Friday, September 23, 2011
Eight year old boy seeking dog for companionship and fun. Must be loyal, love stickball and the Yankees. Must hate girls, the Dodgers, and running away. My last dog ran away a lot and he always came back except for not the last time. I miss him and so you must not ever run away.
You can sleep at the end of my bed. If we go to my dad's store, he'll give us pastrami and mandelbrot. But we can't tell mom, so you must be able to keep secrets.
I have two brothers. Ricky is okay but Gary is a pain so you don't have to play with him.
Jewish dogs only, please.
Written for this week's Red Dress Club prompt. This is the first thing I've written for the story I'm developing for this year's NaNoWriMo. Anyone else planning to participate?
Friday, July 15, 2011
Like my father, I have a deep sense of nostalgia, often applying more than appropriate meaning to things. My space-challenged house, and my decidedly un-nostalgic husband, have helped tame my instinct to save anything and everything in which I suspect I might be the slightest bit interested someday. These boots have been in and out of a donate pile many times. But I always phone in the last minute pardon.
The ski boots, white with accents of the bright colors popular with ski gear in the early 90s, were not always mine. They once belonged to my brother. I have very few things that belonged to him: an ID bracelet, the mezuzah he got for his bar mitzvah, his fraternity sweatshirt. A life cut so short does not accumulate much. I also have some things he gave me over the years, including a picture frame, the last birthday card he signed for me, and a few books.
My dad, who lives with my mom in my childhood home, surrounds himself with my brother's things. Billy's room has been partially transformed into a home office - it was important that we use the room - but the walls are still covered with his posters of skiiers on impossibly precarious ledges, advertising Scott's goggles and Warren Miller films. My father will occasionally wear my brother's clothes, literally wrapping himself in his memory.
My dad, despite my mom's pleas to clean and organize, refuses to throw out the contents of my brother's closet and dresser, including the socks and underwear that would have been replaced at least five times by now, had he survived. But how can you do that when each item in the drawer represents a choice my brother once made, a trip to Target when he decided that this particular package of tube socks would be his? He wore those socks, sweated in them, shed his skin cells, tied his shoes around them. Those same shoes that walked these halls and drove that car and now sit in that closet right there. The closet that belonged to him. These things meant nothing to him, but it is all we have.
The ski boots were Billy's first pair. He outgrew them quickly and handed them down to me, his older but smaller, sister. He just as quickly outgrew my ability to keep up with him on the slopes, leaving both me and those boots behind on the blue runs while he navigated tougher bumps and steeper grades in his new black boots. I can't help but feel he's done the same again, leaving me behind to snow plow my way through life one inch at a time.
And so, I'm afraid, the boots will remain forever in my garage. They will be stuffed and boxed, stacked and re-stacked, forever wedged between the extra paper towels and the memories of our times in the snow.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I hadn't cried much since my brother died just a few days before. I felt the need to be strong when I was at home, didn't want my parents to comfort me when it seemed they needed every ounce of strength just to keep breathing. And even though it seemed like the three of us would never feel anything but grief, we are, in the end, merely animals, and our stomachs still growled and throats got dry. I needed to replenish the house with bread and peanut butter. Needed to make sure there was toilet paper and coffee and diet coke for the people who might stop by. So I volunteered to go to the grocery store.
Driving down Ventura Boulevard, I marveled at the number of people out in the middle of the day, going about their business. I was shocked that the world looked exactly as it had the last time I was out. A beautiful, young man, an important person, had taken his last breath, and all these people were eating lunch and going to work and getting gas and everyone was just driving, driving, driving.
I wanted to yell at them. I wanted to scream and cry and curse at the world for letting this happen, and then at all these people for going on with their lives. Instead, I found myself singing. Not a prayer or something spiritual, just a pop song, something old and familiar. The radio was tuned to the station I always listened to when I lived at home. And the tune came spilling forth. The words had been etched into my brain for so many years, the singing was automatic, effortless, normal.
Singing was better than crying. It reminded me that the past that included my brother would always be there, no matter how many days would continue to pass without him. It was a small token of regular life, away from the cancer and fear and death that had overtaken my every thought for the last few months. And, ultimately, singing along to the radio was something he would be doing if he still could, something that we had often done together.
I have cried many, many times since that day. But that afternoon, driving in the sun, I sang. And it felt right.
This week's memoir prompt was to be inspired by this sentence: The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing.
Monday, June 6, 2011
The following year, I was discovered at the grocery store by an agent. I had professional head-shots done and started going on auditions. I got a lot of auditions, primarily because I looked younger than I was and had all my teeth.
