Flight

31. August 2015 at 10:10 (Posts in English) (, , , , , , , , , )

This is the third and final part of a story I started to write in May. Here you can find the first part (Bird of passage) and the second part (Dog days).

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She leaned against the door frame, while the dog capered happily around her, trying to get her attention. But she couldn’t avert her eyes from the scene unfolding in front of her, without the two main characters noticing the silent (and the not-so-silent) spectator.
“Well done, little lady!” he exclaimed, patting her back comfortingly.
The baby burped again and grinned proudly at the white wall behind her new daddy’s back. Lily was fascinated by the many things she could already achieve in such an expert manner despite her young age.
“Is it time to change your nappy again, madam?” he let the baby girl hang over his shoulder and sniffed her diaper in a theatrical manner. The baby chuckled with glee. “Oh yeah, it’s definitely time!” He contorted his face so she would laugh again and held her as far away from his nose as he could. “Attention, stinky baby is being transported to the bathroom!”

It was only then that he noticed Lily waiting forlornly in the hallway. “Hi Lily, we didn’t see you standing there… Want to say hi to your mummy, little ladybird?” He held Elena close for a moment before passing her on to her mother.
She took her daughter into her arms and held her gingerly, her pulse racing. Would the baby start crying again? She felt guilt welling up inside of her. She had missed out on five whole days of feeding, playing, bathing, changing diapers and reading bedtime stories. This, instead, belonged to Jonathan’s daily routine for seven months now.

Lily only got to see her at the weekends. Lo and behold, she had taken up a job. She had found out that she was capable of typing at a fairly decent speed and orthographically quite correctly while she had been pregnant and so she had found a job as the secretary of a doctor. He would always speak the diagnoses on tape and she would type them into his computer in the evenings. The only problem was that she – what with the hormonal rollercoaster and all – had fallen in love with him. And so much so that she just didn’t have the guts to tell him that she had kept the baby. She used her parents, with whom she didn’t talk anymore, as a pretext to leave his fatherly care and good will for the weekends, when she went to pay Elena a visit.

She was clumsy in handling her and every time Jonathan tried to give her advice on how to hold the baby bottle so Elena didn’t suffocate or on how to change her clothes without ripping off Elena’s pinky, she shouted at him. And then her daughter started crying and she didn’t know how to make it stop and she would have to admit to herself that she hadn’t succeeded in being a good mother.

She had thought that giving birth to a creature that had inhabited her body for eight and a half months, patting her organs from inside and hearing her heartbeat louder than anyone else, would establish a special bond between the two of them that would last forever. And now it hurt to see Jonathan as the father in sparkling armour, not only fulfilling his duties, but raising Elena with so much love and enthusiasm that she couldn’t but envy him.

Of course, she would rack her brain for excuses as to why she hadn’t been able to fix the magical bond that had been cut through the day Elena was born. She blamed her parents and the doctor, Jonathan and the dog, but in the end, she only cried herself to sleep beside the blissfully snoring doctor, without knowing what to change to make herself feel better.

She couldn’t leave the doctor, he was really the first man for whom she fostered genuine feelings and he had taken her in at a moment of need, pregnant and desperate, without asking her questions. And she couldn’t really be angry at Jonathan, because he was the best father for Elena she could wish for. But all the same, it was heart-breaking to see that her baby was turning into such an excellent little lady without her help. The only thing that could appease her feelings was the knowledge that without the money she sent Jonathan at the end of each month, they wouldn’t be able to survive.

When Elena’s wakeful eyes finally closed for the night and a happy dream left its marks across her face, Jonathan cautiously pulled the door to her room shut and sat down beside his sister. She muted the TV and looked at him. Her brain worked hard to decide if she should feel relief that Elena was sleeping soundly now or envy that the little girl – despite not being able to utter a single coherent word – had demanded Jonathan to put her to bed. But that was life. You get some, you lose some. She couldn’t even imagine how it would have felt to give her daughter away for adoption, to people she didn’t know, didn’t trust and perhaps didn’t even want to cross paths with.

The baby monitor sprang to life, the smallest cough crackled through the receiver and before she could realise what the next step Jonathan had taught her to follow in this case was, Jonathan was already up on his feet and in the adjoining room, looking after their baby.

The dog did some stretching on the carpet, laying out his front paws, head close to the ground, bottom up in the air, and made a whimpering noise. When he was done with his gymnastics, he walked over to Lily and put his muzzle on her lap. She stroked and caressed him while he was lovingly watching her out of his big, trusting eyes. At least there was one soul left in the world who would always love her just the way she was.

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Dog days

30. Juni 2015 at 22:53 (Posts in English) (, , , , , , , , , )

This is the second part of a story I wrote for the Write Now meeting in May. You can read the first part here: Bird of passage and here is the third and final part: Flight.

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It had been unusually hot for a whole week now. The dog days hardly ever hit London, but when they did, life became unbearable for those who weren’t used to sweating their souls out. The heat started to seep in through door cracks and warped windows long before the sun reached its boiling point. The best solution was to go outside and hope for a light breeze in the shadow of the trees beside the River Thames.

