Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's a short story now

Part 1 is here.

Part 2:

She could hear a cartoon on the TV inside and a couple of fighting kid voices. Nora could smell…Hamburger Helper? She rang the doorbell.

Gina came to the door, baby on her hip and a brown scrunchy holding back her bleached hair.  “Hi.”

“Hi. I’m Nora.  I live across the hall.  I thought this might help you.”

Gina looked surprised, and a little moved. “Thank you. That was really nice of you.  You didn’t have to do that.”

“It’s no problem.”

After a beat, Gina introduced herself.  “I’m Gina Majuri.”

“I’m Nora. Nora Bell.  It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

“I’ll let you go.  You’re making dinner.”

“It’s OK.  Want to come in?”

“I don’t know-“

“No, it’s fine.  Come on in.” Gina stepped back into the apartment so that Nora could enter. 

“Just for a minute.  I have to…” Her voice trailed off as Nora realized that she didn’t have to do anything.  Paul wasn’t coming back.  “Who is this,” Nora asked, taking the baby’s outstretched hand and stepping inside Gina’s apartment. 

“Frankie.  He’s 14 months old.  Over there in front of Spongebob are Vic and Nino.  Boys, say hello to Miss Bell.” Vic and Nino had a hard time looking away from the TV.  “Boys!  Say hello!”

“Hi,” the boys said in unison, waving halfheartedly in her general direction as they watched Spongebob and Patrick.  The yellow cartoon sponge’s hold on them was too great.

“Hi,” called Nora.

Gina went to the stove, Frankie on her hip, to stir the Hamburger Helper.  “I’m glad you came in.  I haven’t met many people in the building.  It’s hard when I go out with the boys.  It’s sometimes like herding cats.  Don’t get a lot of time to talk to other grownups. Are you on your way home from work?”

“Yeah.  I work in a law firm.”

“Oh.  What do you do there?”

“I’m the receptionist for Carroll, Carroll, and Splint.”

“I’ve seen those commercials on TV.  That’s the one with the guy in the body cast and the lawyer in the cowboy hat, right? ‘We’ll get what YOU deserve!’”

“Yeah that’s us.  Cowboy hats only on Fridays.”

Gina chuckled.  “You must meet a lot of people in your job.”

“Yeah…” Nora’s voice trailed off.  She noticed Gina’s wedding picture on the wall by the TV. “Is that your husband?”

Gina swallowed hard and adjusted Frankie on her hip, pulling him closer.  “Yes.  That’s Frank.  He passed away a year and a half ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s OK.  I keep thinking it will get easier to answer questions like that.  He was crossing the street and was hit by a truck.  He hung on a couple days, but he was hurt really bad and just couldn’t....  Frankie was born a little after his daddy died.”

“Wow. Just-wow. Do you have family nearby?”

“Yeah, my mom lives close, and so do his parents.  I have help.” Gina turned and gave Nora a smile, but the corners of her mouth turned down just a little. “Want to stay for dinner?”

Friday, August 10, 2012

A flash story

I got this idea for a short story, but it turned out to be really short, so it's a flash story.  I'm thinking of expanding it. This is a rough draft.  Constructive feedback is appreciated!  -A. 

Nora Bell woke up on Tuesday with a question. A question mark, really. On the back of her left hand.  The mark looked like someone had scratched it into her skin with a bent-out safety pin. 

“Odd,” thought Nora. “That wasn’t there last night.” She would have seen it while washing her hands before she took out her contact lenses.  Every night, she took her contact lenses out and used this cleaning solution whose label claimed you didn’t have to rub the lenses to get them cleaned and disinfected.  She rubbed them a few times before putting them into the case anyway. 

Nora’s next thought was to show the question mark to Paul, but he wasn’t there.

Nora walked down the hall to the bathroom, her thoughts of work that day interrupted by a knock on her apartment door. “7:30. Who can that be?” she said to herself.  Nora always spoke to herself aloud when she was home alone.

Barefoot, she tiptoed toward the door.  If it wasn’t anyone she wanted to see, or a stranger, she didn’t want them to hear her approaching so she could pretend the apartment was empty.  Paul always said that the other person could see the light through the peep-hole get interrupted by your head in between the door and the window anyway, so why bother tiptoeing?

It was Billy the super. She opened the door. 

“Hey, Billy. Kinda early, isn’t it?”

“Sorry, Nora. No water.  Main broke down the street.  Should be fixed by lunchtime.”

“Crap.  Thanks for the heads up, Billy.”

“Sorry, kiddo.”

Nora closed the door as Billy turned to knock on the door across the hall. The lady there had 3 kids.  They moved in 3 months ago. No water till noon and they were probably going to have to boil it for a while after the main was fixed.  That wasn’t going to be easy for her.  Nora made a mental note to get a gallon of water to leave there when she got home after work.  She could hear Paul ask why she would do something like that for a woman she didn’t even know.

