An unusual prompt, it suggested living in the apartment of my dreams rent free but it came with one stipulation which was living with my worst enemy. Could I do it? What rules or stipulations would I need in place?
I read the prompt and laughed. Not in this life time is my initial response.
One, it would have to be quite the spectacular apartment for that to briefly be a consideration because of the key stipulation. Worst enemy?
I’m sure you’re thinking how bad can her worst enemy be.
Even pausing to consider the interesting addition to the prompt with the possible rules or stipulations my reluctance would continue because we all know how well good intentions work and let alone the rules. Every rule has a gray area and naturally that leaves the temptation to break them wide open for interpretation. What I see as unacceptable another might see as what’s the big deal. Trusting my instincts matters more than any assurance from my worst enemy.
I’ve lived with alcoholic parents that were abusive alcoholics and then naively married an abusive man so living in stressful situations is something I’m familiar with already. I’ve learned as I aged, don’t put myself in situations that have potential risk. Don’t invite trouble.
Which is why regardless how tempting the apartment might be, the price tag is too high.
I’ve often wondered what life would be like if the rules of our society were based on my nine year old’s perspective. What would be important to me and what wouldn’t?
Would I eat two breakfasts instead of one? Would either of them be healthy? The adult me still loves Poptarts like her nine year self. Though, I don’t feel the need to hide what I’m choosing as I did back then. My grandmother let me have Poptarts at her house with a half of grapefruit and a cup of coffee but my mother said not in her house. My mother insisted cereal for breakfast like what she bought was healthier than a Poptart… Lucky Charms, Sugar Pops, or Trix really was so much better.
Nine year old me would have preferred having either one without all the squawking and finger pointing that I was being spoiled by my grandmother. I didn’t need special breakfasts with fruit and coffee.
But that’s just a narrow focus now when even back then I was aware of so many social injustices that needed change. My friends shouldn’t have to drink at a different water fountain than me. Nor should they have to sit in the back at Woolworths. Why couldn’t we all sit together. A child doesn’t see skin color. A child only sees the actions in the moment. A child is taught to judge. A child is taught hatred. A child is forced to choose.
“All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams.”- Elias Canetti
My world would eliminate all prejudice. My world everyone would love one another. Heck, I would give us all rainbow colors and we’d all be playing at the park together. School wouldn’t be required.
Just to be safe I would make every adult unable to speak or to act in a mean manner. There wouldn’t be guns. or any way to hurt another. Yup, my nine year self needed a safe place. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that so it’s fun to imagine a sweet place to exist before my childhood was stolen.
“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.”- James Arthur Baldwin
I turned my head to see who was speaking. There wasn’t anyone near me except the llama. I shook my head and took another sip of my coffee. I sighed as I savored the delectable brew.
“I put coffee in my coffee, today. So what are your plans for the day,” asked the llama chuckling at his wittiness.
“I’m going to…. ” I sprang up from the bench. There’s no way a llama could talk. “Who’s playing practical jokes?” I looked under the bench for a speaker, or a microphone. Anything to explain the voice but I discovered nothing or no one. This is bonkers. I must be losing my mind.
“You’re going where? Is it somewhere fun?”
“No, it’s not fun. I’m going to the hospital to get my Botox injections.”
“Oh, are there a lot of needles involved?”
” How are you talking? Llamas don’t talk.”
“Who says llamas don’t talk. We talk all the time. I believe you’re misinformed. “
I slugged back my coffee. ” I need to leave or I’ll be late. Have a good day.”
“Hey could you answer one question before you leave. Do you think someone will look at me the same way I look at coffee?”
I scurried away but not without turning back several times. The llama continued to sip his coffee on the bench. I couldn’t help but wonder what was in my coffee.
Having migraines with aura’s makes writing and reading challenging. Unfortunately, this past three days have been even more so difficult with an earache on top of the migraine for the last four days. Yesterday, I tried Hyland’s earache drops. Day one was still painful as all get out but I’m happy to say day two is much better. I still have the migraine but tomorrow relief is in sight, I get my shots.
The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.
All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.
Lily stood watching the train disappear on the horizon and vowed that one of the times when the train left she would be on it. Her good friend, Sally, laughed and shoved her shoulder before sauntering off. “Get real, Lily.”
Lily shrugged her friend’s negativity aside. No way was she going to let anyone keep her in this no-where town one second longer. She hated living in Trenton. It sucked the life out of everyone that lived there. Just look at her friend, Sally knocked up with her second child. That worthless boyfriend of hers doesn’t keep a job for longer than to get another fix. Sally has more excuses than the dictionary has definitions. But it doesn’t matter, she’s living at her parent’s home, taking care of a toddler with another child on the way.
