“A” my name is Alice — really. Bob is my husband. Cromwell, Connecticut, is our home. Does this sound familiar? Every little girl in America jumps rope to “’A’ My Name Is Alice.” Fourteen years ago, I married Bob, and my life became an offbeat jump rope song.
Golly-gee, living in a nursery rhyme is great fun. Hear a little sarcasm? I try to suppress it for the sake of the kids, but it always creeps in.
Johnny is 13 now, a budding comedian specializing in dry wit that hovers dangerously close to full-out sarcasm. Katie, 11, having heard what men think of glasses-wearing girls one too many times, is our wise-cracking Dorothy Parker (or maybe Sarah Silverman).
Levon is 10 with no witty bone in his body; Bob hopes he’ll be a musician like his namesake, drummer Levon Helm.
Mike, at 8 years old, nurtures his sarcasm gene with South Park and The New Yorker cartoons. Nancy may be a mere 3 1/2, but she has developed crushes on Sheldon Cooper (both Big Bang and Young), Chandler Bing, and Liz Lemon. Our baby, Oona is only a year old and loves Three Stooges’ slapstick, the precursor to sarcastic humor (see, e.g., the Marx Brothers into Groucho Marx).
Perhaps you noticed that makes six kids, our own juvenile Monty Python troupe. Quips galore in my house.
Rock star dad that he is, Bob built a mini Globe Theatre for their more theatrical comedy endeavors. Shakespeare it ain’t, but it keeps them and the neighborhood kids busy. That, of course, means the parents are partying at our house on the regular. Until the childless neighborhood killjoys come over and raise hell, resulting in …
Visits from our local constables, none of whom have any sense of humor or patience for busybody neighbors. When the cops arrive, red lights flashing, sirens blaring, the party really gets going. Xenophobes might hear the chaos and think they have discovered a tenth level of Dante’s Inferno. YOLO is our motto. Za usually arrives just in time to calm everyone down; no one in our tenth circle talks while they eat.
Every May and September, award-winning writer’s site StoryADay.org hosts a challenge to write a short story every day. Founder Julie Duffy issues the challenge to writers at any level from beginning amateurs through published professionals. Regardless of the writer’s experience, the thought-provoking prompts exercise and challenge participants’ writing chops. June is a celebration of their accomplishments, culminating in StoryFest on the last weekend.
Head on over to StoryADay.org on Saturday, June 27, or Sunday, June 28, and discover a new writer or a new genre.
(Full disclosure: I accepted the challenge for the first time last year. Loved it so much, I came back for more this year. My submission to StoryFest is my next post.)
Walking past the display case, she stopped short. That was his leather jacket behind the glass. The one he wore in her favorite videos and on two of his album covers. She remembered he wore that jacket on stage the night they almost met. She hadn’t thought about it for many years. Could it really have been 30—no, 35—years ago? Peg had scored front row seats for the four inseparable girls celebrating their high school graduation. They were so giddy and boisterous that night, dancing and singing along. Towering above them on stage, he laughed along with them, encouraging them, singing directly to them most of the time. He couldn’t take his eyes off them, off her. He may have sung the really rocking songs to the four of them, but the ballads he sang only to her. Her friends even noticed it and teased her about it as they ran for the train after the concert.
Just as she reached out to press her hand against the glass, her reverie was interrupted by an insistent female voice asking, “Are you Julianna? You are Julianna. Definitely. I’d know your face anywhere.”
“Have we met?”
“No, but he told me all about you. OK. You’re probably thinking I’m a crazy person, and what I have to say is sort of crazy, but I have proof. Listen, can we go sit down over there? Maybe grab some coffee? I really think you’re going to want to sit down for this.”
Curious, Julianna agreed. Waiting for the coffee, the strange woman rummaged around in her oversize tote and began talking.
“I’m Kathy, by the way. I met Bobby a little over a year before he died. What a man! He wasn’t really famous any more, and he wasn’t the young rock god he used to be, but put him on a stage, in that leather jacket, black leather pants, black boots ….. There were five other guys in his band, who were also fading rockers, but he was the one you couldn’t take your eyes off. When one of the other guys was singing or showing off with a theatrical guitar solo, he would back out of the spotlight and just stand there, tapping his foot, playing his guitar. Even then, he was the one you watched. Well, we got engaged fairly quickly, but I knew he was never going to marry me, especially after I found these.” Triumphantly producing two large manilla envelopes and a small box from the maw of her bag, she pushed one of the envelopes across the table to Julianna. “Go ahead; open it.”
Julianna’s jaw dropped as she looked at all the drawings. “This is me. These are all me! But…but…how…?”
“Clearly, you made an impression on him.”
