The Writer’s Voice #175 out of 175 – whew!

I  am thrilled to get to be a part of this contest! Thanks to the addition of 25 more slots, and by the skin of my teeth, I made it!! YAY!

Query Plot Summary for The Near Fall:

If George Konvolinka doesn’t get a wrestling scholarship, he’ll end up bussing tables at Mr. Greek, his family’s restaurant, and worse, living with his parents. Which would be intolerable even if his mother didn’t dress like a teenaged skank, and his father didn’t throw chairs at the matches.

His sister Dorrie made it out of Waterboro unscathed (he thinks), and George is on track to do the same. But the new surfer-dude dishwasher that George recruited for the team, Clive Duval, turns out to be a former state champion, and wants George’s spot.

When his mother amps up her flirting with Clive, George becomes a head case on the mat. It doesn’t help that the coach is on Clive’s side, and that Erin Breedlove, the team manager, has breasts he can detect under her baggy sweatshirt.

At Thanksgiving, Dorrie comes home thirty pounds thinner and his mom is thrilled she’s a size zero, whatever the f*** that is. But when George hears his sister throwing up in their Jack and Jill bathroom, he knows something is wrong.

Her timing couldn’t be worse. Dorrie has a heart attack, caused by an eating disorder, right before the State Tournament, and George must decide between wrestling for his scholarship, and supporting her during Family Week at her rehab center.

First 250 Words

I have thirty seconds. My thighs are on fire, but I crouch low to the mat and circle him, moving in and out quickly. I shoot in and grab his leg, then explode up through his body. Again. And again.

Sweat streams into my eyes, but I couldn’t see him clearly even if he was really there. I watch him, my imaginary opponent, as Three Doors Down plays Kryptonite in the corner of the gym.  If I go crazy now will you still call me Superman?  I check the clock and go again. I’m on my two hundredth shot when I feel a jolt of electricity right behind my elbow. I lose my balance, and stumble in the middle of the take down. I look at my time; 199 take downs in twenty minutes. I failed.

She should have warned me. Made a noise. Stomped her fucking Eskimo boots. Something. She’s lucky I didn’t jab her in the eyeball.

“What?”

Erin Breedlove taps her ear, and I take my ear buds out. I don’t know what to say. I should have said something earlier, back last spring when it happened. Her sister OD’ed and woke up dead. Or didn’t wake up at all, rather. Heroin. I don’t bring it up.

“What?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to let you know I’m here. Didn’t want to freak you out if you saw me in the office.” She jerks her head toward the little glassed-in room in the corner of the gym.

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The Masters: A Father’s Day Show

The logo for the Masters Tournament made of fl...

 

My son came home from college late Friday night after driving through Atlanta during rush hour, on Good Friday. I begged him not to make the five hour drive for only one day.

“You’ll be home in a month! It’s too long a drive for only one day!” I said.

My husband, the practical one, the one who weighs the pros and cons of every decision, the one who decides with his head, not his heart, said, “If he wants to come home, let him come home.”

It was ridiculous. The price of gas is ridiculous.Atlantatraffic is ridiculous. But he arrived safe and sound at 11:00 pm, and gave us a quick hug before we immediately went to bed. He slept until noon on Saturday.

I glowered at my husband as I made lunch on Saturday. “This is ridiculous,” I said. “We’ve seen him for ten minutes and he has to leave tomorrow!”

When my son finally sauntered downstairs in time for lunch, the two of them talked about the Masters over turkey sandwiches. About what a shame it was Tiger seemed to be falling apart. How good Phil looks. How well Freddy is doing.  How impressed they were with Rory after Friday’s round.

My husband updated him on what had happened on Thursday and Friday, about who had birdied and who had choked.

My son said he heard the azaleas all died, and my husband to him that they weren’t dead, but just bloomed early this year.

