Things My Mother Told Me- Short Story

This is a short story I wrote that was accepted to Canvas Literary Magazine, which you can buy here. I really like this story, it’s my first one to be accepted to a literary magazine.

Things My Mother Told Me

        My mother used to say if it sticks it’s probably glue. Back then, she wore pastel dresses with matching heels and purses and smoked a pack a day. She looked like the mother preparing the family dinner in every Norman Rockwell painting, which made me feel like we were holding her back, her non-perfect family. Like clockwork, she would set the table each morning for a big breakfast that only I would eat. My dad left for work early, so he would run into the kitchen and say gotta go sweetheart. She would ask him to take some bacon or sausage, but he would say  I’m already late as it is, peck her on the cheek and run out the door. My mom would sit down at the table across from me, open a magazine and pin it down with her elbows. She would sigh, heavily and lingering, and then light a cigarette. I grew to love the mixed smell of the smoke and syrup that hung over each of our lonely breakfasts. While I ate, I would stare out the window at the grey, overcast morning sky. By the time I finished my pancakes, she would have closed her magazine, opened a window to let the smoke out, and sometimes she would leave in her banana yellow mustang to go for a drive with the top down. She would get back way after I got home from school, with her hair all windblown, eyes puffy, and usually with a new dress. She said to me that money is happiness, and lack thereof is sadness. And therefore, she was a very happy woman.

        My father used to tell me, the beautiful ones are the most dangerous, so get tthose ones first. He would sit me in the front seat of his charcoal grey corvette and smoke his fancy cigars. He pushed hard on the brakes and never rolled the windows down. It was terrifying and exciting, but I pretended it was only exciting. His leather jacket smelled just like him, cigars and cologne and something else I couldn’t place. I would sit in his stuffy car and close my eyes and take a deep breath. He would take me to his office downtown and I would say hi to all his coworkers. My favorite was his secretary, Millie, because she had a bowl of caramels on her desk and let me fill my pockets with them. I would sit on the floor of my dad’s office and listen to the keys of his typewriter click, click, click, making money, making money. I would think, someday, I want to be just like my dad.

        My brother loved to tell me, his generation was gonna change everything. My brother let his hair grow long and wore jeans with big holes in them. He had lots of vinyl and lots of friends that liked to yell. He papered his bedroom walls with posters. I used to lay on his bed on my stomach while he did his homework and listen to his records, turning them up to drown out the yelling coming from the den. Sometimes when my brother wasn’t home, I would go into his room and just look at his vinyl, or take one out and run my hand across it, feeling the miniature race tracks that made music. One time, I was reading on the couch late at night and my brother got home from a date. They stayed in the front entrance. He and the girl were yelling a lot and then I heard him slap her hard. I had never been scared of my brother before then. He seemed like a different person, because my brother wouldn’t hurt a fly. She started crying, but he kept yelling. The door slammed and he stormed up to his room stomping on the steps. I never told anyone about that, and I definitely never asked him about it.

        My sister said to my mother, there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. When my sister and mother talked, I knew not to bother them. My brother said my sister was my mother’s rock. I thought that was funny, because dad should be her rock. When I asked my sister about that, she sort of snort-laughed and answered without looking up from her homework. Dad couldn’t be moms rock if you covered him in cement and let him dry in the sun, she said. My sister was very smart and got into lots of good colleges. She got lots of scholarships too, even though my dad could afford to send all of us no problem.

        When my mother kicked the wall of the kitchen in her pink heels, she said, ain’t nobody worth trusting in this life who comes to you free. She didn’t talk to my father anymore unless she was yelling at him. She stopped coloring her hair and let it grow out brown. She started smoking more and more, then stopped altogether. She bought all new dishes for the kitchen and had our neighbors over to celebrate. The new dishes were white with light blue checks on the edges, and they had little pink roses painted in the middle. I would sit and stare at my plate for ages after I finished eating, and pictured the garden where those roses could be. Usually, I imagined myself there, in the garden. It was by the beach, I decided. My mother repainted our kitchen from light yellow to mint green and bought a cyan blue couch with no arms. She stopped wearing lipstick and started wearing blush. She had to sell most of her fancy dresses to buy groceries. She lost weight and gained it back and then some. She subscribed to more magazines, just to look at pretty clothes she couldn’t buy anymore. She cleaned the house. She forgot to make dinner. She slept until noon or didn’t sleep at all. She listened to my sister, turned up the radio, and danced. Sometimes, she would play one of her old vinyls and cry. I would smile at her from across the breakfast table.

