Category Archives: fiction

Micro fiction

(This isn’t real so don’t freak out. It’s just what I woke up thinking about.)

She woke up early every morning to frantically dress in the dark. If she gets dressed fast enough, if she gets enough chores done before anyone else can wake up… maybe no one will hurt her.

But today she dropped her shoe when she was trying to carry her bundle of belongings out of the sleeping room.

Oh no. Now they are waking up.

Soon the pain will begin.

A sandcastle for Noah


I woke up early, as usual. The first thing I did was extend my hand towards the bedside table where I keep my glasses—this getting old stuff is rough. I can no longer even see the text on the white board without them. But I keep hearing that getting old is better than the alternative.

Once I finished squinting my eyes up sufficiently to see the wall at the foot of the bed I tried to narrow in on which little square represents today. It’s a good thing we erase the current day at the end of every day or this would be a challenging task to find the right square first thing in the morning. Ahh, Thursday. A work at home day. How perfectly lovely.

These work at home days sure don’t mean what they used to. I sit in bed for a few minutes thinking about what work needs to be accomplished. Today I’m going to be trying to find patterns in the data I’ve accumulated during our last trip. When I’m out in the field hearing story after story after story they feel like waves upon the sand. I can’t figure out what makes one wave similar or different from another… I just try to stand up to them and not get washed out to sea.

Luckily I get to come home to Wonderland and rest in between trips.

As I start to sit up I look over and see if Noah is awake yet, not yet. He always sleeps harder than normal for a few days when we get home. That’s good. He worries about me during travel and that makes it harder for his body to deal with the strain. He’s not getting any younger either.

Because I’m the first one up this morning I stumble into the kitchen and put the kettle on before going to the bathroom. In what has become my tradition I stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving when using the toilet is easy. Thank you Noah for all the lovely cooking. I haven’t had a nasty IBS flare in years, but I don’t forget. Thank you for loving me enough to take care of me.

When I get back to the kitchen (after carefully washing my hands, of course) I reach into the fridge and pull out a bagel and cream cheese. I cut the bagel in half and put everything in place to toast the bagel once Noah starts to stir. I get the tea pot ready. I set everything for tea out on the table. Just one cup with first breakfast.

I putter around tidying things as I wait for Noah. It won’t be long. He still never sleeps well when I’m not in bed.

A few minutes into puttering I hear the toilet flush and Noah appears. As usual the first thing he does when he sees me is smile. I’m so grateful for this man.

We kiss good morning and I pop the bagel into the toaster. When it is done and cream cheesed the tea is also ready and we both sit down to our half a bagel. I just can’t function in the morning without calories and he has adapted to me after so long.

First breakfast rarely involves much talking. We aren’t awake yet, not really. We sip our cups of tea and reach out to hold hands while we munch on our bagel. Sleepy smiles are most of what we have to offer one another.

After breakfast today it is Noah who nudges his head towards the living room and says, “Shall we get to it?”

“Yes, darling. We really should.” Long experience together has taught them that they will have a better day if they start off with meditating and stretching. They can no longer cruise on the resiliency of youth and they must do actual physical maintenance every day. How boring. Noah sets the timer for thirty minutes of meditating and assumes his posture. I grimace just a bit and settle after him.

No matter how long we do this, I always feel that little pull of resistance. I don’t wanna do what I’m supposed to do. But with a Noah here to suffer when I don’t take care of myself… I’m much better at doing what I’m supposed to do now.

We meditate and then when the timer goes off move into stretching. We try for an hour but one or the other of us usually gets bored about 45 minutes in and for some reason… the other stops within two or three minutes. It’s just not as fun alone.

By this point it is coming on eight o’clock. Time to get dressed for a run and go out. It’s a Thursday: a five mile day. Noah grouses just a bit, as usual, because he really prefers three mile days. I grin as he says for the eleven millionth time, ”You are built for distance… I prefer speed.” Some things are as predictable as the sun rising.

No matter who is in second place as they finish up the last half mile there are always comments about how worthwhile the run is because, “Look at the ass I get to look at.”

Runs around the neighborhood always feel like a special treat after they’ve been gone for a while. Getting back to a feeling of normal allows them to adapt with ease to any uncomfortable traveling situation. The discomfort is only for a little while. Soon they will go home.

The post-running shower involves some groping and promises for what will come later. When you are old it takes a little longer to get the motor running for sex, so we try to maintain flirtation throughout the day. That way we don’t forget.

After getting dressed Noah walks in to the kitchen to make second breakfast, the one with all the protein and vegetables. Someone has to be responsible around here.