“The practice rounds are the best. The players are relaxed and everything’s low key. I saw Seve Ballesteros about 25 years ago on the 16th tee box. Somebody in the crowd yelled for him to ‘hit one on the pond and skip it onto the green’. He hit one about a foot shy of the bank and it sank. He hit the next one within a foot of the first one, but it still sank. The third one he hit skipped right up onto the green and the crowd went wild. I mean wild,” my husband said. “You should go if you ever get the chance.”

The phone rang and my husband talked to his father about Freddy and Tiger and Phil. My son piped up about Rory.

They were in their seats by 3:00

My son asked why Phil putted with one foot far in front of the other and my husband explained that he didn’t want to put his cleat marks in the other guy’s line. “It’s a courtesy,” he told him.

My son listened to his father’s every word.

They talked about Rae’s Creek, the stream that runs through the whole course. And the Eisenhower Tree, the pine that the President hit so many times he proposed it be cut down.

They are ready for the final round, Sunday’s back nine. Anticipating Amen Corner.

I walk in and out of the house. They are riveted to the TV. They both cry out simultaneously as a club cracks the ball sharply. I stop and watch for a minute. The British voices on the television are muted, apprehensively analyzing the little pitted, white ball soaring over the manicured greens. The crowd has their own commentary. Not quite as muted.

Be right! Phil cries out.

My son asks what ‘Be right’ means. And my husband explains that the golfer ‘pured’ it, and wants his club to be the right one.

I stay for the commercial. There is an enormous old radio and I hear the familiar, hushed voices. There are shots of the azaleas, the years they didn’t ‘die’, and wide angled shots of the lush greens, and the still spectators. A golf analyst says people inAugustapause in April and gather across generations. Across eras, even.

“Who is watching with you?” the announcer asks. “Maybe a son. Maybe a father.” He mentions the person you’d give anything to be watching with, one more time.

The ball lands softly on the green, inches from the hole. And the two of them, my little boy and his father, whoop exuberantly in perfect unison.

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My Sordid Affair with NetFlix

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Just a hint of conversation would have made a difference. One sentence even, warning me that our relationship was about to change. Even those dreaded words, we need to talk, would have given me a heads up. But I never saw it coming.

We’d been so happy for so long! I felt listened to. Understood. Not judged at all for my preference to cheesy movies. I thought our relationship was perfect, actually.

I’m not proud of the way it started. It was dark. I was lonely. My husband was out of town, and I succumbed. Yes, I watched a romantic comedy lovingly chosen just for me by a Mr. Net Flix. There was no espionage, no car chases, no murders committed by twenty-year-olds in bikinis. I didn’t have to rewind to figure out what was going on. It was obvious that J. Lo was going to end up with Ben Affleck even though he was engaged to her client, so I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

I knew immediately after that one sordid episode I was goners. He nailed it! Even though we’d only been together one time, this Nettie, as I lovingly began to refer to him, not only knew me like no other, but actually encouraged me to be myself. He dropped everything and brought me Tortilla Soup andSabah. Instantly.

At first I was reluctant to try some of the things he suggested. The handful of dramas and foreign films I’d done before had left me dissatisfied. But he gently plied me with things I’d always wondered about, nudging me with a subtle love notes: new suggestions for Ferris. Who was I to resist that?

As our relationship deepened, I found myself looking forward to things I never would have chosen on my own. Lars and the Real Girl. City Island. Winter’s Bone. There was no doubt Nettie was adding a new dimension to me. I was growing!

It was only after I’d fallen head-over-heels in love with Mr. Flix that I realized all my other relationships (the ones I’d been perfectly satisfied with before) were lacking. They all took too much effort on my part, and I was tired of the constant give and take. These others wanted chips and dip while watching some buxom spy being stalked though Mother Russia, or a two-way conversation.

Not so with this guy. No sir. It was all about me, me, me.  What do youlike? How much do youlike it? Look what I have for you tonight!

It was like that every minute. All Nettie wanted to do was to find out more about me, and please me! And all that was required of me was to touch a particular button every now and then. But only if I felt like it.

I talked about my new relationship openly. I began every conversation with a recap of my previous evening with Nettie. My sister quickly asked me to arrange an introduction. Surprisingly enough, my parents were not only supportive of this relationship, but actually wanted to meet this character themselves. I told them it was too complicated (actually they can’t turn on the computer).

