29 July 2011

See You With The Sun

As if the world stopped for a day, yesterday, my usual importunate clients were all non-existent. My phone was silent the entire day, and my email: no new messages. It's been a while since I've been that free--can't even remember the last time--and for a while was going out of my mind. Surprisingly, I didn't enjoy the feeling much, but I think I'd prefer it still over being rattled every minute by clients asking for designs they just requested an hour ago. I had brought a book--always have one in my bag just in case I have time--but thought it cad since I am still, after all, in an office.

Anyway, (wow that was a long, gratuitous intro) I ended up reading online instead (that was less conspicuous). I found this site, Backhand Stories, that publishes submitted short stories, and started reading. I was reading for leisure, yes, but at the back of my head I was also hoping to expand my creative writing skills, by trying to learn from them.  It's been a while, since the last story I wrote, and was even pursuing on a new project when a gigantic problem arose. I couldn't write. Like all writers experience at some point in their lives,  (although mine happens too often) I was having a writer's block. I'm starting to suspect that the reason must be my sabbatical on reading as well, since the last story I wrote (and the best so far I must say) was written during the heights of my being engulfed in Jeannete Winterson's Sexing The Cherry. And if you are familiar with the works, well. Then you know how overpowering that can just be. I started reading again lately--I stopped 3/4 through the book--and now want to start writing again as well.

One story I found reminds me so much of a story I wrote before. Unfinished though, but the titles resemble each other and both involves motherly love. I guess a mother's love is just instinctively that way--warm like the sun.

I found this short on Backhand Stories, and may probably just be the best I've read. The tone is absolute perfection. Re-telling at its best because stories, much like life, is all about perspective.

This, is where I start.

See You With The Sun
by Meghan McDonald

I hated my funeral. Everyone was all sad and quiet. Dad was like a statue. Mom was the opposite. She wouldn’t stop moving and there were tissues everywhere. She had on a dress with no sleeves so she couldn’t stick Kleenex up her sleeves like she usually does. And it was hot. I’m dead and even I was sweaty.

Sarah didn’t look up the whole time. But that was normal for her. It was either that or her giant brown eyes staring at me all evil-like. That’s the only way she looked at me when I was alive. I kind of deserved it though. I liked to pick on her a lot. One time I threw all her stuffed animals out the window. She walked in after I threw the last one down.

“What are you doing in my room?” She had just gotten a haircut and had huge bangs on her forehead. She looked stupid.


“You look stupid.”

She smoothed her hair down over and over. “You’re stupid.” Then she noticed what was missing. “Where are my stuffed animals?”

I stuck my hands in my pockets. “I dunno.”

She ran to the window and looked down and screamed. I laughed so hard, but then she hit me right in the face and made me cry. Mom ran into the room then and yelled at Sarah, which made me feel better. But then she found out what I did.

“Daniel, you’re getting too old for these games. This isn’t how seven year olds act, is it?”

“Yeah huh.”

She made me go down and pick up all the animals. I was so mad I hid one of them in the bushes. I didn’t hide her favorite one though. The stupid pink rabbit. She would have hit me really hard if I did. She hasn’t even found the hidden one yet. I wonder if she even notices it’s gone. I wonder if she even notices I’m gone.

Benny said it’s the law to pick on your big sister. He’s my best friend. Or I guess he was. He’ll probably get a new one now.

Benny has two big sisters. That’s two times worse than having just one. All of them were at my funeral. One of them is really pretty though. Maria. Even her name is pretty in my mouth: Maria Morgan. She had black stuff running down her face at my funeral. I felt bad for making her cry.

Benny said boys are never ever supposed to cry. But I saw him break that rule a couple days ago. He doesn’t know though. He’ll never know. I was being James Bond. That’s what I call my spying since I’m dead and can’t ever be caught.

It was the night after we went swimming. He was eating dinner with his family but none of them really touched their food at all. Maria wasn’t at dinner cause I would’ve spied on her instead. I don’t know where she was. Probably with the boy Benny and I caught her all tangled up with one time. She’d screamed like someone cut her.

