New Word

Prompt: Paper

post it

Cash returned home to find Post-It notes attached to surfaces all over the house.

He was late; he knew it. But what the hell was this? He tossed his car keys on the polished hall table, and saw the first note, stuck to a little wooden box where Virginia deposited all the small bits and bobs she scooped up so they could find them again, like keys, business cards, polysporin, coins, membership cards, stray earrings, thread, beads, Tic Tacs, and all manner of reminders and odd notes.

Echo and I have gone to Annie’s for a few days, it said in Virginia’s small, rounded handwriting. She learned a new word.

She had learned a new word. When Virginia first arrived from the office, after getting the babysitter Devon’s panicked phone call, she’d heard the both hugely wonderful and hugely disappointing news. She didn’t go into the office every day, but she’d had a couple of meetings, and needed to catch up undistracted on some long overdue emails with her agent and financial advisor. Of course Echo, bless her little heart, waited for the moment Virginia was out of the house to blurt out her new word:

“Hi.”

Devon hastened to assure Virginia that was the word, after she’d seen Virginia’s face fall, but they both were well aware that “hi” was one of Echo’s first words ever. It was when Devon passed Echo, squirming and giggling, into her mother’s arms, saying, “There you go, say hi to mommy”, that Echo actually said the word that melted Virginia’s heart. “Mama.”

As Devon packed up her notebooks and textbooks, she said, “I’m really sorry, Virginia, but I have an appointment with my parole officer, and can’t be late for this one.”

After reassuring Devon and confirming that Cash hadn’t phoned or texted, Virginia paid her in bills instead of the usual cheque, adding a little extra for the stress and trouble.

 

Cash wondered what the new word was, and opened the lid of the wooden box to find another yellow note. Who knows how much you owe? it said. Cash saw one of Echo’s teething rings under the note, and when he picked it up it was still damp.

He spotted another Post-It note attached to the lampshade just inside the family room:

Come out of the darkness of your own ego.

There was a note on the flatscreen television:

Blank until turned on— like you.

The notes piled up. Cash kept each one neatly stacked, placing one on top of the other as he found them.

On the sofa:

A place to lie.

There was a longer note stuck to the mantle of the fireplace. It read:

You hate the song ‘Dust in the Wind’. It’s still true. How do you matter?

On the door of the fridge:

Fed up.

And most hurtfully, on the bedside table in the master bedroom:

When secrets don’t matter any more.

Cash sat on the bed and took out his cellphone. He put it back in his pocket again. He set the pile of notes beside him on the duvet. Driving home from the ad agency, he’d forgotten what happened at the meeting, and the dark young woman with the silky hair, and thought only of Echo, and her eyes as blue and clear as marble, the way her hand folded into a fist when she laughed, and the thin, wispy hair that they thought would never grow, and how it smelled like lilacs.

He was late, but he was often late. He should have called, but there were other times he should have called. He wasn’t a complete fool: He knew he was sometimes lax, lazy, spoiled. But he also knew how deeply he loved, how much Echo and Virginia meant to him. Surely they knew?

Annie’s cottage was a good three-hour drive. He wouldn’t text her while she was driving. This would also give him a chance to read the strange notes again, to gather his thoughts, to think of what to say to convince Virginia to bring Echo home again.

In a few minutes, he went to fix himself a sandwich. He’d taken the note down, but as he opened the fridge door he could see what she’d written as clearly and starkly as if it were etched into the surface:

Fed up.


Pink

Prompt: Pink

pink mobile

Cash and Virginia agreed about one thing: they wanted the nursery for Echo to be pink. They liked pink. Virginia liked it in her design and decor projects and Cash— well one of his favourite press photos was of himself a the Doral tournament with all the pros in a group photo, and Cash in a pink golf shirt looking masculine and caring. People magazine online published the pic.

Virginia supported pink ribbon causes, though she had her doubts. Breast cancer “awareness”— what was that? Were there people unaware of breast cancer? Where did the money go? As a professional model she accepted, all the same, stipends to appear and run mini marathons; she promoted the cause, for a fee, on her social media accounts. It all felt strange. How could she push the issues of the pink ribbon without succumbing to trendy and meaningless promotions that did nothing but further the images of the corporations who sponsored them?

Cash made several trips to China. He hated being away from baby Echo, but he needed to get serious about his business and the Chinese manufacturers of the prototype and possibly the contract for the mass production of the Dinex (name pending) chair. His dad was doubtful and disdainful, and he wasn’t completely sure where Virginia stood on the launch. But there was a young woman who worked for one of his contact firms, a girl with black hair as slick as a snail’s trail, who wore a pink spaghetti strap dress and looked at Cash the way Virginia had during the weeks of their early courtship.

