Tag Archives: Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop

Crocus Malone’s Ring

“Extraordinary.”

The young man spoke reverently, his breath fogging the display case. He was leaning in so far over her ring that his long, narrow nose nearly touched the black velvet box.

Crocus Malone fidgeted with her purse, wondering unkindly if a man had to have a nose like a cheese knife to be a jeweler.

“I’ve only seen one other like it,” he remarked, lifting the ring to let the light catch in the diamond. She noted the shiny ring on his left hand. A newlywed.

“Where did you say you got it?” he was asking.

“I didn’t,” she snapped. The young man’s wounded expression made her remember her manners.

“I didn’t say,” she tried again.

“Mrs. Malone, do you have a few moments?” the young man asked.

His voice was even and melodic, and above his blade of a nose, his eyes were a liquid chocolate kind of color that touched a long hidden bruise, just there, under her heart. Crocus Malone had all the time in the world for eyes like those.

“I have a few minutes, yes,” she replied.

He wound his way from behind the display, dusted off a Queen Anne chair, and gallantly offered her a seat.

“I’d like my grandfather to see this. Can I take it upstairs?” the young man asked. “He still lives above the shop.”

“Of course,” she said with a regal nod. She settled herself in the chair and looked around.

The store looked like change, she thought. The displays were old, the items lovingly arranged, but dusty. A laptop computer behind the display and the new track lighting above suggested the young man’s influence.

She had gone to the library to use the computers. This jeweler’s name had come up quickly in the search. The young woman who showed her how to use Google had looked like Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair.

Crocus Malone had always wanted to look like Marlene Dietrich, but she was more of a Mae West. And only one man had ever said that about her.

“Mrs. Malone?”

The melodic young man had returned. “This is my grandfather–”

“Oscar Donovan,” she whispered.

“Crocus Parker,” the elder Mr. Donovan smiled, his brown eyes filling with tears.

“Malone,” she corrected him.

“You were never going to sell it?” Oscar asked her, making his way through the shop to help her up from the Queen Anne chair.

“I had thought to, yes,” she admitted, her own tears trailing quietly down her face “Though it has always meant a great deal to me.”

Oscar handed her back the velvet box. Sixty-five years rewound as she took it, just as she had before, in his grandfather’s shop. He had worn its mate on his right pinky.

Dropping the velvet box into her purse, she turned his hands over. Like hers, the skin had grown papery, knuckles gnarled, fingers thick. Like hers, grown too old to wear a fine ring.

She looked up at Oscar, the question clear in her eyes. He couldn’t find words to answer.

Only then did the younger Mr. Donovan speak again.

“May I show you something, Mrs. Malone?”

She looked away from the mingled joy and sorrow in Oscar’s eyes.

The young man held a photograph, black and white, but new, of a bride’s bouquet. The unusual ring on the bride’s slender finger was the twin to her own.

Mama’s Losin’ It
This story was inspired by a convergence of prompts. The Studio 30+ weekly prompt: Serendipity, Mama Kat’s prompt #1: A story of love, and Magpie Tales photo prompt #57, below.

But Doth Suffer A Sea Change

A year ago, I asked the question, “Can Anyone Think of a Clever Name for Oatmeal Milk Chocolate Cherry Hazelnut Blondies?

A year ago I was a human in crisis. I was five months into unemployment, despairing of finding a job, bored, too heavy, more than a little depressed, and very nearly done with this blog.

Then came spring, seasonally and astrologically, and there was a sea-change of sorts, and I began to become, as Shakespeare said, something rich and strange. I started writing again, started reaching out into the void, searching out new voices, and the world reached back.

A year later, I am employed, and while admittedly, my job makes me crazy, it does keep us out of the poor house. I have shed some of the heaviness, and am continuing to do so. I feel far less isolated because of the wonderful community that I’ve gathered around me via my writing and reading, and yes, tweeting.

And the blog? Thriving. A lot has changed. More fiction, less fluff. More deliberate topics and prompt/meme choices. I think, too, and tell me if I’m wrong, that my voice has changed–for the good, I hope.

I never did get an answer to last year’s question, though…

Mama's Losin' It3.) What were you blogging about last year at this time? What has changed?

The Beginning of Everything

Carmen was playing on Boston Common.

Opera under the summer sky. I wanted to go. I invited him. We were new to each other. A few weeks of phone calls, emails, a first date that left me unsure. I liked him, but was that enough? I wasn’t prepared to release him back to the dating pool, but neither was I willing to dare myself to open up to the idea of him.

