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October 10, 2007



Yesterday she lost herself. She supposed that it was coming for a long time, but the surrender finally came in the grocery store parking lot. She was attempting to watch for traffic while picking up the groceries littered across the pavement by her toddler son. She loaded her overpriced bounty into the back of the van and strapped her squirming son into his seat. As she heard the click of the van door, she realized that those moments, the ones where he is restrained and safe and she is close but on the other side of the door - those moments are the few throughout the day, the week, when she takes a conscious breath.

She got into the car and played the "which song do you want" game, trying to decipher his wordless noises to allow for a peaceful ride home. The surrender wasn't a huge moment as one might expect from such a loss, but more subtle and sad. It was time to give in. Yes, she tried to cultivate hobbies, things for herself, but they usually withered with lack of nurturance - time, energy. She realized clearly for the first time that no matter how she tried to make it otherwise, her life truly was not her own and might not be for a long time. A pang of guilt made her stomach jump, as if she had been caught in an honesty that embarassed her. It seemed like just yesterday she had happily told her boss that she wasn't coming back to work. Yet, this morning, six years later, as she blew dry her daughter's hair for Picture Day and sang to her son to keep him distracted, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and truly saw a stranger. She was grateful for the opportunity to stay at home to raise her children. She was shocked to find that it had come at a price that she felt so deeply.

She needed to get away from the sadness that began to mount in her chest, so she began to imagine the destinations of the other drivers. A woman in fashionable sunglasses turned the corner in front of her. She lamented her aging wardrobe - the stretched out sweater and jeans too tight in the waist. She reminded herself that she wouldn't always have to shop with an entourage of crabby kids trailing goldfish crackers all over the store. She promised herself that one day she would have it together again.

Her son's "uh uh" indicated a request for a new song as she pulled into the driveway. Miraculously she chose the correct one and he smiled a drooly grin in appreciation. She realized that it is fortunate that mother's feel the way they do about their children. It would be impossible to give up so much any other way.


Yesterday she lost her train of thought. It was in CVS actually. Yes, the local CVS where she just happened to bump into the guy she lost her virginity to 19 years earlier. She & Brian did have a 2 year relationship all those years ago so of course they shared alot of memories. Memories they couldn't really talk about. They had to keep their emotional distance while those memories would run through their heads. Well, running through her head certainly. She'd kind of love to know what was running through his head. Was he still so analytical & logical? At the moment she felt logically challenged as her 2 little boys came running into the aisle with Halloween masks on their faces screaming in goulish voices. Laughing at how scary they looked. She looked back up at Brian and could only think of fun times at his parents house on Barnegat Bay. All their friends in their late teens to early 20's. All just having a good time & a good summer. All you had to worry about then was waking up for your lifeguarding job at 10. Good memories. Fun, young memories. The times might not have seemed as good then but now that he was approaching 40 and she, well not quite 40 but certainly in the upper 30's, now those times seem just magical. Magical beacuse they were about dreams and futures and wants. Mostly wants. Mostly what I wanted wants or what he wanted wants, but neither of us thought so much about anything but ourselves & each other. That was the thing. A time in life where all you had to worry about was yourself. Now she had a husband and kids and was in cvs buying her children Halloween decorations while he was with his new girfriend running errands. He either had the day off or the life off. She knew he had a child but wasn't so sure how involved he was. That was years after her. And she never really asked too much about that because even though she really would care about him for the rest of her life, they kept that emotional distance when they met up. That was important when you bumped into the guy you lost your virginity to in the local CVS..Because if you said or asked what was really on your mind, like, "Oh, nice to meet you new girlfriend. You seem very nice." You want to look at the ex and say, "Does she know we were together for 2 years? Does she know I lost my virginity to you all those years ago? How many years was it Brian?" He says, "Well I was a senior at Princeton, and I graduated in such and such a year so it must have been..gosh, was it really 19 years ago" You laugh and think of how much time has gone by. And before you say "Nice seeing you," you realize it's not so bad bumping into the guy you lost your virginity to 19 years ago in CVS..It just brings you back and makes you smile.

Lisa R.

