Where the Wild Things Were

This is one of the most fantastic pieces I’ve ever read.

Lunch Break Fiction

I walk towards the exit, beneath the Homecoming decorations. Shoulders crash into me, feet tripping my steps. They call me ugly. Gross. A freak.

On good days I’m ignored by the monsters. By teachers, by girls, hopefully by Tate Spiller. In the locker room, I dodge spitballs and wads of toilet paper thrown at my back. Then I go outside, walk the track and wait for the whistle.

I want to go back. To sail for weeks and through a day. To leave this forsaken place, where they are all the same. The same wicked smiles and the same stupid faces. The world all around is the same.

The things warned me not to leave. And I should have listened. I told them to be still and they stilled. They were frightened, rapt with wonder. I should have stayed and been a great king. In the wild I was a…

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How to Win Friends and …Nevermind

I am not very good at making friends.

Or, maybe I am and don’t know it.

Reassuring people on places like Facebook (who do not stay to talk long in person) tell me that everyone feels the way I do. They say that they like me and, no, I do not have a smell or an annoying habit or whatever.

Then, as I said, they don’t hang around.

I think, in fact, they are wrong about their assertions. -Though not about the smell. I shower and deodorize and even use girly-spritz most days.- I think I do have an annoying habit and I am a whatever.

My annoying habit is that I am socially defunct and that I kind of want to be. Whilst simultaneously envying the cluster of blonde-dyed women who have all had Botox and wear Size 4 or lower, I also …well, you see what I do. I judge. I think it even shows in my face because what’s internal becomes external for me. No, I am not a good poker player.

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What I am not sure about is whether this envy/judging plays a part in my other behaviors or if I am just trying to ‘be me’ (another terrible suggestion). In this case, I refer to my discussing subjects that are more interesting than whoever is pretending to be The Bachelor or what piece of whitewashed antique barnwood Joanna Gaines is using this week.

Further, I am not sure if I eschew things like barnwood because of my fierce desire to be unique and, most definitely, not ever be classified as a typical woman; or if I really don’t like those things.

Some times I go to social functions and feel things are going well. I listen to a willing woman’s life stories and, occasionally, am able to broach a more advanced topic. More than once when this happened, my conversation partner remarked, “You’re a deep thinker.”

Deep thinker? Does that make them a shallow thinker? A not-thinker?

There I go being judgy again. I guess I just need to turn that off. Or, start watching more shows about bachelors.

Are you a social butterfly? An outcast? A ‘deep thinker?’ What do you think about The Mystery of Socializing?

—–

I can small talk. I’ll start with my week in review:
Wednesday, January 9: “A Tree Falls in a Forest; Does the Reader Hear It?,” a post about a little stream, or maybe a metaphor.
Thursday, January 10: “Skinwalkers, XLVIII.” The End of Skinwalkers, at least on here. The story was taking way too long for everything I wanted to do, so I figured I’d stop boring everyone with it.
Friday, January 11: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congrats to a new contender, M.K.M.
Saturday, January 12: Announced the ninth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Write a limerick and share it!
Also, “Directions from a Druid,” in response to D. Wallace Peach‘s picture prompt.
Sunday, January 13: “Bio-Enrichment,” my flash fiction conversation for Carrot Ranch.
Monday, January 14: “Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Nine.”
Also, “What Do You Do All Day?” at my mothering blog.
Tuesday, January 15: Inspirational quote from a song written by Charlie Chaplin.
Wednesday, January 16: Today!

It’s All A Lie

I just love life aphorisms. I love them about as much as the daily grind of housework that regenerates every five seconds.

“Don’t worry; everyone feels that way.”

Really? If everyone felt the way I do, the world would be on fire. At the very least, I would not see so many smiling people getting out of the house and purchasing avocados for their lunch break.

