Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, June 11, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections
Chapter 7: The Real World
Chapter 8: Hooligan's
Chapter 9: Joan

Chapter 10.
The Hospital

Marnie woke up Thanksgiving morning and called Cal before she rolled out of bed. She told him that she was going to the hospital to visit Joan and, no, she didn’t want him to join her. Her reasoning was that if there was legal trouble she was in a much better position to deal with it than he was. She did not state this aloud. She closed by reminding him to pick her up at noon to head for her parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. She offered him one last chance to get out of it. He declined and wished her luck with her visit with Joan.

She grabbed Joan’s purse as well as her own and was on her way. As she pulled into the Visitor’s Parking Area she considered how much shorter the ride had seemed in comparison to last night’s wild ride. She walked to the entrance then shuddered. She hated hospitals. She realized that this did not make her in any way unique. She walked through the big automatic doors and walked up to the information desk. The desk was being manned by two elderly women who gave her Joan’s room number, directions to the room, and a wish for a happy Thanksgiving. She wished them the same. She stopped in the gift shop and picked up a large floral arrangement, took a deep breathe, and headed for Joan’s room.

When she found the room and Joan was the only one in it, she breathed a sigh of relief. She had really not wanted to encounter Officer Ormond, but had fully expected him to be in attendance. This was good. Joan appeared to be sleeping. Marnie placed the flowers on her nightstand where she’d be sure to see them. She threw both purses on a visitor’s chair in the corner of the room and sat in the chair closest to Joan’s bed. She gently took her hand.

“Hey, Marnie.” Joan said weakly, opening her eyes and smiling faintly. “What are you doing here?” Speech was clearly difficult for Joan at this point. There were tubes in her throat as well as an IV in her arm. Her face had been scrubbed clean of makeup and her usually teased-to-the-moon hair had been combed into a smooth ponytail. She was quite bruised all over, and Marnie wondered how much of that was a result of her and Cal and Andy throwing her around. Joan had clearly had a rough night.

“Hey, Joan! How ya feelin’ this morning?”

“I’ve…” Joan smacked her lips and grimaced, then made a concentrated effort to swallow. “Can you get me some water?” she said, indicating a small Styrofoam pitcher and a cup with a straw on her bed table.

“Is it ok for you to drink? With the tubes and all?” Marnie asked as she poured a cup.

“It’s ok. I can only handle a little.” She sipped gratefully on the straw. “Thanks, hon.” Marnie just nodded.

“So fill me in! How did I come to be here? Swear to God, Marnie, they keep asking me but I don’t remember a thing. I vaguely remember going to Josh’s. You weren’t there, though… what do you know that I don’t know?”

“When we got there, you were already pretty out of it. What had you taken?”

“I don’t know – that’s the thing. I got these pills from a guy. I was having some problems with Nic and I just wanted to take the edge off, you know?”

Marnie nodded. She knew.

“So I met this guy – I’ve used him before, you know? It wasn’t like some stranger or something. Can you give me a little more water, hon?” All this talking was clearly taking its toll. Joan looked exhausted.

“So you don’t really know…”

“I don’t. What do you know?”

“Like I said, when we got to Josh’s you were already pretty out of it.”


Marnie felt a blush creeping into her cheeks. “Cal. Me and Cal…”

Joan smiled. “’bout time.”

“Well, it’s no big deal. We’re just hanging out. Anyway. When Cal and I showed up you were pretty much out of it. But you were drinking – just a beer – and you did at least a couple lines. Then you just sort of passed out on the table. We couldn’t wake you up, we couldn’t get any response from you. We were all pretty scared.

Josh didn’t want to call a squad because he didn’t want his house associated with an overdose. God knows what all he’s got stashed there, you know? So Andy suggested bringing you down here in his truck. He and Cal carried you out and the three of us brought you here. We kind of dumped you at the ER door…” Marnie looked down at this point, “Joan I’m not sure why we did that. No one was thinking straight. I’m really sorry. Really. But it looks like they’ve taken good care of you.”

Joan nodded and indicated that Marnie should go on.

“We kept your purse. Again, I don’t know why. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I brought it back for you.” She said, pointing at the purse on the chair.

“Aw, thanks hon.”

“Cal and Andy didn’t want me to, but I called your husband.”