“Yesterday she totally lost her shit and now I’m, like grounded forever!” Ashley was yelling into the phone at me like it was my fault, “ You should have seen her, she was like a friggin manic, like all screaming and shit. Her face got all red and spit was like flying out of her mouth!” I could hear Ashley taking a long drag of her cigarette. I can’t believe she’s smoking in her room again. “And, ohmygod, she took my laptop! She said she was gonna delete my My Space account! Right, like she’s gonna figure out my password.” Another drag. “At least she was too lame to remember to grab my cell phone.”

I wanted to feel sorry for Ashley, I really did. We’ve been bffs forever. I actually don’t remember ever not being friends. It’s not like one of those stories that goes “there she was, the new girl in kindergarten and she was sitting all alone at snack time…” It’s just always been me and Ashley. Only Ashley hasn’t always been cigarette smoking, mom hating, picking guys up on My Space Ashley. She used to be regular Ashley. You know, Polly Pocket liking, pinkie swearing, four square playing Ashley.

“…I can just see her now, trying to crack my password. She thinks she’s so smart. I’ve got that thing so locked up... “ Ashley was just warming up, I could tell. I picked a scab off my elbow that totally wasn’t ready yet. “That sucks for you Ash,” I said like I’ve said a thousand times.

To be honest, I really feel more sorry for Ashley’s mom. I know a fourteen year old isn’t supposed to side with her friend’s mother, but Ash isn’t the easiest kid in the world. My mom says its because of the “divorce” and the fact that her dad’s a real shit (not mom’s words) who doesn’t care about her. He’s all wrapped up in his “young wife” and his “new kids” and his Just For Men hair. But for someone who doesn’t care about his daughter he sure buys her a lot of stuff. The laptop. The cell phone. All those Juicy clothes his new wife picks out. He kind of shows up, dumps the stuff on her and then takes off without really finding out about what’s going on in her life or anything.

“So she finds a few butts in my room and she wigs. It’s my room for Christ’s sake. She shouldn’t even be in here.”

I want to say to Ashley that her mom’s right. I want to say that it’s stupid to smoke, it’s dumb to keep getting in the same kind of trouble over and over again, it’s bad to lie to everyone you know about everything you do. But I’m not going to. She doesn’t want to hear it. She just wants to bitch and moan to me. And then tomorrow her dad will show up and make her mom give her her laptop back and un-ground her and probably throw in a car to make her stop whining. And then in a few weeks my phone will ring and we’ll do this all over again. ‘Cause Ashley is Ashley and it’s always been me and Ashley. And it always will be.

Gwendolen Gross

MJ, This is really the stuff (I wish you lived closer!). If you were to keep going with this, I would love to hear one or two (specifically--color, scent, texture?) of the overpriced groceries, just for the pacing of a detail there.
And on, assuming fiction (I always will): there's a darkness here beyond selfness--I feel like something's wrong for this woman, perhaps something's wrong with the son?
I would recommend putting the character in a room with someone she can talk to and writing a dialogue...GREAT stuff, MJ!

Gwendolen Gross

Ardith, you make me laugh! (as you often do). You have such a sharp sense of timing--love it. The imagined dialogue is terrific, hilarious. I want to feel/hear/see a real CVS scene!!

Gwendolen Gross

You guys are, like, on fire!
Lisa R--I love the bit about bffs forever, fabulous paragraph, details (I mean deets). I want more of the narrator--the giver. Great character portrait, so quick!


She doesn’t even know my name. She knew it yesterday. Yesterday, she knew I was her daughter and that Tommy was her grandson. Yesterday, she knew that I love sweet potato pie and reading until late in the night. She knew that Tommy was a soccer star on his high school team. Yesterday, she knew her birthday, my birthday, her phone number, my phone number, the date, the year and the president. But that was yesterday,
That was when the sun still shone brightly in her sky of blue, when it would always rise and set on her little house that she shared with my dad. That was when she could be sure that the water would turn cold when my father flushed, forgetting he shouldn’t when she was in the shower. That was when, if it was Wednesday, to be sure it was beef stew for dinner.
Today, she doesn’t know her own name. She sits and stares blankly at the wall. She won’t talk to me, to anyone. I can’t ask her ‘which casket do you prefer, mom’. I can’t ask her which cemetery is best. I ask a question and only the wind rattling the windows responds. I ask her if she wants a wake, or just a little service, a funeral mass or not. I ask and ask but all I hear is the creaking floors of the house settling around us. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t rock, she doesn’t cry, she doesn’t scream. She just sits. And stares. I wonder if this will last or if she will crumble and cry and begin to live again once the shock has passed. Or will she get up and have forgotten too that yesterday, my father died and look for him where he will never be again.
I sit on the bed next to her. I take her hand. “Mom, I need your help. I can’t do this alone.” Her hand sits limply in mine. She doesn’t even look at me. I cry because I know that yesterday she lost her husband. I lost my dad. But today, I fear I’ve lost my mom, too.


