Thursday, March 16, 2017


This feeling was nothing new. This feeling that she was a failure—that everything she touched was tinged with the discolored stain of “it could’ve been done better”. It was never easy, these chunks of time. Fortunately, she wasn’t plagued by them often, but this one really had a hold of her. It seemed to be just a little bit harder to bear than some of the others had been.

She stood in the shower letting the hot water pound against the backs of her shoulders. Hard water. It clogged the shower head and made the stream unpredictable at best. The nozzle was turned to the pulse setting—not because an overly hard massage was what she was after, but because it was the only way the pipes could push out enough water to make a shower worthwhile.

She turned slightly, a jet of water finding its way through one of the only holes not calcified shut. It was just one stream, but, it habitually found the most tender spot on her body, and for some reason, she was always taken surprise by it.

Sleep had been elusive, and filled with thoughts that caused her chest to tighten. There was so much going on in her head. How could she possibly be expected to remember that one goddamn jet?

Her mind was busy. It always was, but lately it had been even more so. It sped and spun at a breathtaking rate, the gears never slowing. She was known as the talkative sort. Chatty. Maybe even too much so sometimes—but the funny thing about that was, there was still so much she never said. She didn’t share a lot of the big stuff. At least not very often. Her tribe, as it were, was a small one.

She was afraid, and oftentimes the fear manifested itself in tears. This made her look weak, which was far from the truth. She was sentimental, though, and highly emotional. Sensitive, too, damn it all. Maybe that’s why she was so afraid.

There was reason to be. She’d dropped the ball. She shook her head and uttered a humorless laugh. It echoed in the shower stall and vibrated around her. She’d failed. It had been happening a lot lately.

That nagging feeling was back. It visited from time to time like that unwanted guest who seemed to show up at the least convenient time. You know, those times when there is a multitude of things to get done and the guest bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in a month. He wears out his welcome the second he steps over threshold, but he continues to stay, demanding hospitality from a host who can’t seem to scrounge up any. It consumed her. She was distracted and exhausted by it. And he was cheeky devil. She wasn’t the violent type, but she wanted to kick this soul sucking guest right in his devious face.

The feeling taunts her. “I’m not surprised. You fucked up again, just like I knew you would. And this time you did it up good, didn’t you?”

“Damn it!” She had. She knew it, and she hated herself for it.

She reached up and slammed the handles of the faucet up. The inconsistent stream of water ceased and the only other sound in the small room was the dripping in the drain below her feet. The metal felt smooth beneath her unmanicured toes. It was probably the hard scrubbing she’d given it the day before. She sucked at that, too. The house was never put together enough. It felt like she was always picking stuff up or cleaning something, but it had gotten out of control. It always did.

Without thinking about it, she sighed. There was a cloud of steam in the room—a crazy space that, in most likelihood, was never meant to be a bathroom. She’d never seen the blueprints for the original structure she lived in, but surmised at one time this had been a walk-in closet. The doorway was much too narrow, and it didn’t have a door. Master bathroom my ass, she thought.

Although the house was a year older than she was, it had only been owned by two other families. She didn’t know exactly how they’d changed the house, but she knew it had been altered. Outside, it looked stately, dressed up in blond colored brick with a curved entry. Visitors complimented it all the time. Pizza delivery people, parents escorting their candy crazed children at Halloween … even the uniformed employees who came to the door trying to sell her overpriced cable packages told her how gorgeous, how remarkable the house was. She supposed on the outside it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t the prettiest house on the block, but it held its own.

The inside was a whole different story. It was nonsensical and uneven. Nothing matched from room to room, and there were tell-tale strips of paint in various shades around the windowsills that hinted at all the different styles it had worn throughout the years. The doors were broken. Sometimes they stuck and she had to throw her hip against the wood to get them to open. Other times they wouldn’t latch correctly or stay closed. The floors were mismatched, the hardwoods old and worn out, and the smelly, stained carpet had been pulled up and discarded long ago.