Jonathan checked on Lily before he left for work. The living room was only lit up by a thin slice of light evaporating from the street lamp, jostling in through the curtains that never quite seemed to be able to meet, slashing brightly across Lily’s face. When she was asleep, she still looked as peaceful and undisturbed as a child, except for the grim-faced dragon that spat fire on her forearm. Even now, seventeen years later, he felt compelled to watch out for his little sister. And Lily needed his assistance a lot. Somehow, she managed to manoeuver herself from one delicate situation to the next. Currently, she was crashing at Jonathan’s place, because she had nowhere else to go – and because her brother was the only person left who cared for her well-being.

Apart from the dog, of course. Although Lily was known for shouting and screaming when she was upset – and she mostly paid visits to her brother, when she had reached the pitfall of pain from which she couldn’t pull herself out alone – the dog would just shelter his delicate ears for the duration of the noisy disruption, but love the perpetrator all the same. Because she was family and even the dog knew that.

Two hours after Jonathan had begun his day of work, the golden retriever started licking Lily’s face, wagging his tail joyfully against the couch and her thighs. She groaned and yawned. The dog mimicked her yawn and started yapping at her. Smelling the dog’s breath, she felt slightly sick. She rushed to the bathroom.
When she came back, the dog was sitting at the door, looking up at her expectantly. She owed him a walk. That was the deal – Jonathan tried to sustain their lives and she walked the dog. Her brother would be stacking fresh bread, rolls and scones until one o’clock, then he would come home with loads of carbs in his backpack, feed his roommates and leave for another evening of serving beer at the pub across the street. And she would, well, walk the dog again.

Jonathan had somehow managed to get his life on track, and Lily admired him for this. However, she didn’t have any motivation to follow his lead. She hadn’t held a job for more than two months, she had started and quit several educational programmes, but she couldn’t force herself to stick with anything, really. It was the same with partners – she liked to let herself be picked up in filthy bars, but as soon as she showered and her skin lost the smell of whichever man she had slept with, she began to alienate herself from him and soon found another filthy bar to drink her beer in.

When she couldn’t put it off any longer, she attached the long leash at the dog’s collar. She slipped on her running shoes. They dashed down the stairs, letting the door snap shut behind them, running out onto the street and off into the grey city’s beckoning arms.
As soon as they arrived at the river, Lily had to throw up into the deliciously blooming bushes – like every morning of the last three weeks. The dog didn’t mind, he was busily marking his territory. The sun smiled smoulderingly from the clear blue sky, weaving golden patterns on the surface of the river. Lily rinsed her mouth at the water fountain, splashed some water on the dog’s head as a revenge for wetting her face with its saliva and off they ran again.

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Before Jonathan left for his evening at the pub, she told him that she didn’t want the baby and that she hated the guts of the man who had impregnated her. She neither remembered his name nor his smell, only the thick brown fluff of chest hair on which she had rested her head before falling asleep. And most importantly, she didn’t want to beg for money, she said. (Not for his money, at least. Jonathan’s was okay.) Then she left, because she didn’t want to discuss the matter of her surprising fertility any further.

“You’re not going to drink, are you?”, Jonathan cried after her, before she could disappear into the hallway. She stopped at the door and glared back at him, “How stupid do you think I am? I’m going to inform myself about adoption services. I don’t want her to lead a life that is as fucking miserable as ours. I want her to grow up in a stable family!” Jonathan came a step closer and tried to grab her hand, but she wouldn’t let him. “How do you know already that it’s going to be a girl?”, he asked her, while his eyebrows where climbing up higher and higher on his forehead. She stared at him again and hissed, “I just know it, okay?!”, and before he could say anything else, she left and slammed the door shut behind her. The dog barked its goodbye.

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Bird of passage

31. Mai 2015 at 23:22 (Posts in English) (, , , , , , , , )

This is the first part of a story I wrote for the last Write Now meeting, „An Evening of Critiquing“.  I got lots of constructive feedback for the first draft of my story, so I decided to split it up and work on each part in turn. You can read the second part here: Dog days and here is the third and final part: Flight.

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The bird landed softly on the window sill. It tucked its brownish-blue wings away neatly and scuttled around for a bit until it found the perfect place to enjoy the last orange rays of the setting sun. The dry bushes alongside the garden fence cast oddly shaped shadows on the overgrown lawn. When somebody vigorously pushed open the front door of the house with the sagging roof, the bird hurriedly flew away to find refuge in a tall tree.

The person slammed the door shut and stomped off into the evening without ever looking back. Two little faces squeezed themselves against the window, just in time to see their mummy cross the street and vanish in the suburbs of the small city in the north of England. Sometimes, it was hard being a good mother and wife and carer and worker and feeder… The bird knew that, too.

