Yes, I have entered a new decade, and I am surprisingly okay with it. Why is it surprising? Well, I have been freaking out about turning thirty, even since I turned 20. As I explained to my roommates back then, 20 is fine, except that it inevitably leads to your mid-twenties, and then after that- kiss your youth goodbye because thirty is coming at you fast, and everyone knows that adulthood officially starts at 30. And like any person with any sense, I have no interest in being an adult.
Except last Sunday I decided that this whole adult thing might actually turn out okay. On that night my husband prepared a favorite chicken dish of ours, but for some reason once the chicken was on our plates we realized it wasn't all the way cooked through and it had to go back in the oven. This left us with a dinner of mashed potatoes. Obviously, we needed to have something else to eat, which was when I suggested we go to McDonald's for hot fudge sundaes. And that is exactly what we did. The chicken went in the fridge to be used for leftovers.
My point here is that if being an adult means that I can have mashed potatoes and hot fudge sundaes for dessert, then maybe it won't be too bad after all.
Today is also my turn to post on the always wonderful, exciting, and unpredictable (especially that last one this time) blog chain.
Throwing down the gauntlet, er... picking the topic is Jessica over at Jibberings. And this is what she chose for this chain:
WRITE! I want a short story. (Mine is 250 words. Feel free to write one hundred, three hundred, five hundred...whatever! words)
There is another part to this, Jessica gave us something to use as our diving off point, and it is actually the same poem that I included in my blog chain topic a few weeks back about darkness and torturing our characters.
Along with this poem came the stipulation that within our stories: "Somehow, someway, heart(s) must be involved."In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
Jessica actually first clued us into this topic on Monday evening. My plan was to let myself stew over various ideas for a few days and then just hope that I could come up with something when it was my turn to post. Instead what happened was that I took a shower Monday night and like magic I had my story. Knowing that I had to get it on paper (or computer) I stayed up an extra hour that night to type it out.
Jessica in her story went more literally with the whole heart idea (to awesome effect, I might add.), but I wanted to take more of the meaning of the poem (or what it means to me) and put it into a story.
Anyway, here is the story.
Everyday until it was gone, I ate one spoonful of cinnamon sugar sprinkled onto toast, with just enough butter to stick the two together. And then Mother would make some more. I can still see it, sitting beside the hard-boiled egg that made up my breakfast. The crunch of the bread and the grit of sugar between my teeth is there too. It’s only the flavor that eludes me, the memory of how that bit of sweetness tasted on my tongue.
I call out to the attendant who watches over mother in the evenings.
“Could we get some salt? Mother’s been complaining the food is little bland.”
The attendant doesn’t even hesitate.
She goes off to retrieve some salt, her little ponytail bouncing behind her. It isn’t just the girl’s hair that is perky, but her whole personality. Perky and trusting. When I imagine this girl’s childhood it plays in my head like a Fifties sitcom.
Not for a second does she question that I am capable of relaying the thoughts and desires of my mother, who can no longer speak for herself. She thinks we have some kind of mental connection. A mother/daughter thing. We have a connection all right, but it’s not mental. No. What we share is the same bitter heart.
My mother would make a big canning jar full of the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I’d watch as she’d first scoop the sugar in, almost to the halfway mark, and then the dark rich cinnamon. It looked as rich as soil after a spring rain. Mother would leave just enough space at the top so that after she screwed the lid on she could shake them together. I loved this part. Watching as the white and brown slid into one another, until one was just like the other.
Every time I begged her to let me do the shaking.
“Please, please, please. Mother, please.”
I was very careful not to cross the line into whining. Mother wouldn’t abide a whiner, you know. My litany of pleases came out more like a prayer, and like most prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Until one day they didn’t. The jar was pressed into my hands, without a word. It was heavy and the glass was cool. My mother always shook it with such fury, as if to punish the contents inside. There was no way my little arms could match hers, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I threw my whole body into the shaking, not just pumping my arms but bouncing my whole body. If I’d had pigtails like all the other girls my age they would have been flying with me, but mother kept my hair clipped short against my skull, she didn’t want the bother of keeping it tidy. The white and brown were just beginning to cross each other's borders, when the jar hit the linoleum and the cinnamon and sugar ran out as if relieved to be let free.
I was sent to my room. Sitting there I could only listen. The broom against the floor. The way she smacked the dustpan against the garbage can to shake every last bit of dirt loose. Then the sound of the basement door opening, her feet on the stairs, down and up again, getting another canning jar to make the cinnamon sugar once more. And all the while I wondered when my punishment would come.
It was served for breakfast. Mother said she’d run out of sugar, but we both know that it was a lie. Everyday until it was gone, I ate one spoonful of cinnamon salt sprinkled onto toast, with just enough butter to stick the two together.
I feed Mother her dinner now, and she chews slowly as I once did. The salt sits silently in every bite, so quietly hidden until it bites the tongue. Mother eats every last bite, exactly the same way that she once taught me.
And I… I eat every last bite too.
Okay, that's it for me and my little story.
If you want to stay with the chain and see more heart-filled stories, then make sure you head on over to Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings because she is up next!