In an actual session, my counselor voiced this advice. “I don’t think that’s true,” I countered. “Most people, when asked about a recent vacation, don’t go on about world disparity.” She laughed, and I noticed she didn’t disagree. Face it: everyone does not feel the way I do.

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“People will love you for who you are.”

No, people will not. People sense or see or smell the negative vibes emanating from my socially-anxious person before I even speak about world disparity. I see it in the falter of their smile (if it was there), in the excuse to go… anywhere and get out of the conversation.

Close family members are the only ones to use “love” with me, and do so with hesitation. I can tell they expect that world-burning explosion part of me to bite them in response. I probably ought to stop doing that…

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“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Yeah, maybe after the laundry is done. Even then, ‘anything I set my mind to’ is probably going to be an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom.

I’ve thought of writing a bestseller, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve considered a job outside the house, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve also toyed around with going back to school, but that requires an insane amount of debt and daycare and emotional stress on family life.

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“We only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

I regret everything. I second-guess myself before the chance, during it, and after it’s passed.

Besides, in my profession as mother, I can’t simply decide to be a roving gypsy. Child Protective Services frowns upon decisions like that.

 

Perhaps good advice works; you know, for ‘everyone.’ For me and others who may view things similarly, what do you say? “Tomorrow is another day?” Of course it is, stupid. Yesterday was another day, too.

There’s got to be an evolutionary advantage to cynicism, right?

Flat-Footed

Black and white

“Ee-ew! What’s wrong with your toes?” The sneery-faced girl scrunched up her nose into, well, into a sneer. Her voice was just the right timbre to draw the envy of large, braying barn animals -had there been any around.

Instead, she and I were part of a different sort of farm, one at which children gathered for instruction in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The sunny rays of late spring shone between us; upon her freckling nose and unkempt hair, and likewise upon my sandal-shod feet with their exposed toes.

I wiggled my posterior phalanges innocently. The movement drew an encore exclamation from my tormentor. “Ew! They’re so weird! Stop it!” Feigning repulsion, she ran away.

I considered following. Had I been of a different personality, the thought of continually chasing her might have occurred to me. Being myself, instead, I looked down at my flat, splayed toes in shame. I tried placing one foot over the other, but could see how that would hamper movement.

The toes returned my scrutiny innocently; though, to my new perspective, they had somehow morphed to resemble dead slugs or ugly bits of log. I had always known my toes were a little different, of course. They didn’t look precisely like my mother’s, or my father’s; though they did resemble my sister’s and brother’s somewhat.

Given that small scientific sampling, I’d concluded that everyone must have some toe issues. Mine weren’t all that odd.

The bell rang, signifying the end of recreational outside time for schoolchildren. I returned inside, a small germ of doubt forming inside my innocent mind. Little was I to know how important my foot fringes would prove later in life; how much of that life they would come to affect.

Of course, they had a few problems in childhood beyond immature condemnation. Those poor, flat slugs jostled against each other too freely inside my shoes. The second and third toe’s unusual length, coupled with the movement, caused them many an ingrown nail pain.

My grandfather, from whom I inherited the flatness, was a podiatrist. He’d look over my feet with the air of a great scientist. Invariably, he’d comment, “Should’ve taken out that first knuckle when you were a baby.”

In response, I’d study my elongated digits. Were they so out of place? Were they so wrong, that they needed tampering with? Editing? Removal?

It wasn’t until my teenage years that my feet became more obvious, and brought again to vocal scrutiny. Most of that was due to an unreasonable social silence I received from peers for most of my childhood. It was like they could sense my feet were different. Perhaps I kicked a soccer ball differently at recess. Maybe the pigeon-toedness of my walk was more pronounced than I’d imagined.

That was when I would recall another way the affronting basal extremities had interfered in younger years. Fearing the extreme way I thrashed my legs inwardly at some moments, my parents had agreed to purchase and shoe me with special footwear. My toes were hidden beneath covered fronts, fronts so obscuring that one could not easily tell the right from the left. Thus split and kept from each other, my gait was altered to tilt more outward, more normal.

