Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the tag “Characters”

Day 119: Another Try at Brevity (100WordStory.org) — “One Tree So Ready for Fall”

[100 Word Story]

Photo Prompt


September prompt

Photo Credit: Hamish Irvine

“I’ll bring my future kids here,” Jil says, passing the joint. “Otherwise, that sick fuck wins. Kids stay inside now, getting fat. Diabetes!”

“I saw that show,” someone says.

Others kick a ball around. I watch a tree lose a leaf.

“Once he’s found, send him the medical bills!” cries another. “Then hang … .”

I interrupt: “Maybe they’re inside because it’s colder?”

“What?!” Jil demands.

“And time to eat?”

“I’m not cold,” she says, “but it is around dinner time.”

Then bath time.

Another leaf goes — funny, one tree so ready for fall, others holding fast to green.


Day 117 (Writing Challenge) — Be Brief: “Thank you for the shoes.”

You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.


Lost letter


Randall picked up the letter, thinking at first he had just dropped it. “One of my notes, you know.” This is what he told us.

Everyone knows the deal. He’s surrounded at all times, wherever he goes, by little — often incomplete — “notes” (to self): reminders (e.g., 10 am Tues, next to B’s), interesting bits of conversation (e.g., “she knows exactly what she’s doing”), movies he hopes to see (“Julia,” WA’s “Hotel…”), etc. They’re all over his house, he says, never to be seen again, “or, when they do resurface, I can’t remember what they’re about.” Ha-ha-ha. He leaves a trail of them in his wake, too, languishing under seats in friends’ cars, tangled up with crumpled napkins after dinners out, to be dealt with by housekeeping after work meetings (along with emptied sugar packets, presentation print-outs, etc.), stuck to the bottoms of people’s shoes after happy hours, wherever. “Whatever! Ha-ha.”

Some may even be “loosed into the great yonder,” he used to like saying, dislodged as he rummages through his man purse (I used to like saying), looking for his cell phone, credit card, hand sanitizer, mace, trademark handkerchief, or “a pen and more little bits of paper on which to write more notes!!!” (Loosed? Really?) And then who knows where they end up, “caught by the wind, carried off by a bird? Ha.”

These are the kinds of things he’s said about his notes. And then, also: “That’s fine.” “So what?” or “It’s not like I will ever miss them.” They are merely “the marginalia” of his life, neither precious nor trivial, he’s explained, simply the overflow of an overactive, unusually creative mind that is headed, fast, toward a “terminal sum.” His father, a plumber, used to use that term in association with particularly gruesome jobs. “I like to imagine what the old man would think of my novel! Hmmmm.”

Blah, blah, blah.

So I had to ask, having endured all of this talk over so many years, as we all have — almost as much about his tiresome notes as about his supposed novel: “So why did you pick it up, if you thought it was just another one of your notes?”

I was being mean.

Rachel and Merke stiffened. Lucia waved the waiter over. “Another order of mussels,” she said. “Make it two,” said Merke.

Randall’s eyes started to glisten. He smiled a little, looked down at the empty bowl at the center of the table. “They are good tonight,” he said. “The mussels.”

When we were young and new to each other, newer to life, I once spent the night at Randall’s. It was nothing romantic, just one of those nights when the conversation goes on so long that you feel, as you come to the end of it, that you’ve been traveling by foot for days and days and must sleep. He told me all about his father, and mother, that night and about the novel (same story) and the notes (same story). I remember looking around and thinking, yes, there were plenty of places here where a note could hide or get lost forever. Just before I fell asleep, Randall began talking again.

“But one might be caught by the wind, one day, or carried off by a bird … to be discovered by someone on the other end, who might want to know more. Or simply to connect.”

“One what?” I thought I asked aloud, but maybe I just thought it. I was hardly awake.

“A bird brings you a note and you open it up. Right? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t? No one. And you see … nothing really, just a fragment of a message, nothing that makes any sense at all to you. A bird’s come all this way to bring you nonsense? What a travesty. When I think of this person, I wish I’d been clearer in my note, said something more, something of value, maybe included my email address? When I think of this person, I want to cry. Really.”