Lily glanced at her phone, noting the time. She scurried home to get into her uniform. She hated the smell of grease, french fries and onions. The smells had soaked into her clothing no matter how many times she washed them , Lily ‘s room even with clean uniforms reeked of fast food.
She glanced under her mattress to check her stash. The crumpled bills totaled sixteen hundred dollars. She needed two more paydays to have enough but she wasn’t sure her sanity would last that long or that the girl would hold the room for her. Lily was scared that Judy would find another taker before she could scrap the required funds. There had to be a way she could get the money sooner but how. Lily made another vow, she was never going to be poor again after this.
Lily drudged through another shift at grease central. It was all she could do not to tell her boss where the sun shone but she didn’t. She dodged groping hands on her way home from the neighborhood homies before collapsing on her bed. She reached under the mattress to reassure herself the stash was still there before falling asleep.
Clenching her exhausted eyes shut from the sun’s daggers Lily pondered every angle of her plan. The train ride was one hundred dollars, and the apartment was twelve hundred leaving her a measly three hundred to live on until she got a job. What if she didn’t get one. She didn’t have enough to cover month number two. But, if she waited the room could disappear, and then she wouldn’t have a place to stay while she got a job. Lily knew she was running on fumes. Go or stay?
Go. Nothing was going to stop her from chasing her dream. She threw her clothes into a bag. Lily grabbed a couple of bracelets, her teddy bear and her toiletries. She decided to leave her Mom, a lipstick heart on the mirror before leaving the room. She closed the door but then realized that she hadn’t grabbed her stash from under the mattress. She took a deep breath and closed the door on this life.
Lily walked to the train station. She purchased a one way ticket to Manhattan. She smiled thinking the city that never sleeps will soon be home. She looked back at Trenton’s skyline, her Momma was going to be heartbroken. The train whistle snapped her back into the moment. It’s now or never.
“Letting go of the past means opening up to the future, and sometimes the unknown is scarier than the past.”― Tamara Lechner
The mice scattered across the IPad screen and Macavity’s attention was captured. His head bobbled with the mice’s movement until one mouse touched another and squeaked. He jumped back like he had been bitten. He glanced everywhere for the assailant before moving closer again. His hunched body ready for whatever the mice did next. Macavity inched closer to analyze the situation. Another shriek from a mouse. He had to know where the mice were. He pawed the IPad edge in search of the mice before gingerly placing his paw upon the screen. He captured a mouse. Yay, his mission accomplished.
Let’s discuss your biggest concern first and then get to the others.
Your new friend Jimmy, he’s insecure like you are in the ever- changing world of the early 70’s. I know you didn’t consider how fragile male egos are when you stepped into the fiasco that changed the dynamics of your friendship. Insecure white boys bullying the only black boy in a predominantly white school. You couldn’t let three of them hurt your friend, that’s not your nature. In retrospect, you should haven’t gotten help from an adult. But that’s also your nature since the adults you know are unreliable.
It was difficult for Jimmy to have his ego bruised like that. Pretend for a few minutes that you were him, having a white girl jump right into a fight and beat the boys up that you were losing too. You would’ve been embarrassed as all get out too. I’m sure when you weren’t around them tormented him more about having a white girl fight his battles.
Jimmy felt victimized by the bullies and unfortunately you added to the picture. It’s hard for a boy even a man to be rescued by a girl. Sometimes, girl instead of jumping head first into the mess you need to look at the bigger picture. I was and still am very proud of your loyalty to your friends. You’re a fierce warrior.
But then that also was the same thing with that guy Richie, deep down I think you knew he wasn’t going to be there for the long run. He said all the things you needed to hear because he played on your vulnerabilities. He knew about your home situation with abusive alcoholic parents so it was easy for him to seduce you. I know it’s hard to look at things cynically when you’re young but making a pros and cons list has served the adult you very well. Look at the bigger picture and what every angle really is before letting your heart and body get involved.
I’ve stared at this prompt for over an hour nothing comes to mind but I am stubborn so here goes.
The nuns of St. Leon Abbey gathered in the meadow after Mother Superior rang the end of day bell. They paced nervously waiting for the monks from St. Mark Abbey to join them. Both had competed in this odd game of chance by a secret contest that offered them special gifts they coveted from their lives before them went to the abbey. Like one nun, really missed wearing lip stick. Her lips were always dry without the silky gloss. She was ecstatic to find 6 tubes with her name on in her room after winning the challenge. The monks were really annoyed with her winning streak but oh well, she chuckled happily. Mother Superior couldn’t see the invisible gloss at all. In fact, everything they won in the challenges was invisible to their superiors. No one understood how the magic worked, they just accepted it was happening.
