Friday, January 11, 2013

The Martyr Of Fourteenth Street

The room had been kept as she left it. She was never coming back, and Rose painstakingly maintained the shrine as she always had, wiping away each speck of dust from the dresser top and the swimming trophies, carefully repositioning the stuffed pony and the folded pyjamas, pressing down ever-so-slightly on the pillow bearing the last imprint of the beloved head.

Thomas, leaning in the doorway, curled his lip in disgust and walked away, lowering his silent bulk into the faded armchair and opening his paper - snap! - while he waited for dinner to be served. Rose began to set the table, hesitating at the place where her daughter used to sit, and allowing a silent tear to roll down her cheek. Her husband did not notice, of course, and so she sniffed audibly.

"Forchrissake woman, would you stop this nonsense? She's married, not dead!"

"Do you know that she's asked me not to come around for a week? That I am not to call her unless it is a DIRE emergency? Her own mother, treated like a pestering sales representative?"

Thomas snorted. "You give the girl no peace. Always dropping by, taking food as if she can't cook, offering advice she's no need of, mocking her husband's profession, chipping away at their marriage. You're lucky they haven't moved to the other coast. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that were in the works."

Rose whirled, and the cold Spam on the platter slithered over the edge and plopped on the floor. "What do you know that you're not telling me? Conspiring, always conspiring against me.  I've devoted my life to raising a beautiful child and waiting on you hand and foot, and all I've gotten is heartbreak. I could have been a journalist, you know, traveling the world. It would be MY name you'd be seeing in that damned newspaper you're forever hiding behind."

He eyed the evening's entree on the floor. "Indeed, you've taken marvelous care of me. Kept me at arm's length unless you needed money for some new scheme to make our daughter famous. I might as well have been an ATM standing in the corner. Devoted your life to the child, assuredly, to the point where she married the first fool who offered to get her out of here.  Well, I've had enough of it. I'm leaving you, Rose. I'm not so hard a man as to drag you through a long drawn-out legal proceeding; you'll have the house, a car, and a bit to live on. But I deserve someone who will offer me at least a little warmth and companionship in my golden years."

"You mean you've found some young tart I suppose," Rose sighed. "Of course I'm worn out with tending to everyone else's needs. My poor body is exhausted from childbearing, cooking and scrubbing. Never a thought for myself. Giving up career, fame, a pension. It's just like you to think only of yourself. Well, go on then. I'll live out my days as a lonely old woman."

As she slowly bent her plump body to clean up the floor, a thought struck her. She would soon be..a...a...divorcee. Shunned by the community as a failure, a cast-off. People would whisper, and snicker, and follow her with their nasty judgmental eyes. Oh, and what of her daughter? To have divorced parents! Why everyone knew that children from broken homes turned to crime, to drink, to drugs.

"This will hardly do for dinner," she said in the sweetest of tones. "I'll make you a lovely stew from scratch. I've been so morose lately, but I shall fix things. Go and enjoy your paper, and I'll call you when it's ready."

Yes, she decided, better to be a grieving widow. Then the world would recognize her sacrifices, her suffering. They would not dare to turn their backs on her again.




32 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I believe most prisons supply that now ;-)

      Delete
  2. I hate to think what's in that stew . . . great story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, she'll probably just make him sick, not kill him. And then she'll be arrested and have more reason to feel put upon, misunderstood, etc. Thank you!

      Delete
  3. Lisa this story was an utter delight from beginning to end. My parents split after 25 years of marriage and my Mother's attitude was pretty similar. She'd never had to do anything financial, she dreaded the status of being a divorcee but set her mind against ever remarrying (which she has honoured to this day) sand always said my father left the marriage rather than left her which i could never understand. But, she has absolutely made a nice new life for herself with good independence.

    marc x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad she's made a good life - and didn't poison anyone ;-) Glad you enjoyed it, thank you!

      Delete
  4. Wow, what a great portrayal of the overbearing mother! I know people almost this bad. Almost. (Think, four kids, only one wants to have anything to do with them now.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, there are many like that. All of those dance moms and pageant moms on unreality shows come to mind as well!

      Delete
  5. Wow...what a catch!! I hope she signs up on Match or eHarmony, and soon...

    Great story, Li. Made me smile. Y'know, I never knew anyone like that...(whistling...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *Gasp* Why, she can't remarry - then she'd no longer be able to go about in mourning, with a long face, telling her sad story.

      Delete
  6. Love the conflicting POVs in this story!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah, what a lovely woman!

