Category Archives: Revenge

Most of the Time: A Serial Tale, Chapter 1

Instead of the WordPress prompts, I chose this one from the Poets & Writers site. The Prompt: Choose a book at random from your bookcase. Use the last sentence in the book as the first sentence of what you write. Then turn to the first sentence of the book and use it for your ending sentence. (I used the ending line of the book I chose as my title, which actually is the first line of a book to my way of thinking. Hereafter, however, I will use whatever prompt I’m given as the first line of the next section of the story.)

Most of the Time

I don’t remember much of my past. It makes it easier to live the present, that’s for sure. Ninny Ricketts, for example, is hidden so far back that I have to go into a dream state to remember her, and when I do, I’m unsure how much of what I remember is real and how much I’ve made up like people do, you know, when they are inventing excuses to tell their parents or, later, for their spouses.

In the past, I’ve gotten away with such lame excuses as that my lipstick was messed up because I ate an ice cream cone on the way home and had been rubbing my mouth with a napkin or that I have always worn a particular sweater backwards. It’s not that my husband hasn’t had his suspicions. He has been known to go out and sniff the backseat of my car like a German Shepherd, searching for drugs—as though he’d recognize the smell of sex after all these years of substituting fly rods for nookie. Still, even though I’m not the particular fish on his hook, he doesn’t want anyone else rifling through his bait box. Go figure.

I’ve become very good at covering up my tracks, or wriggles, or whatever you’d call this fish’s explorations of new waters. It’s become a sort of game. One that I always win. Which, I think, is okay with Peter. What he can’t prove, he doesn’t have to deal with. And Ninny Ricketts is buried so far back, as I said before, that there is not a person we are still in contact with that I’ve ever mentioned her name to. She is a fish once gone bad who has since faded away into nothingness—no longer an idea even fresh in my own remembrance. She is stripped bones on a pile of skeletons baked clean in the light of a day that only shines dimly in my memory.

With all this fish imagery, you would think I was a fisherman, but that is not a fact. It is my husband of 25 years who is the fisherman. I am the hunter in the family. That rack of guns locked up tight in the case in my husband’s man cave? They are mine. Even if he had a key, he would not have one iota of a sense of what to do with a gun—how to open the cylinder to load it or how to take aim. I tried to take him target shooting once, many years ago when love was new and he was doing anything I asked to meet my favor. But he could never see the point of wasting bullets on something you felt neither angst about nor an appetite for. We’d eaten thousands of fish in our years together, but never one thing I’d shot. I had no desire to eat anything I’d killed. My paper targets went into the recycling bin on my way out of the shooting range to go to the grocery store to buy the meat for our evening meal.

Now I retrieved the bag of raw steaks and potatoes and frozen peas from the back seat. A bit of blood had oozed out from the paper wrapping of the steaks and stained the back seat in one spot. I left it for Peter to discover. It would make his day interrogating me, and I could always produce the stained wrapper for proof. Having him obsess on the blood would distract him from other evidence of my real guilt—the new dress hanging in my closet where dresses had been shoved to the far edges long ago. The strapped dancing shoes and electric hair curler. If he had been the sort who looked at everything—the entire picture—he would have caught me years ago; but I was like that huge fish of legend that swam deep waters, emerging in a leap that defied the laws of gravity and mass every half year or so, far out in the lake where a single fisherman would see it and further the yarn of this Loch Ness Monster of fishes that had evaded the hook for scores of years.

I shifted the bag on my hip as I searched for the right key on the huge hank of keys I carried around with me everywhere I went. It made it easier, to hunt for one huge ring of keys other than to remember where individual keys were kept. It also made it harder for Peter to find the key that opens up the file cabinet where I keep my writing—all of my stories, essays, poems and journals.

“You evil, evil, woman,” he would say if he ever found and read them. But I am not an evil woman. I am merely one who has taken the reins of destiny into her own grip. I am in the driver’s seat of the buckboard of my own desires—fighting off love bandits in fern bars and marauding savages in late night diners. I have learned well the art of subterfuge—adopting the camouflage of ladies luncheon garb and pillow talk about charity bazaars and yoga lessons.