I landed a few commercials, including one for the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I shot one spot for Gwaltney sausages that I never saw because it didn't air on the West Coast. I was also in a TV commercial and print ad for Allstate Insurance. I'll never forget walking into a Sears department store and seeing a huge poster of me and my on-screen dad.
Of course, there were many more parts that I didn't get. My biggest rejection was for a part on Mork and Mindy, where I would have played Mindy as a little girl in a flashback episode. I learned the scene, and brought my own teddy bear to the audition. The bear was called "Mr. One Eye," but I didn't want to tear an eye off my teddy bear, so my dad put a band-aid over one of his eyes. I found the scene on You Tube, and the lines that have been dormant in my mind for so many years, came right back to me.
It was down to me and just one other girl. Apparently, she looked more like Mindy than I did, or had the right color eyes. At least that's what I was told.
A young Melissa Francis did get that part. Missy, who also appeared in Little House on the Prairie, is now an anchor on CNBC, and frequent contributor to the Today Show. In an interview, she said "There was the time I appeared on Mork & Mindy and Robin Williams gave me a doll version of himself, and a teddy bear for my 8th birthday!" She is also considered to be the inspiration for the character Avery Jessup on 30 Rock.
I knew I should have worn colored contacts to the audition.
Most auditions didn't require me to learn a lot of lines, but I did have to learn a jingle for one:
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.I've never been a great singer and I didn't get the part.
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.
'Cause they hold on tight in the bathtub and they cling in soapy suds.
I am stuck on Band Aid, 'cause Band Aid's stuck on me.
I was finally offered a part in a movie. Unfortunately, this would have required my mom and I to travel to be on location for a few weeks, and she wasn't willing to leave my three year old brother behind.
And thus, my brief time in the Screen Actor's Guild came to an end.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
We'd pass the time playing games. Sometimes we played travel sized versions of popular games, like checkers or Connect Four. But usually we played games meant for the road. Spot a license plate from every state. Tap the beat of a song and guess what it is. Find each letter of the alphabet on passing billboards. The rules were developed as we played. Letters could come from road signs but not from bumper stickers. The songs have to be current top 40 hits. The older we got, and the longer the road trip, the more elaborate the rules became.
We'd arrive at our destination, or maybe just an overnight stop along the way. My mom would present us with the individual cereal boxes she brought for our breakfasts, the kind of sugar cereals we would never get at home. We took turns claiming them for ourselves to avoid arguments in the morning. Bill always chose Apple Jacks. I chose Fruit Loops. Or maybe it was the other way around.
We stayed one night at a motel that had a tennis court. It was more grey than green, the paint faded with the years. The net sagged and weeds grew along the sidelines. But for two kids released from the backseat with a few hours of remaining summer sunlight, we could have been at Wimbledon. We had no tennis rackets, so we used what we could find: a stray tennis ball and some paperbacks for paddles. And we invented "book ball."
My brother and I spoke often of book ball, though we never played it again. It was a game known only to us, a memory we shared that is now mine alone. My eyes well with tears as I remember him, just a boy, fair hair shining in the afternoon sun.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
As a young teen, I could spend all day at the beach, and preferred to be there in the heat of day, tanning, body surfing, and watching couples holding hands as they walked the shore, dreaming of the day when I'd be old enough to do the same. But I loved the ocean, and going in the late afternoon with my parents and brother was better than not going at all.
Going to the beach at sunset became a bit of a ritual once my dad got a cell phone. My dad is a doctor, and when he was on call, going places without easy phone access wasn't possible. But the cell phone changed things.
This was no pocket-sized contraption, and was the most unlikely of beach accessories. So while my mom and brother carried the standard blankets and bags of supplies, and I carried my own towel and bag (lest I be caught sharing the same space with my family), my dad would trudge down the sand carrying his phone by its handle, looking more like a car battery or military issue radio than mobile phone. But that device gave us freedom.
My family were not active beachgoers, rarely bringing paddle ball sets or roller blades for the boardwalk. We would walk as close to the water as we could without worry of the incoming tide and spread our blankets on the sand, shoes and bags anchoring the corners. My brother and I would listen to music, watching the waves mingle with the seaweed, birds and people along the shore.
Once the sun started to dip below the horizon, and sweatshirts came on over bathing suits, we'd pack up our belongings, and shake our towels away from the wind. We'd make our way back through the soft sand to the parking lot, avoiding the cigarette butts and bottle caps that marked the transition from sand to sidewalk. After a brief stop at the low retaining wall to brush off our feet as best we could and put on our shoes, we would pile back in the car and head back through the streets of LA toward home.
