Sunny, lovely

Sunny05c.jpg picture by pemerytx

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After the 11:15 a.m. seizure, I stopped praying.  I had started after the first one at 10:00 a.m.  I’d prayed for a miraculous healing then, and ended my prayer precisely as I was taught as a child, “In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen,” which meant that whatever you asked for was surefire going to happen.  So of course the seizure stopped and of course I said, “Thank you, Jesus,” with genuine gratitude in my heart, and I stroked Buddy’s fur until he fell asleep, until the next seizure at 10:20 a.m.  I figured God must be counting each seizure stoppage as one miraculous healing, so I prayed for another miracle, and this went on until 10:55 a.m.  By then I was tired and cold and getting very angry.  I prayed again with impertinence.  Each seizure had left me with worlds less faith, so I added a snide, “You know, Buddy could really use a miracle here, God,” and you know where that got me.  I could feel God’s holy ears slamming shut.  They made a wind that smoothed across Buddy and me, chilly and impersonal.

And it got me to thinking I never have had friends in high places.  I was never able to schmooze to gain favor, and I always said that was because it felt so chintzy to me, like thin, cheap plastic, and it gave me the creeps whenever I tried to play that game.  Part way into it, I’d always feel like what I’d end up winning wouldn’t be real, wouldn’t be like it is when I really earn something worthwhile, something I’ve worked hard and honorably for.  But now I think the only reason I won’t schmooze is because of pride, not good pride, if there is such a thing, but bad pride, arrogance.  So all my friends are just like me: broke and can’t do shit for anyone besides bake cookies and just be there.  Lots of folks will tell you that’s all that matters, really matters.  I say yeah, but it’d be nicer to have a mix of Haves and Have-nots for friends.  But, like I said, I don’t feel right about collecting Haves.  I wish it could be like drinking water for me, though, especially now.

My husband, Gene, dropped dead of a heart attack six months ago.  And as if that weren’t enough, a week after after he was buried, things began going wrong with the house.  First the bathtub began leaking and I didn’t know it until I saw water streaming down one wall in our remodeled basement one day.  Then the furnace died right as winter was gearing up.  Then the hot water heater busted and flooded the little guest room in the basement because the drain in the utility room was filled with sand I find out.  I could go on.  Anyway, now there’s a puddle of water under the kitchen sink.  So money’s scarce and five thousand dollars-worth of property taxes are due on a place that’s falling apart, and that’s not all that’s falling apart.

My body feels constantly under attack from viruses and my head is like a junk drawer filled with an impossible jumble of thoughts of burdens and cares and fears and loss.  I go to find one helpful thought in my junk drawer of a head and I run the fingers of my mind through it and I paw and pick and push through it and all the junk just fills back in on itself, just rolls over the tops and under the palms of my mind’s full hands.  And I emerge with a thought I wasn’t looking for at all, and just thinking whatever thought it is makes me forget what thought I was looking for in the first place.  Until later, when I might see something that reminds me, and then I go back to the junk drawer and it begins again, the pawing and pushing.

Seems I remember something in the Bible that says God doesn’t dole out to a person more than they can handle, but along with prayer, I now also don’t know about that.  I really think the possibility of losing my dog, on top of everything else, might just push me over the edge.  Buddy and I go way back, twelve years back, before Gene even.  I would tell anyone straight up that I did not need my neighbor’s bratty daughter to ram into the side of him with her bicycle and cause seizures and intestinal problems and now the vet wants to operate on him judging from what he saw on the barium xray he did today.  My neighbor was nice enough to offer to pay for it, but how am I going to pay for the emotional loss of Buddy if he loses against the bad odds of surgery?

