Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Kitchen Table

This is based on the true experiences of my mother growing up in poor family in the Canadian Maritimes and wanting to make something of her life.

“Go away,” Helen cried. “I’m trying to do my homework.” As if the noise wasn't enough, the kitchen reeked of urine-soaked diapers mixed together with the smell of salt cod cooking on the stove and she wanted to gag.

“We have as much right to be here as you do,” Helen’s younger sister Jane said as she put glasses of milk on the kitchen table. Her other sister Linda put down silverware and bumped the milk, spilling it all over Helen’s notebook.

“Go away! Now look what you did!” Helen shouted. “Mom, tell Jane and Linda to stop bothering me while I’m studying.”

“We’re going to eat dinner now. How about some help setting the table?” Mom said, wiping the sweat from her weary brow as she rattled pots and pans on the big black potbellied stove. Helen’s younger brother Robbie clung to his mother’s leg wailing while his twin Ronnie crashed pots and pans in the cupboard. Meanwhile, Daisy the tortoiseshell slept peacefully on a chair by the window.

Helen looked at the tell tale bulge in Mom’s stomach and shook her head with disgust. There was barely enough money to feed five kids and now a sixth was on the way. There was no way she was going to end up like that.

“Why can’t I have my own room to study? Why do I have to share with Jane and Linda?” Helen asked. 

“My friend Sandra has her own room and her own desk.”

“Sandra is an only child so of course she has her own room,” her father said, heaving his large bulk into the chair at the head of the table.

“How am I supposed to finish high school?”

“What do you need high school for? You’re only going to get married and have kids anyhow,” her father scoffed, buttering a piece of bread and stuffing it in his mouth.

“I want to go to nursing school,” Helen said, her voice strained.

“I don’t know where you get these notions,” her mother said with a weary laugh. “You know we don’t have the money.”

“But I’ve been saving up from my job at the store,” Helen said, realizing it was hopeless to discuss it with them.

 Her mother frowned and slapped a plate of salt cod and potatoes in the middle of the table.

“Helen thinks she’s so high and mighty. Even King George and Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t be good enough for her,” Jane taunted and Linda laughed.

Helen said nothing but she could feel her face reddening to the tips of her ears to match the colour of her red hair.

The following day, Helen stuffed her few belongings into a tattered old suitcase and went out to the veranda where her mother was sitting in the rocking chair shelling peas for dinner. Jane and Linda rushed around the grass carrying Robbie and Ronnie on their backs.

“And where do you think you’re going?” her mother asked as her sisters stopped playing and crowded around waiting for the sparks to fly.

“I’m moving in with Sandra to finish high school,” Helen announced. Everyone went silent.

“You’re what?” her mother said, jumping to her feet, spilling the peas all over the floor.

“It’s all arranged with Sandra’s parents. I’m going to move in with them and work in their butcher shop to pay for my room and board.”

“You can’t be serious,” her mother said, eyes wide.

“I’m very serious. I would have thought you’d be glad. One less mouth to feed and one less person to worry about.”

“You think you’re better than us, don’t you, Helen?” her mother said bitterly.

“No Mom, that’s not it at all. I just want something more for my life than this. And I’m going to get it, too.” 

And with that she walked away without a backward glance.  

Write Tribe - 55 Fiction

Write Tribe

As if writing a 100 word story wasn't hard enough, here is the 55 Fiction challenge at Write Tribe using only 55 words.

We were to pick one genre, either Love or Mystery. I'm sure you can guess which one I picked being the hopeless romantic that I am.

Carrie leaned against the boat railing. When would this boring work cruise ever be over? Maybe she could jump overboard and swim for shore.

“Want to dance?” It was Rick, that hunk from Finance whom all the girls adored.

As Carrie floated across the deck in Rick’s arms, she wished this night would never end.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

100 Words on a Saturday - The Shadow of Your Smile

I love these short prompts that force you to make each word count which is what a good writer should do anyhow.

I wrote 100 words exactly. Hooray!

100 Words on Saturday - Write Tribe
Henry looked around the crowded coffee shop. When Claire had suggested they meet, he’d hesitated, even though they’d been Facebook friends for years.

What if she couldn’t get past his disability?

She’d said she’d be wearing a big sunhat with a flower on it.

He searched the room and finally saw her.

“Claire, it’s me Henry,” he called out as he navigated his wheelchair through the cramped aisle.

From underneath the gaudiest hat imaginable, a beautiful woman smiled and his heart raced.

She got to her feet and walked towards his voice, guided by the tapping of her white cane.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Moving Forward

Here is my 700 word story for the Write Tribe contest incorporating the following  7 words in random order :
  •   postcard
  •   coin
  •   tidy
  •  wild
  •  help
  •  calendar
  •  responsibility

Ben ran down the dark street, the brace on his leg making his leg clump as it always did. At least he didn’t have to worry about being punched tonight. His father was so drunk that his aim was off but his yelling was right on target. Of course there was always tomorrow morning when he would wake up with a wild hangover and then Ben would get it.

“Why did you have to be born?” his father had yelled at him, trying to start a fight. “You’ve been nothing but trouble your whole life. No wonder your mother left us.”  

Occasionally Ben received a postcard from his mother at the high school. She sent mail there so Ben’s dad wouldn’t find out and never included her return address. Why had she never asked him to come live with her? He was sure it was because her boyfriend Joe didn’t want him there.