The house had been her doing. There hadn’t been much of a choice, really. There were only two places on the short list. The budget was tight and it had been up to her. She probably should have picked the other house. It was a lot smaller, but it was also a lot newer with fewer ragged edges and badly concealed blemishes. The yard had been finished, it was in a better neighborhood, and the wall behind the built-in entertainment cabinet had been a magical shade of deep turquoise. Space would have been a problem, but …

The air was cool to her heated skin as she stepped out of the shower. The other house—she couldn’t even remember the name of the street it had been on, which was unusual because she remembered damn near everything—had been appealing. It hadn’t spoken to her, though, except to say that she’d never fit the table they’d just purchased into that tiny little kitchen, and what about office space?

This house—the one with the bricked in fireplace that took up an entire wall in the basement, the one that had the bathroom with the blue mermaid tiles on the floor downstairs and a red sink in the kitchen—had spoken to her. She thought she’d grasped the message at the time, and was almost certain it had been a good one. Looking back on it now, though, she realized that it was entirely possible that she might have misunderstood it. As time went on, she became more and more convinced that the line of communication she thought she’d shared with the house years ago had been plagued by a fuzzy connection and she’d missed something important, something vital that she should have caught before she made the fateful decision to move her family within its four walls. The scariest part of the whole thing was she was beginning to think both she and the house had a lot in common. They both meant well and they tried really hard. On the exterior, they looked like they had their shit together, but inside they were both disorganized, perhaps a little broken and extraordinarily messy.

Oh, and then there was that visitor that kept coming to call. He’d conveniently ignored the fact that neither she nor the house had a welcome mat outside their front doors. He wasn’t big on manners, and had, on countless occasions, rudely walked right on in without so much as knocking first.

She dressed in her bedroom—the one that still had more than half the old wallpaper on the walls. It was some Oriental theme. At least she thought it was. It was dirty white with pale blue, and all four walls had a different design. The one she stared at while pulling her jeans on had a ragged edge that ran halfway down the right side and she could see the glue underneath, old, yellow and ugly.

Things were really screwed up. They weren’t working right. It felt monumental, overwhelming, like there was too much to deal with. There had been so many bad decisions made—both having to do with her personal life and the design of the house— and with each one, the debt grew larger. It was time to pay up, and the price was incredibly high.

Could it be fixed? She wasn’t sure. She stood at the end of the long hall, her eyes catching sight of the four doors that lined both sides. Every one of them was different, and the floor she stood on felt slightly bumpy beneath her feet. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for the day. With time and renovation, she hoped that maybe both of them could be saved.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March: It's come in like a melodramatic lion

I belonged to a writer's group when I lived in Germany. I was lucky enough to be a part of the first meeting. We were just starting off, getting the group going, and, because we'd just welcomed in the first few days of March, we decided we'd flex our creative muscles and write something about the third month of the year. 

I'm a very descriptive writer. So many different things came to mind when I thought about this topic. My birthday is in March, so I have kind of a fondness for this month to begin with. Spring is happening, the sun is shining a bit brighter, there are flowers and - where I come from - snow. I realized there was so much I could write about, but it would be easy to go overboard.

Then I thought, why not go overboard? It's a writing exercise, right? And who better to go overboard than an adolescent girl? Oh ... I'd just found the voice for my piece ... and I began to get excited about this assignment. Yes, I could have some fun with this one. I slid back into the past. A long, long way into the past, and I became thirteen years old again. The result is deliciously over done. I hope you enjoy.

Happy March, everyone!

In the Pursuit of Spring

©2017 Jennifer C. Wing

The young woman’s arm, outstretched and hanging over the shiny red metal of the car in which she rode, bucked gently in the wind. Her fingers were flat, held together loosely in a lazy mock salute and her hand rode the air currents that rushed past the open window. Clouds were forming in the sky looking like swollen, dirty cotton balls as they rolled in and began spitting a thin, cold rain that dotted the pale protruding limb. The only color she could see was the bright neon pink polish she’d picked up on sale a few days ago at the mall that covered her short oval nails like enthusiastic little flags moving in the chilly wind. March comes in like a lion so the old saying goes, and that was the truth of it. What used to be the beginning of a ten month year many, many years ago in ancient Rome was arriving quickly on the coat tails of winter, full of boisterous bluster much like the growling and grumbling in the back of a big African cat’s throat. The winter days following the Roman Decembris and those leading up to Martius, or this time of heralding spring, were so dreary and forgettable that at one time they were not even counted or assigned to any specific month. The girl quirked her mouth and watched the expanse of the cold and colorless sky hovering high above her dotted window and did not even think to wonder why this had been the case.

