A bunch of us volunteered to add a “three or four sentences” to a continuing story. It suddenly was taken way too seriously, and now there are long paragraphs being added.
I’m not going to read every word, but I’ll do a slow skimming until I get bored, and then I’ll add something at the end and pass it along to the next blogger.
I don’t know if the title is Splendid.
UPDATE: The title is indeed Splendid – with this great artwork provided by WriterChick
my apologies for messing with it.
hat’s how it’s being referred to. So I even screwed around with the title. I’m sure this group won’t let me play anymore if I volunteer for the next project.
If it was me? The next project would be to write an instruction manual for a left handed Fourbesider with a built-in Hemingway.
Here we go.
The curtains were drawn against the chill of an early winters evening. The only sound to be heard was a sigh as she poured over one of her interminable lists, this being for the coming weekends dinner party.
She was concerned how she would keep them apart after the recent unpleasantness.
It was unthinkable she not invite them both, but in doing the right thing by them, had created a problem for herself…..
Drawing a soothing draught of red wine from her glass, she looked up from her list and stared across the room. A distant memory, like the transient flash of ‘his’ handsome smile, spurned her inner turmoil. She had developed feelings for Steven during her initial tenure at the University. Their first encounter seemed almost cliche. A fateful walk across an autumn campus, a stack of books falling upon golden autumn leaves, polite words spoken, lucid eyes meeting hungrily. Butterflies.
What had begun as an innocent friendship between colleagues (for Amy would later be introduced to Steven as a contemporary) later spurned into a brief, but torrid, romantic affair. When the couple resuscitated themselves from their grey moral vortex, they realised that they would make better friends than bed-fellows and had decided to remain in each other’s lives. Now, Amy had the task of playing chancellor and counsellor to her friend, as he struggled for a sense of equilibrium in his failing marriage. Once again, she sensed the butterflies.
Amy sealed both invitations, one for Steven and one for Margo, his estranged wife, and adhered a lovely tiffany art stamp to each. “I hope to God, they aren’t still arguing over custody of the dog or the chimp – helluva a dinner topic that will make.” She put the invitations aside for the post office run she would do in the morning and pondered the menu for the party. “Now what dish would both please Steven and compliment his lovely golden curls by candlelight – of course, curry!”
Amy sat on the couch contemplating the difficult intricacies of the seating arrangement when the phone rang.
“Ms. Neidelson, thank God you’re home. This is Dr. Shotzendach. I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time.”
“No, doctor. I’m just sitting . . . Is everything okay?”
“Well, I do believe we’ve found the source of your equilibrium problem and I’m glad you’re sitting down. You’re two months pregnant. And here’s the best part: You’re having twins! Congratulations! Ms. Neidelson?”
“Uh . . . I don’t understand doctor . . . I mean, I understand but . . . how do you . . .”
“Your lab results and the CAT scan images told us all we needed to know. Ms. Neidelson? Ms. Neidelson, are you still there?!”
Amy began to laugh hysterically. A bit too hysterically . . .
The phone slipped from her spasming hand and crashed against the glass of wine. Her laughter morphed to sobs as she sat mesmerized by the bits of broken glass and the spread of the crimson stain against the polished hard wood floor. Bitterly she asked herself, how could she have come to this pass. She had been so careful all her life and yet one afternoon of unbridled passion had sent her whole world reeling.
For as long as she could remember, Amy had vowed not to conceive. She had worked her entire life to not only conceal but to expunge the story of her childhood. She had spent her early years raised in a traveling circus but not the romanticized life. Her father was not the Lion Tamer and her mother was not the Beautiful Lady on the Flying Trapeze. No that was only in her dreams. Her father was Wee Willy Winky, The Smallest Man in Northern America, and her mother was Woolly Wanda, The Bearded Woman. Tears ran down Amys’ face as she wondered if this life would be exposed if she was to give birth to two small bearded goat girls.
She berated herself but she knew that it could have been no different. She had not the power or the will to avoid succumbing to the charms of the Parcel Delivery Man. She had been in a high state of anticipation over the delivery of her lavender shower curtains when Dan rang her doorbell. One look at his glittering smile, the first glance at the sunlight shimmering off his baseball cap, and her heart and her loins melted.
