Tag Archives: short stories

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Cass laid the keys down gently on the entryway table so as not to wake up her husband. From where she stood she could see that he was lying on the couch with the baby, their son, ten months old.

“Thank god for him,” She decided against a kiss on his forehead, the baby might stir and she didn’t want to risk waking either of them. On the other end of the couch, Daisy snuggled in deep with the family cat, her four year old daughter’s face looked exactly like the cherubs painted in some European church Cass toured as a college student.

“I’m so tired.” Her plane was delayed, she missed her connecting flight in Chicago, so her ten p.m. arrival evolved into a three a.m. arrival, home at three-forty-five.  And she was due at the office for an early meeting at seven.

Cass slogged her way to their his-and-hers bathroom and showered off airplane and airports and taxi cabs.   “I better not get in bed, I’ll sleep too deeply.” She made her way back to the living room and sat opposite the couch to watch her family sleep, and maybe catch a small nap.

“They’re so peaceful and secure.”  She was grateful to be able to provide for their safety.   Without her income as a sales assistant for a marketing firm, they’d struggle with just her husband’s meager teaching salary.  Especially here in San Francisco.   It meant, though,  that he was more involved with their children than she was because of the demands of her work.  She was surprised to find, one day not long ago, an inkling of resentment towards him for the way things were working out.   “Where the hell did that thought come from?” She checked it right away.  This was her decision as much as his, even when they dated they talked through the details.   His teaching salary wasn’t much, but the benefits made up for it, as did the long vacations, although Blake’s workload was arguably as heavy as hers.  She is the main bread winner instead, and he takes care of ‘home base’.   It seemed so progressive when they talked it over years ago, but living the reality was exacting a cost that Cass didn’t know she would be forced to pay.

She missed Daisy’s first day of pre-school thanks to a client who suddenly was ‘shopping around’ again at other agencies. Cass’ career took a hit when she became unable to fly because of her pregnancy with David:  A client needed assurance somewhere and an agent needed to fly there in person to allay their anxiety.  It was her account, but Phil got all the accolades because he could board an airplane.  She has only been to their son’s newborn checkups; Blake had so far taken him by himself since David was six weeks old. She was missing his infancy. “Shit.”  By comparison, Daisy was a big girl now that David was the baby and Cass found herself wondering what she was up to these days.  Was she still on her ‘I hate applesauce because its not a real apple!” kick?  She had a band-aid on her elbow, Cass noticed.  “I wonder what happened?”

Feeling herself at the beginning of a no-win, could’ve, should’ve guilt trip, she got up from her chair to get a bottle of water. “Breathe.”  The kitchen was a mess, there was a shut off notice for the electric bill on the table, and the dishwasher was full but hadn’t been run. Cass’ anger flared and she sat down to organize the pile of mail that accrued while she’d been gone, this was her chore since Blake took care of the house and kids. “Breathe.” Pre-school tuition was overdue, their student loans were overdue, there were doctor bills from her emergency c-section in arrears.  They let the housekeeper go (she came once a week) and long ago quit eating out.  Cass agreed to keep lunch-buying to a once a week deal, but many days she forgot to pack a lunch and so went without.  She was existing on office coffee and vending machine almonds. “Breathe.” The mail was organized, junk in the trash and a neat stack of bills brought a sense of immediate gratification.   She checked the bank account to see which bills could be paid, which would need to be juggled and fell apart at the low number in their balance. The second daycare expenditure was impacting their budget with disastrous results.  Bills would have to wait till her next check on the fifteenth because, for god’s sake, they had to feed the babies.  So much for a decent credit score. “Breathe.”

Heaviness broke through the exhaustion and weighed Cass’ soul down like an anchor.  She was frozen to the dining chair, she was unable to reign in her quickened breathing and her chest tightened. She curled her knees into it for comfort. “It’s gonna be okay.  It always works out.  It’s just a fucking credit score.  It’s not your identity.  And today is Friday and you have the weekend with your babies.”  It took several minutes and she finally let the first tear slip.  Once done, the dam broke and Cass wracked her body with quiet sobs as the stress from traveling, parenting, partnering, balancing, and working made its way out from deep inside where she kept it buried.

Blake waited until her sobs receded.  He watched from the doorway, having come upon her just as she was breaking down.   He knew she’d want to be left alone, so he stood and let his own tears fall from a well of love and gratefulness.  Once she began to quiet, he approached slowly and stroked her hair from behind and offered tissues from the counter.

