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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garden-Variety Religions

This story won the Week Seventy-Nine Trifecta Writing Challenge!


The unexpected occurs in all walks of life, and the kitchen garden should be no exception. While one gardener might carry out exhaustive inspections for signs of plague, improper drainage or drought, and spend hours hoeing and uprooting unwelcome intruders, spraying and fertilizing while striving for a perfect harvest, another rejoices in the novel encounter of a rogue tomato plant among the peppers or a gloriously pink cosmos sprouting unbidden from the zucchini bed. There is much to be said for the exoticism of a purple-and-lime-green-striped hornworm shimmying up the stalk of an aubergine plant. For the record, setting it free in the nearby woods is not the same as throwing it on the concrete walk and smooshing it with one’s boot.
To the untrained eye, certain gardens may appear slapdash and chaotic, overrun to the point where one imagines the gardener has run screaming from the hostile patch of contrariness in frustrated agony, never to return. What may have begun life as an exalted homage to organic cultivation can later seem to be teetering on the edge of succumbence to nature at its most extreme.
Because each gardener has his or her own peculiarly annoying or endearing quirks, gardens tend to range in pretentions from small innovative allotments to grandiose overtures. On the bombastic scale, there may well be a right way and a wrong way to grow a tomato, but on a more individualistic, live-and-let-live order of the universe, a more gentle approach may be embodied in the truism “to each her own”. Where one neighbor prefers to extend his tomato plants over an exuberantly crowded plot, another needs to space her sucker-pruned plants at careful, one-meter intervals. Exactly.
At the end of the day, or the end of the season, what counts is not the final result, although a fully ripe tomato is a lovely thing to eat. What matters is how deeply the nutrition-rich dirt has become embedded under one’s fingernails, a sure sign of absolute communion.

331 words for  including APPEAR 3: to have an outward aspect : seem

Saturday, May 25, 2013


When I said: “Oh, please, it was nothing,” what I meant was: “You have no idea how hard that was for me to pull off, you self-righteous, naval-centric hypocrite. Fuck off and die.”

This weekend,  is asking for a thirty-three word confession.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Oh Yeah?

Underneath her words of praise, that voice dripping honey, lies a sharp and bitter tongue. Assuming I had the nerve to withstand its bite, absorb the venom, my best is esprit de l’escalier.

33 words for.  including 3 of these: topple; paradigm; underneath; nerve; honey; loop

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Her Favorite Son

My mother-in-law and I were bonding. This was a good thing, a happy thing, something to cherish and savor. Suffice it to say I had not been her ideal daughter-in-law, was not the one she would have chosen for her favorite son, her baby, yet she was gracious and temperate and kind. She understood that he was happy, so she came along to have a second look at the apartment with me.
The apartment was a good thing. It meant that her favorite son, her baby, would not be leaving the country with his foreign wife. It also meant that her favorite son, her baby, would walk right past her apartment on his way to and from work every day.
We got lost. We took a back street I had discovered on a map. I freely admit I have no sense of direction. My mother-in-law will tell you she’s not from here. She lived only two metro stops away. But she wasn’t born here. So she could never find her way around.
Pot calling the kettle black. Sorry.
There were two real-estate agents waiting in front of the building, clipboard in hand. They let us in, then stood aside while I gave my mother-in-law the tour. The apartment was nothing to speak of, standard, old, needing work. The terrace was its crowning glory, even in its stained, chipped, peeling state. It was glorious.
The lady agent said that other people were interested. The man agent said we should not let this opportunity escape. So we called her favorite son, her baby, to let him know how urgent it was to put some money down for the right to purchase this small, dirty unremodelled piece of property.
“We are in no hurry,” he said to me in his stern, deliberate tone of voice. “If the apartment is not there tomorrow, we will find another one.”
My mother-in-law and I looked at each other in desperation. We raised our eyebrows. We shrugged shoulders. We bonded.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Elena Lets Her Guard Down

Elena raised her face, soggy and wrinkled, from the cushion sustaining her brief nap.
Ten years whooshed past.
Once she sat up, all pins and needles, they thumped back down in her lap.
33 words for  including at least one example of onomatopoeia.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Too Much Old Desire

She was lonely. Adele tsked to herself. That was all, she was just lonelier than she had allowed herself to recognize. She leaned her head back in the armchair and looked again at John, who sat splay-legged on the couch, intently studying the laptop while he drummed his long fingers against the coffee table. She knew every inch of his skin, every curve of every muscle, every sharply protruding bone, every deep wrinkle in his brow. She recognized in the depths of her entrails the almost square paunch of his belly, the sleek fall of his straight, dark hair. She followed the shadow along his jaw, a smattering of whiskers that brought memories flooding back. At first flush they were welcome, like old, intimate friends, but after consideration she drew in her breath, and turned away.
‘You are obviously too lonely,’ she told herself. ‘This cannot be.’
She pretended to count back, but she already knew the answer was ten years.
‘It’s been ten years,’ she told herself.
Time had raced past while standing still, and John was living, breathing testimony to that. There were flashes of him that had made her smile from the very beginning - a certain way of holding a knife, of crinkling a nose - but there was also a particular insistence on order and coherence that took her breath away, filling Adele with a longing she would never be able to shake.
Those graceful hands were the same ones that had held and caressed her, that wrinkled brow was the same one she had smoothed and kissed goodbye. He was his father’s flesh and blood alright, so much so that Adele could feel herself falling in love with him all over again.
‘But he’s not Jack,’ she told herself.

Adele patted John on the knee and stood heavily and slowly, her heart aching, her soul disheveled.
"You hungry?" she asked her son. "How about some dinner?"

[Title taken from Michael Cunningham's Flesh and Blood]

Trifecta week Seventy-Six Silver!
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