As I was saying, however, I could not hide the abnormalities from fellow teenagers. They walked brashly round the high school campus; showing me that, yes, my anatomy was not like most other’s. Most female feet were attractive and small; with cute, curling toes of descending length.

Again, I viewed my primate-like offerings. “Love yourself,” my mother admonished. But, what was to love about my obviously abnormal feet?

Feet like mine

I tried. “I can write with my feet,” I told some friends. I even practiced. The parlor trick was somewhat amusing, but ultimately served to repulse most listeners. No one wants to hear about feet touching pencils and paper, if one wants to hear about feet at all.

I began hiding my shoe size, disguising my walk, and curling my toes when viewable. I pretended to be like those with smiling, happy leg-ends. I mimicked the way they moved. Hopefully, my defects would somehow conform and truly be like everyone else one day.

Eventually I got married, to a man with smaller feet. “They’re so fuzzy,” I commented.

“All men have hairy feet,” he responded. He was normal.

I knew all women did not have my anatomy. Silence was golden. Though I’m sure he could see the size; odd, webbed second and third toes; and bath mat-like nature of mine, he never admitted repulsion. He never admitted love, of course; no closet foot fetishes. Instead, I felt he ignored their presence and focused on what had a better appearance.

Perhaps he, too, hoped they would simply change to different parts if avoided.

Maybe because of their insistence on extending farther than they naturally ought to, this was a defect that could not be overlooked. It was one that began to affect my life, including our married life.

“So you feel your feet are causing problems?” Our counselor queried, concerned. “Do you find yourself picking objects from the floor with your simian second-toe spacing? Are your children trodding on them; not giving you the space you need? Have you ever felt like harming your toes?”

I remembered my grandfather’s wishes to shorten the offending toes. I had to admit, “Yes.”

The good news is that I was referred to a hormonal replacement podiatrist. It’s ongoing news, really, since I’ve come to realize I will always have different feet than more foot-functional humans. But, the initial treatments have helped.

“Oh, I just love your nails, Heidi,” a woman comments to another. We’re at an ongoing outdoor recreational time; a social gathering of neighborhood women. The person she is complimenting happily displays the toenails that drew attention. They sit in even rectangles atop curling, descending toes at the ends of perfect, petite feet controlled by slim, even-stepping legs.

perfect feet

I glance at mine. My toenails still retain most of the strengthening polish I have to douse them with, else they break and peel. They grace my flat, elongated, obscurely-shaped foot profile. The feet are large for a woman, and point inwards the way my knees do.

I shrug.

I can’t fight genetics blessing me with thin nails. I’d rather have oddly-long toes than agree to surgically alter them. Perhaps my shoe size helps my balance -especially when I forget to focus and trip over my pigeon-toed gait.

And, should the world ever be captured by alien invasion and our arms pinioned uselessly to our sides, my apelike toes will come in handy for untying the bonds of my fellow prisoners.

If nothing else, they’ll be able to write a plea for help.

Petites Boîtes

When I was but a francophiliac teenager, we learned a song titled “Petites Boîtes.” The first stanza of lyrics is as follows:

Petites boîtes très étroites
Petites boîtes faites en ticky-tacky
Petites boîtes, petites boîtes
Petites boîtes toutes pareilles.

Translated back to the English version written by Malvina Reynolds from Graeme Allright’s fun-sounding word-rhymes, it says:

Little boxes, on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same.

The obvious gist of the song is that everyone goes through life staying in these boxes that look the same, that they’ve always been in: growing up in the same neighborhood, attending university, making children, their children follow exactly the same path; we even die and are put in boxes in the ground.

I hate boxes.

