2 Short Stories

Her life ran a predictable path of mostly mundane events: drive there, deliver this, return to home, clean up messes, drive, retrieve, drive.

Every day ran round to the next. Every day ran much the same.

At nearly midlife, she had an epiphany: maybe everyone’s life is mostly mundane.

She shrugged, and continued loading groceries into her car.

~~~~~~

He knew the aliens were gonna get him soon. They’d left signs of their intent everywhere.

“Aha!” he said, pointing to broken bathroom tiles.

“There!” The side of his trailer bore a suspicious gash.

“Struck again!” he told his fellow truckers. Part of his load had spoiled; “Dern aliens” interfered with the refrigeration.

“I knew it!” he finally exclaimed, holding his pink slip. Reasons for dismissal? Damages to a rest stop restroom, damages to company property, and damages to merchandise.

“I’ll get you yet,” he mumbled, startling a passerby.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Real Life vs. The Blogosphere

The world’s a strange place. Connected beyond imagination, our real lives involve separation and loneliness.

When I was a child, I’d visit my neighbors. The old woman around the corner was a round, loud person with a slight, soft-spoken husband. He puttered around their yard and house, repairing and fixing and amusing himself. She’d invite me in to their homespun, soft-furnitured living room and insist I eat the cookies she’d just made.

They kept a dog or two. Whenever we played outside in our backyard, the dogs would bark. Sure enough, after a few rounds of yip-yip-yip, we’d hear her screech, “Skipper! Quiet!” I could imitate her tone and inflection; still can.

Nowadays, my neighbors are more reclusive. I still try to visit them. I plan a block party each summer. But, it’s different. It’s isolated. It’s even a bit cold.

One time, bearing the Christmas cookie plate I make and gift every year, I rang my neighbors who never come out and socialize. They’d just installed a door camera, I noted. I could hear it whirring as the focus changed, probably recording me. Their teenage daughters’ cars were out front. Their interior lights were on. I could hear their talking before I rang. Yet, no one answered.

Resisting my inner child’s urge to do something less kind, I left the plate on their porch and went back home.

It’s different. It’s rude.

I feel a similar confusion and slight affront where my writing’s concerned. Here, on my blog, I post every day. I write about my thoughts and feelings, my ideas, my odd story plots, my poetry, and -most vulnerably- my depression.

Occasionally, I share what I write to my Facebook page. Like, my personal one that everyone who is my ‘friend’ can read. All of my neighbors are ‘friends,’ although I happen to know they don’t read what I write. Only when I announce I’m having a baby do about a fourth of my ‘friends’ (130ish) click that little Like.

The rest of the time, about 30 people respond.

If I write something depressive, about 8.

In real life, sometimes 1 or 2 come up and say something.

I wonder what things would have been like if I’d become an adult fifty years ago, or even twenty. My mom would tell me that her mom’s neighbors met every morning for coffee. My grandmother said she and the kids of her childhood played jacks together. My husband’s grandmother sat outside with the other mothers in their complex at college, while their children all played in the central courtyard.

Different times. Warmer times.

This age allows me an outlet I wouldn’t have had fifty years ago, or even twenty. Instead of living in the isolation of my two-story house with only the dishes and laundry for company, I have you all.

But, I often wonder, why don’t I have those who are closer? Why don’t they notice? Why don’t they care?

Maybe it’s the cookies.

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Here’s what I wrote this week:

Wednesday, January 15: Examined the differences between the sexes in “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (and I’m Adrift in Space).”

Thursday, January 16: Throwback to how to write poetry with “A Muse, The Blues, Some Clues -AKA How to Write Poetry.”

Friday, January 17: Posted the winners of this week’s “Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest.” Congratulations to AnneMichael, and Rob.

Saturday, January 18: Announced the 55th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is what paradise looks like to you. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, January 19: “A Small Protest,” in response to Carrot Ranch’s prompt.

Also, “How Much is That Poem in the Window?,” in response to Crispina Kemp’s prompt photo.

