Archive for the ‘Life (cereal) and Times (newspaper) of One Woman's Extraordinary Events’ category

The Road to Nowhere

November 28, 2015
The road to nowhere can lead anywhere

The road to nowhere can lead anywhere

 

At fifteen-years-old Jenna appears a full-grown woman in the physical respect. The reddish-brown thick hair spilling off her shoulders and trailing down her back tickles the skin below her cutoff shirt. Her shorts are so brief that bending over leaves nothing to anyone’s imagination. Regardless of first appearances, her slightly turned up nose and long-lashed blue eyes above her pleasantly curling lips betray the rest of her worldliness. And even more than that, the tiny fairy footprints trailing from one side of her face, across her nose to the other side, freckle her cheeks like an innocent child who’d lost her first tooth. When she speaks, sincere people lose sight of anything below her chin.

With the house clean and her homework complete, Jenna scoops up a book she’s been meaning to read. She flops lazily on the couch.

“Let’s go!” her father says. His red baseball cap covers his balding head that used to remind people of Elvis. The sleeves missing from his shirt reveal semi-flabby upper arms with black bear fur covering his forearms. For a man in his mid-forties, he moves around with a newfound energy since his wife’s disappearance. He even reinvented his nickname as Zed.

Curious about this, Jenna performed a search on her computer at school and discovered the name means, “The Lord is just.”

Jenna glances at the photo on the wall of the three of them. Her mother was beautiful. She has her eyes. “Do you think she’ll come back?”

Bends over his camera bag, shuffling things around and throwing a couple of bottles of water in, he hesitates. “Who?” He doesn’t, however, break his stride in preparation.

“Mom.”

“Doubt it.”

“Do you think it was something I did?”

Zipping the bag closed, Zed places his hands on his hips, standing tall and towering over her. He shakes his head. “It was nothing you did. But you’ve got to let it go. It’s been over three years now. Trust me when I say she’s never coming back.”

“Will you please tell me what happened again?”

He frowns and his shoulders rise. “Why?”

“Just one more time. I promise I’ll never ask you again after this time.”

“Dammit Jenna. Reliving the past only keeps you from going anywhere. You may as well be on the road to nowhere, walking in crazy circles.” He grimaces as his fingers walk circles in the air. “She went out one night and never came home.” He claps. “End of story. Can we go now?”

The bag slides easily onto his shoulder. Without checking to ensure his daughter’s following him, he leaves.

With a whisk of her hand, Jenna catches her sunglasses off the hook by the door and throws them on her face, jogging out behind him.

The kids in the neighborhood walk their dogs, run through sprinklers, and dash up and down the street playing a game of tag. All of them are young—too young to do anything remotely fun for a teenager. Jenna’s forehead numbly bounces against the car window all the way to the park.

“Wow, looks like we hit rush hour traffic,” Jenna says, observing a group barbecuing. They have what her father refers to as “nigga shit” blaring while several people dance and about ten others watch, cheering them on.

Others relax on blankets or towels in swimwear, even though there isn’t a beach for several states away. They glisten in lotion and oil, inviting the kiss of cancer in exchange for the sake of beauty.

The car swings in and parks.

“This spot is looking pretty good.” Zed tucks the keys in his pocket, grabs the camera bag, and stands eying a twenty-something girl. She’s lying face down with her suit unfastened in the back. Her twisted blond hair in a makeshift bun clings fastened to her head.

Jenna slides out of the car and tugs at the bottoms of her shorts. She groans and tries to get a bit more length out of them. “Next time I think I’ll cut my own shorts off.”

“Whatever.” Zed stands with his back to her. He reaches a hand into the side pocket of his camera case and grabs a business card, displaying a fake company name and logo. Ignoring Jenna, he watches closely as the blond woman stretches for a bottle of water, just out of reach.

As if on cue, Zed prances over toward the blanket, the water, and the woman in need. “Let me get that for you.” His voice sings with compassion as he picks the bottle up and holds it out to her, a little too high. She strains to get it, still smiling, and reveals a tiny bit of what’s underneath.

“Perv.” Jenna leans against the car and surveys her father getting comfortable on the blanket next to his shapely target.

“Hey, wassup?” A couple of dark-skinned boys saunter up the sidewalk, smiling.

“Hi.” Jenna smiles back at them, and they pause in front of her.

“I ain’t never seen you here befo’.” His dark velvety skin contrasts his glistening white teeth, enhancing pitch black eyes. They’re both in jerseys and basketball shorts. One has a ball tucked under his arm.

