Close Encounters

She sank into the depths of her memories. The vague impressions of concerned faces and screaming machines drifted away. The smell of the sea tickled her nose and then she was submerged, weightless in a calm sea, with no idea why or how, and beyond caring. The heaviness, the unbearable weight, of living was gone. Her breath came easy under the water. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to sink.

When she opened her eyes, a glowing orb was drifting toward her through the murky water. As it got closer, she could see it was a jellyfish, but on top of its graceful body, something flickered. It was the face of her mother. She reached out to touch it. Another jellyfish, dark and dense, darted in front of her. On this one was her father’s face, the blank eyes even more terrible than they had been in life. The mother orb disappeared far beneath her in a stream of ethereal tentacles. Several more of the misshapen and sinister masses began to swarm around her. Herself, crying, hands over her face. A coffin. A blood soaked towel. Many more she couldn’t see, wouldn’t see. Frantically, she slapped them away. Another shiny orb darted past her, too fast to see what was inside. The dark ones fled to the growing expanse of murky water above her.

This one, her savior, was brighter, livelier. She turned around and around, trying to see it clearer until it swam downward. She looked down and gasped. The bottom was aglow with hundreds, thousands, of glimmering jellyfish. No longer content to sink, she swam. With each stroke, another orb came up to meet her, as if in encouragement. Her babies’ faces, smiling or sleeping, brushing their tentacles lightly against her face, her arms, her breasts. Herself, in a wedding gown. The tree house in the orchard. A pile of hay in a barn. A tire swing. The hammock in her grandparents’ back yard. Every orb was leading her closer to the bottom. She could feel the warmth radiating from them. Always, the brightest and fastest, zooming in and out among the others, beckoned to her. It rested on the bottom of the sea–a single point of bright light, waiting.

As she got closer, the other orbs drew away from her, still present, but passive. It was harder to swim, the water more substantive. When the struggle became too much, the incandescent sphere rose up to meet her. It closed the distance slowly. Finally, she could see the reflection. It was her husband’s face. Not the gaunt, hollow-eyed, diseased face she’d seen last, but a younger, larger-than-life version. He had a full head of dark, curly hair. One eyebrow arched, a toothpick dangling from his smirking mouth, he was the 16-year-old boy she’d seen, for the first time, leaning against a 1948 Chevrolet Stylemaster. She reached for him, and stared at her outstretched arm. The fingers were no longer gnarled, the fingernails were manicured, her arm was lean and tight. She was young again. The tentacle reached out to her. Her fingertips glazed it and an inconceivable warmth spread throughout her being. The light traveled down her arm and lighted her whole body. For a glorious minute, she felt the touch of first love again.

The sigh that escaped her reverberated to the ends of the ocean. Then, ecstasy turned to pain. A jolt of electricity entered her leg. The grip on the tentacle of light snapped and she writhed in agony. Something was holding onto her leg, pulling her quickly forward. She kicked and then the sinister shapes containing her worst memories surrounded her. They were wrapping their tentacles around her arms and waist and legs and chest, every touch an electric shock. She moved quickly upward. The light disappeared. She couldn’t see through the sludge.

When her head broke the surface of the water, it wasn’t a relief. The air strangled her. Her breathing was labored again. The weight returned. The piercing scream of the machines receded to measured beeps. The doctor was in her face, asking if she was okay. She lifted her arm. It was wrinkled and the consistency of tissue paper, tubes running from her bulging blue veins to bags of fluid, She stared in horror.  The doctor shined a bright light in her eyes and nodded.

“That was close.” He placed her hand on her stomach and patted it.

His hand was ice-cold.


The Speakeasy #128 prompts:

1. Beginning Sentence:  “She sank into the depths of her memories.”



Yeah Write, The Speakeasy #111: Guilt


“The guilt was too much to bear.”

Even Laura’s suicide note was a cliché. Mom found Laura at the bottom of the swimming pool, her body weighted down with rocks in her pockets like she was fucking Virginia Woolf, and not just your average, everyday junkie. What, exactly, did Laura feel guilt about– the drugs,the lying, the stealing, kicking over my sand castles as a child?  Years of putting up with Laura’s crap and this was all she could say?

