The List (#108)

The day Gram showed me her list, I was the only one home to see the note on the counter that read, “Meet at Hank’s for breakfast, 12:00?” It was already 11:30, so I quickly got ready and walked the short distance to our favorite diner on the boardwalk. Gram was already waiting at our favorite booth, fumbling with the purple bandana she wore on her head when it was too hot to rock a wig. She started talking the minute she saw me in the door, which meant by the time I slid into my side of the booth she was already mid-conversation.

“—thought you weren’t gonna make it, Meggy. You really should try and wake up a little earlier you know. Half of your sun time is already gone for the day! But no. worries, at least you made it in time. I already ordered your breakfast and if you didn’t show up, I would have to eat it all myself. Can you just picture Dr. Gray’s face if I told him I had not one, but two servings of cinnamon roll French toast? Hah!”

Before I had a chance to respond, she started rummaging through her purse and eventually came out with a few sheets of paper clipped together. I could tell by the look on her face that the conversation was about to get serious.

“Now Meghan,” she said to me, “People in our family have this annoying habit of dying young, and it looks like I’m gonna be one of them.” She paused here and took a bite of her breakfast, taking the time to find the perfect words before speaking again. Grandma rarely minced her words, so this must be a very important topic to her.

As she was thinking I looked down at my plate and thought of my Pappy who we lost a almost ten years ago,  and the rest of Grandma’s brothers and sisters who passed before I was even born. When I glanced up I caught Gram grimacing in pain the way she only did when she thought we weren’t looking.

“As much as you and I hate to admit it, it’s the truth,” she continued. “Ever since your Pappy died I vowed that I was going to make the most of however many years I had left. She unclipped the papers she had taken from her purse and spread them out on the table.  I looked down and saw of list of 100 things, neatly numbered in Gram’s precise handwriting.

“This is the list I made of all the things I planned on doing before I died, and I’ve been slowly crossing things off ever since.” She handed the list over to me, and as she was talking I started scanning the items.

“Grandma! Why is ‘dancing on a bar’ already crossed off? Does that say skinny dipping? Jesus Christ, Gram!” I look across the table at her, my shock clearly evident on my face. Who IS this woman?

“Don’t swear, Meg,” she scolds but her smile revealed that she was partially enjoying my response, “just because I’m old doesn’t mean that I forgot how to have fun!”

Jack (#65)

A bird-like shriek sounds from the kitchen, and I wander in to see whether a stray animal go in somehow, or if Gram’s cuckoo clock has decided to change its alarm once again. I step into the room just as the noise starts over and a small metallic seagull pops out for the next stroke.

When my grandparents decided to buy a beach house fifteen years ago, Gram made it her personal mission to hi every flea market, auction house, yard sale, and second-hand store in the tristate are to find the perfect furnishings for our family’s new vacation destination. Her efforts resulted in a house full of mismatched furniture and enough knick-knacks to keep us grandkids entertained for hours. Of these treasures, the beach themed cuckoo clock we inherited from an antique shop’s going out of business sale quickly became Gram’s favorite and most annoying household item. Aside from being so big it took up the entire kitchen wall, this clock also had the annoying habit of changing tones at random intervals. Just when you start getting used to the chimes and tuning them out, the next hour Jack the Seagull will bring an entirely new squawk to grab your attention. And yet, amongst Gram and Pappy’s mismatched home, this crazy clock somehow made sense.

However, in the bland townhouse we moved to after Gram’s passing, Jack’s changing chimes are maddening. But at least this stupid seagull made me check the clock where I saw that, as usual, I was running late to meet Rose on the boardwalk as promised.

 

 

Author’s Note: Like a lot of people know, I’ve been working on a draft of a book since I was sixteen. I haven’t gotten very far, because everytime I sit down I end up erasing everything I wrote last time. I’ve been particularly stuck on how I wanted it to start, but I think I might have finally found my beginning 🙂

Izzy (#59)

Growing up I never had a sister, but I did have my cousin Izzy. Her full name is Isabella Grace, but she says that sounds like the name of a classy Spanish princess, and she just can’t put that kind of pressure on herself. So it’s always been Izzy, sometimes Iz.

Grandma likes to call her “Dizzy Izzy,” because she always seems to be crashing into something in a constant swirl of motion. It’s true that she definitely knows how to make an entrance. Before she walks into a room, there’s usually this weird type of excited anticipation. No one knows what exactly is gonna happen, but with Izzy there it’s gonna be something extraordinary.

Izzy lives her life in varying degrees of extraordinary, just surfing along looking for the next Good Time. Luckily, Iz herself is pretty extraordinary, so she’s usually able to liven up even the most boring situations. Growing up with her was like growing up in a shadow of glitter, with her shine stretching just far enough to include me. Most of the time, it wasn’t too bad of a gig. It’s true that most of the time I was known as “Izzy’s cousin,” but I kinda liked the anonymity. I was able to fly under the radar occasionally, which is quite possibly something my cousin will never be able to experience in her whole life. She was made to be noticed.

