Crazy Dark Place [Repost]

Prompt: Fight or Flight

plain-blonde-doll

Charlotte arrived home just after four am, and Jamie was asleep. The house still stank of beer, so he’d had friends over. The furnace had clicked over into overnight temperatures, so the house was cold– that especially bitter, early morning cold.

She went into the kitchen and washed her hands at the sink. She used Palmolive dish detergent as soap, and scrubbed up as thoroughly as the surgeons she occasionally worked with. Her hands, she noticed were looking pink and raw but she was too tired for a shower, and needed to wash away the death and decay.

Jamie had cocooned himself in the sheets and blankets at one side of the bed. She had to wake him, or sleep in the cold.

When she awoke the next day, she had a meal that was neither breakfast nor lunch, an egg sandwich and a glass of cranberry juice, followed by a can of beer. Jamie had gone off to work, and she was due at the hospital in less than an hour.

She combed her hair, thinking it was too long. Who was she kidding? Her hair was pale blonde and thick and there was no grey showing, but she was no longer the bright young beauty that had attracted Jamie and so many others. She rubbed baby lotion on her arms and chest. She put concealer under her eyes. She thought of Cassie, who was the wife of one of Jamie’s friends. Charlotte would agree to the Super Bowl party Jamie kept talking about, so Cassie could visit too and they could chat and Charlotte would inevitably laugh, because Cassie always put things into perspective. Cassie seemed to enjoy making Charlotte laugh. The world was a crazy dark place, that was Cassie’s philosophy. Might as well face it and deal with the paralysis of life with energy and a sharp tongue.

Charlotte understood that. She felt paralyzed but lacked the energy or power to feel that she was more alive than the patients she treated, and not one of the walking dead. She wanted handsome Jamie back. She wanted the feel of a hero’s arms about her, warm and soothing. She wanted a flat stomach and trim waist, and clothes that fit. She wanted to be admired and yes, even pampered. Instead she was surrounded daily by the dying, and had to fight off thoughts that the happiness of those she served might be better fulfilled by a deep, permanent, peaceful sleep.

Jamie had a gig that evening, and Charlotte would miss it. While she she nursed a vague nostalgia for the once inseparable performer and muse, she didn’t mind, and neither did Jamie. He was hardly the rock star she had worshipped as a girl. He was a DJ in a small town now. He didn’t write songs anymore, or sing them. She was no longer his inspiration. He played whatever music his clients wanted, even country and western. Being the wife of an indifferent DJ was not the same as being the wife of a rock star. To be honest, he was never a rock star either. Just a singer in a band that was no more.

He would be home from work by six, while Charlotte was at the hospital, then out again by seven, so she made him an egg sandwich too, wrapped it in cellophane and put it in the refrigerator. It was not a hot meal, but then Jamie was less of a cook than she was. It would have to do.

She had one more can of beer, and put another one in her bag.

She passed the hall mirror on her way out the door and looked into her own eyes. So, how she felt was obvious. They were as flat and matte as a painted doll’s eyes.

Cassie. She would wait to see Cassie before she made any decisions. Cassie could make her laugh. When she truly laughed, her eyes twinkled and shone. Many people had told her that, once.


  • Original Prompt: Jump, September 22, 2016
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Bob’s Brain [Repost]

Prompt: Ready

burning_book-t2

“I know I could probably do better than you, physically speaking,” Bob said. “We all have  our levels of attractiveness, and it’s funny that we rarely stray, either up or down, from those levels.”

So, Envy thought, could this be why such a presentable, almost handsome young man was never in a lasting relationship? He was a tall man, strong, broad in the shoulders and wide in stance, like a football player, with a fair complexion and neatly trimmed chocolate brown hair. His manner was open and friendly— always smiling, as he was now, with wonderful, traditional manners. He liked to open doors, take the curb side when walking, pay the tabs, bring a rose or a bottle of rosé when he picked up a lady for a date.

