A few years ago, I wrote a couple of longer short stories then my usual 1500 words or less versions. They’ve been languishing away in a document folder as I’ve had no success finding a publisher, plus I’m really lazy when it comes to the “non-fun” part of writing, finding an audience that will pay me. So I’m just gonna “publish” them here. Feedback, comments, literary critique is of course welcome.
Colt 45 and a People Magazine
Her mother’s walker was the cause of Cammie’s painful predicament. Margaret had been given an ancient walker by a well meaning friend. Cammie took an instant dislike to the device. Margaret wouldn’t part with the thing. It was dented so badly on one leg that the metal was almost pinched together. The dented leg caused the whole contraption to lean at a slight angle. Cammie had purchased a new walker and took the old one to the curb to be picked up by the trash service. The next morning, her mother was using the walker. How Margaret had managed to retrieve it, Margaret wasn’t telling. She liked the thing for reasons Cammie simply couldn’t understand. Several times Cammie tried to get rid of the walker, even taking it to the county landfill only to discover it had once again found its way back home. How Margaret kept retrieving the thing was a mystery Cammie couldn’t pry from her mother or any of her mother’s friends. The walker was one of the few things Cammie and her mother disagreed on.
Cammie lived at home with her mother. Cammie’s mom, Margaret had suffered a stroke when Cammie was a senior in high school. A former middle school Phys ed teacher and marathon enthusiast, her mother’s world was mostly reduced to forays through the house using the rickety walker. Once Margaret had gotten home from the hospital and had started physical therapy, Cammie’s father packed up and moved to Atlanta with the administrative assistant from First Prime Realty. He announced that as Margaret could no longer be a real wife to him, he was moving on. Cammie was devastated by her father’s abandonment. She wanted to rail at him for what he had done, while at the same time beg him to come back. That her father refused to return her calls or respond to any emails or letters did not help Cammie much. He had abandoned her as well his wife, and the loss was keen.
Cammie couldn’t help but hear the gossip about her family. The conversation usually stopped when she drew near and those speaking animatedly before she approached stood awkwardly or tried to change the subject. She knew what they were saying about her spending prom night at home with her mother instead of on a date, speculations about why her dad really left. Rumors meant for her not to hear, but heard by her anyway
Margaret said little about her husband’s leaving for several months, instead insisting on getting herself as self-sufficient as possible. She tried to get Cammie to go to the university on the softball scholarship Cammie had been awarded.
“Follow your dreams, darlin’.” Margaret told her daughter. “I’ll manage just fine.” Cammie had considered doing just that, for about five minutes. She couldn’t get past the guilt she knew she’d feel for leaving her mother at such a time. Instead she turned down the scholarship and commuted to the community college in Kingston for her Criminal Justice degree.
One day Cammie came home from class to find several boxes packed. Inside contained what little remained of her father’s presence. “Take this stuff wherever you wish, preferably the landfill.” her mother told Cammie.
“You sure about this mom?”
“Quite. Your father isn’t coming back, and I am not going to waste another moment dwelling on what was. Life goes on, and so do we.”
Cammie was surprised that her mother was willing to throw away over 20 years of memories, but took the boxes to the curb for pick-up. She kept for herself only the small photo album of her parent’s wedding which she kept hidden in the back of her closet. After that day Cammie also stopped trying to contact her father. It hurt deeply, to do so, but she realized that her mother was right. Nothing she could do or say would change what had happened.
The two and a half years it took Cammie to get her associate’s degree were well spent. Margaret slowly improved, moving out of a short term care facility to home, from a wheelchair to a walker. The progression was agonizingly slow but continual. Mother and daughter grew even closer, as they adjusted, healed and began anew. Margaret would never teach another gym class or run in a marathon. Her life had been altered so unfairly, in Cammie’s eyes, but the daughter couldn’t help but admire her mother’s unflagging spirit and positive determination.
Cammie had come home from work the night before, to see her mother sprawled on the living room floor, walker a few feet away. “Mom!” Cammie cried as she rushed to her mother’s side. “ Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“No. I just feel foolish, and want to strangle that damned cat of yours.”
Cammie looked over at Sahara. The big tabby was perched graciously on the back of the living room sofa. He looked back Cammie then chose that moment to clean his hindquarters.
Being properly dismissed by her cat, Cammie turned to her mother. “What did he do this time?”
“He tripped me, that’s what he did!”
“Tripped you? How? With that walker you almost have four legs, ok three and a half. And what were you doing up anyway? How long have you been like this?” Cammie looked all over her mother for signs of injury.
“You can stop poking at me” Margaret said, grabbing Cammie’s hand. “I’m fine, darlin’.“
“Quite sure. I’ve only been here about 30 minutes. I was in dire need of a Dr. Pepper, so I was on my way to the kitchen.”
Cammie looked at the cat who had finished with his back end and had moved on to his whiskers. “What does that have to do with Sahara?”
“Sir Eatsalot over there must have thought I was going to give him a treat, so he bowled me over trying to beat me into the kitchen.”
Cammie looked sternly at her cat. Her cat looked back at her with a “what did I do?” expression. Sighing, she turned to Margaret. “Ok Mom, if you aren’t hurt, let’s get you up. And tomorrow I’m tossing that piece of crap out.”
“You mean the cat right?” Margaret retorted.
Cammie laughed at that. “You know exactly what I mean.”
Cammie went to the closet and put the new walker she had purchased within reach. Then she reached around under her mother’s arms, and pulled to get the older woman up. That’s when it happened. She felt a pop in her right shoulder and then sudden nearly blinding pain. She nearly dropped her mother, but managed somehow to help her up and under the support of the walker. Cammie then sat as quickly as she could into the nearest chair, her face ashen.
Cammie? Are you ok sweetie?
“I’m fine Mom, just pulled something a bit. You gain a pound or two?”
Margaret snorted. “I’d like to know where?” Margaret despite slow pace of life the stroke had fated her still retained the slim athletic form she had maintained all her life. Margaret was an older version of her daughter with the same green eyes, brown curls, and quirky sense of humor. The only visible remnants of the stroke that nearly killed Margaret were the much restricted mobility, an occasional stutter and her half-cocked smile. Margaret, having competed in marathons all over the South East, had been training for her first go at the Boston Marathon when the stroke had cut that aspiration short. Cammie intended to run that marathon herself in a year, even if she had to crawl the distance on her hands on knees. She’d been training in secret since graduation from Tri-tech.
Cammie went to the kitchen to start dinner and to raid the cabinet for some Aspirin. Reaching to open the cabinet door almost caused Cammie to collapse to the floor from the injured shoulder, but she managed to pull herself together. Sahara who had followed his mistress into the kitchen, hopped up onto the counter and rubbed his body against her hand.
“Keep my secret from Mom won’t you? She asked her cat. Sahara responded by licking her hand. They had a pact.