While I was in the throes of this love affair, I didn’t realize how controlling Nettie could be. I guess I mistook it for flattery, but if I hovered my mouse over a movie he didn’t approve of, he let me know immediately. Ferris wouldn’t like this, he’d whisper, taking pains to spell my unusual name correctly. I trusted him implicitly for years, not daring to watch anything he didn’t bring to me personally.

My husband was intrigued at first, and I was shocked at this new side of him. He’d always been so conservative! But soon he was threatened by Nettie, and began to throw his weight around.

“Order The Goodbye Girl,” he demanded. “You’ll love it.”

My husband didn’t give me a specific score, so I had no idea if he meant a 3.2 or 4.9 when he said I’d like it.  Until Nettie, I’d never realized how inadequate my husband was.

I hovered my mouse over Marsha Mason, humoring him. We’ve been married twenty-five years. I owed him that at least.

Nettie seemed to be equally threatened. “2.3!” He doesn’t even know you! Nettie’s words suddenly seemed shrill, or was it my imagination?

I guess the timing was right. My relationship with Mr. Flix had gotten out of hand.

Apparently my precious Nettie felt the same way. Maybe he was tired of our relationship being so one-sided, of always being the one calculating what I wanted based on hints I’d given, and constantly trying to please me. He never brought me just one thing, always at least eight for me to consider. I can see how this might be exhausting, but he should have just said so!

I didn’t even get a ‘Dear John’ letter. Not a word of explanation, much less an adult conversation about what was bugging him. About what he wanted to change. Even my husband knows better than this!

Instead I got a bill. Actually it was a charge already on my credit card. (I know, I was actually paying him for services rendered, but he made me feel so, so understood!)

I tried to contact Nettie. I wanted to force him to talk. I wanted to tell my side of the story, to wail and cling and gnash my teeth.  We’d been together for so long!

But my email came back unread, and there was no phone number at all. The absolute nerve!

My husband said it was for the best. I had been giving him overt hints about watching Legally Blonde, but he didn’t even notice. He just looked up from Live and Let Die and asked if I would mind making some dip.

I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes I still miss my perfect little Nettie.

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Resolutions from Woody Guthrie

The Very Best of Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions from 1942 are circulating around Facebook this week. Folksinger extraordinaire, Guthrie, perhaps most recognized for the well known song This Land is Your Land, jotted down thirty three of them in a marbleback notebook seventy years ago.

Some of them are sort of funny. #3 is ‘Wash teeth if any’. That would have been funnier to me a few years ago, before I fell on a rock and knocked out my front tooth and the one beside it. And before the rest of them started splintering away. I decide to follow his cue and make a note to wash the ones remaining.

Some of them are obvious, and could hardly be classified as resolutions. Shave, Take Bath and Change Socks, numbers 4, 5 and 11, go without saying most of the time. But he gave each one its own line. I snicker to myself, imagining someone who has to resolve to change his socks.

Most of the resolutions from 1942 are dead on target, even for 2012. There’s something charming about his language. #1 is ‘Work more and better.‘ I suppose official workaholics could skip this one, but I shouldn’t. How much time do I fritter away going over Facebook, and googling random things, when instead I could be working? And how many times do I work halfheartedly, not putting in my all? I write down ‘Work More and Better’ for my own resolution.

I google the songwriter and I learn Woody Guthrie had Huntington’s Disease. A neurodegenerative disease that leads to dementia, it left Guthrie without control of his body, and later his mind. It suddenly put his fourth, fifth and eleventh resolutions in a different light and I am ashamed of myself for judging him.

I am floored by his eighteenth resolution. Stay Glad.

It’s simply said, but right to the point. Guthrie doesn’t say Be Glad. He does not use the passive voice, but instead picks an active verb. Stay glad. Get there. Make it to a spot where you feel glad, and stay there.

How could he even be glad, much less stay glad as he battled this disease?

