On vacay this week, so posting in haste. Still I couldn’t resist Liz Young’s photo for another step along the path of the young woman we saw the last couple of weeks. You don’t have to read the other snippets to read this one. They all stand alone, but in my mind it’s the same girl, another 6-10 years down the road and still struggling with the reality of growing up.
The Deck Is Stacked
I always thought I’d marry my high school sweetheart. Like the movies. Maybe date the odd joker first, but pretty much just true love and happy ever after. Maybe he’s a diamond in the rough, you know?
In real life they’re all jokers. You’re looking for the king of hearts, but it’s knave after knave and not a diamond in sight – rough or otherwise.
Tonight’s was a classic. Called me “Ace” and said if I play my cards right, he’d take me to his private club. Bleurgh.
I can’t help it, I keep trying. Waiting to deal up a winner.
As so often happens to me, this story came into my head with a musical accompaniment. I love The Gambler, but with the analogy to this girl’s situation it has a whole different meaning.
Isn’t teenagehood supposed to be about possibilities? I see only one road. Grades. College. Marriage. Babies, drudging on forever. One road. And it’s not the one less traveled by.
Of course, Robert Frost was a man. Maybe my brothers don’t feel this way. Grades. College. Husband. Babies.
Two roads. Where’s the second? Is it a guy on a motorbike coming to take me away? Maybe it’s a knife or pills. No. Maybe it’s grades, college, not marriage. Maybe there’s a big turn here arrow just around the corner.
Maybe I missed it already.
Last week’s little girl was just starting to get treated like an adult. This week she’s half a dozen years older and starting to realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
The Road Not Taken is one of my favourite poems and I recite it often, especially when wandering through woods. I hope this character finds a way to love it, or at least not view s reading it as another part of her drudgery. I also hope she doesn’t need a white knight on a motorbike to save her.
So much to say about the photo this week, not least because it’s one of mine! Also because I was so inspired by it, I smashed not one but two measuring jugs onto my kitchen floor this morning and now desperately need to go shopping! To make up for it, the crockery in my story isn’t broken today. At least, not yet.
I remember it so clearly. The grown up feeling that mattered so much. Full sized cutlery. A china plate. No more mac n cheese in a plastic bowl for me; that was for babies. I was the real deal now, and I ate roast dinner with the adults.
To be trusted with something as important as breakable crockery. To carry it, steaming to the table.
I can still taste the supercilious sneer I threw my little brothers eating delicious KD with mouth-sized spoons, that hint of … it couldn’t be jealousy, could it?
Bertie only went for the company, in truth – he’d watched the game with Harry and Len since Debra died in ’72. They ate hot dogs smothered in seven kinds of heart attack, sipped over-priced beer and talked about all the nothings that mattered.
When Sarah dragged Harry to Florida permanently, Bertie and Len kept buying three seats in the nosebleeds and took turns to drink Harry’s beer.
After Len died, Bertie watched one last game. They found him after the game, slumped in his seat with crushed cans in his lap, and more on the empty seats either side.
I have a feeling the yellow post in the foreground means this is a Football stadium, but in my mind it was baseball, and these three old duffers went every week to the Roger Stadium (formerly SkyDome) in Toronto to watch the Blue Jays play. It doesn’t matter of course, the game was really ancillary to Bertie’s enjoyment of these evenings out with buddies.
Like Bertie, I quite enjoy watching the game without any real investment in, or deep understanding of, what’s happening on the field. Putting this story together made me finally research a few things I’ve been wondering for a while, so here’s some extra info for those foreigners like me!
Take Me Out To The Ball Game is the unofficial anthem of North American baseball. It’s played on the speakers and sung by the crowd. I bet Bertie would know all the words and sang them loud on that last trip to the stadium. They didn’t sing it first, but you can enjoy Frank and Gene’s version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r2luDoV9TI
On the Jumbotron is consistently voted in the top 5 worst ways to propose to someone. I bet Bertie and his buddies would have seen a few people get engaged though over the years!
The Nosebleeds are so named because they are so high up, they are jokingly associated with this symptom mountain climbers get at high altitude. They are cheap though, so a great way to watch the game when you’re not really there to watch the game. I think Bertie and his boys would have chosen to spend their pensions on the beer rather than a better view.
“What’s black and white and red all over?” Luke’s started riffing on the joke book, so I prepare my laughter.
“Don’t know. What is black, white and red all over?”
“A newspaper” shouts Matty. He’s read the book too.
“Ha. No!” Getting a point against your brother is always a joy. “I’ll give you a clue: cowboy movies.” He waits a beat, then announces in triumph, “A cowboy after he’s been shot!”
I can see Matty preparing to argue, but it’s actually funny… and for once I’m ready to deflect. “Good one! Let’s have Oreo ice cream with strawberry sauce.”
I occasionally take a photo with FF in mind but I always forget to send them; Rochelle’s call for pictures makes me think I must hunt some of them down.
My story this week took a lot of editing to fit the 100 word limit and has lost a bit of Mom’s internal monologue as a consequence, but I enjoy writing stories about this family, who are often a little like mine. I hope you enjoy them too – there are lots of other Luke and Matty stories on my blog, so if you are interested click on the tag or drop their names into the search box for more snippets about them.