But he seemed to have no filter. Was that a result of indulgent parenting? Cluelessness? A disinclination towards self-examination? Maybe no one had ever called him on his proclivity for unnecessary truth-telling.

“Excuse me?” said Envy. They had stopped at a neighbourhood pub, halfway between the stadium and the car, on their way home. It was extremely dark, not as crowded as it should be, and the bartender seemed to be hoarding ice. Envy’s gin and tonic was flat and warm.

“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” said Bob.

“How should I take it?”

Bob leaned over and kissed Envy on the cheek. She pulled away. He said, “It can’t be a huge surprise to you, Envy. I met your sister-in-law. She is a model. You are not a model. It’s not a big deal, why do you mind?”

“If you think you can do better than me, physically, I think you should,” said Envy. Of course it was no surprise to her. She was distinctly un-beautiful: her eyes and nose and mouth were placed as if God had randomly thrown these features from a distance onto her face. She tended to have very sensitive skin, so it was rarely smooth and without blemish. She would never be taller, and, she suspected, would never be thinner.

When he’d picked her up at her new condo that evening, she was ready, coat in hand. She took the bottle of rosé and set in on top of a large cardboard carton. The hallway and living room were still stacked with boxes waiting to be unpacked. Bob peered in. “Bit of a hoarder, are we?” he said. She took that remark, and so many others, as if it was a joke. But no, it was not a random joke, it was just Bob’s brain spewing out unfiltered comments like a leaky faucet.

Well, this time it hurt.

“That was a hurtful remark,” Envy said. Bob started to order her another gin and tonic but she put her hand over his and shook her head. “I’d like to go home.”

“You could tell me I have a big nose, I wouldn’t be hurt if it was true,” Bob said, and then, as if he realized the weakness of the analogy, he made the mistake of expanding. “I just believe in honesty. I don’t lie, Envy. It’s not my style. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I wouldn’t be hurt if you said something I thought was negative, because if I am honest I have to expect honesty in return.”

“I am telling you something negative. You say hurtful things and don’t care. You don’t have to share your every passing thought, especially when it is hurtful. Of course I know I’m not beautiful. We ugly ones are the smart ones, remember? Sometimes, crazy as it sounds, I don’t need to be reminded about the fact that I’m not pretty, like when I’m out on a date.”

Bob had the grace to look surprised. “But you are pretty.”

“But you could do so much better.” Envy stood up and put her coat on. Instinctively, Bob helped guide her arms into the sleeves.

“Not so much better,” said Bob, unadvisedly. “I mean—“

“Just take me home, Bob,” Envy said, sighing.

They walked the rest of the way to the car without speaking. This seemed to be the pattern for all her attempts at relationships, since Marcus. A conflict, then silence, then the last chapter finished and the book closed. And burned.

But as Bob started the car, he turned to her and said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you and touch you since I first laid eyes on you. I said the wrong thing. Here’s the right thing: you are not a model, but are the sexiest woman I have ever met. Will you come back to my house and allow me to make love to you?”

Envy stared back at him. She couldn’t help but wonder: Did he finally understand that the truth is not always expedient?

Was he telling the truth now?


  • Original Prompt: Lukewarm, February 12, 2017.

Bob’s Brain

Prompt: Lukewarm

burning_book-t2

“I know I could probably do better than you, physically speaking,” Bob said. “We all have  our levels of attractiveness, and it’s funny that we rarely stray, either up or down, from those levels.”

So, Envy thought, could this be why such a presentable, almost handsome young man was never in a lasting relationship? He was a tall man, strong, broad in the shoulders and wide in stance, like a football player, with a fair complexion and neatly trimmed chocolate brown hair. His manner was open and friendly— always smiling, as he was now, with wonderful, traditional manners. He liked to open doors, take the curb side when walking, pay the tabs, bring a rose or a bottle of rosé when he picked up a lady for a date.