I don’t think this is an easy resolution. It reminds me of a bible verse: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessolonians 5:16-18

How hard is that one? Granted, most of the time it should be easy enough. I have no excuse not to Stay Glad.  I have plenty of food, a roof over my head and my health. But on the other hand, I find myself not seeing the forest for the trees as far as giving thanks. I am so accustomed to my blessings sometimes I don’t even recognize them.

Instead I focus on the inconveniences of my day. Traffic at the mall. The power going out.  My fake tooth that won’t whiten.

I whine. I complain when things don’t go my way.

I put ‘Stay Glad’ as my number one resolution. I resolve to get glad and stay there, even if 2012 brings heartbreak and disappointment and traffic.  I know if I can keep this resolution, no matter what this new year brings, I will be a little closer to becoming the person I would like to be.

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‘Tis the day after Christmas…

Christmas in the post-War United States

‘Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house,

The only creatures stirring are me, and my louse.

The table that was set last night with such care

Is littered with spilled wine, wrapping paper, and pet hair.

My family still lie all snuggled in their beds

With wine flu and cobwebs tangling their heads.

With me in my sweatpants and my louse in his cap

We clean empty envelopes of gift cards from Gap.

I put on carols, to improve our mood

And make an effort not to be rude.

My louse looks at me and by the tilt of my head,

He soon knows he has something to dread.

Torn boxes, dirty diapers and spoiled sippy cups

Interest my two previously cloistered pups.

They prance and press with each little paw

To the tune of ‘Did You See What I Saw?’

When from the kitchen there arose such a clatter

I scream from the den, “What the @$%&*#’s the matter?”

Away to the counter I fly like a flash,

In time to survey the damage from the exploding crash.

My louse had opened the refrigerator, OH NO!

Cranberry sauce and egg nog leaked out on the flo.

When what to my dismayed eyes should appear,

The new gift of growler, in other words, beer.

Not full on the shelf, but spilled in a boozy slick

Just in time came my little dog Vick.

He lapped and slurped until my louse came,

And whistled and shouted and called out curse names!

” #%&* Dasher,  $$#% Dancer!  #$ and $%$@ Prancer and Vixen!”

My Christmas cheer long gone, I had choice words for Blitzen.

By now I my grouse knew I was not doing very well.

I continued to say the reindeer could all go to hell.

I finally tiptoed around the knee-high mess

And now I must say what I darenot confess:

There’s something about this that just isn’t right.

I’m glad it’s over. Done! Now Good Night!

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My Dog Needs Braces

English: A Chihuahua baring his teeth at the t...

Uneven teeth

“I think Vick needs braces,” I told my sister on the phone.

There was a heavy silence. Not even an exhale. I could hear her holding her breath on the line.

Victor is my little dog. My sister is not all that fond of dogs as a rule. I say that, but she’s probably normal. She thinks they are actually animals, and should be treated as such. She has no problem making them stay outside, and wouldn’t dream of letting them on the furniture. She thinks it’s silly to dress them in clothes, or carry them around in an infant papoose.

No, she has no problem keeping all canines in their places, but especially my little Vick. She thinks I’m nuts. Whacko over my dogs. She has three grandchildren, two of them toddlers, and is over the moon over each one of them. She says that a couple of grandbabies would be a cure-all for me. She thinks I might buy a real live human baby a soft cotton onesie instead of buying a corduroy coat for my little dog. It was red.

I got my first little dog, Ruth Ann, when my oldest son turned 18. A little dog was all he wanted for his birthday. It was the last thing my husband wanted. In fact he forbade it, putting his foot down and throwing out ultimatums. When we returned from the Humane Society with a little black dachshund-min-pin mix, he melted immediately. And Ruth spent most of her time curled up on his lap.

My sister rolled her eyes and flicked black dachshund hairs off my sweaters. She apologized to others about the state of my clothes. Do you have any boundaries? she asked.