Looking back, I think my subconscious knew. Trust your gut. But at twenty-five you don’t always do that, especially where men are concerned.

I worked two blocks from the Common in those days, he lived a T stop away over the bridge. That much I knew, but we had only seen in each other in public space. Movie theatres, restaurants, bars.

He met me at work. He had a picnic and a blanket. I remained calm, but my insides swooned. Baguette, paté, cheese, but I was careful about what I ate. Later he would say that he wondered if I didn’t like the offerings. Au contraire.

We sat through the performance, we ate, we talked a little during the intermission. As we packed up to leave, I realized my cell phone was missing.

He crawled around in the grass looking for it, but it was gone. Not in my bag, not on the blanket, not in the grass. Gone.

In those days, losing my StarTac was like losing an iPhone.

I was a mess. I couldn’t afford a new one, and again, in those days, someone else having my phone meant extra minutes and charges and oh, god…

“Let me buy you a drink,” he offered. I was a mess.

We took the train back to his stop, me fretting the entire time about the damn phone. We got drinks at a bar neither of us liked because it was there.

“Let me drive you home,” he offered.

A quandary, because I wasn’t ready to say, invite him in. I didn’t want to make him go out of his way, to make him lose his parking spot–so coveted in his neighborhood of more care than parking spots. And did I mention I had friends sleeping on my air mattress in the living room?

I explained these things awkwardly.

“Let me drive you home,” he insisted.

He drove me home in his grubby pick-up truck. He stopped outside my apartment, idling in the narrow road, while I fidgeted and fussed with my bag.

I don’t even remember what I said just before he kissed me.

Which didn’t matter, since after he kissed me was the beginning of everything.

Mama's Losin' It4.) A memorable date.

the fourteenth

we say I-love-you every day
who needs a Hallmark holiday?
the fourteenth can come and go

Mama's Losin' ItPrompt #3: A poem for my special Valentine.

How to Blow A Kiss

He blows air out in a slow, steady stream.

“What are you doing,” Mark asks him, laughter in his voice. We are all three snuggled up in the bed. It’s Wednesday, and we’re not going anywhere. Snow, sleet, freezing rain. It’s warm under the comforter. He’s perched in the valley between our hibernating forms, watching us like an expectant little bird.

“Blowing kisses,” he says. The duh is implied.

Because we know his rules for this part of the game, we “catch” our kisses, “unwrap” them, and om-nom-nom them.

My son? Blows Hershey’s Kisses.

“Now you,” he orders. Ah, the benevolent dictator in fleecy monster-truck pajamas.

Mwah! I kiss my hand, blow the kiss towards him.

“No, mama! Not like that!”

He very slowly and deliberately blows a stream of air.

“You don’t kiss your hand first,” he explains to me, with infinite patience, as if I am the three-year old. I hear myself in his tone.

I imitate him, as does his dad.

Delighted, he “catches” both kisses, “unwraps” them gleefully, and throws his head back in joy, nomming them up.

Delicious.

Mama's Losin' ItPrompt #3: Describe the last thing that made you laugh really hard.

Not exactly guffaws, but it made us all giggle on a cold, snowy morning!

Small Silvery Scars

The pregnancy hormones were not kind to her. Her face bloated, her fingers swelled. Her bony ankles disappeared into pouches of malleable flesh. She was nearly unrecognizable to herself.

These symptoms enticed other mothers to touch her gently, to commiserate with her. They were the tattoos of a biological gang. Her sisters in childbirth had her back because she was a novitiate, a prospect. Her initiation was coming, fast and hard and unavoidable, and they stood by her, cooing over the burgeoning life in her belly.

Men became chivalrous, opening doors and offering chairs. Her puffiness drew out of them something besides the instinct to seduce. She thought it would bother her, their avuncular solicitousness, but it made her feel feminine, magical.

There was a secret unkindness, though. She understood that it was trivial. The six or so small sores, like pimples, but not, that rippled up from under the skin of her shoulders and back. A normal woman would have born them with no more chagrin than the water retention and the dulling of her hair.

She was so far from normal, though. Such a mess of self loathing, that she often needed to worry at small injuries until they grew painful, raw and weeping, before eventually healing and scarring. Before her pregnancy, she limited her bizarre compulsion to open her wounds to the flesh of her arms and legs.

But while the baby grew, she would catch herself, held captive by the dividing cells within her, running her fingernails under the edges of the scabs, freshly formed from the previous day’s damage.