        My father took me to work less and less because he was too busy to entertain me all day, he said. He came home late and brought my mother fresh flowers. When I did go to work with him, I took extra caramels from Millie’s desk, to account for the times I missed. I liked to tell Millie all about my brother and his friends, my sister and her scholarships. My father must have liked Millie too because he left my mother to marry her and bought her all the pretty clothes my mother couldn’t have anymore.

        When my brother left to change the world after high school, he told me to always stand up for what I know is right. He and his friends set off the day after graduation, and we all watched him drive off into the horizon in a busted up van. I got his bedroom and all the records he left behind. Two months later he was arrested at a protest, and my sister got him out on bail. Apparently, that was enough world changing for my brother because he came back home with my sister to live with us. He slept in the basement. He got a job at the gas station. He cut his hair.

        When my sister went off to college, she kissed my cheek and said that hard work pays off. She came back home a month later when my brother was killed in a car crash on his way to work. Again, she said, there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. I suppose she meant that to be a time to mourn. My mother cried on her shoulder and stopped wearing makeup. My sister finished college and moved to Chicago.

        When I graduated high school, my mother said to me, it’s not about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you pick yourself back up. She took up painting after I left for college, and sold her art in art shows. She opened an art gallery and let other artists sell their things too. She sold the house I grew up in to buy a small apartment near the gallery. She painted the walls hot pink and coral and aqua and made dream catchers and clay pots. She didn’t need those pretty clothes from magazines anymore, and she didn’t have to wear makeup to be pretty. She adopted a cat and smiled at strangers. She paid for the person behind her in line, even when she hardly had any money for herself. She laughed more and wrote me letters while I was at college. She said nothing makes you happier than making someone else happy. And I think that’s important to remember. I think she was right.

The Drawer- Short Story

This is a short story I am very happy with;  I’ve spent a good amount of time editing it, and I’m planning on entering it in a short story contest.

The Drawer
I lifted my head from the pillow. I had taken a nap on the sofa. The window had been left open, and the sea air was nipping my bare arms. I lifted myself to a sitting position and brushed the static stray hairs out of my face. I picked up my silk scarf from the coffee table and wrapped my hair back in it and stood to close the window. Too late I realized my legs had fallen asleep, and in surprise, I fell to the floor. Every time I slept that way my legs fell asleep. I sat on the worn carpet and waited to regain the feeling. Folding my hands in my lap, I admired my ring. It was only a simple gold band, but it was from Thomas, which made it the most beautiful item in my possession. I watched the ring catch the sunbeams streaming in through the open window as I ran my hand over the fraying fibers of the carpet. A loose thread caught my eye, just at my feet. It was a part of the mane of an ancient lion, sticking out as a faded yellow against the dark maroon background. I started tugging at it, trying to pull it loose. It isn’t that I minded it being out of place, but it clearly was unhappy where it was. The thread deserved to separate from the perfect unity of its brothers. It was a tricky little string, and it took me getting onto my elbows before the rug released it from the mane. I held it above my head like a trophy when it finally gave, and although the full feeling hadn’t returned to my legs, I stood and shakily walked over to my window. Holding the fiber out over the crashing slate waves, I ceremoniously released it to the whim of the tides. I watched it fall, and managed to trace its path between the bulging swells, following it for a brief second as it was lifted to the tip of a curl, riding along the foamy gray spray. Then it disappeared into the endless ocean.

After the string was swallowed up by the ashen water, I looked down and noticed a small pink flower on the sill. It was a delicate little thing, a bright fuchsia with bright yellow stamens. It must have blown in from a tree ashore. The petals seemed to be made of crepe paper, they were so thin and fragile looking.

I leaned back inside and pulled the heavy glass panes closed. As soon as the window was shut the billowing crash of the waves beyond sounded as if it was inside a conch shell. The window latch was freezing cold, and when I absently laid a hand on the sill, I realized it was covered in the saline ocean spray. I touched my fingers to my mouth and let the salt sit on my lips before licking it off. It woke up my mouth, and I let myself slowly slide down the wall to enjoy the awareness of the acrid taste. I smacked my lips together.

Curled into a ball, I ran my fingers up and down the indentations left by the carpet on my legs. From across the room I noticed my knitting basket was back. I was in no mood for knitting now, but from my spot against the far wall I enjoyed looking at the pleasant colors of yarn, Thomas left for me this time. I could see a green the same color as my vase. The vase sat on the floor, atop my stack of favorite books, where it held four sprigs of lavender, which gave the room a quite pleasant aroma. There was also a blue ball of yarn the color of my favorite silk cushions and a rose color that matched the linen curtains that were too long for the window but blew so beautifully in the summer wind. There could be more colors but they were buried in the basket. Thomas always hid a few tubes of acrylic in the bottom of my basket, and I was hoping today for some more pale yellow to finish painting my coffee table. I twisted the rose curtains around my wrists and held my arms out to let them slip back into their pools on the floor.