“I’m with my dad.” She indicates her father hitting on the bikini-clad woman. “We go to different parks on the weekends so he can practice his photography. We’ve never been here before, though. I like it.” Jenna soaks in the trees and laughter, the joy this place brings to everyone. She sees the basketball court in the distance with a couple of kids shooting hoops.

They both peer toward her father, exchange grins and roll their eyes. They chuckle. “Practicing photography,” one says in a slow and deliberate manner.

“So what are you doing?” the other says, shrugging. “Wanna come watch us play?”

Jenna hesitates, wondering what her father might say.

“She likes ’em black, and you ain’t dark enough. Go tan,” Zed says, waving his arm around as if shooing flies from a fresh carcass.

Both of their faces cloud over and their brows draw down. Commencing their shuffle, without a word, they head toward the others with the blaring music and laughter.

“For twenty bucks, she’ll probably give you a two fer!” He continues hollering behind them before redirecting attention to her. “I’m gone for one second and you start picking up roaches like rotting food in the back alley,” Zed says angrily. “What’s the matter with you? You fishing for a jungle disease?”

Jenna peeks past her father’s shoulder at the celebrating people. “You’re judgmental and prejudice. Not everyone else is sick like you, you know.”

She may as well have physically slapped his face. He shudders. With his head hanging, he replaces his camera bag in the car and gets in.

Jenna glares at him through the window, waiting for him to say something, but he doesn’t even look. She reaches her hand out for the handle. A loud click sounds indicates activation of the locks. He waves.

The car jolts backward from the stall, spinning its tires and screeches to a halt. He guns the engine like a high school boy at a stoplight. Zed rolls his window down and shouts at her. “I ain’t no nigger lover. Go play with your new friends.” The car’s engine revs, burns rubber fishtailing, and disappears in a stench of churning gray smoke.

Standing in dismay, Jenna sighs and tilts her head to the sun, determining its position. They had driven for nearly an hour to get here, and her sense of direction was practically nonexistent. Be that as it may, her feet needed no coercion to begin the trek.

Jenna traipses across the driveway to the light at the corner of the park and waits for the traffic light to change. The tunes behind her blur along with the sun and she suddenly goes numb. She crumbles and her body melts into the lawn, spinning dizzy and confused.

The last time she saw her mother was the night her mom was going out with her friend from work, Chloe. Although her mother had been working at the office for nearly five years, and spoken of Chloe as if they were sisters, Jenna hadn’t seen her until that night when Chloe came over. Her father planned on driving and picking them up from the club. He said when he went to get her, she wasn’t there. The club owner said she’d never gone in.

Jenna’s mother had never gone out for a girls’ night before, and that night she was a queen, glowing with a new confidence. Chloe was radiant too, with silky cocoa skin and dark rows of hair. It was all Jenna could do not to reach out and touch her. Despite their differences, they were close friends.

Jenna’s mother never did come home. Her mind flashes back to the night when her father returned. He claimed his wife was on the road to nowhere. Jenna wondered where that road was and if she’d find it too.

 

 

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Feel Better

November 22, 2013
A hug is priceless

A hug is priceless

“I’ll be right back, I promise,” Holly says as she rubs his head with a soothing hand and closes the door. The store is so close it takes a mere two minutes to drive there, yet the light on the dashboard blinks so loud it is all she can do to keep her eyes on the road.

The lights in the store pierce the blackness outside even though they are the energy-saving version, a bit more dull than usual. The rain sprinkles her windshield in tiny droplets, tapping out a mournful tune of loneliness. Taking a deep breath, Holly throws the door open, grabbing her tattered purse, and sprints to the welcoming doors as they slide open for her, beckoning her to a place of comfort.

The bakery sits inside the door so customers can have a look at something to tantalize their families with after their meal. Holly sees the red and green crystal covered cookies cut in various Christmas shapes and she beams. She loves the smells of Christmas with the wreaths, gingerbread, and pumpkin pie filling the air. But there’s no time for relaxing now as she opens her eyes and continues to the back of the store.

The bottles line the shelves in various sizes and colors as she grabs a nameless brand of lemon-lime carbonated beverage from the top and heads to the soups. There are so many to choose from. Holly grabs a can of half-off chicken soup and hustles to the check stand.

The cashier smiles at her. “Hello, how are you? Did you find everything okay?” she asks.

