Life or Death

300 words? Evil. So. Evil.

Red Writing Hood

Flash Fiction can be fun and a real challenge. This week focus on the words and the strength of each to contribute to your story. Write a 300 word piece using the following word for inspiration: LIFE.

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Life or Death

She knelt in the soapy water, knees aching in her wet jeans. She stared down at the white kitchen floor.

It had been an hour, but it wasn’t clean.

She started again, methodically scrubbing the tile in front of her.

Top left corner, down the side, across the bottom.

It had to be right.

It had to be clean.

She pushed the rag hard against the floor, scraping her knuckles in the grout and gritting her teeth against the sting of soap on her raw skin. She rocked back onto her feet and fought through the ache spreading through her back. Darkness creeping in.

There was still a spot. She abandoned the rag and scraped with her fingernail. Imperfections would not be tolerated. She would have to start again.

Top left corner, down the side, across the bottom.

If it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t right.

And it had to be right.

A bead of sweat ran from the base of her neck to her waist.

Harder. She had to scrub harder.

In her mind, she saw the crash. The metal crumpled like paper, erupting into flames. Cars twisted. Faces cut by shattered glass.

People lying bloody and broken.

Flashing ambulance lights.

Death.

No. She wouldn’t let it happen. She had to make it right.

It wasn’t rational. There was no car. There were no people. But what if there were?

The breath caught in the back of her throat.

What if she was wrong?

What if she missed a spot?

She knew it was the OCD. But she scrubbed, because she couldn’t be sure that spotless tiles weren’t a matter of life or death.

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This is fiction based on reality.

It isn’t the OCD you see in Monk. Television shows you the cleanliness, but never the thought process. This is called flashing. For someone with OCD, it can feel very real. The magical thinking that you know is completely irrational, but you still feel compelled to do the ritual anyway, because if you don’t, the pictures in your head might come true.

My best friend still teases me about her all-powerful broom. I rarely sweep to prevent car crashes anymore. Though I did clean my door jambs before my niece was born. Just in case.

Thanks for reading! Concrit WELCOME and Appreciated! 

*Bobs

A Different Kind of Pain

I almost didn’t post this. I wasn’t sure if I should.

I’m not this person anymore. But I remember her very well.

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RemembeRED

It’s a fill-in-the-blank-for-your-own-prompt Prompt:  
The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing.
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A Different Kind of Pain
(The first time I cut after promising I’d stop.)

Ungrateful.

Selfish.

Worthless.

I sat on the edge of the bed, my hand clutched around the phone, thumb still lingering over disconnect. The echoes of his words hung in the air, making it heavy and thick. My whole body shook with the effort of breathing.

You don’t love me. You don’t respect me. It’s your fault I’m stuck here in this fucking desert. You don’t care what I’ve done for you. I gave you an opportunity and you just threw it away. I wasn’t shot at in Vietnam so you could be such a screwup. 

He’d stopped taking his medication.

Again.

He thought they gave it to him to shut him up. He didn’t think he was sick.

You and your mother, you’re conspiring against me. Don’t think I don’t know that. You both just want me dead.

He berated me for an hour, twisting my words and flinging them back at me. He ripped me apart with one delusional accusation after another, and even though I sat rigid, trying to be strong— trying to be stone— the tears came.

Don’t try to pull that crying bullshit. You can’t manipulate me like that. You aren’t as smart as you think you are. 

I stared at the phone in my hand. I hated him. I hated myself.

I wasn’t seven any more, but his words still paralyzed me. Even through a phone, he could back me up against a wall and recite my wrongs.

I couldn’t even disconnect the phone. Not until he stopped and I was shattered. Until he’d given me his permission to go lick my wounds.

Weak. The voice in my head spat the word at me.

I threw the phone to the floor and curled into myself, rocking, sick, aching. I had to do something before my skin turned inside out and my chest caved under the tight pressure of disgust.

I couldn’t hurt like this anymore.

My eyes flicked to the bottom drawer of my nightstand.

It had been three weeks since the last time. Since I promised I would stop. In three weeks, my wounds had turned to scars.

I opened the drawer and pulled out the tin lunchbox with Lucille Ball on the front. No one knew I had a kit. Inside was my salvation.