Mom watched the ambulance back out of the driveway and she lost it. Her breath came in ragged gasps, her face flushed, eyes bright, like she’d been running. “She’s gone, Sarah,” she whispered. “What now?”

My mother went to bed and stayed there for a week and a half. Mom never was one to sleep much. There was too much to do. Work. The house. Always taking care of Laura. Now she just slept and slept. The house was deathly quiet. I lay in bed at night, willing Laura to stumble in the door at three in the morning, yelling, punching anything that got too close, a return to the old awful instead of this newer, scarier, one.

I took Mom a bowl of soup I knew she wouldn’t eat, and the phone rang. Surprisingly, she answered it. I listened as she apologized for not calling. How she had been busy taking care of me. That she would be back to work next week. She hung up the phone and fell into the bed again and stared at the ceiling.

I stood at the foot of the bed and waited. “Close those curtains on your way out.”

I went to the window and snapped the shades open. Sunlight flooded the room and mom clutched her pillow over her eyes. “Dammit, Sarah!”

“Get up.”

“I’m so tired.”

“Yeah, you’re so tired from taking care of me, right?”

Mom sighed. “You can take care of yourself. You always have.”

“I had to, because of her!” I yelled, too loudly.  Mom went still.  “It was always Laura. ‘Laura isn’t smart like you.’ ‘Laura has problems.’ ‘Laura needs our help.’ Laura ate it up. Anything to make you ignore me. You let her get away with murder.”  Mom took the pillow off her face.

“All those times she beat the crap out of me and you did nothing. Just made excuses for her. I hated her! I still hate her!”

Mom closed her eyes.”Don’t, Sarah. She’s your sister.”

“She’s not anything anymore, mom. She’s dead. And I’m glad! I’m happy she’s dead!” Mom moved fast. I was on the ground, my lip bleeding from the blow. Mom stood over me, finally crying. It was way worse than the silence, but I couldn’t stop. I had to tell her everything.

“That last night, before she drowned,” I whispered, “I told her I wished she was dead. I told her I hated her. That it would be easier for everyone if she just went off and O.Ded in an alley somewhere like the filthy crack whore she was. I told her nobody would care. That we’d all just be relieved to have her out of our lives for good.”

Mom swooped down on me. I braced myself for the violence I knew I deserved. She didn’t hit me again. She pulled me into her arms and buried her face in my hair. “Oh my God, Sarah. I was relieved. I was.” And we sat there in the unbearable brightness of the sun, sobbing and rocking, the guilt almost more than we could bear.


On The Water

on the water


My life began with a funeral.  My 17-year-old mama, nine months pregnant, in a boat, out on the lake to scatter the ashes of my dead father (because Uncle Billy said he would’ve liked that,) had been feeling pains all day. She thought it was gas. Uncle Billy wished it was gas. A flooded motor and two hours of hard labor later, I was on Mama’s tummy, wrapped in an old ratty fishing net. Daddy lay,  forgotten, in the corner of the boat. Mama eventually put him in the liquor cabinet, next to a dusty bottle of Wild Turkey. He would’ve liked that, too.

Mama was scared of boats and water after that. By age eight, I figured out that if I wanted to get out of chores, all I had to do was push off in daddy’s rowboat and Mama would leave me alone. She wouldn’t even go to the dock to wave me in for supper. She’d ring the dinner bell on the porch.

Boats were also a good place to think, and I was doing a lot of that lately. Graduation was soon and my boyfriend had asked me to marry him. I’d known him my whole life and people expected us to get married. It was how things worked. Mama was a widow with a baby by the time she was my age.

Then there was college. I longed to go to college, the farther away the better. Ten applications sent and not a single reply. The few kids I knew who wanted to go to college already had their letters, their futures, in their hands.

The bell rang.

I rowed back to shore and walked to the house, stopping by the mailbox on the way in. Nothing.