“And I’m glad you did.” Marnie turned around quickly at the unexpected voice from behind. “Jerry” he said, extending his hand, “Jerry Ormond.” Marnie took his extended hand to shake it, but he pulled her up and enveloped her in a quite unexpected hug. “It sounds like you saved my girl’s life.”

Marnie wasn’t sure how to react to this. This was not what she expected at all. Jerry was a middle-aged man, balding on the top and thickening in the middle. He looked like he’d been up all night. He released Marnie and went to the other side of the bed where he kissed Joan gently on the forehead. “Mystery solved?” he asked her.

“Not entirely. But I know how I got here, anyway. Oh! And Marnie brought my purse. Oh, I’m sorry Jerry. This is a friend of mine. Marnie. Marnie? I guess you’ve figured out that this is Jerry.”

“Marnie, I don’t know how to thank you enough for all you’ve done for her. Really. How can I repay you?”

“Jerry? Not arresting me, frankly, is payment enough.”

“We’re gonna put her in rehab when she’s released.”

Marnie nodded. “Good. That sounds good. Guess I won’t be seeing you for a while, then.”

“Tell everyone…” she stopped, tears filling her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jerry.” His eyes were full, too.

“I’ll tell everyone what they need to know.”

“Thank Andy and Cal for me, would you?”

“Of course.” Marnie hugged Joan gently, avoiding all of the tubes to which she was attached. “You take care of yourself and get well.” She searched in her purse and produced a business card. “If you want to reach me, call me here. Don’t look for me at Josh’s.

Now I have to get going. Cal is picking me up at noon to go to my parents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. Oy!”

“You kids have fun.” Joan said.

Jerry walked Marnie out into the hallway. “I really am grateful to you. For bringing her here – for calling me – that can’t have been easy.”

Marnie nodded and Jerry continued, “Obviously you’re not in any trouble for this, but that’s only because …” he looked over his shoulder into the room where Joan appeared to already be asleep. “It’s bad what happened to Joan. They had to pump her stomach. They said she would’ve died if you hadn’t brought her here last night.”

Marnie bowed her head and gulped her mind filling with ‘what ifs’ as her eyes filled with tears. “You seem like a good kid. Get out of this scene. Go to rehab yourself if you have to. I can tell that you’re better than this. You’re not in trouble. You saved my Joanie’s life. I’m concentrating on that part. Not on the part where you knew she was risking it and you let her. Not on the part where you risk your own. But you do, you know. This isn’t a game. Joan could’ve died. You could die. You could be arrested. You could end up in jail. I’m thankful to you. I like you. But I couldn’t stop that from happening if you got busted. Straighten up and fly right, kid.”

Jerry patted Marnie on the shoulder and she walked quickly down the hall. He was right, of course. She shouldn’t be doing this. She shouldn’t be hanging out at Josh’s. She was going to straighten up and fly right. She and Cal would straighten up and put it all behind them and move on with a nice shiny life together. Soon. Maybe soon. But probably not just yet. It wasn’t like she was an addict or anything. But then neither was Joan. Shit, partying a couple nights a week and having a little fun just shouldn’t be this hard.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

If You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI
If You Dream of Fairies - XII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIV
If You Dream of Fairies - XV
If You Dream of Fairies - XVI

Liz woke from her dream with a sense that it had perhaps been something more.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Several weeks later the girls were enjoying a late fall afternoon in the garden. The snapdragons, petunias and impatiens of summer had given way to the mums of autumn. The garden and yard were carpeted with fragrant and colorful leaves. The air was cool and crisp, but the sun was shining brightly. They knew that this would be one of their last afternoons in the garden this year.

Keebler barked at the tree and both girls turned their attention towards it.

The door was open.

Maria looked at Liz with an expression that combined shock and awe. She looked back and forth between the door and Liz, her mouth dropping open a bit as she did.

“You tried to tell me…”

“You weren’t ready to know, I guess.”

“For real? Fairies?”

“Fairies. They love us.”


“I don’t know why, but they do. And we’re lucky for it. We’re charmed.”

“I want to see them.”

“I doubt we will.”

“You’ve seen them…”

“I have. I needed to. I don’t think we’ll see them any more.”

At that moment a wee tiny head emerged briefly from the tree and an even tinier hand pulled the door shut.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Liz and Maria grew up, as all children eventually must. Their parents retired and moved to be closer to the shore. The girls stayed in their homes. The sea shell fairy that Maria had brought back from the beach took a place of honor on Liz’s mantle. They always maintained the garden together, not that it’s very difficult to maintain a garden that’s been charmed.

