Boardwalk

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On making things better … or worse.

Published October 6, 2016 by mandileighbean

About three weeks ago, I went on a date with some guy I met online. We met on the boardwalk, which I liked. He looked only a little bit like his picture, but I’m sure the same could be said for me – I’ve definitely gained weight since the pictures I posted were taken. None of the mattered, really, because he was INCREDIBLY smart – knew more than a little bit about nearly everything. The conversation was great – enthralling, interesting. We talked for four hours, until the restaurants closed. At one point, he was explaining the scientific reasoning behind why men tend to react with violence while women are more emotional and tend to react with malicious manipulation. He posed a hypothetical question, asking me what I would do if a woman I hated, like really hated, keyed my car. I told him I’d go to the police, and he had to alter the scenario and tell me that wasn’t an option. I think he wanted to prove that eventually I would become violent (although in retrospect, I don’t see how that helps his argument at all, so maybe I misunderstood because he was SO much smarter than me). That inspired the short story below.

But some more about the date: he said “you see” a lot and removed his glasses to pinch and massage the bridge of his nose and pushed air through his nose awkwardly, almost like snorting but not exactly. In hindsight, it seems pretentious and textbook intellectual, but in the moment, it wasn’t so bad. There were even a few moments where I nearly convinced myself he was handsome, sitting on a bench overlooking the beach, calmly explaining the cosmos to the young woman beside him as a chilly wind whipped the finer strands of hair about his face.

But I think it was just the moonlight and me endeavoring to force a fairy tale where there wasn’t one. I haven’t heard from him.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #30: “Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?”

“Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?” Ashley pleaded. She was sitting in her Chrysler Sebring convertible with her best friend. The engine was running to keep the heat going; it was unseasonably cold, and tiny tremors assaulted Ashley’s body. The cloth top did little to keep the icy wind from seeping in and making the interior cold and uncomfortable. She watched her breath escape her lips in tiny, white puffs, disappearing as soon as they appeared. Despite the heat blasting from the vents, Ashley was shivering. For a moment, but only a moment, Ashley wondered how her best friend was faring, if she was as cold. But Ashley’s concern was fleeting. She wasn’t looking at Danielle, but stayed focus on the lone break in the curbing that served as both the entrance and exit of the parking lot. Neon lights and halogen bulbs lit up the night sky around them, and Ashley used the glare of the harsh and unflattering lights to peer into windshields and survey the colors of incoming cars. Oncoming headlights would blind her momentarily, but she would shut her eyes tight against them for a just a few seconds, all she could spare, and then she’d stare hard and long to make out the figures in the cars, to determine the exact shade of the paint of the exteriors of the cars. Ashley’s eyes shifted restlessly from side to side, scanning and searching for one driver in particular, one woman that was scheduled to meet a man in the diver bar that owned the parking lot. The man in question happened to be the love of Ashley’s life (at the very least, Ashley had convinced herself that was the case), and the woman in question was the current topic of conversation.

“I’m not going to do that,” Danielle refused. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared through the windshield. She forced her breath out of her lungs in short bursts, emphasizing her displeasure. Not unlike Ashley, Danielle wasn’t so eager to make eye contact. Everything had gone too far, much too far, and Danielle was having trouble comprehending that the woman gripping the steering wheel in tight, pulsating waves was the same woman she’d known for years and years, and had claimed as her best friend. Ashley was unrecognizable to Danielle. Sure, she looked the same, but the jealousy and ager that consumed Ashley and simmered somewhere just beneath the surface of her skin had caused her to mutate into something ugly, something horrible.

“Then why are you even here?” Ashley asked. She finally turned to face Danielle. Her tone was sharp so that the question was more of a piercing challenge. In her juvenile rage, Ashley wanted Danielle to leave so that Ashley could feel abandoned and awful, and thereby rationalize her unnerving desire to cause destruction and excuse her cowardly and dastardly behavior.

“To talk sense, Ashley; I need to convince you that this is really dumb, not to mention illegal. We need to leave before you do something stupid.”

There was a beat of silence. It was the calm before the storm; after just a moment more, Ashley slammed her palms against the dashboard and growled. It was a subdued scream that turned animalistic and cold and hard. Danielle felt uneasy but turned toward Ashley, willing to make eye contact and survey if Ashley was even present in the conversation, if she was even listening. “Go to hell,” Ashley sneered. “You don’t know what this feels like, okay? Save your self-righteous bullshit for your students.”

