Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eat Your Heart Out

Today is many things. Number one it is my thirtieth birthday. 30.

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.
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."

-Stephen Crane
Along with this poem came the stipulation that within our stories: "Somehow, someway, heart(s) must be involved."

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.



Salt the Earth

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.

*

“Excuse me.”

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.

“Sure thing.”

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!

25 comments:

  1. *~Happy Birthday~*

    Once in a while I let the whole family eat ice cream for dinner. ;)

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  2. First, Happy Birthday Kate! 30 isn't that bad...

    And second, wow. What a great story! I loved it. Sharing a bitter heart. I'm more than a bit worried about mine now. Super fantabulous writing!

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  3. Happy Birthday!!! You guys are making this sooo hard! LOL Awesome story...cinnamon and sugar toast brings back a lot of memories :)

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  4. T. Anne - Ice cream for dinner once in a while is an excellent policy!

    Elana - Oh, thanks glad you liked it! Don't be worried about your story, I know it will be great!

    Celticqueen - I know cinnamon and sugar toast brings up memories for me too, although I think it was especially on my mind because last week I bought a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and have since been toasting it up for breakfast.

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  5. Happy Birthday - as a person who is WELL ABOVE 30...the best really is yet to come

    As for the story, mighty nice writing! Mighty nice!!!

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  6. Happy Birthday! I'm a very experienced thirty-something, and I think it's a good decade. For me, I mellowed out and learned not to sweat the small stuff.

    Great story! It sounds as polished as if you'd been working on it for a month, not just a day or two. And may I say, revenge is a dish best served salted. ;)

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  7. Visiting from SITS to say Happy Birthday!

    I've always liked that Stephen Crane poem, ever since I saw it in a Stephen King book.

    I absolutely loved your story.

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  8. Happy Happy Birthday! My 30th is next year. Ugh.

    Being an adult is AWESOME. It's so much greater than I ever thought it would be. All that ice cream, ya know.

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  9. Speaking from experience, 30 isn't so bad.

    But when your child has to feed you like your character fed her mother in this story, that's when you know you're old.

    :-)

    Good job.

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  10. There's emotion in that story, Kate. Great job with it. It's like a parable...and more than just revenge. :)

    I love icecream and being in my thirties. A great decade so far.

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  11. Christine and Sandra - Okay, I am starting to believe that this whole 30 thing might not be so bad.

    Angie - Thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the story.

    Lady Glamis - Yes, ice cream is the greatest perk of being an adult.

    Kat - That is true, having older parents probably makes one feel much older too.

    Bethanne - Glad you liked the story. And also glad that everyone is giving the 30's such great reviews too!

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  12. Happy Birthday!
    Great story.
    Visiting you from SITS...have a great day!

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  13. Hope you had a GREAT bday! And eating hot fudge sundae's for dinner is a rite of passage by the time we reach 30 (I'll be there next October!). We've had children, are currently raising children and husbands, trying to do whatever for ourselves and BAM! There's the sundae. Who couldn't eat it?

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  14. Happy Birthday!

    I so want a hot fudge sundae now!

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  15. Thanks for the comment on my blog!

    Happy birthday! I also turn 30 this year, but I have until June before the reality of adulthood kicks in. Let me know how it goes for you! ;) I think I could handle being a old with a hot fudge sundae...

    I loved the story. It broke my heart!

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  16. Happy Birthday!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

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  17. Lora - Thanks for visiting!

    Stephanie and Jennifer - Thanks for the bday wishes!

    Janyece - I will let you know how 30 progresses, for sure;)

    Anne - Thanks for stopping by!

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  18. Happy Birthday! I just had one too (26) and it kind of hit me, I'm almost 30!!! LOL So glad you all enjoyed yourselves. Being an adult does have its perks.

    Great story! My favorite line was towards the middle, about them both having bitter hearts. And wow, what an awesome, twisted ending. Nice job. :-)

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  19. Happy Birthday! Thirty is a good age, actually, every age is a good age, until you're old enough to be in diapers again. :0 jk,

    Hope you had a great bday :)

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  20. Geez... these heart stories are so dark! This one shocked me at the end, though maybe it shouldn't have, because she calls her "Mother." To me, calling your mom "Mother" seems pretty cold.

    Happy belated birthday! Sounds like you had a great weekend with good food and friends!

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  21. That sunday was DISTRACTING! Happy belated birthday.

    As for your story...dang! I so didn't see that coming. Good job!!!

    :) Terri

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  22. Jessica - Thanks for the birthday wishes and glad you liked the story!

    Crimogenic - Glad to hear another positive vote for 30.

    Annie - Yeah, most of the stories are dark. I think the poem is influencing that.

    TerriRainer - Glad you liked the story!

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  23. You outdid yourself and this topic. Great job, Kate!

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  24. Happy Birthday, Kate!

    Oooo..salty revenge...great imagery

    Abi

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  25. Fabulous! Lovely job. Happy birthday. 30 was my favorite year.

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