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It was the summer of 1985 and I waiting in the kitchen of my classmate Gaby. Her brother, Jerry, was home from college. He was shirtless and washing his car in the backyard. Gaby introduced us when I stayed for a sleep over during our freshman year. He had come home after playing a football game. My heart skipped a beat. For the past three years, my crush on him had grown and each year he looked better yet.
He must have felt me watching because he looked my way. I dashed from the window, hoping he didn’t see me. I tried to calm my heart while I waited for Gaby to come down from her room. We were going to the mall with some girlfriends. We were going preview the new clothes for fall. If we banded together, we might keep our moms from making us look like total dweebs or worse dress us in prairie girl fashion that was on the way out. Unfortunately, some of our mothers had fallen in love with the look.
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It was mid December 1973. My older sister, Mae, and I were confined to a smoky hospital waiting room with Daddy. There was nowhere to get away from it. Even the vinyl covered chairs stunk. The smell was giving me a headache.
Daddy watched us while Nana Taylor visited with Mommy and our newborn sister. Then they would switch places after awhile. I wanted to go see the baby, but hospital rules don’t allow it. No one under twelve could visit the nursery or Mommy’s room. That’s not fair. Sarah, our newborn sister gets to go to her room. She’s younger than me.
I crept to the doorway and took one step into the hallway for a gulp of fresh air. Daddy noticed and said, “Amelia Rose, get back in here.” My first name is Nana Taylor’s middle name and my middle name is Nana Franklin’s first name. I hated it when I was called my by my first name. Kids at school made fun of my first name. They call me ‘oatmeal’ so I started going by my middle name. “If I have to get up and bring you back in here, you won’t like it.”
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Click. Click. Click. Mary Jane shoes echoed on the tile. At the end of the aisle, a woman pulled along a girl with head full of bouncing curls and frilly dress. As the footfalls grew louder, my pulse quickened. Here comes another pageant mom, I thought. Pageant moms were the worst. The only thing worse was a pageant dad that I once had the displeasure of meeting.
He was in Lincoln, Nebraska, not a place I would have expected. A half hour before I was supposed to go to lunch, he showed up with a little girl in a fluffy pink dress lined with a crinoline. He dropped an over sized pink duffel on my display table, knocking half of the items to the floor. He never apologized or offered to pick any of it up.
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The once bustling big-box store was now a shadow of its former self. My foot steps made echoing sounds as I walked across the filthy tile. Half of what remained was torn-up boxes, bubble wrap, and battered store fixtures. A hoard of customers descend on the remaining merchandise to gobble it up. Several of them had shopping carts heaped with cheaply produced clothing, toys, and small appliances.
“Hey, you,” a nasally woman shouted.
I instinctively looked in her direction.
“Yeah, you. Is this your best price?” She jostled a box with a picture of a toaster oven on it.
The woman cut me off. “You know that’s the problem with these liquidation sales. You’ve got to get rid of it, but you don’t mark it down enough.”
“I don’t work here,” I blurted.
“Well, damn it. You shouldn’t dress in those colors to shop here.” She waddled off in search of a new victim.
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As I settled into the driver’s seat, the fob, ignition, and house keys slipped from my fingers. They fell between the seat and console before settling on the floor. I tried to reach them from the front floorboard, between the front and backseat, and the passenger seat. I had worked up a light sweat before I pinched something between my fingertips and the side of the driver’s seat. The headlights flashed twice. I had them. I dropped them.
My fingertips touched the fob again. A button depressed as I tried to walk it up between the console and side of the seat. The horn honked. Startled, I dropped the fob before I could turn the horn off. My fingers touched them again. This time I flicked them towards the backseat. I tried again from the backseat. Failed. Again from the driver’s seat, I pinched and retrieved them, then promptly shut the horn off. I rubbed the bruise on the back of my hand, a souvenir of my mighty battle with the fob.
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My morning break was nearly over. I got on the elevator with Tory and David to ride it back to the fifteenth floor. David stood quietly. Tory yammered into her phone about a reality show. I watched the numbers change on the lit panel. Seven…Eight…a jolt knocked us off our feet as the lights went out. My back hurt and head throbbed.
Continue reading “Outage” →
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My son’s family
won’t be visiting this Thanksgiving. So rather than spend it alone,
I’m trying out the new virtual buffet. They promised an enjoyable
family dinner even if you are the only one physically present. The
only requirement – wearing their patented, virtual reality glasses.
The self-driving bus pulled into the parking lot
of Mama’s Buffet, my city’s version of the virtual buffet. I and a
handful of other single, older adults filed off of the bus and into
the white building with pink trim. As I waited in line, the scent of
roasted turkey and stuffing made my stomach growl. I watched each
person in front of me accept their VR glasses and led off to separate
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gasped and jerked awake. Cold sweat covered every inch of my body; my
heart and head pounded from the adrenaline rush. At least this time
tears weren’t streaming down my cheeks or a blood curdling scream
escaping from my lips. The doctors would say that this was progress.
I would say that they don’t have a clue.
It’s been two years since I watched my platoon
mates and their hummer be blown to bits. It had been hit by an IED.
The hummer was instantly set ablaze. Patrick was the only one to
emerge semi intact. He was fully engulfed in flames and missing an
arm. He must have been the one who let out that unearthly scream as
he collapsed into a heap on the ground. The others were strewn about
in pieces. There was nothing I could have done to save any of them.
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Like any other ordinary work
day, my husband and I were talking on the phone. We would do this
during our respective rides home to catch up on the day’s events.
“I’ll pick up milk on my home,” Jim said.
hon…what the…?” I stammered.
you okay?” his voice changed from normal to one of concern.
I’m fine, but the landscape just changed in a matter of moments. The
sky changed to a deep purple and there’s two moons in the sky!”
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clack, stomp. Clack, clack, stomp.
that kid upstairs is at it again. She gives me such a headache. The
whole lot of them needs to move. Those noisy kids have been at it for
more than two months. That’s too enough. At least the two older kids
stay away now. What to do about that little one, thought the
downstairs neighbor. I was here first. They need to go.