Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Sting and Bite for #StoryADay May; Day Eighteen

The Prompt:

  • There is a moment in every story where a protagonist has to make a choice: to take up the challenge of the story or to turn away. Everything else flows from that.

  • Today, write a story in which your protagonist makes the other choice.

Sting and Bite

“There’s nothing anyone can do to save this baby’s life, Marilyn.”

The words sting and bite with more force than a needle piercing her skin and penetrating a vein.

“Is it because of me – because of my -?” She couldn’t make herself say the words that would damn her, and the baby she carried.

“The exact causes aren’t known. However, your blood tests shows very low levels of folic acid, which is essential for the proper formation of the neural tube.”

“And what does that mean – for her?” She rubbed the protrusion of her belly, where the baby girl was growing.

“It means you may miscarry. If you carry to term, your daughter has a seventy-five percent chance of being stillborn. If she survives birth, she’ll live no more than a few weeks. There’s no treatment; she has only a residual brain stem. She won’t be conscious, and she’ll feel no pain. She won’t be able to see or hear. She might be able to swallow by reflex, if her brain stem has developed enough. Her spinal cord is exposed; she will be paralyzed from the waist down. All we can do for her is to keep her warm and comfortable until, inevitably, she dies.”

But that can’t be all! It’s not fair! She wanted to scream those things at the doctor, tell her how Brad had died the night he made this baby girl, how she’s the last part of him still alive -but she doesn’t say any of that. “Maybe her brain just hasn’t – I don’t know – caught up with the rest of her.”

“I’m sorry, Marilyn. Your daughter’s birth defect occurred in the third to fourth weeks of your pregnancy. Fetal development is a forward progression; she won’t go backward and catch up.”

The doctor paused, and Marilyn could feel that whatever was coming was even worse than the nightmare she’d already heard.

“She won’t be a person in any sense you can recognize, Marilyn – but there is some good that can still come of it. You could use this as a catalyst. Get into a good rehabilitation program. You’re young and intelligent, and you have your whole life ahead of you. Start taking better care of yourself and your diet – including a folic acid supplement, so that you minimize the chances of a recurrence if you decide to have another child. And, if you’d like to give some personal meaning to your little girl’s life, you could consider organ donation – most of her organs might be healthy enough to enhance or save another child’s life.”

It was all a swift sharp blade that cut through the illusions of her hazy life. She’d been trying to escape into oblivion, but it was no use. Reality had found her. It always did.

In that moment, she knew what she had to do. “Can you recommend a treatment program? I’ll go, right away, and do whatever it takes.”

And she knows that she will.

Will Marilyn actually go to rehab?

Will it be successful?

What happens to this version of Marilyn?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Just for Fun!, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing Samples

Indelible for #StoryADay May; Day Fifteen

Indelible:

“What the hell are you doing?!”

Marilyn just stares at her for a few seconds, then goes back to her incoherent scribbling. She’s gripping the marker so hard, it’s tearing the fine pages.

The book was a gift from Mom. But she can’t say that to her half-sister, not when Marilyn’s mother is dead. Not that Marilyn would be likely to understand, anyway – she has that look of being high, and there’s a foul stink in the air; something acrid burning. She’s already sribbled all over herself, her dolls, the sheets, and the wall. She’s naked, the trackmarks hidden by the ink.

And she’s destroying Ophelia’s home – and her life – in indelible ways.

How will Ophelia react?
Can she erase Marilyn’s destruction?

Is there any hope for Marilyn?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

“So Many Secrets” for Story A Day May; Day Thirteen

“So Many Secrets”

Ophelia watches her half-sister nodding off in a pile of dolls on her own daybed. That’s a phrase she’d never thought of, this way.

When she first met Marilyn, she’d never suspected the bubbly, colorful girl would be the one to show her the darker meaning of that expression. She’d been a happy-go-lucky free spirit, coming to find her father’s “poor bastard daughter”, and never letting on that she had so many demons about it.

“Why do you keep so many secrets, Marilyn?”

Not even a moan from Marilyn. Her eyes are closed, and she looks asleep – but her needle is lying on the floor beside her, and her arm is hanging down, a fresh track mark clearly evident, indicting her.

