Monday, July 18, 2011

Entry #66

Publish or Perish
by C. Joos

"Anthony, stop acting like a twit." It was the closest my mother came to swearing.

I peeked from behind the banister. Deflated tulips scattered over the soggy carpet. Jagged spiderwebs across the television screen. My father, crunching broken glass and conjugating cuss words as he paced.

I knew some: fuck, fucking, fucked, fucker. Others were strange, all corners and edges: tenure review, distorted data, retracted publications. Mortgage. What now?

As a member of the peanut gallery, I could help; I knew this scene by heart.

Cue words of comfort: "What were you thinking? How could you do something so-" Her eyes met mine and she sighed. "I'm not doing this in front of our child." She dropped shards of glass into the fold of her apron.

The distance between them disappeared. My father yanked her to her feet. His hand drew back. "And who the hell are you? You can't even hold down a job."

"Twelve years of marriage," my mother said, wrenching free, "and you're going to start hitting me now?" It was time for him to leave, before he did something "regrettable."

Cue a bonfire in the backyard: The car squealed out of the driveway. In the trunk was a canister of gasoline for "just-in-case."

After she fixed herself a scotch, my mother sat down next to me on the porch steps. I curled into her embrace. "He's just cooling his heels," she said. "Don't worry."

In the distance, the alarm at the firehouse began to clang.


Precie said...

Gee, thanks. Of all these entries, this will be the one I have nightmares about. Tenure review. *shudder*

Seriously, nicely done. Dropping bits and pieces from the child's perspective...excellent.

Anonymous said...

Precisely why I never pursued a professor position, Precie. (Like all the alliteration in there?)

I love how skillfully this child is drawn, to be both innocent and willful, aware and naive.

Cue the bonfire. Chilling.

Aimee Laine said...

I've read it 2x to figure out the bonfire and who actually set it and where. In the backyard or was the car on fire? Not sure, but that could just be me. :) I did like this being from the POV of the kid though. They definitely see 'fights' in a completely different 'light'.

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

The terrors of childhood and the mysterious veil between parents and their offspring folded into a language we as children are taught to embrace, but often sense as something foreign. You are definitely a writer.

Catrina said...

@Precie: Sorry for the nightmares! Thank you for your kind words.

@Aerin: Same here. Thank you.

@Aimee: Thank you for your honest feedback! It's hard to be clear in 250 words; things get cut out in the editing. What I was trying to convey was that the father often lost his temper and fought with the mother. But for this fight, the two have gone off-"script" (i.e. no words of comfort, etc.). Mom hasn't defused Dad's anger, and Dad's driven off with a container of gas in the trunk. Thank you so much for letting me know this was unclear.

@Linda: Thank you! Your comment made my night. =)

Unknown said...

Interesting...a child's view and yet, the adult perspective of jobless and anger, both views are helpless. Nice job!

Dottie :)

Joni said...

Strong concept with some really stunning phrasing. Nice work.

fairyhedgehog said...

I loved the swearing; fancy using naughty words like mortgage in front of a child! And I loved the child's point of view. The ending was chilling.

Jay R. Thurston said...

I thought the bonfire was set by the mother to burn father's stuff.

The story carried out an intriguing scene, nice imagery and the POV worked well. Good tale!

bluesugarpoet said...

Maybe I just lean toward the dark, but I read it as the bonfire being intentionally set by the mom, too - and that she had done this before. :) The tale is realistic - nicely done! ~Jana

Old Kitty said...

Yay for mum!!! I like her!! I love the child and mother bond too! Wonderful very dark story. Take care

Richard Levangie said...

The POV made this entry really powerful and evocative. Well done, Catrina!

Michael Morse said...

I felt this, rather than read it. Somehow your words formed images and emotion, with no need for thought. Magic? I think not. Just a great bit of writing.

Michele Zugnoni said...

I was pulled in from the first word. You have such a way with characters; I knew them well by the end of the tale. I also loved how our narrator believed "tenure review" a cuss word. Nice work.

Thank you for sharing!

Rachel said...

This is too true to life, as in when did you spend the night in our house?

Kids know stuff, way too early, they just know.

I agree with must write. Just write, write, write.

Unknown said...

Beautiful the way this captures the child's point of view with it not entirely being clear or understanding, yet enough is here under the covers to give the horror of this away.

JaneyV said...

I have often conjugated a cuss word or two myself. This piece was very alive - the child's POV gave it a real strength. Well done.

L.A Speedwing said...

Very different and a nice subtle approach into the realm of childhood's mind

Anonymous said...

What a great example of a unique story with a story delivery. Thsi kind of writing really sticks.

Congratulations on the Honorable Mention!