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October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge

Year 10: The beeping machines marked every passing second as another moment lost for Carole Warren. Her chest rose and fell in an automatic sort of way, controlled solely by another machine connected to her fragile body. The accident Carole had been in, had done her the worse possible injustice–allowed her to live in a dead shell.

As John walked into her  hospital room, he passed his sleeping father. There was a car magazine on the floor by his feet.

John found the brush beside her bed and began stroking the long brown strands of hair that had already started looking like a brillo pad. The routine hadn’t changed in eleven months: school, hospital, and sleep. When he finished brushing her hair, he started to clean her room, discarding food wrappers–anything to forget why this day was so important.

Eleven months and Carole hadn’t changed at all. The doctors had given his dad a pile of papers that sat on the counter untouched for months. Today, they were placed in a file at the hands of Carole’s doctors. Already, several tubes had been removed from her body. The rest would be gone within minutes.

Carole’s pale face was thinner than John wished to remember. Her body had withered until her skin hung loosely on her fragile bones. She was so still. So peaceful.

But she wasn’t peaceful. She was trapped. That was why John had pushed those papers at his dad last week. It had been too long. Everyday, John wished he could place his hands upon his mom and heal the wounds that ran too deep. It wasn’t fair.

The nurse came in first. With a clipboard in her hand, she began moving amongst the machines, writing things down. The doctor came in next.

Dan stirred in his seat, eyes wide. His hands clutched at those of his wife as if the doctors had come in for him and not her.

The doctor spoke, but nothing made sense. Tears streamed his father’s face. John didn’t know what to do. Should he be standing? Sitting? Holding his mom’s hand? Touching her face or her hair? No one was telling him what he should be doing and so he stood to the right of the bed, opposite his dad, stiff and numb. He nodded in a timely manner so that the doctors knew he was listening even if he wasn’t. One, two, nod, one, two, nod…

His breath hitched in his throat. He leaned against the bed for support. The doctor unplugged the first device and the steady beeps turned into one long whine until it turned off altogether. Her chest stopped rising and falling. John reached for her hand. Had it already begun to cool?

With a sigh, all of the forced air left her body.

Both the doctor and the nurse left the room. Dan stifled his sobs into his wife, but she made no move to comfort him.

John leaned forward, touching his mom’s mouth and then kissing her lightly on her cheek.

He left the room and no one moved to stop him.

October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge

Year 9: John stared out past the window, marveling at how the rain pelted the side of the house in an almost rhythm. The dirt driveway was one large puddle now. His mom was two hours late.

John had noticed the hour the moment it past, but his dad had just begun pacing. His footsteps were hard and deliberate, keeping their own rhythm on the linoleum floor–clap, clap, scrape, clap, clap, scrape. The heavy lines around his eyes were more deliberate.

The news had said the storm would hit tomorrow. His mom had planned for it to hit tomorrow. Even John’s school had it scheduled as a day off already. But the weather was an unpredictable thing and John knew at the first clap of thunder that it would come early. There was no light mist as warning of its early arrival. Only the sudden rush of water that hadn’t let up since this afternoon.

John measured it in buckets–as in the amount of buckets he’s had to dump from the leak in the roof over the kitchen. He counted five already. That’s four more than he’s ever dumped in a single day. And it was far from over yet.

Dan went to the front door and looked out again. Huddled under the short awning was the stray dog John loved as his own. Dan usually kicked it if it got too close to the front door. He stared at it as if he was trying to remember what to do with it, then held the door open wide, grabbed it by the scruff on its neck, and pulled it in.

John felt his mouth fall open. His dad left the room and returned with a towel. He dried the dog until it was fluffy.

“Thanks,” John mumbled and then sat on the ground so the dog would know what to do.

Dan’s eyes burned looking at his son. His feet shuffled uncomfortably before he picked up his pacing again.

The soft, glow of headlights illuminated the dark interior. Finally, thought John. His dad sighed a breath of relief. There was a knock on the door.

It wasn’t his mom.

October Memoir and Backstory blog challenge

So, I’ve been slacking on this challenge a bit. Between GUTGAA and the Harper Voyager submission window, I have been focusing every spare bit of energy on my manuscript. I feel as if I could recite it by heart at this point.

Year 8: John’s eighth birthday could have passed without him noticing. Only his mom with her ever-present triple layer chocolate caked marked the occasion as anything other than a regular day. She had baked it during the night and the whole house smelled of sugar and frosting. His name was written in thin blue lines across the middle of the cake. He ached to dip his finger into the soft side, maybe even angle the cake so that no one would see it.

“John, get out here,” his dad yelled from the garage. His dad was in a good mood when he was in the garage. The car had been more of a gift for him than for John, but it gave them an excuse to spend time together without talking.

The car had been scrubbed clean of its paint and now rested on cinder blocks. John made his way outside, a regretful glance at the cake on the counter. “What are you doing?”

“What’s this called?” His father was perpetually testing him on the different engine parts.

“Uh, the camshaft.”

“And this?”

“Timing belt.” His jeans had oily smudges across the front from many days spent out here. He smeared another layer into them.

His dad smiled and rubbed him affectionately on the head. Something about being able to call off various engine parts made him proud. “Go get me that allen wrench over there will you?”

John turned to fumble in the messy tool box.

“So, I guess, umm…happy birthday.”

John’s mouth fell open. His father looked away, almost embarrassed. He handed him the wrench and leaned against the car. “Thanks.”

It was the first time his dad remembered his birthday.

October Memoir and Backstory Blog challenge

Year 7: On the rarest of occasions, John shared a special day with his father and it nearly always involved cars. It began a year before. John had seen through his mother’s attempts at manipulating his father into taking him, but it was nice all the same. The weather was dry, but it wasn’t hot. It was the sort of day where it hurt to breathe, to blink.  It was magnified by the dirt lot of the car show.

There were two types of people at the show. The type that looked like his father: short hair neatly parted to the side, no facial hair, and a stiff posture. And the other type: those with long, stringy hair and beards that touched their chests. All of those that  looked like John’s dad seemed uncomfortable in their stained collared shirts and pants that had gotten too tight. The messier men seemed free, like they didn’t care where the wind blew them.

The cars were all freshly polished and glinted in the sun so that John’s eyes squinted everywhere he looked.

His dad wasn’t looking at any of them. He was in a hurry and moving towards the end of the row. John dragged his feet, feeling rushed. He imagined himself in one of those cars one day and not in the bus that his mom took everywhere.

Dan Warren shook hands with one of the men dressed like him. “So, where is it?” he said without any preamble.

The other man nodded and pulled a cream colored tarp to reveal the ugliest car John had ever seen. “Are we good?”

Dan nodded and the man dropped something into his hand. He walked away without another word.

“What do you think, kid?”

“I dunno know.”

“Well, do you like it?”

“It’s ugly,” John said, thinking about the other cars they hadn’t even seen.

“It’s yours.”