But what now? How could she put on a brave face for the dinner party this weekend with her entire life in turmoil.
After wiping away warm tears, Amy smoothed out invisible wrinkles from her dress and stood to look out the window. Her sniffles and tears subsided as mascara had run down her cheeks, staining her fair skin. As she watched from the foyer’s window, she noticed a few children playing in the snowdrifts across the street. This saddened the woman as she knew that she would never have normal looking children that didn’t need a daily shave at the age of four, but at least they’d stay warm during the chilly winter season.
Amy’s thoughts went to the Parcel Delivery Man and his wooly, sweater-like back hair. What a lovely sight, she remembers. It reminded her of her dear, late Mother. A heavy sigh escaped her as she shook her head, cursing herself at the thought of the dinner party, and the details that still needed to be finalized. “Woman, you must pull yourself together, if only for the weekend!”
She pondered the guest list and thought of him, Steven.
As she went to the closest for the broom and dustpan she remembered the first night she spent in Steven’s arms…dinner and dancing till dawn at the officer’s club. He had looked so stunning in his military regalia. At their initial meeting as colleagues he had invited her to attend his official retirement from the Marine Corps to enjoy his teaching position full time. The butterflies increased but the evening had followed with the most intense love making that Amy had ever enjoyed and had since to be repeated. Even the afternoon spent with Dan was no match. If only she would have been as careful with her birth-control methods then.
She swept up the shattered wine glass and reflected on the fact that she had been drinking while her unborn children inhabit her womb. What type of life was she bringing them in to? Were her bearded babies lives to be hampered with an addiction to alcohol like hers had been? The circus life had been hard…sometimes the only thing her father would bring home from the store was alcohol to drown away the lonely life the family lead.
With her dinner list complete, and the turmoil of the evening settling in her mind, Amy retired to bed for the evening. Her dreams were fitful and she tossed and turned violently in her sleep. She awoke the next morning with a vivid recollection of those troubling nocturnal thoughts. “Bearded children, military uniforms and broken glass” she murmured to herself as the first rays of dawn struck her face. “I need a strong cup of coffee,” she grumbled to herself as she rose out of bed and headed for the kitchen. As Amy stood waiting for the coffee to percolate, an agitated knocking sound rattled her awake. Thinking it was a dream, Amy ignored the sound and began pouring herself a strong elixir. “Bang, Bang, Bang!” this time the noise was penetrating, and very real. Amy nearly jumped out of her skin. Who would be calling at this hour?” she grimaced to herself angrily, stomping as she made her way to the front entrance. “I’m coming…” she yelled at the closed door, “please give me a second.” As Amy opened the door, she was surprised to find herself face to face with a furry humanoid face. EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkk!” Amy shrieked and slammed the door suddenly.
“What in the world?” she exclaimed to herself as she pressed her back against the door.
Her thoughts were brought back to last night’s dreams; the beards, the bearded baby faces. Her heart was pounding furiously. Again, another set of three knocks, and the sound of a human voice. Upon recognising the voice, Amy opened the door cautiously. This time, she was greeted by Steven. “Uhm, hello Steven!” blustered Amy as she opened the door, “I’m sorry for my bizarre reaction, but I thought I actually saw a furry child on the front step when I first opened the door, and he/she startled the heck out of me!”
“Actually Amy, I know that it is rather early and the party doesn’t start until 6 pm, but I needed to ask you a favour,” chided Steven. His eyes were sparkling and his wry smile told Amy that he was either having nostalgic thoughts, or he was truly up to something devious.
“Sure Steven, what is it?” Amy queried, noticing the leash in his left hand, then added sardonically, “Don’t tell me you have a freaky bearded baby attached to that leash.”
Steven looked down and from behind his legs the leash slackened as a tiny chimpanzee padded her way to the threshold of her door. The chimpanzee looked up at Amy with deep, dark eyes. She had the cutest face. A bearded baby face. “It seems as though Margo and I are having a custody battle over Lola” lamented Steven, “and Margo is now threatening for sole custody of our dear little chimpanzee girl, so I was wondering if you would be able to help us out?”
