Join in the fun.Here are instructions.The objective is to write a 100-word story based on the photo prompt below. All are welcome.
Genre: Memoir (100 words)
Time left no marks on our faces. It was measured with popsicle sticks and with pruny fingers from too much pool time. Our eyes blurred with chlorine as we watched double-features on repeat. We walked home with recycled tubs of popcorn in our bellies. No one told us to hurry. We kept no watches.
What we didn’t know was that this time we could never get back.
Do we have enough hands for all the candy at the store? Who would go? One more. Walk the dirt path. We traveled them all, shortcuts to save time that needed no saving.
This is the poem I read at my dad’s memorial service. Things came to me in little bits right after his passing and this is what I wrote. I thought I would be able to read this as opposed to a longer story. I was wrong. I cried after the first word and then continued with tears and long pauses. Anyway, I think my dad would have liked it.
For My Dad
Mossbeam you called me Moss for Amos Even though my name is Amy Beam for the gymnast’s balance beam My eyes beamed when you called me that
Euclida, my other name For Euclid’s cousin it must have been Shaking your head at me when you helped with me maths We laughed, I beamed hopeless eyes
Your first year of school You said not a word “I watched from a bench,” you told me, “Alone, and observed.”
Later, you are the master of words and numbers both Forever patient with your students Teaching them to write the perfect sentence A gift beyond measure
This one’s called “Take Five” you said Snapping your fingers, tapping your toes Brubeck, Miles and Count Basie, you’d sing “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing”
Jelly beans, Whoopers, Saturday Night Fever, too Anything peach You could whistle any tune
Salami and cheese always pleased Silky Sullivan, your favorite horse a crowd pleaser, a winner coming from behind
Pool parties, keep away and basketball Trips to Corona Del Mar Beach Roasting marshmallows until after dark
I thought everyone did that as a kid I was wrong, I was lucky To have you as a my Dad
You taught me to accept and to not judge I thought everybody did that, too You always lifted up the people around you
You lifted me up A boyish grin upon your face A crafted pun up your sleeve Even when us kids fought You commented, “Look at how these good Christians love one another”
It may have been time for you to go But not for me I wanted another talk over a puzzle piece One more laugh over a strawberry smoothie It’s not to be
A thinker, a dreamer Wherever you are I know you are shining bright as a star
With love in your heart a smile dancing on your face that twinkle in your eye I will miss you, Dad
Around the bend, the boy spied them, curled up under a sweeping foliage of dank earth, their button hats perched loosely upon elephant trunks as tall as trees.
What’s this? Clumps of logs amassed in heaps, proportionate in numbers and in size, clustered beneath the button hats, emitting an odor so rank, their dewiness has been compromised. The smell infiltrated his nostrils, a stench he had not endured since his voyage to the Mermian Sea.
They must be destroyed.
“Honey, it’s poop,” the mother held back the boy, fanning the air. “Take your shoes off at the door. It’s everywhere. ”
Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the Fictioneers. I appreciate her dedication each and every week. Thanks to Erin Leary for this week’s photo.
When I was small, I danced for hours in the foyer of my house. Most of the house was carpeted, including the kitchen and two bathrooms, but not in this white square speckled with black dots. It was years before tile would replace some of that carpet. In the meantime, that 12 x 12 square feet of space was all I ever needed.
I danced for hours in solitude in this square, and into the space extending into the living room, twirling, composing, tapping, pretending, the music my guide. The music was enchanting. I don’t know where it came it from, what it was called or where it went. It seemed to disappear from my life. I never bothered to know what that music was; I never needed to know. I’ve never heard it since, but I would know if I were ever to hear it again. Still, the memory of it is faint in my head.
I can hear the piano, but it wasn’t necessarily classical. It was scratchy, schmultzy, waltzy, melodic and ethereal. If I had to place it, I’d say it’s the kind of music you might hear in a Parisian cafe with a river running through it. Although that doesn’t describe it at all. The music breathed steps to me and I listened. I danced like no one was watching, because no one was.
