Tag Archives: family

Fragrance

I thought it had been lost, these memories. Try as I might, I could barely remember my home while I was in America. My memories were all blurry visions and muffled voices. Now, as the automatic doors shuff open, a mere tickle to my nose has called them all stampeding back to my brain.

That. That is the dry air carried by the cold ocean air. That is the scent of maritime pines, the dry dust kicked up by car tires and foot traffic. It draws me to the markets, ripe with people browsing the selection, where we would get my favorite blood oranges. Down the street, the restaurant with my favorite paella, sizzling scallops warming up my nostrils.

I remember now the look on my mother’s face, smile that crept up the corner of her mouth even as her eyebrows said “go wash yourself, you dirty child.” I remember now my brothers playing tag and my sister always running behind, wanting to join in the game. Tomas and his bike. Father and his mustache.

All of these memories lifted from my brain by the scent of my city. If I were not so unarguably happy now, I would shed a tear. I can smell it, see it, remember it at last. The brimming, familiar breeze is sending a message to me: “You are home,” it says. “Welcome home.”

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XXIV

“Family Matters”

It was a good show but a bit of useless propaganda. You see, I was never actually close to my family. Take my brother, for instance. The man’s a slug on society. He takes all his money (read: my mother’s money… well, really, my dad’s money) and spends it on pot and internet poker. It’s hard to care about a man who just spends all his time throwing thousands (I wish I was joking) of dollars into a computer and smoking it away. He shows no signs of being useful to anyone, ever. This can be accented by the line of drool from his mouth and that glazed look in his eye. The internet poker rules his life. It’s just a click here, drag here, bet here. Lose it all. Frustrating to watch.

 

My brother’s not the only addictive personality, either. My parents are no better. Here we’ve got a dad who’s a stark traditionalist. Patriotic, alcoholic, workaholic, and unaware of the mechanics of a working home life. He still likes to talk about the “war,” meaning World War II. We’re convinced he went senile in his 30s. The guy repeats stories and doesn’t even recognize his kids sometimes. He sure doesn’t worry about the money draining from his account like an open wound. Probably all the booze damaged his brain cells. Who knows? Mom’s also a bit of a loon. Something of an enabler, she doddles around the house, fussing over dust on a porcelain elephant or a spot on the carpet. If dad was the part to tear everything apart and then get to drunk to put it together again, Mom would be the type to take a toothbrush and magnifying glass to everything. She’s an enabler, though. Doesn’t want anything to put a crack in the family. Doesn’t want anyone to be mad at each other or her entire world will fall apart.

 

And what’s my deal? Does it even matter? Well, I like drama. I thrive off it. So maybe I was born into the perfect family or maybe I wasn’t after all. There are subtle undercurrents of drama, cracks that really aren’t visible but that are threatening the very foundation of the household. These are the things that get me excited. I can’t even wonder as to why I get energized around Thanksgiving. I like to watch and voyeurize and contemplate and revel. Family doesn’t matter so much, but it’s fun to watch a train about to wreck, isn’t it? Just have to remember to walk away fast as soon as it does.

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XX

Delusional

I hate being sick. It always reminds me of my childhood. I think of my mother and how she used to pamper me. I think of my father and how he used to ignore me. I think of my brothers and my sister and the chaos of our family life.

Even worse, I have a fever. I keep nodding off, not sure if I’m awake or asleep. I see blurry images of my father’s moustache, the smell of cigar smoke. He always smelled like cigar smoke. I hated my childhood. I was always the weak and defenseless one. Adults decided what I was going to do and who I was going to be. It’s not so different now, though when I’m healthy, I can at least hold the illusion that I’m in control of my life.

My mother calls to see how I am. She tells me to take vitamin C and eat lots of soup. An image of thin chicken noodle broth comes into mind and I push it away. I reach into the cupboard and pull out a can of spicy chicken gumbo. That ought to show her. I don’t have to eat that crap that I used to. I can eat my own soup…

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII

Before-After

The night before Sadie’s father died, they ate pasta with garlic bread. She and her mother drank milk. Her father had a beer.