“Thank you.”  She let him hold and comfort her, fix her a pot of coffee and caught her up on how the babies were doing. David was beginning to pull himself up to chairs and Daisy can print out her first name. She filled him in on the success of her trip.  After half-an hour, at five-thirty eight, Cass made her way upstairs again to dress for work.  At six o’five she kissed her sleeping children good-bye and grabbed her lunch from her husband. “See you this afternoon.”

She stepped outside to catch the train to work.  “Breathe.”


Keep on Keepin’ On

This was one of my mother’s favorite phrases, she would say it to me at the end of almost every  phone conversation.

The words are never so imperative as they are now.  There are many of us who are still trying to make sense of our new political climate, trying to find where our creativity fits in among the dark cloud hanging over our nation.

As for me, I’ve decided not to write about today.  In my work with economics, I am certain that  at this point we are unable to pull out of the tailspin in which we find ourselves. Instead, my work is written for the future, for tomorrow, for the young men and women who will have to reckon with the consequences of this administration in the next decade.  They will get my energy and time.  They will get my wisdom and compassion.  They are the muse for my writing.

To accomplish that goal, I am currently working on a short story to submit to the Pearl S. Buck writing contest.    I enjoy working on a small project like this, it challenges my editorial eye and allows me to break out of the tediousness of working on a longer manuscript.   Writer’s Digest recently posted some good reasons for short story writing as well.

We are not the same nation we were a few months ago.   Nor will we be when all is said and done by this current president.   But our voices are still important, and will be more so for the generation that follows us.   “Keep on keepin’ on,”  write a story for them, submit it to a contest, get those creative waters flowing,  it is the only thing we can do.  But it is empowering.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 


Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This past week I went back to find a piece I had written as a farce, really.   I didn’t realize it’s been a year since I published it, somehow I was thinking I wrote it during the primaries.    Now that we are living this reality, the writ is even more poignant.

“Choosing a President:  A Thought Experiment”

I honestly don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry over the threat to our democracy.

Maybe, both.

Yours,

Frankie


Risk

“Down upon the canvas, working meal to meal,

Waiting for a chance to pick your orange field…

See the forest there in every seed,

                              Angels in the marble waiting to be freed, just need love. “

                                                                                                                Chris Martin

 

“Was it worth it?”  The hopefulness of a positive answer was apparent in the young girl’s eyes.   It caused the older woman to hesitate for a moment, she wanted to meet that hope with its equal response, but she knew truth was required – indeed expected – so she shifted slightly in her chair and offered an honest, if vague, answer:  “It was in most ways, yes. Pursuing my passion and reaching the goal I set for myself is an accomplishment I own with deep satisfaction. The cost was high, however.”

“But was the cost worth it?  It had to be hard.” The girl pushed, she needed details.  She was willing to take the jump, give up every thing to pursue her passion, but she had to know if the risk was worth the taking.

“Painful.  It was fucking painful.” That was the honest, crass truth of it but to blurt it out would terrify her inquirer and she knew this was a critical moment for the girl.  So the older woman took a minute to deal with emotions that were always just below the surface in order to give a more measured response. Like a nagging knee injury acquired during football days, the pain left its mark on her soul.

Pain from loneliness.  There is no other kind of loneliness, she thought, than having to believe in yourself implicitly and exclusively.   Only you can see the goal; there are no lights to help you find your way.  And you can’t waiver:  people are watching, they’re waiting to say “I knew you’d fail.” Or they’re secretly wanting to see you succeed because they want to take their own risk, they need to know it can be done.

There’s pain from sacrifice.  You can seem like an asshole sometimes for having on the blinders required to realize your goal.   Material wants and personal needs are given up freely, like trinkets, at the beginning of the journey – you know you’ll miss them, you won’t know the permanent effect of their absence until you’re so far down the path the only way out is to finish the course.

There’s pain from terror.   To sacrifice security for the sake of the thing brings upon a person a kind of fear that needs constant minding.  It can drown out the voices of the next story or darken the vision of the next painting.  It can physically paralyze you if you aren’t careful. So you must always be careful.

There’s pain from pretending.   You have to hold your head high and have belief in your goal on days when you forgot why it mattered in the first place. You have to invoke a confidence in your voice, even when terror sits inside your belly; you’ll feel like a fake and a fraud and a poser.  You can’t let them see it.

