Happy Friday, lovelies, don’t you just love freshened spaces? I’m feeling that way now about my blog. This afternoon, I gave myself an hour to change things up with a new header, new profile image and description, and new site colors. That hour stretched into ninety minutes thanks to some coding issues, but I love how it turned out! It’s not perfect and certainly not finished … my rushed header needs tweaking, the menu has outdated info, and there’s something funky going on with my background. But for now, this makes me smile! And excited about blogging again!
Now. About today’s story.
Early last year, I found out about a Flash Fiction contest hosted by my local Maryland Writer’s Association chapter. 500-word limit, any genre or topic, $100.00 prize for the winner and top entries would be published in a yearly anthology.
Hmm. One of my goals in 2019 was to write more short stories. It sounded like fun … plus $100.00 sure would help my racing budget! So I decided to enter.
But then a month went by. And another. And yet another until the morning of the deadline had arrived.
I stared down at the written deadline notice in my planner with a frown, angry at myself for missing yet another goal. Angry for giving more attention to less important tasks and projects than my own happiness and career. Angry for failing again … like I’ve failed so many times before.
But then again … the day wasn’t over yet.
I grabbed one of my favorite writing exercises prompt books that I started back in 2016. Beneath the dog-eared covers were a few short stories that turned out to be interesting, in a nice, but I’ll never use kind of way. I quickly typed out some prospects, did some rough editing to make sure they were within the 500-word limit, and then printed them out before heading next door to my mom’s.
Oh, how I love my mother.
She’s always the first one who reads my rough drafts and seeing as how there was no time for shitting around, she quickly disregarded the weaker stories and suggested I go with one called Here’s Hoping.
(Actually, it had a different title, but I can’t remember what it was.)
With the clock ticking, I gave the story my full attention, trying my best to develop the characters and storyline in as few words as possible. After each version, I ran to Mom’s where she and my stepfather ruthlessly critiqued it. (Like I said. There was no time for shitting around.)
By around 5:00 pm, I did one last read-through, typed up the cover email, attached the story, hit send … and then got a beer. Goal accomplished. Done.
Now. A perfect ending to this story would be winning the $100.00, right? Well, that didn’t happen. But my story was selected as one to include in the anthology! Not too shabby! And the greatest result was the sense of accomplishment I felt afterward.
I finished something.
My story wasn’t perfect and it was a rather small goal, but it didn’t matter. I FINISHED SOMETHING! And here’s thing. The more small goals you accomplish, the more you write, and the more you put yourself out there … the bigger your creative spirit grows, motivating you to take on larger goals and projects.
This is why I spent time this afternoon giving my blog a mini-makeover. It made me feel good. It made me feel accomplished. And the fresh slate is motivating me to write more often here, despite how few people are reading this.
So go on, you. Put yourself out there this weekend and accomplish something, however small. I know you can do it!
And with that …
Hearing the sound of kids running through my house after years of blissful, child-free silence is still troublesome, to say the least.
A loud crash comes from the basement.
I keep my prized baseball memorabilia down there with several written DO NOT TOUCH warnings. Can’t six and seven-year-olds read by now? I don’t know. Children are puzzle pieces I’ve had no desire to put together. Here’s hoping it wasn’t something valuable.
Another crashing sound.
I groan, cradling my forehead in my palm over a cup of coffee, wondering why I gave them permission to watch a movie in the basement. And why on Earth Nicole thought I’d be a decent father for them, if only temporarily until she comes back.
If she comes back. Here’s hoping.
I gaze at the sunroom with its cozy white furniture, fluffy throws, and breezy curtains, a room Nicole said was ‘Pinterest perfect,’ whatever that means. But it was perfect for lounging in pajamas on lazy Sunday mornings with mimosas and poached eggs, enjoying the benefits of our childless married life.
How lucky we were.
Our weekends belonged to only us. No hauling kids to baseball games. No ballet lessons or homework or birthday parties in noisy arcades and the only kid to set foot on our property was a neighbor boy who mowed the lawn twice a week.
Pure, unburdened happiness.
I was happy to never have kids in my previous relationships.
Nicole was happy to leave her children behind with their father, a man who loved hauling them to baseball games, ballet lessons and birthday parties with no desire for lazy Sunday mornings over mimosas and poached eggs.
But then he got sick.
And then he was gone, leaving behind two strangers, a boy, and a girl, delivered to our front porch with sad eyes and shaky hands gripping their suitcase handles.
Nicole didn’t want them. Nobody did.
So she packed hers and left.
The sounds of someone slowly walking up the basement steps brings on another headache. Nicole’s son pauses when he sees me rubbing my temples. He frowns, looking down at the broken signed Rafael Palmeiro bobblehead in his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he says in a soft, frightened voice, telling the truth instead of lying as I would have at his age.
Been through hell and he’s the one who’s sorry. And it’s funny. That bobblehead took me months to find, but really, it’s just painted ceramic. It’s not real. Not valuable.
I drain the rest of my coffee and rise, already dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt instead of pajamas. I shrug and toss the broken pieces in the trash. “Eh, no biggie. Hungry? I make great poached eggs. And how about we all go to a baseball game today?”
Nicole is never coming back.
And I was wrong. Someone does want them. I just never thought it’d be me. Maybe they’ll be able to stay for good.