Monday, January 20: An inspirational quote from Almost Iowa.

Tuesday, January 21: Poemed “As I Lay, Here.”

Wednesday, January 22: This post, plus “The Island Getaway, a Continued Story (My Part).”

I also published a bit on my motherhood site. I wrote “Did You Go Swimming Today? and Other Post-Delivery Fallacies” and “Short, Sweet, Sleep.”

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Photo Credit: BBH Singapore

How Expensive is This Happiness Thing?

They say that money can’t buy happiness, but I only halfway agree.

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True; money doesn’t directly purchase a meaningful relationship with another person, a healthy child who grows up to support and love you, the satisfaction of completing a challenging job, nor creating something with your own hands.

It does pay for the braces, beauty products, restaurant food, cell phones, wedding, new spouse’s parents’ costs, anniversaries, random presents, midlife marriage counseling, throw pillows, curtains, rediscovery vacations, and all the ending of life costs -that facilitate a meaningful relationship with another person.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

think I’m saying money is necessary for happiness. You can’t be happy with no money to speak of or not enough for your needs. Heck, life’s difficult with not enough to cover the cost of a few wants, too.

What about a couple who really wants to have a child, yet can’t afford expensive IVF treatments or adoption? Or that retired guy who just wants a place to live amongst ever-rising house prices? Or the kids who grow up with terrible friends in a bad neighborhood because the parents worked two jobs, put them in the local (awful) daycare, could not pay for sports programs, and felt too depressed themselves to listen to their children’s needs?

Are they happy?

I know, I know. Mr. Optimist says they could be. They could find their happy place even in a sad, little, dark corner of the world in which they sit with rising medical costs for a genetic disease that prevents them from working so they can’t even buy decent housing and food nor meet anyone who wants to be friends.

…That may have been Sadness talking.

To play my own devil’s advocate, the reverse of my argument may also be true. I mean, I have enough money. I live a really cushy life compared to most people in the world. Yet, I’m not happy. A good chunk of that is beating myself up for not being happy despite having such an easy life, but we might want to get into that in another post.

I believe my point is that money is essential for happiness. One needs to spend it in the right way and with the right attitude, but cannot be happy without it.

What do you think?

—————

Think about it and let me know. For now, here’s my previous week, free of charge:
Wednesday, January 23: Several helpful friends helped solve whodunit in “It’s All a Mystery.”
Thursday, January 24: “The Cure for Depression: Connect with a Human,” the first tip in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, January 25: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to D. Wallace Peach!
Saturday, January 26: Announced the tenth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Enter it!
And, “Insided Out,” self-reflection at an internal, emotional level.
Sunday
, January 27: “Grandma’s Tears” for Carrot Ranch‘s flash fiction prompt.
Monday, January 28: A great quote from Len about love and marriage.
Tuesday, January 29: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty One.”
Also, “A Head Start on the Day?” at my mothering blog.
Wednesday, January 30: Today!

It’s All A Lie

I just love life aphorisms. I love them about as much as the daily grind of housework that regenerates every five seconds.

“Don’t worry; everyone feels that way.”

Really? If everyone felt the way I do, the world would be on fire. At the very least, I would not see so many smiling people getting out of the house and purchasing avocados for their lunch break.

In an actual session, my counselor voiced this advice. “I don’t think that’s true,” I countered. “Most people, when asked about a recent vacation, don’t go on about world disparity.” She laughed, and I noticed she didn’t disagree. Face it: everyone does not feel the way I do.

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“People will love you for who you are.”

No, people will not. People sense or see or smell the negative vibes emanating from my socially-anxious person before I even speak about world disparity. I see it in the falter of their smile (if it was there), in the excuse to go… anywhere and get out of the conversation.

Close family members are the only ones to use “love” with me, and do so with hesitation. I can tell they expect that world-burning explosion part of me to bite them in response. I probably ought to stop doing that…

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“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Yeah, maybe after the laundry is done. Even then, ‘anything I set my mind to’ is probably going to be an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom.

