Keeping Score

“It was a nice service,” Peter said, pulling away from the curb. He glanced into the back seat at me, but his comment was meant for his mother sitting in the passenger seat.

“Except for that bum cozying up to Martha.” Louise frowned. “Here she is, burying her husband and she has to deal with that no-count grandson.”

“You know him?” Peter squinted, his sunglasses forgotten at home on the kitchen counter.

“I know plenty. I know he’s living out west, that he hardly ever calls. Martha practically raised that boy.”

“Maybe he’s busy with family, an 80-hour-a-week job.”

“Don’t be silly, Peter.” She clucked her tongue. “He needs to go back where he came from. Leave her to the grieving.”

“He came from here,” I pointed out.

“How many years has he stayed away?” Louise continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “Fine time to come back if you ask me.”

“He came to the funeral. Doesn’t that mean something?”

“The very least he should do, Darcy. Didn’t I say they raised him?”

Peter’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror and I smiled, making a slash in the air as if marking on a tally. Peter’s mother usually ignored me, pretending I was invisible so it was fun for me to make her acknowledge my presence.

Peter changed the subject. “We should invite Julia over for dinner while she’s in town.”

I didn’t answer, thinking about how my best friend from high school still had a crush on my husband.

“What?” He turned down the radio.

“Julia still has a crush on you.”

He snorted. “I’m small potatoes compared to the guys she dates in New York.”

“I always liked that girl,” Louise said, reaching over to pat her son’s leg. “Such a sweet thing. And pretty!”

“She sleeps around,” I said, guessing she might.

“You’re such a gossip, Darcy.”

That was two I thought, keeping score, smug with satisfaction. This time Peter kept his eyes on the road.

 

This writing exercise was for Trifecta’s Week Thirty-Three Challenge (second prompt): Write a 33-333 word response using the third definition of the word score (an account or reckoning originally kept by making marks on a tally).

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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.

“It wasn’t the first time…”

Complete the following story in 33 words:

‘It wasn’t the first time.’

(The five words are not to be included in your 33 words)

It wasn’t the first time she’d fired a gun, but she’d never killed anyone before. She clenched her hands to stop the shaking. She wasn’t sorry. Young girls weren’t meant for buying and selling. She wasn’t anyone’s property.

You can find more information about this Trifecta writing challenge here.