Nora went right to the fridge to get her Brita pitcher before heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  Nora and Paul saw this commercial one time for a super water filter pitcher.  The guy showed a pitcher with water filled with dust. He poured it through the filter and the water came out clean.  Nora wondered aloud if they should get one.  Paul asked her if she usually had a problem with dusty water. 

Nora got ready for work and went to the kitchen to get some breakfast.  There was Paul’s box of Froot Loops, unopened and staring at her.  She reached for her box of Special K with berries.  The bag inside had some flakes and a bunch of freeze-dried strawberry dust and seeds that would get stuck in her teeth.  Paul had eaten the Special K again.  She ate the flakes and dust with some skim milk and a Greek yogurt and looked again at the back of her left hand.  Her question mark was to the right of the tendons from her ring finger to her wrist.  Her mark was the only thing on her hand.

Nora looked at the clock on the oven and stood up.  She put her bowl in the sink and went to turn on the faucet to wash it out but nothing came out. “Forgot. No water. I’ll need a sandblaster to clean this when I get home.”

Nora walked a few blocks to her job as a receptionist at the fourth-largest personal injury law firm in the state. The attorneys were generally too busy and the clients in too much pain (mostly real, sometimes imagined) to really notice her, which was just fine with Nora. She liked to blend in and observe people.  She fancied herself a good judge of character. 

Nora arrived at her desk at 8:55.  She checked to see if her voicemail light was on (it never was), unlocked her drawer to get her three pens out (you wouldn’t believe how many pens just walk away from her desk), and was ready to answer the phone if it started ringing.  The office manager didn’t feel that Nora needed a computer, so Nora didn’t have to check email.  Nora took her pens with her as she unlocked the door for the clients and opposing attorneys who would soon begin to dribble in. 

Nora looked at her question mark again.  She thought it couldn’t be that unusual to wake up with a scratch you didn’t remember getting, but a question mark-shaped one?  That was unusual.  Once she saw a picture of a woman who had this port wine mark on her skin that looked like the Hawaiian Islands.  Nora guessed that people wanted to make all sorts of things look like something else.  We are creatures of relationship, she thought to herself.  We’re always looking for faces in faceless things-like the Man in the Moon. 

“Excuse me.”

Nora started and looked up.  A bike messenger was standing in front of her.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s OK.  How can I help you?”

 “This is my first time delivering to this firm and I don’t know where I can take this envelope for Joe Harvey.”

“Mr. Harvey is on the third floor.  Off the elevator and go right.  His secretary is right there.”

“Thanks.  Can I leave my bike here?”

“Be right back.”

People tended to walk right past Nora to read the directory on the wall opposite her.  Or they already knew where they were going.  She was glad the messenger interrupted her. Paul always told her she walked around with her head in the clouds. She was trying to daydream less.

“I’m back. Thanks for keeping an eye on my bike.  I’m Paul,” said the bike messenger as he extended his hand.

“Paul? Oh. I’m Nora.  Nice to meet you.”

“Nora.  Have you been here long?”

“Since five till nine.”

Paul’s eyes crinkled as he smiled at her.  “Um.  I meant, ah, how long have you worked here?”

“Oh. Duh.” She ran her hand through her hair. “Three years.”

“Did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“On your hand.”

“No. I woke up with that this morning. Isn’t that weird?”

“Yeah.  And cool.”

“Yeah.  Kind of cool.”

“Well, see you later. ‘Bye Nora.”

“’Bye, Paul.”

At 5:05, Nora locked her three pens in her desk, got her purse, and walked outside. She looked up at the puffy clouds.  The sun was getting low in the sky, making the sky a brilliant blue and the puffy clouds a rosy pink with blue edges. She walked and searched for shapes: a dragon here, a turtle there.  She nearly walked past her building.   

Nora walked up to her apartment.  She passed Billy the super on the steps. “Water’s back on, Nora.  We have a boil order for three days.” Water!  Nora walked back downstairs and went into the convenience store around the corner.  She picked up the last gallon of bottled water in the neighborhood (said the clerk) and took it back upstairs to her neighbor’s door.  She stood on the doormat, unsure if she should ring the bell or not. She could hear a cartoon on the TV inside and a couple of fighting kid voices. Nora could smell…Hamburger Helper? She rang the doorbell. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Interrupting Cow

One of my family's favorite jokes goes like this: 

Joey: Knock, knock. 
Judy: Who's there? 
Joey: Interrupting Cow. 
Judy: Interrupting Co-
Joey: MOO!!!!

My chlidren have a very annoying habit of interrupting everyone else in the house.  One kid starts to talk and another, sensing that Mom's attention has been given to another person, runs from the other end of the house to tell their information that is ohsoimportantitjustcantwait, totally interrupting their brother/sister/father. We have tried being polite, "You must wait, you're interrupting," but that hasn't really helped.

This past weekend, when we were all in the car, my dear husband was talking to me.  My oldest son, my worst offender, started interrupting. Because I am incredibly mature completely the exchange went like this: 

B1: Mom, I was thinking about-
Mom: MOO!
B1: Mom, I was-
Mom: MOO!
B1: Mom-
Mom: MOOO, B1!

