Short Story: Facades and Falls, Part I

This is an excerpt of a short story that I began last year. Please let me know what you think.


Facades and Falls

Anderson froze as he heard the gentle sweep of the bathroom door, the staccato tapping of her feet, and the groan of the mattress surrendering to her presence. He grimaced as a draft of cold air assaulted his back; it seemed to take her an eternity to lift the covers and slide next to him. He opened his eyes to stare beyond the opposing wall, his shallow, uneasy breaths parching his lips. It seemed colder with her in bed than it did with her outside of it. He could have sworn he saw his breath as it chattered through his teeth, but maybe he was just being paranoid.

Paranoid.He hated that word and what it represented — weakness and fear. Despite his overwhelming effort to keep it out of his life, that loaded, eight-letter word left him shattered and shivering in the corner of his marriage bed.

Anderson, for all his height and breadth, was as neurotic as a poodle in a socialite’s handbag. Even as he held thunder in his hands, drilling into a substance harder than bone, his fragile pith would instantly feel the judging eyes of passersby. He heard warning whispers from mothers to their spawn – This is why you must study. This is why you listen to the teacher. This is why you can’t be as dumb as he is.

He felt as if everyone could see through his muscled facade and right into his dilapidated psyche. Well, not everyone.His wife never looked through him the way strangers did. She loved him, truly loved him, and it confused and confounded him.

He remembered the day he saw first her. She instantly caught his eye – there wasn’t a pound of fat where it shouldn’t be, yet the curve of her hip would stop most men in their tracks. Her mountainous hair coiled into a soft, jet-black halo around her face, which was worth framing. She had the type of face that wasn’t chiseled out of stone but molded out of clay – soft, youthful and full. The way she nervously chewed her gum showed off deep dimples. He suddenly wanted her to smile and to smile only for him.

“Miss,” he said, “Excuse me beautiful.”

She had been trying to avoid him. She was almost in the street as she passed the worksite, walking along the thin yellow lip of the curb – away from the lustful stares of men who were only there to destroy and demolish. He thought she would walk away and out of his life forever when it happened.

As she reached the rubble at the end of the sidewalk, her heel caught on one of the stones that  ricocheted from his jackhammer. She teetered and tottered for an eternity before slamming butt down on the concrete. For as long as it took her to fall, her contact with the pavement was brief – she sprang back on her feet like nothing had happened, but the damage was done.

Hoots, hollers and jeers polluted the air. He didn’t join in – his eyes were only on her and the contents of her purse rolling towards the storm drain. He dropped the jackhammer to the side and captured the lipgloss, the lotion and two nickles as if they were irreplaceable. This was his only chance.

“Miss,” he said again, “Excuse me beautiful.”

As she looked up at him, he noticed a smattering of freckles on her brown cheeks – God’s wood grain, he thought as his heart caught in his throat. As he finally reached her eyes, he saw something there. Beauty, sure, but something else. Fear. Nervousness. Perhaps a bit of loneliness and lust.

She was too good for him, but not in her own mind. It was why he knew she’d take his number, despite her nearly tumbling into traffic to get away from him.

He handed the angel her change, determined to change her life.

“I think this is yours.” he said. “Sorry it’s all jacked up over here, but it’ll be fixed after while. I hate to hold this Carmex and Jergens for ransom, but I can’t let you leave without telling me your name.”

It was bold and risky – a little lame too, if he was being honest. She could think she was a creep, another one of the lecherous louts on the corner.

The angel paused. He could sense her fighting temptation as she nervously rubbed the nickels together in her palms.

“It’s Mallory,” she said with a small, yet winsome, smile.

 

© 2021 Muses and Moonlight — Jessica Hodge

A Prompt for Healing

Hi there. Nice to meet you. I’m Jess, you haven’t seen me here before, unless you’ve read this.

Writing these days doesn’t come as easy to me as it used to. By the end of the work day and after a full evening of cooking and mom-ing, I am mentally tapped out, choosing to pick up a game controller or my smartphone instead of a journal. However, that’s not the best excuse. Women have done more with less. So I am making it my New Year’s Resolution to both read and write more.

I recently joined a writing group on Facebook, and I was given a prompt to write a four stanza poem on healing. Here’s my rough draft:

Threads and Appetizers

Are you hungry? Yeah, I can eat
We sidestep holes beneath our feet

A terse dinner with eyes on plates

No acknowledgement of the rips we spake
The tension thick and peace in shatters
The fabric of our marriage tattered
A nibble here, a big gulp there
China’s clink muffling despair
 
The endless silence is broken in
With a PPFFT as the dog lets wind
Reluctant giggles and hesitant snorts
Laughter reminds us of what we did this for
 
With a patch of cloth, a spool of thread
We take back all the words we’ve said
We weave our apologies and then
This relationship is on the mend

This Changes Everything

Today’s prompt: “Use the last sentence from the nearest book as the inspiration for the first line of your poem.”

I have a pile of books near me and since many of them are manga volumes (Fruits Basket for the win), I had to do some searching before finding a book with an actual ending sentence. I settled on an unread DisneyPress book called Stealing Starlight, hoping I wouldn’t be too spoiler-alerted. All good, though I am intrigued.


