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Family Blood

August 26, 2013

This is a short story I wrote for 1:1000, http://www.oneforonethousand.com/2013/05/family-blood.html .

 

Freddie MacNamus sat in his truck and looked down at his hands. So many stains. Blood, sweat, and tears covered those hands. And black oil that would never come out from under his thick, yellow fingernails.

But mostly blood.

His boy once told him that blood ain’t red inside you. It ain’t red ‘til it hits the air.

Well now Freddie knew a secret. The pits of hell sure ain’t black. When you walk through those places where nightmares are born, all you see is red.

It’s mostly blood.

His boy was smart. They gave him a fancy name at birth. Kissed his wrinkled, old-man head and said, “Prescott, all we gots to give you is a name. It’s your leg up. Reach high, son. Maybe you’ll make it to some other family tree.”

But blood runs thick, and old habits are hard to break. Within a year, Prescott MacNamus was just Mac. Plain and simple. But boy, was he sharp.

It damn near stopped Freddie’s heart, the night he saw all that thick, red blood pouring out of Mac, staining the pine slats of their front porch.

Freddie knows deep down he done it.

He was so mad that night. So God damn mad. And the sad thing is, he didn’t have nothing to be mad about. His boy would sit at the supper table, making his wife laugh til’ she begged him to stop, tears rollin’ down her face, sayin’ her insides hurt. They were happy. But Freddie couldn’t be happy. Just livin’ made him mad back then.

Bein’ just a mechanic. Selling just tires. It wasn’t enough. He always thought he should be doing more. His family deserved more. He felt guilty every time he looked at ‘em. So he stayed mad. And he stayed away. Always sippin’ that awful, burnin’ drink.

And the night they were killed, he wasn’t there to help.

It hurts to think about it now.

He can’t take more than three breaths without prayin’ to God they died quickly. That they didn’t see it coming. That they weren’t scared.

Freddie figures, lookin’ back, that he got home about twenty minutes too late. ‘Cause Mac was still warm when Freddie scooped him up. He ran to the truck, piercing the still September air with his screams. Pleadin’, “God. Please God. Please.”

He thought his boy might have a chance. ‘Cause he could still smell the milk and cookies on his breath, see, and lil’ Mac had his dinosaur jammies on, and Freddie was pretty sure those were his favorites. They were the ones Mac was always wearing when Freddie tip-toed through the house late at night after another bender, to peek through Mac’s cracked bedroom door and love him from afar.

He layed his boy down across the seat of the truck. He’ll never forget the way those tires squealed as he ripped out of his driveway. Surplus stock from the shop. He’d put ‘em on a few weeks ago, shooin’ Mac away when he asked to help.

He drove like his own life depended on. And it did. But after a mile or so, he couldn’t see the road. He couldn’t see Mac.

It was all blood.

He opened the door and puked. Whiskey and snot came out between wails. The putrid mixture hit the dirt road only a few seconds before Freddie did. He lay there, heaving, sobbing, covered in family blood, til a State Trooper pulled up.

Somewhere along the line, they realized Freddie wasn’t a killer. Just a worthless piece of shit.

They let him go. His penance? That the world kept turning.

He had to keep showin’ up at the shop. Keep on sellin’ tires. Every day he stepped into that place, the smell of old rubber filled his nostrils, reminding him he ain’t got nothing left to work for. He made barely enough to keep his home, but not enough to sell it.

So at night he’d come home and lie on that porch. Put his head down on that dark brown stain. If he was still enough, he could feel heat comin’ off the planks of pine. It was because the porch soaked up the western light all afternoon, but Freddie liked to think that warm spot was Mac.

And this morning was no different. Until it was.

He got out of bed. Got in the shower. Smelled his wife’s shampoo. Gently closed its cap. Then he put on his blue coveralls and went to work.

But when he got there, he couldn’t walk in the door. He walked out back, tore an old piece of tarp in half, and wrote “Closed” in clumpy motor oil on it.

He stepped back and looked at it. The shame of everything he’d done–everything he was– hit him hard. He couldn’t keep nothin’ alive.

He threw it out and started over on the other half.