“If you weren’t acting like a child, I wouldn’t have to treat you like one, or talk to you like one,” Danielle retorted. “What is keying her car going to do, honestly?”

Ashley thought for a moment. “It’ll make me feel better.”

Danielle rolled her eyes. “Yeah, maybe, but then what? Will it make Russ suddenly realize he’s been a douche? How will it prove you were the right choice?”

Silence settled upon the pair. The truth was that Ashley couldn’t answer Danielle’s questions because Danielle was right. It was stupid, completely asinine, but for the moment, Ashley didn’t care. She wanted to feel satisfied and to feel justified – she wanted to feel better about the whole messed up situation between her and Russ and their feelings (or lack thereof). “Why can’t you just let me have this?” Ashley demanded of her best friend. Her voice cracked and allowed the tears to finally spring up.

“What kind of friend would I be if I let you be a stupid, awful, petty bitch?” Danielle asked. She extended her arm to rub Ashley’s back as she sat behind the wheel and cried. “You’re better than all of this, and you deserve better than Russ.” Danielle spoke in softened tone, doing her best to soothe Ashley and her broken heart. “Let’s get out of here, okay? We’ll get milkshakes and fries and talk shit.” Danielle laughed to show Ashley that she honestly believed there was a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Danielle needed Ashley to know that eventually, things did get better.

“Fine,” Ashley growled. She wanted to hold onto her anger because she wanted to be in control of something. She couldn’t change how Russ felt and she couldn’t deny Danielle’s logic, but she could decide how she felt, dammit, and she was going to be angry, downright furious. Without giving it much thought, Ashley abruptly changed gears and had every intention of peeling out of the parking lot and leaving the whole aborted revenge plot behind her – in more ways than one – and Ashley would have done just that.

Unfortunately, a young, beautiful woman with bouncy hair, tits that were a cause of envy, and a smile that belonged in toothpaste commercials, came walking up between Ashley’s car and the car beside it. The young, beautiful woman was not paying attention to anything other than her phone, busily composing a text message to let a popular man named Russ that she was walking into the bar, and that she had just parked. Her green Hyundai had pulled in just as Ashley had started crying, and were it not for the tears in her contemptuous eyes, Ashley might have seen the vehicle, recognized it, and done something else, anything else. As fate would have it, neither Ashley nor Danielle saw the young, beautiful woman’s car enter the parking lot, and so neither woman knew she was even there, where she was supposed to be, where they had anticipated and expected her to be. The young, beautiful woman walking between Ashley’s car and another was busy envisioning the entrance she would make and entertaining the endless romantic possibilities her rendezvous offered. She didn’t see Ashley’s car turning and accelerating fast enough to make the tires squeal, so hell bent was Ashley on making an exit the same way the young, beautiful woman was intent on making an entrance that would impress the entire bar. The young, beautiful woman never saw the impact coming.

The left headlight rammed against the young, beautiful woman’s shin, hard enough to break it and hard enough to knock her to the ground. The collision happened just outside of Danielle’s window, just outside of the front passenger door. She thought she saw bouncy hair pass by her field of vision on its way to the pavement, but she couldn’t be sure. It was dark and her attention was elsewhere. But Danielle and Ashley heard flesh and bone smash sickeningly against metal and plastic and rubber. They knew they’d hit something, but the enormity of the tragedy had not landed home yet. The front tires ran up and over the young woman’s body before Ashley could slam on the brakes and screech to a halt. “What the hell was that?” Ashley asked.

Danielle had a sinking, awful, terrible suspicion, but how could she say it aloud? How could she tell Ashley that in trying to avoid a misdemeanor, they had committed a felony? How could she explain that in trying to do the right thing, they had made everything worse, much worse? Pale and trembling, Danielle could only state the obvious. “You hit something,” she said.