I walk into the garage while he does this to start setting up my work station for the day. I’m particular and fussy so I always need to spend some time at this. I adjust my standing desk (the erectness of my posture on any given day impacts how high I want it) and play with the monitors and plug everything in. You’d think I’d have this down pat at this point… but I think the adjustments are part of feeling like I’m home. I pull up all the programs I’m going to need today.

I don’t start reading notes yet. It isn’t time. Instead when I’m done adjusting stuff I go into the kitchen and make our second pot of tea. This time we’ll each have three or so cups out of the pot. Ahhh, tea makes life better.

While he’s cooking Noah tells me stories that he has heard from the kids lately. They each tend to tell one parent about an event knowing that it will be passed along. They treat us like one person and sometimes it is funny. A kid will tell one of us the first part of a story and the other of us the second part of a story and it isn’t until we remember to tell one another that we figure out the whole story. It’s like a puzzle. I think they do it on purpose because they know we like to talk about them.

I’m just glad that they still call so often. None of them kept their promise of wanting to live with us forever, but they do come visit often. To be honest… I appreciate not having to carefully lock the bedroom door every time we have sex.

After breakfast we both walk out to our computer desks. We don’t talk a lot for a few hours. Noah continues to work on his railroad (his inner metaphor for building coherency in computer programming) and I work on trying to find commonalities in experience between incest participants.

I’m long past being able to think of folks as victims. Even in the cases where they clearly are and are severely traumatized by the experiences. We are all participants—willing or otherwise.

Maybe I work on bridge building; if you want to extend the engineering metaphors.

After a couple of hours of work Noah nudges me (I tend to get tunnel vision) and says, “Let’s go outside for a while.”

I continue to find it funny that he went from being someone who couldn’t follow a schedule to being the schedule keeper. But he likes pushing me through my day. I’m glad he finds it satisfying. We both put hats on. I walk into the yard first and look around for which area needs attention first. I’m long past having to water (thank goodness) but some area always needs weeding or tending.

Noah waits to see where I end up before dragging a chair over to sit near me. He waits while I gather whatever tools I want for right now and when I seem to be settled into work he asks, “Are you ready?” I smile in assent and he opens the book we are reading and launches into it.

Almost forty years of him reading to me and I still can’t take it for granted. I love hearing how he voices characters. I love that I get to interrupt him and ask questions—he is still my walking encyclopedia. “Why did they do that?” “Ahh! That’s an interesting question. They are reacting to this because…” I get the impression that some of his morning work is reading up on the history of whatever story we are currently reading. No one can just know everything as easily as he does. He must be cheating.

But I don’t mind.

Some days I only work for half an hour. Some days we stay out until he is unwilling to wait longer for lunch. It all depends on how much I feel I need to work out from my morning. Some days I cry through this whole period because my work is so sad. Sometimes I focus on the story and can be present. Noah is there no matter where I am emotionally.

When we come inside I usually head for the pornography. It’s a weird switch after reading about sexual trauma for hours in the morning but if I’m going to be emotionally present and able to have sex with Noah… I need the dichotomy. I have a few pornographers in particular I favor because I know that the participants are joyously having the sex I see on screen. I’m very happy to support people getting to make a living however they want to make a living. And it means that by the time Noah has lunch ready I’m usually ready to grope him and talk about what I want him to do with me after lunch.

Long years of marriage have taught us that waiting until the end of the day for sex means… we probably won’t have sex. When we are home we try hard to hit the early afternoon widow when we are both awake and lively enough to enjoy it.

One of the best parts of being married so long is that I no longer feel embarrassed about being where I am on a given day. Some days I want elaborate foreplay and roleplay. Some days I just want to be fucked without preliminaries (although lube—lube is just important). Some days I want to be tied up and spanked first because I need the catharsis. I continue to feel grateful that I have a partner who is so joyously versatile.

When we finish having sex we tend to grab our laptops and move to the couch so we can sit side by side. This is the time of day when we get to do our personal correspondence and catch up on social media. If we get started earlier in the day… we won’t make real work happen at all.

Of course Noah regularly interrupts my reading to say, “Oh look at this one.” His love of comics continues unabated. I don’t mind. At this point he knows which ones will make me grimace and he doesn’t share those.

After a while of sitting on the couch the phone rings. It is our fourth child calling to ask, “I know I should just check the calendar but I’d rather ask you: is it my turn to cook this week?” Our kids may have moved out but we are very lucky they chose to stay close by. Every Sunday everyone comes over. We take turns making dinner, that way everyone gets a chance of making sure they get what they really want at least some of the time. Of course our first child makes a point of inundating me with mushrooms. That’s ok. I get even by putting olives in everything. Fourth child is the family outlier. That kid likes onions. How oh how did you spring from my loins?

