Short Fiction

Her Old Tee Shirt

Old ShirtHe toppled them out of the closet, a heap of old tee shirts from 5K races, college events and concerts from their collective past.  This one had caused an argument because she used it for work.  She argued that Bruce sang about working men and women.  She wore it to paint the family room, a bathroom or two and some old deck furniture.  He thought concert tee shirts should be kept pristine, folded and preserved.  Some day they might be worth something.  It was a fond memory of a good night from their past and now it was decorated with parts of her real life, too.  Colors from the spaces and things she made new with just her imagination and a coat of paint.

He stuffed all the other shirts into a black garbage bag like old rags, but he kept this one. Despite the paint splatters it was soft and smelled a little metallic ~  just as she did.

 

creative non-fiction

Cold Dog Night

I grew up in a suburban Cape Cod style house.  There were supposed to be two bedrooms upstairs, but my bedroom was the only one finished.  The other space held the old Christmas decorations and some family ephemera.  I assume for economic reasons, my room remained unheated. But since our house was located on the coast of central New Jersey, winters never  got THAT cold.  I slept under a bunch of blankets and when it was really, really cold I had a strange urine colored electric blanket that had a scary label on it warning the user not to fall asleep with the blanket while in use (?).

My mother attributed my robust health to sleeping without heat.  Which was a convenient belief because both of my parents were smokers.  But the thing I remember most deeply is lying in bed late at night, the house dark and quiet, my bedside digital clock flipping each minute with a gentle, hypnotic tick.  If I stuck my face outside the covers I swear I could see my breath.

And then I’d hear our family mutt making her rounds. ¬†We had hardwood floors and I could hear¬†her nails tapping as she made a rote circle through the downstairs. ¬†Sometimes she’d give a low throaty growl — a warning to anything passing through the suburbs to move along. ¬†Then I’d hear her tentative steps up the ¬†slippery, uncarpeted staircase to my room. ¬†I’d count the paw-falls to number twelve when she’d make the carpeted landing (Because my room had a deep green wall-to-wall carpet that I imagined was the color of Middle Earth).

I’d hear her gentle panting, because she was an old dog by this time, and I’d smell her damp dog-breath as she came up to the side of the bed. ¬†I’d stick my arm out of the blanket pile and pat the bed, encouraging her to come up and warm my feet. ¬†She would jump up silently and stake out a spot at the foot, facing the door to sense when my father got up, because he was the alpha dog.

And then, finally, I’d fall asleep.

Uncategorized

Victim of My Own Happiness

This was a good weekend.¬† Even though we lost an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time (a weird concept in our 24/7/365 culture)¬† I more than made up the hour in laughter courtesy of my progeny.¬† Both of them were home this weekend, an event that hasn’t occurred since January.¬† Having my girls around me while I absorbed Jacob Bernstein’s beautiful tribute to his mother, Nora Ephron, (Nora Ephron’s Final Act) made me realize two things:

1.¬† That the times I don’t write because I’m too engaged in the present is a cop-out — it makes my writing a victim of my own happiness.

2.¬† When I’m too timid to incorporate family and feelings into my writing — those are missed opportunities.¬† To quote Nora’s own mother, “Everything is copy.”

If I could write 1/100th as well as the great Ephron, I would consider myself gifted, but here’s the kicker. Even when she was sick, Nora never stopped working — “she wrote 100 blog posts, two books, two plays, and directed a movie.”¬† If my only excuse is “happiness” I really don’t have an excuse. Because if you keep your butt in the chair, and keep pounding out the word count, and keep editing you will craft something worth reading (and worth leaving behind).

On a lighter note, my daughters make me realize that I am missing some interesting animal-themed television.  We watched and discussed the following programs:

Duck Dynasty:  Similar in feeling to another family business drama, Billy the Exterminator only the business here is manufacturing duck callers.

My Cat From Hell: Similar in feeling to those nanny shows, but here the nanny is played by the very zen Jackson Galaxy.¬† Mr. Galaxy basically has to train the cat guardians in “cat mojo” to save these poor, misunderstood felines.¬† Truth be told I’m a dog person, but even I could see these poor cats were just frustrated and were using the only methods at their disposal to get some peace at the expense of their misguided owners.

Too Cute:¬† Another Animal Planet offering where a film crew documents the infancy of domestic puppies and kittens from birth until weaning inside their respective owners’ homes.¬† I like this show because the baby animals never have any “accidents” in these homes that apparently have no human inhabitants.¬† Animal babies, like their human counterparts, are very cute and endearing.¬† They have to be in order to trick us into taking care of them until they can fend for themselves.¬† But I make an exception for the Cornish Rex — a long, skinny cat with large ears and soft, downy invisible fur.¬† Feel free to Google them yourself for a picture.¬† They are one of the Divine’s creatures, but they are not “too cute.”

And today we had a cross- generational experience watching Old-Timers Day on SNL.¬† Back in olden times if you didn’t stay up to watch SNL in real time, you were left out of the conversation on Monday morning. But with the Internets we can now dog-pile into bed and watch it on Sunday morning.¬† Last night’s episode was hosted by the exceptional Justin Timberlake, who became a bona fide five-time SNL host last night.¬† With this milestone he joins the pantheon that includes (but is not limited to) Candice Bergen, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Tom Hanks.¬† There was also an appearance by “The Wild and Crazy Guys” that made me realize I’m officially an old-timer myself. ¬†¬† And I’m so glad to be here to share it with my grown-up kids who weren’t even a wish the first time I saw Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin shake it.¬† That’s happiness enough for me.