But Izzy is a runner. As children, she’d try to run away anytime she got grounded. Later, in high school, she disappeared to the beach for two weeks because she didn’t want to have to deal with breaking up with her first boyfriend. When Grandma got sick, she ran away to the other side of the world. She chose backpacking through Europe over having to deal with the reality of our favorite human going through Chemo.

Whenever we go to the bar, Izzy likes to wear this old pair of ratty sneakers. She calls them her “lucky Chucks,” and says without them some of her magic would be gone. She claims that their power got her into bars at the age of 19, and that she knows a night is going to be special when she has them on. Like I said, Iz is only interested in the extraordinary. But I suspect her love for these sneakershas more to do with the fact that they’re already broken in, perfect for sprinting away if necessary.

When Grandma passed away, Izzy dragged herself back from The Netherlands for the funeral. She was visibly distressed the whole time and kept positioning herself closer to the door, looking for a way out. She knew where she belonged, but every instinct in her body was telling to go, to get out, to get as far away as possibly from the completely mundane experience of suffering.

This is the image I call to mind most often when I think about my Izzy: the frantic look in her eyes as she stood on the outside in a pair of old sneaks, poised and ready to run.

College 101: Falling in Love With Someone You Barely Know (#36)

It’s hard to learn when 5ft away sits the boy of my dreams. Well, at least the boy in my dreams. Two rows over, one row up–the perfect seat for casual observance in the general direction of the board. I know what you’re thinking, Sherlock Holmes must have learned his best detective skills from me.

By the second week of class I’ve learned that he has more than enough t-shirts to pair with his favorite American flag shorts, which are just short enough to show the bottom of some mysterious tattoo. Another week and I had fully utilized all the gifts a small, private education promised me and compiled a base profile based on rumors, yearbooks, and a particularly helpful link to a girl who used to be friends with his roommate’s ex-girlfriend.

The facts: named Richie, short for Richard after his father. He’s a Junior, but with a late summer birthday, so young enough to be a Sophomore. Former biology major, now studying Psychology, hence his presence in Dr. Diabolical’s Forensic Psych class. The rumors: 4 tattoos, including the aforementioned thigh tat. Friends with newly self-styled “Super Squad.” Clean dating record here at Cornfield University, presumed to be either gay or picky. Loves dogs, hates cats. Close to his mom, probably.

It is now a month into the semester and I have perfectly timed our entrance to coincide and a daily “oh excuse me.” I realize that this may sound pathetic, but this is an important step known in the spy world as “testing the waters.” Is he polite? Does he roll his eyes when he apologizes? Speaking of eyes, are his green or gray? Sometimes it’s hard to tell with the light from the window.

Our first test is two weeks from now and I have it on good intel that Richie-short-for-Richard will be going to the study group. This might be the perfect opportunity to activate Phase Two. I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

 

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer story I’ve been working on, just messing around trying to nail down my protagonist’s voice and what her deal is 🙂

Jane (#35)

When we were 7, my friend Jane and I climbed a couple branches too high on the old oak tree in her backyard and took a tumble. Looking back, I’m not really sure if it was an oak tree, but that’s what Jane called it: “the old oak.” I guess “the old cherry blossom” or “the old North American pine” didn’t have the same ring to it. Details aren’t really her thing, especially mundane ones.

Luckily, the old oak was in rough shape so a couple branches too high was really only 10ft off the ground. After the fall I was left with a broken nose that healed into a bump that gives my face a certain witch-like quality. Jane was left with a small, crescent shaped scar on right arm, up near her shoulder. Since then, she likes to wear tank tops and tell people how she got it. I’ve never heard her tell the same story twice.

Jane was good at seeing opportunities like this to be creative. Her favorite game to play is trying out a new name when she meets someone new. She’s always resented the plainness and anonymity of  her name. She prefers to be a Cecelia or a Cordelia or a Daisy, something memorable.  “Honestly,” she always says, “how many famous people are out there named Jane?”

It helps that she’s beautiful. Exceptionally beautiful, really. The type of non-threatening beautiful that makes people let her get away with stuff. I’ve known her since we were three years old, and I still find myself making excuses for her and getting prickly when I hear girls at the party whispering about her. Because Jane might be a pain in the ass, but Earth would be a whole lot duller without her.

It’s true that Jane might live half her time on the wrong side of reality, but at least she’s living . All day, every day she is making the most of her time on this planet. Jane is the ultimate yes-man. Everything is a possibility, every plan has some merit. Plus, she’s hysterical. Anyone who hasn’t sat down and listened to on of her stories will probably never know what it’s like to laugh so hard that tears are streaming down your face, your diaphragm is cramping up, and might have just peed yourself a little.

There’s no denying that Jane is the prettiest picture in whatever room she’s in. The picture you can’t help but comment on when you walk into the room. The picture that looks one way from far away, and a completely differently up close. The picture you wish you had a print of to hang in your own room.

She’s just hung a bit crookedly.