There’s pain in the discipline.  To shut out the naysayers, ignore your own doubts, and stay focused when you’re bleeding and exhausted requires discipline upon a mind that begs, just once, for a reprieve.  You can never let up and you somehow kill a part of yourself in the process.  It’s fucking painful.

The old woman gave a warm smile towards the young girl, she employed that steel-like discipline to keep her voice even, her tears in check.

“It’s true that the struggle to get here has been more painful than I could’ve have bargained, more difficult than I anticipated.  But I accomplished what I believed that I was born to do and followed my passion.   I won’t deny that the cost was exorbitant, yet I’m certain I would surely take the risk again.”

The young woman weighed the words, ignored the pain she detected in the voice despite the effort to hide it, and made the commitment at that moment to take the risk and pursue her passion. She turned to lighter chit chat, then gradually, quietly left the presence of the old woman with the affirmation she sought.   Once alone, the elder wrapped her arms around herself and allowed familiar, painful, tears to flow.

The tears took only a few moments to cool upon her aged cheeks; the sensation woke her from the dream. She stayed still, keeping her eyes closed in an effort to linger in its affect:  She was so full of life when she was younger!  She acted like a barely domesticated animal whose wild instinct lie just underneath the surface.  Those eyes were so piercing!  They weren’t as bright now, she thought.  The price she paid to meet the cost of pursuing her goals had dulled them slightly but she knew they now also possessed a knowing, quiet aptitude that few acquire.  “Yes,” she admitted as she rose from her nap, “I could never have forgiven my self if I hadn’t taken the risk to follow my passion.  Even if the cost was excruciating.”

Author’s Note:  On rare occasion, the right song comes along at the right moment in life and gets a girl over a challenging bump – uh, ginormous mountain.  I was working with the idea of this piece when I happened upon Coldplay’s ‘Up and Up’ from their latest album.  The words and music cut to the deepest part of this writer and are a soothing salve to the pain of sacrifice.  Go listen to the song kids, and while you do, promise yourself you’ll never back down from pursuing your passion.  Frankie


Onward and Upward

this is what my computer sees every day…..me pondering over the next word or sentence or paragraph….me writing

which i’ve been doing a lot of this past week since i am getting together a pair of articles to send in to the Atlantic magazine (their rules are fairly strict – anything sent to them can’t have been published elsewhere, even on a personal blog…sorry kids, you’ll hafta wait!).

meanwhile, work continues on my book cover (big THANKS to aaron) and once its done i can publish ‘Maslow’s Triangle: Short Tales of a Homeless Chick’…shooting for a mid-may release as an e-book.   it’s an extremely gratifying feeling to be so close to publication.  besides, getting the book off of my ‘to do’ list will allow me to put another one on it…

getting one idea out and working on another reminds me of an interesting observation i made a while back with regards to essays and short stories.   i noticed that if i don’t ‘get them out’, that is if i don’t get them down on paper (er, in word document)  then i suffer from a sort of ‘writer’s constipation.’  in other words, if i don’t sit down and purge my mind of whatever new thought or story comes up then i am ‘stuck’ until i get them out.  it’s as if there is no room for fresh impressions to land in the landscape of my consciousness until i’ve made room by launching my latest endeavors into cyber-space.  as i constantly remind one of my sons “creativity begets creativity.”

on another note, i’ve been receiving the best of comments on my musings in various forms of  ‘you made me think.’ if i live to be a hundred, i don’t know that i’ll tire of hearing that phrase.  when i made the decision to devote my life to writing, THE MAIN GOAL in mind was that i challenge us to think.  to me its not important that readers end up on the same side of whatever issue i present, but that they are compelled to at least consider the issue in the first place.  from my own experiences, the ability to ponder an idea – even if it was an antithesis of what i currently believed – always made me better in the end.  it’s a sort of iron-sharpens-iron effect.  whether or not i came out agreeing with a notion or theory didn’t really matter because in the end my mind was better off just for the mere exercise of challenging it in the first place.  either i was improved by adjusting my thinking because the new idea was logical and sound compared to the old idea i harbored; OR i was improved because i weighed both new and old and found that what i did think was correct after all, and, well, what better reinforcement than to examine your thoughts and have them prove correct.  either way, just THINKING about the issue made me a better person, which is why it’s vitally important to me that whatever i write presents a challenge to us.  we are all better for it.

so thanks to each of you for the time you take to read and think.  onward and upwards for us all.

be well!

frankie