Mama had dinner on the table. I pushed around the peas with my fork. “I think I should get married on the dock.”

Mama smiled. “You don’t want me at your wedding?”

“You can watch from the porch. We’ll get you some binoculars. You won’t miss a thing.”

Mama smiled over her coffee cup.

We ate in silence for a while. When Mama spoke, her voice was soft. “And school?”

I sighed. “I don’t think anyone wants me. You know how it is, mama. My grades are okay but this is just a country school.”

Mama squeezed my hand. “You’re smart, baby. You can do anything.”

“Thanks, but you have to say that. You’re my mother.” I pushed away from the table. “I’m going back out.”

My fingers trailing the water, I thought about my future. A wife. A mother. It was fine. It really was. But there’d always be a part of me that wondered, “What if…”

I heard the sound of a boat motor. I sat up and saw Mama heading toward me in that old rickety boat, waving something white in the air. She stopped alongside me, breathless, as our boats swayed in her wake.

“Mama! You’re in a boat! On the water! What…”

Mama waved me off. “This came for you.”

I took the envelope from her hand. The return address said “State University.”

“Open it,” Mama whispered.

I held my breath and ripped open the envelope and scanned the letter. “I got in.  Mama, they want me!”

She hugged me. “Of course they do, sweetie.” I tried to pull away but she held me tight.

“Mama? You’re scared, aren’t you?”

“Terrified,”  she said as she let go and started the motor. But as I watched her maneuver the boat toward shore, her hands were quite steady.


Sarah’s Dream

Sarah stood in the fog.  It smelled like strawberries.  A man sat on a park bench, reading a book.  Sarah walked slowly toward the bench, trying to make out the man’s face.  As she got closer, she recognized David, the annoying guy from the library.  She froze. He patted the bench and smiled.  Sarah sat down beside him.  They didn’t speak. It was a comfortable silence.

David’s smile faded and he nodded to three people standing in the distance.  Bradley, Melody, and Sarah’s mother stood in a circle, looking at the ground.  She walked toward them, the sense of dread growing with each step. The air erupted in a loud whispering sound.

“What did you do, Sarah?”  Bradley had tears in his eyes.

“What are you talking about?”

“How could you?”  Melody buried her face in Bradley’s chest.  He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head.

Sarah turned to her mother.

“It’s nothing. Forget about it.  Soon, it’ll be like it never happened.”  She held her arms out.  Sarah ignored her.

“Bradley, Melody, what did I do?”  Bradley and Melody parted, revealing a basket of blankets on the ground. Sarah took a step backwards. Bradley took her by the elbow and dragged her to the basket.

Her mother shrugged. “We did the right thing,” she said.  She popped her sunglasses on her nose and strode off into the fog.

Sarah pulled back the pile of blankets, revealing a dead lamb.  “What happened to it?”  Bradley and Melody snorted. “What?”  Sarah whispered.

“You killed it.”  Melody spit out.

Sarah looked to Bradley for help.  “What’s she talking about?  I didn’t do this.”

Bradley’s eyes darted down her body and he shook his head.

Sarah looked down.  She was covered in blood.  She wiped her arms frantically.  “Where did this come from?  Bradley?”  He took Melody by the elbow and led her into the fog. “Please, help me,” her voice lost in the loud whispering.

“I’ll help you.”  David’s voice startled her.  The whispering stopped.

“The lamb. ”

“What lamb?”  David frowned.

“There.”  Sarah pointed to the basket.

David smiled.  “It’s just blankets.”

She rummaged through the blankets.  “It was here. Where did it go?”

“It’s gone, Sarah.” She shook her head and put up her hand to show him the blood.  It was clean. “It’s forgiven.”

“They won’t forgive me. They’re so angry.”

“They will. You have to tell them.”

“Tell them what?”

“The truth.  Tell them the truth.”

Sarah woke up bathed in sunshine. She looked at the clock: 1:00. Sixteen hours of sleep and she was still exhausted.  Tell them the truth. She’d never rest until she did. She would be exhausted forever.