My parents had thrown big pool parties back then with lots of activity and drunkenness. They were great fun. After dinner, my mother might lightly encourage me to perform a dance. I was painfully shy, but I was taking lessons, so sometimes I gave it a go.
I might perform for a few moments, looking down at the floor, horrified with all the smiling, googly-eyes on me and the expectation to entertain my drunken audience. I knew my mother would be happy with anything I did. Still, so serious, I would make a feeble attempt and run away. The girl who had once danced with not a care in the world was nowhere.
My childhood dream to dance the Arabian role in The Nutcracker became a reality, marked by tears; I cried before and after the performance because my shoes were too tight and I was too young to know better. My poor prince. He didn’t know what to make of it all.
In college, I danced and I wrote. I was an English major, taking all the technique classes for dance majors. I had the load of a double major, easily. In one modern dance class, we were graced with the presence of a teacher who had been a former dancer with the renowned José Limón Dance Company. We all wanted to impress her. One day, she stopped the pianist and told all the dancers in the room to take their hair down. Astonished, we complied willingly; taking out our ponies, our pins, and our bobbies.
“Try it again,” she said, motioning us to dance the combination across the floor.
You might think it was a moment of bliss, a group of serious dancers in a very serious class asked to dance with their hair down. Not so. Perhaps because I felt it should be this magical moment that I should let loose and dance like the wind, I felt caught instead: first, by my hair in my face and my worry that I might run into a fellow, untamed dancer; second, that I should feel so moved by the permission to be free that my steps would now be executed to my teacher’s satisfaction.
After going across the floor again and again, the energy in the room changed. Sure, we still tried to dance the steps, but a strange thing happened.
Letting our hair down wasn’t an invitation to wildness as it turned out. I found myself turning inward, and I felt all the energy in the room becoming more internalized. We weren’t dancing for her anymore; we were dancing for ourselves. We were still dancing her steps. The difference was exploring what those steps meant.
I asked myself what did I have to say with those steps and why should anyone care? How could I make those steps translate what I felt, because if they didn’t mean anything to me, they sure as hell wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.
I needed to find the little girl underneath, tapping to her heart’s delight in the foyer to that enchanted music not heard since. Where is she? How can I find her? She was buried deep under layers of indecision, doubt, bad decisions, insecurity, and criticism.
Dancers’ steps are more than a strand of movements committed to muscle memory. Their bodies respond to music. Steps flow through them so that they don’t look like steps anymore, and they’re not. Their movement comes from a deeper place, from a reservoir of time and patience, of knowing their limits and how far they can fly; it’s a combination of concentration and abandon, of technical finesse blended with emotional physicality. It’s what I strove for, but was lucky to feel at all.
Watching an accomplished dancer is a glorious thing. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. It is artistic expression beyond oneself; it touches an audience’s sensibilities and resides in their minds to be recalled long after the experience is over.
Answers you seek, the purpose for your steps, they must come from within. Living with myself all these years has taught me to accept my shortcomings, and I’ve learned I have something to give. That inner child once buried deep is not so deep anymore. She sits beside me now and reminds me she’s still here. The invitation to dance is always open.
Tis the season for caroling. Singing together in joy and attempted harmony. I grew up with this idea, singing alongside my brothers and sisters. Two neighboring Catholic families joined together. Our family of six kids, plus theirs, ten kids strong. A gathering filled up our houses, especially if spouses and friends joined in, which happened in the later years.
Christmas Eve always felt special. We dressed up with festive jewelry, had good food, and plenty to drink. After a couple of hours of visiting, first at our house and then at theirs, we assembled, rehearsed a few verses of a popular Christmas song, and put on our jackets to brave the 50 °F night. That’s winter in Southern California, and it never interfered with our mission to take our singing to the streets and carol around our block.