He stopped talking.  The car cracked up. I finished my conversation and turned to B1 and said, "Do you know why I was moo-ing at you?"

"Because I was interrupting," the 11.5 year old replied.

This has been working well for us so far.  If someone is interrupting now, we just turn and moo at them and continue the conversation.  No one's feelings get hurt because it's funny, and the interrupting child knows that they are next in line.

Think of the applications for this:

Child who tries to talk to me through a closed bathroom door: MOO!
Telemarketer calls during dinner: MOO! *click*
Call waiting beeps: MOO!

The possibilities are nearly endless.

Attorney 1: Your honor, I object-
Attorney 2: MOO!

Who would you "MOO!" at and why?

Friday, July 27, 2012

In defense of the letter carrier

We all remember how a while back, postal workers seemed to be going crazy.  We all have used the phrase "going postal" at some point, right.  Well, I'm putting it out there (and not because I feel threatened): I love my mailman.

Mercury (not his real name) is fantastic.  He has been our letter carrier for at least 8 years.  He's great to talk to-a really friendly guy. He goes about his business, always cordial and willing to talk, but he works hard and gets his work done.

I know there is always a lot of talk about how the Postal Service is losing money.  Just google postal service deficit for articles galore.

Mercury dropped off a post card from our local postmaster a few weeks ago.  The card said that we may notice a different carrier bringing our mail, or that it will come at different times of the day.

I asked Mercury about it and he told me that they are cutting personnel all over the area.  The carriers who are left have to get a lot more mail out.  Some carriers aren't getting their routes done till 6 at night-which isn't going to be good when it's winter and pitch black at that time of day.

I remember back 8 years ago, when my eldest was 3.  We had a mail slot in our front door; no box outside.  Our front door was open because the weather was nice, so Mercury opened the storm door to toss the mail inside and there was my three year old, staring at him.

"Hey there," Mercury said.  "Is there somebody in there with you?"  "Yes," I said, "I'm right here."  "Oh, good," said Mercury, "I just wanted to check." I can't imagine what he's seen carrying mail on his route for the last 20 years.

Letter carriers who work the same route all the time notice if mail starts piling up.  Letter carriers who work the same route all the time would notice if there was something wrong at a senior citizen's house, or if someone was getting smacked around by a spouse or parent.  A letter carrier who works the same route all the time would know if there might be someone in the neighborhood who needs some company or a meal.  I don't want a different mailman.  Mercury knows my neighborhood.  He knows who is in the neighborhood and who is supposed to be here.

The Letter Carrier is on the first line of defense against crime, terrorism, pain, and hunger.  The letter carrier who walks the same route every day is necessary. He is essential.  She is important.  The bean counters in Postmasters' offices all over the country need to remember this and stop mucking around with the routes.  They need to make sure this essential service- a service that goes beyond delivering junk mail-doesn't go away. I'm grateful for letter carriers. You should be, too.

7 Quick Takes

I haven't done this for a really long time.  Let's see if I can eke 7 takes out for this post...

1. I didn't wach the opening of the Olympics in London.  Forgot they were on, and then we wound up watching the Yankees-RedSox game.

2. Went to Chick-fil-a for dinner.  It was delicious and it felt good to support the chain. Had a ton of fun with the kids.

3. Having a realtor come in next week to give us a market analysis.  trying to get the house ready but that's not going to be easy because...

4. Tomorrow night we are going to see the Somerset Patriots play.  My oldest son's little league team won their league, so we are all going together to celebrate.

5.  It's fireworks night tomorrow.  It will be extra nice since the oldest guy was away at Boy Scout camp 4th of July week and he really missed not going to the fireworks with us on the 4th.

6.  all of the bigger kids have baseball practice tomorrow morning-at the same time, naturally-and my younger son is going to a birthday party tomorrow which is a pool party in the host's backyard, which means...

7. I have to go with him and stand next to the pool to make sure he doesn't drown.  I trust the parents who are hosting the party COMPLETELY, however, my kids don't really swim.  Parties get crazy busy and often adults think someone else is watching the kids.  I am going to be playing lifeguard.

For more quick takes, please visit our lovely host, Jennifer Fulweiler at Conversion Diary.

My least favorite part of summer

Dear friends, family, fellow parishioners, and random people I may encounter in my life for the next 2 weeks,

My baby does not have the mumps or measles.  She was bitten several times on the face by mosquitoes (or one mosquito) while she played in her play yard in my living room as I cooked lunch.


Seriously, she gets these welts when she is bitten by a mosquito that turn really ugly. She's running around giving people high fives as usual, so she is going to be fine.

I wish death to all mosquitoes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I have the smartest baby ever

Know how I know I have the smartest baby ever?  I bought her one of those gyroscopic bowls that you can't dump out.  And she figured out a way to dump the contents of her dinner onto the floor.

She's a genius, I tell you!