And that’s when it hit me.  Gene loved our house so much that he used practically every spare moment he had to work on improvements to it.  But Gene could be a spiteful man, used to say things a little meaner than he had to if he disagreed with someone else’s point of view.  He resented Buddy, used to tell me, “If you had any sense, you’d put into the house all the time and money you spend on that dog and we could have the nicest house on the block, but no!”  I got to thinking it’d be just like Gene to go all sour grapes over dying and having to leave his precious house behind and “that damnable dog” still gets to live.  And for more than just a moment, I allowed myself to think maybe he was haunting the house, tearing it down piece by piece, taking it with him in a way, and taking Buddy out while he’s in the process.

Although I have about as much faith in Gene’s capacity for mercifulness as I do in God’s, I had to try to get Gene to be reasonable, to stop.  But how do you contact the dead?  The only way I knew was via a Ouija board, like we used to do as kids, so I hurried down to Toys R Us and bought one.  I invited my best friend, Pam, over and we set the thing up, lit every candle I had in the house, turned the lights out, put our fingertips lightly on the planchette and I asked the question, “Gene, honey, are you responsible for the problems with the house and with Buddy?”  The candles flickered and then all blew in the same direction, like something was passing through, and then the planchette began to move.  It landed on “Yes.”  A chill riddled my spine and shuddered up and out the top of my head.  I was covered with goose flesh and scared beyond belief, but I had to go on.  I told Gene I loved him so much and missed him terribly, but I had to ask him, “Why would you do this to me?  What purpose does it serve?”

The next moments were terrifying.  The temperature in the room must have dropped to freezing and all the candles except for the two on our table were extinguished by a biting breeze.  I looked at Pam as the planchette began to move.  I could tell she wanted to stop this whole thing, wanted to run from this house, but I also saw love in her eyes, and sorrow, and like I said, all folks like us can do is be there for one another.  That’s all we have.  Somehow she stayed glued to her chair as Gene spelled out his message, “You are next to die,” and then the planchette jerked over to “Farewell.”  We both withdrew our fingers from the planchette as if it were a hotplate, and the room seemed to heat rapidly to what felt like ninety degrees.  Sweat was dripping down our faces.

I ran to the wall switch and turned on the lights.  Pam told me I should get out of here immediately.  She wanted me to leave with her, stay with her and Richard and the kids, but I couldn’t burden them like that, and what good would it do?  How do you hide from a ghost?  Gene would just follow me to Pam’s and bring bad on them.  So we both agreed to stay in close contact and that I should write everything down as I’m doing now and file a copy somewhere, in the bank safety deposit box, or with the attorney’s office that assisted with Gene’s last will and Testament, or somewhere.  And then at least folks would know what—

“Hi Hon, whatcha doing?  What’s with the candles?”

I jumped out of my skin and snapped my journal shut.  My pen went flying and I could hear its plastic-ness chattering on the hardwood floor behind me.  “Oh, Gene, honey, I didn’t hear you come in!” I said, with a little too much effort to appear nonchalant, I’m afraid.  The pen rolled to a stop and all was silent.  “I was just writing the day’s events in my journal here.”  I smiled, but my lips felt thin and wavering.

Gene squinted his eyes at me and then around the room and back to me.  “Where’s Buddy?” he asked.

“At the vet,” I said.  “How was your game?  Did you guys win?”  I tried to sound excited, genuinely interested.

Gene regarded me with suspicion.  “We lost,” he said.  “So why is Buddy at the vet at this late hour?”

“Well, I—”  I shifted around in my chair, tried to buy time as I searched my junk drawer desperately for an answer.

Gene just waited, stared at me.  I felt the heat, but I tried to calm my mind.  I would calm my mind.  I thought of sunny, windswept beaches, like my therapist had suggested during our last session.  I remembered the sounds on the tapes he made for me when I got panicky: the waves rolling, the gulls lulling, and I was to visualize myself lying on a blanket on the beach, happy and peaceful as I listened to his voice on the tape instructing me in breathing deeply and holding my breath for as long as I could, three times, and on the third time I was to spiral down like a leaf from a tree in autumn.

