The Gift

As she stood in the living room, Doug’s daughter looked beautiful in her strapless, ankle length evening dress. Just gorgeous. Marge’s blonde hair was short and curly and that accentuated her blue eyes. She had her mother’s eyes. Ellen, her mother, snapped several photographs, then she urged Jack, her daughter’s date, to join Marge so she could take more.

Jack’s smile was the smile of someone who was receiving a precious gem. He took the flower out of its box, laid the box on the table and walked over to Marge. He went to pin the flower to the gown. His hand shook. He was too nervous.

Doug said softly, “I’ll do it.”

Jack looked at her dad with grateful eyes.

Doug took the flower from Jack’s hand and pinned it onto his daughter’s gown. “There,” he said, then kissed his daughter on the cheek.

“Thanks, Dad,” Marge said.

Doug backed away, proud of the girl they’d almost lost two years earlier from cancer. Ellen snapped more pictures. As Marge stood beside her date for the prom, her face glowed.

Doug and Ellen followed the two outside. Standing on the porch, they stood arm in arm, and watched the work of their lives get in the car and drive away. Their eyes were filled with wonder.

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Grandma’s Chair

“Dad, I want the chair,” Ellen said.

“That was Grandma’s chair and you can’t have it,” her brother, Taylor, said. “I think I should get it. I am the oldest.”

Fred was not happy that his children were fighting over his mother-in-law’s chair. She’d only been dead a week. Now the kids were fighting over her things. God, didn’t they have any sense? What would they be like when he died?

His wife, Madge, interrupted his thoughts. “None of you are getting it. It’s coming home with me and your father.” Madge didn’t even like the damned chair but she was sure as shooting not going to let the kids take it. It was her mother’s, after all.

That’s when Madge’s brother, Carl, stepped in. “You’re not going to take it, Madge. You didn’t even like it. I’m taking it.”

Madge gave Carl a look but figured that settled it. It did not. When it comes to family, it is never settled.

Near 500 words: The return

Meirose, after years away, came home. He packed himself up from the faraway land he had escaped to and came home. He threw on his dark cloak with the black hood and came home. He stepped on the dirt road east and came home. He made his way through the Canyons of Sorrow and came home. He crossed the green valleys and snow-capped mountains and came home. He walked hard roads and hidden paths and came home. He crossed the Bridge of Sorrows and came home. He went through the Gate of Regret and came home.

Down the Aisle of Trees past the Street of Justification, he went. His stride was slow and even, one foot hesitantly stepping before the other.

He came to the house of his father. There were flowers everywhere around the house. Red ones and white and yellow. It was spring when Meirose came home. He made his way through the wooden gate to his father’s house. He had not so much hope but fear that his family might not open their arms for him. He had not been a good son. Here he was at the front door, knocking, knowing he was not about to be forgiven. After all, he had stolen from them.

He had stolen their love. He had stolen their faith. He had stolen their compassion. He had stolen their trust. Now the thief had returned, and he knocked on his father’s door. That large wooden door with his father’s coat of arms embossed into it.

He heard sounds coming from the inside of the house. His hands shook. His heart beat faster. His eyes spread their tears upon his face as he waited. He waited on the sounds. He waited on the footsteps. He waited for someone in his family to answer the door.

Before Meirose stood his brother. Before Meirose stood his younger sibling. Before Meirose stood a man he didn’t recognize. He was tall and handsome, his hair sitting easily on his shoulders. He had his father’s dark eyes and his mother’s nose. And his voice was his own. “May I help you?” the man asked.

“Don’t you recognize me? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you remember? I am the black sheep returned to beg for a forgiveness that I do not expect.”

Happiness seized the brother. Joy overcame him. Love threw its arms around his brother as he embraced the man who was Meirose.

