It’s been awhile…

© Dean Lipoff Photography 2011

His hand was back on her neck and she felt her heart skip a couple beats. She was starting to freak out and the baby was fussing. She snuck a quick peek at him out of the corner of her eye. He didn’t look like a crazy person or a serial killer or anything, but she knew you couldn’t judge a book by its cover.

That’s what her 8th grade English teacher always said.

She noticed a tattoo on the underside of his arm tucked up tight under the sleeve of his t-shirt. She remembered getting her small tattoo in high school and the biting pain it caused. It was like a whole bunch of bees stinging at the same time. While she was getting it, the guy told her she picked a good spot.

If you get one in a delicate place it hurts a hell.

Well she sure remembered getting pinched by her husband in that area under her arm one night when she wasn’t saying the right thing at some party. He had put his arm around her and tucked in his hand right there. She had kinda liked how it felt and then he squeezed so tightly it left a small purple mark for almost a month.

Almost like this guy’s tattoo. A small round circle with a design in the center. Like a brand mark she saw on the bottom of fancy food packages.

“I see your tattoo,” she said.

“Oh.”

“Yeah. It’s been awhile.”

“Awhile since what?” she mumbled. She wasn’t sure why she had started talking to him. The truck was bouncing so much she wasn’t sure how to fix herself to the seat.

“Awhile since anyone else has seen it,” he said while staring straight ahead.

*Yeah, yeah, no one wants to jump into a story that’s already started, but hopefully this was enough to get you interested in reading more…

So, here, here, here, and here.

There. Now you’re all caught up.

This was a writing prompt from my friends over at Write on Edge: This week, we’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently.

How’d I do?

 

 

 

Gifted

I already knew things were going to go perfectly. I had rehearsed and rehearsed and did that whole “visualization” thing in my head. I mean, come on. I was going to be perfect AND everyone was going to be looking at me. Okay, yeah, sure, I was nervous, but seriously. This wasn’t going to be hard, not hard at all. I mean doing those timed math tests were HARD. Playing the piano in front of the whole school was nothing.

I could totally do this.

While I waited my turn I imagined how things would go again. Visions of leather bomber jackets and aviator glasses filled my head as I amazingly and romantically played the most beautiful song in the entire world. Entire. World. I could smell my new hairspray, which stated it was made just for permed hair. I checked that my gold chain wasn’t clasp down and re-pegged my jeans. And, for some extra shimmer, a quick application of lip gloss finished the look.

It was my turn.

I was going to rock my school’s world.

While sauntering up to that piano as well as any sixth-grader could, I tried not to trip, because that would be really bad. Totally worse than banging out a couple of wrong notes. Yeah, my piano teacher told me I’d never be as good as my sister. Really, she had actually wrapped my knuckles a couple of time. But, whatever. I could do this.

As I sat at the bench and adjusted my piano book in place (even though I didn’t need it because I had the song memorized, of course), I took one last deep breath and then put myself into the music.

I was going to play Take My Breath Away like no one’s business, and when I was finished, this school would never be the same. Heck, this was my moment – my time to shine. This was the best thing that I had ever done and nothing could ever beat it. Yeah, whatever if those second graders had no idea what Top Gun was, they would find out later and totally remember this moment.

Totally.

Just a few hours prior I had run around that sweat smelling gym/multipurpose room playing a rousing game of dodge ball while listening to Another One Bites the Dust. As I tried to evade that boy who had a crush on me, I day-dreamed about what was going to happen later. I wondered if I should’ve worn the Guess sweater I had picked up at the mall in Milwaukee just a couple of weeks ago. Oh well. I was rocking that oversized Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshirt – I mean, no one had ever heard of the place. Not only would I be playing the best song ever from the best movie made ever, but wearing totally style-changing clothing.

Seriously.

As I got closer to the end of the song, I snuck a quick side-eye look at the front row. I saw that boy who had a crush on me and he was grinning from ear to ear.

I figured he wasn’t so bad – even though he listened to that death metal crap.

I let my fingers hang on the keys for an extra bit of dramatic effect before getting up, bowing, and walking off.

I’m not sure if there was any applause. I was too busy floating.

 

*This week’s prompt was all about a happy ending….

 

 

Help: Part 2

*read this first

She wasn’t sure how long she had been staring straight ahead. It seemed as if days and days had passed, but she knew it hadn’t been more than a couple of hours. She could feel the weight of the baby in her arms but didn’t want to look at it. She kept her eyes forward. She didn’t move.