Once I was sure that I could come off casual, I reached out and daintily took the stem of my wine glass and lifted my glass of Shiraz sexily to my lips.  I looked at Gene, took a sip, and then said in a sultry voice, “Come here, Baby, and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Gene didn’t look pleased, wasn’t buying in.  “Alright, Charmane,” he said.  There was irritation and exhaustion mixing up his voice and I braced myself.  “If that’s the way you want to play it,” he said.  “I’ll sort out what’s up with Buddy myself.  Now can you explain why you’re drinking wine with all the medications you’re on?”

I quickly pawed through the junk drawer, but it was too messy and I lost patience with it.  I felt desperation rise within me and then rage rose up faster and higher in competition with it.  I tried to thwart it.  I thought in circles—sunny, sunny, beaches, windswept beaches, blankets, warm and windy, sunny, lovely—until I felt empowered.  And when I did, I yelled out, so sure it was the right thing to yell, “Well, I have news for you, Gene!  I’m not on meds!  God says I don’t need all that crap, so I can drink all I wa—”  Gene’s look stopped me cold.  I became frightfully aware it wasn’t the right thing to say and I clasped my hands over my mouth as I watched Gene flip open his cell phone and dial the number to that godforsaken place.

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Missalister’s “Sunny, lovely,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#185 – Junk”  Click here for more on prompt #185 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.

19 responses to “Sunny, lovely

  1. Oh, crap. I already didn’t like Gene and here he spins back out of the grave intent on sending Charmane to that horrible place where they’ll hide the Ouija board and, and. This was a wild journey through the junk mind of a rational person until the last reveal. Incredibly fine.

  2. Holy shit A
    ‘scuse the profanity but sometimes….I’m still not sure – was Charmane crazy and Gene alive, was Charmane crazy and Gene dead? Was Charmane stoned on whatever Gene had been giving her to keep her crazy as he planned her death so he and Buddy could sell the house and go to Tahiti??
    You nailed Charmane to the wall chica – couldn’t help but wonder if there was a little bit of you in there somewhere but maybe there always is.
    I’m staying the hell away from ouija boards..

  3. i like how junk here refers to a place of the mind..
    great twist at the end. liked the narrative voice and the bit about the ouija. it made me chuckle that it’s from toys’r’us :D

    Yeah, it was wild alright. Title’s not right though, I don’t think. I got all mental about finding a good photo and took so long at it I lost my cool and couldn’t come up with a decent title. By then, my brain was getting like Charmane’s junk drawer! So if you swing back by here, put me out of my misery with a great title for this, would you? ; )

    Oh, please, Dee, you’ve said yourself you’re not a perfect Christian, and it’s not like you said the GD word or anything…but you gotta strive I know, I know. Same with anything you wanna become good at.
    Alright, about this fringe of lunacy, if there’s one thing I learned at the ACME school of writing, it’s that once you find out you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, all bets are off, from that point on and from that point back. I love that kind of thin ice skating : )

    Hey, Foxy photographer! This story’s no wiener roast, but it’s right up there lengthwise, at something like 1950 words. Atchawawa ;-)

    Thank you, Desi. There’s nothing like the sound of a “God I love” when it comes to words : ) Each paragraph was indeed its own junk drawer, its own pawing and pushing and not finding, like Charmane’s entire mind, poor woman.

    Haha, yeah, Toys’R’Us… I’d forgotten what Ouija boards even looked like, let alone where they’re sold, so I did a quick search, clicked on a few results, and more sites I looked at mentioned Toys’R’Us as selling them regardless of the controversy around them.

  5. Unreliable narrator? Diabolical is more like it: rather diabolical All Hallow’s Eve writer behind all that madness, too. The whole concept of an unreliable narrator is a bit of a smackdown anyway: what drives the ureliability is the bigger question, and C’s madness yanks us right into the Escher-loops of her drawers, pulling us every which way: a compelling unreliable narrator still manages to grab on bulldog-tight and pull us right on across that thin ice into her own mad waltz and our own slipsliding dance steps in response. You don’t want to take back all the feelings C engenders and what’s more, you can’t. This was a dragon’s lair with walls painted desolation-black.