My second little dog, Sophie Marie, fit into my shoe when I first brought her home. She was tiny. A little Chihuahua-min-pin mix, she chose my husband’s vest as her favorite spot, and spent every possible moment curled up against his chest. He zipped up his green fleece vest protectively, and I got used to the warm little bulge over his heart.

My sister made no bones about it. She said we were certifiable.

But my sister, who thinks I am ridiculous about dogs, dropped everything the day Sophie was hit by a car. She waited with us at the emergency animal hospital, her face pale and drawn. She offered us Coca Colas and sandwiches. She held my hand. And wrung her own.

A while after Sophie died, my sister took me to the Humane Society. She knew we needed a new little dog, that a new dog would ease our heavy sadness. I didn’t know it was so obvious.

The dog we have now, Victor, is the worst of all of them, according to my sister. She’s never said so outright, but I can just tell by the way she makes me put him up in the laundry room whenever she brings the grandbabies over. She says it’s because he snaps at them, and bares his teeth when they toddle toward him.

I tell her it’s her fault. She chose him herself, handpicking him from all the dogs in the cages at the Humane Society. She pointed out to me how he tucked his little paws right under his chin, and curled into my arms like a newborn baby. He’s the one. Look how he responds to you!

            “Who told you Vic needs braces?” she asks accusingly on the phone finally. “Did your veterinarian tell you that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog with braces.”

I can’t stop laughing.

She doesn’t think this story is all that funny. I wouldn’t put it past them, she says. She twirls her finger by her ear as she speaks, indicating we are cuckoo.

But despite her own philosophy on dogs, I know where my sister’s heart is.

Right by mine.

Always.

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Staying Married for the Dogs

Two dogs lying down

I have been married twenty-five years, almost half my life.  My husband and I are at the
mid-life crisis point, the place where people slam into their  mortality, and discontent, and a slew of other
things that make them buy fire engine red convertibles, and leave marriages.

I announced to my husband that
this was not an option for him. “We can’t get divorced, no matter what,” I said
out of the blue.

This fact hit me as we were
walking around a little lake together with our dogs, Bubba and Victor. My
husband had to head back early to our house, and I was taking another loop.

I started up the hill, calling
the dogs to come with me. They both just stood at the edge of the lake, looking
at me, then turning toward my husband. Clearly befuddled, neither moved an inch
in either direction.

“Don’t look back at them! Keep
walking!” I shouted to my husband. “COMEBUBBACOME!” I bellowed, clapping my
hands for emphasis.

The dogs grew more and more
agitated, galloping five feet toward me, then five feet toward him. High-pitched,
fretful yapping carryied over the water.

“I’ll take them back with me,” my
husband yelled as he called them to come to him.

Their anxiety quickly escalated into
an all-out cacophony of anguish, and both the hound-mix and the Chihuahua-blend
ran full throttle in both directions at the same time, obviously trying to reconcile
the demons that had just announced themselves in their brains.

Irritated, I backtracked down to
the lake and put them both on their leashes, muttering about their poor
training and disobedience and high maintenance. I dragged them the direction I
was walking, but they embedded their haunches on the road, straining against my
pull.

“Oh, please!!” I snapped. “This
is ridiculous! You will see him in twenty minutes!” Distraught, they only
yowled their pathetic, piercing cries.

“HOLD UP!” I yelled to my husband
across the water. “This isn’t working!” I unleashed the traumatized animals,
and they took off full throttle toward him. Suddenly they both screeched to a
halt, then ran at mach speed back toward me, all the while moaning and
whimpering and yelping.

“WE HAVE TO STAY MARRIED!” I shouted. “Can you
imagine the dogs if we were to get divorced? The kids would be fine, but the
dogs would be disasters,” I said.

The dogs trotted along beside us,
tossing their heads up as they looked up at us. Docile and subdued, they smiled
their doggie smiles as they lumbered and prissed up the hill, respectively.

“I thought you wanted to go an
extra loop,” my husband said.

“No, I’ll just come home with
you.

“It’s better if we stay
together,” he said.

“Yes,” I answered, understanding
my dogs’ reaction more than I let on.

 

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