Friday, December 30, 2011

#FridayFlash - Katherine's Wish

Blood red clouds ripple across the horizon. Sitting at a round table with umbrella tassels dancing in the coastal breeze above her, Katherine fingers the stem of her cocktail glass and watches the waves break over the reef. Eleven more hours, that’s all she has left. In the morning, a nine o’clock island hopper will first shuttle her to Miami, where she will then catch a non-stop to Austin. By this time tomorrow night, God willing, she plans to pull the plug on the phone, climb into her own bed, and sleep until she can’t sleep any more.

She raises the glass and takes a sip of the martini, gritting her teeth. When she came out from the hotel lounge, she told the cute brown-skinned boy standing behind the bamboo tiki bar (Pablo or Roberto, or something like that) to make it a dirty vodka martini with double the vodka. “Throw in a couple onions, too, while you’re at it,” she told him.

On the beach, a couple walks barefoot, each holding a pair of sandals in their hands, their conversation buried under the waves and the Bob Marley tune flowing from the bar’s speakers. Halfway across the beach, they stop. The man dips his head down, and she wraps her arms around his neck. Katherine quickly takes another sip and notices how easy the second one slides down.

Looking to the hotel, she searches out the windows and spots the second one from the top left. The curtains are open, but the lights are out. Either the newlyweds are still down in the lounge, dancing away to the shuffling beat of Reggae, or they’re making love as the night slowly covers the sky under a blanket of darkness.

Yesterday, her daughter showed off the room.

“Just look at that view,” Tara said. “Isn’t it great?”

Katherine affected the best smile she could.


“Just think, by this time tomorrow night I’ll be Mrs. Chad Hamilton.”

Katherine bit her lip, nodded once and then quickly hugged her daughter.

“I’m happy for you,” she whispered. “I really am.”

Thinking about it now, she knows she lied, but what else could she do? Tara had already made things perfectly clear three months ago.

Out on the water, a small craft slowly makes its way across the bay, the running lights bobbing up and down.

All things considered, beyond the cost of everyone flying out to the Caribbean, the wedding had been simple. No traditional wedding march, no special music, and definitely no communion. Instead of a big bash, they could all assemble in the lounge for some drinks and dancing, a small gathering with only her family in attendance. Of course, that meant the whole family, which was why Katherine decided to take her drinking out to the beach.

She is finishing off the martini when a dark figure steps off the stone walkway and approaches. Even before he stops at her table, she feels her stomach tighten.


“I thought you were going to your room,” he says.

Katherine sets the glass down, looks at her watch. “I was just about to head on up.”

“Mind if I sit down?”

She lets the ocean’s hiss interrupt them, hoping that in the long, uncomfortable moment he’ll get the message and move on. He doesn’t. Finally, she shrugs.

“This won’t take long,” he says, slumping into the chair.

Her eyes search out the running lights of the boat on the bay. What she wouldn’t give to be there, or anywhere, right now.

“I just wanted to thank you,” he says. “For… you know… being courteous with Caroline here.”

She pauses to consider the depth of his comment; or rather, the shallowness of it.

“Did you expect me to behave differently at our daughter’s wedding?”

He shakes his head. “No, I guess not.”

Maybe not you, she thinks.

“I wouldn’t even dream of taking anything away from Tara,” she says. “This is her night.”

He nods, but says nothing. She watches as he leans against the table. He looks down, rubs his hands. Katherine shakes her head and looks out across the bay.

“What do you think about Chad?”

The sudden shift catches her a little off guard.


“I never asked you before,” he says. “I’m curious. What do you think about our new son-in-law?”

Her eyes search out that fourth-floor window again, remembering the first time Tara brought Chad home to meet her. The visit was discomforting at best. His scruffy hair and pierced ears she could handle; however, the look in his eyes and the just-for-the-moment attitude he carried were unnerving.

“All I want is for Tara to be happy.”

Dan nods. “Me too.” He scratches an arm then and makes up an excuse to exit, something about needing to check with the hotel management on a lost pair of sunglasses. He stands to leave. “Thanks again.”

Watching him walk away, even though twenty-four years have passed between them, Katherine is still surprised by the all-too familiar knot in her stomach, the spear of pain that stabs at her heart.

As Dan clears the beach and takes the stone path back to the hotel, she notices the bartender approach. Looking at the tag on his shirt, she now sees his name is Justin, a far cry from Pablo or Roberto. The deep tan and the straight black hair obviously threw her off.

He points at the glass.

“Would you like another?”

“Yes, please.” She affects her best smile. “I’m celebrating. My daughter just got married.”

He nods and smiles. “Ah yes, congratulations. You must be happy.”

She doesn’t answer that, but instead looks out to the ocean. The boat has been swallowed up by the darkness and the sea.

A few minutes later, Justin returns with her second martini. She looks up one last time toward the fourth floor window. Then, she raises the glass.

“May you never know.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

#FridayFlash - Roberto Makes a Stand

Roberto crossed his legs and propped his boots up against the wall. He rolled his last cigarette, licked the paper and pinched off the ends. As he dug a match out of his pocket, he noticed Diego standing in the doorway.

“What do you want?”

“They say five minutes, Señor. Shouldn’t you wait?”

Roberto struck the match across the rough edge of the wall. It flared up with a snap and a hiss. He lit the cigarette, and blew out a stream of smoke.

“What for? So they can take this away, too?”

Diego shrugged his bony shoulders. The loose shirt pulled tight for a moment and then sagged.

“It’s your cigarette.”

"That’s right,” Roberto said. “Just like Adriana was mine, too.”

Diego looked away.