In the trunk of my car is a locked suitcase with a selection of sling-backed heels and dresses with swirly skirts to be slipped into before I wriggle out of the pants and jackets of neat pants suits or the simple streamlined skirts I don to exit and enter my house. These swirly skirts are redolent of the odors of barrooms: martini olives and Dos Equis, nicotine and the very faint skunk smell of really good pot. A slightly-opened bag of dark roast coffee obscures the odors sealed up in that case that my husband believes is my snow-emergency kit: gloves, long underwear, hat, muffler, snow boots, energy bars and water.

To be perfectly clear, most of the time I am the everyday housewife that has been my disguise for the 25 years of my marriage. Like an underground love goddess, I emerge on special assignment once or twice a year, feast on my fill of prurient pleasures, and then go underground again.

That is the sort of mission I was on the day I met Ninny Ricketts. I was on my way to the shooting range, wearing my usual Levis and t-shirt and Birkenstocks. Yes. I had strapped on the holster that usually held my favorite pistol on the days that I chose a handgun rather than a rifle or shotgun for my shooting practice. But on that day, there was just one difference. I didn’t wear my gun.

To Be Continued?

The book I chose was Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson. If you would like to suggest a book for me to use the first and last lines of for tomorrow’s writing, please give the title of the book, the author, and the book’s first and last lines in the comments section of this posting. Remember that I’ll use the last line as the first line of tomorrow’s posting and the first line as my last line. Who knows where this tale will wind? If no one gives me tomorrow’s prompting lines, the rest of the story will never be heard, and perhaps that is a good thing. C’est la vie.

P.S. If any of you would like to accept this same challenge, just watch to see what beginning and ending lines I use and use the same ones. If you are a day behind, no problem. It would be interesting to see what varied stories occur given the same beginning and ending lines. Please post a link to your story or poem on the page it corresponds to in my blog—i.e. the one where I make use of the same beginning and ending lines. Will anyone accept my challenge? Sam? Macgyver? Laura? John?

To See Chapter 2, go HERE

The Queen of Iceland

The Queen of Iceland

Pete didn’t even come into the kitchen. He just bounded right down the steps and out the front door like he had mornings for the past month, calling back at the last possible minute, “I’m late. I’ll grab breakfast on the run. See you tonight!”

He was back within minutes, searching along the walk and in the bushes. He came into the house, his alibi some forgotten business papers. So close to the truth. That’s what a good liar learned to do – to stay as close to the truth as possible, merely omitting the details that formed the lie. She heard him run up the stairs, the almost silent opening of the closet doors, the flushing of the toilet as he checked the bathroom.

It was almost fun observing him. He was like a character in a movie who doesn’t know what the audience knows. It lets the onlooker feel wiser than the character on the screen, because the audience gets to figure it out first.

“Find them?” she asked as he entered the kitchen.

“No.”

“Want me to help look?”

He eyed her suspiciously, as though it had just entered his mind that perhaps she had already found what he was looking for.

“Tell me exactly what you’re looking for, and I’ll come help look for it.”

She could see his distorted reflection looking back at her from the chrome-like polish of the stainless steel blender, their eyes meeting as though in a mirror. His eyes revealed confusion, fear, a bit of anger.

What did he see in her eyes? She tried to feign indifference.

He worried the change in his pocket, fisting the coins and then letting them fall. Up and down, up and down, they pulsed like his blood and his indecision as he tried to decide what to do.

“What do the papers look like?” she asked, making off in the direction of the stairs.

It was then that he had decided he must have left the papers at the office and had quickly left for work.

She took the stolen letter out of the blender. She had been right. He had never thought to look there. She saw Pete’s neat handwriting on the sealed envelope she had found in the pocket of the jacket she had taken out of the closet for a quick pressing this morning. Running the iron over the pocket, she had heard a crackle that was the stamped letter addressed to a woman unknown to her. In the upper left hand corner was his name and return address–a PO box unknown to her.

She had had time to do little other than find a fast hiding place for it, because she knew that when he got to the letterbox at the corner and discovered the letter missing that he would be back fast to try to find where he’d dropped it. And she’d been right about it all.