There was a baby girl named Echo. She lay in her crib, on her back. surrounded by pink and black mobile abstracts, poking her hands and feet in the air as she learned how to move her limbs. She cared nothing about pink, and everything.

A Good Daddy

Prompt: Jiggle

jelly-2

Virginia was out go-karting with Envy, so Cash was left alone with baby Echo, who was sitting contentedly in her high chair, using her fingers to dissect a blob of strawberry Jello. Some of it made its way into her mouth, but most was pushed around the table top, dropped to the kitchen floor, or smeared on her face and bib.

Cash just watched, fascinated. He knew a good daddy might spoon-feed the jiggly Jello, maybe play the “Zoooom, an airplane!” game, which Cash had seen on TV. His father had certainly never played “Zoooom, an airplane” with Cash, and now he desperately wished he had. Was it too late? Maybe he’d wander over to the house when Virginia got back, knock on his father’s office door with a bowl of Jello, and ask his father to please play “Zoooom, an airplane!” with him.

His father would probably dial 911 and have his son discreetly committed. He didn’t like scandal.

There was no point, really, in playing “Zoooom, an airplane!” with Echo. She was really too young yet, this being her first week of solid food. She didn’t know an airplane from a tube of toothpaste. She barely understood that the high chair scenario, wherein delectable goods were placed in front of her, was for eating. It was merely another play opportunity; a chance to explore and experiment. That’s what fascinated Cash.

That, and his very neglectful father. The thing was, how could his father not have loved him? Cash had only to glance at Echo, no matter if she was screaming red-faced, being divested of a dirty diaper, asleep, drooling— and Cash felt his heart swell and then break into a million tiny pieces. The kind of broken heart that felt so good it hurt like hell.

What had his father seen when he saw Cash’s dirty bum or drool? Repulsion? In that case, very similar to what he saw in Cash now, despite his many, many attempts to please his father. How could they not fail, when his father’s utter lack of faith in him could only rub off on Cash? His venture in China seemed a good idea, but his father thought it a joke, though he did not swap a scowl for a smile. It was a tragic joke, a bit like Cash himself.

Echo started earnestly pushing daubs of strawberry Jello up her nose. Cash’s heart broke again, and he reached for the washcloth to gently wipe her hands and face.

Baby Love Not

Prompt: Baby

honest-diapers

Why did I agree to this? I hate kids, and I hate poo. I want to take the kids to the bridge and toss them over, or jump into certain death myself. It’s not my fault. Who would hire me? I have a tattoo of a rat on my neck, where everyone can see it, and a rusted heavy gothic rod pierced through the left side of my nose. I think it’s a beautiful thing, but my mother now pretends she is childless. I overheard her tell my father she would like to have children someday. I will never have kids. I hate them. Especially when they poo into paper. This is NOT worth twenty dollars. Who would hire me?

 


  • From a 100 words challenge

Parent Pair

Prompt: Invitation

chick-and-egg

“I’m not going.”

“Of course you are, it’s all about you.”

“It’s not about me, it’s about the baby,” said Virginia. She combed her hair while seated in front of her vanity mirror in the master bedroom of the coachhouse. She looked like a duchess from an English mini-series. “This is about your parents and their friends, and I refuse to play Madonna when I’m dead tired.”

“You’re hormonal,” said Cash, immediately regretting it.

“And you’re not, Mr Morning Sickness, Tender Nipple Man, Moody Bastard?”

“That was because I love you and Echo,” Cash said.

“They didn’t ask me, they just planned and invited. I had no say or warning. I’m tired Cash. I might even be fucking hormonal. I want to have a glass of Guinness and maybe a nap today. Fall asleep in front of the TV.”

“Babe,” said Cash. “Father and Mummy are just proud of you, of us. They want to celebrate their first grandbaby. Aren’t you proud? Don’t you want to celebrate?”

Virginia rolled her eyes so hard they almost flew out of their sockets. “You take the baby to the party.” Virginia looked at her watch. “She’ll most likely sleep through the whole thing.”

“Me?”

“You, the baby’s father and half of her parent-pair.”

“What if she wakes up?” said Cash.

“Then the world will end,” said Virginia.

“People will bring expensive gifts,” Cash said.

“Fantastic. I’ll write the thank-you notes.”

“I love you,” said Cash.

“Good,” said Virginia.

Dilemma

Prompt: Dilemma

herbie-hancock-man-child-columbia-speakers-corner-schallplatte-23860

Beep

“Hi, it’s me. I’m just waiting for a cab. I had to tell someone.