I don’t know. But the little turkey has made me get used to French Onion Soup. Ugh. Fine. Be that way.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” My children mock me with this phrase often. I even eat fish now, sometimes. It took a long time for them to get me to adapt my palate… but I try to be a good sport.

They are worth it. I chat with fourth child for a while about work and friends until I hear another call coming in. “Oh! It’s Aunt Pam. Can I talk to you later?”

“Oh! Tell her to call me when you get off the phone. I want to talk to her about an event I’m working on.” This makes a lot of sense to me. Fourth child is the one who was inspired by Aunt Pam to go work on climate change policy. I promise to pass the message along.

When I get off the phone Noah is already in the kitchen working on dinner. I get up and ask if I can help. Sometimes he lets me, today he says, “Nah. Just keep me company.” So I stand behind him and lean my head on his back while he works. He asks questions about Pam and the kiddo and I relay what I learned.

After a while I move away to set the table and get water for us both.

After we eat Noah goes back to do a bit more work at his computer while I clean up the kitchen. When I finish tidying I go back to my work station and work for a while longer.

When we both feel done with work (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) we wander through the kitchen and have a few bits of chocolate. It’s nice to feel rewarded at the end of the day.

Then we brush our teeth and head to bed. We don’t fall asleep as soon as we should because we stay up talking. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever run out of things I want to say to Noah.

I hope not.

P.S. Hopefully I will write about other kinds of days too, because he is curious what I expect from the future. But these are the days I’m looking forward to the most.

The party (fiction)

She sat on a chair in front of the mirror.  Her husband had bought her this vanity early in their marriage.  His comment at the time was, “I’m sure you will only spend more time applying this shit as you get older; you might as well be comfortable.”  At the time she had been a young bride and she thanked him for his thoughtfulness and kissed him on the cheek.

Now she looks at her face and wonders why she bothers.  She traces the deep lines in her skin.  The vertical line between her eyebrows that says she has spent much of her life scowling.  The horizontal lines on the forehead that is part of her doubting look—she rarely believes anything the first time she is told.  She uses her fingertips to follow the lines.  She traces the grief lines, separate from the laugh lines.  She wishes there had been less grief.
It’s time to get moving and she just can’t seem to manage.  She knows that it is her job to sit here putting on paint until her actual face is invisible.  This is an important party, after all.  Her husband needs her. 