    The snap of the newspaper made me smile, my dad used to do that and startle the dog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Must be a Dad thing - mine used to do it too. It was usually a warning for us to pipe down a bit :-)

      Delete
  8. Always enjoy your twists, Lisa. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Milo! Thank you. I had difficulty choosing an ending, as 3 or 4 suggested themselves!

      Delete
  9. Wait... she's had ONE kid and she's "worn out from childbearing"? Never mind journalism, this character missed out on a sparkling career writing soap opera scripts.

    The details made this such an exquisite picture of dysfunction. I loved how Thomas says one of the things Rose does to annoy their daughter is bring food over, yet they're having Spam for dinner -- not exactly a challenging meal!

    I get the feeling that in the sequel Rose will botch the poisoning and things will just go from bad to worse...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Writing flash forces the writer to drop details to "flesh out" the characters, so I'm happy that you read Rose correctly. The much put-upon Spam appears in several of my stories - it's such a fun food. The distinctive can (the old ones had the little key on the bottom), the weird jelly stuff sticking to it, the various sounds it makes when it slides out of the can...

      Delete
  10. Oh dear, I see trouble ahead.

    People like Rose have the best intentions in mind (I think), but tend to be rather over-enthusiastic in their appliance of them. Or am I being a bit too charitable?

    Great story, very believable too, and that's the scary bit.
    I thought the part where the spam slid off the plate was a very nice little touch too. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, how sweet. You're being far too charitable. Rose is one of those overbearing Moms who live their lives through their children (sucking all of the joy out of it), neglecting their spouse, thinking that the universe should revolve around them and when it doesn't, moaning and wringing their hands about "sacrifices" and "injustice" and...well, think "beauty pageant Mom" or "dance Mom".

      Re: Spam. See reply above. :-)

      Delete
  11. Disturbingly realistic. I know people like this. You always have such a unique twist in there, so unexpected and always leaving me hanging on for more. I love it. She is the perfect character that you love to hate.
    You amaze me!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Heather! Thank you - no better praise for a writer than creating a character that readers either love or loathe!

      Delete
  12. So freaky because it's so real and I think we can all see glimpses of this even in our everyday lives. I think humans are good at twisting things around into an all-about-me shell. This has snapped me out of it for sure, but for who knows how long. I'll have to come back for more. =) Love your writing as always, Li! =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sam, you're about the last person I can think of who is self-centered! But please do come back to visit any time :-)

      Delete
  13. Very relevant and documentary-like. I loved the story's realistic feel, it made empathise with the the main (female) character more. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And greetings in return :-) But I see that she has tricked you - and she would appreciate your pity!

      Delete
  14. Lisa - this story is...marvelous! I'm so glad I found it. I can picture the wife, the husband, the house, perfectly. I love the newspaper [snap] and the subtle descriptions that show, not tell. You put the reader right into the mood of the story.

    Wonderful writing!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris - Sorry for the late reply. Thank you for the praise! Glad I succeeded at "show not tell". :-)

      Delete
  15. oooh, love the wonderful dark twist at the end, and the marvelous details, like the Spam slithering to the floor.

    And at the beginning, too, I thought the daughter WAS dead, but no, just escaped.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bev. I was going to change the opening at first, because I didn't want to open AND close with a twist. But I originally wrote it that way because in the Mother's mind, the daughter leaving was nearly as traumatic as her death would have been. That fact that it misleads some readers - well, maybe that's a plus.

      Delete
  16. Hi, Li. I just saw the comment you left on my post of many weeks ago (got to get another one up, but I am rather fond of that one! But stil...) Meanwhile, here I am to read this delightful piece of flash fiction. You're awfully good with this form! This story was excellent. Does leave some possibilities open at the end, as you say above in a comment. A lot said here between the lines. Impressive.

    You left this comment on my blog: "I am blessed to live in area of the country where people still reach out to one another, pay for the meals of strangers, fix flat tires for free and do business on the strength of a handshake. We have our share of bad apples, but I believe that the small good gestures keep the dark forces at bay."

    I love this, and would love to know in what wonderful part of the country you live! I grew up in Utah, Salt Lake City, but spent summers with cousins in a country town south of SLC called Santaquin. It was and mostly still is the kind of place you describe here. Oh, to live in such a place, though where I live now with my disabled daughter in southern Virginia is quite a bit like this. We love it here...

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Ann, thank you for dropping by. Glad you liked the story! I live in a rural area of Pennsylvania, and I suppose "out in the country" some of the old ways have been preserved. (Although I have had a few kind interactions in NYC and Phila. - I don't want to tar all city folk with the same "rushed and rude" brush.)

    ReplyDelete