This week's RemembeRED memoir prompt asked us to write a memory of sand. I have so much more to write about this, the feel of the sand in your bathing suit after returning home, emptying shoes into the tub, the restaurant where we often stopped before coming home. But those will have to wait for another day.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
She practically swaggered as she grabbed her luggage and got into the elevator to the parking garage. "Two, please" she requested of the young couple who was already inside.
As she stepped into the concrete parking structure, she remembered why she hated this parking lot. It was always dark at night, lit only by sporadic, dim overhead lights. With its outdated maze of parking spaces, views half hidden by cement pillars, she always felt someone was waiting just around the corner. Next time, she thought, she should just take a car service.
She approached section 2G, keeping her eyes open for the silver-blue BMW, her gift to herself when she landed this job. It would take years to pay it off, but the car reflected the image she wanted to project. Sarah never wanted to appear anything less than confident, professional, and perfectly put-together.
At the end of the aisle, Sarah stopped short. She stared for a moment at the empty space where her car was supposed to be. "This is the space," she thought, remembering the mantra she had repeated to herself when she parked there three days ago: "Section 2G, last spot after the pillar."
"Stolen," she muttered. "Shit." Her feet throbbed from lugging her bags in the kind of impractical shoes she knew better than to wear on a 6 hour plane ride. Unsure what to do next, she began the trek back toward the terminal, her confidence waning with every uneven step. As she walked, she felt a presence behind her, following slowly. Her heart began to race as she glanced back. "Oh, thank god!" she cried as the security car's blinking yellow lights approached.
The guard gave her a ride to the office. As she rode, she chided herself for leaving the parking ticket in the car. "You're giving a thief a ticket to freedom!" her mother used to tell her. She tried to make a mental list of what she left in the car: Burberry umbrella, iPod, gym clothes. She hoped her cut-rate insurance policy would cover the loss.
At the office, the guard behind the desk asked for her license plate number. Sarah groaned as she spelled out her vanity plate, YALEGRL, realizing she'd probably never get that back either. The guard turned the computer monitor toward her, revealing a picture of her car. "Is this it?" he asked.
"Yes, it is. When was that taken?"
"Just this morning," he replied. "We take pictures of the lots once a day." She groaned again, realizing that the extra night in New York may have cost her more than just an extra night's sleep. "Come on, I'll take you to it."
"Oh, god," she thought as she got back into the security pickup, "they have the car." She imagined what it would look like. Would the windows be smashed? The paint scratched? She could barely stomach the thought of seeing her overpriced baby in such a wrecked state. Maybe she could at least salvage the vanity plates.
"Ma'am?" Sarah jolted out of her daydream. "Here you are."
And there, in front of her, was her perfect, shiny, silver-blue car, parked right where she left it in Section 3G, last spot after the pillar.
This piece of fiction was written as part of The Red Dress Club. Today's prompt was Someone has stolen something from you (or your character). Something of tremendous value. What will you do to get it back? Or will you give up?
I'm new to fiction writing, so concrit appreciated!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The sun was strong and the air was crisp and we marched up the hill. We traveled in twos and threes, the mass of us turning into a line stretching long and thin. We were silent, save for the click-clack of heels on the pavement.
You were 25 when you died, and had gathered friends throughout your years. And they all came, from elementary school teachers, to high school friends, to travel your companions in Spain. They came to witness the end, to try to make sense. They came to bury you, to say goodbye, to find solace in remembering. But most of all, they came.
Except for one. Did you know that? All of the cousins came. Jane was there and Sally and Joe. Lauren and Diana and Stephanie came. Even Josh showed up. Only Allison didn’t come. She said it was too hard to travel across the country, couldn’t leave her kids behind. It was an excuse and we weren’t in the mood. We thought her choice was unforgiveable. We didn’t shun her, but didn’t go out of our way either. That was 9 years ago.
A few months ago, I got an email from Allison. She regretted that she hadn’t been there. Said it was one of the biggest regrets of her life. She was sorry, wanted a relationship. I thanked her for getting in touch.
Remember when Grandma was dying? Dad got in a fight with Uncle Paul about the shared responsibility of her care. Dad didn’t want to forgive then either, said he was done with his brother. But you told him to make amends. You told Dad he had to forgive, because he is his brother.
But you see, Bill, without you, I don’t have a brother or sister. I need our cousins to play understudy. So I’m going to forgive her. Try to have a relationship if I can. I think it is what you would have wanted.