Eventually they got married – within three months of each other. Each served as the other’s maid (then matron) of honor. They had their first babies – baby girls – close together, the second summer after their weddings.

It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to lay those baby girls on a blanket near the edge of the garden while they sipped their tea and gossiped and shared stories a few feet away.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The end.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections
Chapter 7: The Real World
Chapter 8: Hooligan's

Chapter 9.

Cal called both Monday and Tuesday and they talked for lost hours. They talked the way people do when they’re getting to know someone new. Someone they think is delicious. Someone they want to soak up like a sponge. They talked about everything and nothing and they hated to hang up, although Marnie refused to engage in the ‘you hang up first’ game. Cal talked about his kids and his job search and growing up on the farm. He talked about losing his parents. He talked about how he met Josh and Andy. Marnie loved his voice. He could’ve read the phone book and she would’ve listened. She loved his stories. He talked about his dog, Riff, and the dog he had growing up. And when he asked about Marnie, he listened to her answers.

For her part, Marnie talked about her sisters and her parents. She talked about college and how she’d grown apart from most of her friends but still stayed in touch with a couple. She talked about how she met Josh. They agreed that they owed Josh a thank you – without their connection to him, they never would have met. They talked about how weird that was, because he was so unlike both of them. She talked about her job. She talked about her grandmother.

Cal was an open book. Marnie was more guarded. It wasn’t that she had secrets to keep – although who doesn’t? – it was just that she wasn’t sure how he’d react to stories about her privileged upbringing. She didn’t want to blow this before it had a chance. No one was more surprised than Marnie, therefore, when she heard herself say, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Ted and Susie are spending it with Susie’s family, so I figured I’d just hang out at home and watch football.”

“Why don’t you join me?”

“Join you?”

“My mom always sets out a huge spread. Believe me – there’s room for one more.”

“I don’t know…”

“No imposition! I’d love to have you there. I mean – I understand if you don’t want to…”

“No, I want to.”

“My family can be a little – I don’t know…”

“All families are like that.”

“Not yours.”

“Not Ted and Susie. You haven’t met anyone else.”

“Fair enough. Well, if you’re sure you’re up for it…”

“I’d love to meet the family that made you who you are.”

“I’m – I’m not my family, Cal. Remember that, ok?”


“Alright. Let me call Mom and tell her to set another place.”

“You want me to pick you up to go to Josh’s tomorrow night?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

There was a full contingency at Josh’s when they arrived Wednesday evening. Sonya was hovering over Josh possessively and it was pretty clear that Josh was not digging this. Andy stood up and came to meet them at the door. He had been talking to Cal over the past couple days, and he enveloped the two of them in a bear hug. It felt like a stamp of approval.

Joan was already at the table, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. She looked a little out of it. Between drinks and drags, she rested her head on her arms on the table. “How long has she been here?” Marnie asked, concern creeping into her voice and her face.

“She was like that when she got here. We’re not sure what’s up.” Andy answered. He looked a little concerned, too. “Hey Joan!” She didn’t respond. “Joanie!” he tried, much louder. She lifted her head in slow motion and looked at Andy with one open eye.”

“This isn’t good.” Marnie stated, her brow furrowing, “I don’t like this.”

“Joanie, sweetheart, you okay?” Andy asked, sitting next to her and putting his arm around her. She waved him away.

“She just needs a little pick-me-up.” Sonya said. “Get some toot in this woman, stat!” She said to Josh.

Josh cut out a few lines and offered the mirror to Joan first. She raised her head and took a snort, then another. She smiled at Josh; “Thank you, baby.” She patted his hand, and put her head back on the table.

Marnie and Cal exchanged a worried glance, then took a seat at the table with Mike, Kristen, and a young girl they’d never met. She was introduced as Kristen’s roommate, Jen. The mirror made it’s way to them. Marnie inhaled, tilted her head back and shut her eyes. She opened them when she heard Cal’s familiar tap, tap, tap.

When the mirror made its way to Joan again, she didn’t sit up. “We should just put her in a bed – or on the sofa.” Sonya said with an air of authority and ownership that clearly didn’t sit well with Josh.

“She can’t crash here, idiot, her husband is a cop. You’ve got to think sometimes, Sonya.”