“Don’t fall!” he says, like always. Big grin on his face, coffee in hand, heading off to whatever and wherever he goes every day after he passes my window.
I’m perched on the ledge, like always. One leg hanging free, one safely inside. My heart balances too. Maybe he has a wife. Maybe he’s gay. Maybe he doesn’t even notice when I’m not here.
I notice. Where was he Monday? Sick or on vacation? I worried that he’d moved or changed jobs, but he’s back today.
“Don’t fall!” he says. Today isn’t the day to admit that I already have.
I tried, I promise, but nobody who studied English in a British high school can see a woman in a casement and a man on the ground not end up with a love story, at least as one of the thoughts in their head. Better this than the other kind of leap Juliet might have been contemplating.
When you walk the same route to work day in, day out, there are people who populate that walk like old friends you’ve yet to meet. They are so much a part of the walk that you miss them when they aren’t there – wonder where they’ve gone and whether they will be back. I remember one such person from my daily commute in Bristol, 15+ years ago. I wasn’t romantically interested like this character, but I still felt a little connection to him. Then I moved away and of course I didn’t say goodbye because I’d never said hello, but I wonder if he noticed.
Got started late today – somehow I didn’t get the notification of Rochelle’s post and it took until now to go and look for it. I blame the tech, but it’s just as likely to have been human error on my part. Anyway, I’m here now, my story follow the prompt. It comes with a ***Language Warning*** in case you prefer to know in advance.
Casualty of War
We climb through glassless window frames and scavenge among the detritus inside. People lived here once, made it a home and perhaps even a happy one. There are kids’ drawings scattered in the kitchen. Where were those kids now? Safe, I hope. And far a-fucking-way. If they’re even still kids?
Are any of us? I remember sitting at a table like this, struggling over algebra. What does that matter now? If the enemy has X grenades and you lost Y comrades in the latest push, solve for who gives a god damn. War takes everything, but it starts with childhoods.
First off, I’m trying to decide if this photo is a rerun. I hope it is because otherwise I’m struggling with a serious case of deja vu. Maybe I’ll go back later and look.
I went through a few options for this story, the prompt felt raw and naked and I started off going down that route. The narrator initially climbed through the window in giggly excitement with a potential lover for some illicit teenage fun, but by the time he was inside, he’d turned into a child soldier. Perhaps in Ukraine, although there are plenty (read: too many) other times and places where our youth have been put in these impossible situations where the algebra just doesn’t add up.
My kids and I had a chat about child soldiers this morning. Dominic (7) who is fascinated by the war in Ukraine and feels deeply the injustice of the Russian invasion, said that Sebastian (10) would be able to go and fight if he was just one year older. I’m not sure where he’d got that idea from, but I reassured them that no, the army does not take 11 year olds as a matter of course, but admitted that, horribly, in some countries of the world, boys as young as Dominic might be taken to become soldiers. Dominic assured me that if this happened he would hide in the soldier’s jacket and we somehow segued into beheadings and Henry VIII and how Jane Seymour had died. All before my first cup of tea. Parenthood is incredible. But anyway I digress. I am ever grateful to live in a time and a place where nobody wants to cut off my head or transport my sons off to battle.
“We’re rebels in our family,” Grandma used to say. Her own mother wore trousers and cut her hair short; Grandma went to university and became a Doctor. I worried I disappointed her – I wasn’t sure what to push against when so many doors were open thanks to them. I tried to hold the door for others, but it never felt much like rebellion.
She’d love my children though: blue-eyed boys who like to wrestle and climb trees… in pink sequin dresses and glittery rainbow cowboy boots.
The best thing about their rebellion is they don’t even know it’s happening.
Not so much a story, more of a musing from a fictional person whose experience is similar to (but not identical to) mine. The challenge of the millennial feminist was that so much had been done, and yet so much remained. Some of the more obvious doors were wide open to us, or at least appeared to be so, and invisible barriers may not be harder to knock down, but it is perhaps more difficult to form a consensus about which to attack and how to remove it. As a feminist, though, I believe in equality and that means building up men too – to be the best they can be and to have greater freedoms than their forefathers. So my greatest acts of feminism start with two little boys.
“I see they’ve got a black doctor now,” Doris indicated the TV. “And is that one gay? Why do they have to tick all the boxes like that? Just tell your story.”
“I think they’re just trying to reflect the diversity of the population.” Working at the home, Maggie was used to some version of the Politcal-Correctness-Gone-Mad conversation, but she couldn’t always let it go. “You know why Bert can’t find the bathroom?”
Doris giggled, “Old coot needs to admit he’s blind and put on his glasses.”
“Yes. It’s easier to get somewhere if you can see where you’re going.”
Extroduction – Totally unnecessary extra words, in case you’re interested in the backstory
Driving in the UK the last week or so, it still felt like the sun was low and blinding almost the whole day . They are significantly further north than here in Cobourg, Ontario, so the short days are way more noticeable. You get used to it if you live there, I don’t remember being as bothered by it years ago, but this time I noticed it a lot.
Anyway, this week’s photo prompt reminded me of that, but also I noticed the combination of the blinding oncoming headlights with the reflected map view. Like it was easier to see the plan of where to go than the next steps on the path. Hence this story was born. No likeness to any persons real or dead is intended.