Linking up with Write On Edge.  This week’s prompt:

This week we asked you to flip freedom upside down and write about the forbidden or the taboo. The word limit was 450.

This is a heavily edited scene from my Camp NaNoWriMo novel. I cut almost 800 words and I only mourn about half of those. (Slaying those darlings is tough.) Still needs work, but that’s why it’s called a Work In Progress.



Sand slipping through fingersAnna stood in front of the full length mirror, twisting to get a look at her new bathing suit.  She smoothed her hands down her hips and exposed thighs, a smile on her face.  It was her first bathing suit since giving birth that didn’t have a skirt attached to it.  Months ago, when planning the summer beach trip, she resolved to lose the “baby weight” she’d gained five years ago.  She’d done it.   She would spend the week on the beach, building sand castles, throwing a Frisbee, and playing in the surf with Charlie and not watching from a beach chair, a towel strategically draped over her lower half.  The confidence she lost so many years ago, bubbled to the surface.

She went to the porch and watched as Charlie poured a bucket of sand over Steve’s foot.   He waved at her.   “Look, mom!  Daddy got attacked by a shark and all that’s left is his head!”  Steve exploded out of the sand and chased a screaming and giggling Charlie to the beach house.

“Alright, you two, it’s time for lunch.”

“Aw, mom.”  Charlie hung his head.

“If you want to be big and strong like Daddy, you need to eat.”  Charlie slogged past her and she grabbed him around the chest.  “After lunch, we can build a sandcastle,” she whispered in his ear.

“A big one?”  Charlie asked, his blue eyes wide.

“The biggest sandcastle in the world,” she promised.

Charlie threw his arms around her.  She kissed his cheek and breathed in the scent of salt, sunscreen, and the little boy smell that was Charlie.  He let go, too quickly, and sat down at the table.  Anna sat down and watched as he devoured his sandwich.  “Slow down, kid.  It won’t run away.”  He grinned his toothless grin and then he was off, gathering buckets and shovels.  Anna shook her head and bit into her sandwich.

“Are you sure you should be eating that?” Steve asked.

Anna froze.  “What?”

“It’s not good for your diet.”  Steve said, his mouth full.

Anna put her sandwich down.  “I haven’t eaten today.”

“Oh.  It’s just that it looks like you’ve put on some weight.”

Charlie ran into the room.  “Come on, mom.  Hurry up!”

Steve stood up.  “Come on, sport.  We’ll get started.  Mom will be out when she’s finished eating.”  They jogged out to the edge of the water.

Anna pushed her plate away and walked out onto the porch.  She stood for a moment and went back inside.  She stared at herself in the mirror–her newfound confidence slipping away, as sand through her fingers.  She went to join her family, grabbing her cover-up off the bed as she went.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This post written for the following Red Writing Hood prompt:

It’s the first full week of summer here in New England, so to celebrate, take 450 words and write about sand. Whether it be beaches, backyards, or hourglasses, think sandy thoughts and come back on Friday to link up!


Moonlight Sonata

The lightning flashed, illuminating her pale hands on the keyboard.  Eyes closed, she gently swayed back and forth as she played the Beethoven sonata.  The somber notes and the pounding rain on the roof a symphony of melancholy.  Then he was there, in the darkness, beside her on the piano bench.  He twirled a piece of her hair around his fingers, nuzzled her neck.  Eyes still closed,  she smiled and played on, both of them swaying in time now.

“Moonlight Sonata–my favorite,” he whispered, his breath warm on her neck.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “I know.”

He brushed his lips gently down to her bare shoulder.  With every angel kiss and caress her breath quickened and her hands slowed.

“Please, don’t stop,” he begged.  She found the rhythm again, the flow of the left hand, the accents of the right, playing it perfectly–for him.   He stroked her arm, his touch as gentle as the breeze blowing the trees outside the window.  Her eyes closed tighter now as the sonata reached its pinnacle of sadness and loss.

