Archives for category: free story

I’ve had a lot going on lately. My mom’s health got so bad that I had to put her in a nursing home, after taking care of her by myself for many years. It’s a unique kind of heartbreak, when you watch someone you love so much become more and more dependent on you and then the realization comes that you can no longer provide the level of care that they need. I’m still adjusting and accepting the new reality we both face, and will probably write more about all that eventually. Right now I want to tell you about the way things that I thought of as separate merged recently. It’s been one of those times when life gets eerie and surreal.

Many years ago I started experimenting with flash fiction. A couple are deep in the archives here. There’s one in particular that I’ve been thinking about. I wrote it after an aunt I loved very much was stricken with Alzheimer’s. I never saw her when she had it, because she lived several states away. I spoke with her on the phone once, just as she was getting it. She was still herself, but very vague and forgetful. I’m glad that conversation became my last memory of her. This story isn’t about her. It was only vaguely inspired by her fate. And of course it’s certainly not about my mother, who was only recently diagnosed. That’s the thing. I had never been in constant contact with anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s, until my mother’s slow undiagnosed journey, then rapid decline. The story was my impression of what it might be like to live with a mother with Alzheimer’s. The eerie thing is that I got it so right. The mother isn’t my own mother and Caroline is not me, but they are too in a way. I think it turns out that they may be anybody’s mother and anybody’s daughter, bound by love and the past and the present. So my own fiction resonates with me, as if someone else wrote it. Perhaps someone else did. The person I was before my life made me more like Caroline than I could have ever imagined. Here’s a link, if you want to read it: To Smell the Roses Again

The movies part of the title of this post comes in after the nursing home became necessary. The need for distraction from stress and an unfamiliar kind of grief finds me watching TV and movies in the middle of the night, even more than usual. I picked a movie one night several days after my mom went to the nursing home. A random choice, I thought. Random choices can be tricky. What I watched was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. What could be more distracting? Science fiction, about sentient apes? Cool! It was cool all right. I had no clue, until I was watching it, that a subplot was that the lead scientist’s father had Alzheimer’s. I almost stopped watching it, when I realized where the plot was going, but stuck with it. By the time it was over I was glad I did. I really enjoyed the movie I’d gone so long without watching, in case it would somehow ruin my love of the original. No fear of that. It was such a drastic reboot that it was practically a whole new movie. And it handled its Alzheimer’s story so beautifully that it managed to be a bittersweet comfort to me that it made me feel better instead of worse over my own situation with my mom. Of course it also made me long for a real life cure. But that’s the stuff of science fiction and fantasy, until hopefully someday it moves into the realm of reality. Soon.

I really don’t understand how my real life experience with my beloved mother got bracketed so by my love of writing and movies. I also don’t understand at all why life has to be so hard sometimes. Or how such a difficult time finds comfort in moments when writing and real life and movies merge.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Official Trailer HD

Coffee with Virginia Woolf
by
Muri McCage

Kerri was having coffee with Virginia Woolf.  Of course, Virginia wasn’t drinking any because she was in printed form, and Kerri was engrossed in the deceptively simple life of Mrs. Ramsay.  She sat hunched over the open pages, the noisy ambiance of the city street all but disappearing into the greater mental clamour created by the beauty of Woolf’s prose.  Lingering over a particularly lovely description of Mr. Ramsay’s features, Kerri sighed wistfully.

Just as she was reading of Mrs. Ramsay’s visit to the colorful and enticing harbor, Kerri caught a glimpse of a man’s face as he passed by.  Something made her look up fully, and try to locate the momentary attraction.  She saw a casually dressed older man striding purposefully down the sidewalk.

She shrugged and almost went back to the well worn first edition–found treasure from one of the antique book shops she loved to prowl.  Instead, a sudden flash of his features threw itself into her brain, as if a movie were being projected there.  With a gasp Kerri leapt from her seat, and hurried down the sidewalk after him, abandoning Mrs. Ramsay and her houseguests.

Realizing she still clutched her sloshing coffee cup, she tossed it into a nearby trash can, and quickly covered the distance between them.
“Excuse me. Sir?”

“Yes?”  He turned, with a polite smile.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but have we met?  You look awfully familiar.”  Lame, Kerri.  Lame.

He studied her for a moment, a fragment of the smile lingering to turn to slight puzzlement.  “Why no, I don’t think so.”

“Oh.”  She didn’t know what to do next.  He was about to leave and she’d never have the chance again.

The pleasantly weathered features cleared.  “Ah.  I teach law at the university.  Perhaps you’ve seen me there.”

“Perhaps.”  Inspiration struck.  “Actually, I’m thinking of going to law school.  I must have seen you when I toured the campus.”