The kids had become very talented at pretending that everything was normal. Their father had locked himself up in the basement, clanging around with the contents of his well-equipped toolbox, letting off steam on defenceless pieces of metal. The little ones had learned not to disturb him at these times. They went to play in the garden. They played catch and rolled around in the dewy grass with the black family dog until they were feeling cold. The wind started to get stronger by the minute, the clouds were hanging deep, filled with a week’s worth of rain.

When they went back in, their daddy still wasn’t finished with throwing a tantrum in the makeshift workshop. So they prepared their dinner themselves – sandwiches, as usual, filled with ham and Swiss cheese and pickled onions. The storm made the window panes rattle. They watched TV until the younger one fell asleep. The older one poked his sibling awake, so they could go upstairs together, brush their teeth and go to bed. They would be able to sleep for a while, before their mummy would come home drunk and the screaming and shouting and throwing of things would start. He would hold his sister tight until it was over and whisper comforting words into her ear until her breathing slowed and she could drift back into a happier world of dreams.

When his sister was sound asleep, he scrambled out of the bed again and opened the door of their room a tiny crack. The black dog followed his lead and tried to wedge its muzzle into the gap to somersault onto the landing and down the stairs. The boy pulled the whimpering animal back, gripping it by the collar. He shushed the dog and it sat down and hid its snout between its front paws with mournful eyes.

The boy held onto the door while listening in on his parents’ row.
“I should never have stayed here with you!”, his mum was shouting. “I can’t stand living in this shithole of a town any longer!” Something fell down and broke, kissing the marble kitchen tiles much too forcefully.
The dog winced. The boy stroked its head distractedly. Now his father raised his voice to its peak for the counter-attack. A bolt of lightning lit up the room briefly, closely followed by a clap of thunder.
“Well, you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, then! The life you’d like to lead isn’t fit for a family!”, he cried. And added, “It isn’t fit for anybody but you, to be honest!” as an afterthought.
“Yeah, really?!”, she screamed back at him. “You don’t contribute anything financially, and you tell me I’m being selfish?! Well fuck you, then!”
Things went cascading down the kitchen counter, ricocheting off the walls and the dog chimed in, howling loudly. The boy had to shut the door and silence the dog again, so his sister wouldn’t wake up.

When they got up the next morning, their mother was gone and their father was mopping up the floor. The kids shared their cereals in the last bowl available and headed off for school. On their way out, the boy noticed that the bird’s nest had dropped from the birch tree during the storm. One egg had cracked open, the other one appeared to be okay. The bird was nowhere to be seen.

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Gum

7. Oktober 2014 at 20:50 (Posts in English) (, , , , , , )

We were not at all like two planets, peacefully circling around each other in a state of constant gravitational attraction. We rather resembled two meteors that had violently collided on their way down to Earth, coming from different directions and homes. Instead of being a bright shooting star, peacefully lighting the night sky, I had become involved in an explosion where not only my own hopes and dreams had been shattered, but also the hopes and dreams of somebody else.

When we first met in the coffee shop, I was certain that I hated him – even before he had opened his mouth to utter the very words we would later heartily laugh about: “I’m sorry to bother you, but there is chewing gum sticking to your backside.” While I tried to assess the damage done to my beautiful black trousers, he kept talking. I was hardly listening while he went on and on about how he hoped that I didn’t have an important meeting today, because it would be horrible if I had to present myself to someone parading this disgustingly pink gum stain.

I interrupted him rather rudely: “It’s okay, thanks for telling me. I think I have to get going, though.” I grabbed my coffee cup and headed to the doors.
“Wait!”, he cried and threw himself in my way, making me spill some of my coffee (thankfully right on the floor, without a detour over the rest of my clothes). “I put the gum there. I didn’t know how to get your attention, so I tried something stupid.” He shrugged his shoulders apologetically.

I would have liked to throw the rest of my deliciously hot coffee in his face, but that would have been a disgrace to the nicely ground and tenderly brewed coffee beans themselves. I looked him straight in the eye and hissed: “Well done. I’ll give you my business card, so you can call me when you want to pay for the cleaning of my pants.”
He accepted it and I stormed out before he could say anything else, hoping he would leave me alone.

However, life is cruel. And after weeks of flowers being delivered to my office and dinner invitations voiced over the phone, I caved in and said yes. He whisked me away to the most beautiful restaurants in the city, candle-lit and with a perfect view of the illuminated skyline. Who could resist the peculiar charm of a man, willing to do anything to make you happy and being consistent enough to never give up, even when you push him away?

Five months later, we were a couple. Three months after that, we lived together. And another month later, he proposed to me by handing me a packet of gum with a ring nestled between the silver foils. We were preparing to collide at the speed of light.

I saw him last week, walking his dog in the park where we once had a picnic, the dreadfully drooling Great Dane marking its territory right where we had sat then. A friend has told me that he works at a dry cleaner’s now, after he has lost his job because he was too depressed to show up regularly. He is in a bad shape and I wish I could help him. But ever since our divorce, I haven’t been feeling too well myself. The only thing that makes me smile, nowadays, is secretly sticking old gum to people’s trouser seats.

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