And if it isn’t, I hope you’ll forgive me.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I grabbed the fish tank that I planned to keep at my feet for the drive. They were just goldfish, but I couldn't leave them for two weeks with no one to feed them. "Okay. Let's go."
Allison and I had known each other since we were kids. Now in our senior year of college, we were roommates. We had done this drive many times before, down and back in her little brown Toyota 2-door that she insisted we say was "taupe." That car was our ticket to freedom as soon as she turned 16. She never let anyone else drive it, so I was navigator, snack provider, and this time, fish tank stabilizer.
The drive was a straight shot, the 5 to the 405, exit at the San Fernando Valley. We rarely took the scenic coastal route down Highway 101, not wanting to take the time despite the more interesting view. Besides, it was already after 3. It would be dark in a couple of hours.
We were a few hours into the drive when it started to rain. It was cold, and we were worried about getting through the Grapevine, a stretch of highway that is prone to sudden closures when it snows. Traffic can back up traffic for hours. We decided to take the hit on time and head over to 101 on one of the stretches of road connecting the two highways. After a brief glance at the map, we took the exit marked Rte 46: Lost Hills.
The road was just one lane in each direction, no street lights to mark the way. Allison slowed from our 75 mph interstate pace, but soon felt comfortable with the road, which, though dark, was well paved and mostly straight. We went back to our usual routine, making plans for the break, Depeche Mode on the radio. We could see an occasional house along the road, laughed hard at one with the enormous Christmas lights spelling out "Happy Birthday Jesus" on the rooftop.
And then, I died.
I don't remember anything about the accident. I've been told Allison swerved to avoid an animal, probably nothing more than a raccoon. We went off a ditch at the side of the road and the car flipped. She was fine, but something hit me in the head; the police think it might have been the fishtank. A few minutes later, my heart stopped.
I was only dead for a few seconds, resurrected with a swift thump to the chest by what could have been Jesus himself but turned out to be the owner of the birthday lights house. He ran out when he heard the accident. A short time later, the ambulances arrived.
And then, I was fine.
I was only in the hospital a few weeks. I had to miss my last semester, but finished my classes and graduated over the summer. Allison and I almost never talk about the accident anymore, not because we want to avoid it but because in so many ways it's like it never happened. We took a detour, mine a little farther than Allison's, but ended up right where we started, the only casualties a taupe Toyota coupe and two little goldfish who were never found.
This week's prompt asked us to write a piece - fiction or non-fiction - in which you or your character take a detour. This piece is fiction, though based on real detour I took with my college roommate.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Only in Florida is grapefruit considered an appetizer.
I pick up my spoon, specially designed for the task: oblong with a serrated edge. I take a first taste, feigning a test of the grapefruit’s astringency, but knowing full well that I will reach for the sugar bowl. No grapefruit on earth is sweet enough for an eight year old’s palate.
I sprinkle the sugar, just a light dusting, and watch as the crystals melt shimmering onto the fruit. And now another taste, this time bright and vibrant, tart and sugary. I dig down, making sure to get some of the now sweetened juice in every bite. This was the taste of sunshine, of visits to Grandma and Grandpa, of swimming pools and shuffleboard, of humidity, of winter break in Miami.
Every so often, back home in Southern California, my mom would serve a grapefruit before dinner, but it was never the same. I’m sure the fruit was just as good (the grapefruits probably even imported from Florida) but we didn’t have the special plates, the serrated spoons, the glass of sun tea on the side. We didn’t have the carefree days of a school break.
But mostly, we didn’t have Grandma and Grandpa.
This post is part of The Red Dress Club memoir writing series, RemembeRED. This week, we were asked to write about our favorite fresh fruit or vegetable. Although grapefruit is hardly my favorite fruit, it does hold some special memories.
Friday, March 11, 2011
You say you want the truth? It isn’t pretty. Or it won’t be to you. Actually, I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to ask. Maybe you just didn’t want to know, because then you’d have to do something, admit there’s a problem. That our picture isn’t perfect. That your wife is damaged goods.
Of course, if we’re really being honest here – that is what you want, isn’t it? – you must already know. I’ve made no real attempt to hide anything from you. I practically begged you to catch me. But denial is a powerful drug. Or maybe you really are that blind.
Shall I lay it out for you? New clothes, disappearing for hours into the bathroom, the bedtime excuses. You thought you were just giving me some space, and for that, I am grateful.
