Thursday, June 16, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Embers

This week's Red Writing Hood challenge was to write about the downside of physical beauty. Not sure I actually hit the mark, but I liked what evolved from the prompt.

For the first time in ages, I'm attempting fiction.  

I welcome your thoughts.


I wasn't supposed to hear him.

It was part of our agreement. As an honorary One of the Guys, I discussed the size, density, and color of my fecal matter. I hacky-sacked, and pretended to enjoy Phish. I belonged, with the caveat that I never brought up menstruation. And in turn, I was part of their tribe.

Or so I thought.

Years ago, Mom had decided that I was going to be a camp counselor. It's what she had done-- traipsed through the woods, made lanyard key chains and sang "Rise and Shine" to her defenseless charges. She held little kids' hands while they were homesick, and crooned "Scarborough Fair," in three part harmony as the sun flickered to twilight.

"When I saw your father playing that guitar, I knew I would marry him," she told me. She unpacks this story several times a year. "I spent the summer adoring him."

Sometimes, in the retelling, she digs up a picture, in all his mutton-chopped glory. He is corded from hours of rock climbing, and lean. Shirtless, he holds his guitar. Gray-eyed. Devastating. 

He's my father, and a complete bastard, and I even I can see he was hot.

Mom doesn't discuss the marriage at city hall, my arrival four months later, or the trailer park in Flagstaff. And we certainly don't mention the day he skipped town.

She came home one night, reeking of cigarettes from her happy hour shift at Garcia's Bar and Grill. "Rachel, my dear," she said, slumping into a chair, "Even the nicest man thinks of sex every minute of the day. Remember that."

I nodded, as if any man or boy would even look at me, let alone hold me all night.

Yet, she insisted that I take a job at the same camp, amidst the redwoods in Northern California. I was supposed to relieve her glory days, as long as I avoided the whole unplanned-pregnancy-ruined-my-life-except-that-you're-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me thing.

And there, under that canopy of trees, I found Mike, David, Matthew, and Patrick. Four roommates from Humboldt State, reeking of patchouli and studied irony. We bonded over beers and Faith No More, but I won their devotion for keeps when I called David a "raggedy ass, soy-milk drinking motherfucker."

I was in. Which is good, because I wanted to be as close to Mike as possible. I wanted to rest my head in the crook of his arm, feel him cover me with his sinewy warmth, his hot breath warming exposed skin.

I could taste our salt, even though we had never touched. Yet.

I played the part. Out-grossed. Out-duded. I hoped, just like the movies, that he would see me--see us--right under his eyes. That love would ignite from these gathered twigs.

 Last night, I saw Mike talking to David, their outlines faint in the moonlight. I lingered in the dark.

"So, would you fuck her?" I heard David's voice, then the clink of his beer bottle on the fire pit.

"Who?" Mike said, "Carli? Dude, she's like, fifteen."  He was talking about my counselor-in-training, a trim blonde with blonde hair cascading to her waist. For the record, she was eighteen. And kinda dumb.

"So would you?" I held my breath, waiting for his response.

He paused for a moment, then said, "Here's what I want. I want her body and face. Shit, I want her to flog me with that hair." They both laughed. "But I wish she could have Rachel's brain."

I felt warmth flood through my body. I swallowed his scraps despite myself.

David hooted, "What, you don't want to fuck Scarface?"

My hand flew to my cheek.

Mike laughed, and took another long draw. He cleared his throat. "No. Dude. I mean she's cool and all,"

Face burning, I retreated into the woods. I wished I could walk and walk until I hit the ocean, until the waves covered my head, and all was silent.

Mom was wrong. Men think of sex all the time, unless they are around me.


Coby said...

Oh...the ending of this totally jabbed me in the gut and heart. I think because my 12-22 year-old self could totally relate.

You have such a way, my dear.

tulpen said...

I hope this is pure fiction.

Loved this so much.

Boys are such jerks.

Victoria KP said...

Ouch. Fantastic and painful.

From Tracie said...

This is devastating. Absolutely devastating.

I was not expecting that twist at the end.

In the beginning from Rachel overhearing him and her memory, I got a bit confused, because I didn't realize the transition, but other than that, it was perfect!

Can I punch Mike? Because he really deserves it.

Formerly known as Frau said...

Love it but hated that feeling I remember feeling so many years ago!

Vikki @ She Has Cute Shoes! said...

Boys are stupid. This was a work of fiction right?

Really well written. Your words drew me into the scene straight away.

Thanks for posting it. :)

BalancingMama (Julie) said...

Oh, how painful! This read so real.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad... it's tough being one of the guys. I hope it's fiction.
Great job!

vinobaby said...

Oh that poor thing! It's amazing how much devastation a few careless words can cause. Good lesson. Well done.

Jennifer said...

Wow! This knocked the air right out of my lungs. I knew that the ending was going to be devastating from teh very first line, but there was a glimmer of hope that maybe what she wasn't supposed to overhear was something positive, anything positive, but for it to be that brutal was amazing.

This line really nailed the feeling of the whole piece for me, "I swallowed his scraps despite myself."

Galit Breen said...

Oh do I ever want to hug this girl!

This came together perfectly Nancy. the dialogue, the descriptions, the depth in variety of characters.

This line: "I could taste our salt" gave me chills.

And the ending? Mike's an ass. So there.


CDG said...

Jesus, this hits hard.

There's so much to love here. I was a camp counselor, but at an all-girls camp--which lessened the romantic drama some. This definitely rocketed me back to 1995.

I seriously loved two lines.
"reeking of patchouli and studied irony"
"I could taste our salt"

You are one gifted writer, my dear.

Carrie said...

this had such a gut wrenching twist at the end. Poor Rachel.

visiting from RDC

Cheryl said...

This really hit home for me.

I was totally one of the guys. And so I remained one of the guys for what felt like forever.

I liked the twist, it was incredibly well done.

One typo: "He's my father, and a complete bastard, and I even I can see he was hot."

Kim said...

Devastating. This evoked a physical reaction. I like Rachael. She's my kind of heroine. You most defintely should be doing fiction more often.

Anonymous said...

Wow, how did you know about me when I was a teenager? EErie. Very haunting story.

julie moore said...

Kept me hooked to the end although I hated the ending it is reality isn't it? So well written.

TKW said...

You just shattered my heart. Wow.

An Imperfect Momma said...

Wow...awesome as per usual. You kept me hooked the entire time. Ending shattered my heart tho, but thats good writing.

Anonymous said...

That ending is heartbreaking! This was such an amazing piece. The details were so vivid, the writing so clean.


Joanna Jenkins said...

O.U.C.H. That's a tough ending but a very well written story. Nice job on the prompt.
xo jj

Jessica said...

Oh I want to give her a hug.

So well done, you gave your characters such life in a short amount of time.

Love the lines "she unpacks this story" & "reeking of patchouli and studied irony."

Yuliya said...

Oh so good!

Anonymous said...

Feels like it's been forever since I've read here. I've missed you Nancy!

I was totally lost in this story. In the excitement of it. In the heart of it. In the horror of it...

So familiar. It was like reliving the bad dream that was my adolescence. Brilliant because it was so real. Well done.