Saturday, 28 January 2012

"The Spot" - A Short Story

In response to the first short story I posted here, I heard from folks who'd never commented on my blog/ writing before.  That was...neat.   Thanks, always, for the comments. I welcome them.  Really.


The day was not too hot; it was not too cold.  Like the baby bear’s porridge in the story, it was just right.  Jade pulled in to the parking lot, music blaring from her car’s speakers.  Her body moved to the beat and rhythm of the heavy bass line and drums.  It wasn’t her favourite music to listen to, though it was on the playlist for her workout.  But, this wasn’t a morning for listening.  This was a morning for dancing - or wiggling – as she moved as best she could, tapping out the beat on the steering wheel.  As she got closer to the supermarket, she turned the music down and tried to will her body to keep still.  Her head kept the beat, though, as she spotted a space to her left. 

As usual, she inched forward so she could reverse into the spot, wrapping to her left.  Jade was about three-quarters of the way in, checking her right side mirror and about to straighten up, when she heard the sound of a horn behind her.  She knew she had made sure the space was clear.  Still, she glanced quickly at her left side mirror in time to see a car pulling into the same spot!  How could that be?  Jade imagined that...actually, she couldn’t imagine what the driver might have been thinking.  All she knew was that she could reverse no farther into the spot and the other driver did not have enough space to pull forward.  This was going to be interesting.

Growing up, Jade was never afraid of being confrontational.  If it didn’t look right, she felt it her right and business to speak up.  Granted, she’d also noticed how she had mellowed a little by the time she got to her late thirties. She had, as someone said, “learned to pick her battles.”  So, she sat there and toyed with the idea of just waiting out the other driver.  Maybe he – or she – would get the message and find another spot.  Why did she have to be the one to move?  She was there first!  Plus, she was already three-quarters of the way in!  What kind of unconscionable creature would creep up on someone and try to take a parking spot when the spot was almost filled?  Ooooh!  As the thoughts piled up, Jade started moving beyond annoyed to angry. She was clearly not parked properly.  She tried fiddling with her phone as if she was preoccupied and didn’t care.  That didn’t last long.  She noticed a few people glancing at “the situation” as they made their way from the supermarket to their own vehicles.  Was it worth it? Wasn’t she going to look weak if she backed down? Why should she back down from this woman? “I bet it’s a woman!” Jade thought.   

Then, without even thinking, really, Jade undid her seat belt, got out of her car and approached the driver of the car behind her.  Well, it was a woman all right. An old woman.  That didn’t phase her.  If she could drive, she certainly could answer the only question she had in mind.  “Ma’am? What...what are you doing?” Jade asked her.
“I’m trying to park my car!  Didn’t you see me pulling into the spot?” The woman shot back.
“Ma’am? I was already almost all the way in, when you started to pull in.  Why would you do that?” Jade surprised herself with the gentleness of her questioning. Maybe the sermon about kindness on Sunday had hit a spot. 
She glanced at the old woman whose eyes were looking straight ahead, hands firmly on her steering wheel.  There was no point.  Jade went back to her car.

She sat there for a while.  This whole “show love and be considerate to others thing” was not as easy as it sounded coming from the preacher on a Sunday morning.  She was a Christian and tried to be a good one.  But, as she sat there in the moment, with no music – she had turned it off from the time she heard the honk – she was seething. This might not be the most God-pleasing reaction.  For a few seconds, all she could think about was that she was right.  She was right. And, this woman in the car behind her... Jade glanced at the figure in her peripheral view.  It was the woman!  She had got out of her car, which was far from being properly parked, and was walking toward the store!   Jade sighed.  Just then, the driver of the car to her right – another woman – came along, grocery bags in hand.  Jade was pretty sure she spotted an amused look on her face, as she glanced at the two of them and the two awkwardly-parked cars.  Jade sighed again, as she knew the move she had to make.

They finally both parked properly – Jade in the new spot and the woman in the space she had wrestled from her. They both alighted from their vehicles about the same time, too. So, it was no surprise that they would be walking in, almost lock step with each other.  It was the woman who broke the silence. 