It’s not like he’d been mean about it or even really forceful. He had simply opened the door and told her to get out without making a scene. She was more stunned than frightened and found herself opening the door and almost floating from the car, like someone had filled her full of helium. Her head felt all tight and her ears where buzzing. He caught her quick glance at the now-silent babe, and told her to keep moving.

They were his now. He would take care of it.

Her husband had never said that to her. He had never “claimed” her in any way. She knew her husband didn’t love her, but she couldn’t help being in love with him. She had fallen for him right away and she knew he was THE man for her. After the first month of his late-night phone calls and visits, she was pinching herself at her luck. He was just so perfect! When she found out she was pregnant, she was worried. But he surprised her with a quickie wedding only telling his parents afterwards. She was so excited to have the family she longed for. Instead, she got silence.

She would’ve been happy with one hug – from any of them. And he never touched her anymore either. She longed to be loved, just to be wanted and appreciated in any way. That’s all she truly wanted.

Love.

She thought the baby would help, but it just cried all the time. Her husband told her she was a bad mother. Why else would a child cry all the time?

The baby stirred revealing a crescent of drool on her bare arm, which caused a shiver to run through her. She inwardly cringed at the fear of his attention.

After quickly handing her the baby, he had been focused on driving for hours without saying anything. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. There was no explanation for her idiotic behavior. What was wrong with her? She could’ve run out into traffic and desperately waved a car down for help, screamed in his face, remembered to put gas in the car…

She hadn’t done any of those things – hadn’t even fought. To be honest, she wasn’t afraid.

He had said they were his now, he would take care of them.

The baby woke up and began fussing. She instantly felt overwhelmed with the knowledge she didn’t have anything to offer it, not even a fresh diaper. She could tell the child was hungry and needed a change. Her husband would’ve pulled her aside by the arm and given her a real talking too, using his loud voice so others could hear. The last time he had was in front of everyone, and the child had cried harder and harder. He told her to “take care of things” and to “get that crying child out of here.”

She was embarrassed as a tear slid down her cheek. She was worried he would think she was crying about what was happening, not because of a memory of something between her and her husband.

While slowing the car he carefully reached over and put his hand on the back of her neck.

 

*This weeks prompt was all about character development. Do you know what you want most? Does your character?

 

Help

This was absolutely the last time. It was impossible to explain to the husband, and the child screaming in the back seat wasn’t helping matters either. And, she was feeling like a total idiot, causing her body to sweat and her head to swim with emotion.

How could she have run out of gas again? AGAIN!

And, of course, she didn’t have her cell with her. He had just given her a hard time about this the other day when he had tried to call her, wanting to remind her to pick up this or that from the grocery store. Something HE could do, but for some reason wanted the domestic ability to call and tell HER to do it.

As she glided to the edge of the highway she gave into heaving breaths as she realized this was the first time her running out of gas had happened while on the freeway. The cars zoomed by at frenzied speeds, making her feel she was in a movie. She imagined she was and at any minute the director would yell, “CUT.”

But, there was no one to help her now. She didn’t bring her cell; she didn’t even have cash on her. Her wallet contained a debit card with a total of twenty-three dollars and she didn’t own any credit cards. Her daughter continued to wail in the back seat.

Her realization of what a horrible mother she was overwhelmed her. She hadn’t even brought anything for the child to eat or drink.

She was just going to run to the store and had decided last-minute to go to that cheaper place so they could maybe have something other than ground turkey and dry pasta for dinner.

The last time this had happened she was not even a mile from the house, and instead of suffering the humiliation of the husband having to come bail her out, she simply unloaded the child, thanked whatever was above that she had the stroller in the trunk, and walked home. She scrounged around for some change (enough for at least a gallon of gas), walked back to the car via the gas station where the attendant found her so funny he gave her five gallons even though she only had enough cash for one, and then dropped the mini gas can back at the station before heading home and crying herself into a total breakdown.

The time before that she had called her husband. He had been at work and really yelled at her over the phone. He made such a big deal about leaving work and having to save her. He told her it could never happen again. They had a child now, she should know better.

As she sat there staring straight ahead pretending she wasn’t stranded on the side of the highway with an unhappy child in the back seat, she heard a tap on the window.

Her heart heaved as she realized someone had approached the car without her knowledge. Her first reaction was to lock the doors and scream and scream and scream until someone like a policeman came to help. But, she grew up in the Midwest.

People are good.

She rolled down the window and was greeted by a smiling face, which was somewhat disheveled, but looked potentially trustworthy.

“What seems to be the problem, missy? Ya run out of gas or something?”

The voice seemed distant and surreal against the sound of the highway.

She figured he could help.

She was wrong.

