Hello Thursday! Meet my blog group, comprised of a fantastic group of ladies who will dazzle you with insight on various topics. After reading my post, check out their blogs as well. Just click on:
Froggie (Tracey): One frog’s distinct voice on the world around her.
Merry Land Girl (Melissa): Tales of a suburban mom who likes to talk about pop culture, books, Judaism, family, friendship and anything else that comes to mind.
Darwin Shrugged (Denise): Civilized Observations in an Uncivilized World
This week, Melissa has asked that we write a fictional short story. For your reading pleasure, I give you:
Maggie was done. She was so done, that she knew she’d fit the dimensions of every “limit” cliche known. Stick a fork in it. Had it up to here. Fed up. Game over, man. Game over! Life itself was one big clusterfuck of cliches, and no one knew that better than Maggie did.
She sat down at the computer desk, an old rickety thing she’d bought at a garage sale, faux wood the color of moss. The baby monitor in the corner lit up like a Christmas tree, red light blinking. Sound turned down low. Getting Robbie to nap lately was virtually impossible, but he still needed one. If he didn’t nap, he’d morph into his infamous Jekyll/Hyde character, making everyone around him suffer. Every day, Maggie had to woo Robbie to sleep. He had to be wined and dined before he’d even consider closing his eyes, and this meant a lot of book reading, cuddling, water breaks and check-ins. The first few times, Maggie thought his behavior was adorable. Now, it was laborious. Reminiscent of the Princess and the Pea, Robbie was a two year old who would not rest unless everything was just so, and would often wake in the middle of night to fix a bed sheet that was skewed, or a blanket that didn’t cover his body completely.
Screw the pea. What Maggie wouldn’t give for all of Robbie’s sleep issues to be embodied in one measly, crummy pea.
Her older children were at school. Precocious Megan in the third grade. Crazy Benny in the fifth. Megan was the easiest of the three, head burrowed in a book. Sweet and quiet. Not the classic middle child. That title was handed over to Benny, the oldest. Crazy Benny, boy wonder. He’d climb tall trees, and break bones. He’d jump out of two story windows, and when asked why, he’d simply say, “I wanted to play with my friends.” First-born children are usually the ones who are sensible, and orderly. That wasn’t the story with Benny, who constantly needed approval and attention. His teachers referred to him as the class clown. Maggie secretly referred to him as the pain in the ass.
Maggie sighed, eyeing the baby monitor. She leaned over and turned the volume up, listening to Robbie’s babbling. A few recognizable words, the rest baby talk. It wasn’t that she hated her children. She loved them dearly. When she married Carl, they had always dreamed of filling their home and hearts with beautiful babies. Maggie knew just how blessed she was. A great family, a handsome, loving husband. Someone who respected her and cared about her feelings and what she wanted out of life. How could she complain? She felt she couldn’t, or shouldn’t.
Yet… as she wiggled the mouse on the computer, waking up the desktop, she thought about the person she’d been before becoming Maggie, the mother. Maggie, the wife. She had been Maggie, the free spirit, a girl who’d thought that marriage was an institution, and better left for uptight, conventional losers. Heavily involved in the drama club and investing countless hours on the high school paper, she knew she would end up an actress on the big screen some day. In between blockbuster hits, she’d crank out bestsellers. Big dreams for Maggie, and none of which had ever come to fruition. She checked her e-mail (Maggie Lawrence, don’t forget about the PTA meeting on Monday!) and her coveted Facebook account (no new friend requests, no new messages) and thought about the opportunities she’d let go of. Some college instead of a college degree. Dating countless losers instead of investing in herself. Jobs that equated to “would you like fries with that?”, and always ended up in the dead-end category.
No, marrying Carl was quite possibly the best thing she’d ever done for her life. Carl gave her structure. A foundation. Safety and security in a disoriented and often screwed up world. But was that enough? Is it ever enough? And what about her own aspirations, her own dreams? What about that barely worked on bestseller that sat unnoticed in her Google docs, a relic from years ago? She’d given up on her acting pursuits. No one would want her now, not with a thick layer of fat around her midsection, and thighs that hadn’t seen broad daylight in years. Maggie refused to showcase her cellulite-laden legs to anyone, not even Carl. Lights off, Carl.
