What I Tell You Three Times Is True

I slip into the stairwell of the derelict hotel and begin to climb the five flights of stairs. My footsteps are steady, but my mind weaves erratically. I don’t want to think, but my mind won’t behave. At the first landing, I pause and breathe. I do not want to stop again.

When I reach the second landing, I think of my mother as a pretty teenager. Grandmother Rue looked up from her snap peas to study the boy dating her daughter and spit in the bushes. “Nothing but trouble.”

By the third landing, I remember the story of my mother treating Grandmother Rue to donuts, hoping to sweeten her up before confessing her unplanned pregnancy. Grandmother Rue, unaware of the powdered sugar lining her upper lip, shook her head. “Nothing but trouble.” And then she bowed her head and prayed for the grandchild that would become me.

I continue to climb, unaware of passing the fourth landing, as I remember my mother crying at the kitchen table, a black eye and busted lip telling the story without her ever saying a word. “Nothing but trouble,” Grandmother Rue muttered as her arthritic hands pressed an ice pack to her daughter’s temple.

I begin to tire as I pass the fifth landing and I wonder if I beat the sun to the top. It is only when I reach the door to the roof that I hesitate. Even my mind stutters to a stop. But I only allow a few seconds to pass, to breathe deeply, and then I push open the door as the sky begins to lighten. I hurry to the edge, wanting to watch as the sun slowly reveals the town. Birds chirp hello, a car backfires good-bye. Grandmother Rue had a saying: three times and its true. My father is nothing but trouble, I agree, placing my hand on my belly where his baby grows. And then I jump, but I do not fly.

This writing exercise was for Trifecta’s Week Thirty-Three Challenge: Write a 33-333 word response to the following quote: “What I tell you three times is true” by Lewis Carroll. The actual quote does not have to be included.


19 thoughts on “What I Tell You Three Times Is True

  1. the last sentence was the perfect touch to end this piece. and i liked your wording at the beginning as well. i wasn’t sure what to expect at the end. all the thoughts of how she came to this point whirred through her mind, only to reach a terrible end!

  2. Brilliant. Depressing and shocking, but flat-out brilliant. Reminds me of the small-town tone of some of Bradbury’s short stories — which also often had horrific endings as well!!

  3. What??!! I did NOT expect that twist. I suspected she was going to kill herself, but the baby? Nope- total surprise. What a jerk…nothing but trouble. (I like how you worked that phrase in three times, by the way.)

  4. Very powerful. depressing as hell, but that’s what makes it a great story. Well done!

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