Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Entry #71

Georgia Finds Nirvana
by Linda Ryan-Harper


My name is Georgia. I was named for an intrusive thought—a melody—that lodged itself in the brain of my mentally ill mother while she carried me. Were she catatonic, would my name be Stupor? On this day, just before my eighth birthday, the wind pushes hard against me. My skirt becomes a bellows; alternately filling with air then deflating and wrapping around my legs. The sun mocks the cold with its brilliance. I stoop down to hold the yellow head of a daffodil between my fingers, the smell of sweet earth rises up. I snap the daffodil's neck.

On the sidewalk, I measure my steps to avoid cracks or break my mother's back. I leave the minefield and enter my house. Inside it is silent and cold; the heater has gone out. My mother sleeps as the wind rattles the window over her head. I place the daffodil beside her: Its vibrancy stirs remorse that I stole it from its place in the sun, the wind, the rain.

I light a piece of paper and throw it into the firebox of the heater. The heater grumbles moodily then belches a foul diesel smell before it ignites. I burrow beneath a blanket and read to allow other voices inside my head until I , like my mother, slip into welcomed unconsciousness.

17 comments:

Aimee Laine said...

So the voice is definitely not that of an 8 y.o. but it's beautiful just the same. I do have to say I laughed out loud on this : Were she catatonic, would my name be Stupor?. Sorry if I shouldn't have! :)

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

Aimee: That line is a secret, experimental test I incorporated to measure the reader's humorous minimalous portion of the brain: You: (a) should have laughed...(b) well, could have...(c) hopefully, would have...(d) none of the above. But, you'd be surprised at how grown-up children act and think who are caretakers to parents (at least it's what my kids tell me). I suppose it can also be read as someone who is in one of those past life regression therapy sessions. Or, if you don't buy any of that, you might read it as the work of someone who needs to have her literary license revoked.

Catrina said...

I mentally chuckled. Does that count?

While I agree it doesn't sound like an 8yo--a problem solved by throwing the story from the present tense to the past--I love the imagery here and would hate to see that compromised out of deference to age-appropriateness. There's a richness in vocabulary here that is enjoyable to read.

This story was evocative. What child hasn't played with fate while walking on the sidewalk? (Avoid the cracks, step on the lines... poor dad!)

A lot of good things going on here. Excellent job.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

There is a detachment present that's hard to associate with the 8 year old persona, but also, she living with a mentally ill parent, so maybe disassociation is her coping mechanism. Whoa...just scared myself...way too deep!

Dottie :)

SzélsőFa said...

there is a shocking contrast between outside (the sun - brilliance - earthy smell - light - flower - colors) and the inside of the house.
as far as i understand the ending is both wanted and (lethal (or almost lethal) - something similar to what Dottie implied.
a very interesting take on the prompt.

Damyanti said...

I place the daffodil beside her: Its vibrancy stirs remorse that I stole it from its place in the sun, the wind, the rain.

I love that line. I read it as something in the past, like the voice of the protagonist of Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale.

And that voice deserves a novel. Well done.

fairyhedgehog said...

I was briefly troubled by the eight-year-old speaking like a much older person but then I was drawn in. I feel sorry for the child with such a sick mother.

Jay R. Thurston said...

While the voice seems a tad mature, it still has an innocence with it that grounds it to the eight y.o. character. I think it fits because a child with an ailing parent usually becomes responsible earlier in life. Maturity out of necessity. Good job crafting in her playfulfess (don't step on the cracks) while still mournful of her mother.

bluesugarpoet said...

The flower is a metaphor for the child's life - her place in the sun is also stolen. Beautiful and painful analogy! ~Jana

Old Kitty said...

I was afraid of this 8 year old! You captured a most frightening voice here! Well done! Take care
x

Mikki said...

You paint a vivid picture of despair mixed with diluted innocence. Great work.

Thank you for sharing!

Rachel said...

Absolutely could be 8-y-o child.
Amazing how mature they are when taking care of mentals, younger sibs, drunks, addicts. I'm just sorry she didn't keep the flower for herself. She will in time...

Linda does a full stop, double-take, thot did she *really write that?* count?

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

Rachel, The test only measures the humorous minimalus response and not that of the incredulous maximus. I must advise you that the sudden stop, double-take, did-she-really-write-that thought response that you report (known in reader research circles as the huh? say, what? factor) is symptomatic of an abnormal stretch of the imagination in the skepticallitis hemisphere. The accepted treatment for this condition is the stringent avoidance of flash fiction that contains wry, caustic humor with the potential to disengage the reader from the narrative or transcripts of senate hearings. I am very sorry if you were injured as a result of my research, as valuable as it may be. It is my sincere hope that we can settle out of court and avoid costly litigation. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Linda

Richard Levangie said...

Linda... I thought this was beautifully written in its simplicity, and poignant and complicated with emotion. Well done!

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

Thank you, kind Richard and everyone who read this. For those who commented, I don't think I really deserve your gracious words, but mighty glad to have them all the same, along with your valued criticism. With so much camaraderie among the contestants, competition seems to be secondary. Still, I wish you all good luck.

JaneyV said...

Linda -excellent imagery, the coldness of her life sends shivers through me.

jason evans said...

So much potential in the girl, but I feel the thick walls of her prison. Mental illness claims far more victims than the person afflicted. Strong writing.

Congrats on Forties Club!