“Careful, Daddy. You’re starting to get a beer belly.”

He frowned around the lip of the bottle. “Hey, now. Can’t a man enjoy a beer every once in a while? Back me up here, Laura.”

“Your father works extra hours to put food on the table for us, Sadie. I think he’s entitled to a beer every once in a while.”

“Ha! I win,” he tilts back the bottle with a smug look.

“Whose side are you on, mom?”

“I’m on your side, sweetie. I’m just trying to be reasonable.”

Sadie crossed her arms. “I don’t know how you’d survive without me.”

“I’m glad I have you to keep my  heart beating strong, Sadie-bear!” He laughed with lungs like bellows. Sadie loved that laugh. She blushed and twirled her pasta around her fork.

The night after Sadie’s father died, she had spent the entire day locked up in her room. Her mom came up to feed her. She wasn’t hungry. She came up to give her water. She wasn’t thirsty either. Did she want to talk? No. She merely stared at the blinds, watching the sunlight through the slats die.

Finally, she got up and switched on her computer. In her private blog, she wrote: “We killed him. If we weren’t around, Dad wouldn’t have had to be out there working. He’d still be here.”

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII

Walking in a Straight Line

“Dude. Ballerinas get mad chicks.” Teek takes a hit and passes the blunt to me. We are watching some muscular dancer doing handstand push-ups and backflips off a fence. “Showoff,” he says, blowing out a curtain of smoke. “Makes us normal guys look bad.” He offers me the roach.

“I don’t think they’re called ballerinas if they’re guys.” I put it to my lips.

“Then what? Ballerinos?” We laugh like idiot. If the cops come, Teek will just eat the blunt. It is something he does well, even with a bit of pride. Heck. Dude does it for the Hell of it sometimes. Says he hates to waste even speck of good weed.

“Hey, fucking Bruce Lee chewed cannabis,” he informed me one time.

“Yeah, but he didn’t eat the whole blunt! Is the wrap even edible?”

“If you can smoke it, you can eat it,” he had shrugged then, as if those word were the only truth in the world.

“How’s Dizzie been?” he asks me as the ballerino jumps into his mini cooper with his buddies. I drag too deep and burn my throat. Teek’s in 11th grade with my sister. He has a thing for her.

“She’s cool,” I say, then correct myself since, as her little brother, I certainly do not think she is cool. “I mean, she’s all right… I guess.”

“She’s more ‘n a’ight! Girl’s got an ass that won’t quit! Ha haaa!” he laughs, nodding his head. “But no offense, man. No offense.” He punches me in the shoulder, like he’s just joking. He knows I don’t like it when he talks about my sister like that, but I keep quiet. Teek’s four years older than me. I’m surprised someone as cool as him would even bother with me. Then again, I pay him for the weed…

“She’s crazy, you know,” I tell him. He takes the roach from my hand.

“Seamus, Seamus, Seamus,” he blows out a little smoke, examines the tiny nub of weed between his fingers like it’s holding out on him. He shrugs. “All women are crazy, my man. That’s just their nature. But the really crazy ones also put out like crazy. You’ll figure it out when you’re older.” He pushes last bit of the roach into my hand, gives it a fist-pound, then exits the scene in his dealer mobile, the gold Mazda, maybe to go deal to some other kids or hang out with people his age. Whatever.

I stare at the roach burning out in my palm. With no one to give it any air, the cinders die out. I look to see if anyone was around, then I push the thing to my tongue. It tastes like ash. I spit and almost throw it into the grass. Instead, it finds its way into my pocket. I don’t know why. I guess it made me feel cool. The cops wouldn’t bother hassling a white kid before the sun goes down, but I should get going. The ballet’s over and my parents will be expecting me back soon. I told them I was going to see some friends perform at the dance. They probably think I’m a fag, or that I have friends. They don’t know anything about me.

I take my first step, but my feet feel like lead. My breath catches and I try using my hands to pull my leg up. No use.