But then came the message, that they had to pay a token for the new challenge. What was the token? Why now? None of the other challenges had a token attached. The nuns and monks agreed there was an implied risk now but they couldn’t pin what specifically made them feel like the game had changed. They discussed everything they gained since the first challenge was offered. It had been so much fun competing against each other especially knowing their superiors were none the wiser.
Life at the abbey, was extremely boring. Same old routines, same old food, for that matter same old clothes until their secret benefactor proposed a way for them to have material pleasures without consequences. It was by mutual decision to accept the additional risk by both sides. How bad could it be?
A card appeared in the morning on the altar stating what the additional token would be if they chose to proceed. The nuns decided to look at what they were competing to win. A garden of vegetables and fruit that abundantly produced in all seasons. The nuns agreed never having food shortages was worth the risk. They had to beat the monks. At the same time, the monks were having similar discussions about taking the risk. Food was huge at both abbeys.
Eating once a day might work for their superiors but both the monks and nuns were tired of a grumbling tummy before bed at night.
Neither dared open the other card until they met in the meadow after the night bell rang. They scurried through the days mundane tasks ignoring the hunger. The thought of having ample food made their suffering fade.
The nuns and monks opened the risk card together. There were four levels to the challenge. What made this different from the other challenges was on each level the loser sacrificed their soul. The silence mocked them. Accept or decline. They had never declined but then there had never been a risk like this. Both agreed hunger was a great motivator. Each side secretly agreed they weren’t going to lose. In the morning, the first quest appeared stating each side must choose a competitor to complete a spiritual quest. There are trinkets that must be collected before they return. Suzanne was chosen by the nuns and David by the monks. They were young, energetic and competitive.
Suzanne didn’t return by the time the Mother Superior rang the night bell. The nuns rushed to the meadow, hoping David would be missing as well. David and the monks were waiting for the nuns. David quickly produced the selenite, the grapes, and the book. David handed the book to Naill. He opened the book, to discover it wasn’t actually a book but a cover for a glass box. Naill lifted the glass box out so everyone could see.
“Suzanne! ” The nuns screamed in horror. Their beloved sister was trapped inside the glass box. A note fell beside Naill’s foot. David picked it up and read it. “Soul number one has been collected.”
The jarring dead silence was like a hopeless black void that swallowed them all. This was real. Both sides decided to end the challenge, they would find another way to get the extra food needed to feed them all.
No one slept well that night especially the nuns. They knew Mother Superior was going to ask where Suzanne was. Sneaking around after dark was one thing but thus far they hadn’t lied until now. They couldn’t tell the Mother Superior the truth.
The note on the altar was quickly grabbed before Mother Superior saw it. The nuns feverishly prayed Mother Superior wouldn’t notice the missing nun. The cards fell in their favor for now. Once Mother Superior headed to her office, they huddled to read the note from their mysterious benefactor. “One task was completed, three to go. Declining the challenge will cost both sides more souls than the four potential souls.”
What did he mean more souls at risk? The nuns sent a message to the monks to inquire if they received the same message. They tried to focus on their cleaning tasks. Hours had passed since Sister Heather left, she should have returned by now. Where was she? As soon as the bell rang they fled to the meadow.
The monks shackled by fear watched the nuns reaction to the two books lying on the log. The books were identical to the one that held Suzanne. Neither group had the confidence to open the book. The thought of opening the books made them nauseous. They knew something had to be done, but what. How do they get out of this nightmare?
Write a story that doesn’t use unhappiness as its narrative catalyst. That is to say, write a happy story, one that is textured, interesting, not overly sentimental, but that is at its core, a happy story, however, you choose to imagine that.
Macavity sprang from the floor to the back of the couch and on up to the shelf overlooking the landing. He batted the crystal heart suncatcher and then tried to capture the light reflections on the wall. His gleaming yellow eyes wide open with the thinnest black lines were more stunning to me then the heart’s glass center. He became distraught when the reflection vanished with his body movement. He spun his head in every direction seeking the vanished colorful prisms
He meowed in protest and then leapt to my chair. I took advantage of the moment and snuggled with Macavity. He nestled in briefly but then noticed the light reflecting on the wall again. He sprung back to the shelf in pursuit of the mysterious light.