She used to be beautiful. Charming. Strong. What happened? Maggie closed out of Facebook, staring at the screensaver, some snapshot Benny had saved from one of his many Minecraft excursions. He had his whole life ahead of him. So did her other kids. And what she had left was living vicariously through them. The thought unsettled her in such a way, she could literally feel the heaviness weigh her down.
Not to mention Robbie, who had been silent for a few minutes, but was now babbling again in a way that let Maggie know he most likely would not nap. Not today. It would take a miracle.
Impulsively, Maggie catapulted forward, forehead meeting D, F, G, H, J, K and other random letters on the keyboard. Pounding. It didn’t hurt. Much. The divots were pressing into sensitive flesh, but she smashed her face into the keyboard again, a few times, for good measure. Snap out of it! she thought to herself. You’re being an asshole. Don’t look back. Look forward, right? Stop being so dramatic, and get a grip!
She sat upright, staring at the screen in front of her. The monitor was glowing a fantastic orange, no goofy Minecraft character in sight. “What the…” her voice trailed off, brow furrowed in curiosity. It took a lot to freak Maggie out. After getting projectile pooped and vomited on, fear was never a factor. Instead, she felt pure fascination. The light was so bright, her eyes squinted in response. “I must have jammed something, when I pressed all those keys with my big head.” she muttered, and wiggled the mouse a few times. Nothing. The orange continued to glow, lifting from the monitor. Elevating out and around the edges of her Samsung flat screen. Now I’ve done it. I loosened a screw in my brain. I’m going nuts. Hesitantly, cautiously, she lifted a hand mid-air, slowly bringing it towards the glow. When her pointer finger met with orange, it was enveloped, and had disappeared beneath the brightness. “Shit!” Quickly, she retreated, her finger now visible again, cradled against her chest.
There was a strange sensation upon touching the orange glow. A tugging from the inside. Not painful, but weird. As though the orange glow wanted to pull Maggie into it, to take her inside somehow. The clock on the wall continued it’s ticking, letting her know it was shortly after 1pm. Robbie was quiet. He’d finally babbled himself to sleep, and there was Maggie, on the verge of something surreal and unimaginable. She was a sci-fi buff. Carl was, too. He was a computer geek and had brought out the geek in Maggie. She liked Battlestar Galactica, making Carl run out to Blockbuster before Blockbuster went bust, demanding more seasons to watch like a lady with a crack addiction. She liked Firefly and Serenity and Penny Arcade. In her youth, she craved Ray Bradbury. It was never like this, though. She’d never hallucinated.
Was it a hallucination? Maggie put her hand out again, testing the waters. This time, she plunged her entire palm inside the glow, and felt the immense tugging, the sensation of being pulled. “This can’t be real.” She said this while letting her arm fall within the glow, and when she’d gone up to the shoulder bone, she pulled back, gasping for air. The glow got bigger, and wider. It didn’t matter that her monitor was 29″, a good size for a PC. There would be no way that Maggie’s body, or any body, could fit into a computer monitor. Especially with my fat ass, she lamented. The glow didn’t care how big her ass was, because it extended out to cover her entirely, and when she’d pulled her arm back out from it’s depths, the orange went back to how it had looked prior, just a blazing trail coming off of the screen.
Am I dreaming? That must be it. A dream. Maggie knew she must be on the couch, taking a quick cat nap while Robbie slept. Naps were a rarity, but Robbie would throw his mom a bone on occasion. It was this logical yet illogical thought that persuaded her to put her hand back into the glow, to put her arm in, and at the last second, Maggie let out a string of expletives before her entire body got sucked up into the vastness of the glow.
There was no color. The orange had dissipated and what surrounded her was never-ending blackness. In her sci-fi flicks, interplanetary travel would have myriads of color and shapes. Think Doctor Who, when he travels through his trusty phone booth. She felt her body become weightless, floating away into some microscopic sea of neurons and pathways yet there was nothing ahead of her but blackness, even with eyes wide open. She could see nothing, as though nothing else existed. There was no pain. It was numbing.
Suddenly, her world was cold. Wet. She could feel her feet planted firmly on soft fibers, toes digging in. It was as if she’d been doused in ice water, air vents directly above. The world wasn’t as black anymore, and she realized her eyes were closed. The sound of a dog barking. No ticking. No toddler.
“Mags? Are you okay?”