No sense talking to Marilyn. No use asking where the hell she got the heroin, when she couldn’t have been out of rehab more than an hour or so. Those questions will have to wait until Marilyn is in some kind of state to answer – even though she’s not likely to, even then.

Ophelia’s learned a lot, in the three months she’s been here.

She’s learned a hell of a lot about things she never wanted to learn about, or be close to. Things she doesn’t want tormenting anyone, and certainly not her sister.

She’s learned about a thousand things she was mistaken about.

She wishes she wasn’t sure that her very existence is the reason she’s learned all these things, or why Marilyn is so broken.

Ophelia sinks down on the floor, and stares at the tip of the needle, which is pointing straight at her.

Is Ophelia right about being to blame?

How close to the truth is she?

Will Marilyn’s secrets destroy them both?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Hollow Laughter for Story A Day May; Day Twelve

The Prompt:

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlookt for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye;
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glorie die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.”
– William Shakespeare
Sonnet 25

Hollow Laughter

Marilyn looks around her, hugging herself tightly. The overarching trees lean in too close, breathing on her while they scratch and claw at the sky.

What the hell do they want from her?

But she knows. They want her to go back to that damned rehab she just walked out the front door of. Or they want her to go back to that damned house, with its empty, hollow embrace that feels just like Mom’s laugh….never any joy in either one of them.

Whatever the hell they want from her, she’s not giving it to them.

“Not tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow….” The trees leered at her, scratching and clawing. Those words were from something, but she couldn’t remember, and it didn’t matter.

She had to get away from these trees. That house.

Mom’s ghost.

Foul and pestilent congregations of vapor.

The circles her own head ran around in.

She didn’t know where to go. She didn’t know where any of her dealers lived; they came to her for sex, and she took them in Mom and Dad’s bed, pretending it was her own – but it never had been, and it never would be.

That bed was empty – even when she brought a whole orgy in, or all her dolls, there was still nothing really for her there.

That bed, what she did there – all so that she could get what she wanted from them – the only thing that mattered.

Ways to hide from things like pestilent vapors, hollow laughter, empty houses.

When had she decided to come here, to Ophelia’s tiny little place? She’d only been here once, but she remembered that it was a place that was full- like a womb.

Her hands rolled over her belly. It was full; too full. Overflowing with life that didn’t make her feel any more alive, or full.

She was empty.

Wanting.

She tried the door. It wasn’t locked, so she slipped in.

And there were her precious dolls, all piled together in a garbage bag, waiting for her, because she’d asked her sister to keep them for her. She didn’t want them in the vapors or the empty house with its memories of hollow laughter.

She ran to the dolls, dumped them on the bed, found Raggedy And by the secret threads in her hair.

Yes, yes, yes!

She tears the doll’s scalp, brings out her kit, and shoots up. She wants to rest now, surrounded by the mound of dolls who are her only friends. But she can’t let Ophelia know about their secret treasures, and there are trees outside the window; trees that might spy.

She hides the evidence.

But she can’t lay down…not yet. Can’t, because of the scratching, spying trees.

She has to get away from them.

Into Ophelia’s office – to find a huge leather-bound book with gold-edged letters. Filled with words – a vast wealth or words….Ophelia was rich!

But even that wasn’t enough for her greedy sister, who had already stolen so much from her.

All those words, all that wealth, pouring out and out onto fresh pages in small flowy letters that made words that danced and sang and laughed rich, full laughs.

What will Marilyn do with Ophelia’s book?

Will the trees betray her secrets?

Will she be discovered?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2017, Blogfest Entries, Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Round Two 2017, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

“The End” for Story A Day May; Day Eleven

  • For Story A Day May, Day Eleven (click the heading to see the full post with prompt by Bea a bilingual writer and freelancer currently living near Venice, in Italy. She blogs and helps writers with their writing and creativity at  The Busy Muse

“The End”

“What’s wrong, Marilyn?”

Her sister doesn’t answer, but Ophelia thinks she knows.

