Tag Archives: marriage

Living in Sin

 

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Living in Sin

Marriage is “legal tender,” a permit to fuse—
a government license for a couple to amuse.
Some cohabit without it, in a sort of ruse
which causes all the neighbors to gossip and accuse.
If they were more nondescript, perhaps they could just use
masks or garments to disguise, to obscure and confuse
their detractors, but alas, there’s no means they can use.
At six foot six, identities aren’t possible to lose.

I think my cousin’s sons might be taller than six foot six, actually. Next to my sister Patti, they seem to tower. Their photos are used for illustration purposes only.  Neither to my knowledge has committed any action to make the neighbors gossip.

The words of the day are tender, neighbor, nondescript and fuse.
And the links, in case you want to play along, are below:

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/rdp-81-tender/

https://fivedotoh.com/2018/08/20/fowc-with-fandango-neighbor/

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/nondescript/

https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/fuse

Happy Ending

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Happy Ending

He was a follower, a grunt
who married a lass dominant.
She led, he followed in their dance.
He wore an apron, she the pants.
It was a perfect unity
if folks had only let them be;
but, alas, the other blokes
had to make the usual jokes.

They called him pussy-whipped and meek—
berated him as timid, weak—
and so, simply to please his mates,
to end their jeering cruel debates,
he went against his true love’s wishes
and refused to do the dishes.

The facts, there’s no need to imbue.
Both words and dinner plates, they flew.
He could not match her swift invective
of ways in which he was defective,
and so he simply stood and waited
until her fury was abated,
then asked this cyclone he had wed
if she would like to go to bed.

Their skirmish ended in romance.

He shed his apron, she her pants.
A worn-out lover well-behooves
a meeker husband in his moves,
and nothing like a little tiff
to make a timid fellow stiff.
Now that her angst had flared and passed,
he got to be on top, at last.

The prompt today is dominant.

Solo Act

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Solo Act 

 A lady from Schenectady,
wishing for autonomy,
said she’d choose lobotomy
before she’d choose monogamy.
Some girls just need to be free
to be whatever they can be.
Not for them the lover’s knee,
or every morning pleasantry
called for when “I” becomes a “we.”
And so they state it blatantly.
They’ll have no other he or she.
They are content to just be “me.”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/autonomy/

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Druthers

What child does not plot and yearn to turn into a teen?
What teen does not look forward to leaving that age between?

Adults can drive and travel and stay up rather late.
They never have to introduce their parents to their date.

Adults do as they wish. They live at their own bidding–
at least until they marry and start in their own kidding.

Then once again they hustle to their family’s beck and call,
so it would seem that no one has a favorite phase at all.

For family life may leave us feeling exhausted and harried.
I guess the ideal phase, then, is perpetually unmarried!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Golden Age.” If you had to live forever as either a child, an adolescent, or an adult, which would you choose — and why?

Most of the Time: A Serial Tale, Chapter 3

The prompt I have been doing for the past three days involves taking the first and last line of a favorite book and using the last line as the first line of my writing and using the first line of the book as the last line in my piece.  Links to the results of the first two chapters, if you haven’t read them, you can find below.   I’m going to continue so long as people keep providing me the first and last lines.  More info about that is at the end of my Chapter 2.  So, here goes Chapter 3:

Most of the Time

                                                                            Chapter 3

Nothing that is not there and nothing that is.  That is what most people think about.  There were a few of such thinkers scattered atop the stools along the long bar that ran front to back on the left side of the room.  The right side was taken up by three pool tables and a series of plastic beer signs where water bubbled up from deep springs and pristine rivers and, supposedly, directly into amber bottles with labels such as Pabst and Old Milwaukee.

This was the sum total of nature that Ninny had thought to infuse within her establishment.  No fern bar this.  A bit of black mold, perhaps.  And as noted before, the place seemed equally devoid of human nature–the drinkers here like robots with glazed eyes seemingly staring at the mirror behind the bar or the bottles in front of the mirror, or perhaps their own reflections reflected behind the bottles.  Little conversation seemed to be going on.  There was no music.  Even the bartender, an ancient man with unintentional chin whiskers and a small protuberant belly over a tight-cinched bolo belt and baggy Levis, seemed to be muffled–negotiating the world behind the bar without clinks of glasses, or pops of bottle corks or whooshes of the draft beer dispenser.  It was as though I’d entered a “Quiet” zone.

Ninny being gender non-specific, now that I thought of it, I wondered if this quiet gentleman was, in fact, Ninny.  I established myself on a bar stool, ordered a dirty Martini, then took myself and my over-sized bag off to the ladies room where I struggled out of my shooting range jeans and into the diaphanous swirly skirt of the day.  Under my T-shirt was a spaghetti-strap little top that color-coordinated with the skirt.  Let the games begin.

Unsurprisingly, no one seemed to notice my transformation as I sashayed back into the room I had purposefully and sedately left only moments before, but as though I had caused the change in the room, the jukebox immediately sprang to life, causing the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign to blink off and on, seemingly in cadence with the song.  It was familiar, but I’ve never been good at remembering the names of other people’s songs…nor my own, as a matter of fact.  It was something about somebody’s baby being somebody else’s baby now, but that doesn’t narrow down the field much.