Now that he was gone for the day, she slit open the letter with a skewer and read:

“I feel like one of the ceramic figurines on the shelf in my Grandmother’s house. Chosen so long ago, it is not clear whether I am of value or merely a familiar part of the environment. The insecurity that has kept me from writing sooner is based on that same metaphor: my feeling that the fact that someone once chose me does not mean that I have enough value or taste or appeal to anyone else in the world.”

She stopped reading, then reread the first three lines again and again, as though trying to wring all meaning out of them before plunging again into the letter. Was she referred to in those sentences? Was her life being scrutinized as in a novel? And if so, was she to be villainess or heroine? She probed her own memories for proof supporting one view or the other. Knowing oneself from the inside out, how could anyone ever claim complete innocence? For the world knows us by the decisions we make whereas we know ourselves as all the alternatives seriously considered before making a choice.

“She caters to me like she caters to guests. Polite, fair, maintaining her distance, she is like a really good household staff member.”

She stopped again. Reread the sentences. Reread them. Reread them. Unfair. He was not being fair. He made her sound so cold. If it was she he was describing. She picked up the letter and read on.

”I feel like the exception, the holdout in her life, for everyone else loves her. I, who know her best, am the only one she can’t convince.”

She sat down on the kitchen stool, plopping down hard more by necessity than design. It was the greatest infidelity. He was placing someone else’s mind and affections before hers. Talking about her, like the vilest gossip.

Each sentence farther into the letter, she was being pulled closer to the core of him and seeing herself strained through and stained by his consciousness; and she realized suddenly that it was the greatest self-cruelty that prodded her to read more. And so, although there was a page more of writing, she folded the letter without reading on. She had learned as much of his truth as she ever wanted to know.

She folded the letter into the envelope, then folded the envelope into a tight roll and put it back into the blender. The apple juice sat on the counter where she’d put in readiness for him. Next to it were all of the other unused ingredients for his morning cocktail of blended fruit, juice, cereal and soy milk. Neatly, she sloshed out a cup of juice. She reached for the soy milk next, then the banana, papaya and frozen blueberries. She put on the lid and watched as sweet ingredients mixed with the bitter words to form a purple mass. She lifted the lid and began to add the eight ice cubes, one at a time. When the action grew sluggish, she added more juice and heard the clunk of the eighth and last cube meet the propellers.

She turned off the blender, leaned over to extract a very large plastic glass from under the counter. The mess in the blender filled the glass and another just like it. She took one in each hand as she left the kitchen, climbed the stairs. She walked down the hall. To her right and her left, the hall was lined with the portraits of his ancestors. Beautiful and prosperous, they seemed to form some unattainable goal, like trophies lined up on a shelf. Winners all, they dared her to live up to them.

As she walked between them, she felt as though she were running the gauntlet. Her eyes went from glass top to glass top, watching so as not to spill a drop.

She walked down the hall to their bedroom, sat down on his side of the bed and put one glass on the night table as she bent over to open the wooded door of the night table. Inside was a small freezer full of Healthy Choice frozen nonfat yogurt bars, sugarless popsicles and frozen natural health-food candy bars. She slipped the two glasses into the freezer along one side, then shut the door.

The alarm rang as usual at 6 a.m. the next morning. Jarred from her sleep, she sat stiffly upright, like a mummy rising from the tomb. As she felt her way down the stairs, still half-asleep, he fumbled around in the bathroom. Ten minutes later, she was back with two mugs of coffee. As if rehearsed, he cracked the door to the bathroom and stuck his hand out. She placed the insulated mug onto his palm and the hand withdrew, leaving the door ajar.

“Early meeting again today?” she asked, walking across the room to perch on his side of the bed.

From the bathroom came shaving sounds. “Yeah, all this week.”

She bent down and opened the bedside mini-freezer, withdrawing a tall glass.

“I thought that might be the case, so I made your shake yesterday morning and froze it. If you put it in the microwave for a minute when you get to the office, it will thaw out enough to drink.

“Thanks, Rita. I’ll owe you one—anything you want.”

Her eyes caught on the steam sifting out from the cracked-open bathroom door as she climbed back into bed for an hour’s more sleep. Nestling more snuggly down into the pillow, she answered him in thought only.

Anything, Pete? You should be careful. You know me–I’m fully capable of making you eat your own words.

(Here’s another fictional response to today’s prompt, Fight or Flight.)