Friday, June 22, 2007

Fiction Friday

Here’s this week’s challenge:

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you read this line: Bad news cures all things.

Nightly, the fog seemed to shroud the forlorn vineyards in the late springs and early summers near Soledad. That night from her second story bedroom window, Selma mindlessly brushed and braided her long, thick chestnut hair as she watched the fog ooze across the foothills. She noted how the fog pervaded every crevice – row after row, acre after acre – of the monotonous lines of vines. Sometimes she imagined that the fog could penetrate her bedroom window and envelop her too. It never did.

So instead, Selma crawled into bed and pulled the covers up around her neck and stared at the stars and the darkness. If she could pull the darkness up over her head – to encase her entire body so that no air could seep in – she surely would. Then it would be over. She wouldn’t have to endure the arduous task of living any more. But who would love her children, then? Tim was a great daddy; the reality is, however, that enduring his wife’s death wouldn’t eliminate the fact that he would have to work every day sun up to sun down. Farm life is demanding – that’s the reality. Tim’s family live ten hours away. Her family lived half-way across the country. They were alone in raising their kids. A six, four, and an almost two year old couldn’t take care of themselves, nor did she desire that for them. Although Selma hated living, for sure, she loved her children more.

And why did she feel so sad? She had a wonderful (though sometimes absent and preoccupied) husband, three beautiful daughters, and wonderful friends. Nevertheless, she felt alone. She lived in a real house– nothing like the trailer her parents still call home, and that counted for something. The plumber – I forgot to call her. I have to remember to call her tomorrow, Selma thought. Money was tight after they decided to expand the vineyard last year, but they were making it. Why was she sad? She didn’t have a good answer for that nagging question. The sadness just seemed to be.

After a while, Selma felt the mattress sink heavily next to her, and could hear almost instantly the sleep sounds of her husband – deep breathing, a few snores. How can he do that!? I can’t ever fall asleep that quickly, she thought. No, she always lay awake for a half to sometimes a full hour before her mind would succumb to dreams. If I just lay here and think of nothing, sleep will come. Empty your brain, Selma. Stop thinking everything to death, she thought. Tomorrow, then. Selma would put off seeking answers tonight.

Early the next morning, Selma awoke to the stench of sewer – so strong that she could taste it. “Oh, shit!” she cursed frantically as she ran to the bathroom to survey the damage. The sewer must have backed up all the way up here, she thought. To her surprise, the bathtub and toilet sit there quietly and cleanly as always. Then she heard Tim holler from downstairs, “Selma – you awake? Don’t come down here without your boots on!”

Hurriedly, Selma threw on an old sweatshirt, jeans, and her old ropers and ran downstairs. As she crossed from the stairwell into the open kitchen, a wall of odor almost knocked her to her knees. With mop in hand and dressed in raingear, heavy-duty fireman gloves that she picked up at a garage sale last year, waist high neoprene waders, and a bandana to cover his face so that his brown eyes were his only recognizable feature, Tim looked as if he was ready to clean up a minor nuclear spill. “I was gonna fix you breakfast, honey, but I thought I would clean up a little first,” he joked. “Oooo wee – this is stanky stank! What have you been feeding our kids?”

“I’m so sorry, Tim! What happened?” Selma asked as she pulled her sweatshirt up over her mouth and nose, knowing instinctively that she was to blame for this disaster.

“Shit, happened, honey!” And he continued to mop the raw sewer out the back door.

“Oh, god, Tim! I forgot to call the plumber yesterday! I didn’t know it was this bad! I am sooooo sorry!!”

“You can’t always know, Selma. It was gonna happen whether you called or not. It’s been a wet spring; the septic probably just couldn’t handle all that rain.”

“Well, chances are that Joanie will come out right away now. That’s good, right?” Selma said half-heartedly.

“Yeah, it looks like you’re finally gonna get that new kitchen floor that you’ve wanted too. Tell Joanie she’s gonna have to drain the septic tank. And just be thankful that we have a bathroom downstairs, honey, otherwise we might be mopping the ceilings upstairs.” Then he went back to his mopping.

How did he do that? Selma wondered. Tim always knew how to make a major disaster seem less horrible. Where she could feel – really feel - unrestrained hopelessness, he could define a space and wall it in on all four sides. She needed Tim. She really needed him.