“So beautiful,” he murmured into her ear.  ” I want to take you there.”

“Where?” the question barely audible above the deluge outside.

“To the moon, love.  We’d bathe in moonbeams beside the Sea of Tranquility.  Alone.  Forever.”

Tranquility–Calm, quiet, serene.  With him.  She sighed.

The sonata was coming to an end now.  Darker.  Slower. Intense.  She was no longer swaying.  No longer smiling.  Her eyes squeezed tight and her mouth contorting with every troubled note.  No more kisses  on her shoulder, no more twirling of her hair.  A thought dancing on the edge of her mind as she continued to play.  The accented notes like knives to her heart.  Slow and painful jabs, at first quiet and then steadily growing louder, threatening to break open her chest.

Not wanting to finish the piece, but every note bringing her closer to the end.

“Please, don’t stop,” he begged again, his voice faint and far away, nearly lost in the pounding rain.

“But it’s the end,” she breathed.  Her hands continued on to the inevitable conclusion.  “Take me with you.  Take me to the moon,” she begged.

Two final heartbreaking chords rang in the empty room.  A gust of wind blew the rain through the open window.  The lightning flashed, illuminating her pale shoulders slumped over the keyboard.  Eyes closed, her body shook, as the rain beat down and the thunder rolled.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

On Monday, Angela reminded us all: “… own your words, embrace your strengths, and believe in your writing.”

I gave you have 500 words to write a piece, fiction or non-fiction, which includes the phrase “to the moon.”


This was inspired by one of my favorite pieces of music, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”  At the suggestion of someone on YouTube, I listened to “Moonlight Sonata” and “Rainy Mood” at the same time.  It really is a lovely combination and it made me want to try something different.  I’ve never written anything remotely like this before, so be kind.



“One out!”  The umpire cried as the pitcher got set to throw.

“Strike one!”

Sam shook his head.  Ump wouldn’t know a strike zone if it bit him in the ass.   “Good eye, Charlie!  Good eye!”  Sam yelled at his son, Charlie. Sam held his breath as the pitcher wound up.

“Strike two!”

Sam groaned.  It was right there, son.  You gotta hit that ball.  “Shake it off!  Just put it in play!”  The pitcher wound up again and Sam leaned forward.


Sam jumped to his feet.  Holy crap, he hit it. “Run, Charlie!  Dig in!  Dig in!”  Charlie ran through first, like Sam taught him.  Safe!  Sam clapped.  Hard.

Charlie side-stepped off first,  like a pro, taunting the pitcher.  Get back, for God’s sake.  You’re too slow.  You get out and our power hitter won’t get to bat because God knows this kid’s gonna strike out.  “That’s right, Charlie!  Keep him scared!’

The pitcher wound up as Charlie got further away from first base.


Little League Baseball:  Tagged OutCharlie took off.  A line drive right to the second baseman’s glove.  Charlie, stuck between first and second, frozen.  Like a damn deer in headlights.  “Get back to first!  No, go to second!  No, first!  The ball’s at second base!”

Charlie, confused, shuffled back and forth as the first and second basemen tossed the ball back and forth.  He couldn’t hear his dad.  He couldn’t see the ball.  Suddenly, his dad’s voice carried over the crowd.  “Second base” it said.  Charlie dug for second and got tagged.


Losers again.

Kid doesn’t know his butt from a hole in the ground.  Why would he run to second?  “Good game, Charlie, good game. ”  Charlie sniffled.  If you listened to me we would’ve won.  “Want an ice cream cone?”  Charlie threw his glove to Sam and ran toward the concession stand, the game already forgotten.


             This week we’re going to play Victor/Victoria. If you typically write from the male perspective, switch it up to the female. And if you generally write female, go for the male. While this is going to be easiest for those writing fiction, if you’re writing memoir, share a memory from a brother/husband/father’s perspective.

We’re going to keep it short. As difficult as that can be for the more verbose of us, myself included, it makes it far easier to visit the more links and share our thoughts and opinions. So, let’s go for a nice, easy 300 words.

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