* This week’s prompt – Write a short piece – 600 words max – that begins with the words, “This was absolutely the last time” and ends with “She was wrong.”

Here’s the rest of the story:

Help: part 2 and Before

 

Slumberland

As I curled there I fully understood what I was doing. I didn’t care. He could figure things out. I mean, it’s not like he’s unable to take care of himself – he can tie his shoes and use a can opener. I pulled the blanket closer around my body as I shivered with its coolness even though my forehead was beaded with sweat. There was no denying I knew what I was doing. I had made this choice and I was sticking to it.

While turning my body slowly and wincing slightly, I heard some rumbling and things falling and hitting the floor. I pulled the comforter tighter around my head muffling any sounds, any reminders. As I closed my eyes I heard faint swearing and running footsteps. While clenching my teeth I hummed a tune in my head to distract myself – to comfort myself.

Maybe I dozed, or my brain took a moment or two to readjust, but the next time my eyes focused on the clock, it was two hours later. I carefully peeled back the layers of bedding while listening for any sort of movement. My eyelids flickered with desire for more sleep, but my mind jumped with attention to the silence. There didn’t seem to be any noise, any sort of anything.

My heart pounded and my head flooded with concern. What had I done? What had happened?

I pulled myself up and out of the bed. My body responded with aches and pains as I adjusted clothing and found my glasses. While focusing, I once again strained to hear anything, any small sounds.

There was nothing.

I became angry with myself as I struggled up the stairs with sleep in my eyes. How could I be so selfish? The nights without sleep had taken their toll and I only wanted a few extra hours to nap and nestle into the warmth and emptiness of the bed. I couldn’t imagine what I had done allowing him to be alone with such responsibility. My anxiety level gained momentum with every step.

When I arrived at the top step my head reverberated with noise as my daughter came running at me full force screaming, “MOOOOOOMMMMY!” at the top of her lungs.

My husband sat comfortably on the couch with Caillou silently complaining on the television. After my daughter had finished her attack on my senses she quietly shuffled back to her dada, looked at me and said, “sshhhh, mommy sleep” and I turned and went back down the stairs, giving my husband one of those you-know-what-you-get-later looks.

As I pulled the comforters back around me and closed my eyes to the rain sprinkling against the window, I couldn’t help smiling while drifting back into much needed sleep.

 

*prompt was sloth…

(indulgence)

*Yes, this week’s Red Dress Club prompt is about gluttony, something I think I know quite a bit about. But, this post is about an actual time I could’ve been a bit too gluttonous, and stopped just in time…

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

It had been a long day. Really, it had been a long week – a long month. And, it was only 3 in the afternoon. It seemed nothing had gone right, things had fallen apart, there were big messes everywhere that seemed to be collecting dust and taunting me. I was in no mood to deal with any of it. Having the child hanging on my leg made things worse.

She wasn’t even crying, just her mere presence caused my core to reverberate with anxiousness and my head to sprout gray hairs. What would I do if something ever happened to her? How would I go on? I wanted to eat a bite of her so some small piece would be with me at all times – become part of my body.

Yeah, that’s a bit gross, but I’m tired, okay?

When someone dies everything sucks. When a couple of people die all clumped up around the same time, everything sucks a little more. Having a wee being all full of happiness and glowing with life causes mortality to slap you so hard on the back of the head it results in whiplash. For the most part of the week I had been a stumbling mess crying for no reason, staring into space, drooling…

I figured I’d snap out of it – something would wake me up from my darkness and self-pity, which caused even greater guilt for not grieving the deaths but fearing of more.

This afternoon was just like every other. The babe had awakened from her nap gleefully yelling the heartbreaking, “mmmmmooooooooooomy.” I had dutifully pulled her out of the crib, changed her, offered a slight hug, and succumbed to the television as a better entertainer than myself.

I had given up.

I was lame.

As I shuffled to the fridge for a snack – because eating seemed like the right thing to do – that shiny bottle of chardonnay sparkled from the back of the fridge. Its gleaming glory screamed, “DRINK ME!”

Everyone else did it. Other housewives indulged in afternoon delights, right? I wasn’t the only one to drown my sorrows in alcohol. It’s not like I drink everyday at 3….

These thoughts quickly ran through my head as I opened the wine and sloshed some into a glass. I even snuck a peek behind me to see if anyone was looking. But, who would be there? I was home alone. Alone with a child that couldn’t talk and was busy in love with Caillou.

I could sit and slurp wine for an hour or two until the husband came home and then slink off to bed.

The perfect plan.

