Friday, July 26, 2013

My prompt for the flash fiction challenge was this: The story starts when your protagonist swears to remain single. Another character is an unscrupulous sort who was forced to commit a crime. 

    A shard of sunlight bore through a crack in the dusty, crooked blinds and pierced my sleep encrusted eyes.  I fumbled out from under the covers and swung my feet onto the floor. Was the razor sharp sunbeam a sign from God to get my miserable, hung over ass out of this putrid room, filled with dirty clothes and crushed beer cans? Glancing over my shoulder, I checked out the sleeping mound next to me. Tangled brown hair, high forehead, cheeks slackened by slumber and lips parted slightly blowing out small pockets of rancid breath at regular intervals.  Good old, Tony. I kept trying to stay out of this guy’s bed, but somehow after a few Bud Light’s I followed him home like a stray dog every time. It’s not that he was a bad guy, or anything like that. I just hated the idea of being stuck with one person. It made me shudder and yet, here I was again. What a hot mess I could be when I really put my mind to it. 

  Trying to ignore the brain numbing banging going on in my head, I reached around on the floor for my jeans and tank top, both of which were inside out in a heap. Inside out. Super classy, Rose. My mother would never speak to me again if she could see this scene of her little girl heaving herself up from the brawny construction worker’s bed that had sheets on it that hadn’t been changed in so long they had a crusty feel.  I tip toed on the balls of my feet to the bathroom, dodging the land mine sized piles of clothing. I could feel the grit from the floor ingraining itself into my flesh, causing me to wince when I stepped just right. Flicking the switch on in the bathroom, I sighed. Why are men so damn nasty when they live alone? Tony’s sink was full of grime and hair and big blobs of old toothpaste. A lone sour smelling towel hung on a hook next to the mirror. Vowing not to look in the shower, I snatched at the towel and flipped open the clothes hamper and then...froze.  Laying at the bottom of the hamper were rows and rows of stacks of money. I knew I was what I was looking at, but all I could feel was confusion, maybe due to all the beer I’d consumed the night before, or the bowls we’d smoked when we came home, or the hours of, well you know, hot, sweaty sex. This can’t be real money. Where would Tony get this kind of cash? Why would Tony have this kind of money laying at the bottom of his dingy clothes hamper. On impulse, I grabbed a stack of the money and marched on with loud, angry footsteps back to the bedroom.

“Tony,” I said in a soft voice next to his ear. “You need to wake up.”  

  He mumbled and rolled over allowing his bare backside to be exposed from under the covers. I saw my opportunity and slapped his beautiful, round butt cheeks with a crisp open handed smack. 
“Whaddtha faahhh...” he yelled as he jumped a clear foot off the bed, landing with a fine mist of dust particles shrouding him as they settled. 
I held up the cash and glared at him. “You really need to change these sheets, Tony. They’re disgusting, and where did you get all of this money?” I yelled.
“That isn’t really mine, technically, but...well, I’m holding it for a friend,” he stammered.  
“Who do you know who has access to that kind of cash? Certainly not Norman, the foreman. Or Gary, the dump truck driver. Could it be Keith, the crane operator?  Maybe Susie, the secretary with the bad teeth and peroxide hair? I know, it’s Walt, the alcoholic welder!” I was on a roll. 
Narrowing his eyes, he got a pinched look on his face and decided to play the tough guy act. 
“Just put it back, okay. It doesn’t concern you and why were you snooping in my shit anyway?” he spat. 
“I was attempting to de-funk your revolting bathroom by sequestering that board stiff, stinky towel to a smaller space, known as the hamper that in theory has dirty clothes in it that are meant to be WASHED!”  My voice had escalated in volume as I went so the end came out kind of crazy, but he got the point. 
“Okay, okay, baby. I get it,” he said softening his tone and rubbed his face. “Just put it back, okay? I’m not doing anything shady, I swear.”
 He said that last part with his eyes cast down, therefore convincing me that he was lying. Well, what did I care anyway. We weren’t any serious item, just casual friends that slept together now and then. He could do whatever he wanted, shady, or otherwise. Chewing my lower lip to keep my mouth shut, I returned the money to the hamper, splashed some water on my face and fluffed up my hair with both hands. I looked like a fright, with puffy, bloodshot eyes accented by dark circles. Sunglasses would help a little, but I still had “girl who made a lot of bad decisions last night” written all over me.  

“Alright, Tony I’m leaving now. Good luck with that pile of money and don’t spend it all in one place,” I called over my shoulder as I headed toward the front door.  The door opened, seemingly all by itself, but then a large figure holding a gun appeared in the doorway.  The man was one of those freakishly giant people. He looked at me with beady eyes that were so cold, I froze in my tracks, my mouth open in an O.  
“Where is that slimy, little dirtbag,” the beast bellowed at me.
I made a vague sweeping motion toward the bedroom with my arm and the beast stomped past me. 
“Tony!!!!!!” I yelled. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Fun