Of course that won’t work. Use your leg muscles, a distant voice tells me. I know it is my own voice, but it sounds like it is coming from behind a curtain. It takes me a little, but I figure out which muscles in my thighs cause my leg to lift. One foot in front of the other. Walking in a straight line is harder than you think. I’m already a relaxed person, but I get catatonic sometimes when I smoke. My sister’s the only who knows. She smokes too, but she’s also insane. She says I should stop before I slip into a coma.

I scratch my head at the line of ants, going about their daily routines. Ants have to be the busiest little bugs on this entire planet. I am astounded. Or I must have been, since I’d forgotten to close my mouth. The ants all work in a straight line, moving back in forth to feed their colony and their queen—all except one little one. It looks lost and I felt sorry for it. I put my shoe down to turn it around and it walks right under where my toes curve up. I find a small twig and put it down in his path and he walks right around it. But that was sexist of me. It could very well be a lady ant, too.

“Hey,” I say to him/her. “You’re going the wrong way. Why would you want to leave your home?” But as soon as I ask the androgynous ant that question, I think maybe I know. I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to just pick a direction and just wander off, but then I’d probably starve or get mugged and killed. I heard ants from other colonies will just bite each other’s heads off. It’s a harsh world: much easier to let your mind wander than to actually do it. I think about whether I can take care of her (maybe I’ll stick with “her;” she crazy like a girl), but I don’t know what ants eat, really, or if they really can survive without their colony. Maybe she’s old and going off to die alone, like what wolves do (then again, I relate with him so much that I might just be more comfortable calling her “him”). I don’t want to kill him by taking him home. I’m sure he’ll figure it out. I step past the ant, leaving it behind, careful not to step on its family in the process.

I put Gavin DeGraw’s “Chariot” on my ipod and chill for a while with one earbud hanging loose and the other caressing my eardrum. I’m ready to start walking again. This time I know which muscles to use and it’s easier to start. As I walk home, I think about when I was a little kid. I used to daydream all the time. I remember one time I yelled at some kids for squishing an anthill. They seemed a little guilty at first, but then I guess they thought better of it. Stephen and Nick spent years tormenting me after that. They’d call me names like “Shayla” and “semen” that made me curse being half-Irish and having a ridiculously patriotic mother. Maybe all women are crazy like Teek says.

But why am I thinking about these things? Home is just a block away, a block away. My ipod shuffles to Modest Mouse’s “Float On.” And I do.

By the time I get home, I’ve got Jello Biafra screaming in my ear. I turn off my ipod. I’ll head straight for shower and bed. I’m not feeling well, I have to tell myself. I’m not feeling well.

Dizzie opens the door. I hold my stomach, ready to repeat my rehearsed lines.

“Are you high?” She looks like I brought home a dead skunk in my teeth.

“No. I’m not feeling—I’m just dizzy.” My sister does not think this is funny. I, on the other hand, start giggling into my hands.

“Shhh. Shut up. Do you know what Mom and Dad do when they find their little baby high?”

Other people’s thoughts scared me. Other people’s thoughts shut me up. I hadn’t thought about other people’s thoughts. It frightened me when she called me “their little baby.” That’s a big responsibility to live up to and I hate it.

“Who’s been selling you weed? Where—Teek, that goddamn motherfucking cocksucking Nazi slut! Am I right? It’s him, right? I’m going to rape that fucker with a tire iron!”

I’m a bit dismayed that I’m so predictable, that there’s only one person that could possibly be my dealer. Am I that see-through? “No! It’s not—”

Fuck that motherfucker! I’ll fucking kill that fucker fifty times before he realizes I fed him his own cock through his asshole!”

I let her vent a little while longer. Sis had a temper sometimes, though I’ve rarely seen her quite this angry. “He wanted me to tell you he said ‘hi,’” I finally say, but I find it’s the wrong thing to say. She puts me in a headlock and drags me upstairs.

I can hear my dad from the kitchen. “Seamus? Is that you?” Then my mom: “How was the ballet?”