Yesterday, she lost her remaining 10 pounds of unwanted weight! Or at least she hoped...

Standing wrapped in a white towel, Suzie closed her eyes and stepped onto the scale. She took a deep breath, counted to 10 and upon opening one eye, squinted down to read the scale.

The numbers "120" glared at her in red. She blinked a few times to make sure she wasn't imagining that number ~ her goal number. This time, looking with both eyes, she saw the same number and started to jump up and down. Gripping the towel ends in the center of her chest with her left hand, Suzie raised her right, in a victory salute.

Two years!! Two years of dieting, eating foods that didn't seem possible to curb any appetite, let alone look edible. She ate her way through cereal diets, salads diets, drinking more water than any fish ever swam in and making a few days through the cabbage diet. She grimaced at the thought.

Exhaling in relief, she closed her eyes; the numbers flashing as though embedded in her mind. "120!"

With her high school reunion just around the corner, Suzie knew that no one would recognize her and that felt good. She was overweight as a child, teenager and then young adult. She was ignored by many of the hot, athlete guys, being asked on a Friday night to do their homework while they went out on dates with the likes of Slender Sharon, or Helen the Hottie. She cried herself to sleep many times, hating the way she looked, never doing anything about it just eating a lot more to comfort herself.

When she had graduated college, she weighed in at 180 lbs, too much weight for her 5'4" frame and that's when she decided she had to do something.

After all the fade diets that somehow put more weight on her, she started taking nutrition classes, joined a health club and eventually became certified as a nutritionist.

Her clients respected her because she was going through what they were going through, telling them over and over that, "we can do this together and if I can do it, I know you can".

Sometimes it frustrated her that her clients did lose it before she did. But this day nothing else mattered except those three numbers...Those three, beautiful red numbers!

She started making a mental list of all the men she intended to saunter in front of in that little black dress she had been dying to fit into. "Little" She mouthed the words and looked at herself in the mirror.

"You," she said to her reflection. "Are little."

Smiling wide, Suzie started to dance, raising her hands high above her head, in the 'raisin' the roof' dance. On her final spin, and the last "I'm a hottie, oh yeah" she realized she was standing in front of her bathroom window, and her next door neighbor was staring at her, his mouth wide open, in an "O" formation, his cheeks slightly flushed.

Blushing fiercely herself, Suzie squatted to get out of his view, wrapped the towel back around her body and sat on the cold, tile floor laughing.

“Lookin’ good Suzie.” Jonathan, her very handsome, single neighbor, yelled up to the window.

Still giggling, Suzie clenched both fist, closed her eyes, and said to herself, “Oh Yeah…I sure am!”


Yesterday she lost the idea of herself and began to realize that everything and every part of her life was a mirage of fiction and fantasy. She wa not naive enough to believe that she had played no part in constructing this alternate reality nor avoiding the painful truth that those she trusted most were also charlatans and puppet masters. Ironically, that day she had planned to lose her life and surprised herself and everyone she knew with what many realized may have been her first public "failure".

Gwendolen Gross

That second paragraph has some great details. Good questions in the third--turns us to the reality. Lots going on at once here (fine density), and excellent start.
Great moment; excellent details! Ifyou were to expand: I'd love a scene from high school (brief, so we don't get too flashback heavy), perhaps including a dialogue to break up the privacy; I'd also love to SEE the dress with original details. The "she started making a mental list..."Little,"she mouthed" rocks--great bit! Clever ending, too--you leave us wanting more!
ledouxlaw: This is a tantalizing, dark beginning of something. A story lurks!


Jessica (aka. Rose)

I know this was a while ago... but I needed a prompt today!