“Yeah, but what?” Ashley asked. Danielle shrugged, was too shocked and too stupid to articulate anything meaningful or useful. Ashley threw the car in reverse, unknowingly rolling her tires over the young, beautiful woman a second time. The car jostled its occupants from side to side as it traversed speedily over the body. Ashley thought returning to the parking spot and surveying the scene from that vantage point was the best way to assess the damage and understand what had happened. It wasn’t until the sickening thud of the tires rolling over something soft and alive reached her ears a second time that Ashley understood that it was bad and wrong, all bad and all wrong. She put the car in park and battling nausea, Ashley threw her door open and climbed out of the car and onto legs that were wobbly and weak, and didn’t quite support her weight. Hobbling as if she were the victim instead of the perpetrator, Ashley stumbled to the front of the car, using the vehicle to support her weight. She crossed the front of the vehicle, placing palm over palm as she desperately tried to steady herself and walk, and when the body came into view, she promptly vomited.

pedestrian-accident

On wishes.

Published April 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was a great day. I had an absolutely wonderful time with my oldest sister and her family at the beach. Afterwards, I made myself an absolutely delicious spaghetti dinner. You know, sometimes, I think there’s no greater feeling than when you’re so completely stuffed with pasta that your chest becomes tight and breathing is momentarily impeded. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I had some beer and enjoyed some really great movies, too. I just watched this one movie titled, “All Good Things” starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Lagella. Apparently, it’s based upon the true story of the missing person case of Katie Marks. I’m currently investigating the veracity of the facts as portrayed in the movie, but OH MAN – it was so entertaining! Gosling and Dunst had a totally believable tortured chemistry; Gosling himself is so beautiful but there is something mysterious, and possibly dangerous, lurking beneath the surface, and that is truly where the attraction is. I really believe that a strong majority of women prefer attractive men who are vague and impossible to fully figure out. Hell, I’d even say that we all prefer a partner who keeps us on our toes and keeps us guessing. If there is no mystery, than what is left? In my opinion, that complacency I so fear is left. Also, that movie (for me, at least) really proves that well-known saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” It had me captivated because the male protagonist is mind-boggling; suspected of murder, cross-dressing, pretending to be mute, confessing to murder … he’s a strange, strange character who lives, breathes and currently resides in New York City. He’s a veritable goldmine of inspiration. There has to be more out there, no?

Excuse these ramblings – I had a few beers with dinner. That, coupled with the movies I watched, seem to have inspired me and stimulated my creative neurons. I hope you enjoy the result.

🙂

THE PROMPT: “Three Wishes”
You bump into a genie and she offers to grant you three wishes. What are your wishes and why?

THE PIECE:

Sean was on his way out; leaving the party that was, by all other accounts, still raging. He had to be up early the next morning for work and unlike some of his friends, he couldn’t meddle through the day hung over. A couple of years ago, in college, he would have certainly stayed past 2:00AM and convinced everyone else to stay as well. With an air of nostalgia hanging about his small smile, his feet hit the pavement outside the apartment building, and headed towards the right. Thinking back to college kept Sean distracted and as one foot was put in front of the other, he was unaware of the sights, sounds and smells around him – the same sights, sounds and smells that captivated so many others. Mindlessly, he reached inside his coat for his battered pack of cigarettes. Not pausing as he lit the cigarette he had chosen to dangle from thin lips, he bumped hard into another passerby. The cigarette fell to the ground, wet from the rain just an hour or so early, and his spirits fell with it. He looked to the stranger with a markedly adolescent pout.

“Oh hey, I’m sorry,” the stranger replied. The reply was not at all what Sean had expected – and not at all what Sean would have offered – so he focused on the human being before him. She was very thin with long, dark hair. He wondered if she had styled it or something, like before the rain came, because now it just hung heavily. Her eyes were ringed in dark, smudged eyeliner and mascara and Sean also wondered if she had been walking in the rain. Did she not have a car? Was she poor? Why was she being so nice? She pulled her hair back as best she could, but really, all it did was stick to her fingers and the wet mass was now surely knotted.

“It’s my fault, really. I should have been looking where I was going. Truth is I’m coming from a party and things are fuzzy,” he said, smiling weakly. Stepping closer, Sean asked, “Are you okay? You’re all wet. Do you need me to call you a cab or something?”

