Flash Fiction: My Middle Name

I poked at my pork chop with my fork and looked across the table at my mother who was doing the same.

“Why did you give me such a stupid middle name?”

I knew she hated it when I asked but she looked tired enough today that I thought she might actually answer just to shut me up. I had a normal first name, and I was appreciative of that, and even an unusual middle name would have been fine too, like the celebrities name their kids. “Flower,” or “leaf,” would have been okay, although I might have thought I was one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids or some love child from an 80’s Earth day. Of course my parents couldn’t even spell my first name normally, they had to spell it “Nikol,” so people called me “Nickel” all the time. The morons at school called me “Penny,” thinking they were hilarious. I was worth at least five pennies. But my middle name was worse than any I had ever known and I wanted to know why I was being tortured.

My Dad pushed his chair back and pushed himself up from the table, choosing not to look at my mother. He looked at me, knowing I was trying to pick a fight that he wanted no part of. He dropped off his plate in the sink and sat down in the den with his iPad and the remote.

My mother looked up at me. She had had a lousy day at work, I could tell. Usually she came home and complained about this or that but today she hadn’t said a word. It had to have been really bad. She sighed. She was going to tell me off.

“It was the name of a song I loved at the time,” she began and I put my fork down. My heart skipped in my chest. She was actually going to tell me. I tried to stay calm and casual about it but instead I dropped my fork onto the floor and bits of pork chop flipped onto the china cabinet. I said nothing. I just clenched my teeth together and looked back at my Mum. I was desperate to hear her tale. My Mum looked like she was in a trance and just kept talking. She hadn’t even blinked yet.

“…at one of those outdoor concerts that ran all weekend. We were sitting on an old wool blanket I’d taken out of the garage, off the shelf where your grandfather kept his golf umbrellas and shoes. The blanket made me itch but I put up with it without complaining. Imagine, me, putting up with something uncomfortable for a boy!”

She laughed.

“The song came on that we both loved and Gary pulled me up, held my hand, and led me behind the stage. We ran hand in hand through the people, weaving around other itchy blankets and homemade lawn chairs, trying to avoid the smokers and the dogs. The grass was so dry you could see the dust come up behind us as we ran but we didn’t care. He grabbed my neck and pulled me into him and we made love right there behind the stage.”

I gulped and stared at her.

My Mum looked so wistful sitting there in her chair, twirling her fork with her fingers and staring into space.

“We stayed like that all weekend, never knowing what time it was, never caring who was watching. I wore some old tank top that I kept in my closet afterwards without washing it. It was gross but it didn’t matter. We got home on Sunday afternoon and I just sat on the couch, elated, until I had to go back to work on Monday. It was like a dream and I never wanted to forget it.”

She looked up at me and her eyes looked teary. She sniffled, wiped her nose with her little paper napkin that we’d kept from KFC take-out last weekend and she carefully placed her fork and knife together on her plate.

I recovered myself from almost falling off my chair and I looked through the kitchen into the den to see if my father had been listening. Then I turned to my mother.

“Great story Mum, but who’s Gary?”

This story was inspired by Sarah Selecky’s writing prompts. Her website is sarahselecky.com.

On the day I met Allan Hawco

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I woke up early to make a special breakfast for my boys before school. It was going to be a special day. I was going to meet Allan Hawco.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I made waffles and bacon, turned on the morning news and sat down to have a cup of Earl Grey tea.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I listened to the news while I watched my son scrape the ice off his car parked in front of the house. I watched him grimace as he stubbornly didn’t come back to the house for a pair of gloves.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I heard the news and went running outside barefoot in pink fleece pants and an orange sweatshirt.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, we watched the “Breaking News” segment telling us that a gunman had attacked and killed an unarmed soldier standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I told my son that an unarmed soldier was killed while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I gripped his arms and rubbed his head and neither of us cared how cold it was. He needed to hear the news from me.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I allowed the news to consume my day. I scrolled Twitter every few minutes for news of the gunman’s capture. I watched a soldier receive CPR from two women who ran to him with no regard for their own lives being at risk.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I watched my son remember standing in front of the same memorial with his peers.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I heard of Kevin Vickers, his bravery and courage, and how he saved his colleagues. He was Canada’s newest hero.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I felt guilty for being excited that I was going to meet one of Canada’s most talented individuals so I tweeted him, and he tweeted back. I prayed for those that were grieving, scared, or isolated from their families.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I felt extra proud to be a Canadian.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I watched and listened to an incredibly talented, hardworking Canadian humbly tell a crowd that he was so glad we watch his show.

On the day I met Allan Hawco, my kids found out that the coolest guy in Canada shares something in common with them. They thought that maybe they’re cool too (they are).

On the day I met Allan Hawco, I grieved for my country’s first act of terrorism at home and I prayed that there will never be another one.