It’s something about the story. Did Marilyn know that it was real – her own mother’s account of her first meeting with their father? No. How could she know that was the night her mother claimed Ophelia had been conceived, by the incoming tide on a magical Hawaiian spring night?

“I’m going to tell you a story now.” She sticks her bottom lip out like a pouty child. “I don’t like yours.” She waggles a finger at Ophelia. “But first, I have to pee.”

Ophelia knows Marilyn well enough to be suspicious. Her sister won’t let her use that bathroom, and, every time she comes out of it, she’s high on something. She wants to sneak in there and clean it up, but Marilyn guards it fiercely.

She’d done it once, while Marilyn was in rehab, but Marilyn had walked out, found herself a few men – even with her obvious pregnancy, the men she propositioned didn’t seem to have any trouble trading sex for drugs.

And now the bathroom is locked, and Marilyn won’t say where she’s hidden the key.

So Ophelia waits, knowing that her sister is poisoning herself again in there, and, even worse, poisoning that innocent baby inside her who maybe never had a chance.

It’s twenty minutes before Marilyn appears again. She’s moving slowly, almost zen-dancing her way back to the couch she seems to love, and the pile of rag dolls, who seem to be the only friends she has, unless Ophelia can count herself –

But would she ever be friends with Marilyn, if they didn’t share a genetic history?

Honestly, she doesn’t think so.

And she’s not sure why she doesn’t just leave. This mess is too big for her. It’s too big even for the people at rehab, and they’re trained for this kind of thing. She’s just a kid.

But she’s all Marilyn has.

The older girl – really, she’s not a woman yet, either, even if she’s biologically ready to reproduce herself – sinks onto the couch, leaning back, her eyes drooping.

“Story, Marilyn. You were going to tell me a story.”

“Huh. Oh. Right.” She doesn’t move for so long Ophelia’s sure she’s going to sleep. Then, she says, her voice slow and slurry, “You’re an accountant.” She picks up one of her dolls, the movements heavy and in slow-mo. “See? This is you.” She smiles, but it’s not a friendly smile. “You just started a new job. Your company sent you to this house. It’s in a nice place – good neighborhood, like this one. Maybe it’s this house.”

She pauses. “What’s next?” Ophelia asks, even though she doesn’t really want to know. There’s something almost menacing about Marilyn’s manner, even with her languor.

Marilyn laughs ominously. “The door’s half open. Your ring the bell again and again, cause you’re so polite.” She’s sneering now. “You go in, calling. Nobody answers, but there’s a big banana plant in a pot, and it’s tipped over – wet dirt all over the fancy rug…and footsteps. Big ones, tracking the dirt all over the floor. And then the door closes and clicks locked behind you.”

Marilyn stops talking, but she’s staring at Ophelia.

“Then what happens?” She doesn’t really want to know, but –

“That’s the end. Like the title of the story. It’s called “The End of Ophelia.”

Her smile is so chilling, Ophelia shudders.

Is Marilyn actually threatening Ophelia’?

What did she do in the bathroom?

What happens next?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Playing With Her Dolls for Story A Day May; Day Nine

Public Courtesy Warning: This story edges into adult territory, and might not be suitable for work or reading where younger kids might peek over your shoulder.

Playing With Her Dolls

Marilyn is playing with her dolls again.

“There’s our nun in her wimple. Doesn’t she look stunning?”

She looks at Ophelia, and seems to need some kind of answer, so Ophelia plays along. “Is a nun supposed to look stunning?”

No answer from Marilyn. She dances the naked, wimpleless nun toward another doll. “And this one’s a man in a cowboy hat, and boots – and nothing else. He works at a strip club, and the nun in the wimple – she’s Sister Sarah, see? – she can’t decide if she wants him or wants to save him. What do you think?”

Ophelia thinks maybe her sister is more than a little crazy, and that maybe she shouldn’t be here all alone, trying to handle the seemingly endless succession of trips – Marilyn will take anything, anytime, and she seems to always have something. Ophelia’s in over her head, here, and she knows it.

But she can’t say that to Marilyn.

“I think it depends.”

“On what?”