“You know, I have a bum leg, and this is how you treat someone with a bum leg?” She started.
“Ma’am?” Jade interrupted, “I wouldn’t have known anything about your bum leg.  All I saw was someone driving into the spot when I was almost all the way in.” She noticed that the woman was big in body - about five feet seven inches and somewhat overweight.
“You have no respect for seniors,” the woman continued.
That hurt. By this time, they had reached the sliding doors and, once inside, Jade picked up a basket and they went their separate ways.

As Jade went down the fruits aisle, she spotted her out of the corner of her eye.  She was by the veggies section.  Although Jade quickly took her eyes off her, a nagging conviction had already set in.  She created a bit more distance between them as she turned toward another aisle.  Still, she couldn’t shake the heaviness that she should go over and apologize to her.  Jade spent about a minute trying to decide whether it was guilt or God. Maybe she would’ve felt guilty, had she done something wrong. But, here she was, in the right, feeling that she had to somehow make it better for the other person. What was that all about?  It sure felt like God.  And then it hit the spot. “Go and apologize – and offer to pay for her groceries.”  Jade raised an eyebrow and tried putting her reaction into thoughts. “Okaaay. Pardon me?” She thought, as if she were expecting an answer.  What if the woman rejected the offer?  What if her groceries cost a lot?  But the directive didn’t leave her.  And, she knew there was no fighting it.

She mumbled a little prayer, mustered up her courage and took the very long walk over to the stall with the oranges. It was really no more than about ten metres away.  The woman had a few items in her hand; she wasn’t using a basket.  Jade approached her, “I want to apologize for what happened in the parking lot. I’d like to pay for your groceries, if that’s OK?”
She didn’t decline the offer; she didn’t reject the offer.  Instead, she replied, “Well, you don’t have to.”
“It’s OK. Really,” Jade said.
“Well, I’m just about done. Are you finished?” She asked.
“No, actually, I have a few more items to go,” Jade replied. “Let me hurry and grab them.  I can meet you at checkout, OK?”

Jade went to join her in the line at the checkout.  The woman turned to her, “It’s very kind of you to offer.”  Jade explained that it was no problem; that she was glad to be doing it.  The older woman continued, “It’s very difficult for seniors, especially at this age, to keep their drivers licence, you know.”
Jade knitted her brow. “What do you mean?” She asked.
“Well, when you get to eighty, once you get into an accident, that’s it. They take your licence.  And, I’m eighty-three. 
“Well, you don’t look eighty-three,” Jade blurted out.
“Well, thank you, but, I am.”
“May I ask your name?” Jade said, and she too introduced herself.

Jade let her go through checkout first.  She gave her the receipt in case she would need to return something.  Jade was a little disappointed that the bill hadn’t even amounted to twenty dollars.  Still, they said their goodbyes and she left the supermarket. 

As she paid for her own groceries, Jade wondered whether their paths would cross again.  Maybe she could look out for her on another Saturday, about noon? Of course, they would be getting together under better circumstances.  When Jade got outside and headed to her car, she noticed the woman sitting in her car, hands on the steering wheel, looking in her direction.  She had been waiting.  As Jade approached her, she rolled her car window down, beckoned to her a little, and said, “Thank you, again.” 

Jade smiled as she replied, “You’re welcome, Maria.”

Her name was Maria.



Wednesday, 18 January 2012

"The Castle" - A Short Story

Well, here goes.  Having decided to put my story-telling skills on show, for public consumption and criticism, I'm beginning with this one:



She was fine.  She was sitting at her desk, in her new full-time, permanent Administrative Assistant position.  It wasn’t the Executive Assistant one Francine had applied for, but, she was fine. 

She reflected on the initial months after leaving Jamaica for Rochester, New York.  She’d harboured a kind of apprehension, tempered with worry and embarrassment.  Both she and her husband had stayed away from Facebook – for the most part.  A few months, dwindling funds, increasing worry and dozens of résumés later, they both landed temporary jobs.  Hers was part-time then.

Before long, Susan, her supervisor, took a liking to her efficiency, professionalism and pleasant demeanour.  She told Francine about an upcoming position and Francine had applied.  The interview had gone well.