There was a thrill in lifting the repairing tissue away, exposing the raw flesh to air, gauging by the color of the dampness on her fingertips how healed the wound was underneath. The pain, worst and most welcome when the scab was ripped away, but stinging and lingering for a few minutes after, like a drag from a postcoital cigarette, was wonderful. The tearing up of progress, and the resulting new beginning soothed her frenetic energy, her manic need to be moving, shifting, doing, even while her pregnancy seemed to urge her to slow down, to stop, to feel.

Her husband did not often linger at her shoulders, did not pay homage to her back in any real way, and so missed the sores that lingered, fading and reappearing throughout the thirty weeks she carried their child. She took a guilty pleasure from her little acts of self-mutilation, and when she was focused on the acts themselves, her self loathing was both silenced and justified.

Even more justified when the small life inside her extinguished itself, destroying it’s only home as it died.

It was the self loathing as well as the pity and fear in her husband’s eyes that allowed her, when the other man came into her life, to step out the door and away from pain and misery for a time.

With this other man, this new man, she became what he saw, burying much of herself so deeply inside her that it stretched her tight.

She went to his house by the lake, she played her violin in the sunshine of a stolen summer. She picked his tomatoes, remembering in their ripe skins what it felt to cradle life. She slept in his arms.

It was that summer, making breakfast with him in his sun-drenched kitchen, that he noticed the half-dozen small, silvery scars she’d left gouged into her own skin. She’d been looking out over the lake, when the echo of a contraction squeezed her phantom womb. She’d cried out, and he had come to her, laying his hands on her shoulders, pressing his lips to the tender skin at the base of her neck.

Are you okay?
Just a cramp.

Gently, he touched the tip of a finger to each scar, forming a constellation on her skin.

How did you get these?
It’s a long story.
Tell me.
The eggs are scorching, get me a plate.

Mama's Losin' ItInspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Prompt 1: Scarred. These characters appear in these stories, as well.

Orion Rising

Orion rising
over adjacent rooftops.
Twenty six degrees

and falling. Festive
front porch twinkling; enchanted
is my homecoming.

header 150x150Mama's Losin' ItIn response to Mama Kat’s prompt: Enchanted, and the lovely Nerd Mafia’s Word of the Week.

Home/Spark in the Night

After Joss left, Nan went downstairs to lock up behind Elisha. She took herself on a quick tour of the first floor of the darkened Inn, padding through the foyer, parlor, and office on silent, slippered feet.

Satisfied that all was well, she stopped in the kitchen for a glass of water. She sat at the big farmer’s table in the silence, watching the starry darkness of the sky over the Fuller’s pastures out the back window, and marveled at the home she was making.

She had lived with Kate in Essex for parts of four years, feeling some sense of place with her new best friend at her side. She had lived in Burlington after school, in a tiny apartment, and found some measure of ownership of her life. She had lived for sixteen years under her grandparents’ roof, loved, sheltered, cared for, correctly brought up, and still that house paled in comparison to this home.

Her home. Her own. Gracious and welcoming, warm and tidy; the work she did to make it a reflection of the best version of herself hardly felt like work.

It wasn’t that her grandparents hadn’t done right by her. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been happy. They had loved her, and if they weren’t affectionate people, they taught her everything they knew instead. They had respected her, trusted her, believed in her in their quiet way. She knew it couldn’t have been easy for them; her own mother, their daughter, had been an object of gossip and speculation throughout her lifetime and most of Nan’s.

So Nan had charted a course through her childhood, navigated life in a small town tempted to close ranks against the abandoned daughter of a notorious tramp and a drifter, a con man. Her grandparents’ respectability, tarnished somewhat by their daughter’s indiscretions, but still intact, had been a shield from the worst people might have said or done, but Nan found herself wishing wistfully for a life she had never known.

Homesick for a home that had ever been.

Until now, here, in this beautiful college town, amongst people who embraced her, literally as well as figuratively, supported her dream; here she had created the home she had so longed for as a child.

And she had fallen in love.

She traced a vein gouged in the old table, flattened her palm against the waxy surface of the wood as she gazed at the profile of her neighbor’s house against the indigo sky. There were no lights burning at the Fuller’s. Molly and Walt would have gone to bed hours ago; like keeping an inn, running a dairy farm neither slowed nor stopped because you stayed up too late.

She was about to get up, put the water glass in the dishwasher, when she caught a tiny flare of light in the evergreens on the property line. She moved closer to the window, pressed herself between the back of a chair and the glass, peering into the blue-black night.

