Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Short Fiction: I Must Be Crazy

My middle-aged daughter, Maria, tells me she is stressed out. She looks it. She acts like it. I think I know about stress. I raised two daughters and a son by myself after my husband was killed during the Korean war. I don't know what she's got going on in her life to be stressed about, but then again, I do. It's me. She and my son-in-law hate me for being old and dependent. She's angry I don't help with the cooking and cleaning. I don't know--how many people would hire a 90-year old to cook their meals and scrub their toilets? I'm tired. My brain doesn't always cooperate. Most of the time I don't understand what she's complaining about.



Maria doesn't say the big D word to my face, but I hear her say it behind my back. Dementia. If I'm not possessed or deliberately being stubborn and stupid, then maybe I'm demented. Maybe I have Alzheimer's, the big A word, but mostly she thinks I am deliberately trying to sabotage her life. I try to conceal my disappointment. I tell anyone who will listen what a wonderful daughter she is.

I'm not allowed to answer the phone while they're at work. They've set the phone to go to the answering machine after two rings. They figure I won't be able to physically move fast enough to reach the phone but they've warned me not to ever answer the phone. So sometimes I sit next to the phone and wait for it to ring. It's often the only human conversation I have all day. I wonder what the consequences will be if they catch me. I think I know. It's the nursing home they've been whispering about late at night when they think I'm asleep. Or maybe they hope I'm listening and they'll scare me into better behavior. I'm a bad girl.

I have no money. They take my social security to cover the expenses I've incurred as a result of their generosity: a bed and three squares a day. Two daughters and a son and none of them want me. What if I had not wanted them when they were dependent on me? Should I have schemed to get rid of them?

I steal. A penny here, a dollar there and I keep it in a sock stuffed in a corner of the closet where my daughter never looks. Sometimes my cousin Lott sends me money. A year ago she gave me a large box of stationary. She had the stamps in the bottom of the box so I don't have to ask my daughter for them. Maria doesn't know that I write to my cousin so often. My cousin sends me cards with an insert for a photo. The money is always behind the photo. Lott thinks I'm saving to buy myself some new clothes or a trip to the beauty shop. I look in the mirror and laugh. I want to buy myself a ticket out of here.

Here's the thing. I'm trapped in this house day in and day out. I know my brain does not work so well. It clunks along like an old worn out vacuum cleaner, sucking up what dust it can and then losing it all to the garbage pail. I get confused. I live in a world that no longer exists and I can't exist in this one. I know I am ignorant of so much. It's my fault. I can no longer keep up. I wonder if I can dial a phone number properly. I want to call a cab. I want to go far away. I wonder where my daughter keeps my passport and how much a plane ticket to Greece will cost. I want to return to the village where I was born even though it has been so many years. My brain is exhausted.

* * *

I am so proud of myself, yet so scared. I found my passport. This morning before they left for work, they reminded me to eat my breakfast while it was still warm, (I'm not allowed to use the stove or microwave.) I smiled sweetly and told them both to have a wonderful day. My son-in-law rolled his eyes. He knows I hate oatmeal, which is why he always insists I eat it. I guess it never occurred to him that I know how to use the garbage disposal.

As soon as they were gone, I packed a suitcase. All week I had worked on my list of things to pack. In the end there was only room for half of it. I called a cab. I am now in the airport trying to find my way. You see, I managed to talk my cousin into buying a ticket for me. She sent me the itinerary and explained everything to me. I read her letter over and over. Lott wanted to know where I would stay once I reached my destination. I lied and told her I still had an old friend there. Lott must not know I have the big D. My heart is pounding. I should be afraid but I am only thinking whatever happens I will be free.

5 comments:

  1. Such a sad and yet sweet tale. I guess once we reach adulthood we become pests instead of the cute needy children everyone once was and it's easier to see and feel the irritation of the adult than the need. I do hope she gets to Greece and it's smooth sailing but something tells me it won't. Lovely!

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    1. Thanks, Yolanda. It's interesting to see how people react to those with dementia, but I thought it would be interesting to explore what it's like to be in the shoes of someone who has the disease.

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  2. Interesting character. You seem to have an inexhaustible supply of these people. It must be wonderful to make them come alive on the page. I hope she lives a few more years in Greece but somehow I don 't see a happy ending in her future.

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    1. Well, I know situations similar to this one. I wanted to express a little anger for those who don't understand and a little sympathy for those that are in the clutches of this disease.

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