It so happened that, just as she had finished the interview that day, the full-time Admin Assistant, at the time, saw her descending the stairs.

“And what was that about?” Meghan called out from her desk.
“Oh, just a meeting with Susan,” Francine tried being evasive. 
“Oh?  I know she’s leaving.  You’ve heard that, right?  Was it about her position?”

There was no stopping this woman!

“She just wanted to talk about an opportunity,” Francine glanced outside, trying to appear nonchalant.
“Hmm. You know Francine, if it’s about her position, that kind of move would be pretty quick. It’s not often that someone from another country comes in and moves up that quickly.”

Francine didn’t like the sound of that; not at all.

“I mean, it’s not about you!” Meghan continued.  “I’m just wondering why I’m always being overlooked.  But, whatever!  That kind of position is too demanding, anyway.”

Wow.  It really took a certain kind of person to say stuff like that.  She’d heard and read about Meghan’s kind.  Francine knew she had to be careful – news clearly travelled fast in their small company. “Well, we’ll see how it goes,” she replied.

Several days after that, Susan had called her into another meeting.  This time, she explained that she mightn’t have handled the situation well.  It was her understanding that “someone” had said “something” and they’d had to revisit the hiring process.  She apologized – several times.  She explained further that they were prepared to offer her a different full-time, permanent position – Meghan’s position; that she and the Director both hoped she would accept as they were so very happy to have her.

Meghan’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

 “…new laptop for my new position.  Is it here yet?
“Not yet,” Francine replied, without looking up.
“Well, I’m going back up to The Castle.  That’s what they call it, right? Ha ha!  The Castle. How funny is that?”

Francine looked up and managed a half-smile.

Before she ascended, however, Meghan leaned over Francine’s desk a bit and said in lower tones, “You know Francine, I don’t know who said anything to Susan.  All I did was mention to one of the girls that it seemed they were hiring for Sue’s job.  The next thing I knew, I was called for an interview and they offered me the Executive Assistant position.  I mean, I’d even said to them, “It’s ok, you can give this position to Francine.”  But, I guess they stuck to their decision, eh?”

This time, Francine raised one eyebrow, followed by the faintest of smiles.  It was hardly detectable, really.

That evening, over dinner, she updated her husband on the latest exchange.

“She chat to much!  She neva hear seh ‘cock mout kill cock’”?  He asked.
“It nuh look suh!” Francine replied, raising her glass to her lips. “Time longer dan rope, man.  Time.” 

The End


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Wild Abandon

First post for the year and I gotta admit that I've been giving much thought to how much I'd like to improve the quality of my writing.  It's not about a new year's resolution.  It's about wanting to get to a higher level.  Yes, I've been writing to save my life.  And I know that, wherever I go in my writing, I will continue to do that on some level.  But, "my life" has begun to yearn for me to go deeper; write better.  See, it has to be at my own pace. 

In giving thought to writing at a deeper level, I recall reading somewhere that what we dread to write about the most; that which we are ashamed of, usually makes for good writing - and great reading.  And, I'm thinking, wouldn't they like to know?  I agree to a large extent with this idea, though.  Could you imagine if I were brave enough to write about all the stuff that has caused me pain, or embarrassment, or deep anxiety over the years?

Well, in the first place, I imagine I would need to treat them as more than mere "stuff".  I'd have to get into the nitty-gritty; get down and dirty; hang out all my linen for all and sundry to see.  Of course, I could always write about these experiences using the cloak of fictional characters.  Would I be able to pull it off without a trace? Should that be the aim?  I don't know.  And, I don't know that I'm there yet.  

That's the crux of it right there, really.  I don't know that I'm there yet.  I believe that the kind of writing that makes you... forces you to let it all out, has to be of a certain calibre, and has to come at a certain time in life.  Do I doubt my ability to write in that don't-care mode ('cause that's what it calls for, I believe).  No, I don't doubt my ability to write with the requisite abandon.  What I think I need, really, is the proper motivation.

So, I am not writing with wild abandon and "dunkya" because, well, it isn't "hurting bad enough yet."

But it will.  It will.