“Me too,” I said. And then I was out. We never talked about this again, exactly, not to this extent. And remembering it now (… “simply to connect”), I felt a little sick. What happens to us?

Randall let out a long, deep sigh and placed an envelope on the table. It looked nothing like his notes. He then picked it up again and showed us the front and the back. It had the makings of an address on the front; on the back, someone — maybe an 8- or 9-year-old — had drawn a picture of a smiling girl, all dressed up. The shoes were especially detailed. Fancy.

The mussels arrived.

“Well, was there anything in it? A letter?” I asked, as the others began digging in.

Without a word, he opened the envelope, which had clearly been sealed at one time, and very gently removed a folded piece of lined, three-ring paper, holding it away from the steaming plates.

“It’s nothing really,” he said, “just so sweet is all. Silly-sweet.” He paused to wipe his eyes beneath his glasses with his handkerchief. “Oh my God, why am I crying?” he said,  now starting to laugh.

“Dear Mommy,” he began. And then there were more more tears. Rachel wiped her hand on the tablecloth, still holding her tiny mussel fork in the other, and placed it softly on his shoulder, which I was happy for.

“Dear Mommy,” he repeated. “Thank you for the shoes. I love them and they are just the right size for my little sister, Bea. I drew a picture of her on the back. She wears them every day. I love you and now Bea does too. Thank you for the shoes. Love, Rose.”

I’m pretty sure Merke stopped chewing a mussel half-way through then. Rachel set down her tiny fork. Lucia looked down at her hands, folding and unfolding and refolding her napkin. Everyone was quiet for a few moments.

“That is sweet,” said Merke. The others nodded. “You found it where…?”

Randall mumbled something incoherent as he began rummaging through his bag.

“May I, Randall?” I asked, reaching for the envelope, which was still on the table. Randall gave a quick nod, never taking his eyes off my hands, the envelope. I moved slowly, carefully.

I held it toward the light. “Oh, I know this place. My old office-mate, Alec, works there now. I’ll talk to him first thing and I bet we can get this to … the mommy.”

“Yes,” said Randall, carefully folding the letter now and reaching for the envelope. “Let’s try.”


Note: This little story, which I tried to make brief, was inspired by my friend’s little story about receiving a text that was obviously meant for someone else: “Thank you for the shoes.” We laughed about it but were both touched by it too. Not sure why. I’ll have to double-check, but I’m pretty sure she texted the person back to let them know their message had not reached the intended recipient. This friend is nothing like Randall.


Day 76 (Weekly Challenge): Ray Bradbury Twist — coins, balcony, Greece, suspicion, mother

Russell[I know this is a week late, but it was a STUMPER. Hope you enjoy…]

Ray Bradbury Twist: … “In today’s challenge we’ll ask you to write a new post using some nouns from various sources.”


Once, during a summer vacation in Greece when Russell was nine or ten, he had just placed a row of twelve Greek coins along the railing of the balcony off the family’s hotel suite. He stood back a bit, in the open doorway, to take a look—mesmerized at the sight of the gold-colored disks, all fired-up by the sun against an impossibly blue sky. Then, hearing the laughter of kids just below, he went to the railing and saw two boys very nearly his own age, Greeks, chasing a skinny dog with a stick. They weren’t hitting the dog, Russell could see, just playing. Maybe a game of fetch was about to begin?

The taller boy noticed Russell watching them and called out to him, spoke, happy and encouraging sounds Russell didn’t understand. Were they inviting him to come play? Russell retreated into the shadows at first, but then moved back into the sunlight… and further still. Then, as he leaned over the railing a bit—with a vague hope of communicating or connecting somehow—he accidentally knocked four of the coins from the railing to the ground below. The boys abruptly stopped their play then; even the dog froze. Everyone stared at the coins.