But he seemed to have no filter. Was that a result of indulgent parenting? Cluelessness? A disinclination towards self-examination? Maybe no one had ever called him on his proclivity for unnecessary truth-telling.

“Excuse me?” said Envy. They had stopped at a neighbourhood pub, halfway between the stadium and the car, on their way home. It was extremely dark, not as crowded as it should be, and the bartender seemed to be hoarding ice. Envy’s gin and tonic was flat and warm.

“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” said Bob.

“How should I take it?”

Bob leaned over and kissed Envy on the cheek. She pulled away. He said, “It can’t be a huge surprise to you, Envy. I met your sister-in-law. She is a model. You are not a model. It’s not a big deal, why do you mind?”

“If you think you can do better than me, physically, I think you should,” said Envy. Of course it was no surprise to her. She was distinctly un-beautiful: her eyes and nose and mouth were placed as if God had randomly thrown these features from a distance onto her face. She tended to have very sensitive skin, so it was rarely smooth and without blemish. She would never be taller, and, she suspected, would never be thinner.

When he’d picked her up at her new condo that evening, she was ready, coat in hand. She took the bottle of rosé and set in on top of a large cardboard carton. The hallway and living room were still stacked with boxes waiting to be unpacked. Bob peered in. “Bit of a hoarder, are we?” he said. She took that remark, and so many others, as if it was a joke. But no, it was not a random joke, it was just Bob’s brain spewing out unfiltered comments like a leaky faucet.

Well, this time it hurt.

“That was a hurtful remark,” Envy said. Bob started to order her another gin and tonic but she put her hand over his and shook her head. “I’d like to go home.”

“You could tell me I have a big nose, I wouldn’t be hurt if it was true,” Bob said, and then, as if he realized the weakness of the analogy, her made the mistake of expanding. “I just believe in honesty. I don’t lie, Envy. It’s not my style. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I wouldn’t be hurt if you said something I thought was negative, because if I am honest I have to expect honesty in return.”

“I am telling you something negative. You say hurtful things and don’t care. You don’t have to share your every passing thought, especially when it is hurtful. Of course I know I’m not beautiful. We ugly ones are the smart ones, remember? Sometimes, crazy as it sounds, I don’t need to be reminded about the fact that I’m not pretty, like when I’m out on a date.”

Bob had the grace to look surprised. “But you are pretty.”

“But you could do so much better.” Envy stood up and put her coat on. Instinctively, Bob helped guide her arms into the sleeves.

“Not so much better,” said Bob, unadvisedly. “I mean—“

“Just take me home, Bob,” Envy said, sighing.

They walked the rest of the way to the car without speaking. This seemed to be the pattern for all her attempts at relationships, since Marcus. A conflict, then silence, then the last chapter finished and the book closed. And burned.

But as Bob started the car, he turned to her and said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you and touch you since I first laid eyes on you. I said the wrong thing. Here’s the right thing: you are not a model, but are the sexiest woman I have ever met. Will you come back to my house and allow me to make love to you?”

Envy stared back at him. She couldn’t help but wonder: Did he finally understand that the truth is not always expedient?

Was he telling the truth now?

Crazy Dark Place

Prompt: Jump

plain-blonde-doll

Charlotte arrived home just after four am, and Jamie was asleep. The house still stank of beer, so he’d had friends over. The furnace had clicked over into overnight temperatures, so the house was cold– that especially bitter, early morning cold.

She went into the kitchen and washed her hands at the sink. She used Palmolive dish detergent as soap, and scrubbed up as thoroughly as the surgeons she occasionally worked with. Her hands, she noticed were looking pink and raw but she was too tired for a shower, and needed to wash away the death and decay.

Jamie had cocooned himself in the sheets and blankets at one side of the bed. She had to wake him, or sleep in the cold.

When she awoke the next day, she had a meal that was neither breakfast nor lunch, an egg sandwich and a glass of cranberry juice, followed by a can of beer. Jamie had gone off to work, and she was due at the hospital in less than an hour.