I parked my recently-freed shanks on the bar stool, allowing my skirt to hike up as it was wont to do.  The controlling part of my life was over for a few hours.  I looked around the room, seeing what new adventure was about to present itself, and my eyes fell immediately on a wizened little woman sitting at the end of the bar.  She was not, understand, old.  Simply wizened, with sharp little features:  nose, chin, cheekbones.  Even her eyes made sharp little glances around the room, as though she was taking everything in. Me, too, although I could never catch her eyes on me.

After every sip of what looked like a Rum and Coke, her sharp little tongue darted out of her mouth to extract every drop from her lips, as though she was unable to control this “Yum yum” action–every sip duly acknowledged and appreciated.  She had the fiery intelligent demeanor of a weasel or a mink.  Darting, secretive and swift.  I observed this all with my own sneaky eyes as they executed furtive reconnaissance missions in her direction while seeming to be merely surveying the room.  In fact, I couldn’t have told you a thing about any of its other inhabitants.  My long glances in various directions were merely subterfuge.  It was little weasel lady that was drawing my full attention.

She was tidy and trim, in a polyester sea foam green pant suit with a flowered polyester blouse–the collar turned neatly over the collar of the jacket.  On her wrist was a dainty bracelet of fake pearls and tiny rhinestones.  Her shoes were thick-heeled and square-toed-like shoes a schoolteacher might wear.  Her hair, in tight little ringlets, looked as though she’d just ducked out of the beauty parlor for a quick drink before her comb-out.  She could have looked severe, given her sharp features and tailored clothing, but she was saved by a sweet rosebud mouth, the corners of which curled up as she drew her lips into a tight little compressed grin.

There was a plate of peanuts on the bar beside her, and I picked up my drink and moved over to the bar stool next to her, as though in pursuit of them.

“Hungry,” I half-chortled as I took a handful and stuffed most of them into my mouth.  I half-expected her not to answer, but saw her raise a finger at the barman and say in a sweet little-girl voice moderated by a smoker’s huskiness : “Nestor, give this lady some fresh peanuts, please.”  Then she looked at me quizzically, causing two little furrows to pop up over her tiny straight ski-slope nose.  “You want something else to eat?  We have frozen pizzas that are pretty good.  Or sub sandwiches we can also heat up for you.  Chips. Beef jerky.”

“Pizza sounds good.  Are you Ninny Ricketts?”

She was.  We polished off one little pizza and then another.  I switched to Rum and Cokes, which went much better with pepperoni and tomato sauce and cheese than gin did.  We talked for three hours, and by the end of that conversation, I almost understood the quote hanging on the wall behind the bar between the bottom shelf of liquor bottles and the top of the draft beer dispenser.

“If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world. ”

“What does that mean, Ninny? ” I’d asked her when I first noticed it.  We were only fifteen minutes into our initial conversation at that time.

“If yer just lookin’ at it, you’ll never know,” she shot back at me with those furrows over her nose again.  But then she smiled. “I reckon soon enough you’ll be seein’ through it like everbuddy else at the bar.”  Then she chuckled, and for the next three hours we talked about football (her interest, not mine), politics, recipes for shortbread, the freeing qualities of polyester, the clitoral orgasm, Parcheesi, the Nebraska watershed, stepmothers, the immorality of Christian missionaries in Africa, lawn fertilizer, Walt Whitman, Edith Sitwell, Bob Dylan, Patty Duke, Cheetos, Philodendrons and Richard Nixon’s incredible gall.

I’d left my house at 11 a.m. for my supposed trip to the firing range. By the time I thought to look at my watch again, it was nearly four.  If I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and made a few quick and non-selective runs down a few aisles, I might be able to fill up enough bags to convince Peter I’d had a long leisurely shopping session after my shoot.  I paid my bill, told Ninny I’d be back soon because I’d enjoyed talking to her, and walked calmly for door, breaking into a sprint only after I reached the parking lot.

In the car, I wriggled into my Levis, extracted myself from the skirt by pulling it over my head, pulled my T-shirt from my purse and pushed one arm through the armhole as I turned on the key, the other as I let up the hand brake.  As I drove, I tried to will myself to slip back into home mode.  But as my body got closer to home, my mind seemed to slip further away from it.  And although I was no closer to solving its puzzle than I’d been four hours ago, my final thought as I drove into my driveway was one I’d be puzzling over for a good many months to come, “If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world. ”

The Prompt: The book suggested to furnish the beginning and ending lines of this chapter is “The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero” by Robert Kaplan. First line: If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world. Last line (which quotes Wallace Stevens): Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.  My thanks to Robert Okaji for furnishing a beginning and end for me to fill in today.  Please keep those prompts coming in.  Without them, this story will abruptly end.   Judy

See the first chapter of this piece HERE.
See the second chapter HERE.
See Robert Okaji’s blog HERE.