I heaved a heavy sigh and slipped further down the wall, still damp with brackish condensation, until my head rested on the floor. I hadn’t paid much attention to my ceiling in a few days, which I realized was a shame. It was a lovely ceiling, light blue to play off the goldenrod walls, and with a fascinating crown molding that I was fond of following around and around the room when I sat on my ruby red chair with the gold tassels. The afternoon sun, which looked so gray and dull outside, plopped in the middle of a cloudless pale sky, shone a rich yellow in my room and cast a silhouette of rectangular light across my painting on the opposite wall. I loved my new painting, Thomas got it a week or so ago and my favorite part was the texture. The artist had laid the paint on so thick that I could take the painting down and lay it across my lap and feel the ridges and depressions that created the summer landscape. I tended to pine for summer this time of year, when the sweet smell of roses and daisies drifted in on the warm winds, and bees came to visit me and pollinate the flowers I kept on every possible surface. My new painting reminded me of my summers. Not to mention it excellently complimented my cyan wardrobe that stood a foot or so to its right. I sighed and lifted myself to my feet.

I began to pace around my room. I did this often when I grew restless. I tended to become occupied by other activities, but it was always good exercise to get up and walk around a bit.

The sun had set and pulled its gilded rectangles of light along with it, across my wall, across my painting, and eventually across my floor until they vanished out my window. My room was dark by the time Thomas came in for dinner. He brought in a tray of something that smelled terrible, but I smiled anyway just by virtue of seeing him. On his way in, he swung the door open so that it hit my painting and knocked it onto the floor. He set the tray down on the coffee table and picked up the frame. It looked like the bottom part had come undone. Thomas said he would fix it after dinner, it would be no trouble, don’t worry. He picked up a box of matches from off the tray and gestured for me to get the candle out of my drawer. The drawer was in the end table next to my red chair, and there was a picturesque array of fascinating items inside it. Every time I opened the drawer I wanted nothing more than to take each of my little friends out and turn them over in my hands. I got the insatiable urge to make sure each item knew how valued it was and give them all a chance to roam free, outside the drawer. The only thing that can make me forget that urge is my dinners with Thomas. He must not know how I love my drawer, otherwise he wouldn’t insist I keep the candle in with all my things. It was a perfect dilemma every night when I had to leave them in there until after dinner, but for Thomas, it was a sacrifice I could make. I had to allow them just a peek of the cornflower blue ceiling for now, because I would always choose Thomas over my things. That he must know.

I took the candle out of the drawer and handed it to Thomas. He pulled out a match and lit it, and I stared at the flickering flame. Fire fascinated me, how it is a constant but forever changing, how it can appear from nowhere and disappear in the same fashion. Thomas set down his bowl and mine. They were both full to the brim with a helping of whatever tasteless brine we’d be drinking. In the candlelight it looked gray, but Thomas insisted it was tomato. He sipped and made talk about my new yarn, if I wanted a new painting. I loved the yarn and I liked my painting exactly as is, so long as he could fix the frame. Did I want a new sofa? This one is getting a little beat up. Or maybe a new rug? No, no, I like my furniture exactly as is. I replied vacantly, mesmerized by the tilting flame on its pillar of wax and thread. I watched as bead after bead led to drop after drop of lavender wax, collecting in the bronze cup at the base of the candle.

I began to allow my vision to blur, still keeping my eyes on the candle, but watching the lines become less and less crisp, until the flame looked like a tilting and twisting stain of neon watercolor. Thomas’ voice droned on, but I kept my focus on the fire. I rubbed my eyes, and when I opened them again, Thomas was gone and my candle was blown out. The room was significantly darker. I suppose I spaced out. The bowls were gone, and I was left looking at my coffee table, now almost entirely painted pale yellow. We must have finished dinner, but I still felt hungry. I took my candle out of its holder and marveled at how it never seemed to grow shorter. It was even cold to the touch, wax dried and all. I must have fallen asleep and Thomas had left a while ago. I picked up the candle and stood to notice my painting had not only been fixed, but hung again as well. Thomas must have done it before he left, like he said. Strange for me to not remember, but it isn’t unlike me to lose focus on things when the conversation begins to drag. I walked across the room and almost fell when I didn’t see my knitting basket had been moved next to my red chair. What was more, my green yarn that matched my vase was almost entirely gone. It was a ball the size of a grape now, and it would hardly be enough for even one row of anything. I couldn’t recall knitting, but perhaps I had begun while Thomas and I were finishing dinner. He must have taken whatever I knit with him.