Just there, in the shadows, a red glow like the lit end of a cigarette, quickly extinguished.

She stayed where she was, barely breathing, uncertain of what she’d seen. She waited a minute, two minutes, drawing oxygen in time with the ticking of the grandmother clock in the front hall.  Her arms broke out in gooseflesh as she stood there, straining to see. She shivered and stepped back from the window.

The depth of the night was absolute. If there was anything, anyone there, she couldn’t see them. She slipped out to the foyer and clicked the light switches which illuminated the driveway, the parking area and the back terrace. Pools of flood light now stood sentry.

She climbed the stairs up to her apartment warily. Once safe inside, she slid the antique deadbolt into place despite its neglect and squeaking protests.

She pulled back the rumpled coverlet, warmed by the memory of Joss, their earlier laughter as they’d tumbled onto the bed. As she crawled under the covers, she was sorry to have sent him away.

Mama's Losin' ItAnother chunk of NaNoWriMo words, this time in response to prompt #5. Sarah Silverman once gave an interview where she described her childhood depression as feeling homesick while at home. How would you describe it? My character actually identifies a little with Silverman’s point of view – not precisely, but enough to serve as a jumping off point for a day’s writing session. Again I apologize for the lack of proper introduction and context. And quality.

Iris

She spent a year, sixth grade, in town, living with her aunt, uncle, and smaller cousins.

I remember there was trouble in the why of her relocation, or pain, but it was a long time ago and the details are lost to me.

We were drawn to one another. I, in my secret heart a strange creature, even while trying hard to be like the other girls, saw a kindred spirit in her obvious apartness. We must have been quite a pair, with our two unwieldy, adult names, defying the cute misspellings which defined the era. Two clever girls, swimming in a sea of imagination and potent dreams. One willowy and fair, one sturdy and vibrant.

She was a native plant, slim but hardy, fighting up towards the sun, in a crowded bucket of grocery store carnations.

She struggled.

And then she was gone away.

Mama's Losin' ItInspired by Mama Kat’s Prompt #3: What made them so interesting? Remember a unique classmate from your past. Write about him/her. (inspired by writingfix.com).

A Day in Amber

He offered her a day. A sun’s rotation of time suspended away from the rest of her life in a drop of amber. She smiled wistfully, blinked against a sudden prick of tears. They toasted one another from across the table. His eyes twinkled behind his glasses, his smile knowing and mischievous. She almost believed that he could give it to her.

She swallowed the port, the color of her daydream, and closed her eyes. Drifted.

A writer’s garret, a simple, homey place with plank floors and braided rugs. A quiet, third story apartment over a university neighborhood. A coffee shop on the block below. Music and urban noises drifting in through the open French doors along with mid-morning sunlight to wake her.

To wake them both.

Their dark hair mingling on the pillow as their good morning kiss grew sweeter and deeper, their bodies waking to one another.

Fruit, just shy of ripe, crisp and sour, shared. Easy conversation.

A cup of coffee in the sunshine, a comfortable chair on the deck and an afghan over her bare feet, the midday hours lost to creating a story. Knowing that he was in his own space, also concentrating hard on some nuance of language, the flicker of an image in his peripheral vision.

An afternoon walk, a late lunch on the grass in the park. A chill in the air, sun warm on their faces. A siesta, her head on his chest, fingers twined.

A stolen kiss at the corner, waiting for the traffic light to turn.

Cooking dinner together after the sun set. Dancing in the kitchen while water boiled. Holding tasting spoons to each other’s mouths. Laughter.

The cool, dark hours of the evening spent engrossed in their work again, words like incense, clouding the air. The music they loved playing softly in the background, tethering them to the room, to each other while their minds wandered.

After midnight, eyes tired from watching print fly across their screens, falling into the bed together, weary but aching more for one another than from fatigue. Secrets exchanged in the near darkness.

Dawn creeping in, light like mother of pearl on his skin as he slept. Unable to resist touching him, waking him, loving him one last time before the daydream faded, running a hand down his back, heart full as he smiled in his sleep at her touch.

Her eyes opened to him watching her, his expression curious. She only smiled and sipped her drink in silence, as their companions rejoined them at the table.

Mama's Losin' ItThis piece of fiction will link up on Thursday to Mama Kat’s Writer’s workshop, in response to Prompt #5: If you could stop time for 24 hours, what would you accomplish?
(inspired by Liz from a belle, a bean & a chicago dog). As per usual, I went my own way with the interpretation.