The lines in the young woman’s face seemed to lengthen and become smooth. A change of emotion was passing over her, but Sean was not sober enough to follow it. Her tone was kind when she said, “That’s very sweet of you, but really, I’m okay. I’m on my way to a party, too.” She indicated what she was wearing and Sean felt very stupid for not noticing earlier – she looked like Jasmine from “Aladdin.” The light blue bikini-kind of top with the billowing pants that rode the hips, complete with sandals, made for the perfect Arabian princess.

“I like your costume. Jasmine, right?”

She looked down to her feet, as if she were embarrassed. “No – actually, I’m supposed to be a genie.”

“I see that,” Sean suddenly insisted. “I totally see that! It’s well done.”

She laughed and shrugged good-naturedly. “You really are sweet.” She paused for a moment, perhaps to consider him, before she said, “Is there something I can do for you? Do you need more cigarettes?” Her dark eyes lighted at the fallen nicotine between them.

Sean shook his head. “Nah, I should quit anyway. I’m always game for three wishes.”

“Three wishes?” The young repeated the words because she was confused. Sean had thought he was being clever.

“Genies give three wishes, right?” he explained, feeling more and more stupid. How dare he try to be anything but buzzed and tired?

The young woman stood tall before him, straightening her back and squaring her shoulders. She shook her long, dark hair and looked incredibly proud. In a way that was more impressive than insulting, she looked down her nose at Sean and said, “Your wish is my command.”

“Okay,” Sean laughed. “First, I’d like enough money to pay off my student loans and never work again. I don’t have to be crazy rich, just comfortable.”

Nodding, she crossed her arms over her chest. “Why?”

Sean laughed. “Genies don’t have to know why. They never ask for reasons in the movies.”

She didn’t laugh or smile. She remained stoic.

“Well,” Sean began haltingly, “I hate my job. I only show up to the office for the paycheck because in this society, you need money. You need money for food and clothes and shelter, and you need it to be able to do what you want. For example, I would love to spend a week in every state in this country. I could do it in a year, probably, so I have the time. Hell, I have nothing but time. I have the desire, the opportunity, but not the means. I would need to pay for gas, food, hotels and to do that, I would need an income, but there is no income when you’re road-tripping. I just want to live, you know?”

“You have two more wishes.”

Sean was less amused and this time, answered brusquely. “I’d want the same for my family. Immediate family, that is; mom, dad and my two sisters and their kids.”

“Why?”

“I thought that would be obvious,” Sean sighed. “It’s because I love them and I care about them, want to share my happiness with them, and want them to have the same opportunities.”

She took a step backwards. “You have one more.”

“Look, this isn’t fun anymore. I’m sorry I ran into you. Enjoy your party.” Sean made to walk past the young woman, but she blocked his path, moving deftly. After all, she was sober.

“You have one more, Sean. Use it,” she said.

“Fine; I would love to bump into Christine Horton from high school and tell her I’m sorry. I’d tell her that I really did like her, and that I should have been man enough to admit that. I’d tell her I’m sorry no one would sit with her at lunch, and that I didn’t know they were going to read her diary out loud at the lunch table, or post copies of entries in the bathroom. I wish for this because it still bothers me. I think about her all the time and the awful things I did. I’d want her to forgive me.”

She softened and seemed to shrink before him. “There was no hesitation on that one. It’s late, you’ve been drinking and yet, that was surprisingly lucid and specific.” Covering her mouth with her hand, she mumbled, “You’ve been holding on to that one for a while.”

Sean pushed past her. “Goodnight; I’m sorry I knocked into you.” Decidedly grumpy, Sean was walking fast, mentally kicking himself for leaving the party at all. He had been so carefree and had so been looking forward to falling into bed with a dumb grin stretched across his face. Now he was bitter and regretful. Why couldn’t he have bumped into some hot chick? Why was it always the crazies he met? Why hadn’t he left well enough alone? Why had he tried to impress her with the cleverness he didn’t possess, drunk or sober?

Sean made it home some time later, crashing into bed.

He awoke late for work the next morning, just barely making it to the staff meeting on time. The meeting was long, tedious and awful. To avoid falling asleep at his desk, Sean decided to head out for lunch. He was devoid of cash, so he made a quick stop at the ATM. Green in hand, he waited for his receipt. It printed and as Sean turned to walk away, he read the information.

There was suddenly $500,000 in his checking account.

 

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