“But, I never met him. My friends and I went to a concert for our high school graduation, and I felt like he was singing only to me, but we never met. I never even went to another concert. Never even saw him in person again. And these pictures….. They’re not just me as the 17-year-old senior I was at the concert. They’re me with my brothers when we were 5, 6, 7 years old; another one when the two youngest were 3 and 6, and we older ones were teenagers. There’s me at my first wedding; me with my second husband; me graduating from college. I was 37 for god’s sake! Here’s another, twenty years later at my husband’s funeral. Bobby died 15 years before my husband! This is insane! How could he possibly have drawn these?!”
“I told you it’s crazy. When I found these pictures, naturally I thought they were drawings of a family member’s life. Bobby could have just let me think that, but, remember, this was a year or less before he died. He knew he was terminally ill. And he wanted me to know about the pictures, and the songs and letters in the other envelope so I could tell you.”
“Songs and letters?”
“Yes. Starting when he was a teenager, he wrote songs for and about you. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote around 20 of them. I don’t think he ever recorded any. Well, not for commercial release, anyway. That other envelope has all the songs, both written lyrics and tapes, some with the whole song; others, only the music. He wrote letters to you at least once a year, either on his birthday or yours. Don’t worry; I haven’t read any of them. It just about killed me not to, but I promised him I wouldn’t. At some point, when he was in his 30s, I think, he started drawing the pictures.”
“And he wanted you to tell me all this?”
“He was sure that someday you and I would meet, and he wanted you to know that he searched for you his whole life. The way he explained it was, you and he have been meeting in different lifetimes for hundreds of years. In every lifetime you were sometimes best friends, but mostly you were married or, at least, lovers. I have to admit, even though I promised him I’d try to find you and tell you, I thought he was nuts. That it was the chemo or the cancer itself that addled his brain. He also wanted you to have this.”
Julianna opened the little box. Nestled inside was a small gold ring. Engraved around the band was “Bobby ♥ Julianna = magic ♥“. It fit perfectly on the third finger of her left hand. With tears streaming down her face, she said
“Julianna!!! For Pete’s sake, wake up! You’re going to be late for school! And shut off the damn alarm!”
Stretching, her dream fading, Julianna thought maybe she and her friends shouldn’t have indulged before going to the concert last night. She reached for the alarm clock, knocking somthing off the night stand. Bending to pick it up, she discovered it was a small gold ring. But whose? She only has silver jewelry. Inspecting the ring, she found engraving “Bobby ♥ Julianna = magic ♥“.
1005 words. Written in response to Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt “dreamer“.
“Lovely lady, would you like to walk with me and my white wolf dog?”
“That was your best pickup line? ‘Lovely lady.’ Jeez, who talks like that? So, did it work?”
“Not exactly. She burst out laughin’ and kept walkin’ away.”
“Well, of course, with a come-on like that! Whadja expect?”
“Aw, c’mon! Don’t tell me you actually thought …”
“Yes. Yes, I did. She likes dogs. She has a dog. Was even walkin’ it when I asked her.”
“Her dog is a purebred prissy little fluff with a ribbon holding its hair out of its eyes. Yours is a big ol’ scruffy mutt, for chrissake! No way he’d pass for a wolf dog. No wonder she laughed!”
“Clancy isn’t a mutt. Are ya, Clance. And he’s not scruffy, either. Just gave him a bath.”
“Yeah, well, looks like you’re gonna have to give him another one. Listen, you and Clancy enjoy the park. I gotta get movin’. Roxie’s parents are comin’ for dinner. If I’m late, she’ll have my hide.”
“Right. See ya…….Well, Clance, I guess it’s you and me, as usual. Whadaya think, fetch or frisbie.”
“I’ll take frisbie for 500, Alex.”
“Whoa! It’s you! For a second I thought Clancy…..I mean … not that I thought he was really talkin’ to me. It’s just, my name happens to be Alex. And yours, lovely lady?”
“You’re not gonna believe this, but my name is actually Lovely. My mom is English, and, well, over there they use ‘Lovely’ like we’d say ‘Honey.'”
“Oh. Well, it’s a lovely name. I mean pretty. …. Why’d you come back?”
“Wanted to meet your white wolf dog. Clancy has a bit of a Schnauzer look to ‘im in a sheep-dog kinda way.”
“I’ve been told he’s a mutt.”
“He is a mutt. Don’t you know? They’re the best kind.”
“Really? Where’s your little…….cutie.”
“Oh, Mitzie isn’t mine. I just walk her for a friend. That’s why I didn’t stop before. Had to get her home. Now, let’s get to that frisbie!”
338 words. Written in response to A Writer’s Life’s Just Start Writing (JSW) prompt to take a line from a song and use it as a first sentence. The line is from Milkwood’s “Lincoln Park,” written by Benjamin Orzechowski (before changing his name to Benjamin Orr.) Photo credit: Ebet Roberts 1978.