Breaking Down

Day 13 of 16: Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

A tire blows out as you’re in the car with someone on the verge of his/her own breakdown. Stuck in a small town, you’re about to do something you haven’t done in years.

As I sit waiting for my train at the local Amtrak station, I think about how I wound up back here.  I was called on by my mother, a mother who was dying.  This God-forsaken town is where I grew up and I haven’t been back in years.  Memories of my childhood are fairly painful.  I can remember praying for the day I turned 18 so I could flee this place.  And that’s exactly what I did.  Me, a small suitcase and $2,000 in cash boarded a one-way trip out of here and never looked back.  Until now.

So, here I am waiting for my train to take me home.  The last 3 weeks have been hell on earth.  Caring for my sick and dying mother was no picnic in the park.  I know this sounds terrible, but I was relieved when she finally passed on.  For once in her life she was organized and had her funeral completely planned out, which made her burial quick and seamless.  I have left everything else to the sister I never got along with.  I don’t care much about getting anything in that house.  I just need to get out of here and get home to my husband and children.

I am deep in thought when I hear the announcer say something about a train cancellation.  I look around frantically, maybe I heard wrong?  Unfortunately, I heard right.  It seems my train has been cancelled and won’t be leaving until the next morning.  I start to panic.  I desperately need to escape this place.  I practice the breathing exercises that my therapist taught me when I find myself in this type of situation.  After I have calmed down a bit, I walk up to the rental car window and am told that the next available car isn’t for hours.  I start to hyperventilate.  I am visibly upset and I have gone past the point of no return.

It is then that I feel a tap on my shoulder.  I look behind me and there is a woman about my age standing there with a huge, friendly smile on her face.  My thought is, “what the hell are you so happy about?” when she says that she is headed in my direction and would like to offer me a ride.  At first I am skeptical but then realize I am just being uptight.  My therapist told me I need to learn how to trust people.  So that’s what I do.  I trust this woman and accept her ride.  I am overcome with a feeling of relief so powerful I almost cry.

We get into her small Ford Fusion and head out to the highway.  I realize that it’s going to be a very long drive ahead of us but remind myself that I am at least going in the right direction.  My new traveling companion introduces herself as Marcy.  During the first 2 hours there is a lot of quiet and little chit-chat, which is completely fine with me.  I’m not much of a talker, especially with strangers.

It’s at this time that Marcy decides to start speaking.  She tells me she’s going back home after being separated from her husband for 4 months.  “Oh, that’s wonderful Marcy.  I’m so happy for you.”  I can’t imagine being separated from my husband, so I am genuinely happy for her.

Marcy starts to cry.  At first, it’s a mellow cry with small, quiet tears.  I reach over and pat her shoulder, tell it’s going to be okay.  I say that I can imagine how happy she must be to be reuniting with her husband.  Then her emotion turns into outright anguish.  Sybil-type anguish.  I get a chill.

“Oh, we aren’t reuniting in the way you are thinking.  The bastard doesn’t want me.  He said he doesn’t love me anymore and wants a divorce.  Just like that, he just doesn’t love me anymore?”  She starts to scratch at her arms.  I tell her she should stop but she doesn’t.  She just keeps scratching and scratching until she starts to bleed.

She starts to scream, “I have done nothing but love him for the last 10 years of my life.  When I caught him with that other woman in that restaurant, I just got so upset.  I started throwing things, I dumped a glass of ice water over her head, and smashed their dishes on the floor.  Then he tries to tell me that I’m ruining his deal.  I’m ruining his deal?  What about our deal?”  I know it wasn’t my business but I found myself saying, “maybe it was just a business lunch?”  “No, I’m not buying it.  They were laughing like they were lovers.  I know that look.  We used to have that look.”  I’m starting to realize why her marriage failed.  This woman is a kook.  She’s absolutely out of her mind.

“So, your husband doesn’t know you’re coming then?” I ask.  She snaps her head in my direction and looks at me like I’m the one who has gone completely mad.  “NO, of course not!”  An odd smirk appears on her face, a smirk that gives me the creeps.  “I’m going to surprise him.  He is going to get the surprise of his life.”

The sky above starts to darken.  Within minutes we are in the middle of a terrific thunderstorm.  Because this is the kind of month I’ve had and I couldn’t imagine it going any other way, the evening gets better.  We get a flat tire.

I am stuck in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, with a could-be violent woman in the middle of nowhere.  I tell her I’m going to get out and try to flag someone down to help us.  She reminds me that there is the potential of getting struck by lightening.  I’m thinking there is less a chance of me getting struck by lightening than her stabbing me to death.  But I sit, practice my breathing and wait it out.  And listen to what she is planning on doing to her estranged husband.