I put the candle in its spot in the drawer, but I couldn’t resist my precious menagerie twice in one night. I pulled the drawer free from its track and darted to my windowsill. I lined up my items one by one, turning each to face away from the room and out over the stark nautic landscape. At the end of the windowsill lineup was the little pink flower, except it was a sour brown color. Its petals that had seemed so perky this morning had dropped and lay almost flat against the wooden sill. Who would have guessed it could wilt so fast.

The moon framed the scene like a painting, tipping its hat to me from the very top of the window. I stood when all my items were in place and unhooked the brass latch, letting the windows fly out into the black night air. My items looked out across the water. They like it just fine in here with me, but they do enjoy seeing out over the water every now and then. We sat there for a while, and I let the wind tousle my hair. I closed my eyes and just listened to the waves crash below me. The wind whipped my face, and I realized I had left my silk scarf on the chair. When had I taken it off? Perhaps after dinner. I stayed with my items, though. I wouldn’t leave them for even a second during our special time. I could tolerate my hair in my eyes to keep them this company. When the cold became too much for my bare skin to ignore, I picked the drawer up off the floor and began replacing my items in it. I became focused on my fingers, delicately dropping them back into their spots. My ring flashing in the moonlight, working quickly but diligently to replace each item carefully and properly. I became so mesmerized by my work of fitting each item exactly where it belonged, I neglected to look where I was reaching. My fingers grazed the tip of another item, and I felt it fall. My hand froze in the air. Suddenly the air seemed to leave my lungs, and I didn’t want to look up. It just fell over, it’s still on the ledge. I said it in my head until I was ready to look.

I turned my head to look at the sill, and when my friend wasn’t there I stood and examined the outside ledge. It was barren. Below, the icy black water crashed like shattering glass. It pounded into my ears, over and over. I held my eyes wide open looking for any sign of my little friend afloat. I saw nothing. My grip tightened on the wooden facade. I wasn’t breathing.

I flew across the room to the door. I had to find it. I had to find it. I could find it if I got outside. I just had to look around on the shore, wade a foot or two into the water. I still had time. My clammy hands wrenched the cold doorknob. It didn’t turn. If I could get outside, get out in the water. The door wouldn’t open. I still had a chance to find it. The door was firmly shut. I couldn’t go. I stepped away. My hands shook slightly by my sides, but I regained control of my breathing. The door wouldn’t open. I sat on the couch and laughed to myself. The door wouldn’t open. I didn’t need that one item so badly. At least he was outside now. I let my head fall back to stare up at the ceiling. I could put the rest of my items back tomorrow. I folded my hands in my lap and pictured my little friend on the ocean floor with the piece of string from the carpet. I giggled. I gazed at the ceiling as my eyelids drooped. I was quite tired. Such a busy day. I let my eyelids flutter and buried my feet below a cushion. Such a busy day.

Looking at the ceiling I noticed a large crack in the plaster I hadn’t seen before. How long had that been there?

February Writing Prompts 1-2

A few friends and I are doing a daily writing challenge for the month of February. I have been setting a timer for ten minutes and writing as much as I can in that time. Here are the first two pieces I have so far.

February 1st, 2017


The wind rattled the glass in its panes so severely I was afraid the windows would shatter into sand right in front of me. The heavy door didn’t move under the brute force of the freezing wind, but instead creaked as it was pressed against the ancient door frame, its wrought iron latch clicking together every now and then.

I sat in front of the door, watching the paper thin strip of white below the door. Snowflakes drifted in through the crack, floating lazily in, just happy to be out of the weather. I stood up off the floor, and my bare feet immediately began freezing to the stone floor. The fireplace was on the far side of the room, and thanks to all the cracks in the walls, heat escaped faster than my puny fire could give it off.

I walked over to the fire to warm my hands and thaw my ears out. The fire turned over in it’s tiny hearth, dancing like a little fairy. My small fire was enjoying itself while it still could, while there was still enough fuel. That wouldn’t be for much longer.

I sat in front of the flames, not much brighter than the candles of a birthday cake, and tried to let them warm my face. I was unsuccessful. Too far and I got cold, too close and i was inches from the flames lapping my face. I didn’t have to struggle with this dilemma for long though. A banging on the door ended my concentration on the fire.

“Hey! You need to let me in! Trust me, please let me in!” There was a voice attached to the banging. I ran across the room to the door, putting a hand cautiously on the handle.

“You can’t come in!” I yelled through an inch and a half of oak. “We are closed!”