I’ve thought of writing a bestseller, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve considered a job outside the house, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve also toyed around with going back to school, but that requires an insane amount of debt and daycare and emotional stress on family life.

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“We only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

I regret everything. I second-guess myself before the chance, during it, and after it’s passed.

Besides, in my profession as mother, I can’t simply decide to be a roving gypsy. Child Protective Services frowns upon decisions like that.

 

Perhaps good advice works; you know, for ‘everyone.’ For me and others who may view things similarly, what do you say? “Tomorrow is another day?” Of course it is, stupid. Yesterday was another day, too.

There’s got to be an evolutionary advantage to cynicism, right?

Do You Believe in Magic?

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Here, he sits. The screen reflects his fat fingers, his glasses, his balding head.
Between lines of numbered reports, his memory sees small hands, perfect sight, full hair. Laughter.

There, she pauses. Against the mopped floor rest her orthopedic shoes, her sore cankles, her ample midsection.
Mundane mind-wanderings recall barefoot summers, skinny legs, an inverted belly button. Happiness.

Where, do we stand? Honest bathroom mirrors capture our eye lines, our neck bulges, our long wrinkly faces.
Fleeting cognizance remembers smooth skin, thin necks, unblemished features. Smiles.

Fairy dust? Hardly. Evaporating imagination pulls us ever farther from Never-Neverland.

 

Carrot Ranch Literary Society Prompt

Flights of Antsy

I used to be able to fly. I would run fast; faster -scissoring my legs and gaining altitude till I could coast in the wind.

My airstrip was the front lawn of my childhood home, the one with the steep hill. Or, it was the field with trees by my junior high school so I could fly into them and hide from my pursuers. Once, I was over a desert landscape and flew out of my kidnappers’ helicopter, landing amidst skittering sands.

Yes, usually my dreams involved exciting adrenaline escapes from hopeless prisons. I was contained for how special I was with all my powers. Sometimes I knew I must get out or my parents and siblings would get hurt as threats to me.

I passed a few years dreaming in solitude, but problems began to creep in. One time, I had to escape and ensure I also freed my helpless child. In a later dream, I tried to run but was literally dragged down by three dependents. I searched around in panic, mentally calculating the odds and knowing that it was impossible with so many.

Now, I rarely sleep well enough for my mind’s movie projector to work. When I am treated to an exclusive showing, the picture is blurry or I can’t save the world because the chores weren’t done.

Even my imagination has become hampered by the sludge of the everyday.

Normal?

I come from a proud heritage of screwed-upedness. Most of my close ancestors have been religious, so the party hasn’t been as raucous as it had potential to be.

Still, I’ve spent the younger years of my life in anticipation of a horrid emotional surprise. Each year brings ever closer the question of whether I may finally be classified as a mental condition.

Do I have Depression? Anxiety? Social anxiety? Ooh! Maybe I can be diagnosed with a cocktail of disorders I’ve not yet heard of!

A cocktail is what to expect when one applies to a psychiatrist -one of medications.

I learned, in school, that a person is defined as having a mental condition when said condition interferes with normal life. And so, each day that is a bit more difficult than others, I wonder if I’ve finally crested the abnormal wave.

“Everyone feels that way,” I’m reassured, by a spouse who does not spend the morning crying.

“Oh, I’ve had those days,” says my neighbor, from her newly-decorated sitting room. I haven’t gotten around to mine for …four years.

Eventually, one of my children brings a true threat of fratricide within earshot, and I have to leave my self-pity rut.

It’s still there, though. Even a medicinal mix wouldn’t erase it. I often feel that drugs create potholes in other locations: side effects fallout.

What is normal?

How do I get there?

The Saddest Song

The saddest song does not sing truth.
The wittiest writing is not the wisest.
The loudest voice is not correct.
The strongest shove does not show strength.
Yet
We cry, and pay the weeping beggar.
We laugh, and share the snarky satire.
We turn and listen to the yelling.
We vote for the bully to be in charge.