“Lots of things. Whether she’s into men. Whether she’s into God more than men. Whether she’s worried that she will go to hell if she’s with him.”

It’s usually best to play along, at least so long as Marilyn isn’t hurting herself. That’s what they said when she refused to stay in rehab, anyway.

It works, this time. Marilyn smiles. “She’s into men. Really, really into them. Waaay more than she’s into God, matter of fact. And she wants him – because she can see right off what he’s packing down south. And she makes him point it due north.” She giggles and mimes an erection as tall as the “man.”
Ophelia wants to get her into psychiatric care, or, if that won’t work, maybe even have her arrested – that’s what’s best for the baby, maybe.

Except that it’s already too late for the baby. That’s what the doctors say, anyway. “No chance of a normal life.”

Not that Marilyn’s life has been normal.

“And it’s a rainy night.” Her sister mimes a downpour now. She’s sitting cross-legged on the bed, her face totally earnest, like she’s a little girl of maybe four years old – a little girl with a very dirty mind. “So, they’re at this tavern, where the barkeep has a handlebar mustache with a red and white polka-dotted tie.”

“And then what happens?” The baby is a lost cause – but Marilyn won’t even talk about the baby, or being pregnant. It’s like she’s getting younger as her belly grows rounder and rounder.

“Don’t you know?” She grins mischievously at Ophelia.

“Nope.”

“The two of them sneak of to a corner booth. See? It’s really dark, and the booth is big.” The two dolls go off to a corner of the bed, and then the “cowboy” climbs on top of the “nun in the wimple” – who certainly doesn’t seem to be taking her vows seriously. “And then they get busy.”

“And what about the barkeep?” Ophelia tries not to focus on the ragdoll love, but Marilyn’s doing all the sound effects, and that makes it all but impossible.

“Oh. Him. Well, he’s not really in this story.”

Ophelia sits and watches as Marilyn plays her little-girl games with the libido of a grown woman – and a part of her wishes that she wasn’t really in this story, either.

What’s wrong with the baby?

Why doesn’t Ophelia have any help with her?

What’s next?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Interrupted Trip for Story A Day May; Day Six

Interrupted Trip

Marilyn feels like she’s melting into the couch again – but she doesn’t want to be the couch, or have the couch be her, either, right now.

What she wants is a cigarette.

But damned Anna the cook thinks she runs the entire house, and she can smell smoke miles away. There’s nowhere inside where she won’t smell it, and it doesn’t even matter if Marilyn smokes cloves instead of tobacco.

She’s tried vaping, but it doesn’t work for her. The cold hard metal interrupts her trip. That’s no good – she can’t always find a guy to let her pay him for what she wants in sex. When she can, she doesn’t want to waste the high.

But today – today she’s got enough for a week’s worth of good trips, more if she’s careful. And she’s got a pack of cloves – if she smokes them outside, Anna will be none the wiser, and she’ll be able to pretend she’s in a Madagascar market or something else that’s exotic.

Somewhere – anywhere! – that’s not here.

Here, with a mother who wants nothing to do with her, because, “You remind me of that ass I married, who thought tropical waters were just fine to take a dip into.”

She wished Mom wouldn’t talk like that, when she was little. But, now – now that she’s growing up, Mom says she looks just like her damned father, sounds just like her damned father.

How is she supposed to not be like a father she can’t remember even ever having seen? A father who was gone out of her life before she was three years old?

Damn. She doesn’t want to think about that anymore.

She takes another hit, and heads to the front door. It’s going to be a great trip – a better than great trip. A damned vacation, right there in her own head, without ever living this damned house that Mom forbid her to leave.

She takes a deep breath, imagining she’s already filling her lungs with sweet clove smoke. It’s going to be a fantastic, one-of-a-kind trip.

Marilyn opens the door halfway, and it catches on something and won’t go further. She stares down. For a moment, she doesn’t understand. Her brain is ready for a trip, and it doesn’t include the dead body of her mother.

That’s an interruption her trip can’t recover from.

Has Marilyn really found her mother’s body?

Is this part of the trip?

Why was she forbidden to leave the house?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!