Bandaids, gauze pads, and a roll of adhesive wrap. A bottle of hand sanitizer. A washcloth— stained. Rubber bands. A pink thumb tack. An Exacto knife. Clean blades.

An orange box cutter.

I picked it up and turned it over in my hand, weighing the decision in the cool metal. Opening it, I ran my thumb over its blade. Just a little deeper and I knew I could trade the feeling in my chest for adrenaline and dopamine.

I could feel better.

I pulled my dress up over my hips and traced the blade across my upper thigh, leaving a thin, white mark.

Deeper. Harder.

Anticipation and guilt throbbed in my fingertips.

I want. 

I need. 

I shouldn’t.

Worthless.

Weak.

I held my breath and drew three hard lines down my leg— two for my father’s words and one for my own broken promise. Tears filled my eyes again as bright red blood rose in beads from the cuts.

I bit my lip and traced the line of blood with my finger.

I still hurt. But this pain, at least, I could see.

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My father isn’t a monster. He has schizophrenia and PTSD. Medicated, he’s fine, but unfortunately, the nature of his illness is such that he doesn’t trust the doctors who are medicating him. I don’t know, really, what goes on in his head. But I do know that unmedicated, he is mean and paranoid and delusional. It isn’t his fault.

But it’s not mine either.

I’ve been clean now for one year, seven months, and twenty days.

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Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!

*Bobs

Bedtime

I’ve been filling the role of ‘honorary auntie’ for my best friend’s children since before they were born. I remember when her oldest was younger, every time I babysat and put him to bed, I would burst into tears. When you love someone that much, I guess it has to go somewhere.

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RemembeRED

This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.
Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.

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Bedtime

Tonight, I gave him a hug before he ran up the stairs for his bath with daddy.

“Night, Monkey,” I said, and kissed his forehead. “I love you,” I whispered, burying my nose in the sweet spot between his shoulder and his neck.

 Then he was gone — a superhero, an astronaut, a boy whose imagination astounds me. A boy who is outgrowing my lap quicker than my mind or heart can comprehend.

This is bedtime now. It’s different, full of bittersweet memories.

I’m sure that, just yesterday, we read Goodnight Moon on the couch downstairs. I knew it by heart, because he demanded it at least six times a day.

“Where’s the moon?” I asked, and he pointed with a chubby, drool-covered finger.

In the bath, the purple octopus and the squid chased each other around the tub. Giggles filled the room as I sculpted his hair into a soapy mohawk and tickled his belly button, and when the last of the water circled the drain, leaving only a few tiny bubbles behind, I gathered him up in a towel. We played peekaboo with his pajamas.

Just yesterday, I wrapped him in my arms and carried him to his bedroom — the damp weight of him warm against me, his legs dangling and his wet hair leaving a spot on my shirt where his head rested on my shoulder. He yawned.

“Such a sleepy boy,” I said. “What a big yawn.”

In his room there was only darkness and the smell of baby shampoo. We curled together on the chair beside his bed. My chin rested on his head as I inhaled him, and we rocked. I closed my eyes and sang soft hymns that took me back to my own childhood, listening to my parents practice for church after I had gone to bed.

“I will always love you,” I whispered. “I will always be here. I will keep you safe. I promise.”

I sang and rocked, not sure which of us clung more tightly to the other and it wasn’t long before my tears came, running down my face and dripping onto his head.

I cried because I loved him. Because already, he grew heavier in my arms each day. Because soon, I knew that snuggles before bedtime and singing hymns would just be a memory.

I cried because he was my best friend’s child, and my only claim to him was that I loved him more than I ever knew was possible. Because no matter how many times I read Goodnight Moon, he would not be mine.

Just yesterday, I laid him in his bed and placed a stuffed penguin in his arms, kissing him and letting my hand linger for just a moment longer on his cheek. I turned on his music and snuck out the door, wiping my cheeks and hurrying downstairs to plug in the baby monitor — part of my promise.

If he woke, I would be there to chase away the monsters.

Tonight, when he went to bed, I didn’t cry. After books and hugs and kisses, I smiled and watched him go. He is mine. My Monkey. My superhero. Not because he has to be, but because he chooses to be. Tonight, when I whispered, “I love you”, he whispered, “I love you” back.