In one big blustering mass, we puffed up our chests and belted out Christmas tunes, lucky to hit notes singing the same words. La la la and humming came in handy. We traveled from house to house, surging and merry, barely able to contain ourselves. Oh, how everyone enjoyed our goodwill gesture! We sang a maximum of three songs, carefully selected between each house, alternating the slow Silent Night with a peppy Jingle Bells.
After about thirty houses we concluded our masterful hymns at our neighbors, the Painter’s. They had lived in the neighborhood the longest and had a full acre yard, even a few roosters. They received us with smiles and, without fail, presented us with a box of See’s Candy after what was always our last song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It felt like a reward.
I don’t quite remember what then happened with that box of candy, if we shared it or not. I must have got at least one piece. It didn’t really matter. The appearance of the black and white See’s Candy box left me a blubbering mess of joyful tears. Oh, they cared, they cared…or maybe it was out of sympathy. It always made feel a little high on life. We did some good in the world. We used our voices, however out of tune. Whatever their reason, it made the season all the more merry and bright.
Following the presentation of the candy box, our two families parted ways to attend midnight mass. My family to the Sears catalog, minimalist church a few blocks from our house. We usually walked if we weren’t running too late. Our friends drove to their more formal, taller, stain-glassed church a few miles away.
This tradition of ours continued for a least a decade or more. My memory is fuzzy about this. Sure, things changed over the years. The group lost shape and focus, although growing in numbers with more friends, with some family members straggling behind. Tis the season to be jolly, filled with spirits, too inebriated to participate fully.
Our neighbors began to sing the third verses in harmony, complete harmony I tell you, and assumed the front stage position at the door, while those less dedicated mouthed the words in the back. It became slightly more serious and falling apart all at once, squeezed from the middle until it just burst into nothing. One year we simply stopped. At least that’s how I remember it.
I wondered if the Painters waited up for us with the box of chocolates ready.
I almost wanted to walk over to explain, “I guess we don’t do this anymore.” Did they miss us? Did they wonder for a couple of years, as I did, if we would return? It was a good time while it lasted and, for me, it never lost its kick or exuberance.
So, grab a friend and sing together a little holiday song. It will make you smile. Do you have any caroling favorites?
In Rochelle’s honor today, I wrote biographical fiction. Thanks for all your inspiration.
Biographical Fiction (101 words)
copyright – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
All in the Family
The piano sat abandoned in the corner of our living room except when James came over. A virtuoso, his fingers flew on the keyboard, prancing and sweeping, entranced in their own dance. Music was his passion from the start. He could hardly sit while he pounded out a tune. You got lucky if he performed “Happy Birthday” in your honor, jazzing it up beyond recognition.
It was hardly a surprise to us when he learned his natural father was David Crosby and that they would tour as father and son, playing many of the classics we heard while growing up together.
I cut off my arms, my legs, and cashed in my IRA. Okay kids, now we’re ready to experience the magic that is Disneyland. It is a one-of-kind thematic landscape, home of Tinker Bell, Dumbo, even the late Michael Jackson has an attraction. I wanted to take my two boys before they were teenagers, anticipating a challenge even though they might seem an ideal age. My ten-year-old, a thrill seeker of the scariest roller coasters, and my seven-year-old, a more gentle spirit, are at complete extremes. No matter, I knew Disneyland would be special, and I was curious how their experience would stack up to my e-ticket, childhood memories.
Naturally, lines are part of this magical experience. A line awaits you to secure entrance into the park, followed by lines for photos with princesses and photos of your family…you get the idea. There are hoards of people and moments when it is best to attempt a zen space and wait until traffic passes. But fear not, at Disneyland everything is a matter of minutes. Hours…you can do the math if you like.
If you are organized enough to download a trusty phone app that forecasts the wait times of popular rides, you believe that you are savvy. In reality, the phone app is highly inaccurate, with the actual wait times usually being less than stated. This, I can live with.