That night there was dancing and drinking and laughing and hugging and a great feast at the home of the father of Meirose. The old man sat at the great table with wonder on his face. His prayers had been answered. He could now die in peace.

haiku for the day: parents

Life can be confusing when we’re growing up. You go to your father and ask if you can do something. Your dad says, “Go ask your mother.” You go see Mom and ask for her approval. She throws a curve back at you. “Go ask your father.” After three or four rounds of this back and forth, we come up totally confused. And that’s the whole purpose of the exercise. Neither parent has the courage to tell you no. So their solution is to refer you back to the other when you ask. Now you would think that they are doing this little drill spontaneously. But not really. As they used to say in the movies, “It’s a communist plot.” Since Day-One of your little life, they have this drill planned. In fact, they practiced it while you were still in the womb. 

a mother says look
a father says go, so we
go without looking

Denise

Denise had a cousin who was nothing if not a dreamer. Denise’s cousin died of a broken heart.

Denise decided that was not for her. She had big dreams. But nobody in the family believed her. Not her brother, not her sister. They went their separate ways, found spouses, settled down. Each had a son and a daughter. Her parents liked their children’s spouses. And when they had kids, they made her mom and dad so happy. They now had grand children to spoil.

Denise’s mother kept asking, “When are you going to get a husband and have kids. All those guys you hang out with are gay. They are not husband material. Find a guy. You’ll be a happy Mr. and Mrs.” Her dad said nothing. He wasn’t a talker.

Now Denise liked her sister-in-law well enough. They went shopping and laughed and gossiped the way women do. Her brother-in-law, Marvin, only talked politics. The president this. The president that. And he was loud about it. “Oh, that’s just Marvin,” her sister excused her husband. “He’s got a good heart and he cares about the world.”

Right, Denise thought.

The times she saw her brother and his wife became fewer and fewer. They seemed to drift away from the family. Denise thought it was because of Marvin. He was a hater. Little did she know that her brother’s father-in-law had cancer. Her brother and his wife were helping her mother.

Denise always liked her nieces and her nephews. They seemed like good eggs. Her brother’s daughter especially. She had big dreams like Denise. That was when Denise decided to be a role model and really pursue her dreams. She had talent. She knew she did.

So she was going to New York and become a Broadway set designer. It had been something she wanted since she could remember. When she was seven or eight, she watched a tv show and she wasn’t at all interested in the actors. She wondered how the sets were made.

Oh, sure she liked boys but they were never as handy dandy with a hammer as she was. She could drive a nail into a board, and she could drive it straight. When she went into high school, she joined the drama club. Her drama teacher was sure she had the goods to be a set designer par excellence.

After high school, she let go of her dream. Her mother convinced her that life was too scary. She had to make a living, everybody told her. So she went off to nursing school and became a nurse. It was the easy way out. Dreams were risky, and they were scary. The closest she came to Broadway was the Community Theater.

Now she was in her early thirties. She finally had her education loans paid off. It had been a hard scrimp. She saved and lived with her parents to do it.

Seeing her niece one day made up Denise’s mind. It was now or never. She decided it was time to grow up and prove she had the goods. Be the woman she was meant to be.

On her last night at home, she and her mother had a fight. The next morning her mother didn’t come down to wish her good luck. But her father gave her a ride. In the car, her handed her $1000. “Just in case,” he said.

She wanted to cry but she didn’t. She pushed back her tears.

“Call me at the office if you need help,” her father said. At one time, he’d had dreams. He had not had the courage to pursue them. So he knew what his daughter was doing and how hard it was. But it was the right thing to do.

They pulled up at the bus station and went inside. Her dad bought the ticket. It was a round trip ticket just in case. Denise refused it. So her dad paid for a one-way ride to the big city. Then they hugged.

He left her sitting on a bench waiting for the bus.

“Man, I can do it,” she told herself, caught the bus and left town. As she rode the bus, she thought about all the stages of her life. That was then. Now she had the future ahead of her. She was thirty-two and just starting. And she realized that it is never too late to pursue her dreams.