Ben opened the door to the Laundromat and collapsed on a bench.

“Well, hi,” a girl said, folding clothes into a tidy pile. “You go to my school, don’t you?”

Ben looked at the girl. He recognized her but didn’t know her name. He never knew what to say to a girl, especially one as attractive as this one with her pale skin and long red hair hanging in heavy curls down her back.

“Yeh, I do,” Ben finally answered.

At eighteen, he hadn’t had much experience with girls and was convinced that they didn’t like him because of his leg.  

“A bit late for long distance running, isn’t it?” the girl joked as she put a coin into the drier and added a load of clothes.

“Do I look like an athlete?” Ben answered bitterly, showing her his brace.

“I was just kidding.” She turned away and kept folding the clothes.”

“I apologize. I’m not myself tonight,” Ben said, shrugging. He buried his head in his coat like a turtle and closed his eyes. The bench moved and he saw the girl sitting next to him, watching closely.

“Didn’t mean to startle you,” she said. “I’m an artist. I like looking at people. Maybe I could draw you sometime. You’re Ben, right?”

“Yeh,” he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. No girl had ever wanted to draw him before. “What’s your name?”

“Allison, but friends call me Allie.”

“What should I call you?”

“Why that depends, are you a friend or a mere acquaintance?” she said laughing.

Ben looked away in awkward silence, his face hot.

“Just trying to lighten things up. You’re so serious,” Allie said.  

Ben stared at the faded calendar hanging on the wall, forever stuck on March 2010. He was like that calendar, stuck in time, unable to move forward with his life.

Finally Allie put all her clothes in the laundry basket and reached for her coat.
“I’d better go. I still have homework to do. Take care of yourself, Ben.”

He didn’t realize he’d been sitting there for so long. Reaching out, he touched Allie’s arm.

“Please don’t go yet,” he pleaded. “I feel so alone.”

Allie put down the basket and sat beside him.

“You know what you need?” Allie said.

“What?” Ben said, his throat tightening as he tried to suppress a sob. His father accused him of being a baby whenever he cried.

“This.” Allie gave Ben a big hug.

Ben couldn’t remember the last time anyone had shown him any affection and he started crying.

“Let it out,” Allie said in a soothing voice, patting his back. “It’s good to cry.”

“My father beats me,” Ben said between sobs. “I can’t take it anymore.

“You don’t deserve that,” Allie said with sympathy. “What can I do to help?”

“I need to find another place to stay.”

“I live down the street with my mom. You’re welcome to stay with us,” Allie offered. “My mom knows a counsellor you can see. It’s not your fault, you know.”

“Thanks,” Ben said. Finally he had hope for the future.

Ben ripped the old calendar off the wall, tore it into pieces, and tossed it into the garbage.

It felt good to be taking responsibility for his life at last. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Power of Good always triumphs over Bad

Today I can't help thinking about Facebook and its power to connect people from all around the globe.

I have connected with fellow writers, fellow animal lovers and many others just for fun and friendship. I love how I have been able to make so many wonderful friends and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many in person, too. 

Unfortunately, Facebook can also have its dark side where people can pretend to be someone they’re not or be critical and judgemental without worry of any repercussions. They hide behind their screen and feel free to say whatever they want even if it’s mean, judgemental and untrue.

I was a witness to this kind of behaviour today and it shocked me. My friend was harshly criticized and judged by another woman in several mean Facebook comments. My friend who received the mean messages was terribly hurt and is even considering shutting down her account.

On the positive side, the outpouring of love and support my friend received from her other Facebook friends reassured me that good always wins out over bad. Once again, my faith in the goodness of humanity has been restored.

Facebook is a place where people should feel supported and welcomed. It’s a place to laugh and share, not judge and find fault.

I truly wish that mean people like this lady would slither back under the rock where they came from. Where’s the DISLIKE button for her posts? On second thought, one DISLIKE button wouldn’t be enough!

Here is a great quote from Charles Dickens that sums up my thoughts perfectly.

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.” 

~Charles Dickens~ 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

Nothing like a monthly blog challenge to get me all fired up and writing daily again. I enjoyed the A-Z challenge so much so here I am again trying this one. Am I nuts? Maybe, but I am lovable! ;)

Today is Canada Day, a day to take pride in our country and celebrate in the great outdoors during our sweet, brief summer.

I love my country so much and feel such gratitude to have been born here. We have so much space and beauty all around us. West from the Pacific, North to the Arctic Ocean, out East to the Atlantic, we inhabit an amazing country of incredible diversity of landscapes and cultures.

The main two things I love about Canada are that we live in a freedom-loving and peaceful nation. We are so lucky. When I hear about the turmoil in other countries I am again reminded about how lucky I am.

Here is my favourite instrumental video post of O Canada made in 1979 with the Canadian Forces Central Band performing. Love the strings playing in this. 

They used to put it on TV to sign off late at night. I have seen it many times but never tire of it and still get a tingle of pride each time I see it.

I say Happy Birthday to Canada, 146 years young, strong, proud and free!

O Canada! Our home and native land.
True patred love in all thy son’s command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The True North strong and Free
From far and wide, O Canada we stand on guard for thee
God keep our land
Glorious and Free
O Canada we stand on guard for thee
O Canada we stand on guard for thee!