By the time I had polished off the first glass that sharp dull feeling had started seeping through my body and everything seemed a bit less harsh. The babe was in the other room laughing at her boyfriend, and I could just keep going.

As I began pouring a second glass my daughter came running around the corner so excited to share some sort of rambling jumble of words with me she slipped and went sliding on her stomach right across the kitchen floor. As I waited for her wail, she turned over and began laughing so hard, I couldn’t help it. My last sip of wine came shooting out my nose and splattered all over the floor alongside my giggling daughter.

That was the moment.

Everything was going to be just fine.

I put the wine away and rolled around on the floor with my daughter while we laughed and laughed.

Can you see the sky?

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

*This is in response to the writing prompt: Someone has stolen something from you (or your character). Something of tremendous value. What will you do to get it back? Or will you give up?

I’ve spent a long time doing this. During the first couple of years with you I was fine adjusting and moving about to fit your construct. I was okay changing myself and fitting my ideals into the interesting nooks and crannies. It was a completely different mold. I had been a big square for years, and you were for sure an organic form.

I’ve always taken pride in my ability to speak my mind and share with others my viewpoints, silly notions, and impressions of the world. I’ve been called idealistic, hippie-istic, and artistic. I wore all those labels with pride on my sleeve for others to see and touch as they walked by.

I didn’t mind the stares, the questions or inquisitions. This was how I was raised – to sit around a round table, battle, squabble, banter, and conclude. Those previous skirmishes were won with love, compassion, excitement, understanding, and endearment.

With vivid memory I remember saying no. I remember the moment I stood my ground and stated my strong opinion. I remember the sly smile on your face as it tried reconstructing while crumbling in disbelief at my misconduct.

No.

The giddy-ripple that built within me proved my response was correct. My inner being had popped the cork of the champagne hiding for years in the fridge and was desperately grabbing at any clean glass ready to pour. My heart was pounding out of my chest making me feel my face was pulsating showcasing my emotions for everyone to see.

In no less than a second you had already moved on. Your thoughts had progressed from my pathetic being. I was not in your crosshairs, just another thing that was insignificant.

You had made me feel special – important, a golden child. But, in that moment, you made me feel no less than a garden worm in compost – important in the plan but useless for show.

I found you to be compelling, unconditional, and endearing. For years I was loyal (like a dog). I’d suffered harm from much worse that had left scars. Your one moment of searing disdain was enough to completely cloud the sky.

Pain was quick and deep. But in time, had become something that waxed and waned without tucking itself in at night. Instead, it hid in the closet waiting to visit late at night. I was determined to continue – to move on.

Salvation came in the grasp of a small hand reminding me of me. The cutting reality that another took self-worth away from me stung greater than any verbal slap received. How I had allowed another to make me feel any less than whom and what I am was inept, inexcusable, and incomprehensible.

I look back at that moment years ago and hover above myself as I cried and cried and cried. I could blame it on hormones, or just giving birth to a healthy child after all that turmoil, but now I understand I learned in that moment how to say no.

And, as much as at that instant in my life it seemed like the absolute worst thing ever, I now realize if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As much as at that moment I thought with gut-churning pain I had thought you had taken something away from me, I hadn’t realized you had given me something so absolutely wonderful.

I was too focused on your rejection to understand.

That, without you,

I had found me.

And, now I see the sky.

 

 

The tyrant

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

*This is a short piece in response to a Red Dress Club writing prompt:

Is there someone who drives you crazy?

Someone who really gets under your skin.

It doesn’t have to be someone you know (although it certainly can be). It could be someone famous. Or even a character in a book.

Now, write a first-person piece – as if YOU are this individual. Write from his or her perspective and include the things that really bother you. For instance, maybe there’s a good reason why they eat with their mouths open, or why they use sarcasm as a weapon.

 

I’m happy there’s a routine around here and she’s willing to follow my plan and do what I say. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what she’s here for. She has no other choice.

Just this morning, when I finally ventured outside and the sun was so bright that it almost knocked me down, she made it seem like I needed someone to hold my hand. The sun was just really bright and when you’re stuck inside for so long, the brightness is almost physical. I slapped at her hand, and when she reached out for me again, I slapped at it harder, which resulted in her finally leaving me alone.

It was bliss walking in the sun feeling the heat burn through my skin. I wanted to wallow in the warmth for hours and hours lusciously enjoying everything it had to offer. I waved my hands in the glow, moved my feet slowly, and let my hair feel the soft breeze. But, I wasn’t moving fast enough. Just like her, always in a rush. She prodded me from behind and I turned and gave her a look. I knew where we were going and we had more than enough time. We were still on schedule.

