Too Many Stops

Prompt: Fluff

garden Jenny Beck

Virginia couldn’t deny Cash access to his daughter, no matter what he’d been up to. She was still furious, yes, and couldn’t bear to face him and listen to his apologies and supplications, which would be sincere and heart-felt. And completely irrelevant.

Cash tended to focus on the latest of his transgressions, ignoring the string of mistakes and fuck-ups, some merely annoying, some damaging and humiliating, that led to this place of remorse and repentance. He was late picking up the babysitter— was that a sin worthy of packing up and leaving, taking his beloved daughter away too?

He would promise to be prompt, when that wasn’t the issue at all. And Virginia would have to explain, yet again, that it wasn’t one action it was many— the train they were riding on made too many stops, and so they would never, ever reach their destination.

Meanwhile, Virginia hated listening to herself rattle off the times he’d been late, had behaved like a besotted teenager with other women, forgotten planned events, disregarded legitimate concerns about their home and finances, refused to liaise with his parents and instead allowed them to intrude and interfere. It wasn’t like her to nag and complain; he was turning her into a shrew, and she didn’t like it. She was tired of it. She was tired of him.

So she had the child-minder, Devon, take Virginia’s car and deliver Echo with all her paraphernalia to Cash at the house, and arranged for Devon to pick her up again at the agreed time, six o’clock in the evening.

“There’s no one here,” Devon said.

Virginia held the phone close to her ear. “Say again?”

“There’s no one home, it’s twenty after six, no one’s around,” Devon said. Her voice sounded subdued and calm— if someone was to panic, it wouldn’t be her.

When Cash’s cellphone clicked into the answering service, Virginia called his parents, and when there was no reply, she called the police, who reluctantly told her there was nothing they could do at the moment— they were married, shared a house, he was the father, wasn’t he?

Devon drove Virginia’s BMW X3 the half-mile to Cash’s parents’ house— it was a beautiful, sprawling, white gabled home with an expanse of perfectly manicured lawn in the front, surrounded by azalea and rhododendrons which had been photographed one spring and published in a national home and garden magazine. Devon hadn’t seen the house before. It reminded her of the one she and her old friends had squatted in back in the 90’s.

She walked around most of the perimeter of the house, by the pool, the tennis courts, past the pond and the strange topiary (which Cash had told her gave him nightmares as a child), and what looked like stables, though there were no animals. Twilight was settling upon the estate, and lights, triggered electronically, started turning on automatically inside the house and around the grounds, bathing everything in a golden glow.

If Cash hadn’t brought his baby Echo to his parents, where had he taken her?

Something caught Devon’s eye… something bright and incongruous, a small, fluorescent orange object near the poolhouse. She approached and picked up a plump, fuzzy orange rabbit toy, as soft as the real thing, from the tile.

The door was ajar, and, bunny in hand, Devon pushed it open, and saw Echo’s care bag and toy bag dumped by the entrance to the showers. There was a kind of lounge further in, with a blue sofa, a small fridge, and a flat screen TV. The room was unlit— only the light from the string of bulbs surrounding the pool outside illuminated the room.

Cash was sprawled on the sofa, on his back, with Echo on top of him, her face nestled into his neck, both of them deep in sleep. Cash had his mouth open. A small trickle of vomit dried on Echo’s cheek.

His phone was on a table, vibrating. That would be Virginia.

Devon picked it up.


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Sweet Mother of God

Prompt: Penchant


Wednesday! How you doing?

I’m busy at the moment, with buying a new car (to take the place of my 17-year old current vehicle) and my two brothers arriving for a visit tomorrow.

I have a penchant for welcoming guests, despite my bitching, and over the next few days I suspect I will be doing a lot of cooking and making excuses to drive my brand new shiny car.

Apropos of nothing, please allow me to present a few of my favourite cartoons:

cartoon seat belt


cartoon red riding hood racism


cartoon I'm Dave


Vroom vroom.

~~FP

Good Enough

Prompt: Hidden

chex mix 1

“An engagement ring is hidden somewhere in the apartment,” said Bob. “See if you can find it before everyone arrives.”

Envy put her purse on the counter. “What?” she said.

Bob was hanging their jackets in the closet near the front door. He turned and smiled at her. “Surprised?”

“We never talked about this, not even remotely,” said Envy.

“No, and it’s time we did. Don’t you want to marry me?”

“I never thought about it for a moment,” said Envy.

“So now you are thinking about it.”

“You can do better, you said so on our first date.”

Bob joined her at the black granite topped kitchen island. “I did say that. It was awhile ago and I’m sorry I upset you, I already apologized.”

“But you don’t deny it!”

“You are unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I love you. Please marry me and be my wife.”

At least he’d learned, since they started dating, to not always offer his Radical Honesty unsolicited. That was something, surely. He was, except for his inflexible, uncomfortable bluntness, an impressive package. Handsome, fit, smart, well-read, funny, strange— Envy liked interesting people. But how did this happen?

“What makes you think I want to marry you?” she asked.

“We have fun, the sex is unique, you’ve indicated you care deeply and I’ve just told you how I feel,” said Bob. “You like marriage. You love loving and being loved.” He got two bowls from a cupboard, and bags of chips and nuts from the kitchen pantry. “I think I have some smoked salmon, somewhere…”

“My ex—“

“–lied and cheated and tried to kill you, blah blah, I know,” said Bob.

