Tag Archives: Most of the Time

Most of the Time: A Serial Tale, Chapter 5

Most of the Time

                                                                           Chapter 5

All she can hear are the sighs of cars and the rumble of trains and the sounds of everyone hurrying through the cold.  Peter calls out to her from his study, but she is immersed in her book–hurrying to keep step with Hercule Poirot.  His stumpy little legs move him curiously fast over the buckled pavement of a seedy street and she isn’t sure yet where they are going, but  she hurries after him, as much for a means of escape from Peter as curiosity over where he is going and what he will find once he gets there.  The lives depicted in the book she is reading are a way to avoid her everyday life with Peter as surely as hanging around bars where she would know, if she thought it out, that she will never really meet anyone to replace him with.

This man she chose for her husband calls out again, this time louder.  “Susan!  There’s a gun missing from your case.  Did you forget and leave it in the car?”

Damn.  She had forgotten to take it out of the tool box. Peter is in the doorway now.  No way can she get it out of the garden bin and back into its locked case in his den tonight without him seeing her.  Her mind spins as she tries to come up with a plausible excuse for the missing gun.

“The action jammed at the range today.  Luckily, Randy from the gun shop was there and he said he’d take it in for repairs for me.”

He didn’t answer, but she could hear him shuffling down the hall, rattling papers in front of his nose as he walked, again restored to his potential fortunes. As she returned to her book, she looked down and realized she was wearing her flouncy skirt.  Not appropriate.  Why hadn’t Peter mentioned it?  Her arms were bare, which meant she was in one of her tight spaghetti strap tops.  But actually, she didn’t have to worry on Peter’s account, because she realized now she wasn’t at home.  She was on a dance floor, dancing close with a man who was missing two teeth.  He dipped her, pulling her close against his chest and bending over with her as she bent back.  His breath was not unpleasant and with the exception of the missing front teeth, he was a handsome man.  But although the coloring and features were right and the body mass in all the right places, there was some lack–of intelligence, perhaps–in his face.  Or maybe what was missing was integrity–something that had to be there for her to be attracted to a man.  Peter had had it once.

Susan snapped to attention, aware that she’d nodded off.  She looked for the gap-grin man, confused for a few seconds between dreams and reality.  She missed him, a little, when she became fully awake.  She wondered how she would have gotten out of that last dip.  Would he have pulled her up again?  Surely he’d have to. What kind of dance partner drops his partner after the dip?  She laughed then, aware that she seemed to be caught up in her dreams more than reality.

Her few little adventures.  Where did they get her, really?  She recognized that most of it was revenge against Peter. But of what good was revenge that he did not know about and that did nothing to change her life in any meaningful manner?  She decided then and there that there would be changes. Her next sojourn would not be to any of the dives she had visited in the past.  Nor would she wear her usual tacky disguise.  From now on, at least for awhile, her  rare escapes would be conducted strictly in first class.  She’d go shopping tomorrow.  Drop her emergency clothes from the trunk off at some Goodwill store  and up her ante.

When she again picked up her book, she no longer felt the cold chill of London.  She strode arm and arm with Hercule, the shoreline exposed by half-moonlight.  The hydrofoil loomed up before them. They crossed the channel at midnight.

Beginning and final lines from Anthony Doerr, “All the Light We Cannot See.” Thanks to Candace Spence for furnishing the first and last lines in this chapter. 

Does someone have tomorrow’s lines for me?  Just choose a favorite book and tell me the title, author and first and last lines in a comment.  If I don’t receive one, the book is finished!!!!

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?