He thought for a second, and wrote:

Moved to 1897
Metropolitan Park
Flea Market Plaza

Freddie didn’t have enough room to finish the word “park.” It didn’t make no difference. Something he made would live on, even if it was just for a day. Even if it was just for an hour. Even it was a lie. Soon enough, somebody would find out the truth. But that shop, the one Freddie never thought was good enough, was the only shred of worth he had left.

Sitting in his old truck, Freddie finally felt some peace. He couldn’t wash his hands of what he’d done, but maybe God would clean his soul.

He looked out the driver’s side window one last time, then put the truck into drive.

He turned onto the dusty highway, and slowly pressed the gas. He didn’t let up as he watched the speedometer reach 60, 70, 80, 100.

The pedal ground against the metal floorboard. There was nowhere else to go. Freddie jerked the steering wheel to the right.

For a second, everything was quiet, and then the deafening sound of blood rushed into his ears. And right before everything went black, he saw his wife. And his Mac. But mostly blood.

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The Novel

May 3, 2012

So I’m thinking about starting a novel. I’m just not exactly sure yet what I want the story line to be. I do know I have all these passages written here and there, and although they don’t quite connect yet, I’m sure they could. Like this one:

Emma Bennett grew up under the canopy of the tallest cottonwood tree she’s sure has ever existed on this green earth. But her world wasn’t so big then. Every Fall, the giant branches would give their cotton buds up to the ocean breeze, leaving tangles of fresh cotton stuck around welcome mats and behind hurricane shutters across the neighborhood. And every year, Emma would try to turn her 10-speed upside down and into some semblance of a cotton gin. Needless to say, those heaping, matted piles of cotton never did get woven into thread.

If anyone has any ideas for plots, I’m all ears.

Avignon

November 2, 2011

I ran across an old story I wrote a while ago. We had an assignment at the Circus to write a short story inspired by a brand. I think this one was inspired by Anthropologie. I thought I’d post it. I’ve moved to Chicago, and I’m loving it! I’ll post more about this wonderful city soon.

…….

Miss Sadie Montague knew that when she moved to Provence, she’d be leaving everything she loved about her simple, Southern life in Charleston, South Carolina behind. She’d been raised with the smell of pluff mud tickling her nose and the ghosts of her ancestors dancing around her, guiding her steps over cobblestones and into womanhood.

She knew she’d always be able to go home–after all, open arm staircases always welcome you back. But for now, she was where she was supposed to be–the South of France, where she’d ached to live for as long as she could remember. Sadie was a photographer. She’d always been a photographer, ever since she was six years old and her grandmother gave her an old Polaroid camera for her birthday. She majored in photography at Converse College, and supplemented it with a minor in French. Over the years, her talent and craft had truly blossomed. The pictures she took could evoke emotions people didn’t even know they had. Provence held a romanticism for Sadie, and it was her dream to travel through the countryside, taking pictures of the ancient and crumbling architecture, the entrancing, Mediterranean landscape and the proud locals.

Although Sadie had a good bit of money saved up from selling her pictures back home, she had decided against renting an apartment, and instead paid a small, weekly fee to the manager of an Avignon bed and breakfast to keep the smallest room in the house open for her. Sometimes, traveling through the countryside kept her away from her room for a few nights, and on those nights she was glad she had the extra money to stay at local, humble inns. After a month of living in Avignon, she had fallen in love with her tiny room and the hustle and bustle of the guests coming and going. The old, creaking house was large but inviting, and late at night when it got quiet, she knew the old house was whispering secrets to anyone who knew enough to listen.

Her wrought iron bed took up most of her room. Over it rested a soft, warm, homemade quilt made of strips of colored fabrics. Before she fell asleep at night, Sadie liked to gently run her fingers over the bumps and threads, wondering where all the different pieces came from. The only other furniture in her room was a simple, wooden wardrobe and a wooden desk with a reading lamp on it. The lamp’s yellow shade cast a warm, homey glow throughout the room.