Roberto took a long drag, pulled the smoke deep into his lungs. He didn’t blame Diego. The young man was just a kid really, not even a hint of whiskers on his upper lip yet, so he had little to draw upon. He started to think about how things could have turned out different, like maybe if Diego had been old enough or strong enough, but then shook the thought away. The truth was it didn’t matter how many Diegos lived in this dusty village. There would never be enough to stand up to even the shadow of Rafeal Vargas. Whatever that man wanted, he took, and while he did everyone else stood by and watched without so much as a word or a whimper. Well not watch, really; it was more like they suddenly found something interesting on the ground to occupy their time. Because they had learned, it seemed—learned that the ground was far safer to look at than a man’s eyes or what he did with another man’s wife. In their minds, it was safer—no, smarter!—to pretend that the shrill voice was the sound of only a bird in the air and nothing more. Why get involved in matters that did not concern them? Why follow an angry man into a bar to face off against the federales when he would end up like the rest of those who actually tried to do something: alone with only a scarred wall to stand behind him.

He took another long drag, blew out the smoke and watched it billow toward the ceiling and then out through the bars.

Let them have their clever thinking.

He held out his hand and stared at the cigarette.

At least I still have this.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'll Be Home For Christmas

The Christmas tree looks more beautiful than ever this year. The lights all a glimmer, the star shining brightly, it’s enough to make Eunice cry. Outside, even the City enjoys the spirit of the season. Caterpillars of tinsel festoon the telephone wires while beach-ball size ornaments and bells hang from the lamp posts. Through the window, she can hear the faint tinkling of music—“Sleigh Ride”, isn’t it?—as it carries across the lawn, all the way down from the city square. It’s a wonderful time to be alive. Roosevelt has turned things around. Her daddy promised—

“Making Christmas trees on the frosted glass again, Eunice?”

She turns and sees Jonelle, the little woman from down the street. Or if not down the street, then somewhere close by; she’s here every morning, noon, and night. Eunice then looks at the glass, at the small image she has scratched into the glass. Almost like a triangle with boughs, she thinks.

She smiles. “I guess I have.”

Jonelle nods. “Your kids coming to see you today?”

Eunice gives the woman a whimsical smile. Such a funny lady. “Oh, Miss Jonelle, you know I’m not old enough to have kids. Shoot, I’ve not even been kissed by a boy yet.”

Jonelle turns to the bed. “Well, maybe they’ll show this time.” She pulls up a sheet and then stops, giving Eunice a pained look. “You never know. Always look at the bright side, right? That’s what Mr. Barack says.”

Eunice frowns. “Mr. Barack?”

“The President, honey.”

Eunice gives her a small chuckle. There she goes again.

“Miss Jonelle, why do you carry on so? Why everyone knows that Mr. Roosevelt is President.”

Eunice likes this part about Jonelle. Not only is she one of the most positive women Eunice has ever met, Jonelle is always the kidder, too. Which is really a nice character trait to have, given that the woman can still laugh and make jokes even though she only has enough money to buy one set of clothes; every day, she has to wear the same white outfit, the same white shoes.

“My daddy is serving the President right now, did you know that?” Eunice asks. “I got a letter from him just the other day.”

“Who, Mr. Roosevelt?”

“No, silly, my daddy. It came all the way from Pearl Harbor where he’s stationed. He says he’ll be home for Christmas, which is about the best gift ever. Better than any of the toy trucks my brother is always asking for.”

Jonelle stares at her flatly for a moment, and Eunice wonders if she has said something wrong. Maybe Miss Jonelle can’t afford gifts for Christmas. Jonelle then turns back to the bed. The sheets pulled up, she straightens out the covers. After that, she turns and pulls out a pad of paper from her pocket.

“What do you want for breakfast today, Eunice, the scrambled eggs? Or maybe we should just stick to the oatmeal with raisins. It’ll be good for your constitution.”

Eunice waves a dismissive hand.

“I don’t care one way or the other,” she says. “In fact, just knowing this Christmas is going to be the best one ever, with mom and dad together again, I could eat rocks and not care.” She looks around. “By the way, where is mother this morning?”

A pained look crosses Jonelle’s face. “Honey, your momma’s been gone a long time now. Almost as long as your daddy, the poor girl.”

“Gone? Where’d she go, to the store?”

Jonelle looks at her for a moment, the pained look replaced by one slightly irriated.

“That daughter of yours better show today, or I have a mind to call her myself.”

With that, the woman walks out the door.

Eunice stares after her for a few seconds and then shakes her head. Such a kidder.

She turns back to the window. The Christmas tree looks more beautiful than ever this year. The lights all a glimmer, the star shining brightly, it’s enough to make her cry. She can’t wait to show her daddy when he comes home. Won’t he be surprised?

S.B.: With everything that's been going on lately, from NaNoWriMo to my Holiday Story Exchange (the deadline was yesterday, and I clocked in 3K words with my story), and all the Christmas events starting to pile up, I wasn't planning on adding much to my blog. But then this morning I woke up, sat down at the computer, and a worm of an idea started to bore its way into my mind. This story is the result.

As you can see, I wasn't planning on writing anything for #FridayFlash either, so I'll just let this one stand on its own.

I'm going to take the next week off so I can knock out some reading. After that, I'm going to be back hard on the novel. I want to finish this one soon, and then start on the revisions. Things are starting to heat up for my protagonist, and I can't wait to see how everything plays out. So if you don't see much from me going forward, you'll know why.

I hope you are having a wonderful season, my friends. Spend as much of it with your family as you can. Each day is its own blessing.

Until next time...