A trio of Tankas in memory

He put fear in me

Thousands of miles away

He walked in and shot

Women he had never met

He blamed them for everything

 

Candlelight vigils

Mark the day of remembrance

We need to work hard

To never happen again

No one should die in this way

 

Twenty-five years since

And yet it still makes no sense

Those who lost their lives

Will never be forgotten

May they all rest in God’s peace

 

In memory of those who lost their lives, who lost loved ones, or were injured in the events that took place at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique twenty-five years ago on December 6, 1989. For more information, Global did a story this week: Global news.

NaNo by the numbers: A Pair of Tankas

Fifty thousand words

Fourteen names of characters

Eighty-three pages

Hundreds of new paragraphs

Thousands of lines of typing

 

One novel started

One great local support group

Two great liaisons

Millions will want to read it

Once the editing is done

 

In response to this week’s writing challenge: countdown

Weekly Writing Challenge: A letter to my killer

This week’s writing challenge is to combine a genre with a style at random. Here is my take on writing a letter in the mystery/crime genre.

Dear murderer,

I know you had a reason for doing what you did but I’m not amused. I saw you kill a man for a reason unknown to me, and because of that, I had to die. I should have just kept walking. You are obviously smarter than most TV criminals by knowing that I would not keep quiet no matter how much you scared me, or how much I begged you to spare my life. I talk almost constantly, and you knew that when you looked into my eyes for the first and last time. I appreciate that you shot me, killing me instantly, rather than making me suffer and bleed out over several lonely minutes. I also appreciate not being killed with hemorrhagic fever in a bio-terrorism attack, but I don’t think you’re bright enough to pull that one off.

I hope that you come forward and tell my family how much they mean to me and how much I love them and how much I’ll miss them, but I know you won’t. I want you to tell them that I want them to forgive you and that I want them to know that I’m okay and that they’ll be okay too, but I know you won’t do that either. You’re not the dumbest criminal ever but you’re not exactly overflowing with courage. I’m not worried about you; I know this was not your first time killing and it may not be your last. You dug yourself a pretty big hole, and self-preservation took over and you kept going until everyone was gone.  Good for you for persevering.

CSI is going to be here shortly and they will remove your DNA from under my fingernails and soon you will be caught because you stole a chocolate bar when you were 19 to prove you could do it. And that put you in the system. Next time wear a bio-hazard suit. Enjoy your last few hours of freedom because you’re going to get put away for a very long time. And a cutie like you won’t fare so well in prison.

Warm regards,

The Victim

Writing 101: Music in our lives

Today’s Writing 101 Assignment is to free write about the three most important songs in your life. I couldn’t come up with just three but it reminded me a lot of music and growing up.

I can’t think about music without thinking about my family and growing up. My Mum always had music on when she was doing housework or cooking something delicious for us in the kitchen. Just writing this makes me want her banana bread. She would sing along and get most of the lyrics mixed up, which she says she did on purpose to entertain us. I remember her playing The Carpenters, Carole King, and Dionne Warwick. My Dad played music in the car. We drove frequently out to the coast, which was about a 13 hour car trip and we didn’t have iPods and DVD players in the car back then; we just listened to music. My Dad loved Elvis and The Kingston Trio, and most music from the 60s. It was awesome. I did not like Elvis at all and I often argued with my Dad about how the 80s remakes of Elvis songs were superior to the originals, but I loved The Kingston Trio. Their songs were so fun to sing along to, and we would all join in on the chorus (except for my grumpy younger brother who felt he was above it all). M.T.A. was my favourite of their songs because I loved the tune and I loved the story it told. Most music I listened to didn’t tell a story; it was whining about this or that or just a jumble of words put together, but not M.T.A. Here was a story about a guy that got stuck on the subway in Boston forever because he didn’t have enough money to pay. I couldn’t figure out as a child why his wife would bring him a sandwich and not bring him the money he needed to get off the train. It was a compelling story to me then, and now I find it to be a fun and creative story.

Even though my parents always had music playing, my older brother was the biggest music lover in the house. He had the smallest bedroom but he had the biggest stereo. He would listen to The Alan Parsons Project and Depeche Mode for hours while he read or did homework. I still know all the words to “The Eye in the Sky” even though I never played it myself. I shared his love for Depeche Mode and we even got to see them in concert together when we were in college. They had a song for every emotion. They would get me inspired with lyrics like, “Reach out, touch faith,” or help me pour out my sorrow with, “I want somebody to share.” I used to sit on the floor of my brother’s room and we would listen to their music and talk. Usually we talked about the music but sometimes the music was just the doorway into talking about more personal things. He never came to my room to listen to music; I don’t think he was too fond of Corey Hart or ABBA but maybe it was because he just had the better stereo. His stereo had auto-reverse and we were able to record songs off the radio without background noise which was pretty exciting at the time.