Benny’s parents were talking to him real slowly. But I couldn’t hear what they were saying cause there weren’t any windows open. I pressed my ear so hard against the glass it hurt. I wanted to punch it like they do in the movies. But then the next thing I knew I was in the Morgan’s kitchen. That was the night I found out I didn’t have to use doors anymore.

Mr. and Mrs. Morgan are real funny. Mr. Morgan acts like a clown all the time. He told me he was one in College. I think that’s the next town over. Mrs. Morgan is always real smiley and jumps around a lot. Mom said she is a walking fiesta, but not in a nice way.

That night they weren’t acting funny and smiley though. They were telling Benny how lucky he was to be sitting there right then. I wouldn’t say that though cause their chairs are so hard and straight. They told him that it could have been him instead of me. But he went swimming too so I guess they meant dying. I wish Benny were here. He would love spying all the time.

I left after that. I got sad cause spying without a partner in crime is not real fun at all. James Bond must have been real lonely.

Benny didn’t cry at my funeral too much. I thought I saw some tears fall but he wiped them real quick. His other sister Claudia kept taking her glasses off and blowing her nose. I don’t even know why she was so sad. I never talked to her cause one time she tried to kiss me on the mouth and I ran away so fast. I wished Benny had timed me cause it would have broken my record but he didn’t even know. I never told him or anybody. I don’t really like to talk about it. Except now sometimes I wish I’d let her cause I died without ever being kissed by a girl.

I came really close one time with Heather Waters. We got locked in the coat closet at school. Heather has the longest hair I ever saw and it’s the color of squirrels.

“You can touch it if you want.” She pulled it around so it fell over her arm like the curtains at our Thanksgiving play. I ran my hand over it. It was so soft.

“I got this new shampoo that makes it soft as silk.”

“Why don’t you cut it and make it a blanket or something?” She pulled her hair back so hard.

“I will never ever cut my hair, Daniel Thompson, and don’t you ever ask me that again.” I liked how she had said that. It was like her very own Superman cape. Then I just plain asked her if I could kiss her.

“Can I kiss you?”

She didn’t answer for a real long time. But then she nodded, and as soon as I took a step toward her Ms. Aarons unlocked the door.

I’m going to miss Ms. Aarons. She looked like happiness. She had bright yellow hair and bright white teeth. I liked her so much it almost hurt to be near her. I was the only one in the first grade who hated leaving when school ended. She didn’t look happy at my funeral though. Her hair looked like Ms. Frizzle’s from the Magic School Bus. And she was with some guy who kept his arm around her. I didn’t like the looks of him, so I stayed away.

There were some people I didn’t even know there. Some were dad’s friends from work that I met like one time in my whole life. They must have really liked me, I guess.

One time I asked mom if dad liked me. She was making me waffles, which is my favorite food ever, and got all sad and concerned. She crouched down next to me like she was putting a band-aid on my knee or something.

“Why would you ask something like that, Daniel?”

“I dunno. When someone likes you they talk to you and play with you. He doesn’t do that. Are my waffles ready?”

“Daniel, your father loves you. He’s just has a different way of showing it. Sarah loves you, and she shows you by letting you use the bathroom first in the morning right?”
 

“I guess so. But you show me the most so you must love me the most right?” She hugged me real big then.

“Your daddy and I love you the exact same. Always remember that, okay?”

“Okay. But my waffles are burning.” She had to make me another batch.

Dad acted different after that. He used to always be real quiet. Everything around him was quiet too. It was like something would break if you made a noise. But then he started asking me to play catch all the time and threw me like a torpedo in our pool. It was the best week ever. But then I died.

