Just Another Night

February 2nd, 2012

The flesh on her arms broke out in goosebumps.  She dragged her sweater tighter around her shoulders and picked up the tray.  The drinks swayed slightly, but didn’t tip over.  That would have been more than she could handle right now.  Looking down at the veins of her hand that steadied the tray made her sigh with defeat.  They stuck out like mole tunnels from skin that more and more began to resemble soiled lace folding in on itself.

“What will you be having tonight?”  It was almost like a wolverine was scratching at her throat; she hoped the people sitting before her didn’t notice.  But then again, what did it matter, they would be gone soon anyhow.  Her pen hesitated on the pad as the young couple gave their order.  She wasn’t sure if he asked for fish and chips or the fish sandwich. She couldn’t remember when all foods started to the sound the same.  In times like these it was best to repeat the order back to them.

“Stella!”  She heard her name echo from the kitchen: her food must be ready.  With a loose smile she left the table, went to the back and checked the food.  It was all there, so she stabbed the ticket and brought the plates to 41 where a pleasant, plump woman sat with her two obnoxious sons.  She let the dishes fall a little too harshly against the table and the two boys jumped and looked up at her with wide eyes.

“Anything else I can get for you?”  At least they weren’t needy, just hungry little vermin.  She retreated to the back where she might hopefully rest her feet for a few minutes before she was seated again.  Luckily the rush had slowed down so she might be able to catch her breath.  With the thought of a break, her legs naturally quickened their pace, but before she reached the back, the teeny girl who worked the front caught her arm.

“Hey Stella, you’ve got three at 32.”  How was it that she was so perky all the time?  Stella wondered whether she had been as irrationally happy when she was that age.  So much for that break, it was a nice thought though.  She hobbled back to the middle of the floor, her feet protesting with each step.  At least there were not children at this table.

“What will you be having tonight?”  Again, she forgot to say her name, or even hello.  Not that it mattered, George wasn’t here and these people didn’t seem to care any more than she did.  She took down the order, taking more care this time to hear what they ordered and write it correctly.  She passed the first table on her way back to the kitchen, their drinks were running low and they stared as she walked by.  There was no food up in the window and only a few tickets waiting to be prepared.  Had she put in their order?  She checked the computer.  Hopefully they won’t notice.  She put the order in quickly hollering to the cooks to start on that one first.  Then she put in the most recent table’s order and rested against the cool metal table.  The pace was so fast here and yet time seemed to drag on endlessly.  A monstrous, acrid smell wafted from the depths of the kitchen.  They must be cleaning the fryers or maybe they burnt something, something disgusting to begin with.  She would carry the stench with her long after she took off her uniform.

All she wanted was to get her side work done and get home, but her feet refused to move.  Glancing over at her section, she noticed both her tables had full drinks.  Someone must have…

“I got ya,” he patted her on the back with a big smile.  He was such a nice boy, always helping.  He worked circles around anyone else here, and she was grateful he was working tonight.  She moved over to the salad station to begin cutting lemons, feeling relieved she had someone looking out for her, and a calm settled down as she remember the night would soon be over.

 

Prompt: Write a short character sketch (it may be from life), focusing on how your character makes a living. Put your character in a working situation and let us know by a combination of direct and indirect methods what that work is, how well he or she does it, what it looks like, smells like, and how the character feels about it.

The Hooves’ Lament

January 29th, 2012

It was here that was always quieter than anywhere else on all four thousand acres.  It was open here, all four elements converged without quarrel, it was the only place one could collect any thoughts, or come to any clarity.  Perhaps quiet wasn’t the right word; there was noise here, always in fact.  Better tranquil, it was tranquil here.  The barn’s ancient wood still stood just as fortified as the day it was built nearly two hundred years ago but in the middle the slats bowed and the ends frayed up with age.  What had once been a smooth white roof was now rusted brown by the weather, winds, snows and rains had beaten it down until it sagged pathetically as if these were its last years.  It might not make it through this year’s heavy snows.