Now that my own kids are teenagers we have a lot of music that we enjoy together. We listen to Air Supply’s “Making Love out of Nothing at All” to remind us of one of our favourite movies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We listen to “I Believe” to remember going to the 2010 Olympic Games. And I play them a lot of my old favourites, like “Freedom” by WHAM! And Jason Donovan’s “Too Many Broken Hearts.” Weird Al is as beloved by my children as he has always been by me. For myself and my son that loves to write, Weird Al shows us that writing doesn’t have to be serious to be great. My son loves the same type of music as my brother so now they talk about music the way he and I used too. There is a commercial that says, “Cotton is the fabric of our lives,” but really I think that it’s music that is woven into our lives, and is ever present in our memories.

Writing 101: The setting of our first home

Today’s Writing 101 Challenge is to write about setting which is something I am not good at! Here is my attempt.

It should have been exciting to move into our first house but all I could think about was getting everything done. We still had to unload the truck, unpack the boxes, call the cable and phone companies, and get the builder to finish the plumbing. We might never be done. It wasn’t even lunch time but I was exhausted. My husband asked me to guide him as he backed the truck up to the garage so I hopped out and stood near the back of the truck. The driveway wasn’t even poured yet so I made my way through the muddy gravel. I looked around and it didn’t look like any of the other houses in our cul-de-sac were completed yet. There were construction trucks everywhere. I wondered when we would get our first flat tire.

Luckily for us it wasn’t raining, which was rare for the end of June. I signaled to my husband to back up, keeping an eye on the back of the truck and the garage door. The stupid garage door that the builder forced us to paint red. It stood out like a bloody canvas against the off-white house. I liked the red trim but a red garage door? It seemed ridiculous. He kept backing up until we both heard a crunching sound. What was it? I looked down: nothing. I looked up and saw the house crumpled above the garage door. I am a complete idiot. I never thought about the top of the truck. Now our brand new house was ruined and it was all my fault. My husband looked at me, probably wondering if I could be any dumber, but he just turned the truck off and hopped out. “We’ll get it fixed,” he said. There was work to be done so we opened the garage door and saw the empty space inside. At least the garage had a poured concrete floor. It looked like so much space but I knew we would fill it up quickly.

We started moving boxes into the entryway and kitchen. Everything looked so clean: the kitchen, the living room, the dining room. It was all empty, void of life and laughter. The linoleum was shining as it was hit with the morning sun. I loved those big windows that looked out past the edge of the city into the prairie. I looked forward to watching a thunderstorm from inside but not today; there could be no rain today. The dining room wasn’t really a dining room yet, just a space with linoleum floor and a chandelier. I didn’t really care about any of it outside of the kitchen. I loved the blue countertops and the maple cabinets. We chose them from the showhome and they were perfect. I looked at all the boxes and wished I could start cooking right away. The little family room looked so odd being empty; it was the only space on the main floor that was carpeted. Unless you count the stairs I guess; I had insisted on carpeted stairs. I had insisted on no triangular stairs either, ours turned at 90 degree angles because I figured I would fall if they curved. I sat down and started emptying boxes while my husband did the hard work and brought everything in to the house.

Twenty years later I still miss those maple cabinets and blue countertops. We would feed our baby in that dining room for the first time. I labored in that house. Our son peed all over that house. We laid him down on what would have been a fireplace (if we could have afforded it) and let him get some sun to eliminate his jaundice. My husband would build a big deck off the back that looked out over a weedy park and the back of Canadian Tire. I don’t miss that yard; the slope was immense and nothing would grow, it was so dry. I somehow miss the train though, even though it woke me in the middle of the night. There was something secure about having a train enter the city behind your house, seeing it come through each day. There was comfort in the routine and watching the cars. When we were sick and overwhelmed, it was good to see that life went on outside. Every memory of that house is related to our first baby because I was just pregnant when we moved in. I remember our huge master bedroom with a walk-in closet and big bathroom where I threw up every morning at 5:20 before I got ready for work. I remember the evening heat in our son’s west-facing bedroom. I remember when the crunched garage got fixed by an awesome superintendent who felt sorry for my stupidity. And I remember dropping a big bowl of cooked pudding on to the floor where it sprayed everywhere, including on my son who was busy rocking his Little Tikes rocker motorcycle. And I remember crying over spilling a box of cereal because that $5 was too precious to waste.

The undeveloped basement was our first connection to the online world. It housed our computer, hard wired into the phone line, where we got very slow and squawking dial-up service. I don’t miss the driving though; I don’t miss it taking me half an hour to drive to the mall that we now walk to. And I don’t miss navigating the road down the hill to our cul-de-sac in the winter where tracks created only a single lane for both directions to try to get through. And I don’t miss our crazy neighbours who probably had a grow-op. It was the perfect place for us to live at the time and although I miss parts of it, I am perfectly content where we are and I’m not ready to move on just yet.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Writing Tanka

Writing is not hard

But writing well is very

Any skill is hard

We must get down and work it

There is no reason not to

 

Limit distraction

If you can’t think do push-ups

Or go for a walk

Just put the words on the page

Edit, review, and rewrite

 

When you’re done it’s great

But you’re never really done

One story and next

You can’t ever stop writing

It’s inside of all of us

 

In response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge. Tankas are awesome!