Round, brown eyes squinted against the oncoming rain while the clouds above her began to fold and shift as if they’d heard her silent, unkind thoughts and were unnerved by them. Slowly they transformed and began to resemble thick plumes of smoke rising from the ruins of a city demolished in heated, dusty battle. From within the amorphous swirls of darkening silver and gray the girl almost believed she could see the figure of a man, tall and broad shouldered, carrying a spear in one meaty fist, the weapon wrapped in a thick vine of long-leafed laurel. Mars, the god of war and ultimate pastoral guardian, looked to be treading upon an unstable ground of moving soot with a pair of large feet clad in roughly laced, flat-soled sandals. His hairy, unclothed legs beneath a short and flared skirt looked strong and undeniably masculine as he motioned time itself to move forward with a wave of his powerful arm. The thirty-one days of this unpredictable month boasted the name of this esteemed mythological deity who was said to have used his military power to secure peace, and each minute ticked by like an attentive and patient soldier in his army as the water continued to fall from the sky and slowly erased from view the swirling clouds that moved above the speeding car.

With a turn of the head accompanied by a pair of raised eyebrows from the front passenger seat, the girl grudgingly acquiesced to the wordless maternal request, first tossing a temperamental roll of her eyes before moving her wet arm into the warmth of the vehicle as the window whirred silently upward and locked itself back into the frame. Almost instantly the glass was covered in a countless array of dots of cool rain, each one a round, wet orb that splintered and multiplied her view of the outside world. If there had been a question of the god of war’s existence just moments before it was all but obliterated now as the sleek lines of the car moved quickly above wet pavement, throwing up a pair of plumes the color of rotting and filthy ice behind the rear tires. The clouds above continued to roll and churn as the chill in the interior of the car was chased away by the warm, stale air spewing from the vents in the dash board. The change in temperature and the weather outside stubbornly limited her view with a mist of milky fog on one side of the glass and a kaleidoscope of raindrops on the other. With a hushed and defeated sigh the teen relaxed in her seat, her carefully coiffed blond head pressed against the soft pliable leather as the film of limitless road and soft-edged scenery clicked past in a watery and colorless blur.

While she listened to the rhythmic beat of windshield wipers as they cleared the driver’s view in the front seat, the story of the conspiracy and brutal assassination of Julius Caesar, believed by many to be one of the greatest military commanders in history, marched quietly and unbidden into her head. Just like the wipers soothed her now, so had the tale, or perhaps more the telling of the tale in the flowing and somewhat lyrical style of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, the words rolling and almost musical coming from the throat of her teacher as she’d read it aloud in school months before. English, not one of her favorite subjects if she was honest, was situated tortuously before the forty minutes of freedom that was lunch break, and was normally a span of time she put up with only because she had no other choice in the matter. However, and she was at least mature enough to admit this, but only to those who were closest to her and who would not dare repeat it, she’d found the steady, confident lift and fall of the aforementioned teacher’s voice surprisingly pleasant as she’d recited the dying words of the infamous Roman general, uttered while the man is being brutally murdered by a group of ruthless men at the Senate. “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar,” the dying man whispers as he pulls the white fabric of a toga over his face and dramatically falls dead and bleeding from numerous swipes and stabs of malicious blades upon the ground on that ill-fated day now remembered as the Ides of March.