With eyes closed, the rustling of the barn’s inhabitants were magnified against the wind’s groans.  What should burden them, they were fed, watered, kept in shade against the heat.  All that was asked of them was to follow a few orders, pull the plow, carry the farmer; as long as they didn’t mouth off they were fine, left to do as they please.  Just follow a few orders, and then peace at this quiet barn where nothing could reach them and nothing truly mattered.

An anxious bellow erupted from the depths of the last stall.  His desperate cry shattered the peace that had settled like a warm blanket.  He snuffed, stamped his feet against the bedding and shoved his shoulders against the wall.  He paced his stall, circles upon circles until he’d worked himself up too much to stop.  He pushed his pumped chest against the rope that tethered him in place.  He was stronger than the rope, stronger than that the withered barn which contained him.

There was only a flash of gray against the faded red barn, the rope lie it tatters swinging on its hinges.  The stallion’s massive hooves shook the path he stormed down, but soon they faded and then ended altogether.  Just like that he was gone.  Tranquility returned as if the horse had never been there, it wrapped its grip around the barn, pulling the boards deeper into their bow.  The other horses had barely lifted their heads at the stallion and tranquility spread over them once again; even the wind didn’t rustle quite so much.  The break was barely noticed, but against the worn dirt trail were fresh hoof prints, barely noticeable and yet blaring.  The barn rested, bracing itself against its soothing surrounding, but the tracks on the path were like a scar, a scar that would never heal, never go away, never be wiped from its place.  They would never settle against the tranquility that smothered the aching structure.  No matter how the wind swept, nor how the snow fell or the rains drummed, the hoof prints would never release their weight against the path.

 

Prompt: Describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has been killed in a war.  Do not mention the son, or war, or death.  Use third person and do not mention the man who is doing the seeing.

Berated

January 29th, 2012

You think this is acceptable?

Silence.

How could you have walked through that door with this embarrassment.  How can you look at yourself?  Do you know what garbage is? This in my hand is embarrassment, this before me is embarrassment.  You.  You disappoint me, is that what you want?

Eyes cast down in shame, defeat, embarrassment.

I’ve never seen anything like this before.  You will not order, you will not eat.  Garbage is not to be rewarded.  You owe me everything, I breathed life into that body you now slink around with as if it were nothing but garbage.  No one in this family ever hands in garbage like this.  How could your teacher even look at you, I can barely stand to.  You will never be the best with trash like this, you will work harder than this, strive for better. Does it give you pride to throw your name through the dirt like this? Unacceptable.

Head sunk deep into shaking arms.

We’ll go home and practice.  Say good-bye to your doll house and all your wretched toys, you only do math now.  I’ll buy bandages for your hands that will bleed before you write every equation perfectly. An A- will never plague your life again and you can raise your head right now and own your shame.  You failed this family, you failed in yourself and you caused a mockery of me.  I have pushed you to be only the best, never second, never below perfect for thirteen years and you will not throw that away.  Don’t touch that food.  Dinner is out of the question, not after this disgrace. In this family, everyone gets an A, you might as well have failed.  You have failed.  Do you have a pencil, we’re going to work through this right now, look at this paper.

Tremors, tears leaked onto what is filthy.

You are lazy, that is what caused this black spot on your record.  And you never listen, are you even listening now?  Do you understand what you have done here?  Don’t even look at that food.  Next time you will get an A, for the rest of your life you will only get an A or I will burn Mr. Fu-Fu and all his stuffed friends and I will make you light the match.  Don’t make me do those things.  You are such a disappointment.  How many times do I have to tell you?

I’m sorry.

Sorry does not bring back perfection, sorry is weakness.  Do not be sorry to me, work, get your pencil, never stop working.  You sleep math, you dream it and you excel at it.  Perfection is all you will ever know.  You didn’t try your best, this is not the highest level you are capable of, if you tried your best you wouldn’t have brought this home.  You are a disgrace, and you disgrace me.  How can I say you are my daughter when this is what you show me.

Give me that.  I will work harder.

 

Prompt: Rant, rave, let it all out


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