God, I feel like I’m in a bad horror movie.  This can’t be happening to me.  All I keep thinking is I have to stay on this woman’s good side, I’m terrified of pissing her off.  And then I think that I have to warn this guy somehow.  “What did you say your husband’s name was?” I ask.  “Victor.  Victor Paulson.  His name is so ugly, isn’t it?  How could I have married a man with such a name?  Victor Paulson.  Disgusting.” she sputters with complete venom.

I wait a few minutes while I wonder how to get her cell phone from her.  Surely, his name has got to be in her contact list.  I feign trying to make a phone call with my own cell.  I pretend to be making a call to my husband to tell him I’ll be later than I thought.  “Oh, damn.  My phone has died.  Do you mind if I use yours?” I say.  “Oh, of course.”  She’s sweet as pie.  Like I said, she’s Sybil.  I casually take her cell phone from her, but feel anything but casual.  On the inside I am a crumbling mess, but I try to keep it together.  I look through her contact list as quickly as I can, locate Victor’s number and commit it to memory.

It is here and now that I am grateful that I have comfortable shoes on and am in good shape.  I reach in the back for my suitcase, open the door and make a run for it.  The weather has lightened up some so I no longer fear getting electrocuted.  Although that thought is much more welcoming than the thought of sitting in the car with that looney bin one more minute.  After I’ve gotten far enough away from her, I do what I haven’t done since I was a teen.  I stick out my thumb and start to hitchhike all while I’m making a phone call to the one and only Victor.

Back From the Future

Day 7 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

A knock at the door catches you off guard. Upon answering it, you’re greeted by a man who says he’s from the future—and he can prove it. More important, he says he has information that will save your life. 

This is not a good day.  It’s not even close to a good day.  It’s the kind of day you wish you could start over and plan every moment yourself.  It started with a strange dream last night.  It was one of those dreams that seemed so real that you had to think long and hard to determine if it really happened or not.  This dream not only felt real, but scared the living hell out of me.

Although it was Wednesday and I should be working, I decided to call in sick.  I can’t put my finger on it, maybe it was my dream but I just don’t feel right.  Besides the weather outside is practically monsoon-style.  I’m not really in the mood to be on the road with all the other idiots (me included) who slam their brakes if it so much as sprinkles.

Then I get a phone call that was on the other side of weird.  Actually, I received a couple of phone calls.  The first one was just a hang up.  No big deal, it happens.  Then when the phone rang again a few minutes later, there was a man on the other end looking for me.  I don’t know if the call was from the same guy or not, but if it was, he hung up again after he received acknowledgement that he had the right person.

Now I am, as my 14 year old niece would say, “legit freaked out.”  I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit at the dinette in my small kitchen and try to concentrate on reading the newspaper.  When I unfold it, the headline reads, “MISSING WOMAN FOUND DEAD.”  Next to the article, there is a photo of me.  I don’t read the article, mainly because I am officially on the verge of a breakdown.  I fold the paper back up and start to pace.

I can feel the panic rise up from my toes all the way to the follicles in my head.  My entire body starts to shake uncontrollably.  I run to the hall mirror to take a look at myself.  Besides being as white as a new sheet of paper, I am here.  I pinch myself for clarification and I am most definitely here.  What the hell is going on?  I am feeling a combination of dread, disbelief and utter confusion.  I run back to the paper to look again, except that the headline I read two minutes ago has disappeared and has been replaced with, “TROPICAL STORM BETTY HEADING OUR WAY.”

Have I completely lost my mind?  I can’t seem to control the thoughts in my head.  I start to bite my nails, which is strange because I am not a nail biter.  I am so scared and suddenly exhausted so I lie down on the couch and pull the blanket over me.  I am just going to close my eyes for a minute.

I don’t know how long I slept, but I am suddenly jolted awake by a loud knock on the door.  When I answer it, I am greeted by a man dressed in a black trench coat and matching fedora.  There was something kind and trusting about his face.  I went against everything my mother ever told me about strangers and let this man into the foyer to get him out of the storm.

When he spoke my name, I realized it was the same man who had called me on the phone a couple of hours ago.  “I’m sorry, do I know you?”  “I am from your future and I’ve come to deliver a message,” he replied.  Oh God, here we go.  “Excuse me?  I don’t understand what you mean.  I don’t think you have the right house.  You should leave before I call the police.”  He said, “Please, you must believe me.  I can prove to it to you.”

He proceedes to describe the strange dream I had last night in vivid detail.  I ask him about the newspaper article.  He said, “the article and your dream are one in the same.”  He followed it up by telling me that it was going to come true if I didn’t listen to him and change the chain of events that would lead to my death.

Who is this guy?  Is he like a Nostradamus or something?  I look around for cameras.  Am I on some Candid Camera type of show?  Am I being “Punked.”  But what is happening to me right now is more like The Twilight Zone.  I’m expecting Rod Serling to step out of the shadows any minute.

I start to shake and suddenly feel the urge to vomit.  He leads me to the couch.  I am surprisingly not afraid of this man.  There is this inexplicable feeling of overwhelming trust, in lieu of everything that has happened this morning, I also get the feeling that I don’t have much of a choice.