The girl was relatively certain that it mattered little if nothing at all to her whether or not Caesar had actually been militarily brilliant, and it had been consistently pointed out to her by her teacher that Shakespeare’s telling of the story was a bit historically askew so it was the fictitious facts of that long ago day she’d been interested in, if only long enough to pass the quarter final. She was pretty certain that she’d gotten the most important parts of the story down, although some of the details had been less than clear with too many characters to keep track of and all of them speaking a language that was far too frilly and nearly undecipherable to her teen ears. During the course of the nine weeks her class had studied the literary piece she oftentimes found herself thinking that Shakespeare was highly over rated, and had decided halfway through the first act of the play that a writer as praised as the famous old Brit was should be a little easier to understand. As the girl slowly drifted to that hazy place that lingers just before sleep, a thoughtful and perhaps mischievous smile played along the line of her carefully painted lips. A soothsayer’s warning and an adoring wife’s bloody premonition be damned. Sometimes, and the occasion was rare she was certain, it just didn’t pay to be stubborn.

Behind her now closed eyes a vision began to take shape, one of many a teen girl’s dreams in the shape of a handsome hulking vampire with a very unsexy moniker that hardly matched the body seen beneath the Calvin Klein underwear he was known to model in the glossy and perfumed pages of countless fashion magazines. The fifteenth day of March had not been so lucky for old Caesar, the girl thought, but that was way back in 44 BC. It was so hard to mourn the death of someone she never even knew when more than 2,000 years later, God saw fit to bring a being like Kellan Lutz into the world on that very same day. “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” she mused as her smile widened just for a moment with the thought that the Ides of March was not entirely bad before she allowed the thump of the wipers and the movement of the car to lull her even closer into the land of dreams. “Kellan Lutz is born!” the anonymous announcer in her head continued to shout enthusiastically. “And pre-adolescent girls worldwide rejoice!”

It felt as though winter had shown up, liked the surroundings and settled itself for an interminable amount of time with its sharp claws embedded firmly into the very fabric of the young woman’s being. The grayness and bitter temperatures seemed more like a pair of permanent residents instead of short term seasonal visitors, and the twitch beneath her skin that felt a lot like spring time had grown into an uncontrollable itch that no amount of scratching could diminish.

This girl was definitely no snow bunny and the bleak white canvas filled with nothing but shadows of screeching dark-winged birds and tall scraggly arms of bare trees reaching eerily up into the dense milky sky had her inner beach bum screaming to be heard. The girl longed for March’s lions, their honey colored coats warm and soft, their eyes dark green with spots of red the color of bloodstones, to stalk across the sky on big padded paws and pull from behind their muscled backs the wide, warm banners of crisp aquamarine like bright Mardi Gras flags brightening up the bleak sky to usher in the first day of spring. Nothing could bring out the drama queen in this sun worshipping female more than winter’s colorless and never ending cold and snow, and no doubt the Old Bard himself would have happily awarded her over enthusiastic mental ramblings a well-deserved round of applause.

She barely heard the noise at first, so immersed in her silent and subconscious diatribe against the cheerlessness of the first two months of the year that it took her mind a handful of minutes to register the incessant tapping somewhere near the vicinity of her right elbow. She slit one brown eye partially open and slowly focused on the culprit; one small but chubby and rather dirty looking troll strapped tightly into a heavy-duty car seat which rested snugly beside her. There were small square shaped books with hard, unbendable pages and a cup with a supposedly spill proof lid leaking a suspicious honey colored liquid that smelled like sweet, white grapes lying across a pair of rather round and denim-clad legs. On the ends of those legs were two kicking feet in stained white sneakers keeping time with the almost lyrical gibberish flowing out of the toddler’s graham cracker encrusted mouth, the untied laces flapping and moving about like restless and uncoordinated snakes around his ankles. The boy’s hair was several shades darker than that of his older sister with shiny curls that stuck out at wild angles around his face that gave him the look of a very young but energetic rock star. The girl wanted to be annoyed by the interruption of her nap, but upon resting her eyes on her baby brother’s plump, pink tinted cheeks, she found herself smiling at him instead. Okay, so he wasn’t really a troll she silently conceded. A pixie, maybe, or perhaps a leprechaun. Yes, she decided with an unenergetic dip of her pointed chin, that’s what he is. He’s a leprechaun, though admittedly much cuter than most she’d seen depicted in books or movies, but still as short and unruly.