She combed her hair, thinking it was too long. Who was she kidding? Her hair was pale blonde and thick and there was no grey showing, but she was no longer the bright young beauty that had attracted Jamie and so many others. She rubbed baby lotion on her arms and chest. She put concealer under her eyes. She thought of Cassie, who was the wife of one of Jamie’s friends. Charlotte would agree to the Super Bowl party Jamie kept talking about, so Cassie could visit too and they could chat and Charlotte would inevitably laugh, because Cassie always put things into perspective. Cassie seemed to enjoy making Charlotte laugh. The world was a crazy dark place, that was Cassie’s philosophy. Might as well face it and deal with the paralysis of life with energy and a sharp tongue.

Charlotte understood that. She felt paralyzed but lacked the energy or power to feel that she was more alive than the patients she treated, and not one of the walking dead. She wanted handsome Jamie back. She wanted the feel of a hero’s arms about her, warm and soothing. She wanted a flat stomach and trim waist, and clothes that fit. She wanted to be admired and yes, even pampered. Instead she was surrounded daily by the dying, and had to fight off thoughts that the happiness of those she served might be better fulfilled by a deep, permanent, peaceful sleep.

Jamie had a gig that evening, and Charlotte would miss it. While she she nursed a vague nostalgia for the once inseparable performer and muse, she didn’t mind, and neither did Jamie. He was hardly the rock star she had worshipped as a girl. He was a DJ in a small town now. He didn’t write songs anymore, or sing them. She was no longer his inspiration. He played whatever music his clients wanted, even country and western. Being the wife of an indifferent DJ was not the same as being the wife of a rock star. To be honest, he was never a rock star either. Just a singer in a band that was no more.

He would be home from work by six, while Charlotte was at the hospital, then out again by seven, so she made him an egg sandwich too, wrapped it in cellophane and put it in the refrigerator. It was not a hot meal, but then Jamie was less of a cook than she was. It would have to do.

She had one more can of beer, and put another one in her bag.

She passed the hall mirror on her way out the door and looked into her own eyes. So, how she felt was obvious. They were as flat and matte as a painted doll’s eyes.

Cassie. She would wait to see Cassie before she made any decisions. Cassie could make her laugh. When she truly laughed, her eyes twinkled and shone. Many people had told her that, once.

My Name is Envy

Prompt: Envy

Picasso red chair

My mother named me Envy. I think she meant well, believing my great beauty, intelligence, status, and heritage would compel others to envy me.

Except that as I grew my face became what might be called asymmetrical, which, if you look into it, is not pleasing to the human eye. As for intelligence, I foolishly married a narcissist, who also tried to burn our house down for insurance– with me in it. Status and heritage? It turned out the family’s place in society was built on a foundation of greed, lies, manipulations, and betrayal.

The funny thing is, there was a girl who did envy me.

She was beautiful, truly beautiful. Imagine a flawless beauty, right now, in your head. That’s what Virginia Summersmith looked like. It was impossible for her to appear anything less than breathtaking–no, not first thing in the morning, or after changing the oil in the car, or after digging a grave in hard-packed soil, Virginia Summersmith would always look fresh and angelic.

This led her to be lonely approximately half the time, since she was so terribly intimidating to men and women alike. Some actively resented her beauty, as if it was a malignancy that she nurtured. The other half of the time she was pursued aggressively by the fearless yet unworthy, the trophy hunters, or those whose beauty really was malignant.

She envied the passion of my relationship with Marcus. It was emotional, exhausting, painful, and utterly dysfunctional, but to Virginia it was honest and true, if “flawed”.

She had a soft spot for “flawed”, it seemed, because she also adored my family. I found them to be annoying, selfish, amoral louts, but she found them charmingly roguish.

She married my brother Cash, even though he had none, having lost it all at a casino on First Nations land in Calgary, Alberta.

Such is life.