Monday, May 13, 2013


The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The trigger, as always is the first sentence. My writing pal took the approach that it was a new home by a man who was about to replace his wife for one who could have children. In both there was this sudden twist. I love doing these exercises. They stimulate my writing for the day. However, I don't like the ending, but time was up.

We were idling that morning in one of the front rooms on the first floor. Jamie had the Sunday papers spread out and was laying on his stomach. I never understood how he could be comfortable like that. A cup of coffee was next to him, but of course drinking coffee on your stomach is nigh on to impossible.

The windows were open for the first time that spring. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass, another seasonal first, came through.

I was still in my pajamas and sat on the couch with a woman’s magazine. I should remember which one, but I don’t. It is one of the things that I blocked. I wish I could block the phone call. I always thought police came in person to tell you that someone had died, but this cop (I forgot the name along with the name of the magazine) said that there had been an accident and I should get to Winchester General Hospital. They needed to identify the victims.

Part of me hoped since I was head for a hospital my parents were alive, but the police were waiting in the office where we were told to go. Jamie held my hand so tightly, that I was bruised for a week after, all though the funeral I stared at the black and blue.

After I wanted to sell the house—Jamie said that was stupid—it wasn’t like my parents died in that room, but in a way they did for me. The only time we ever used the room again was when we entertained and I usually found things to do in the kitchen or the other living room. It’s not like the room was haunted or anything except for my own memories.

Life is good as it is

The trigger came from The Burning Soul by John Connolly. This is a cat lady book. The cat lady sells used books to feed the strays in Argelès, and my writing mate loves supporting the hungry cat population while fulfilling her reading needs. The problem is that his piece of writing has no conflict, but is more of a character sketch. We both did character sketches. We both had the change kept by the bartender. She did the customer who was a great listener but a blueblood down on his luck. 

I poured him a generous measure and he put a twenty on the bar. I started to make change and he indicated with a wave of his hand that I didn’t need to bother. Sometimes drunks do that and I hate to take their money that they might use for a cab or forget that they gave it to me. I’m not one to take advantage of others.

Being a bartender is like looking at a micro chasm of the world. The stories I hear directly or overhear directly . . . you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t set out to be a bartender. It was going to be a temporary job until I had enough to go to college. No way was I going to be in debt the rest of my life. But then tuitions kept going up and up until school was more and more out of reach.

At some point I realized that I was happy doing what I was doing. I had my days free to do what I want and eventually I used the university money as a down payment to buy a small house. In this time of McMansions, people might laugh at my tiny, two-bedroom Cape Cod house built right after WWII.

It had sat idle for at least five years and the old couple who had died hadn’t kept it up. Step by step during my days I would repair, refinish, redo—the three Rs so to speak.

It is strange to think of a bar tender as a loner, but I am—at least during the day. At night, I can be Mr. Sociable, but in the daytime I want my solitude.

Sometimes my mother calls and sooner or later she will ask me if I’ve found a girl. I tell her I’m still looking, and she says there’s no need to rush although I know she wants me not to just rush but to produce a grandchild. My mother says more by what she doesn’t say than by what she does.

I pocket the $15 tip. I almost have enough now for a new dryer for the kitchen. Life is good.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A scrap of paper

The first sentence is from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. My writing pal didn’t think she did much with hers but she described a woman cleaning in a house that had been deserted for 50 years. I just wanted to know so much more about the woman and the house, of which she painted a very vivid picture. I could almost smell the bleach and see the tub come clean. This time, unlike many exercises we do, our stories were totally different, rather than picking up on the same idea.

I climbed into the bath leaving the scrap of paper on the edge. The number had been hastily scribbled when he handed it to me.

I wasn’t in the market for a new man in my life. Overall, my dating record from high school, though university and now as a working woman had been abysmal.

Not that I didn’t get offers, I just had the knack for finding the losers disguised as winners. I was attracted to the Armani suits only discover the suit was worth more than the wearer when it came to things I wanted. A man like my father who showed my mother respect and consideration along with love.

Frank and I had met when I was loading a 50 pound bag of grass seed into my trunk. He took it from me and dropped it in my trunk without struggling, as I has done to lift it.

He had his own cart filled with gardening supplies, including a tree, I’d my eye on but I’d already blown my budget on the grass seed and smaller plants for the dirt area between my house and where the grass began.

We talked about gardening. Then we got into ecology, then politics. We’d locked everything into our cars, except for his tree and wheeled it and his cart back to the outdoor terrace where he could keep an eye on his tree, ordered a coffee and talked for another hour.

“I’d like to see you again,” he said. “But you might be uncomfortable giving me your number, so here’s mine if you want, call me.”

The paper was on the back of a credit card receipt just the bottom not the top where the card number showed.

I stuck it in my pocket. “I probably will,” I said. “Call you that is.”

I’d finished my gardening and now I was in for a long, long soak after filling the tub, adding bubble bath so I looked like one of those movie bath scenes where there are bubbles to the neck to hide the boobs. I’d put his number on the edge and was debating with myself if I wanted to try once again with a relationship.

He did seem different. At least when you meet at a gardening centre, men usually are wearing jeans not Armani suits and his pair wasn’t even a designer label. And his jeans looked well used.

I leaned back letting the water soak the dirt from my pores.

The window was open to let in the lovely spring air. A light breeze lifted the paper and it landed on my bubbles

I grabbed it but not fast enough to blur the telephone number until it was unreadable.

Living room

The first sentence is from Trouble in the Village by Rebecca Shaw. My writing pal went to the wonderful, gigantic vide grenier (flea market) held each May 1 in Argelès and bought a number of English books from the cat lady. The money goes to help the stray cat population.

Sheila took a brisk look around the sitting room. She did every time she walked into the room, to make sure everything was in place. This was the one place in the house that was off limits to the children. No plastic soldiers, no Barbie dresses were allowed. The kids could come in and sit and read as long as they took their books with them.

“Mummy’s room,” 13-year-old Angela would say to her friends and roll her eyes. As for the other two younger kids, they just accepted the rule, but Angela would complain and complain that the house was for everyone.

“I pay the mortgage,” her mother would say and I have the right to decide to what do with the rooms. You’re lucky I allow you to do what you want in the pig sty of your own room.”

Something was different, but she wasn’t sure what. Each night when all the kids were in bed, Sheila would pour herself a glass of wine, take a book from the shelves, one with no literary merit and have nothing to do with the legal profession that kept her occupied during the day, and listen to the calm.

Sometimes she’d fall asleep, but usually she’d get a chapter read before she went to her own room. She would joke she could fall asleep before her head touched the pillow.

She wasn’t unhappy with her life. Being a widow was fine. Her husband had been a womanizer, although only she had known that. She had acted out the proper degree of sadness at his funeral and then went onto a happier life. Her career as a small town lawyer earned her enough money and left her enough time to supervise the kids through the chaos of each day.

However, in the last six months every time she came into the room, something was out of place: a figurine moved three inches to the right, a pillow from the couch put on the chair. She knew it was Angela.

So what was it tonight?

She set her wine glass down on the coaster on the end table to the right of the couch. That was it, the coaster wasn’t there, it was on the end table to the left of the couch.