Sunday, July 12, 2009

Entry #86

Koolaid in Cut Crystal
by Charlene Watters

It’s my birthday. The big 5-0.

Birthdays were always an occasion in the Baxter household.

We’d set the table paper plates and plastic forks and mismatched pieces of cut crystal from the secondhand store.

“Katherine, no. Pick up the fork with your left hand. Cut with your right. Smaller bits. Transfer the fork to your right.”

“Jim, they’re tired.”

“God, Mary, look at you. How am I supposed to reach the girls when you’re sitting there slouched over with your elbows on the table?”

“Erica, don’t reach. Ask your sister to pass you the peas. Katherine, dab with the napkin.”

“Both of you, pay attention! You’re behaving like animals! Chew with your mouth closed!”

“Jim —”

Mary, one more word, and so help me god —”

It wasn’t just dining etiquette that was drilled into us. There were weekly trips to the library. Philosophy, sociology, art appreciation. A vocabulary so pretentious we got beat up on a regular basis.

Dad didn’t understand that he was creating a pair of outcasts. It broke his heart when Erica killed herself on her sixteenth birthday. She didn’t make it to dinner that day.

But I made it. I made it. My table is set with fine china. The crystal glasses are a matched set. Never mind that there’s an emptiness inside me so vast that no amount of sex, drugs or alcohol can fill. Never mind that every birthday brings a despair so deep that I long for Erica’s escape. It’s my birthday.


Laurel said...

Phenomenal dialogue and very powerful. So sad.


JR's Thumbprints said...

The emotional scars ring true. Even at fifty.

Karen said...

This one pulled me in and kept me there -- very painful and real.

Catherine Vibert said...

This made me cry. What a sad story, and unfortunately, kind of easy to relate to. Well written, and I wish it could be a long book that has some kind of fulfilling new story for the next 50.

laughingwolf said...

happy 50th... despite it all

wrath999 said...

Beautifully written.


Sandra Cormier said...

Wow. I'm glad I just got Chinese Food on my 50th birthday.

So emotional and wrenching.

Aniket Thakkar said...

A very touching story. The words ringed so true that one never gets a feeling that this is fiction. It seems to come from a place deep within.

Beautiful writeup.

The Preacherman said...

Happy Birthday babe x

The pain is too real to be fiction.

If it is then it's incredible writing.

Four Dinners

Donna Dickson said...

I was slouched over with my elbow on the table and my head resting on my hand when I read this. I immediately snapped up straight!

Well done!

Tessa said...

Crisp dialogue and a haunting story, beautifully written.

Kurt Hendricks said...

Barbarism masquerading as civility. Very well-crafted dialogue - I'm sure we've all heard something like this before.

Chris Eldin said...

I will be remembering this one long after the contest. It is so painful, yet easily relatable. As a parent myself, I have to cringe and hope I'm not doing that with my own children... Such a hard balance, to want the best for your children, but not push too many things on them.
It all does come down to being comfortable in your own skin.
This is in my top five, and will stay there.
Very nicely written.

Hoodie said...

Strong voice and an issue an parent can relate to: trying to the best for your kids and not seeing the forest for the trees.

Well done.

Charlene said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. They're very encouraging. :)

Therese said...

Wow, Charlene. Excellent piece. Very well thought out and written.

It's amazing that the depth of this character's pain feels real and genuine.

I loved this.

Liz said...

Very sad. :(

PJD said...

Charlene, this is so polished and complete. It's really wonderful. I love the repetition of "I made it" and the pretentious vocabulary line.

I know a family whose son committed suicide as a young man because of the pressure from parents. It seems the ultimate tragedy to me... no parent should ever have to bury a child, and to know yourself as the cause of that grief... unbearable, I would think.

Real talent displayed here.

JaneyV said...

This is a superb piece of writing. The flashback works particularly well especially when contrasted with the paper plates and plastic forks.

So incredibly sad and illuminating for every parent who thinks that being hard on their children so that they'll have a better life, is worth the pain they inflict. Shouldn't we all know by now that a balance of love and support with clear boundaries is what'll serve our children the best?

Anonymous said...

Now that certainly cuts into a parents' fears. How much is too much? This was, but where is the line Great delivery here.

Welcome to The Forties Club!