Russell allowed the memory to play itself out in his mind now, as he often did, knowing that it would restore him to his preferred frame of mind. He and his wife, Melody, were on their way to his mother’s house, where she was throwing an elaborate baby shower for their expected. He could already see his mother scrutinizing the offerings, poking around for gift slips. His throat tightened.

Most people, in Russell’s experience, were generally good, often generous — cool about most things. And Russell was often perplexed by the generally suspicious and paranoid attitudes many people displayed toward others. His own parents were his earliest and most enduring examples. His father, Ernie, who had been an FBI agent for decades before becoming some kind of securities consultant, had seemed convinced that Melody, Russell’s wife of five years now,  had married him for something other than the usual reason(s). He’d never come out and said it, but Russell — everyone — gathered it from comments that were so embarrassing to Russell, not only because they seemed completely unfounded to all who knew the couple, but also because they were in such bad taste, stupid, made his dad look like a total dumb ass (and himself, he feared in the moment, by extension).

It started when they were dating, comments to Melody: “I don’t know why a nice kindergarten teacher would choose a UPS delivery guy for a boyfriend. I guess he’s got a nice package.” Ernie repeated some version of this “joke” during the wedding toast. And this was basically the same way he talked about Michelle, Russell’s mother. He often alluded to her undying passion for his bank account and lusty glances at the bulge in his pocket: “my wallet, that is! Ha ha ha!” And when she introduced him to anyone as her husband, he’d say, “I believe that’s pronounced ‘Has been.'” To be fair, Russell understood his father may have had some reasons for feeling this way about his mother, but why had he stood for it? Why hadn’t he tried for something better, with her even. Maybe things could have been different, but — thinking of Michelle now, Russell had to admit — probably not. In any case, finally he came to see that his dad was a child and woman hater to boot. He could and would leave the old man behind, not long after his mother did.

Michelle was a rarer case, much harder to figure, march harder to ditch. For whatever reason, she had tried to school Russell from a very young age in the art of hiding, expertly, just about anything—including himself, if needed. “Whatever it is you have, there’s always going to be someone, somewhere, who wants it,” she’d explained on many occasions. “And more often than not, they’ll try to take it if they think they can get way with it. This doesn’t make them bad, just human. People are like this. Don’t try to kid yourself into thinking otherwise. Don’t be a fool — that’s the very, very worst you can do with your life: live like the world was the way you wish it was.”

Back to Greece…. Before Russell could utter any of the few Greek words he knew, the boys, who Russell understood even then to be poor, ran to where the coins lie shining on the dusty ground and scooped them up. Each boy, holding two coins in his hand, looked at the other and after an almost imperceptible nod, the taller one smiled up again at Russell.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said in English, pointing to the other boy and then to himself, and then to Russell also—followed by something in Greek and laughter. But it was merry laughter, Russell always recalled, nothing dark there. They took off then toward the market square with the dog running close behind, leaving their stick where the coins had been.

“Thank you,” the boy shouted again from a distance. Both waved their hands, then both their hands, and then both their arms with such enthusiasm, their whole bodies whipped about, their feet seemed briefly to leave the ground.

Russell waved back, smiling too (to himself? maybe …). He felt happy, even though he guessed maybe they’d sort of gotten the better of him. He imagined what they would do with the coins, which he knew were worth something, the foods they might buy in the market, and the story they’d tell over a special meal that very night. What he would give to be there, even to watch from nearby or hear about it the next day — just a small piece of that warm, noisy scene he imagined would have been enough.

Russell’s mother suddenly appeared in he door way. He wasn’t sure what she’d seen, but judging from the way she was looking at him, he guessed not much.

“I’m going to take a picture of you and your coins,” she said, setting her cigarette in a tray. “Stand with your arm out above them, like you’re giving us a peek at what’s hidden in your cape.” Russell did as directed but shuffled sideways a bit to obscure the actual number of coins, just in case his mother had been keeping track.

“Oh, this is going to be really cute. I’m going to caption it ‘Russy’s treasures.’” She went on: “Those are your treasures, just like you are mine: my gold coin, shining in the sun.” She kept her eyes on him, smiling, waiting, he thought, as she struggled to replace the lens cap without looking down at it.

