Thursday, October 1, 2009


Here's one I wrote forever ago for a contest with my sister. The guidelines were to include: a clear bottle with blue liquid, something made from marble, a wooden desk, a person, an owl, a large scrapbook, and a room with two doors and three windows.


She sat at the large wooden desk in a chair that didn't match, other than the fact that they'd both come from garage sales. They were first pieces of furniture she'd ever bought long before she'd ever met him. The table was handmade and solid wood from a time when that was typical, but it was so heavy it needed three people to move it. That had made it cheap enough for her to get even on a check-out-girl's salary when she'd wanted a writing desk more than anything else.

The chair had a star of wheels at the bottom, and was covered in blue fabric. Not the blue that cried sadness, not Picasso's blue, but a blue that said "I'm blue, dammit, and you'd better like it!" The sad blue was in the bottle. Actually, shade of the liquid was very close to that of the chair, but sad had been written on the label. More exactly, it said "Sad Kathy" in large letters on the top and "for the blue periods" on the bottom, with a hand drawn face in the middle with features everywhere, one eye actually running off the side of the face.

Vodka with food coloring filled the bottle. Absolute Kurrant or Kurrant Absolut, but she couldn't peel the label off to tell for sure, so she pushed it off the side of the desk. It shattered on the tile floor where the smell of the alcohol overwhelmed any hint of berry.

He'd loved tile, and she'd hated it from the first time they'd ever seen the house. He had pushed for this one above all others. She had given in to make him happy and now it was hers while he moved into a home with the soft golden wood floors she'd always wanted. Well, she didn't really know anything about the home he'd moved to, but she could imagine. She was a writer, that's what she did.

She opened up the drawer that wasn't quite the right size for modern standard hanging files and pulled out Happy Kathy, Silly Kathy, and Dramatic Kathy. Scary Kathy was a blackish color she'd never been able to convince herself to try, so she had no idea what flavor he'd used for that one. She'd never tried writing horror anyway, so it didn't matter so much. What mattered was that she'd just killed Sad Kathy and there were no appropriate bottles left.

He'd been so sweet in their first few years, supporting her unpublished career with all of his heart. This would have been their fifth year, but instead it was his third month with her. The other her that did something during the day other than write unfinished, unpublished stories about a world that never was, and was available at night, never caught behind a cash register to help with rent.

She poured bright yellow Citron Absolut Happy Kathy into her art festival mug. Little round eyes stared at her from the handle, asking if she was sure this was what she should be drinking.

"I bought you a muse to help you write," he'd explained, showing up after the festival. Did she own anything that hadn't been part of that life? Clionia, the cup, Kathy couldn't break no matter what associations she had.

Their wedding scrapbook sat at the corner of the desk. He'd left it there when he'd come back for his stuff. Remember the happy times or remember that we were happy, she wasn't sure which he'd been trying to say, or if he simply didn't want it. It sat where he put it when he pulled it off the bookshelf that he took. Its padded and bejeweled lacy cover had been a present from his mother.

She held it close to her chest where its fluffy frame was almost comforting. The picture on the cover was the same as the one in the large marble frame across the room. He'd been watching the camera, offering a hand to gather her for a dance and she'd been reaching for him, staring longingly into his face. It seemed to define their relationship right then, with her wanting him so desperately and him playing for the crowds.

The end-table under the marble frame seemed lonely, sitting under the center of the three windows near where his recliner had been. It stood guard over a pile of incomplete novels in notebooks on the floor, while a stack of other people's books crowded the frame on top.

She'd turned the photo face down when he'd left, but she could see it whenever she closed her eyes. Their wedding had been an evening affair, with photos taken outside against a backdrop of snow-covered trees. Inches above their heads, a snowy owl had appeared seconds before the flash winging toward the branch nearby and had disappeared immediately after the flash with a disgruntled "Whoo."

She'd always believed owls were good omens. Now she wasn't sure if the owl had meant that their marriage was a fly-by-night sort of affair or that it would end because of one. Either would have been accurate.

She tucked her bare feet up on the chair seat away from the icicle shards of the glass and spun her chair to see the cluttered room. Knick-knacks covered the floor along the wall that used to hold his bookshelf. Her bookshelf stood unmatched and alone along the long wall of the oddly shaped room, and she remembered that she'd never remembered to look up why the realtor had called it a "Florida room." It had two doors, one leading out, and one leading into the empty house they'd always planned to fill with children as soon as it was convenient. Let's wait for this promotion or for the car to be paid off, or for publication meant that the right financial time for children had never come. Probably a good thing in the end.

His bookshelf, and his recliner, and most of the furnishing from the house were in an apartment nearer to his workplace where he and she were probably celebrating their freedom with the new paperwork that came today. Divorce final, finalized, over and done. With one hand holding the scrapbook and the other holding the Clionia cup full of Happy Kathy, she couldn't open the plain ordinary life-crushing envelope to get the exact words, but she knew what it meant. This would be the last bottle of Happy Kathy she would ever find.

Kathy opened her wedding book and rearranged the pictures, clearing the entire last page of the happy memories. With some tape from the top drawer, she pasted in the unhappy envelope. One day she would open it and see the full horrifying end, but maybe that ending was too final and too clear. Endings were better with a little mystery.

She closed the book and picked her way across the glass, careful not to step on any of the far-roaming shards, and pushed the scrapbook onto the bottom shelf between the Unabridged Dictionary and the Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology. It's fluffy padding looked out of place among such serious books, but it slipped into place with only a little force.

"Endings," she told Clionia as she took another sip, "seem to be just what we need." She relieved the end-table of it's guard and dropped the unfinished novels onto the corner of the desk. Putting the bottle of Happy Kathy gently back into the drawer, she opened the pink Silly Kathy, Peppar Absolut, and began to read.

Today, Kathy was sure that endings wouldn't be as difficult as she'd always thought.

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