“I don’t want two children. I love him but I just can’t see having all that new responsibility and no one there, really there, for me. I desperately want this child too. I don’t know what to do. What should I do?

“I can’t say everything’s going to end, I’m not leaving or anything. Not today or tomorrow. I don’t know, maybe things will change. But I can’t see it, I’m confused. And how much should I tell him? I know, I know….

“So yeah, I tested positive, he put a baby inside me, despite precautions, and he is just a child himself. A grown-ass man child. Did you warn me? I don’t remember. It wouldn’t have mattered.

“Cab’s pulling up. I have to go, will be away for a week. Can we get together maybe next Thursday? Call me. OK?”

Click

She listened to the message again, then hit the Call Back button. Now she got a recording. Virginia was probably on the plane, in the air, and unavailable. At the beep, she said, “Hi, it’s Envy. I’ll be home tonight and tomorrow night, call. And yeah we can meet on Thursday. Don’t do anything. I’m sorry, and I’m happy, and I’m sorry again.

“Bye.”

Click

 


  • Album art from Herbie Hancock’s Man Child.

Safety

Prompt: Panic

woman-got_mail__kim_roberti_s_5x7_original_contemporary_figurative__figurative__cdc271d628a6c2e4790850d9e4c9de64

Tabby dialled 911. Which is to say, she punched in the buttons with trembling fingers: 9-1-1.

She held tightly to Rosa’s hand, shaking her to try and silence her wailing. The bathroom door was closed and locked, and Tabby pressed Rosa and herself tightly against the tiled wall under the window.

“Nicky,” she called through the door. “Have you put it down? Put it down for mommy. Have you put it down?”

“Remain calm,” said a voice in her ear. A person at the call center. Remain calm? Fuck you.

“Mama!” Nicky called back, cheerfully. This was a new game.

Tabby said to the voice: “What do I do?”
She said to Nicky: “Put it on the floor!”
She said to Rosa: “Stay here, right here. Do not move! Do you understand?” Rosa put her thumb in her mouth. She had broken that habit weeks ago.

Then Tabby unlocked the door, and peered around into the bedroom. It was painted a pale yellow, with taupe and navy accents. She’d seen it in a magazine, she forgot which one. It looked better in the magazine, without a pile of laundry on the bed, curtains that had been clawed by the cat, and a child in a dirty diaper on the carpet, waving a loaded gun around.

Nicky held the gun by the handle. It was heavy for him, so he used two hands. He’d seen guns on the TV. Tabby had just been gone a second, two seconds! to turn off the oven when the timer sounded, and when she returned Nicky had the weapon in his sticky little hands. It was too heavy for him to point at his sister’s head, so the muzzle rested against her tummy.

She barely remembered scooping up Rosa and trying to take the gun from Nicky. He pulled away and fell on his back, now aiming at the ceiling. He was at that terrible stage when everything was a “No!” Tabby’s sister had been commiserating with her just the day before, laughing at the stubbornness of the twins. “It’ll pass,” said Nancy with a laugh. “The tyrant stage eventually does. Be patient!”

Be patient? Fuck off.

She rushed into the ensuite and deposited Rosa in the bathtub, then Rosa started screaming and Tabby picked her up and then set her down, and, in a panic, took her cellphone out of her apron pocket and debated whether to call Albert or 911. Al was busy with his nephew’s family, two hundred miles away. He could fix some things, but not this. It was all his fault anyway. Fuck him. Instinctively she called emergency but realized it was a futile move, the disembodied voice an irritant, and she ended the call, tossing the phone into the wastebasket.

Tabby stepped back into the bedroom closed the bathroom door behind her. Rosa had fallen silent. It wouldn’t surprise Tabby if she dropped off to sleep, since it was Rosa’s habit to explode with energy, then, expended, fall asleep where she sat.

“Bang,” said Nicky. His two chubby fingers squeezed the trigger as Tabby reached him. “Bang.”

There was no sound but the suddenly loud ticking of the bedside clock. Nicky looked up into his mother’s eyes, and his face distorted, his eyes and mouth and nose all scrunched together, and he let out a wail loud enough to wake his sleeping sister.

Nicky didn’t resist when Tabby took the gun from him. The grip was sticky. She carefully put it on top of the wardrobe. She picked up the boy and held him until his cries subsided into hiccups, then fetched Rosa from the bathtub.

“I’m glad you didn’t call the police,” Albert said when she called him, after she had calmed down enough and put the twins down for a nap. “Don’t need them nosing around. Anyway, the safety was on.”

Fuck you.