    Therapist’s elegant taped folly was droll for this ex-shrinker: I like the title just fine, with its representation of C’s slippery attempts to gain ground, just enough therapist- and wine-fueled bravado to seal her doom.

    This one ain’t for the kiddies, cher: thass for sure.

    Hey there, P : ) My understanding is that there are more ways to demonstrate an unreliable narrator besides the finer and more dramatic way you’ve described, like it can be immediately clear that you’re dealing with one or it can gradually become clear with clues. But you da professor, and I may’ve danced too clumsily through your fun first paragraph. I do understand and agree it wouldn’t be good to “take back all the feelings C engenders,” so really, away from desolation-black dragon’s lair and toward craft, how would you classify this story? In the meantime, I’ll put a tick mark on the Yes side regarding the title ; )

  7. Hoooweee! That was a hairpin turn to a hairraising moment! You’re at your level headed best when your painting these hardscrabble characters. I’m sure I’ve said that before, but you’ll have to put up with it. I love how Charmane, in her somewhat ditzy way, resorts to her feminine guiles whence painted into a corner. Seems like the big guy had seen that routine in a former life? Makes me want to run out and get a Ouija board. Not sure who I’d want to talk to. They might not tell me what I want to hear.

  8. DOM: In my early morning blur, I was not clear enough in my respect for the creator (discoverer) of this unreliable narrator, respect due because I acutely felt Charmane’s disarray and the thinness of her ice; I was loathe to take back my compassion, even after the ice began to crack (and her whole world with it).

    Classify? You know me: I ain’t no taxonomist. I like or don’t like, and this story I liked, though it disturbed me: it felt like you got very close to C’s madness and pulled us in, too. That’s a nod to your power, your piscean consciousness. My disturbance is not about any “problems” with the unreliabilty of the narrator, but rather with the power of the narrator’s unreliability.

    The way you put it, I’m glad to put up with it : ) And you can read the story any way you like, but for me, when the hard began to scrabble, Gene was wise to the ways of Charmane in his and her current life together. She’s looney, that one! No Ouija boards for me, though, unless I had the likes of your handsome, Taurus self by my side to protect me, Music Man. Oh, those guiles, eh? You gotta watch ‘em close ; )

    On the serious side, I’m waiting for an update on your fam’s fine lad, Brad, man. Another post? E-mail? Let me know, alright?

    Oh. Well, thank you bro P : ) I was no better off, having awoken early, rudely to the ringing of a phone, which sets my day off adversely and carries through… This is a good outtake here, then, but of course you know I want to learn, to get better, so I’m ready to, and sometimes I wish you were the usual professor. I am “like or don’t like,” too, but I wish I could elucidate in those smartass terms. You should teach me those, really : )

    I know I can’t imagine where ; )

    Hey, thanks much for the update. I look forward to hearing the next good word : )

  11. QUIN
    You know I thank you from that bottom-most heart place, but don’t folks already say that about you? ;-)

  12. I love the Ouija from Toys R Us. I’m terrified of those things, but somehow knowing it was from a toy store made it less frightening. Well written. Added something besides junk to my drawer. ;)

  13. BJ ROAN
    I like that my junk didn’t add junk to your life. LOL! As for the Ouija board, did you know there’s a glow in the dark version? If I had the nerve to mess with them, I think I’d get that one ; ) So anyway, you’re back from hiatus! This means I’ll be wanting to head over to your place as soon as I can get there and see what stories you’ve got cooking : )

  14. Miss Alister,

    There ain’t no words for what needs to be said.

    Just this ringin’

    From the neural fire you lit in my head.

    Thank you so much…

    You scary, frightful, delightful wordsmith queen.

    Tschuess, Sepiru

  15. CHRIS
    You make me all crazy with your compliments! “You scary, frightful, delightful wordsmith queen.” This is your best yet! You can say it again any time you want.
    Now go on, dear scribe, tell our heroine how lucky she is to have you! Go on! Tell her right now : )

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