When I converse with people, I begin squirming at social categorization. Ironically, I have (of course) already placed the other person into neat little groups in my mind. Ah, he’s wearing a camouflage coat and just got out of his jacked-up pickup truck. As he strokes his mustache and stubble, I can tell he must be in favor of: hunting animals, no gun control, and (perhaps) being suspicious of all authority figures.

Meanwhile, I feel like parking down the block so no one sees that I came by minivan. I dislike discussing religion or politics. When asked about favorites, I sweat.

Thing is, I may fit into many of these boxes (petites boîtes -it’s so fun to say!). I just don’t like the idea that someone places me immediately into one, only one, and assumes I’ve all the associated characteristics of someone else who also might behave in a way that places him or her in there.

So… I tend to introduce myself in a way that shakes up typical introductory patterns. “Hi, I’m Chelsea and I can write with my toes,” or “My favorite food? Good food, definitely.” Or, most often, I’m going to just sit and nod and pretend I also like what’s-her-name-Gaines and that I actually watch TV and so they assume I can hang out in their little corner of interests.

Mature, I’m sure. Perhaps you, the reader, have a better approach.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get into my mom-van and pick up children from school, as part of a carpool. I’ll be listening to alternative music on the way and acting like I own a much different vehicle.

I’ve always wanted a lifted pickup truck and camouflage jacket…

Party of One

Woman

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

 

Flash Fiction Entry

Wilhelmina Winters: Eight

The story her father had given her that morning niggled at the back of Wil’s mind, though she didn’t know why. She thought it must be because he hardly gave into requests lately. Rob still worked swing shifts at jobs so he could be home for Cynthia’s treatments and doctor visits. With everything going on, he hardly felt up to talking or even smiling.

Wil held the happy feelings of memory in a small area of her mind as she glided through dissipating fog toward the sprawling school building. Happy, chattering groups of teenagers passed her. Silent, dark forms of seriously solemn schoolmates stalked by. Average young adults found others and nervously discussed upcoming assignments. They were all pulled inexorably to the doors and swallowed in.

Sometimes, Wil felt school was a prison. She rarely enjoyed attending. She was not one of a pair in a couple of silent types, or even an average sort to worry over tests. Wil was also definitely not chatty among a group of other trend-setting bubble heads.

As she watched groups of her peers like a momentary anthropologist, however, she admittedly felt envy. Wil hadn’t met and made any friends since moving to this school shortly after her birthday in September. She was old enough and experienced enough by now to tune out ridiculous encouragement by school counselors and teachers -but, they were correct in that even one friend would make school exponentially more tolerable.

Exponentially… Wil’s mind lingered over the word. She realized she’d been drifting the wrong direction and corrected herself to head instead toward her locker. She was going to be late for math.

Taking her mittens off so she could open her locker, Wil set her things on the ground and spun the combination on the lock. It sprung open, and she was surprised to see a folded paper sitting in the bottom among the dust.

Wil stealthily looked around, but only caught the eye of a few clueless chatterers in groups with other vacuous participants. Clearly, no one standing near had any idea about her, her locker, or its contents.

Always up for variety and adventure, Wil reached in and unfolded the page. It had a serrated edge and blue lines to tell where it had been extracted from. Half expecting there to be nothing on it, since careless people put garbage everywhere, Wil was surprised to see writing across the middle.

Unfortunately, the writing was not done in letters customary for American English, nor in their usual order. Her excitement increased a bit more; this was a code!

“It probably reads ‘Your an idiot,'” thought Wil, “With misspellings included. Or, it’s not really meant for me.”

Still, she burned with a curiosity to solve and read the cryptic message. It had been in her locker. Hopefully, this message really was for her. Hopefully, it would be some sort of clue to a mystery of great import. She would decipher these symbols and save the…

The school bell echoed deeply through the halls, stirring standing bodies to slowly walking ensembles.

Wil put her backpack and other books inside, and shut the door. Pocketing her secret, she smiled. Math class would be a lot more interesting today.

 

Continued from Seven.
Keep reading to Nine.