Selma left her ropers at the base of the stairwell and went back upstairs to gather up the kids. Hopefully Gloria could take her girls for the day. The girls loved to hang out with Gloria’s kids anyway; they didn’t get to do that enough. It’s not that Gloria never offered to take the kids. Selma just didn’t want to impose. Three kids are a lot to handle – combined with Gloria’s four - yikes. But Selma needed to acquiesce for the sake of her own children. They needed to play with other kids and sometimes venture off of the farm. Mental note: set up more play dates for the kids, Selma thought.

Later that morning after Selma got her family squared away, Joanie arrived to survey the damage. Bad news: part of the sewer line collapsed. The good news was that Joanie could repair it in the span of about two or three day’s time. Sometimes it’s good to live in a small town, Selma thought. Soledad wasn’t a terrible place to live.

Gloria practically begged to keep the kids for a few nights – she wouldn’t dream of allowing the girls to be around an open trench. Just last week after it had been raining for several days straight, a local toddler fell into a swollen, normally dry, creek. Searchers didn’t find the body until the next morning. Selma remembered seeing the parents on the local news; through controlled sobs, the mother said that she was thankful to be able to have her child for even two years. Selma knew that Gloria was right; she wouldn’t be able to bear the loss of one of her children.

The loss of a child – with that aching realization, something clicked in Selma. Life really was good to her. Her children were okay. Her husband was okay. Sure, only that morning her kitchen floor was covered in sewer, but things could be worse; it took a stranger’s pain to penetrate that shroud of darkness. Her despair was not limitless. With help, she could define it. Was it loneliness? Was it a chemical imbalance? She would find out. She would get help. Her family deserved that. She deserved that.


Ch@ndy said...

Another good one! I should give this a try! Well done

bluesugarpoet said...

Thanks, but you are only saying that because you love me!!!

Definitely - be there next Friday!

~willow~ said...

I like how the wife starts off pretty much depressed, and winds up appreciative of all the things she has. It took a bit too long to get from one to another [to me, anyway!], although I suppose if you went back to edit you might have tightened it up more? Either way - a fascinating look at "country life" :-)

~willow~ said...

p/s> any idea why technorati thinks you last updated your blog 59days ago?

d.challener roe said...

You have a poetic style. I like it very much.

Thanks for FFing.

pjd said...

Another good one. A bit wordy in places and the tense changes between past & present. I think the progression and character development is good (though I liked last week's better). I particularly liked "The sadness just seemed to be" and "Stop thinking everything to death, she thought." The first was real to me--sadness doesn't always have a reason, sometimes it just is. The other one: She is nearly thinking herself to death, but ironically it's only by stopping thinking that she can sleep. That line is the crux of the whole piece for me.

Good job!

bluesugarpoet said...

I noticed that about the technorati thing, Willow. Perhaps they refuse to acknowledge my recent postings? lol I'll look into that, though.

Definitely, I would cut out at least 1/3 of this piece were I to re-write it. And I would fix the mix in tenses. :)

Marcia (MeeAugraphie) said...

You sure had more crap in your story than I did in mine. Funny that we both went that direction, but so differently. Your characters felt real, I could have used a man that calm a few times in my life.

Finn said...

Very good. I like the way you write.

GarthTrekker said...

Finally getting around to reading everyone's FF. And your's is powerful. Although I have to admit, I'm thinking this was done in 5 minutes without major editing?! :-) Dang, I can barely come up with a few lines and even then I cheated by "fixing" just a few words! lol, Lyn
PS Thanks for commenting at my blog.

lissa said...

Nice story. I like the viewpoint from the wife and the way you describe her emotions.

paisley said...

that was wonderful.. and i like the way you didn't leave well enough alone,, you made a further point and summed it all up... very,, very,, nice

pjd said...

I noticed that about the technorati thing, Willow. Perhaps they refuse to acknowledge my recent postings? lol I'll look into that, though.

I'm not sure about technorati, but the Thursday Thirteen blogroll wasn't updating my listing at all. Then I went to's ping page and entered my URL. It updated my listing and showed the new post. Might be worth doing each time you want your blog updated in various blogrolls.