“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” But her eyes shift to the place where the numbers appear with the totals as she waits. “Oh no, I don’t have that much.”

“We didn’t add in your store card. You do have one, don’t you?”

Holly reaches into her purse, fumbling through the receipts, notes from her kids, and finds her card. Her hand is shaking as she hands it to the checker who swipes it through the machine and returns it to her. The cost drops considerably. “Now I’m much better than fine,” she says feeling the tears threatening to reveal themselves.

“See?” the clerk says. She accepts the check card and runs it through. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Holly shakes her head. “Just have a good night yourself.”
The rain pummels at a diagonal as she makes a dash for her car. She laughs with tears of relief mixing with the rain as it streams down her cheeks.

The car stops in front of her house, the headlights halting on the front door. The wind pushes at the door, but she forces it open. Her son remains on the couch shivering. “I told you I’d be right back, didn’t I?” Holly watches her son who doesn’t stir, but remains resting in a sweat-saturated pillow. “I’ll always be here for you,” she says sitting in the chair across from him, watching and waiting for him to get better.

Her little girl comes around the corner. “Did you get me something?” she asks.

Holly motions her over and takes her in her arms. “I brought home fresh hugs, just for you.”

The Crossing Guard

November 13, 2013

and she was cross.

and she was cross.


Every morning Veronica wakes up early and pours herself a cup of coffee. She makes twice as much this morning for her big day. For the past seven years, everything has been the same, everything but the depth of the wrinkles and the gray in her hair. She’s also a bit heavier, but everything else is unchanged.

Ryan bursts into the kitchen, his trumpet tucked under his arm. “You got my–?” he asks, but stops short when the waft of oatmeal reaches his nostrils and he pauses to inhale.

His little sister Liberty runs up behind him, giving him a nudge and grabbing her sugar toast from the table. Pulling the crust off and pushing it aside, she pushes her face in the center and takes a bite, leaving greasy sugar on the tip of her nose.

The kids pack their things in the car. Ryan clicks on the radio from the passenger seat. His imaginary drum set pops out and his arms and head are moving synchronously. “Tell him to turn it down,” Liberty says cupping her ears with a crinkled face. “It’s too loud.”

“We do this every day, you guys.” Veronica turns the radio down halfway and instructs Liberty to put her seatbelt on without looking. It’s off every day as they pull out of the driveway.

The kids each lean over to press a kiss on Veronica’s cheek before climbing out of the car, waving, and running up to the school.

When they’re safely inside, Veronica takes a deep breath and exhales, her hands gripping the wheel until her knuckles turn white. She checks the traffic to make sure the entry on the road is clear and pulls out. At the end of the block, orange cones are set up at the crosswalk. On the corner is her daily nemesis, the crossing guard.

This crossing guard isn’t an excited and happy one like the one on the other side of the block; this one is a life form that shouldn’t be out without a full moon. As if they share an epiphany, her head turns and her eyes narrow, piercing a direct ray through the windshield to Veronica’s eyes. Veronica squints under the pressure, but forces her eyes open even wider and glares back.

Time stands still, as if the women are at opposite ends of the street outside a gunslinger’s saloon. They size each other up, hands hovering over their weapons until one makes her move.

Veronica checks the street and then pulls up to turn. A fat hand clutching the handle of a stop sign shoots out in front of her car. A smirk crosses the guard’s pudgy face above her bright yellow vest. Dishwater blond hair dangles in a ragged mess over her collar. A boy walking toward the corner is still minutes away as the guard waddles to the middle of the street, eyeing Veronica’s car, daring her.

When Veronica guns the engine, frothing at the mouth, the child stops for a second and looks at her, in a quandary. But the driver smiles and motions with her hand to cross.

When the child is safe on the other side, the crossing guard yells at him to have a good day with her cigarette-choked voice. Her stop sign waves madly in the air. With a victorious grin, she pivots toward Veronica and remains between the white lines with the matching cone behind her, as if somehow in a bulletproof shelter.

Veronica slightly lifts off the clutch and punches her accelerator to the floor. The squeal of the tires accompany a plume of smoke behind the car. The vehicle lurches forward.

The horror on the crossing guards face is a carnival funhouse entrance. The car slides around the corner, missing her by the width of a gnat’s wing. The sign spins free, up in the air, while the guard stumbles falling to the other side of the road. Her thick body collapses over a fire hydrant like a lifebuoy in the middle of the ocean.

Veronica smiles and peers at her victim in the rearview mirror while she drives away. Today will be different.