell an impending bout of Seven Minutes in the Closet.

I hope the party doesn’t digress to such games or consist of only boy/girl dancing. Otherwise, the scene will be as uncomfortable as any other weekend at the skating rink when couples pair off for “moonlight skate,” and I leave the floor to hang out by the Space Invaders machine again. They play that Boz Skaggs song called “We’re All Alone,” but I feel like I’m the only one who really is all alone. The majority of other girls in my grade have kissed a boy but me. Of course, there was that one time with Todd on a dare, but he already ran through every one of my friends by then, so it doesn’t count.

When the ceiling lights go down tonight and only the lazy strobe light is flashing from beside the potato chips, almost everyone will slow dance. Somebody always brings that record “Babe,” and we girls standing along the wall wail off key about how the guy has to leave and will be missing her. Sure. Watching all the boys grope their partners in fumbling tries at second base in the darkness of Holly’s basement gives new meaning to the lead of Styx crooning about being weary and feeling like giving up.

So I write my name on the rpm adapters of the 45s that I stuff into my Garfield backpack and rush out the door to catch the school bus. Teenage brooding now replaces the earlier excited anticipation of tonight’s party. Maybe solving for “x” isn’t going to be the most difficult part of getting through to tomorrow after all.

*Indie Chick Lit inspired post

(image via slideplayer.us)


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It gave Evan a start to see such a huge image flash in front of him on the gravel pathway. The shape was especially disturbing because of the enormity of its wingspan, a distorted exaggeration, making the turkey buzzard’s shadow a supernatural size. Going in the same direction as him, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. He wondered if it was leading him down the path with its beak headed north, pointing the way he should keep going.

Evan saw the unusually large black bird swooping overhead and stopped in his tracks, dirt puffing out in front of him as he skidded to a stop from walking at such a swift clip. He looked up to watch its avian frame gliding through blinding sunlight. He recognized the red head and sharp beak from seeing others scavenge on carrion delights atop many asphalt roads.

The boy had no concept of omens but simply didn’t like buzzards, as they reminded him of death. Their eating fetid, stinking road pizza made his stomach turn at the sight of one.

He was in a hurry, his anger moving him along so quickly, having left the house angry with his father. Figuring his frustration might as well be taken out on the ugly bird as anything else, he scooped up a rock and flung it upwards with all his might. Its arcing path circled back toward him but was too far away to make the mark. Evan shouted at the vulture, “Get away from me!” It felt good to scream the words in its direction since he couldn’t do the same to his dad without getting in more trouble. The situation was bad enough as it was.

Getting in trouble at school meant more punishment at home – losing some privilege like television viewing or Playstation time. He’d stomped out of the driveway in a show of defiance following the latest skirmish and subsequent admonishment by his parents. He’d show them — maybe he’d never go home.

He blocked the sun’s glare from his eyes with his hand and gazed up at the re-approaching buzzard, wondering where the death it circled was located. He despised the bird for coming near him again, especially in his present state of mind. Searching the fields parallel to the road, Evan turn his face upward to sniff the air for whatever smell the scavenger must be scouting. No overpowering stench, not even a slight odor in the breeze. Watching its overhead flight pattern made him feel too small under the ugly creature’s watchful glare, like he imagined a skittering rabbit must experience in the headlights just before the fatal smack of a car’s grill.

Such a mammal’s powerlessness was all too real for Evan. He’d spent the entire school year under similar pressure of impending doom. His teacher, the coach, his parents, even some friends – everyone seemed to lay in wait for any misstep that would bring a fatal blow down on him. His helpless self-perception had grown out of proportion and made everything appear tragic, especially his dad’s scolding. He didn’t know what to do with all that anger and stood in a defensive stance gripping another rock in a clenched fist.

But no groundhog, squirrel or even a smashed armadillo was anywhere nearby. Evan sensed the airborne predator winging its way around again and vulnerability overwhelmed him. Spinning on his heel, his feet lost friction on the gravel, but he gained footing and began running in the direction of home. The enormity of any lingering argument there was suddenly diminished.

Whatever caused the tension between him and his father didn’t seem nearly as important now. He wasn’t about to let that bird get him.

(image: courtesy Jake Lichman on Flickr)

Woven Tale*This post was prompted by shadow at The Woven Tale Press.

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