I tell him every time I see him, so he doesn’t forget. And I take in every hug, every smile, and every giggle — sure that just tomorrow he’ll be a man, the scent of baby shampoo long faded away.

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Monkey and Me Circa 2008

2010

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Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!

*Bobs

Giving In

I haven’t written fiction in years. But this character wanted to be written. So I obliged her.

Red Writing Hood

 The happy ending.

This week, we’d like you to write a scene that includes a happy ending – it doesn’t have to be the actual END of your story, if you’re working on continuations, but it should include at least one challenge for your hero to overcome.
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Giving In

Rumors by Neil Simon. Laughing until our sides ached and we gasped for air. Her hand on my bare back leading me out of the theatre. Electric. Dinner at that little Italian place, at a table in back. One plate. Two forks. A bottle of Merlot between us.

A perfect date.

Now we stood together outside my building. I wobbled, and leaned against the wall to steady myself. Was it the wine spinning my head, or just the anticipation of her touch? I couldn’t be sure. Either way, I was intoxicated.

“This was nice.” She said, smiling.

Her lips were the color of ripe watermelon, with all the same promise of sweet relief from the heat of summer. They would satisfy me.

Hungry.

Wrong.

I swallowed, tasting the acid of desire and guilt burning the back of my throat.

I shouldn’t. The two words danced through my head. Shouldn’t want. Shouldn’t need. Shouldn’t be drawn to the curve of her hips, the softness of her skin, the smooth velvet of her voice. I shouldn’t.

But I am, I thought. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to feel. My cheeks burned red. My fingers tingled.

“Jenna?”

I looked up. Could she see my uncertainty?

“Hey,” she said. She touched my shoulder and ran her hand down my arm until her fingers were tangled in mine.  “Where’d you go just now?”

I squeezed her hand and twisted her rings with my thumb.

“Away.” A smile crept onto the corners of my lips. “London. Rome. Paris. The Eiffel Tower. A little cafe at a table under the stars. Coffee and beignets.”

“Hell of a trip.”

“Yeah.”

The word hung in the space between us. Her eyes met mine and she pulled me into her.

“Yeah.” She whispered, her breath warm against my ear. Her lips traced their way across my cheek, brushing my skin and stopping on my own.

They were softer than I expected, smooth with lip gloss that tasted like cherries. Her tongue teased my lips, parting them and running over my teeth, pushing inside and becoming a part of me.

I shouldn’t.

Wild panic exploded in my chest. I ripped my hand from hers and pulled away.

“I can’t. I’m sorry, I can’t.” I shook my head and tears I didn’t know were there slid from the corners of my eyes.

She stepped back, her mouth still open showing where mine had been only seconds before.

“But… why?” Her words were tinged with rejection.

“Because…” I started, closing my eyes.

Because when I was eight, I kissed my best friend on the lips and she told me that it was wrong for girls to kiss other girls.

Because shame burned my cheeks as I stared at other women’s bodies.

Because I could still hear my father spitting words like dyke and fag, warning me about sin and abomination.

Because that abominable word — lesbian — felt warm and safe on my tongue, like a word that was already part of me.

“Because you’re a woman.” I said. Already I missed her arms wrapped around me. I could still taste her. I wanted her back and I hated myself for it.

“I thought that was what you wanted. I thought…” She stared hard at me. “Why the hell did you agree to go out with me if you didn’t want to date a woman?”

“I needed to know —”

“Know what?” She cut me off.

“If it was right.”

“And?” The softness in her voice surprised me.

I shouldn’t.

I should.

This time I reached for her, wrapping my arms around her waist and pulling her into me, until there was no space between us for my shame. Until her heart beat against my chest and her hands were in my hair, and she filled my senses, pushing out everything else.

I smiled, as a new set of images flooded my mind.

Her. Me. Sheets tangled at the bottom of the bed. Her hair tickling my stomach. The weight of her on me. The easy fit of our curves.

“Come inside, Amy.” I said.

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Thanks for reading! Concrit WELCOME and Appreciated! It really has been a long time since I’ve tried to write fiction. I need all the help I can get!

*Bobs