You’re still not getting it. Here, I’ll show you. No, don’t look away. See that? They’re really quite beautiful, aren’t they? The lines, so straight and even, each one in it’s place. It took me a while before I could get them that perfect. Each exquisite line a moment of pure feeling, a moment I didn’t have to think about anything else. Didn’t have to remember.
I’m usually careful, but this one here? This one bled more than the others, small round droplets oozing up. I watched that for a long time, each crimson sphere expanding until it collapsed and finally fell, leaving even more tracks. I’d squeeze and watch it again, until I had nothing more to give.
Am I going to stop? No, I don’t think so. I mean, I almost don’t have to cut anymore. I can just look at my arm and remind myself to forget what happened. But I have to do it sometimes. Did you know humans can’t remember physical pain? I’ve always found that fascinating.
Oh, come now. It’s not so bad. It’s not like I’m dying, and it’s nothing that can’t be covered up with a little makeup and some long sleeves. And if someone notices? Scratches are easy to explain. Maybe I fell into a rose bush or picked up the wrong cat. After a while, most people get tired of hearing about real pain. They’d rather you just got over it.
Like you, they’ll just choose to believe the lie. It’s so much easier than the ugly truth.
Friday, February 18, 2011
I'm not sure why I keep it. Certainly not to remind me of him - our two children do that every day, the boy a spitting image. When he left, I purged the house of everything he gave me, though he (ever the caretaker) insisted I keep the things of value: engagement ring, diamond earrings, the big TV. But I didn't want these things. Sold them for bottom dollar just to have them out of my life.
The purging wasn't out of anger. None of this was his fault, you know. It was all mine, though my friends and family try to tell me otherwise. We weren't happy. He was always working. But I was the one who cheated, or at least wanted to. I misread intentions, believed that the one who got away was coming back. I was wrong. About all of it.
The robe was a gift, an uncomfortable gesture, not sure of the appropriateness of lingerie for a first Valentine's Day. At the time, his awkwardness was appealing, genuine. The matching red g-string is long gone, my body, older and softer, having outgrown such a small piece of fabric.
But I keep the robe, picking it up off the floor every few months. Placing it back on the hanger that has held it for 10 years. Maybe more. Once again finding its spot in the back of the closet, where he used to keep his shoes.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Greg. He was always the one, wasn’t he? Even when dating Chris for all those years, she knew Greg was in the room just across the hall. Nothing ever happened between them, nothing physical anyway. But the tension was there, and before she left, it was palpable, and they weren’t fooling anybody. But she went east, leaving both her stale relationship and her desire behind.
But three years goes fast, and now she’s back. She has a new degree and a new job, even a new apartment, but thinking about Greg, she felt the same old butterflies. Maybe she hadn't changed as much as she thought.
As she rounded the familiar corner, she started to reconsider. She could always call, tell him something came up, would visit another weekend. But she kept driving, strong with her desire to catch even a glimpse of her old life, and hopefully bring one piece of it into the new one.
He was waiting when she pulled up. “Nice car.”
Neither of them were very good at silence, so they talked small talk, “Weather’s great, I see they replaced the curtains, how’s your sister?” Eventually one of them brought it up. “Why didn’t we ever get together?”
“I wanted to.”
“I know, me too. But.”
The butterflies kicked in again, but she was bold. “But what? Why don’t we?”
“Chris is my best friend. I can’t do that to him.”
“But he was bad to me. Cheated when I was gone. And besides, that’s been over a long time now. Almost three years.”
“It doesn’t work that way. We can’t.” And it was over, just like that. Before it even began.
They took a drive in the new car. She took him home, said goodbye, pretending not to be heartbroken. They kissed when he left, but just briefly, an acknowledgement to the shared feelings but final enough in its austerity. He shut the car door, and as he walked away, she rolled down the window. “Hey Greg?” He turned around.
“You too, Nina.”
She waited until she was out of sight before letting the tears fall. She only cried about it that one time, told herself it was for the best – a clean break from her old life, a true fresh start. But even now, over ten years later, she sometimes thinks about that day. Wonders whether she should have fought harder, made the compelling case her law degree should have trained her to do. But the time never seemed right. He met someone, she did too, and their lives moved forward as lives do. They still see each other from time to time, both now married, mostly happily. But despite herself, she always wonders, “what if?”
This piece was written as a part of The Red Dress Club. This week's prompt was to write a short piece in which a character told a joke and a character cried. The piece has to be maximum 600 words and must be able to be read aloud in no more than 3 minutes. It is from an NPR contest called Three-Minute Fiction.