The stripes that trailed along the fabric of the young boy’s long sleeved shirt were the bright green color of the three-leaved shamrocks that St. Patrick used to teach the Trinity to the pagan Irish, each one representing God as the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, and the gap-toothed grin that brightened the little imp’s face as he twisted in his chair to look at his sister made the corners of her own mouth lift a bit higher. The only rainbow this little leprechaun was liable to lead her to was perhaps a pilfered package of colorful Skittles candy broken open and spilled on the pantry floor, or a bright array of building blocks that hurt the tender insteps of her feet when she tried to traverse the messy landscape of the child’s room in the dark. As for a pot of gold, well, she quietly laughed. That was, without a doubt, completely out of the question.

She reached for the upended cup and felt the stickiness of the juice coat the pads of her fingers. Score another point for false advertising, she mused. The lid was decidedly not spill proof, but who in the world would notice after looking at the mess her brother had become since he’d climbed into the car seat more than an hour before?

“Be like the Irish, little man,” she said quietly as she handed the cup over to him. The little sprite reached over with a pudgy hand and gladly took it from her. “Drink up.” When he wrapped his lips around the spout and took a pull from it the girl laughed again. With that diaper of his bowing his short little legs, he walked a bit like a drunkard much like any other toddler she’d ever seen, and without a nap, he was nearly as surly and cantankerous as a few of the drunks she’d encountered. Yes, a leprechaun made the most sense. She wondered why she’d never come to the conclusion before.

With a shake of her head she turned and peered out of her window once more to find that the thick veil of clouds had finally begun to part. The rain was still spitting at her window, but with much less intensity, and the drone of the windshield wipers had slowed to a sluggish beat. She had to squint to see it but she was sure that the tiny little triangle of sky she spied behind the gray curtain was actually a faint shade of blue. Her eyes held fast to it as if they were daring it to change while she remained ever hopeful that it wouldn’t. Indeed, it was the pale, soft color of a robin’s egg nestled in a nest, and the shell grew a little bit bigger as she focused on it, the cars and highway signs a blur in her peripheral vision.

Gradually, the rain let up altogether and what it left behind was a world now shiny and clean if not still a bit chilled by the cool air. It looked reborn, almost fragile in its new state, and as the clouds let go their grip on the threads of their fabric and the weave became increasingly loose, more of the watery, blue sky was revealed. The girl silently coaxed the sun out of its den like she would a baby bird out of its shell. “Come on out,” she silently urged, the voice in her head gentle and soothing. “Come out and meet this cold winter world that needs your heat and light.” As if it had actually been listening to her, the soft gleam of sun peeked through, it’s rays as warm and soft as thick, creamy butter burned off more of the clouds, and ever so faintly there appeared to be the smallest hint of a rainbow, the streams barely creating the merest suggestion of pastel pink, yellow, blue and green reflected in the moisture that still clung wetly to the cool air.

The car slowed and veered right off the highway and the quiet clicking sound of the blinker faintly filled the warm air inside the vehicle. Smoothly, the girl’s father turned left and the scenery from the other side of the window moved but not on high speed as before. The girl caught glimpses of shiny rain washed windows glinting in the increasingly courageous rays of the sun above, and the bare limbs of the trees were showing small, tightly folded buds dotted along their wooden sleeves like little decorative buttons. Dirt as dark as coal filled planters and roadside gardens, the brave, thick stalks buried beneath pushing through with the bright color of emeralds and sporting long wrapped hats the shade of downy feathers on a newly hatched chick. 

A smile floated across the teen’s glossy lips once more as she peered up and watched the movement of the clouds, their shape rounded and snowy white now and moving across the sky like a herd of lazily grazing sheep, their coats fluffy clean and white. As she watched them she was convinced that these were March’s lambs slowly and hesitantly following the thunderous noise of the rambunctious, lean-bodied lions and she decided that she liked them just fine. Yes, she thought with a self-satisfied smile as the reflection of the fat, white flock moved against the wide brown of her upturned and unblinking eyes. She liked them very much indeed.