Sadie glanced at her watch, and noticed that it was time for the guests to gather for dinner. She walked out of her room and down the stairs to the kitchen, running into Isabelle, the owner of the house, along the way. Isabelle was an ancient French woman who spoke almost no English, and as always, she was wearing her signature starched apron, embroidered with bright flowers and birds. Sadie knew Isabelle appreciated her being able to help her translate the English of the very rare American tourists who passed through, and she smiled at Sadie when they passed. Isabelle looked like she was on a mission to collect everyone for dinner–she hated it when people were late.

Sadie walked into the kitchen and dining room, and as always, smiled as she noticed that every cabinet door had a different knob. Colored glass knobs, crystal knobs, brushed copper ones, and even hand painted porcelain knobs. She sat down at the table with the other guests. Tonight, some were Italian, some Greek, and some Indian. Sadie was used to not being able to converse with anyone at dinner when they didn’t speak French or English, and she just nodded a hello to everyone. The table was set with mismatched china–old, vintage, gold-rimmed china that Sadie was sure would sell for hundreds of dollars back home. Charlestonians relished in their antiques. Tiny tea cups were already set out on the table for after-dinner coffee. Whimsical tea cups that reminded Sadie of her favorite childhood book, “Alice in Wonderland.” In the middle of the table sat etched-glass candle votives with tiny tea lights glowing in them. Isabelle’s home might not have contained the fanciest decorations in France, but Sadie always delighted in how hard she tried to make her guests feel welcome.

Sadie’s mouth started to water at the smell of the roasted duck the maid was bringing in. The entrance to the dining room was behind her, but she noticed a figure’s reflection in the worn glass of the full length mirror resting in the corner. A guest she’d never seen before. A boy of about her age, and one of the most beautiful boys she’d ever seen. He sat down at the table beside her.

“Hello,” he said in English, “my name’s Tradd.”

An American. Tradd. She knew right away he was a Lowcountry boy. She smiled. Her Charleston ancestors must be trying to bring her home. She wondered how much of a fight she’d try to put up.

If she’s here, why can’t anyone find her?

July 24, 2011

As a young girl, she’d think that maybe,
just maybe,
she hadn’t been born yet.
And she was still safe in the womb.
And all this was a dream.
And she could learn from her mistakes
before she ever even made them.

And she’d spend her days
pleading with grown-ups
to prove to her
that the green they saw
was the same color she did.

They couldn’t help but laugh.
How precocious this girl,
too young to be so worried.
But she couldn’t shake the feeling
that maybe she saw the world
a little bit differently.

Her mother would reassure her.
Yes, this is real, she’d say.
We are here.
And green is green.

And then the girl worried
she’d wasted too much time,
thinking she’d have another chance.

So she swore she’d live life
without regrets.
Because this was it.
She was here.
And green was green.

And she spends her days
trying to keep her promise.
But can’t understand why
every time something looks green
she wonders if it’s a lie.

Nothing Could Be Better

June 23, 2011

Nothing could be better than city lights across the New York harbor,
or taxi brake lights reflecting red on the wet blacktop of Madison Avenue.

Nothing could be better than an antique store you stumble into
to escape the heat during an Alphabet City summer.

I’ve lived for early morning subway rides,
egg and cheese bagels amidst cool, fall colors.

Serendipity may be touristy,
but I fell in love with their frozen hot chocolate.

And I found the city’s soul on Stone Street,
those cobblestones forever keeping the footprints of the first New Yorkers.

Nothing could be better than jazz music embracing the brown stones
drifting around Upper West Side corners.

Late night thin-crust pizza,
After calling it a night at Barramundi’s.

Central Park,
5th floor walk-ups,
Little West 12th Street,
The Frying Pan.

Nothing could be better than the city of New York,
Except, maybe you, Chicago.

Window

April 27, 2011

Not much of a photographer, but sometimes I get a cool shot. If I’m lucky.

It’s Best to Let it Roll

April 27, 2011

I could hold on to it forever– try hard to never let it go. Give it all of my kisses and laughter and tears and heart. I’d like to hold it in my hand, so I could show everyone what I’d found. I’d blush and beam and say it was mine. But it’s out of my control, and it’s so fragile, anything could break it. I’m not that strong, but I could break it if I wanted to. Though I know the pieces would cut me as they slid through my fingers.