“Of course.”  Still friendly, slightly dismissive, he glanced at his watch.

“I’m sorry, but I must go.  Young minds await, and all that.”

“Sure.  Well, maybe I’ll see you around.  If I end up there.”

An absent nod, as he took out a worn wallet and offered her a crisp, white card with businesslike lettering.  “Here, have this.  If you decide to attend here, and need advice about classes please look me up.  I try to help the students any way I can.”

Kerri took the card, barely even breathing.  “Thanks.”

They stood there for another awkward moment, and she waited for him to walk out of her life again.  Impulsively, she stuck out a hand.  When he automatically shook it, she grasped the warm, strong fingers for a second too long.  She couldn’t help it, and he didn’t seem to notice.

She watched as he hurried across the street, then looked down at her fingers.  They seemed to radiate warmth, and imagined love.  She could hardly believe she’d been so close to the father she had only seen in the one photograph her mother owned. 

Once he was lost in the crowd, Kerri went back to her table, but she closed the soft, leather cover on Mrs. Ramsay with her embroidery hoop, the tangy sea air, and the lighthouse across the water.  There was too much on her mind to read anymore.  She was too busy trying to figure out how she was going to afford law school.

Related Post–Flash Fiction–To Smell the Roses Again

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     Caroline shouldered her way through the library door, arms laden with all manner of books.  There were novels and coffee table books about flowers and travel, volumes of poetry and stories of girls and their horses, anything she could think of that might spark a gleam of interest in the fading blue of her mother’s eyes. 

She paused to draw in an appreciative lungful of crisp, invigorating air, and admire the bright blue sky.  It contrasted appealingly with the colorful leaves of ornamental trees that lined the drive, azure, bronze, and maple red rubbing shoulders dramatically.  Fall had been her favorite time of year, but lately she found herself longing for the sense of renewal accompanied by spring. 

Fighting off a fleeting surge of reluctance, she went to the small haven that was her car, and drove home.  As she entered her apartment, the scent of baking apples welcomed her, but she knew it was only a candle burning in unconscious mockery. 

“Hello, Miss Caroline!”  The motherly woman who met her with a smile and a quick hug also mimicked what might have been.  What had been, once upon a time.

“Good evening, Betsy.  How is…everything?”

Betsy shrugged minutely.  “Pretty good.  We’ve had worse days.  ‘Night.”

She eased out the door, leaving Caroline to dump the books onto the hall table and walk alone to the chair by the living room window.  Caroline knelt to hug the frail figure seated there, but the elderly woman jerked free and looked up with almost feral alarm.

“Who are you?”

Ignoring the sharp fear in the petulant voice, Caroline swallowed back her deep hurt and backed off.  “It’s me, Mom.  Caroline.”

Immediate calm.  “My little Caroline?  How was your day, dear?  Did you pass your test?”

“Yes, Mom, I passed.”

“Oh, good!  I knew you could.  Math was always so hard for me.  But your father…”

“Yes, Mom, I remember.  He was a pip!”

“Pip?  Mama…?  Did Pip get out of his pen again?”

“No, Pip is fine.”  Long experience had taught Caroline to play along.  “Everything is all right.”

“Mama?  Tell me a story.  About a long time ago.”

Caroline slipped into the persona of her maternal grandmother.  She had heard the stories so often from this lovely, lost woman before her that she could tell them in her sleep.  She sat on the ottoman by her mother’s chair, and placed an arm around the familiar shoulders. 

“One day your father was in a hurry to go to work, and without looking, put goop in his hair.  Then he realized he had slicked down his thick, wavy hair with Pop’s denture cream!  He  tried for two days to get it out but he just kept looking like Albert Einstein with a bad hair day!”

Her mother clapped her hands. 

“And that’s when he started wearing a crew cut!”

“That’s right!”

They laughed together for a time.  Then her mother stilled, and grew wistful.

“Tell me about the roses, Mama.  That’s my favorite.”

“When I was a girl, my friends and I would cut the last of the roses.” 

Caroline closed her eyes, imagination drenched in the past. 

“We took them to the little meadow down by the creek, and spread them out all over the grass.  A carpet of roses, all colors, different scents, perfect and so beautiful that it was as if we were in a dream.

“We’d have a tea party, every single year since we were just children until we all grew up and life kept us from it.  Always the same place, always the final roses…the smell was like a living thing…”

Caroline kissed the soft, pink cheek and shivered a little.  It was as if three generations occupied the twilight shadows instead of two–grandmother, mother, and daughter–all linked by memories, and love, and the brief, cherished stepping out of time, to smell the roses again.