“Thank you,” Russell finally said, quietly, shifting his gaze to the lens cap.

“You betcha,” said his mother, clicking the cap into place, and then shifting her attention to her own long arms. They had become a rosy brown in the days since their arrival. “This sun likes me,” she said dreamily, but then suddenly, jabbing a finger toward Russell’s coins, her new bracelets clinking together: “Before I forget: make sure before we go to dinner that you hide those coins like I showed you.”

Russell said he would. But when the family was eating, he remembered that although he’d carefully collected the remaining coins from the railing, he’d neglected to hide them, leaving them on top of his dresser instead. When the family returned, the room was tidied, the beds were made, all was fresh again, but the coins were gone. In a momentary panic, Russell considered stealing a necklace from the market square at his earliest opportunity so that if his mother asked about the coins, he wouldn’t need to reveal the disappointing truth, could say he spent them on a gift for her. But it passed—the panic, the trip, the rosy brown tan. She never asked about the coins. And life brought more treasures, an endless supply of new things to hide, Michelle would say, while Russell continued to do a pretty crummy job of hiding them. Ahhh, well.

As Russell and Melody pulled into the driveway where a spot had been saved for them, they both laughed to see Artie, a teacher from the school where Melody worked, as he clowned with the large package he had just hauled out of the trunk, pretending to struggle beneath its weight Buster Keaton-style. So many friends had made it out to the island for this special day — it was hard for Russell not to blush a little, a life-long habit he’d tried to rid himself of through a variety of techniques including hypnosis and others he’d never admit. The blush faded when he spotted Michelle, the only reliable cure, immaculate in her immaculate surrounds, perfect in a simple pale blue sheath that probably cost more than Melody’s car.

Bored of the guests already, he supposed, but far from through with her surveillance activities, she stood arms folded squarely to the side of the door, which her “new friend” Francis opened and reopened for the guests after she herself greeted them, thanked them for coming. She would remember any who had been there before to visit with Russell in the summer, the exact year and month, and mention a charming detail or two. But her eyes remained otherwise locked on Russell’s little family, alone, as they made their way closer: her treasures, her gold coins shining in the sun.

Day 4: Mind Reader (Daily Prompt): The Wavee

TheWaveeFor today, instead of reporting the usual (of which there was plenty), I thought I’d try a bit of writing (and a bit of drawing, only because I couldn’t find anything that fit). Here’s my response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt:

Who’s the last person you saw before reading this prompt? Whether it’s a family member, a coworker, or a total stranger, write a post about what that person is thinking right now.

Mind Reader (Daily Prompt): The Wavee

There’s your nod. Fine. Good day, Ms. But why must you … Why must she, that woman in the silver car, wave at us like that every time she passes? Why so eagerly?

I can clearly see that she’s smiling too, every time, her large white teeth gleaming through the windshield. She even toots her little horn on occasion. Not today, but she has before, more than just a few times. What could she possibly see in my customary nod (all she’ll ever get from me) that she finds so apparently delightful, so encouraging? I cannot imagine. Now, I don’t mind a neighborly wave. It’s the eagerness here that I question, and the occasional tooting. Why? What’s it about? Who is it for, really?

I am not an unsociable person, am I, little friend? Why, no — exactly. I am not. We had a rough start, you and I, and because of that, I’d say you know better than anyone now that I am incapable even of true unpleasantness.

The thing is that we — the waver and I — don’t even know each other. We have never spoken — except that one time, years ago. And that was all about Furbies (Furbys?). The dogs’ leashes became entangled when we passed on the sidewalk, and as our two companions slipped into easy “conversation,” I could not think of a thing to say — except “Furby,” in response to the waver’s asking my dog’s name. Not that my reticence mattered one bit, the way the waver went on and on and on after that.

She could not stop talking, do you remember, Furby? A plane could have come in for a landing on the street right next to us, and she wouldn’t have missed a beat. I’m sure of that.