“Fuck you.” She said, quietly. The insult had stung. She knew he was annoyed with her and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why. She’d crashed here for the past three nights and had made his meals and done his dishes. She’d even brought a toothbrush and some clothes over so she didn’t have to run home so much. And the sex was amazing. So why was he treating her like she had no right to be here? Dick. Ungrateful dick.

Andy approached Joan again. Her cigarette had burned to a stub in her hand. Andy removed it and snuffed it out in the ash tray. “Joan? Joanie? JOAN?” Andy looked up, panicked, “You guys? I don’t think she’s ok. I think we need to get her to a hospital.”

Josh went to the table to assess the situation for himself. He sat next to Joan and said very quietly and patiently, “Joanie? What did you do? Talk to me here. Let me know what I’m talking to.” Kristen started to remind him that he was talking to a who not a what, but when Joanie did not respond she wisely realized that perhaps semantic arguments were best left for another day.

“Oh, shit.” Said Josh, rising and pacing the room manically, “Shit shit shit. This can’t be happening. JOAN, DAMMIT, DON’T DO THIS TO ME!!!” He covered his face with his hands. Sonya put her arm around him and he threw her off. “You don’t get it, do you? Her husband is a fucking cop! We’re fucking dead meat!”

Sonya sulked in the next room. She knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so fucking mean about it. It’s not like any of this was her fault.

Marnie went over to where Andy was attempting to tend to Joan. She was completely unresponsive. Marnie searched for a pulse but couldn’t find one, which wasn’t terribly unusual because she could rarely if ever find her own, either. Still. Joan wasn’t right. Her skin felt cold and clammy. “For real, Josh, we’ve got to call a squad. She’s gonna die here without some help. I’m calling.” She picked up her purse and dug in it for her cell.

“Think about this!” Josh screamed. “If we have a squad come here we’re all fucking accomplices to whatever fuck…her husband is a fucking cop…” he repeated, collapsing into a chair with his head in his hands.

“How about if I just take her to the hospital and drop her off, then?” Andy suggested. “Cal and Marnie can ride with me. We’ll just drop her off without ID. They’ll take care of her.”

Josh agreed. Cal and Andy picked Joan up, no small feat as she was completely dead weight. They carried her to Andy’s truck and laid her across the back seat. Marnie sat at her feet and Cal jumped in the front with Andy. Marnie stroked Joan’s hair and whispered reassurances that it was all going to be ok. Everything was going to be ok. She was quite cognizant of the fact that this was more for her benefit than for Joan’s. She just needed to feel like she was doing something. The ride to the only hospital in town seemed endless. Andy stayed within the speed limit and stopped at every stop sign. No way was he going to risk being pulled over tonight, with the passed out, overdosed, half dead wife of a police officer in his back seat. No one had much to say. When they pulled into the Emergency Room entrance, Andy ran in and quickly grabbed a wheelchair. He pushed it back to the truck where Cal and Marnie had been working to pull an unresponsive Joan out of the backseat. They managed to get her slumped into the wheelchair. Cal pushed the wheelchair to the entrance and left her there, just inside the automatic doors, while Andy pulled the truck up to the door so Cal could jump in quickly.

When they were a few blocks away from the hospital, Marnie started to sob. She was sitting in the front between Andy and Cal now. She had been strong when she needed to be, but she didn’t need to be anymore. She succumbed to the feeling of helplessness and fear that had been building up. What if things didn’t work out ok? What if Joan… she couldn’t even complete the thought in her head, it was too much. It was all too much. Cal put his arm around her and pulled her head into his chest. Joan was their friend, and they had just dumped her and hoped for the best. It wasn’t right. “I need to call her husband.” She said. She started rooting through Joan’s purse for a cell phone. They had agreed not to leave her purse with her at the hospital – let them treat her like a Jane Doe. Marnie couldn’t remember now why they’d decided to do that. It had seemed like a sound idea at the time.

Cal took the purse from her. “They’ll figure it all out, honey, don’t worry.”

“He’s her HUSBAND! He deserves to know!”

“He’s a COP! It will be our asses!”

“I’m sorry. I have to do it.” She retrieved the purse from Cal and he didn’t resist her. She found the cell phone and looked through Joan’s contacts until she found the name she was looking for. Jerry. Joan occasionally talked about Jerry. Officer Jerry Ormond. She hit send.

“Hey, honey! What’s up?”

“Officer Ormond, this isn’t Joan. This is a friend of hers.”