Immediately, her eyes opened, and the light was blinding. Sun shone through a window to the right of her, so bright her stomach lurched in nausea. Images flashed in from around her. She held a hand over her eyelids and closed them again, blocking out the harshness. Her heart pounded, loud and strong within her chest, fear snaking into her, coiling around her body and into her mind. She wasn’t at home anymore. Orange monitor was gone, replaced by an Apple computer, the kind she’d used when she was in school. Wait a minute.
She slowly opened her eyes again. Better. She’d made tiny adjustments, looking around the room.
“Mags? Are you in there?” and in a whisper: “I can’t come in. My mom is in the kitchen.”
The smell of Polo Sport filled Maggie’s nose. Mags. No one called her Mags. She hated that nickname, and the only person she’d allowed to call her that (and wore Polo Sport) was….
“I’m okay.” said hoarsely. “I’m, um….” she looked around, and noticed for the first time that water had been dripping from her body. Her naked body. Forming a small puddle on the carpet. A towel sat in the computer chair, primly folded. “I’m drying off?”
“All right, babe. Mom’s making lunch.”
“Mom’s making lunch”. she whispered that to herself, hastily grabbing the large beach towel (Zestfully Clean, someone must have really liked Zest in this house) and taking in the other items in the room which only compounded her hysteria. She wrapped herself up, and knew her suspicions were confirmed. This was her boyfriend’s room, no denying it. Her first boyfriend. Michael.THE boyfriend. The one who’d… well, her face burned at the thought. No need to bring that up. He went to a rival high school, his alma mater displayed proudly on the wall. Pictures of him, with his mom, with his siblings. A cute guy. She reached out and picked up one of the photos, testing the waters. Was this real? Was she dreaming this up? It felt so real, not hallucinatory or holographic. She rubbed at the glass, a sheen of dust removed by her thumb.
After walking a few steps, she moved in front of a large mirror attached to an old oak dresser.
“Maggie, it’s Jo. Are you all right, sweetie?” Michael’s mother had come to the door, wondering why Maggie was cursing in her home. If Maggie remembered right, Jo was a devout Catholic. Oops.
“I’m fine. I just…. stubbed my toe. And it hurt. Really bad.”
“Be careful in there. I’ve got soup and sandwiches all ready for you. I bet you are hungry after all that swimming.”
Maggie didn’t respond. She was too engrossed in the image looking back at her.
This beautiful girl was someone Maggie hadn’t seen in a very long time. Long, brown curly hair that hung almost to her waist. Out of fashion for 1994, but Maggie never cared about things like that. She ran her fingers through the softness and fullness of it. Her face was unlined, a bit on the chubby side, youthful. Hazel green eyes staring back at her in shock and disbelief. Full lips pouty and wistful. She dropped the towel to the floor, her eyes roaming over the rest of her, afraid to touch any of it for fear the image would evaporate. Perky breasts. Flat, taut stomach which had never housed babies. This gave her an ache, the kind felt when something is missing and not quite right. Thighs that were firm and strong, runner’s thighs. “I’m a runner.” Yes, that was something else she used to love, and had given up when it had gotten in the way. She turned around, admiring her tight derriere. Her skin was tanned and goose pimply, and she could see from the outside window that Michael’s plastic pool had been set up, and had just been used, apparently. From what Maggie could remember, it was the summer before the big break up. A few years before Jo got breast cancer. Years before Michael got married to his college sweetheart, and moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere, four children to show for it. Maggie knew this, because he was a friend of hers on Facebook. They never spoke, though. They hadn’t done that since 2001.
There was no Facebook, not in 1994. Or much of an e-mail service, not in Maggie’s experience. It was before the digital age. Letters and phone calls were the standard.
A small wad of clothing sat untouched on Michael’s bed. She knew these were hers, just like she knew when she’d walk out of the room, a bowl of chicken noodle soup from a Campbell’s can would be waiting for her. She could taste the metal tinge already, and the way the white bread felt when her teeth sank into it. A turkey sandwich, with a slice of processed cheese. Jo wasn’t much of a cook. She threw the summer dress on over her head, no bra. She could get away with it. It was short and remarkably simple, white cotton eyelet. Legs proudly on display and never in hiding. White panties boasting Hanes Her Way. Maggie didn’t know much about Victoria’s Secret at the tender age of seventeen. She wrapped the beach towel turban-style on her long locks, a million thoughts running through her head. Will I be able to go home again?
Is Robbie all right?
What the hell am I doing here? Those were just a few.
Feeling intrigued and a bit terrified, Maggie turned the door knob, and opened up the bedroom door.