Oh, she had a Furby once!  (This is a plush interactive toy, I have since learned.) And now, she was saying, so did all of her children and — big mistake (what was she thinking?) — because …. “Did you ever actually spend time with a Furby?” (Had I ever actually … what?) She was looking me right in the eye then, Furby, and I admit I looked away, down at you dogs, actually, still happily sniffing away at each other.

Before I could answer, the waver went on: “Don’t,” she said emphatically, almost gravely, “if there’s any way at all to avoid Furbies, the toys I mean, do it! Consider yourself warned… .” And then she laughed, so sudden and shrill the sound, it startled us. You might not remember this, friend, but you growled a little growl, which says a lot coming from you. But then you got back to the business of fun, smart boy, because the waver kept on going. Indeed, she did.

“You buy them — and mind you, they’re not cheap — thinking they’re going to keep your kids entertained for hours, but one Furby is even more demanding than three kids put together. I think they’ve done studies. So, my point is: three kids plus three Furbies?! Forget it!She laughed again, same laugh, but we were prepared this time. Then, though, do you remember this? She held up her hand and waved it almost violently, as if to wave away any plans I might have to run out and purchase three Furbies — of which I still had no real understanding. I think it was I who almost growled this time, Furby — huh, huh.

But … I also remember, just now, how small, delicate, and gentle-looking the hand was. She’d been waving to us already for years, but I’d never been close enough to notice. I felt my face flush and looked toward the dogs, bounding about in their natural spring-time joy, and then toward home, just a few blocks away. We will be there soon, I remember thinking, and the waver took a breath, maybe her first since she started talking. She did continue, once again, but her voice was softer now, her words slower. “”Yeah, forget that,” she repeated. “Just stick with one Furby, your Furby there, and you’ll be fine.” I watched as she repositioned her other hand on the handle of the leash, and smiled down at our dogs.

I almost smiled, Furby, but then she said, almost hysterically: “Especially because some of them turn mean. I know, I know!” — more laughing then — “Sounds crazy, but I’m totally serious. A mean toy!? Kinda defeats the whole purpose, don’t you think? Mostly, though, it’s just the nonstop chatter — gotta be the most annoying toy on earth.” She then proposed that perhaps someone like me would find Furbies even more annoying than she, didn’t she? Someone like me.

Suddenly quiet, she stooped to untangle the leashes and I thought I heard her say something like: “I bet you were some kind of professor. Philosophy? No, economics! History?” I didn’t have a chance to answer before she was on her way again. “Okay, then,” she chirped, “only one Furby for you! Promise me!” I believe I nodded, Furby, which she wouldn’t have seen, so no matter.

As I reached the edge of our yard, mine and Furby’s, I remember turning to see the waver waving — at another silver car, incidentally, containing another waving woman. (Toot!) You might have heard me laugh out loud, Furby.

We’ve had some fun, haven’t we, despite our rough start? My wife, Ellen, she would have loved you straightaway, but I could not. I have always said, and believe still, pets are not appropriate as gifts — especially perhaps from an ex-daughter-in-law, especially perhaps so soon after she became an ex … and under those particular circumstances, especially perhaps within days of Ellen’s last day in this world. Not appropriate! And I would say the same even if you hadn’t come in need of shots, neutering, and all that house-breaking and even if you hadn’t come pre-named by my then 5-year-old grandson, whose own Furby is surely long gone by now. I hope, anyway — huh, huh. 

Oh, well, we’ve been through all of this before. And look, here comes the waver again. (Nod.) That was fast — perhaps she forgot something? More batteries for more Furbies? Huh, huh. (Toot!) Errrrrrrgh. (Long, pained sigh.)

But what a day it is, Furby! Spring again, finally, after all we’ve been through and that long winter, too. No more silly sweaters for you, not for a while, anyway. So yes, breathe in that beautiful air. It’s from those big pink blooms there, friend, which come back every year, you may have noticed, and which Ellen planted long ago — long before the waver, long before you, my darling boy … and all the rest of it. That’s what they are about. They are for us.


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