Most of the Time: A Serial Tale, Chapter 2

Well, again, today’s prompt is one I’ve already done, but the prompt I did yesterday involves taking the first and last line of a favorite book and using the last line as the first line of my writing and using the first line of the book as the last line in my piece.  I did so and the results, if you haven’t read them, you can find HERE.  I then asked readers to provide the name of another book and its first and last lines so I can continue the story.  I’m going to continue so long as people keep providing me the first and last lines.  More info about that is at the end of my Chapter 2.  So, here goes Chapter Two:

Most of the Time

Chapter 2

Nothing is an unmixed blessing. The fact that my frequent trips to the firing range furnished me with an easy out any time I wished to leave the house carried certain penalties. For one, I had no permit to carry a concealed weapon, so if I was planning on really going elsewhere, I had to figure out where in the house to stash my guns so Peter would not find them and start wondering why I would be going to a firing range with no guns. It was not an option to leave them in the car. I may be irresponsible in some regards, but gun safety is not one of them. I will not carry concealed weapons. Nor will I take the risk of anyone breaking into my car to steal them.

As careful as I am, I’ve been known to forget to lock the car. What if a child were to enter and find one of the guns and, thinking it was a toy, discharge it? So it was that I purchased the lock box that I kept in a special compartment, also locked, under the gardening box behind the lawnmower shed. I had it made specially, and it was so cleverly contrived that it was impossible to see that there was a secret slide-out compartment under the large chest that held clippers, shears, weed whacker, gloves, various lawn fertilizers, garden pest sprays and powders and about a thousand Daddy Long Legs that had decided this year to use it as their main clustering spot. A padlock secured it against any child getting into the poisons or any prowler making off with our tools, but there was a crack big enough to permit access by spiders, tiny frogs, and this year’s infestation of Daddy Long Legs.

I slid my fingers into the crack on the side of the secret compartment that allowed the lock to pop out, unlocked it and slid my Ruger Mark 4 into the small tray that ran along the left side of the compartment. There was plenty of room for several rifles or shotguns in addition to six or more pistols or revolvers, but it would have been overkill to pretend to take more than one firearm on a day when I had no intention of going to the range. It would be easy for me to sneak a small pistol into the house. Not so easy to deal with smuggling an item as large as a rifle if Peter happened to get home before I did.

I clicked the tray shut, heard the automatic lock snap in place, then turned the key to position the deadlock. Free at last! I sprinted to the car and spun out in my excitement to be off on another adventure. “She cleans closets by night, comes out of the closet by day” ran through my mind, picking up a melody as it repeated itself. No song had written itself in my mind for a very long time, and even this silly line began to acquire a validity that I might have disregarded if I hadn’t felt so elated to once again have the company of my muse. Even so, I had to admit the line didn’t have much of a chance as anything outside of a C&W refrain, but I’m no snob about music. I’m open to pretty much any kind of music that comes to me.

Peter hates it when I hum. He gets this irritated look, first, and if I continue in spite of it, his usual line is, “You’re humming again!” After twenty years of being cutting short by this line, I still feel put down every time he says it. “I am not farting!” I used to say, “—or snorting or coughing without covering my mouth. I am simply revealing my happy mood, not to mention my creativity. It’s an original song I’m humming, Peter. It’s part of my expression of my art.”

Those sorts of arguments didn’t make it much past our first year of marriage. It took me less time than that to learn that such unburdenings of my soul had absolutely no effect on Peter. The next time I hummed, the look he shot me was no less lethal. “Old women hum tunelessly under their breaths,” he once said during yet another putdown. “Can’t you save your humming for private moments?”

I rolled down the window and bellered. Top of my lungs. Top of the morning. I’d reached open country and there was no one to hear me with the exception of the crows and passing motorists, none of whom even turned their heads to check me out. I was noisily invisible. That was comforting, actually. I really enjoyed being the thing overlooked in places where I knew I didn’t belong. I would soon be that person again in whatever place I chose to enter next. I headed out for the industrial part of a very large town merely twenty miles away from the house I called home. That was far enough in this hugest of towns. I had never once run across anyone I knew on one of my little sorties. These little adventures were the dessert that kept me true to the restricted diet I was on in the other ninety-some percent of my life. I was going to have fun. Even if it killed me, I was going to have fun while I still remembered what fun was.

As I pulled off the four lane onto a long straight gray street, I could hear the buzz of the telephone lines, the maddening drone of a weed whacker, the electrical current pushing the street lights off and on, the rhythmic turning of cars whizzing by, the mashed together sound of people talking, TV’s and radios blaring, When I rolled up my window, all of the noises went away; but as I pulled to a stop in front of a little lowlife dive and opened the door, I could hear its neon sign doing its own cyclical hum to join with all the other sounds. “Ninny Ricketts Place” the sign announced without the benefit of apostrophe, and it joined in the humming mesmerizing chorus of that whole grim landscape until the buzz in the street was like the humming of flies caught between glass and the window screen, with no place else to go but here and no way to get there even should they determine to go.

To See Chapter 3, go Here.

Yesterday’s 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.)

Today’s Prompt from Patti Arnieri: My suggestion is from “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (otherwise known as J.K. Rowling). First line: “The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies.” Last line: “Nothing is an unmixed blessing.”

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?

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.)