Quietly, I tried explaining things were just fine. My goal wasn’t to cause problems, just to get a few special moments with her. I wasn’t trying to be deceptive, only for her to take a couple of minutes to enjoy and relax with me.

I suddenly felt horrid for slapping at her hand earlier and desperately reached for her. But her face was set and she wouldn’t look at me. I sulked, too.

The garden was lovely and we both went to our corners to do things. I so enjoy pruning the plants and tending to the fresh flowers. After carefully inspecting each one, I picked a few to share with her as a way to show my true love. But, just when I was ready to turn and offer my bouquet, I was shuffled into the shade and my flowers thrown to the ground. The shade offers no warmth, just shadows. It wasn’t time yet and I was frustrated that she had disregarded my flowers with anger.

Where had she run off to? Now when I needed her, she’d gone of and left me huddled in this cold corner all by myself. I was bored and alone, and I was thirsty.

Thirsty.

It just so happened that in the shady little corner where I had been left and forgotten there was a large puddle from all that torrential rain. It looked so soothing and cool, and would taste and feel so good on this warm afternoon. I quickly used my hands to drink and drink and drink not caring if my clothes were soaked through or my body dirtied. I was thirsty. It was as simple as that.

With tremendous force I was lifted in the air and twisted violently. Surprised, I let out a shocked wail. Within moments she had whipped off my clothes leaving me naked and shivering. I was embarrassed. I was cold. I was scared. There was no reason for her to treat me like that. I simply had wanted a drink and she hadn’t been there.

She hadn’t been there. She hadn’t followed the schedule.

The thought made me howl and wail, and then howl and wail more.

What would I do if there were a time she wasn’t there, when she would never be there?

To hell with the schedule.

I want a hug.

 

 

 

Time to make the donuts

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I woke up the other day obsessed with making donuts. For someone trying to eat healthy, hot, crispy donuts are not at the top of the low-calorie, low-fat, low-anything list. But, I wanted some donuts. So, donuts I would have.

Stuck deep in my cause-my-mouth-to-drool memory is a creamy donut I had the pleasure of eating at a little bakery/coffee shop in Duluth, Minnesota. I loved frequenting the place to sip a cup of tea and sample one of the goodies sparkling in the bright, shiny display case. Whenever the smell of fresh donuts wafted from the front door, I was right there ready to munch away.

The style of the afore-mentioned donut was more like a beignet – full of air and lightness with a blustery dusting of powdered sugar all over the place. I knew I had to attempt a recreation. My stomach told me so.

After finding a recipe for donuts, and making a couple of adjustments, I created the best ever donuts right in my own kitchen.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon yeast

1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)

3/4 cup warm skim milk

1/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/3 cup soft butter

2 1/2 cup flour (*I used 1 1/2 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour) plus additional flour for kneading

2 cups vegetable oil

Directions

Stir together the sugar, warm milk, and water in a mixing bowl. Gently sprinkle the yeast over the top and allow to bloom (get all bubbly), which takes about 3 minutes.

Now add the egg to the frothy concoction, along with the salt, vanilla, and soft butter. Delicately stir together with a spatula. You’re creating a batter of goodness and treating it with total love and respect will guarantee luscious, decadent donuts.

Begin adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms, which means the mixture will be a bit sticky. Deposit the supple dough onto a floured work surface and sprinkle with additional flour so it can be kneaded without adhering to your hands. Once the dough has been worked over for about five minutes, return it to the mixing bowl and cover with a fresh, soft towel.

Find a nice warm spot for the dough to rest, which takes about 30 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

Dust your work surface with flour and begin rolling the donut dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Now you can create any shape of donut you like by pressing a glass or cookie cutter into the dough. I simply cut the dough with a pizza cutter into rectangles.

Bring to a toasty-hot temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit two-inches oil in a medium-sized sauté pan. Gently slide the cut donuts into the hot oil and fry for 1 to 2-minutes on each side, carefully flipping with a slotted spoon.

Remove your lightly browned donuts from the oil and let rest on a couple of sheets of paper towel.

Topping the donuts

Simply dust the donuts with powdered sugar, or a combination of cinnamon and sugar. Or, if you really want a treat, you can combine powdered sugar, a touch of vanilla, and enough water to create a glaze perfect to drizzle over the warm tasty things.

This recipe created about 20 3-inch rectangular donuts.

(I won’t tell you how many of them I actually ate.)

*I originally posted this in July of 2010, but after discovering The Red Dress Club and seeing the writing prompt for this week, I couldn’t resist reworking the post as well as rediscovering my love of the all-wonderful donut.