Yesterday she lost her keys. Today it’s her wallet. What is she going to lose tomorrow she wonders and she stands in the middle of the kitchen, looking around franticly for her overfilled red billfold? She hates the way she feels these days, as thought she’s constantly in a daze, constantly trying to catch up, constantly trying to focus on the scene in front of her face.

Sleep depravation is no joke she ponders, still looking around the overflowing counters. Pitcher from last week’s dinner, play-doh tins, old bottle of orange juice probably sitting there since Tuesday, another set of keys, now where were those yesterday when she needed them? Ah! Something red! Nope, just a random lost sock. There, behind the breadcrumbs she used on Saturday? No, just the other sock.

Oh, forget it; she’d just have to do without. Cash, cash, grab some cash from the junk drawer and go. Barrettes, tape, old birthday candles, oh, there’s the envelope with the cash. Good, good… Now, where’s the diaper bag? There. Oh. And the baby. Shouldn’t forget the baby.

She headed back into the living room and picked up the baby’s car seat. The slumbering child grunted and shifted when she moved the seat. And there, under her leg the missing wallet. Oh. Right! That’s where she put it an hour ago so she wouldn’t forget it when it was time to leave. Good thing her head was attached to her body her grandmother would have said.

She headed back to the kitchen, grabbing the navy blue bag and slipping on her shoes on the way. Hand on the door she glanced into the chaotic bag and wondered… what did she do with those keys…

Gwendolen Gross

So true Jessica Rose! I imagine there's been plenty of mom-lit about sleep deprivation, but I'm convinced there are still orginal things to write about it (like you have). I think it harbors the kind of emergency that could fuel quite a story......
Feel free to use any topic! I may not notice right away for comment, but people click through to all the posts...
Keep writing, dear Jessica!

B. Muse


Yesterday, I lost my identity. I mean, not WHO I was, exactly, just all of the things that make me recognizable to the world. My license, my social security card, my checks, credit cards, cell phone. I set my purse down beside the register in a restaurant and walked out without it. When I got in my car and realized I didn't have my keys, I went back inside. It was gone. Three minutes. Maybe two. And it was gone.

The restaurant manager offered to call the police, but I shook my head, no. I wasn't quite sure why.

"Let us call you a cab, then," he offered. He looked so sincere and concerned. His round face and balding head reminded me of my grandfather and I was touched by his desire to help.

"That won't be necessary," I said.

"Then how will you get home, Miss..."

"I'm Candy," I lied. "That's my name. I guess I'll walk."

I left the restaurant and began to walk down the street. Not toward my little town's shops and offices. Not toward my job or my home or my unpaid bills. Not toward my parents and their expectations. I walked in the opposite direction instead, past the park, the school, the town limits.

Looking back, I may have just been stunned by the abrupt violation one feels when personal possessions are stolen. I recall searching my mind, thinking I'd find indignation and anger, but if they were there, they were not coming out. At least not yet.

I walked for hours. It felt like hours. I came to a small gas station I've stopped at a hundred times, maybe more. It looked cool inside and I was beginning to feel a little hungry. But then, I had no money. Maybe I'd ask... maybe I'd just take something. Something had been taken from me, yes? And the taking wasn't so bad, really. Maybe taking isn't as bad as all that.

I went in the station, a dingy place with unswept floors, old cans of beans and wieners, packages of cheese crackers and crumpled bags of chips. The place smelled like a toilet. At least it was cool.

"Help you, miss?"

I turned to the cashier who was eyeing me suspiciously.

That's when I saw it. My purse. It was sitting behind the shelf, half concealed. I looked at the boy behind the cash register. He did not know me. He did not recognize me. Maybe he wasn't the one who stole it. Maybe it was someone else who worked here.

I pointed in the direction of my purse. "That's my..." I began. But I couldn't form the words. I DIDN'T form the words. I WOULDN'T form the words.

"I guess not. I just need to use your restroom."

"Out back," he said and wagged his greasy head in the direction of the door.

"Good. Thanks." I stood there looking at him another moment. It was possible he was my liberator. It was possible I owed everything I had at that moment to this oily countenance. I turned to leave.

"Miss," he said. "You forgot your crackers."


He pulled a package of crackers out from under the counter. "Your crackers," he said.

I took them. "Thanks."

"No problem. Take care of yourself."

I left the gas station and just kept walking.

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