Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing Fiction - Chapter Seven

Jenny Matlock
If you missed where this story started just click here to read it or click on the Story-Time Tuesday link at the top of my blog to take you to previous chapters.

Writing Fiction - Chapter 7

Who knew that grocery shopping could be so exhausting? Or maybe right now it was just life in its entirety that was exhausting.

As I restocked the pantry, I realized I’d never liked grocery shopping. Why hadn’t I asked my husband to help with that chore? I’d just owned the unwanted task like it was a penance. I should’ve asked him. I should’ve told him I hated it. I think maybe I felt martyrdom was synonymous with motherhood. Now that I thought about it, though, perhaps I’d created that resentment almost single-handedly. Early in our marriage my husband had offered to vacuum and make dinner, but I’d always turned him down. Not only had I felt it was my ‘job’ within our marriage, I’d never believed he’d do it right. After awhile he’d quit offering and I’d just continued with the chores I’d never liked doing to begin with. Even when he had asked me, “What can I do to help?” I’d always reply, “Nothing. I’ve got it,” which really meant, “If I have to tell you what I need, don’t bother.” My Grandmother always called responses like that ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face”. I had always done a pretty fair job with the whole attempted nose amputation technique.

As I put cans into the pantry and washed the produce, my musings continued.

I recalled long ago trips to the grocery store with my two young children. I’d always been amazed at the brain-washing powers of Saturday morning commercials. How could two, reasonably well-mannered kids turn into psychotically greedy ‘me-me-me’s’ from watching manic, rainbow-colored rabbits peddle sugar-filled cereal? How did those ad agencies learn to brainwash people anyway? And why weren’t they using their skills for a higher power like, perhaps, developing commercials to ease grief? Why didn’t they create commercials that helped with abandonment and anger issues? I’d have been totally willing to buy grief-reduction cereal even if it weren’t being promoted by a manic, rainbow-colored rabbit.

Thinking about the kids made me sad. Thinking about how our son acted…I shook my head to clear it. I needed to finish putting those groceries away and get back to my plan. Going down another grief-filled detour via Memory Lane wouldn’t help me to get moving on the interstate out of Woe-ville.

And attempting to escape from Woe-Ville certainly had a tendency to make me hungry back then.

Before my husband had ‘gone to the great ghostly arches’ he’d always been a sandwich-for-lunch kind of guy. I thought I’d been a sandwich-for-lunch kind of girl, too, but standing in the kitchen that day, I realized I wasn’t any longer. Maybe I never had been. It’s funny, really, how you take on someone’s identity and preferences just because you love them. After making so many small decisions by default, you forget what you really liked to begin with.

I rummaged through my now restocked pantry to find the red and white drum of oatmeal. As the single-serving batch simmered on the stove, I finished putting everything away and dolled up my non-sandwich lunch. You know what? The lady with the big hair and the pronounced southern drawl had been right…butter and brown sugar really had made that oatmeal taste ‘out of this world, ya’ll.”

I’d amazed myself at what I’d gotten done that day so far, but there were still miles to go before I could sleep, so I sat down with the laptop and notepad again. I didn’t want to. I wanted to go visit my loud-mouthed electronic friend in the living room. What would an hour hurt? I decided I’d watch one measly show on TV and then get back to work. It felt a lot more comfortable to be in front of the TV than trying to use my brain. I just wanted to be lulled back into numbness; this whole blog mess was making me think way too much!

Just as I’d settled myself into the perfect Pearl-size indentations in the couch cushions, the phone rang.

Arrrgggh! Why does that happen? I decided to ignore it. It rang again. And a few moments later it rang again. I heaved myself off the couch and went to the kitchen to the answering machine. Before my husband had ‘lost his earthly dial tone’, he had been nagging me to get rid of the answering machine and put voice mail on our phone. I wished I would have let him. Then the little red flashing button wouldn’t be able to pester me every time I went into the kitchen to get some cookies…I mean, to get a drink of water.

I hit the button and that robotic, irritating voice smugly informed me, “You have three messages.” That pronouncement used to make me smile, now it just made me mad. Calling people back really cut into my ‘oh poor me’ time.

Message number one. “We are offering a special carpet cleaning package in your area and…” Message deleted.

Message number two. “Pearl? Hi Pearl. Pick up. I was hoping you’d be home. I wanted to stop by and check on you and…” Message deleted.

Message number three. “Mom? Mom, are you there? It’s Jessie. I wanted to see how the blog was coming. Is it ready? I’m really excited for you.” Message cursed. Darn! I thought I had at least two more days before that call came in.

