Thursday, January 24, 2008

Friday Snippets 27

This is the last of my complete short stories. I've split it into five parts. That gives me five weeks to prepare more snippets from my assorted rough drafts. Or write more scenes. Five weeks. Sigh.

For the significance of the image above, read on.

Blow Me a Candy Kiss
by Joy Rennee

(part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)

Iris let the book she had just finished fall closed. It lay on her lap, the weight of it like despair. She had just read this lengthy expose of the foster care system as part of her research into ways for her and Greg to create a family despite their unexplained infertility. She hadn’t discussed it with Greg yet, though she assumed he knew. How could he have missed seeing the books and brochures on adoption and foster care laying about for the last several months? Now she needed to talk about it and didn’t know how to broach it, for it was too closely related to the fact of their childlessness. They had talked that topic to death long ago and buried it under a tombstone marked TABOO. Yet it remained, a black hole to which all other subjects gravitated and were distorted, leaving naught between them but the vacuum of her womb.

She flipped her thick hempen braid behind her in order to reach for a Kleenex and then had to drag it back over her shoulder before she could get comfortable again in her nest of pillows and blankets in the loveseat-rocker.

"Ugh…This lousy cold!" She blew her nose vigorously. She should never have read such a downer book while down with a cold. Facts and anecdotes from the book were seething in the juices of her outrage. Oh, how she wanted to talk about it!

"Tell me about it!" Greg, stretched out in his recliner with his own book, suddenly loosed a convulsive sneeze. He fumbled for his box of Kleenex and found it empty.

"Here, catch." She tossed her box into his lap. For a moment there she had thought he was inviting her to tell him about the book. But why would he ask her to add to the aggravation of this already defunct week-end with one of her harangues at the injustice of a universe that bestows multitudes of kids on indifferent to hostile parents, while withholding them from those who want them with passion and would bathe them in an ocean of love. Meaning, of course, Greg and Iris, who had spent the last five of their ten year marriage holding monthly wakes for hope.

She took a chocolate candy-kiss from a bowl on the table beside her, peeled it and popped it in her mouth. Luxuriating in the bitter-sweet flavor flooding her mouth, she thought: NO, Greg would not thank me for bringing that up today. It was bad enough their summer colds had thwarted their plans to spend the week-end camping at the coast--together with their families. The others had gone on without them, to soak up surf and sun, leaving Greg and Iris to soak up Kleenex at home. So she caged her tongue behind gritted teeth and reached for another candy-kiss.

Chocolate could cure broken hearts and rainy days and do wonders for the common cold. Too bad it couldn’t solve the dilemma of their childlessness, now that this book and uprooted her budding interest in foster care as an alternative. She was no David to take on such a bureaucratic Goliath. She just wanted some kids to love. But love was suspect in a realm where kids received mostly pain from the love of their parents, and false hope from the love of their foster families.

What a conundrum! Thought Iris, licking chocolate off her fingers and then drumming them on the cover of the book. She gazed hard at Greg and the sight of him sent a surge of inarticulate need through her--a need to hold and be held, to hang on for dear life. When her hand floated into the space between them, reaching for him without a direct command or even permission from herself, she looked at it, awed by its singularity. She closed her fist on emptiness and drew it back into her lap. She was glad Greg hadn’t seen that. She would have read in his eyes recognition of her need and then watched as knowledge of his impotence to fulfill it overwhelmed him and he looked away, turned away, walked away. So many ways to go away without getting away.

Not that Greg was impotent in any literal sense. But their childlessness had muted their passion, turned sex into a calendar event, a dutiful reaching out in the dark, a somber clutching or furious fumbling, eyes closed, faces averted and tongues held quiet in the coffins of their mouths. If nothing is said then there can be nothing to misunderstand. Isn’t that so? She grimaces at her sarcastic thought, forced to recognize her own part in their conspiracy of silence. Thus the marital bed becomes a veritable mausoleum for two.

Iris slid the book onto the coffee table and something fell over the edge onto the floor with a soft plop. She bent to retrieve it, her arm fishing blindly under the table, patting the carpet until her fist closed on something that felt like rubber spaghetti and paper meatballs she reeled in her arm to find her hand full of Koosh balls and used Kleenex. She separated out the dried wads of tissue, tossing them over Greg’s legs into the trash can--three overhand throws with her left hand, each followed by the twonk that signaled success.

She grinned, pleased with herself, but then felt silly thinking: Leave it to a childless day-care provider to find fulfillment on a Sunday afternoon by chucking desiccated snot rags into a tin can from across the room. Her arm, having got the knack of it, was reluctant to stop, and before Iris quite knew what she was about one of the Koosh balls was arcing over Greg’s chair. It cleared the rim of his book which immediately fell from his hands as his startled "Hey!" echoed off the walls.

His glasses were askew and Iris laughed with glee as he adjusted them with one hand and found the offending Koosh ball with the other. She held two more Koosh balls aloft in an obvious challenge.

"It’s like that is it?" he said, letting fly. As did she. His skimmed her cheek with a breeze and landed behind the loveseat, which put it out of bounds. At least until somebody was willing to perform major acrobatics to retrieve it. He caught hers and tossed it back as she lofted the third one, which he again caught. And so on. Until wild throws landed both Koosh balls out of reach and they were scrambling to re-arm.

Once out of their chairs the room became the arena as they dodged and ducked and danced until they collided in the center of the floor, laying simultaneous claim to a solitary Koosh ball--another one having been lost behind the loveseat. Greg got it first so she clambered over the coffee table and onto the loveseat. She dove over its back, feet flailing air and hands groping carpet but all she got for her efforts was a handful of her braid. Then Greg caught her by the waist one armed and stuffed the Koosh ball down her back.

"Oh, that Tickles!" She squealed and tried to untuck her T-shirt from her jeans but he penned her arms and laughed as she squirmed. Then they were face-to-face, laughing and panting and Greg was about to kiss her. Iris knew this the way animals know earthquakes or hurricanes are imminent. He was going to kiss her and it would be like their first kiss ever, full of wildness and wonder. But instead, a knock at the door--and destiny took a detour. Greg went to answer it, still grinning while Iris, still gasping giggles, fished out the Koosh ball.

Then Daisy May, her fifteen year old, Down’s syndrome sister, (who, their mother always said to anyone offering sympathy, graced her parents’ golden years with her generous heart was lumbering across the room to wrap solid arms around her. "I love you Iris June." she said, rocking them side to side.

"And I love you, Daisy May." Looking across her sister’s bulky shoulders at her approaching parents, she was startled by the age lines etching their faces. Iris had always gazed upon her mother, Irene, as upon a time-warped mirror. This is what I’ll look like thirty years from now, she had told herself at every stage of her life, and the prospect had given her comfort. But not today. Today it sent chills into her soul.

"What are you guys doing here?" Her voice was a battleground where the giggles left over from their romp conflicted with the alarm she felt at the sight of her parents’ somber faces.

4 tell me a story:

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