“Blah blah?”

“You had good times, sometimes.”

Envy considered getting her coat and simply leaving, never mind the impromptu after-dinner party she and Bob had initiated. She watched him overfill the snack bowls. Chex Mix littered the counter and spilled onto the floor.

“Envy, you don’t think you are pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to be happy and loved. I think you are.”

She had always, always harboured a suspicion that Bob didn’t really, all the time, tell the honest truth, that he was sometimes the opportunist, that he was not averse to a sweet lie that might forward his agenda, though his agenda was never revealed. She felt her distrust wash over over her in a wave.

“Pumpernickel or melba toast to go with the salmon?” Bob asked.

“My parents don’t like you,” said Envy.

“I’m not all that thrilled with them.”

Envy was shaken; she went to the fridge and pulled out the ubiquitous chilled white wine; then to the cupboard above the dishwasher where he kept his stemmed glasses. In one of the glasses, something caught the light.

“I knew it wouldn’t take you long to find it,” said Bob.

It was a wide band of gold with three inlaid rubies.

“I’m against diamond mining,” he said.

“I know,” said Envy. It slipped comfortably onto her ring finger. “If someone else had found it, would you have been engaged to them?”

“I guess so,” said Bob. “Unless it was that lame-brained brother of yours.”

The phone buzzed, and Bob picked up and listened. “Speak of the devil,” he said to Envy as he pressed the button under the receiver. “They’re here, and so are Stuart and Greg.”

“I don’t know if you truly love me,” said Envy.

“Forget about me,” said Bob. “How do you feel?”

Envy rinsed the glass that held the ring, then filled it with wine. She ate a salted Cheerio and took a long sip. Someone pounded on the apartment door; Cash, probably. He really could be lame-brained sometimes. Bob ignored the noise and waited.

“I don’t know,” said Envy. “But I’m keeping the ring.”

Bob laughed, and opened the door.

What You Now Deserve

Prompt: Grain

beach shack trans

 

You will not change my mind, the letter started. Of course we vowed to share unselfishly (also to cherish one another, and a lot of other bullshit) but my darling, you are the one who broke those vows, not I.

I would never go back on my word, no matter what the temptation, what the motivation, what neglect or imaginary hurts I suffered, because I am a man of my word. Do you sincerely feel you were perfect? Because aside from the infidelity, you must remember your moodiness, your lack of unqualified support, your short temper, and your narcissism. Don’t pretend you didn’t know how much you let me down when you went out with your “friends”, when I needed you. Yes, I admit to needing a full-time partner, someone who also needs me. You chose your “friends” over me, time and time again.

And such “friends”: Obsessively creative to the point of boorishness; drug addicts, some of them; trying constantly to catch me out and prove they were smarter than me and everyone else outside the tiny, exclusive circle; pretentious, egotistical know-it-alls.

But you refused to listen to me. You, my partner in life, blatantly disqualified my opinions as unworthy, willfully dismissed my advice, and yet– and yet! –expected me to cater to your whims and hear every detail of your chaotic inner life. Not to say it was boring… but, my dear, it was. So if my eyes wandered, or I was forgetful about the minutia of your daily life, it was because of you– I am not your programmed servant.

Yet how often I felt it. You, returning from your workday, expecting a complicated meal and a sympathetic ear– as if my own work meant nothing! You, deciding when we were to have children, ignoring all previous discussions and refusing to even discuss alternatives when the test came back positive. It was if your every breath was devoted to making me feel small and insignificant.

I showed my love in all ways. Wanting you– and being rebuffed. Holding you– and feeling you go rigid with disgust. Gifts– that you put aside. Compliments in public– that you sneered at later.

I am not a mind reader. Your communication skills were lacking where I was concerned. While I tried, you made no effort to anticipate my wants and needs. So self-absorbed that you could not see the writing on the wall.

And now, you want the house. For you and Jack. So Jack doesn’t have to change schools and leave friends, or some such. It is not a disaster or even hardship to change schools, my dear; I did it many times as a child and it did nothing but make me stronger.

You are so proud of your income– go find a mansion worthy of your exalted position in life. Send our son to a fine, expensive school, out of the way, so you and your paramour don’t have to use our house, our bedroom, to perform your perversions.

I am as entitled to the house as you are. I am a recognized, contributing member of this community, every bit as much as you. Don’t use Jack as a pawn in this game. You won’t win it.

You were caught out in your infidelity, and now you must suffer the consequences. If your attorneys threaten or intimidate me in any way, I will double down. You know me. I don’t back away from a challenge. I am not a vindictive man, but a fair one. 

You will have to settle for the beach house, which is most inconvenient, I realize, since it is a great distance from your workplace and Jack’s schools, not to mention that it is more like a shack than a house: weeds as tall as a man, crumbling walls, garbage and debris on the so-called beach. Where there were once soft grains of fine sand, there are now sharp rocks and thistles– a fitting metaphor for what you have given up, and what you now deserve.

 


He signed his name in full at the bottom of the letter, as if it was a business correspondence. She placed it on the counter, and took out her cell phone. She punched in a number, and waited for it to be answered.

“Jack sweetie?” she said. “We got the beach house!”