With that question, Amy just stood there, scratching her head, as the chimpanzee reached across her furry backside in search of a “smelly preparation”, should her new “stepmom” fail to receive her with open and loving arms….
“What do you mean, ‘help you out’, Steven?”
“Well, could Lola stay with you for a few days? You see, the judge decreed that Lola must stay with a neutral third party while he deliberates his decision regarding Lola’s custody. And since you’re a friend to both of us, you seemed like the logical choice.”
While Steven was explaining himself, Amy stood transfixed by the wee little monkey face before her. Such a sweet, hairy little creature! Lola’s facial features so resembled Amy’s dear, departed mother it was uncanny. Why, it was almost like looking into the past.
“Well?” Steven said. “What do you think?”
Amy thrust out her arms to take Lola. “Oh Steven, I’d love to” she said. Then she stopped abruptly, arms in mid-air. “But the dinner party! I have hours and hours of food preparation ahead of me. Who will look after Lola?”
“Oh, I think you’ll find Lola quite helpful in the kitchen” Steven said with a glint in his eye. “Yes, veeeery helpful.” “By the way, are you still preparing Indian food for tonight?”
“Curry” Amy replied, once again holding her arms out to take Lola. She cradled the little primate in her arms, her body swaying back and forth rhythmically.
“Did you hear that, Lola? Curry!” Steven grinned at Lola, who in turn exposed a mouth full of teeth at Steven in typical money-grin fashion and nodded her head up and down rapidly while screeching monkey sounds back at Steven. “Lola gets rather excited about cooking.” Steven explained.
“Okay, I guess it will work out.” Amy said. Oh this monkey reminded her so much of her dear mother!! Right down to the hand clapping and teeth exposure!
“Thanks” said Steven. “You’re a real lifesaver.” He gazed into Amy’s eyes meaningfully, and took a step closer. His blonde curls glinted radiently in the sunlight, momentarily blinding Amy. “I hope I can thank you properly later” he said softly.
“Oh” said Amy, trying to blink the spots out of her eye. “Oh yes, Steven.” She suddenly felt overheated and dizzy, then noticed that Lola had wrapped herself around Amy like a baby possum clinging to its mother.
“Here’s Lola’s diaper bag and some assorted toys. And at two o’clock she likes to listen to her CD of organ-grinder music. Helps her relax for her nap. She’s a great help in the kitchen; just give her things to mix up. She’s a whiz at mixing, aren’t you Lola-Ebola?” Steven chucked Lola under the chin, then turned to go. Amy and Lola waved goodbye to Steven until his car turned the corner.
“OK, my little Lola-Ebola,” Amy crooned, using Steven’s special term of endearment. “Let’s go cook!” Dropping Lola’s bag in the foyer, Amy took Lola by the hand and they walked into the kitchen. As Amy gathered ingredients from the refrigerator and cabinets, she didn’t notice Lola scurry out of the kitchen and back to the foyer, where she began rummaging through her bag. Removing the small packet of tumeric from her bag, Lola slipped it into her diaper and returned to the kitchen, her favorite organ grinder tune playing happily in her head…
As Amy started gathering ingredients in the kitchen, she stared thinking again about Steven; his gorgeous eyes, his pouty mouth, his blindingly shiny blonde curly locks. “I wonder what conditioner he uses”, she thought to herself. She would have to remember to ask him when this fiasco with Lola was all said and done.
She went to the cupboard to grab the fryer pan and pots she needed to begin cooking for the party. Behind her, a soft voice with a light, almost playful, british tone spoke:
“Oh, dear, you’ll need a larger pot than that i’m afraid.”
Amy swung around fast. In the doorway to the kitchen was little Lola, complete with a little pink ruffled apron! Amy stood, stunned. Did the little bearded wonder just speak?
“I’m sorry?” she replied.
“The pot,” Lola said, “is not large enough. Do you have a larger one?”