Jerry’s voice changed in an instant. “Where’s Joan? Who are you?”

“I’m a friend. Joan was – we just dropped Joan off at the ER without ID. You need to get down there and ask about Jane Does.”

“What the hell happened? Who are you?”

“Jerry? Officer Ormond? She’s been doing drugs. Coke that we know of, but we suspect something else. We don’t know what, or we’d tell you, I swear. We think she overdosed. We took her to the hospital – we wanted her to be taken care of.”

“No – you’re lying…” She could hear the desperation in Jerry’s voice. He didn’t want to believe it.

“I’m not, Jerry, Officer Ormond. I’ve told you all I know. I thought I’d call you and let you know so you could get down there and identify her before they went to the trouble and expense of trying to figure out who she is. I’m very sorry, sir. But you better get to your wife.” Marnie clicked the phone shut and put her head in her hands. Cal rubbed her shoulders.

“You did the right thing, babe. He had a right to know.”

“What a fuckin’ mess.” Andy added. The ride back to Josh’s went a lot more quickly. The room became silent when the three of them walked in. If the expression on every face could be summed up in one word, that word would be: WELL?

They relayed the story together, interrupting each other to clarify points. They all agreed that they’d done the right thing. The mirror made its way around the table a few more times, but the party never really built up any momentum. It’s difficult to feel festive when a cops wife has just OD’d in the house and you’ve dumped her, unidentified, at the ER. They were all in it together. A big, ugly secret hung over them like the sword of Damocles. Everyone took off as soon as the last of the coke had been passed around, eager to be away from it. Sonya clung to Josh. He allowed it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

If You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI
If You Dream of Fairies - XII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIV
If You Dream of Fairies - XV

That night Liz dreamed of fairies. But this time, the dream was different. A little fairy flew up to her, circling her head just as the fairy had done in the garden that summer. But this time the wee creature landed on the ground and began to grow. She grew until she was about a head shorter than Liz. Liz’s eyes grew wide as the fairy smiled at her. She hadn’t thought it possible for a smile to be more beautiful than Maria’s, but this fairy’s was. This smile was pure beauty and love. It enveloped Liz with a sense of warmth and well-being. Liz had never really been unhappy in her life, but this was different than not being unhappy. This was pure unbridled contentment. It was more than that. This was bliss.

The fairy put her hand on Liz’s shoulder and spoke. Her voice was as sweet as the bird’s first song in the morning.

“Dear, sweet Liz,” she began, “I’ve tried to talk to you so many times.”

“Why…?” Liz couldn’t complete the sentence or even the thought.

“I was too small. You couldn’t hear me. I had to think of a way. I think this will work.”

Liz nodded her agreement.

“We’ve watched over you and Maria since you were wee babes. We used to flutter over you all the time, we loved you so much. Your soft baby skin reminded us of the flowers. You were such sweet, lovely babes. I think some fairy dust inadvertently fell on Maria the first time she was brought to the garden. We don’t have as much control over where it lands as we might like.

Once a person has been touched by fairy dust, there’s no taking it back. That person is charmed.

Some of us wanted to sprinkle some on you, too. Some thought it would be fun to watch a charmed child grow up next to an untouched human child. Do you understand?”

Liz nodded again, unable to find words.

“But when you discovered our door, we decided it was fated. We needed to charm you as well.

Babies are charmed instantly and completely, but older people require a little more effort. When mommas bathe their little ones, the fairy dust sort of just gets rubbed in. When you jumped in the shower you washed a lot of it off. You’ll probably never have to clean that bath tub again, by the way.”

“So that’s why I got a raise in my allowance.”


“Charmed indeed.”

“Indeed.” The fairy and the girl exchanged familiar, comfortable grins.

“We tried to sprinkle the dust without you noticing, but you were so attuned with us. We couldn’t sneak anything past you, sweet, smart, observant child.”

“Keebler helped.”

The fairy bestowed a smile on Liz that was somehow even sweeter than the original smile had been.

“You’re charmed now. You’ll probably not see us again. You may even forget about us altogether.”

Liz shook her head vigorously in the negative.

“No, sweet Liz, the time for fairies is drawing to a close. It’s as it should be.”

A single perfect tear made its way down Liz’s cheek.

“Don’t cry, dear one,” the fairy said, gently touching the tear and making it disappear. “Everything is as it should be.”

She shrunk back down to fairy size and flew away.