I am on a train, one of those commuter trains that takes you to and from the city.  I look around and notice that I seem to be the only person here.  Even though I am wearing my earbuds, there is no sound coming out.  All I hear is the “clack clack clack” of the train running down the tracks.  It’s daytime but the lights inside the car keep blinking on and off, almost strobe-like.  Suddenly, I hear the heavy door between the cars ahead of me open and close and a woman comes running down the aisle, her arms outstretched.  She is screaming and begs me to help her.  As she gets closer, I notice that this woman is me.  And there is blood streaming down her face.  I look down and notice that there are pools of blood in the palms of my hands.  I open my mouth and try to scream, but no sound escapes me.

I hear a phone ringing again, except this time it’s my cell.  It’s my new boyfriend, Alex.  I am so relieved to see his name pop up across the screen that I excuse myself from my man of the future and answer quickly with a breathy “hello.”  “Hi babe, it’s me.  I have a great plan for the weekend.  Pack your bags.  I’m taking you into the city, we’ll take the train.”  When I look across the room for my man from the future, he is gone.

Alphabet Poem

Day 6 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

Write a 26-line poem using all the letters of the alphabet. Have the first line start with the letter “A,” the second “B,” the third “C,” etc. 

About this winter, how did it go?

Bleak and cold, it sure did blow.
‘Course I hate the snow when there is too much
December was bad, even with Christmas and such.
Every damn day, there seemed to be white
Falling from the sky, it sure did bite.
Growing around me, big mountains of ice
How does it keep coming?  I think I’d rather have lice.
Ignoring it was ridiculous, silly and futile
January was just about or equally as brutal.
Kill me now, was always my thought
Learning is not happening, they need to be taught.
My God, the kids need to go back to school
Not going is really not cool.
Oh I am for sure losing my mind
Please oh please all this white is making me blind.
Quit snowing now or forever hold your peace
Right away, right this minute I’m sick of wearing fleece.
Summer is coming, it best be better
‘Til then Mother Nature will be getting a letter.
Unanimously, I’ll bet you all will agree
Vacation for us with wine and a side of brie.
Winter this year was so bad
Xoxo no I don’t mean that, good riddance and never come back
Yikes!  I sure do suck at this poetry
Zippety doo dah I think I’ll keep my day job-etry.

Sent To the Wrong Printer

Day 4 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

You’re at work and you print something personal.  Unfortunately, you’ve sent it to the wrong printer and, by the time you realize it, somebody else has already scooped it up.

Oh boy, it’s going to be a long day.  It’s already been a long week.  I have so much to do today, but I really need to get this letter typed up and faxed to the doctor.  These symptoms have been horrible and getting worse.  He asked me to write a timeline of what has been going on so I’ll do that before I start working.  It’s times like these when I realize I need to splurge on a home computer.

Dear Doctor Applegate,

On Saturday, July 11, noticed a foul smell emanating from anus.  Day 2, brown liquid produced post bowel movement and problem with urination.  Wednesday, July 15, lesions and redness on face and legs accompanied with terrible itching.

Please give me a call in the office as soon as you can.  As you can imagine, I am a bit concerned. 


Patricia Johanson

I sent it off to the printer.  It’s so irritating that I have to walk down the hall to retrieve my printed items.  I inquired several times as to why I can’t have my own.  The answer is always, “it’s not in the budget.”  Yeah, sure it’s not.  I’ll bet those trips in the corporate jet isn’t in the budget either, but that doesn’t stop you.

I make the stroll down, stopping for a sip of water from the fountain.  As I approach the printer, I don’t see my document.  I look on the floor, behind it, next to it.  I check to see if it is jammed.  That’s when it dawned on me that it was sent to the wrong printer.

Crap!  I run around the corner toward the other printer and who do I see?  That jerk-face Bob standing there with his comrades.  He’s holding a piece of paper and they are all laughing.  He looks up at me and yells across the floor, “smelly ass there, huh Patsy?”  He’s such a jackass.

I ran to him and tried to grab at my print-out.  I suddenly felt 13 again when Davey Jones (not that one) would torment me and my “4 eyes.”  I gave up and turn to go back to my desk.  There’s no point in trying to fix Stupid.

I wasn’t there for but a minute, when my phone rings.  It’s Dr. Applegate telling me that Rocky had a good case of Anal Sac Disease and Mange.  Gross.  Don’t know how that happened.  Must be that new dog next door he seems to be enamored with.  Luckily, after a few days of meds he’ll be good as new.  Thank God.

As for jackass Bob, I believe he needs a taste of his own medicine.  In the form of a large dose of Ex-Lax in his morning coffee tomorrow.  I think I’ll pull a chair up near the bathroom.  This is going to be better than having front row seats at the circus.  Bring it on you clown.