“You don’t understand-”

“No, you don’t understand. We. Are. Closed! Come back another day.” I didn’t pay attention to the response. Instead, I walked back over to my fire and resumed contemplation of the lack of wood situation. I suppose my stool would burn nicely, if I could disassemble it.


February 2nd, 2017

Bad Idea

She held the unlit cigarette between her lips as she furiously scrawled every last character she could fit onto the thin post it note. She kept repeating this is a bad idea in her head, turning over and over in her mind like waves. But her hand wasn’t listening, it moved on its own. It had another agenda to accomplish today.

She flipped the sticky note over and continued fitting her squished, broken-kite lettering into words and sentences, trying to press as hard as she could to make it legible, but not so hard the mechanical pencil broke through the paper and onto her hand, which was the cleanest and closest writing surface. She struggled not to smudge the paper with her wet hands. Her breathing was getting heavy and the cigarette began to weigh a thousand pounds between her icy lips, numbed by the cold. The world around her became fuzzy as she focused more and more intently, and she could only see the paper in her hands.

When she finished, she folded the paper as neatly as she could and stuck it to the inside of her now empty cigarette box. This is a bad idea, this is a terrible idea. She closed the box and set it down on the ledge beside her, and set a stone on top to keep the wind from taking it away. For a minute she considered knocking the box off the ledge and into the freezing water below the bridge, but instead backed away. Her feet seemed to be in cahoots with her hand, all scheming against her logical brain, still telling her this is a bad idea. She decided just to run.

Most people are concerned when they see a woman nine months pregnant sprinting across a park in the middle of winter. People typically become even more concerned when they see that she is not wearing gloves, or a scarf or hat or even boots. Not only are flip flops bad attire for a sprinter, or a pregnant sprinter, they are in particularly bad taste for a pregnant woman sprinting through a park on a day when even the sun is below freezing.

Perhaps the most alarming detail about her that the casual observer might fret over is the dark red blood all over her jacket. That much blood doesn’t come from a paper cut.

If anyone had been especially concerned, or even mildly curious, they may have gone over to the bridge to see what was on the note she had been writing. If that had happened, The woman would be in a good deal of trouble. If it just so happened a person walking by thought they may find a loose cigarette inside, and instead found the note, the woman would again be in big trouble. If anyone but the one person who would understand her note read it, she would be in a lot of trouble.

I hope he knows where to find the note.

Short Story- Wet Cigarettes, February 2016

This was one of my earliest short stories, so it isn’t really up to par with what I would want to submit to a magazine. However, It is about to turn one year old! So I’m posting it here just to keep it online and alive 🙂

Wet Cigarettes

I jumped back into the beat up truck, soaking wet and with a huge grin plastered on my face. I felt my heart about to explode out my chest, and I didn’t even care anymore that my eyeliner was running down my face or that my hair was a matted wet mess. Lionel got in next to me wearing a smile identical to mine. His sweatshirt was drenched, and he had grease all over his hands.  I brushed a dripping blonde lock behind my ear and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt off my head. We sat in silence for a minute and listened to the rain pound the roof of his car. Then I started laughing, so he started laughing.

I took a drink from the coffee that I had left in the cup holder. It was cold now, and buying it felt like a lifetime ago instead of three hours. He started the car and we pulled out of the vacant parking lot into the inky black streets. Him, me, I felt like we were one person, one being. I had never felt so intimately close with a person. He knew all of me, inside and out. And he wasn’t trying to distract me from myself. He knew and he didn’t care.

For once, it felt like the past mattered. The past mattered, and our silence was acknowledging that.

He was focused on the road, eyes straight ahead. But I didn’t have to focus on the road, so I stared at him, trying to memorize his every feature right in this moment, so I could keep it forever. His freckles seemed accentuated by the low light, and there was a drop of rainwater about to drip from his nose. His blond hair looked more brown from under his hunter’s cap, and he held an unlit cigarette in between his lips. I flicked on my lighter and lit it for him. He held it tight in his teeth and smiled at me. I lit one for myself and blew the smoke out of my nose.

There was something beautiful about being with someone in total and complete silence and having the silence be more meaningful than anything you could say. Usually, I would equate silence with discomfort, like darkness but in sound. But like they say, darkness is a mirror. Emptiness is a mirror. And going along with that, our silence said everything I wanted to say to Harrison but was afraid to. And it was him saying it right back. It was everything, because it was, and it was nothing, because it was. It was like being inside a vast house you have never been in before in your life, yet it’s inviting and familiar. Just like you were at home. That comfortable, safe homey feeling was what being with him felt like.

I trusted him completely. There was no place else I would rather be than soaking wet in that beat up truck. I took a drag on my cigarette. I smiled. He smiled.  The past still mattered, but the future mattered more.