Giggling, Amy stood there. She didn’t know what to make of this. A talking chimp? With a British accent nonetheless? How completely amusing, and mad! Just as she was about to respond, she dropped the fryer pan from her hand and it hit the floor with a crash.
Amy awoke, startled. Sweat beading from her brow. She must have fallen asleep on the couch. “What a vivid dream”, she mumbled to herself. She heard a loud bang coming from the kitchen. Cautiously, she grabbed the broom that was leaning against the wall and moved toward the kitchen doorway. Another bang. She jumped, then realized what the noise was. She had left the kitchen window open slightly and the shutter was banging against it. She felt a wave of relief and shut the window.
She looked the clock on the wall. 9:23a.m.. “Well,” she thought, “Now is as good a time as any to start preparing for this party.”
Amy started the coffee pot and began pulling the food and spices out to start her appetizers, and of course, the curry and roast she would be making. The scent of coffee filled the air and she took a deep breath.
“Things aren’t going to be so bad,” she thought, “Bearded babies are better than no babies. And certainly better than talking chimps!” She giggled at the thought of her wierd and vivid dream.
Just then, a knock at the door. She wasn’t expecting a visitor, or even Dan, the hairy, yet handsome parcel packageman.
She started to open the door when someone came bursting in and almost knocked her on the couch. She quickly recovered her footing. It was Margo, Steven’s estranged wife, and she didn’t look too happy.
“You WHORE!“, she exclaimed, bursting into the room. She was moving quickly toward Amy, waving her finger in her face. Amy was backed against the wall.
“Steven just told me everything! He was hoping that by coming clean, we could possibly give our marriage one more chance. I knew he was a dirty dog, but YOU, Amy? How could you do this? I confided in you, told you of the trouble our marriage was having, and THIS is how you ‘help‘? My God! You better start talking Missy, and you better start talking FAST!”
And now its my turn!
“Margo, sit down and SHUT UP for a moment,” Amy hissed at her. “What in the hell do you think you are doing, bursting in on me, screaming your fool head off at me?” she asked. She slammed the door, and moved behind the counter to get a cup of coffee, and catch her breath.
Margo, to her credit, did sit down at the kitchen table. The tension grew as Amy poured coffee into mugs for herself and Margo, and brought them over to the table. As she sat across from Margo, Amy took a deep breath, and readied herself for the conversation that was ahead of them. For a brief moment, she thought about the dinner preparations, but decided they could wait. This conversation was too important, given her news of the previous day.
Amy began speaking softly and quickly, “I knew Steven was going to speak with you, I knew he would tell you, but it was not so he could start again with a clean slate. It was to convince you that it was over, that he wanted to move on. “
Swallowing hard, Amy continued “What made you think I wanted to hear your ‘confession’ that day? Why did you think I wanted to help? I wanted to get out of the room as fast as I could. Your sad story would have broken my heart, if I hadn’t known the other side of the story.”
Stuttering, Margo tried to interject, “But…..I….”.
A bit stronger now, Amy got up from the table, “Margo, I do not owe you explanations any more than you owe them to me, but get your act together, and stop acting like a jerk.”
She walked back around the kitchen counter and began to page through her lists, getting ingredients organized in the order she would need them, totally ignoring Margo, who still sat at the table in stunned silence.
“Go home Margo, make some sense of the mess your life is in,” Amy counseled, “and don’t you ever come in to my house raging like that again.”
Silently, Margo slunk out of the house. Amy went to the door to watch her drive off, and closed the door. She leaned back against the door and feeling lightheaded slid to the floor.
“What next?” she wondered.
While she was sitting on the floor, she noticed she hadn’t run the Swiffer over it lately. When she got up, she banged her head on an open cupboard door, blood poured from the wound. She leaned back against the door and feeling lightheaded slid to the floor.
Your turn Swimming Upstream
UPDATE: Turns out Swimming Upstream is Reg the writer before me. I’m so freakin’ lost. Can somebody get me out of this mess? I apologize to all the other posters. It should have been age before beauty in the pecking order.