  Ahh, sweet summer. It's here! And last week we had the beastly hot temperatures that the northeast is famous for, which brings out the whiner in all of us. We whine when it's too cold and snowy and we whine when it's too hot and steamy. It's a rite of passage for all who live in New England. Last week was brutal. Prime whining weather. HOT! HUMID! UNCOMFORTABLE! Don't get me wrong, I'll take it over cold and snow any day, but it was tough to bear, especially since we don't have any a/c in our house. Friday the 19th was hotter than Hades. There was no escape from the heat, even when one was placed in front of a fan turned on turbo. I was reading on my guest bed, barely breathing shallow breaths, and I had sweat dripping off of my body. Dear friends of ours had invited us to go "tubing"in the early evening on the Housatonic River, which is right below their home. Let me start by telling you that I'm a nervous nelly when it comes to water. Especially, oceans, ponds, lakes, or rivers. I'm fine in a clean pool, but the other aforementioned bodies of water freak me out. I'm just not an aquatic person. Never have been.  I don't like the thought of unknown squishy things being below me in the water. Fish? Muck? Algae? Eww!! I almost died on our honeymoon when we rented a boat and Jonathan coaxed me into snorkeling. I barely got into the water when I saw a big, icky fish and scrambled up the ladder of the boat so fast that I nearly broke my collarbone. After a hyperventilating anxiety attack on the floor of the boat, Jonathan saw my true colors and didn't try to get me to snorkel again on that trip. He's smart that way. It was embarrassing. I can jump horses over five foot jumps, but swimming makes me truly weak in the knees. I've gotten better in the water since our honeymoon, though I'm still not exactly comfortable.  Truth be told, I'm not even close to being comfortable. I knew that Jonathan really wanted to go tubing on the river, so I was grappling with whole prospect of putting myself in a potentially spazzy situation. The practical me thought it would be fun. The freak show me was having an anxiety attack at the idea of getting on a tube to float down the river. I was torn. Anxious. Addled by days of extreme heat. But I wanted to be a big girl and do this!! Not to mention that it was Africa hot and the water would no doubt feel great. Conquer those demons, I told myself!  So, with shaking hands I donned my bathing suit and off we went to our friend's home.

"Hello," I called out in a high, breathy voice when we arrived. I knew there was no backing out now. I had to be brave. I had to face the river and my fears.  Our friend's were happy to see us.
"You'll be fine," Emma consoled me as she patted my back (she knew I had trepidation about this adventure).  The guys were laughing and beers were opened for the trip.  We threw the big tubes into the back of their truck and headed out. When we arrived at the shallow spot for us to take off, I shuddered a little, but not enough for anyone else to see. I took a last pull of the beer and gamely, I dragged my tube into the river, hoisted myself upon it and began to...float. I was floating! It was actually pretty easy and fun, even for a water chicken, like me. The Housatonic is very kind at this time of year. It rolls slowly, the views are breathtaking, birds are on the water, you float in a dreamlike state. It was almost fun! I was stiff and nervous when we got the first fast flowing section. We had to navigate through some rocks and I proved to be successful and didn't kill myself. Phew. First hurdle, conquered.  We floated and floated and passed through some more faster, rocky areas, with no issues. Hah! I was DOING this! I was being brave and though secretly I wanted it to be over I couldn't argue that the water felt lovely. I was finally cool on this hottest of all hot days.

 The end of the ride was signaled by the appearance of the gorgeous covered bridge in Cornwall, CT.  It's a storybook sight, that bridge. So historic, a sign of days gone by and also, a faster current.

"Go to the right," Nick called out over his shoulder. I made sure to paddle my tube over to the right side of the bridge just before we got to more fast moving water, which spilled us under the bridge, dodging more rocks and all of sudden I was in the lead. OH MY GOD, I WAS IN FRONT OF EVERYONE ELSE. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the others were laughing and relaxed, so I didn't panic. Ha ha. Fun, fun. I'm in the lead. We're in the river, hurtling along, passing big rocks, the current was strong. I looked back a final time and Emma called to me, " This is where we get off!"

"HOLY HELL," said a voice in my brain. "THIS IS WHERE YOU GET OFF!"  Without another thought, I threw myself from the tube, like I was on a sinking ship in the middle of the Atlantic and landed in the water. It gushed over me. I went under for a minute, trying to right myself, but only managed to vainly grasp at slippery rocks. My tube sailed by me, leaving me to die all by myself. I watched it as it headed downstream, like an uncaring bastard and barely heard Emma say, "Oh Michele, your sunglasses!"  Blast! As I stood up on shaking legs in the two feet of water, I realized that I'd lost my dang sunglasses. My expensive Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses that I'd had on my head were now victims of the river. Oh, the rocks, the slippery, mossy covered rocks. I could barely walk. The shore was in my sights, only four feet away. "Screw the sunglasses," I said. As I scrambled to the shore, scratching and bruising my legs, I watched Jonathan head downstream, like an agile fish, to fetch my wretched tube. Emma searched for my sunglasses, though it was in vain. I gasped for air and thanked the gods that I hadn't bashed out my front teeth on the rocks when I "fell" in the river.

"They're just sunglasses," I called out, my voice shaking. "How about we head back and get a cocktail?"

So, I did it. I tubed down the river. I survived (barely) and it was fun until the end, when I almost killed myself, through sheer panic. The dunk in the river actually cooled me off, and I feel badly that I lost my fancy sunglasses, but I'm glad that I didn't wimp out.  Cold comfort. In the end, I blew it. However, in the long run, I don't really care.  We ended the evening by having a spectacular meal by candlelight at Nick and Emma's house. Today I went to CVS and bought two pairs of cheapo sunglasses to replace my fancy pair. I'm pretty sure that if I were to tube again on the Housatonic (fat chance)  those cheap sunglasses would cling to my head, with tenacity and I'd emerge like a watery freaked out mermaid, ten dollar glasses, intact. Lesson learned. NEVER GO TUBING AGAIN.