Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March Wordsmiths Challenge: House and Home

Well, there was a challenge up on Wordsmiths Unlimited for March, but as of this morning the web site was still melted or something, so this is more than likely the last one I do, which is a shame. Anyway, here it is, based on the lovely Picasso painting below:

House and Home

I couldn't help it. I had to drive by the house one last time before we moved.

Here is the yard, overgrown and shaggy with dandelions; here is the driveway and the crumbling brick path that twists to the stairs of the front porch. Here's the front porch with its railings wound in a poisonous, spiky vine. Here is the house itself; sentient cave, sadly gray and sagging after your wife moved out, and there was me, two months after she left, waiting for you to answer the doorbell, dizzy with love.

The inside of the house was just as impressively miserable as the outside, with the barest suggestion of furniture, spider webs flung in corners, laundry sitting in tidy land mines on the rug. You pointed out the progress you had made since your wife had left: the new faucet in the kitchen, a raw length of pine fence in the backyard.

I wrapped my arms around you and saw in my mind a house bright with paint and stuffed with soft couches, the lawn thick and green. I wished you would let me give you this home I had always dreamed of, had craved since my own divorce three years ago. I wanted to be happy. I wanted you to be happy.

I started with small things. I threw out piles of junk mail and containers of expired yogurt. I wiped off counters when you were in the bathroom. Later I would come over when you were at work and do laundry, scrub grout, replace light bulbs. You said you fell in love. I moved in.

I hired a landscaper so the two puppies we bought could chase squirrels unhindered. I painted. I bought a red couch on credit and sat with my coffee in the early morning sunlight that filtered through the new curtains, thinking of what I had to do next.

You fired the landscapers one day and the grass grew wild over the brick path and the front porch. You continued to collect spoiled food and credit card applications. The puppies dug a hole under the fence and ran under the wheels of the neighbor's Chevrolet.

Here is the spot in the backyard where I buried our puppies, and here was the place next to that pitiful mound that I cried for them and for my sorry, fallible wish for happiness. Here is the driveway again, where I loaded up my car and did the one thing that finally made my soft little dream come true.

And now here I am in front of the house a year later, sitting in my car, watching as your TV throws blue shadows in the street. My husband is calling me on my cell phone wondering where I am; the movers would come for us early tomorrow to take our furniture to the home where we would raise our family. But for now I ignore it, giving myself another minute to say goodbye, then another.


Dragon said...

I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. Wonderful work, Sea Hag.

I hope you never stop writing.

Anonymous said...

Yet another story about failed relationships.

Well done, but how about something different?

Push yourself in a different direction...

Sea Hag said...

I would typically ignore any anonymous comment because, well, if you didn't have the stones to at least sign your name it's not worth reading. However, my secret reader, I will address yours.

Do you have a point about my ongoing theme of messed up relationships in my writing? Absolutely. I think that better writers will take on topics they know the most about, and at this point in my life that is what I want to write about. Do I think your comment might have been a little generalized? Yeah, a bit. I think the dynamics of a relationship are more fascinating than simply examining the endings (as in ‘Secret Sharer’), and that’s what I strive to reveal. Relationships can be wonderful and fulfilling, but even the best ones have periods of darkness and disappointment. When two people decide to mesh their lives together, even if for only a short bit of time, there’s a lot of compromise involved. How much we are willing to change or give up or tolerate is what determines whether or not a relationship lasts. And sometimes the end of a relationship can be more fulfilling than the relationship itself, such as with ‘House and Home’, wherein the narrator realizes that to get what she wants, she’ll have to leave.

Here’s what I think: In ‘Always Yes’, the narrator was willing to compromise everything for her late-night visitor. ‘Forces of Nature’ (which I’ve also posted under ‘On the Way Home’ at is about a woman who has already compromised everything and is actively rebelling and pissed off, but seems to be unable to free herself from the situation. ‘The Gift’ begins as a failing relationship, but in the end it seems as though the couple have managed to (at least, briefly) start to mend the rift between them. ‘September’ is just about a couple who have a weird co-dependent relationship. I’d consider ‘The Chapel’ more of a murder story than one about a failed relationship (though the husband did off the wife), and ‘Crystal Ball’ is just plain goofy.

So is there a theme in what most I write about? Of course. Am I working on other things that are a departure from it? Certainly. But like I said, as a writer, this is where I am right now, and to be honest I’m pretty pleased with the things I’ve done.

Anyway, my dear anonymous person, if you care to further discuss this, I would be more than happy to pick your brain. I’m always willing to listen to anyone if I think it might help me as a writer in any way.

Biff Spiffy said...

S'Hag, another house and home run...

Oh that was a crappy metaphor. But I'm leaving it there.

Depth and richness and elastic emotional whiplash abound in your stories, and ridiculous decisions seem to make sense.

And, your response to Anonymous, wow. Well done and generous.

More writing, ok? Don't even hint that just because Wordsmiths has evaporated like a lit fart that you won't be doing more.

Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff.

The puppies getting killed was the kicker for me.

Really good.

Hyperion said...

People who want to post criticisms either need to

A) Post their names (or at least web-identities)

B) Send you a private email if there are problems with posting in front of everyone


C) In extreme situations, at least point out why you are hiding behind the Anonymous label. Is there a plot on your life? What gives?

FYI, any competent web counter will tell you the IP addresses of who visits, and by synching up the comment time with visitors, you should be able to reasonably figure out who it is, for next time.

I'd say more on what "Anonymous" can do, but the last time I did that the FBI came to visit me, so I will not suggest suicide for that person. But seriously....

On to more important matters:

This story is awesome.

Yes, it's about a failed relationship. What are you supposed to write about? The glory of morningwood? Yes, as a writer you want to branch, blah blah blah blah, but some of the best writers in the world write all of their short stories and novels ABOUT THE SAME THING! And you've just begun.

I hate that person. Almost as much as I love your short story.

"The TV throws blue shadows in the street." Thats just a sentence that holds on forever.

Sea Hag said...

The only reason why I even bothered to address Mr. Anonymous was because I know damn well who it was and I didn't want that no-talent ass clown to have the last word.