He always needs her.  Sometimes it feels like she is married to a fucking 13 year old.  “Mom, where are my socks?”  Sometimes he slips and calls her that too.  It turns her stomach.  This isn’t what she wanted from life.  Every time she thinks that her eyes slam shut and her stomach hurts.  What did she want, anyway? 
She wanted to have one of those lives where people end up with lots of laugh lines and no scowl lines.  She wanted to be a happy person.  Is bitterness something that everyone feels?  Money can’t buy happiness, they say.  She laughs and thinks of her own selfishness and lack of charity.  Who is she to complain about her life?  Her husband doesn’t beat her or run around.  He has just grown more infantile over the years.  She micromanaged him until there was no him left to run.  Just a puppet waiting for his next move.
Yet he seems to be able to perform on command.  She knows she should be proud.  They offered him partner this year.  She thought it was hilarious that the senior partner in the firm called her yesterday to ask about some of the specifics.  Everyone knew who was actually the brain in this family—but appearances must be preserved. 
She looks at her face and thinks, “This is what the captains of industry are supposed to look like, not their space-cadet wives.  I look wrong.  I grew up to be the wrong person.”
What is right?  What is wrong?  Sometimes it seems like there is no coherent difference.  She firmly believes that it is wrong that her husband has a job and she doesn’t.  Her husband is one step up from a slavering imbecile.  Her job is to sit here and make sure she looks pretty.  It’s too late for pretty.  That boat passed.  That boat left her behind with her childbearing days.  It’s incredible how much not sleeping for half a decade will age you.
She thinks back to that period, when the lines and the gray appeared.  That was when her husband bought her the vanity.  When her youngest was about a year old.  She had a day when she was frantically trying to apply makeup in the bathroom while holding the screaming baby.  He brought home the vanity less than a week later.  He watched her blind panic and had no idea that she wasn’t putting the makeup on to look pretty.  She was just trying to feel like there was some part of her that the little brat didn’t control.
Now she feels compelled.  This is what she is supposed to do, right?  She has this apparatus, no point in not using it.  After all her husband is right, she is supposed to look pretty.  She stops looking at her face and switches to her hair.  Oh she has beautiful hair, everyone says so.  Strangers on the street stop to tell her that she has beautiful hair.  It’s a curse and a blessing. 
When people tell you that you are pretty as a woman you are supposed to take note of what you were doing, saying, and wearing at the time.  You are supposed to remember exactly what makeup you had on and what hair style you had.  Then you just hit repeat forever because of course pretty is the only important part of your life.  No one ever told her what she was supposed to do once pretty was gone irrevocably.  There is a point at which striving for pretty is fairly ludicrous.  She is striking.  She is still attractive, of course.  But there is an intensity there that prevents prettiness.  She knows it and it weighs heavy on her.  Just last night her husband says, “It’s like you don’t even try to be pretty any more—don’t you care if I find you attractive?”
Just like everything else all these years she didn’t say anything negative to him.  She may scowl, she may be doubting, but she keeps her mouth shut.  She put her head down and just said, “I’m sorry I have been so lazy.  I will try harder.”
She feels like she is choking on the bile.  She is choking on this unexpressed rage.  She doesn’t know for sure why she feels so much rage.  Her life really hasn’t been that bad.  She’s been safe, comforted, and cared for as much as anyone can hope to experience.  It came at a high price though.  Sometimes she thinks the price was too high.
Pretty.  The word makes her mouth tighten.  That is all she should be.  Not smart.  Not important.  Not decisive.  Not effective.  Pretty.  She kind of hates herself.  She wishes she had more courage.  She always did the safe thing.  There are women in the company.  She has spent half her life listening to the asshole men who work there talking about the women in the company.  They are never viewed as real and complete people.  They are still evaluated solely on whether or not they are pretty.  Ugly, mannish women.  They have to work because no man would want them, so I guess we can tolerate them working.
She looks carefully at her face in the mirror.  Is it too late?  Is she even capable of pretty any more?  Her face is hard.  She stares intently wondering if she has any worth left at all.  Her hair is still pretty.  Her beautiful waist-length hair.  It has never gone gray.  It is still a gorgeous light blonde.  From the back people still mistake her for quite young.  Then they see her face.
Finally the staring takes on a different intensity.  Impulsively she stands and pulls her robe off of her body.  She looks in the vanity mirror at her body.  She dresses very carefully these days.  It’s not that her body is bad, for a 45 year old she is extremely hot.  The gym will do that for you if you work hard enough at it.  And starve yourself enough.  Every time she thinks about all the years of denial she has been through she feels sad.  She looks in the mirror and sees the hollowed out stomach.  It is still soft and malleable after having children.  She never wore a two-piece again.  Her husband let her know how repulsive her post-children body was.  If she wanted to be pretty she would have to dress very carefully.

She looked at her body and she looked at her face.  They looked at odds.  Her body was clearly still trying to follow all the rules.  She obviously thought there was a standard of beauty she was required to maintain, other than pregnancy she had never been fatter than a size 6.  Her mother told her as a teenager that if she gained weight her husband would leave her for a more attractive woman.  She remembered that.
Now she looks at a body that is emaciated and stringy and thinks, “This is the end result of all that work?  I look like a too-old-to-eat-chicken.”  She realizes that there is nothing pretty about her any more.  Except for her hair, of course.
This is an important party.  This is the gala celebrating her husband making partner.  She had to look pretty.  All of a sudden her face lit up.  Actually, she doesn’t have to be pretty any more.  All of her work all of these years has been about getting Hank to this position.  Now he is there.
She had a sudden thought and bit her lip.  Would he ever forgive her?  She hurried to her dresser and pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt.  Her shoes were next to the door, she wondered if she would be able to get out without notice.

She arrived home a scant 45 minutes before the party.  She would have to race upstairs and throw clothing on and leave.  There was no more time to fuss about pretty or makeup or hair.  It didn’t matter anyway.  She would no longer need to play that game.  Her husband was no where obvious so she assumed he was hanging out in his study.  He rarely came out unless he had to.
She knocked on his study door five minutes after getting home and softly said, “Honey, it’s time to leave.”  She stepped back and smiled at him.  “I’m ready for our next step together, darling.”
His mouth dropped in horror.  For his beautiful wife all of a sudden had a military style buzz cut.  He couldn’t quite catch his breath.  He saw the look of battle come into her eyes.  He knew in that moment that it wasn’t worth an argument.  This would be one he lost.  Besides, she got all that obsessive pretty crap from her mom anyway.  He caught his breath, reached out with his hand to turn her head from side to side. 
“You have such beautiful bones.  It’s nice watching you age.”
She closes her eyes and feels tears appear.  Damnit.  Really?  That is what he says?  When she opens her eyes again and looks at him he is smiling.
“I love you, Kate.  Let’s go.”