“He’s in the bathroom!” Dizzie yells, almost squeezing my head right off. She tosses me into my bedroom and slams the door behind her.

“Really, Seamus. What was going through your head? Why would you do something like that? You’re not even in high school, kid.”

I feel small, tiny, minuscule. Like an ant.

“At least you’re not actually going to watch ballets and musicals in your spare time,” she rubs the area around her eyebrow piercings. “Okay. Here’s what you’re going to do, Shemp.” That’s Dizzie’s nickname for me. “You’re going to take a shower, go down to the kitchen, act natural… and there’s a plate of leftovers in the fridge. We had porkchops. Do not eat anything else. Just dinner. Then bed. Understand.”

She’s talking too fast but I nod. “Why are you helping me out like this?”

She looks at me like I’m retarded or something. “I’m your big sister. You act like I’m going to bite your head off or something.”

“Well—” I consider telling her about the ants.

“You know what? I don’t care. Don’t eat everything. Shower and change. Now!” She kicks me in the butt so I go hurdling into my bathroom.

“Where are Mom and Dad?”

“Watching a movie. Something boring.”

“Oh.”

I turn on the fan, then I peel off my clothes, getting my shirt caught around my face and my pants caught around my ankles, but they come off and I guess that’s the important part. I almost forget the pot I have in my pocket. I wonder again if I should eat it to get rid of the evidence. Maybe flush it? But I really want to keep it, kind of as a keepsake. Something about this day has already made me feel nostalgic. I take a picture of it with my phone and then take a picture of me looking like I’m about to toss it in my mouth. Happy that I’ve recorded the day, I feel better about flushing the burnt out roach.

The water shooting from the shower nozzle feels like a million different sensations balled up into one, so that I can’t distinguish one sensation from the other. After a while, I don’t even try. I’ve probably already been here for a while just staring at the floor. But how long? Could be five minutes. Could be fifty. Time gets all distorted in the shower, which is probably why I’m always late for school. I take my loufa (Mom loves these things) and scrubs some fruity-smelling gel on my skin. When I get to sudsing up my crotch, I get a little too friendly. “No,” I tell my hands. Bad hands. I’ve already done enough today to make me feel guilty without filling the drain with my spunk on top of it all. Maybe tomorrow. I turn the water a bit colder to rinse off then I reach blindly for a towel. The world outside the shower is cold and lonely, but at least I have my towel. I feel a little like the curtain is finally lifting.

Kitchen scene: Mom gives me a kiss on the head. Dad is sighing and looking listless. It must have been a sad movie.

“What did you guys watch?” I ask, trying to sound normal. At least, I think I sound normal.

The Darjeeling Limited. It was a really weird movie. I don’t know if I’d watch it again,” she’s in a good mood for some reason. “Your father liked it, though.”

The giant Italian sighs delicately. “Yeah. It was really good. Just so sad, though.”

“Hon, it was a comedy.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t be sad.”

My mom rolls her eyes. “We just had leftover porkchops tonight, Seamus. You want me to heat up a plate?”

“Sure, mom. Thanks.” A perfect act. She’ll never suspect.

“Are you all right. Your throat sounds a little hoarse.”

“Oh, uh. I’m not feeling—I’m not feeling well today.”

“Well, you’d better get some sleep after you eat. That’s the best thing if you think you’re getting sick.”

“Yeah. That’s what I was thinking.”

“So, how was the ballet?”

“Good. Good.” I pause for a moment, thinking of the ballerino king. “It was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The costumes were really well done.”

Mom and Dad exchange looks. I cringe. They think I’m gay. Well, yeah, I guess it’s better than the truth. Dizzie walks into the kitchen, giving me something between a worried look and the stink eye. I pour some milk. “You want some milk, Diz?” She gives me the stink-eye and grabs juice instead.

I cut into my porkchops and I realize I could eat ten thousand of these things. I can hear the meat bounce of my throat and it echoes in my ears. Life is good.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII