Raymond Carver has a unique ability to make you care, deeply, about the smallest glimpses into someone’s life. It could be the moment that a husband pushes his wife through a window or just three couples at a dinner party discussing what it really means to love someone – you will become invested. His short story collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is the book that first made me feel that I could be a writer. They are stories with short timelines that exist as character-driven stories with deep insights into the interactions between people. Every stir of a glass or placement of a hand holds a deep significance. Carver’s amazing skills of observation are evident throughout these stories in which the intricacies of human behavior are put under a blinding spotlight. The film “Birdman” revolves around a play that is based off one of Carver’s short stories. The insanity that the main actor dissolves into throughout the film is a reflection of the underlying madness that ruminates in all of Carver’s stories. His cuts to scene versus summary are genius and give the best focus on what the characters see as important. What little action there is, gets buried in the dialogue-heavy stories to more importantly reveal the character drive behind these actions. His essay, “On Writing” is a clear insight into his thoughts behind his own writing and his value in stylistic integrity. Any fan of stories that get to the point with scape-like precision will enjoy his work.
Every morning when I wake up to the sounds of my best friends down the hall, I feel like it’s a dream that I never want to wake up from. This past year was the first time in my life where I truly feel like I’ve found my people. It’s not something I often talk about, but before college I always felt distant from the people in my life and although they had the best intentions, I couldn’t help but feeling a little “off” from them. But this year, I have found people who truly always know what I need to hear and know when to push me or to pull me in. Spending time with them energizes me rather than exhausting me and friendships like that are truly rare in this life. Going through life with these people gives me a constant support system that I’ve never felt before outside of my family. We all share the same values and sense of humor but are drastically different without clashing.
This year held some of the highest highs and lowest lows that I’ve ever known and the stakes only seem to grow more serious as we get older. There were nights where Isabel made me sleep over because she didn’t want me to be alone and days when Jenne snuck me into the dining hall so I wouldn’t have to face going home to an empty apartment. Troy has the quickest and most thoughtful text responses I’ve ever seen and Izzy always knows the EXACT right thing to say. Maria is the best at distracting me from the sad thoughts with laugh-track tv shows and David is the only person who can truly get me to “chill out”. I’d never wanted to be with a large group of girls more than wanting to be alone before this year that consisted of nights spent with all seven of us snuggled in Isabel’s bed. We’ve talked about the things one never says aloud and have been there to hold each other when the words bring tears. We push each other to try new things and are there every step of the way in case it gets scary. These are the girls I’ve cried with until 3 am and danced with until 5am. It’s hard to watch someone go through something that you know won’t work out in the long run. The best friends in the world are the ones who understand that you have to see it through for yourself and even if they don’t agree with your choices along the way, they’re right there for whatever comes after. “We’re in this together, whatever you go through, I go through too.”
The best times of my life have been this year and I’ll never forget the McDonalds trips after some of the worst times. I truly believe lasting friendships are built in these moments because there is nothing more heartbreaking than coming to a friend in need of help only to be told that you’re a burden. I thank God every day for finding me friends that not only accept this burden without turning their back on me, but do so with an, “of course, that’s what friends are for.”
Living with some of these incredible people makes the mundane tasks of everyday fun. One of the first mornings of us all being in the house we all piled in Isabel’s bed and planned out the errands we had to run and I can honestly say, I’ve never had so much fun grocery shopping in my life. Home isn’t about a place, it’s about people. I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to live with some of these people and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us.
p.s. special thanks to girl gang, maria and david for ALWAYS answering when I want to FaceTime
p.p.s. special special thanks to Isabel for hugging me when my mom was too far away to do it herself
As I sit in my half-packed bedroom smoke leaks out my mouth as the warm liquid pushes its way inside. My first drink in four years and my first smoke in double that.
“Doris, what’s the big deal? I want to get fat free milk.” This was the moment where everything collided and for the first time, this outcome seemed somehow completely inevitable.
Her skin prickled and she wasn’t sure if it was from the mechanical chill pumping out the open door or the broiling anger that swelled inside her. Carl watched her, waiting for a response. His eyes looked right through her, how long had they done that? Not through her but past her – towards something else, someone else.
“Yeah okay, put it in the cart.” Doris muttered.
“What? I can tell you’re thinking something honey.”
“We’ve just always gotten two percent.” She began to push the cart towards the next aisle.
Carl laughed, “Seriously, that’s why you’re upset? What’s wrong with an old man just trying to straighten up his diet?”
“I just don’t understand why you’re choosing now is all.”
I wonder exactly how blind he thinks I am. Does he honestly believe I haven’t noticed him coming home progressively later and later with a wolfish grin on his face? The past few years he has crept around the house, ducking behind corners to avoid me when possible. He’s like a boy who believes he has gotten away with snatching a cookie off the counter before dinner. The lipstick on his sleeve was the hardest to ignore. But still, I dutifully scrubbed the shirt clean and hung it in his closet so he could wear it to their next meeting.
My husband used to love me, I know he did. Maybe it wasn’t exactly how he imagined it would be but I know he did. We were so excited for our first- he used to talk to my belly so the baby would know his voice and he never missed a doctor’s appointment. We were so young then, only 28, married for only three years. He once missed a big meeting for one such appointment and as a result, lost an important client and when I expressed how sorry I was, he said this mattered more. Then the night that I woke up and everything felt warm and sticky. He woke up with me and turned on the light. That’s when I saw the red. Red on the sheets and on my pants and on the insides of my eyelids. He drove so fast but it was too late, we lost him.
After that, he slept a little further away and by the time the second one came around he missed appointments claiming he couldn’t miss a meeting with a client. I know he was hurting but so was I and instead of anchoring me to our life together, he cast me away to float on my own. I became smaller and smaller until he hardly had to side-step me to go call her on the back porch. He thought I didn’t notice or couldn’t hear- the way he whispered to her, the way he used to whisper to me. But he was wrong, I had never heard a sound more deafening in my entire life.
Doris pushed the cart to the next aisle before waiting for a response from him. The lies were heavy and she did not need more weight to bear. She wondered if they were as heavy on him or if they slid off his skin as slick as silk. From years of practice and the promise of something more worth his time, someone worth more than her at the other end of the lie.
“I keep forgetting to tell you but I have to travel for work this weekend, is that okay?” Carl asked.
“I guess that’s fine if you have to go. Brianna was talking about coming home though, might be nice for you to spend some time with her, she misses you.” Doris said. She hoped that maybe the promise of seeing his daughter would be enough to convince him to stay. The thought of him being with her poolside at some expensive hotel all weekend was just too much to stomach.
“Shoot, I miss her too but I really can’t miss this trip.”
“Let me guess, an important client will be there?”
“Doris, don’t do this. I hate when work takes away from family time just as much as you do, but this is an important trip. Someone has to pay for all those expensive shoes you love so much.” He chuckled and jokingly nudged her.
Doris sighed, “I guess if you have to go, then you have to go. I’ll tell Brianna you said hi.”
I wonder if they’ll move in together now, now that he’s finally freed of the obligations that wrapped around him all those years. I wonder if she’ll cook and clean as diligently as I have – something tells me that she’s not the type. I wonder if he’ll introduce her to Brianna and what they’ll think of each other. Helping her move to college was a hard day, for all three of us. I mean, it’s hard for all parents I think. He held me that night and drove home when I couldn’t see through my tears. It began to break me after that, realizing that my sorrow was the only thing that was enough to bring him close enough. I began to let little things upset me, if only so he would notice me. The creeping around and the late night phone calls didn’t stop but they didn’t increase either. I figured at least this way, when he was around it felt like he was really mine again. It’s been a year since Brianna left and the house has only gotten lonelier.
I guess I should face the fact that I’ll have to go back to work. Replace PTA meetings with a real briefcase – do people even carry those anymore? Funny to think how so many years ago I wanted to work, I was even offered a CEO position at the company. But I turned it down, teary-eyed, because it seemed like the right thing to do. I still remember that phone call.
“We just think you would be an incredible asset to the company. I wish you would reconsider Doris.”
“I’m really sorry, I just don’t think now is the best time for me to take on such a big position.” Doris held her breath so the woman on the other end of the phone wouldn’t hear her tearful whimpers.
“Look, I’ve been there. When I started climbing the corporate ladder my sons were in elementary school and I didn’t know how I would balance it but I talked to my husband and we came up with a plan and we managed. You have to think of your life after your children too, Doris. I consider us friends and I just don’t want to see you become one of those moms that are so consumed by their children’s lives that they’re empty when they leave.”
“I know, I know. Thank you Alison, that means a lot- I just think I have to follow a different path right now.”
“Okay well just know there’s always a place for you here and reach out if you ever need a reference or want to grab coffee or something.”
“Thank you, yes I’ll…I’ll do that.”
I hung up the phone and cried in that Walmart parking lot for a good thirty minutes before heading home. When I got there, Carl asked me how my day was. Fine, was the answer I gave him. I just couldn’t find it in me to tell him what I had just done. I was worried he’d feel guilty or that I had sacrificed too much. I didn’t want his pity, no matter how much I probably deserved it. If only I had known how this would all crumble regardless.
Doris pushed the cart down the spices aisle as a young woman approached Carl.
“Excuse me.” She directed her attention towards Carl while Doris watched out of the corner of her eye.
“Can you get something for me?” She smiled sheepishly and looked down at her feet, “I just can’t reach it.”
“Yeah of course.” Carl said through smiling teeth.
Doria watched as his body stretched to reach the spice and to placed it in her soft palm.
“Thanks a bunch.”
“Yeah no problem at all.”
I remember so vividly the first moment I saw her and wondered if she saw me back. Carl took me to an office Christmas party, the first one he attended. Was she the reason he finally decided to go after all those years? I wore a simple black dress and hers was red and low-cut. Every eye in the room glassed over as her ornamented hips waltzed across the room. Carl stayed with me for an hour or so- introducing me around and handing me drinks- until he excused himself to go to the bathroom. I saw him slip into a back office with her and I drank another three champagnes until he emerged again. I measured the time in handshakes and small talk until I felt his hand on the small of my back as if I wouldn’t notice the scent of her perfume on his neck. I smiled through the night and then began planning. Whenever someone thought of the epitome of the perfect wife, my face would come to mind and in that way, I would win.
“Is this length okay?”
“Yeah I like it, maybe a little blonder,” I instructed the hair stylist.
I walked into the house that night and served Carl dinner, flipping my new hair around and hating every second of it. Finally, as he sat hunched over his plate with his phone in his lap, I caved, “Notice anything different?”
“Like what? With the dinner? Yeah, I guess it’s more… flavorful than usual.”
The wince at the end of his sentence showed how clearly he knew he was playing a dangerous game with a scorned woman.
“With what then?”,the self-righteous smirk he normally wore had melted into shifting eyes of unease.
I took his plate before he was done and began washing the dishes. He came to me and hugged me while I pretended to not notice his reflection in the window before me. In the weeks that followed I began trying different things. I began having people over to the house, I took up painting, I got a tattoo on my ankle that I always wanted and still, nothing seemed large enough to steal the spotlight that focused so strongly on her. I felt like the walking embodiment of a cliche, the woman who tries endlessly to win over her cheating husband’s attention, and yet I found it near impossible to stop.
The pair loaded the groceries into the car and got in the front seat. Carl reached for Doris’ hand and her mascara began to run down her cheeks.
“Honey, if you really don’t want me to go on that trip then I won’t go. I didn’t know it meant that much to you that I be home this weekend.”
“Yeah, yeah what is it?”
“What’s her name?” Doris looked over at him with gentle eyes. Eyes that were searching for answers that she didn’t know if she wanted to find.
“Who?” Carl’s eyes began to dart around the car like a shark, flitting in and out of the filtered light in deep waters, looking anywhere but at his wife.
Doris turned completely towards him, her eyes now dry, “Don’t give me that crap, you know that I know. You know me Carl, we’ve been together twenty years. There’s no way in hell that you honestly believed I haven’t noticed.”
“I just…I just thought- ”
“What? What did you think?”
“I thought it would be over by now, I thought it wouldn’t last this long, I thought I was just living out some mid-life crisis and once I got it out of my system I would be able to be better, for you.” Carl seemed slightly out of breath.
“Well?” Doris asked.
“Well what happened to derail you from that plan?”
“Well I fell in l- ”
Doris suddenly began to laugh, “Oh my god don’t say it. Don’t even say it. You’re a goddamn statistic do you know that Carl? You’re so typical, falling in love with the young receptionist. It doesn’t get more cliche than that. You always fought against stereotypes and always resisted following conformity just to fit in but now look at you – you’ve fallen into the worst one of them all.”
“I’m so sorry Doris, I honestly didn- ”
“It’s fine, really it is. My heart accepted this a long time ago, I just don’t know why my head took this long to finally realize that the inevitable is happening. The rapture, the end of times, life as we knew it falling apart before my very eyes- it’s here, at long last.”
The two sat in silence for a couple minutes and Doris turned back towards the front windshield.
“So what do we do now?” Carl asked.
“We’re going to go home and you’re going to call your daughter and tell her what you’ve done, what you’ve been doing. Then you’re going to pack your things and take your milk and get out of the house. We can discuss the paperwork and legal shit next week. For now I just want you gone.”
“I really do love you, you know. I always have.” Carl said with damp eyes.
“Yeah, yeah I know.” Doris whispered and he wasn’t sure if it was meant for him or for the man she married all those years ago.
The air has gotten markedly warmer, the flowers have bloomed and most people have ventured out of their winter hibernation. With the warm months already upon us and even warmer ones quickly approaching, I thought it seemed like a good time to share some of my favorite activities for the summer.
Being from San Diego, this probably seems like a ridiculously obvious recommendation but I’m going to make it nonetheless. There are few things in life better than falling asleep on a beach towel under the warm sun, skin still slightly sticky from the ocean. If you can find a beach within walking distance to shops and taco shops then even better.
This is another obvious one but like I said, that’s not about to stop me from writing it. The best hikes are those at sunrise or sunset, just make sure to not be doing a dangerous hike in the dark.
I know this is something that has recently gained a lot of popularity with youtubers but as someone who has thrifted for a very long time, I truly can’t recommend it enough. After a successful thrifting experience, you’ll go to a normal retail store and wonder why everything is so expensive. You just have to give yourself a good chunk of time because thrifting is something that can’t really be done quickly- you really have to look through everything to find the best stuff. Some of my favorite tips are to go in with an idea of an item that you’d like to find and to keep an open mind- anything can be cut, hemmed or taken in. Plus, it’s so inexpensive that if you mess it up it won’t be as bad as ruining a new item.
These are awesome experiences any time of the year but there’s something special about a summertime sunset concert at an outdoor venue. Watching the sun set behind the stage as you feel the cool grass underneath you is the meaning of summer to me. (Also, if you ever have the chance to see Bleachers in concert you should definitely go, they’re incredible live.)
5. Eating Outside
This is a weird one but in general I like being outside at dusk during the summer so I highly recommend requesting a table outside anytime you eat at a restaurant during the summer. Bonus points if you can hear/see the ocean from the table.
Clammy hands claw at the hooded figure that drags the night-gowned woman across the damp grass. Muffled screams for help are quickly silenced by the hooded man’s sudden pressing of a small blade against the woman’s cheek. “You’re going to want to keep that pretty mouth shut, sweetheart. I don’t think Steven would appreciate getting you back with any parts missing.” Her eyes widen and her jaw clamps shut as he chuckles. “That’s much better.” The door of a waiting black van slides open as the pair approaches and another hooded figure helps lift the woman inside. The brakes squeal as the van slowly starts down the street and into the hours of early morning.
Steven wakes a few hours after sunrise and rolls over in bed, his reaching hand expecting to meet the soft skin of his wife’s arms. It crawls between the sheets but hits only empty space. Steven muses aloud, “She probably went downstairs to make some coffee.” He gets out of bed and pulls on plaid pants before heading down the stairs, expecting to see his wife in the kitchen. He sees only an elderly woman in a bathrobe. “Mom, have you seen Alison? She never wakes up this early but she was gone when I woke up.”
“I can’t say that I have. She probably went to some cafe, you know how much she hates my coffee. Not good enough for you big city folks I suppose.”
“Mom she doesn’t hate your coffee, stop saying that.”, Steven peers out the window towards the driveway, “The car is still here.”
“Well, I don’t know Steven, babysitting your wife isn’t one of my responsibilities – which are many by the way. Speaking of, I was thinking of taking Billy and Sally to the zoo today, what do you think of that?”
“Huh? Zoo? Sure mom, yeah sure.”, Steven distractedly replies while searching his phone.
His mom smiles and takes her bagel out of the toaster and sits at the small breakfast nook. “I’m sure it’s fine Steven. You worry too much.” Steven sighs and heads back upstairs. Upon entering his room he notices Alison’s purse sitting undisturbed on the bedside table just as she had left it the night before. He shakes his head, “It’s probably nothing. Maybe she went for a walk.” Steven selects a suit off a hanger and dons it before heading downstairs. “I’m going to work Mom, let me know if you hear from her.” She nods without taking her eyes off her book.
Steven’s eyes glass over as he leads the couple through the various bedrooms and bathrooms, making sure to highlight the unique features. He wonders how many times he has mentioned the “farmhouse style kitchen sinks” and “dual showerheads”. What would he do with all that time if he had it back? He had always imagined a more exciting life for himself. That’s right- while all the other little boys were playing cowboys and Indians (now called Native Americans thanks to the tirade political correct-ness warriors rampaged the country) Steven dreamed of someday being a mob boss to his own team of henchmen. The dark world of secret codes, drop spots, and hit men had always reached towards him with its shadowy tendrils, reeking of cigar smoke and dollar bills. It is funny, Steven thinks to himself, how money had that certain smell that was so distinctly recognizable. Nothing else smelled like that piece of paper and cotton that had passed through maybe billions of hands and had possibly been in who knows how many strippers’ bras, nestled just so between her warm, heaving breasts.
“Steven … Steven!”
Reality rushes back into Steven’s mind just in time for him to see a woman’s face alarmingly close to his. He takes a step back. “Yeah Madison, what is it?” She checks her watch, “Your phone has been ringing for the past ten minutes. You should answer it, we can show ourselves around for a little.” “Great, thanks.” He steps onto the back patio, still distracted by both his wife’s absence and his mobster daydreams. The ringing phone finds its way to his ear.
“This is Steven.”
“Steven Anderson, we have your wife.”
The small metal and glass device falls to the floor and Steven quickly scrambles to retrieve it and press it to his ear.
“What do you mean you have my wife?”
“We have your wife. She is unharmed for now but there is no possibility of escape. The only way you will see her again is to meet our demands. They are unique so you might want to grab a pen… ready?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m ready. Go ahead.”
“There is a shipment that we are interested in. A shipment that is going to be made in one short month by the Lombardi family, I take it that you have heard of them?”
“Yeah, of course, everyone knows that the Lombardi’s run this town. But I don’t understand -”
“You are going to help us find out the location of this shipment. You can assemble your own small team to assist you in gathering information from contacts that we will reveal the names of once we gain them.”
“So you’re keeping Alison until I do all this?”
“No, no – we aren’t monsters. A month is quite a long time for Billy and Sally to be without their mother.”
“How did you…”
“Do not underestimate us, Mr. Anderson, we know far more than you can imagine. On our team is world renowned brain surgeon, Charles Doheny. Have you heard of him? No matter. He has developed an implant that effectively erases one’s defiant character traits and makes them as pliable as putty. They recognize one figure in place of this dominant trait and thus, they follow this figure’s every command and fulfill their every desire.”
“No need for profanity Mr. Anderson, I am not that kind of man. I have no desire for your wife’s body, only her eyes. She will be released back to your care and each morning she will report your every move back to me. If you are not following our agreement then I will be forced to destruct the chip, rendering her brain a useless puddle.”
A flowered oven mitt pulls the casserole from the oven. The aproned woman stands in a monochrome blue kitchen suffocating with sunlight. A man sits on the lower end of middle-aged sits at the plated formica table across the room wearing a dark blue suit. He is studying a newspaper that he’s read twice already. “Steven, can you grab us water please?” He sighs heavily and gets a glass of water and a beer for himself. She places a full plate in front of him and a light plate in front of herself at the table. He sips the beer and begins eating.
“Is is good?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”, he responded without looking up from his plate.
“Goddamnit Alison I don’t know what else you want me say. It’s just as good as all the other casseroles you’ve made. No better, no worse- just fine.”
A young boy and girl lay in the carpeted hallway peer in between the stair railings over the living room. “I think they’ve forgotten us again”, the boy says. “I don’t think so. Maybe they just haven’t invited us down yet.” The boy frowns and pushes himself off the ground. He runs down the stairs, the girl reaches for the ankles to stop him but is too slow.
“Hey mom were you planning on feeding Sally and I tonight or are we being left to fend for ourselves again?” The woman looks up from the table with wide, startled eyes and says nothing. Billy walks into the kitchen and gathers things to make PBJ sandwiches. His father grabs his arm as he’s leaving.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going with that?”
“I’m making dinners for Sally and I since mom apparently doesn’t plan on feeding us … again.”, Billy squirms under his father’s fingers.
“I paid for this food. Your mother is in charge of deciding who eats it. You have not contributed and she has decided that you and Sally are not eating it tonight. So you’re not eating it tonight.”
“Come on dad, I really think she just forgot.”
The two look towards Alison, one with pleading eyes and the other with a hard-set jawline and steeled eyes. She looks down and picks at her food. He snatches the bread and jars from Billy’s arm as Billy slithers from his grip and runs upstairs. He tackles his bed and begins to cry into his pillow. “Billy, it’s okay. You tried. You really did.”, the voice comes from Sally in the doorway. Her comforting words are met only by soft sobs muffled by Billy’s Star Wars pillow.
Downstairs Alison begins to clear the plates and clean up the kitchen. As the sun set outside she went to sit on the flowered couch next to Steven who had taken off his sport coat at some point. He scrolled through news apps on his phone while she flipped through channels on an antennaed television set.
The grocery cart lists to the right side as it pushes along the faded linoleum flooring. Harsh lights illuminate the isles from frozen shelving compartments. Sally carries a torn piece of paper and collects things in her small arms to toss over the high sides of the cart. Billy hangs off the side of the cart, being pushed by their mother. A women with a short blonde bob in a tea-length floral dress rounds the corner into their isle. “Oh hello Alison, I didn’t know you were back out and about.”
“Hello Karen. Yes I am, thank you for your concern.”
“Oh, you misunderstand. I never said I was concerned.”
Karen walks through the isle without picking up anything and exits at the opposite end. Billy looks at Sally, a question in his cocked eyebrow. She shakes her head, dismissing the discussion before it can ever happen. Sally speaks up, “Mom maybe we can help you make spaghetti for dinner tonight. Does that sound good?” Alison looks down at her and shakes her head, seemingly confused to see her standing there next to the cart. “Yeah sure. Yes, we can make spaghetti”, she smiles then and looks back and forth at her children, “Yes, spaghetti. All together like how it used to be. That sounds nice.”
They pull up the driveway in a faded brown station wagon. The children exit from the rear-facing third row and round the car to help carry groceries from the second row. They push open the front door with a rustling of plastic bags to see Steven sitting in the living room. Four burly men sit near him with open notebooks. Steven’s head sharply turns- annoyed at the obvious interruption. Alison mumbles a quiet apology and ushers the children into the kitchen and pulls the curtains that lead to the living room together.
“Jesus Neev, go easy on those turns. We don’t want to lose him just yet.”
“Hey Steven, how much longer?”
Steven rolls his eyes and speaks through his sigh “No more than 10 minutes.”
His ragtag group was obviously new in the world of crime that he was quick inducting them to. He relents to himself internally, well I did round them up from Craigslist- a cheap substitute for the gang squad he had always dreamed of.
The black ford impala tears down the empty road that leads straight to the docks, which were currently being licked by the dark waters that reflected the moon the way the ocean only did at three in the morning. The car shudders to an abrupt stop at the entrance to the dock; all four doors open and five pairs of black boots hit the gravel, kicking up the small pebbles as they walk together towards the dented bumper of the car.
“Hey Steven, I know this isn’t the best moment to be sayin this but I really gotta piss.”
“Fine. Whatever. Go piss off the dock or something and try not to draw too much attention to yourself.”
One pair of black boots heads down the salt soaked wood planks to the dock while the other four pairs remain huddled around the trunk.
“I think you should open it Steven”, the other pairs of boots ardently agree with this suggestion.
“Fine. I’ll open it- just don’t fuck this up for me okay? If this is going to work out for us then this needs to go well.”
The boots nod their reassurances of expected good behavior. Steven heaves open the heavy trunk to unveil the middle aged man resting inside- eyes wide with hands and feet bound like a freshly hunted boar.
“So Russell, are you ready to tell me what you know about the Lombardi shipments now?”
The body in the trunk, presumably Russell, shakes his head in defiance and curses around the gag in his mouth.
“That’s a shame Russell, that’s really quite a shame. I thought all this trouble that I’ve gone through would be made worth it by your confession of closely held family secrets.”
Steven sighs deeply, “Well, Se La Vie. Dump him.”
Steven walks back towards the front of the car and gets into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him. The boots work together to life struggling Russell out of the trunk and walk him down the dock – past Neev who is still peeing somehow – and toss him in the water. Neev’s stream peters out and they all return to the Impala together. “We did it boss. He’ll be swimming with the fishes in no time.”
“You idiot, the phrase is ‘sleeping with the fishes’, not swimming. He’s not turning into a goddamn mermaid.”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
“No. No, it’s not. Did you put the weights around his ankles or his wrists?”
Steven contorts his body so he is facing the man speaking from the backseat, “The weights in the trunk. The weights that will pull Russell to the bottom of the ocean so he will no longer be our problem. the weights that will make sure he drowns before he figures out how to untie himself.”
“Oh, those weights.”
“Yes, those weights. Where did you tie them?”
“They’re still in the trunk.”
Another boot speaks up, “Guess he might be swimming with the fishes after all eh Steven?” The grin on his face quickly dissolves once Steven’s full rage breaks through his mask of understanding.
“THE TRUNK?! They’re still in the GODDAMN TRUNK?! You have got to be fucking kidding me right now. Please, for the love of all things good and holy, tell me you are fucking kidding me right now.”
“No boss, I’m real sorry though. Maybe we can get him back and tie the weights on?”
“Get out.”, Steven’s face has turned bright red and it looks as though the pressure in his head might make his eyes pop out like bullets aimed at their target.
“Get. Out. Get out of this motherfucking car and walk home you morons.”
“No. Get out.”
The boots grumble in anger as they reluctantly slide out of the car. Steven shifts into the driver’s seat and whips around the Impala at full speed, spewing gravel in a soft arch towards the four men who watch him go.
“Well what the hell are we supposed to do now?”
Soft light from the hallway slicing through the solid darkness of the bedroom as Steven slinks through the small opening. Alison stirs in bed as he sheds his suit and drapes it over the corner armchair. “How was work?”, she whispers from underneath the mountain of blankets. “It did not go according to plan.”
“Oh I’m sorry. Did the couple not like house? You really went out of your way for this deal, showing it to them at an hour like this. What did you say they did for work again?”
“They work as personal assistants to some higher ups at a bank.”
“And that’s why they were only available to see the house at 3 in the morning?”
“Yeah. They aren’t off the clock until the bankers go to bed and they stay up very late counting money.”, Steven reported while taking perching on the side of the bed to remove his shoes.
“Okay that makes sense.”
“Of course it does.”
He slips into bed beside her and rolls away from her expectant puckered lips. She sighs and shifts to lay on her side facing the framed family portrait on the wall.
“Sally did you hear that?”
Billy’s question is met only with silence. He lifts his legs and pushes against the bottom of her bed, a few feet above his own. She shifts under her blankets and he kicks the bed again. “What Billy?”, she mumbles, still heavily under the influence of sleep.
“Dad just came home.”
“Okay, so what?”
“Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”, Billy gets out of bed and stands on the side railing so he is eye-level with Sally.
“I don’t know…what time is it?”
“A little after five.”
“Are you sure he didn’t just wake up early?”, her voice was more clear, having shaken off the last dustings of sleep.
“I’m pretty sure, he just now came upstairs and he wasn’t here when mom went to bed.”
“I’m sure it’s fine Billy.”
“Yeah but it doesn’t seem weird to you? Mom’s forgotten to feed us three times this past week and Dad keeps having those weird guys over and it’s just weird, it’s definitely weird I think. Things just haven’t been the same since we got back from grandmas.”
“I guess but I think it’ll be fine Billy, just go to bed. You have a spelling test tomorrow.”
Billy sighs and gets back into his bed while Sally folds her hands over her chest and stares up at the ceiling- searching for shapes in the plaster and a reason for her father’s actions in her mind.
What do you call a bee that can’t make up its mind?
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d compile a little list of some of my favorite ways of treating myself. I think self-care is super important especially in the busy lives that me and my peers tend to lead. It becomes increasingly easy to neglect the little things in order to fulfill exterior obligations and please others but it’s really difficult to give the best of yourself when you’re not feeling quite your best. There are some things that I have found so essential to keeping a positive mindset that they have become a part of my routine while other things I just indulge in once in awhile. Either way, it’s important to keep taking care of yourself on your “to do” list, no matter how long it gets.
This is a category that I definitely consider essential and take care of every day. I just don’t think it’s possible to feel your best if your skin isn’t keeping up. Also, my skin tends to be the first indicator of my stress level so paying extra attention to it during times when I have too much on my plate is always worth it in the long run.
Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser-
This stuff has been a true miracle for my oily skin, serving to both dry it out and keep my skin clear.
Formula 10.0.6 Seriously Shine Free Mattifying Moisturizer-
I love using this on no-makeup days which tend to happen often when I have a lot going on.
Farmacy Sleep Tight Night Balm-
A quick coat of this before I go to bed and I’m guaranteed to wake up with glowing skin.
Lately, I have found some great pieces in places I wouldn’t expect. They’re styles I have been drooling over at places like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters but resented the price tag so when I found them at these prices, I just couldn’t resist.
SO Sherpa Zip-Up Jacket from Kohls-
Since buying this jacket I have worn it every day, and I only wish this was an exaggeration. It’s sherpa on the inside and outside making it a real treat for you as the wearer and anyone hugging you.
Universal Thread Wenda Cut Out Bootie from Target-
These shoes are not only extremely trendy but also surprisingly comfortable. They’re perfect for professional settings when you want to add a little edge to a business look.
What’s the leading cause of dry skin?
I am normally not one for poetry. I find it is at times trite, overcomplicated or using so much flowered language that I wonder if there is any substance under all those gossamer images. However, there is one exception and so far only one exception to this. Kaveh Akbar. I read his poetry for a class last year and fell deeply in love. The passion and sharp truth behind his words makes me tear up every time I read them. I was fortunate enough to FaceTime with him in class and the opportunity to ask him questions and hear him read his own poetry propelled my love ever deeper. His first full-length book was released at the end of 2017 and every poem is ridiculously impressive.
I think I enjoy his work so much because it reminds me of good fiction. Every word and line serves a specific purpose and any fatty bits have been skillfully removed with a scalpel’s precision. He says what he means and means what he says and I have great respect and admiration for that intense honesty. Going through the book I myself find underlining and highlighting most lines to the point of excess but I just can’t help it, they’re all SO GOOD. His imagery is solidly rooted in this material world so it is easily accessible and easy to connect with making it hit that much harder. Alcoholism, sorcery, Islam and a fading of tradition are all explored in this magnificent collection – even if you don’t like poetry I really recommend trying his because it is truly like nothing I have ever read before.
What kind of shoes does a pedophile wear?
With the first month of the new year already halfway over, I thought I’d take a second to appreciate some of my favorite creature comforts and tiny luxuries that I have discovered in 2018 or have held onto since 2017. These are the tiny things that brighten my day and that I can’t stop recommending to anyone who will listen long enough. I have either stumbled upon them myself or had them first recommended to me and it just seems selfish not to share the wealth.
Mama Ramen Noodles (shrimp flavor):
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m decently picky and the thought of tiny, freeze-dried shrimp doesn’t really spark my appetite. However, the first time I tried this it was made for me by a friend and I never would’ve guessed the flavor. It carries flavor in its spices, is laughably easy to make and has quickly become a staple in mine and my friends’ kitchens.
Burt’s Bees Chapstick:
I consider myself somewhat of a chapstick connoisseur. I have been known to spend copious amounts of money on chapstick even if I have multiple unopened tubes in my makeup bag. What can I say? I think having dry lips is an issue that our species has evolved past suffering through and so, I like to live in comfort. Burt’s Bees has been a longstanding favorite of mine (especially the honey and original flavors) and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking for a simple solution to an extreme annoyance.
Himalayan Salt Lamp:
I got this for Christmas and have completely fallen head over heels for it. I am a sucker for mood lighting because historically, it has been proven to really help me wind down in the evenings. This lamp gives off a gorgeous pink glow and while I can’t speak to the positive ion claims, I can say the soft lighting certainly puts me in a good mood.
Tazo Boxed Chai Tea:
This stuff has gotten me through so many late classes and library study sessions that I think I owe half my GPA to it. It has just enough caffeine to wake you up without feeling jittery and the taste is phenomenal. Seriously, better than half the overpriced chai tea lattes that I have bought at various cafes. I make it with half almond milk, half chai tea and then a tiny swirl of vanilla extract mixed in to really bring out the sweeter notes.
I’m sure this seems like a bizarre favorite but lately, I have been having toast for breakfast and as someone who is adamantly NOT a morning person, it has really changed my perspective on mornings a bit. I use Heartland Grains Farmer Style White Bread lightly toasted with a thin layer of peanut butter on top and then a layer of Oregon Red Raspberry Preserves. Cannot recommend enough as a snack anytime of day but I think it’s best in the morning when you’re still in pajamas to make it while playing music in the kitchen.
Dr. Jart Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment:
I don’t like wearing foundation on a daily basis because I think it feels heavy and it tends to slide around a bit with the first signs of sweat. However, my complexion is towards the oily side and I have some uneven redness that I like to cover up. This product is the perfect in-between of powder and foundation. It stays decently matte throughout the day, is extremely lightweight and covers any and all redness with a natural glow. Also, it smells wonderful.
What do you call a cow with no legs?
I was brainstorming on what my first post of 2018 should be and suddenly the answer was annoyingly clear: the thing that drove me to start this blog in the first place… writing. The truest love I have ever known.
My love for writing and my insatiable desire to pursue it constantly has always been a fact of who I am as much as my name is Caitlin Carr. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – and yes, I know that’s cliche and incredibly cheesy but it really is true. I have always written to fulfill this deep chasm inside of me. I scribble and type tirelessly and then pitch the pages into this darkness in the hopes that one day I will run to it and see my efforts have made it shallow, habitable enough to wade into. So far, this has been a fruitless venture but still, my hunger to fill the pages still persists. I have always been a fidgety person who struggles to truly do nothing – the idea of a completely empty day sounds more maddening than relaxing to me. Throughout my life, I have found a variety of activities to keep me busy (working out, dance, photography) but there has never been anything that comes close to the satisfaction of writing. Starting with a bright white page that feels like staring into the sun and then covering it in lines of text, has always been the greatest joy I have found.
The best advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read. Read all the time, read anything you can get your hands on, read as if it’s as essential as breathing because, for you, it should be. In the poignant words of Stephen King, “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” I’ve often learned as much, if not more, from terrible books as the best ones. When I see glaringly annoying idiosyncrasies in writing, it makes it that much more clear to me what I DON’T want to do and sometimes this is a great jumping off point. Incredible writing often puts me in such a state of awe that I have to take a couple days before I can attempt to integrate what I learned into my writing without being intimidated. Either way, reading other people’s writing will always teach you something that you could not have learned in the vacuum of your own style and ideas.
Writing is a tricky beast that demands the sinking of a lot of free time. It is a private and personal thing which means it can be easy to neglect. I tend to agree that it is indeed much more fun to go out and be social rather than locking yourself in your room with only your laptop for company, but such is the sacrifice that has to be made. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way more times than I would like to admit but your writing will never improve unless you make time for it as if it was a normal 9-5 job. Writing is a craft that demands a lot mentally and requires a lot of self-motivation. Some find it helpful to set aside specific hours to write but for me, it is a more visceral experience than anything else and to truly enjoy it I have to go into it excited. Music has been my greatest aid in this venture – I cannot even begin to list all the times I listened to a single song for hours simply because it gave me a feeling that I wanted to capture on paper and I didn’t want to lose it before I had adequately written all I had to say.
The main lesson I learned about writing in 2017 is that your imagination is a muscle as much as your bicep. It is more tricky to pin down and snarls a bit more when poked, but it is a muscle nonetheless. It will wither into ash if left unattended and it will not serve you unless you return the favor. If kept well-fed and allowed to run about in the fresh air, it will repay you in ways you could have never foreseen as possible. One of my favorite ways of doing this is travel. For me, there is no better spark of motivation than breaking out of my daily routine to experience something new. And don’t take this to mean it has to be a flight away either, road trips or even just taking your laptop to a new coffee shop are often more than enough to put that first sentence on the page.
I could fill an oceans-worth of pages all about what writing has done for me
He stepped forward into the nothing. I think I screamed but now all I can remember is that sudden sound of the emptiness. It seemed like the place that he was just standing in was quivering in his wake, ripping apart as time seemed to jump. How was it true? How did we get to this place? A month ago we had our anniversary dinner on this rooftop with candles and blankets and kisses all over. And now there is a violent absence: the deep rasp of his voice, the spicy bite of his cologne, his hair blowing in the soft breeze. And now what do I do? How do I honor his memory? I grocery shop and watch films and go to work and try to pretend it didn’t happen. Try to pretend he didn’t happen. My brain is still short-circuiting the loss.
“Can you come over? I think I need to clean out his things and I just don’t know how. I don’t know if the clothes should go to his family or to Goodwill..” I was rambling again. Olivia knew this and cut me off, “Of course, I’m free all afternoon so I’ll be right over. Can I bring anything? Never mind that, I’ll just bring some coffee.” She rarely lets me answer these days because she knows I’ll go on forever without actually getting anywhere. An hour later and she was at my doorstep, she’s always getting distracted by things and runs late because of this tendency. Our friendship works because I understand and am never actually ready when I ask her to come over anyways. She looks at me deeply, searching for an answer to a question not yet satisfied, “How are you?”
This question will never make sense to me. How am I? My husband decided that diving into slick asphalt from twenty stories up was a more appealing choice than spending another day in the life that we had built together. If you can go through and not be in a constantly shitty state of mind then please write a book or go on a speaking tour because I know lots of folks who would love to know your secret. “I’m fine, thanks.”
When the apartment looked sufficiently like we had to wade through boxes to get through the front door we decided to take a break for lunch. Olivia suggested a new cafe downtown and I didn’t have an opinion so that’s where we decided to go. With her mouth half full of sandwich she began in, “So are you thinking you’ll stay in the place or move? I’ve seen a bunch of cute studios in midtown for sale. Maybe that would be good for you Margs, a fresh start.”
“Maybe yeah. I don’t know Liv, it just seems so fast. His family hasn’t even been out to the place since everything, it might be too soon to just up and leave don’t you think? I would hate for them to come and try to settle things just to find it empty and you know as well as anyone how completely unhelpful the landlord is, he would never be able to direct them to their new place. What if…”
“Yeah I suppose that’s true logistically. I’m just thinking of you here. You have to deal with it in the best way for you Margo, you have just as much right to grieve over him as anyone else.” She sighed into her coffee cup.
“I just worry about you that’s all – you seem to be internalizing a lot of this.”
“Well I don’t exactly have the luxury of laying in bed all day crying.”
“I know, I know, I’m not suggesting that. I don’t know…” Olivia trailed off as she absently traced the edge of the table with her finger, “You just don’t seem to be acting the way the most people do.”
“Oh is that what you think?”
“Don’t get mad Margs, I’m just worried.”
I got angry and my face grew hot. I was furious she would say such a thing and frustrated with myself because I knew she was right. Suddenly, my cheeks grew sticky with warm tears.
“Sometimes I wake up and reach across the bed still expecting to find him there. My fingers grab and pull at the sheets even after I remember. They look anyways in the hopes that my head is wrong, that I’m remembering wrong. Sometimes I watch tv and make a snarky comment and jump a little when it’s met with only silence. Then I shrug it off and try to pretend it didn’t happen and that I’m fine because you know what? Sometimes I get so mad at him that if he came knocking on my door I don’t even know if I would open it. I want to scream at him and throw things and make him hurt. I want him to realize how fucking selfish he was. I want him to realize that his leaving was only half of it, he left me here alone. He bought a ticket and went on a trip without telling me to pack my bags.” Olivia reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “And then the worst part is the guilt. I yell at the empty places and cry and pull at my hair and then it’s all out and then I feel so awful. I think I must be the worst person in the world to hate someone I love more than I miss them. And it’s true Liv, there are moments where I really do think I hate him. How is that okay? How do I live with that? If he hadn’t gone and done what he did then I had vowed to love him forever but instead he’s gone early and I hate him sometimes more than I love him. That isn’t how I’m supposed to feel. That isn’t how normal people feel in these situations.”
I collapsed into the wall and Olivia slid in next to me, placing her arm around my shoulders. She let me cry for a few minutes – the ugly kind where my nose ran and my chest heaved and I didn’t even try to fix my makeup. “I don’t know how people are supposed to feel in this situation but I think you’re going to be just fine. He took away the most important thing in the world to you and that was a shitty thing to do. One of my exes – Tommy, you remember him right?” I sniffled and nodded. “Well when we broke up he took my favorite candle just to spite me, I know he doesn’t even burn candles. I still hate his guts for it and I didn’t love him half as much as you love Richie so I can only imagine the level of passion there. Look what I’m trying to say is that I think that you shouldn’t worry about what’s ‘normal’. I’m sorry about what I said earlier, I didn’t mean it that way. You feel whatever you need to feel to get through this.”
I don’t know when I stopped reaching across the sheets or talking to ghosts in the soft light of the television. I don’t remember when the anger faded but I remember that it did. One day I was reaching for a box of cereal in the grocery store and realized I wasn’t angry anymore. I still don’t understand why he did what he did and I’m still working on being okay with that but I know that day will come too.