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.)
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