Our first ride was the Pirates of Caribbean, one of my all time favs! My seven-year-old fought it the whole way, dragged through the line against his wishes. I was so certain he would think it magical. He managed to sit through the entire ride…if he didn’t he would have thrown himself into the swampy bayou. In the end, he stated, “I hated it.” Perhaps, he didn’t like all the periods of complete darkness. Yes, it is a dark ride. What Disneyland lacks in daring drops and backward loops of say more generic “scary” roller coasters, it more than makes up for in atmosphere, in theme, in song, in presentation.
As you go down, down, deeper into the temple, you’ve lost all perspective of how long the line is, wrapping around and around. How’s that for enchantment? Many of the big rides are built into some kind of mountain with dark tunnels.
This is probably why my youngest opted for lighter offerings, such as the Monorail and It’s a Small World, eschewing the Fantasyland characters of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, much to my disappointment. After my oldest son rode It’s a Small World, he developed pediophobia, a fear of dolls. My seven-year, old, languishing in this new knowledge, taunted his older brother by singing “It’s a Small World” in his presence every chance he got.
After five times on this ride (only a ten minute wait!), I noticed that not all of these dolls are created equal in this small world. Some do not have moving faces, and some are, indeed, still. A few looked like place holders for what I’m sure would be the real “moving, automaton doll” at a later date. The giant, purple panda? Perhaps, a school project. Woody and Jesse? Really? I mean, aren’t they like cash cows for you, Disney? Does Toy Story ring a bell? I know it’s not a shortage of funds or time. My ticket could probably pay for a doll with moving parts and it could be swapped out in no time.
The real Disney magic is its employees, who make it the happiest place on earth, always service with a smile. This is even true for the clean-up crew, white-clothed and white-gloved. I’ve seen them up close and personal. Friends, on our last ride, the glorious Splash Mountain, we had a fast pass that allowed us to sail through plentiful minutes worth of wait time. See you suckers! Yeah, we’re organized. We organized our whole day around it, in fact. Throughout the ride, my sister exclaimed over and over, “This is torture, torture, TORTURE,” because she was a wee bit frightened. Oh, she had no idea.
My stomach was tossing and turning, I thought I might heave before I had even got on the ride. You know that feeling before you know you’re to be sick; you convince yourself otherwise. With each passing minute, you tell yourself, you’re farther away from the possibility of sickness. I’m better, I feel better. Definitely not now, knowing full well, it’s going to happen. Oh, yes! But not on this ride…I made it through the singing chickens, rabbits, frogs, whatever they were, the bumping boats, the bursts of mist…or maybe I had lost it by then. Once off the ride, I made a beeline to the shuttle bus, and sat down for twenty seconds, before the moment had arrived.
I ran outside and threw up all my stomach’s contents by a trash can. It was violent, wretched, painful even, and went on far too long, so long, that a Disney employee was there waiting to clean up before I was even finished. This is high on their list of priorities. My sister consoled me, telling me, “Everyone on the bus was so concerned about you.” My husband corrected her, “No. They were horrified.” My son, in fact, came to either comfort or witness the act, and ran off with his mouth covered, “Oh, my God.” I spared you a picture, as I was not in the mood to take one.
The next day, I saw the same dedication of Disney staff when a little girl barfed outside the Pirates ride. This is behind the scenes magic, cleansed and disinfected before you ever knew such vileness touched the surface. When my sister fell on the train tracks, the white-clothed arrived in a heartbeat, offering an ice pack. Personally, I think my sister should have asked for an ice cream cone, one of those $6 ones; that would have promoted quicker healing.
The day after what I determined was a food poisoning attack, I succumbed to the darkness, the darkness that was Space Mountain, and this guy. Who knew they had a Training Academy here.
After Tinker Bell fluttered among the fireworks, probably the best I’ve seen, my child beamed at me, “Can we come back?” Of course, how can we not? Next time, I’ll probably drink more water.