This changes everything

My every rearranged

I can’t fight the feeling

I’m elated, scared, it’s strange

If tomorrow never happens

Then what is this feeling for

As my soul is spun asunder

I know life is meant for more

 

Ghost Writer

Prompted by: “Imagine an invisible ghost picks up a pen and starts writing to you.”


You’re like a ghost, my secret writer

Flame is burning like a lighter

Time goes by, you just get brighter

Now connected with soul fiber

 

I don’t think that you’re a ghost, my friend

Just someone lost in the tesseract bend

I leave out paper and my favorite pen

You write the words that cut my soul again

 

Some how, some way you’ve been caught between

No one could understand the things you mean

I only now do through the words I’ve seen

Through your eloquence, it’s so serene

 

I really think your soul could use some peace

Don’t want you caged and so I call release

One hand of mine does want a missing piece

The smarter me just wants your pain to cease

 

In this crazy-dramatic like a new movie

The pen keeps fluttering as you move through me

Your words they whisper that you need to see

A way back home to where you really should be

 

I’ll bury my head in all the pages

Read all of the words built over ages

To get you home I’ll be outrageous

Just please remember what my name is

 

 

 

 

A COVID Week

It’s April 2020. Tensions are high, prayers are many. It’ll be interesting to look back one day and see the order that finally emerged after this massive disorder.  I’m quite blessed to be able to work from home, and this prompt spoke to me as a way to eloquate how things are going as I work from home during COVID-19.

Prompt: “Write a poem where each line/sentence is about each day of last week”


Monday I slept in until 10 minutes to the clock

Tuesday I woke early, later walked around the block

Wednesday I want takeout but I cook another meal

Thursday I am lonely and I can’t forget the feel

Friday I am sleepy but 8 hours left, oh no

Saturday imagine of the places I would go

Sunday I prepare a mask that I don’t want to wear

Monday drone rolls by again, when can I get some air?

 

 

The Moon

Evening light above
Reflecting but not copied
Muse begins to write


Today’s prompt (so suitable for this particular blog): “Write about an experience in the moonlight.”

There’s No Anger Here At All

Prompted: “Write a poem using sarcasm as a form of illustrating your point.”
– This is kind of homage to the many arguments I’ve witnessed/had in which both parties thought they were in the right simply because they went some sort of an inconvenience.  There is no one to blame, but the frustration is still very real. So, when the story gets told, it sounds like there is someone to blame.


I’d been stranded in the summer heat

Just waiting for your call

But I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all.

I couldn’t go to the bathroom

There’s no service through the wall

But I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all

Since my battery life was dwindling

I couldn’t risk a another call

But I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all

It’s understandable you stopped for hunger

Of course the ice cream had to thaw

But I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all

Makes sense the food just didn’t make it here

I mean, I’m starving, but that’s all

But I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all

There’s obviously trust here

This isn’t friction, not a brawl

Oh I’m fine, yeah I’m good. There’s no anger here at all

Magic Air

This prompt hit home a little. I’ve been slowly learning guitar and all too often fail to practice. My pretty, blue Epiphone sits quietly as the magic it’s capable of weaving is simply lost to time.  I really should do better.
Prompt: “Base your poem around the plight of a musician who hasn’t picked up the guitar or touched a piano in years.”


Seeing a whisp of magic air

I stopped to ponder whence it came

I follow the draft to my olden muse

Rusty strings glint in the sunlight

Both sad and hopeful

 

I reach out with trembling fingers

Then holding back, I catch fear

 

We once spun light and wonder

How can I best myself?

I cannot hope to be what was

 

Days turned years of glances in yearning, nostalgia

Finally not at all – I realize now I was wrong

 

Even so, surely I am forgiven

My fingers have grown rusty as the strings

Am I responsible for time?

 

I begin to walk away but am caught by magic air

A friend is calling me, do I have the heart to listen?

 

I return and picking up my string-ed wand

My fingers find the resting place they’d forgotten

A curse has been lifted: I’ve remembered my love

When Sleep Lacks

Continuing the #NaPoWriMo festivities!

Today’s prompt: “What ideas and feelings keep you up at night? What’s it like when you have to wake up in the morning on a night you can’t sleep?


These thoughts keep me awake as they buzz about my head

Questioning, turning, wondering if my dreams are dead

Is there more, I want to know, than I’ve been banking for

Is my time and money useless, simply rusting on the floor?

 

Am I burying my talent before it has a chance to bloom

Is there more I should be doing than just laying in this room

At what point is my exhaustion both well-earned and well-deserved?

At what point am I just lazy and avoiding what’s perturbed?

 

Am I wasting time with questions as I ponder and remind

Or do my thoughts abate decisions that would prove far less than kind

Will a future unearth before me, or do I have to go and look

Should I sing or should I paint, should I teach or write a book?

 

I know a share of trades, but a master I am none

Is that because I need some time, or is my chance already done

I know my purpose overall but it views like a fuzzy line

I can’t keep being afraid because it’s wasting all my time

 

Through it all I keep on thinking about the hours wasted by

I don’t function well on lack of sleep, I need a heaping of shut-eye

I’ll awaken the next morning: yawning, rubbing at my eye

I don’t count minutes as I toss, so I can’t tell the time goodbye

 

 

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