Benny and I just wanted to go swimming. We have a pool in our backyard and we swum in it all the time during the day. But we had never swum in it at night before and we wanted to know what it was like, that’s all. I knew it would make mom mad cause she hates it when I scare her. I used to do it all the time when I was real little. I would run inside screaming, “There’s a wolf in the backyard, there’s a wolf in the backyard!” Cause Benny had just told me the story about the boy who cried wolf. But I knew I wouldn’t get eaten like the boy cause there aren’t any wolves in South Carolina.

The first time I yelled it, they fell for it. Dad jumped out of his chair so fast it flew behind him like he farted. Mom screamed. I laughed so hard but then mom put soap in my mouth. I shut up after that. Soap 
is gross. It’s like giving your mouth a bath.

When Benny and I went swimming, I just thought that if mom found out she’d put soap in my mouth again. I could live through another mouth washing. I definitely didn’t think it would be my last swim ever.

Benny and I tried so hard not to laugh when we were taking off our pajamas. I remember I got goose bumps real bad when the wind blew. I should have known right then not to go swimming. It was a bad omen. Like dad says when the sky’s red in the morning or when I walked under a ladder that one time. I never really got that though cause it sounds like what we say at church after a prayer, and prayers are good things.

I was usually a real good swimmer. But my leg started hurting and got all tight when I was in the deep end. I remember looking up at the moon through my goggles. It was so big that night. It looked like a giant white pancake. All I kept thinking when I started swallowing water was that I really wanted some waffles.

Mom probably won’t miss making them for me though. I would ask for them every morning. Dad and Sarah never ate them. Dad just drank coffee. Now that I’m gone that’s the only thing I’ve seen go into his belly.

Another weird thing that’s happened since I’ve gone is that he sleeps on the couch now. Dad always said couches were for sitting not for sleeping. He should get soap in his mouth for breaking a rule.
Mom is the weirdest though. She barely even talks. I almost forget what her voice sounds like. And her laugh. I loved making her laugh. It always reminded me of Christmas morning. At least she says good night to me still even though she sounds different. Her voice is all heavy. But every night wherever I am I can hear her whisper: “Good night, Daniel. See you with the sun.”

She’s said that to me every night since I can remember. It was the only way I’d stay in bed when I was real little. She would tell me that I couldn’t get up without the sun. I used to stare at the moon so hard with my death ray vision but it never moved or exploded. That would have been real cool. But mom said it only moved when I had my eyes closed. She was right too cause the next time I opened my eyes the moon would always be gone.

After I died, the first thing I did was run up to my parent’s room. Mom opened her eyes as soon as I walked in. I thought for a second she could see me. She got out of bed real slow. Her blankets hardly moved and the dent in her pillow didn’t even rise. Everything was so still and quiet. I felt like we were in a snow globe that had never been shook before. Then she heard Benny yelling my name.
Mom sprinted downstairs. I could barely keep up with her. Her feet slapped against the floors so loud, it sounded like someone was clapping.

She threw open the back door and was at the pool in three giant leaps and kept running right into the water. She pulled my old body out onto the edge of the pool and started pushing real hard on my chest. Then she listened to it. I put my hand on my new chest. Nothing.

Mom kept pushing on my chest. I felt bad cause she was soaking wet in her pajamas. And also cause Benny was making noises and rocking with his face in his knees on the other side of the pool.
I opened my mouth to tell them both to stop, but then mom made the worst noise I ever heard in my life. It sounded like a wolf was eating her. The wolf I used to tease her about. That sound was worse than dying.

******

It’s a month after my funeral now. Mom’s still in bed when there is a knock on the door. Dad pops his head in.

Mom’s eyes are closed and she doesn’t move. Dad comes in and kisses her forehead real soft like a whisper. Then he goes in the bathroom for a shower.

I lie down next to mom and prop myself up on my elbow. I look at her face a long time. Sunlight starts coming in through the windows. She opens her eyes.

I whisper, “Good morning, mom. I’m here with the sun.”

She goes downstairs and makes waffles.



Random: I cried over 3 stories yesterday, including this. Boy, am I emotional lately.

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