But knowing my daughter, I couldn’t ignore the message or she’d just persist and eventually threaten to come check on me, so I quickly called her back.

“Mom! I’m so glad you called! How’s the blog? Is it ready? Were you busy when I called a little bit ago?”

First of all, how did she do this? How did she know it was me right away when I called her number? She’d told me it was something on her phone that let her see who was calling before she answered it. I’d like something like that. It sounded like a handy way to avoid people. I made a note to call the phone company to check it out. Avoiding people more easily was something that really appealled to me at that moment in time.

I started talking in that really fast way that doesn’t allow the other person to ask any questions. My husband used to call it blathering, but I’d always preferred to think of it as conflict avoidance. I told Jessie I had a blog name and I was going to call my blog ‘Life inside an Oyster’. She didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she said, “Weee-eeellll, that’s an interesting blog name. How did you come up with it?” So I explained how a pearl is really something beautiful, formed inside an oyster as a result of an irritant and how the nacre forms around it. She interrupted me to ask, “Well, doesn’t that make YOU the irritant then?”

I paused for a moment to think that through. Irritant inside an oyster…hmmm… You know what? She was right. My blog name meant that I WAS THE IRRITANT! How did that happen? I pretended I’d done it on purpose. “Yes it does, but what’s really important here is that my blog is the 47,396,001st one on the internet.” Again with the pause. “Ummm…Okay, Mom. How do you know that?” And I explained in great detail, using my copious notes that there were presently 47,396,000 blogs and that, of course, “Life Inside an Oyster” added one to that number. Trying to impress her further, I started quoting all kinds of confusing numbers and she finally interrupted me to say, “OK, Mom. I get it. You really are starting a blog. I have to confess I thought you were lying to me.”

I sniffed several times to show her how ludicrous that statement was. “Lying to you? Jessie, you know me better than that,” and I swear I heard her say under her breath, “Yeah, I do.”

We chatted a little bit more about how work was going and how she hadn’t talked to her brother, and finally I had to interrupt her. “Jessie, I need to go work on my blog layout, so I really have to hang up now. Love you!”

Her return “Love you!” felt like a hug. Being hugged by a daughter is comfort enough for one afternoon, so I decided the TV could wait and I’d actually work on my blog layout, even though I wasn’t totally sure exactly what that meant. I’d read a whole bunch of other bloggers saying they were working on theirs so I figured it would be a safe bet to tell my daughter I was going to work on mine.

It took me a moment to remember where I was in the blogging process, but reviewing my notes brought my progress, or lack thereof, back to me quickly. So far, I’d figured out where to buy a blog and how much it would cost. And I’d chosen a nonsensical blog name. That was a pretty good start, so I decided to take a quick moment and call the phone company to ask about the whole voice mail and caller ID thing.

It turned out to not be a quick moment. It turned into a whole bunch of pushing buttons and hanging up on myself several times before I finally got to talk to a real person. I remember thinking, “Why can’t you just dial the phone number and talk to a person? Why do I have to push 1 and then the pound sign (it’s down at the bottom right of your phone if you have trouble finding it, too) followed by my 32 digit account number? Then you have to “Say or press one” to move onto the next step. I’d never known things like this were so complicated. I’d never known how much my husband had actually done when he’d handled all these things. My anger flared up again briefly as I felt the abandonment emotion well up inside me. He’d really left me unprepared, he had really…

Can I be honest here? He’d actually asked me, and more than once, to let him show me about the bills and the utilities. I’d just blown him off. At the time, I’d been annoyed that the perpetual repetition of buy food, make food, clean up food, buy toilet paper routine never varied. I’d been feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated, over-worked, and under-acknowledged and I was certainly not feeling open to being shown more things to do around the house.

I recalled wondering for a moment or two whether my husband had known anything about blogs. He’d always been really good at things like that. I suspected if he’d still been here, he’d have been able to help me make a blog easily. But then, to be honest, I guessed if he’d still been here I wouldn’t even be thinking of starting a blog.

I went to the site with the free blogs and typed in ‘mylifeinsideanoyster’ and suddenly a screen popped up. There was my blog name...and two little boxes instructing me to sign in.

To be continued, Tuesday, October 26.

(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Jennifer R. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Jennifer R. Matlock. All rights reserved.

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Julie Kwiatkowski Schuler said...

Yay for Pearl, I hope she gets that caller ID!

Terra said...

Ok Grief reduction cereal? Seriously, a box of that with a side of self pity no more milk would be great eh! In the mean time, Pearls daughter is the real gem here...her timing is impecable and well...I wonder...if Pearl will type today?

Wanda..... said...

I'm relating to your wonderful writing, Jenny...although, my grief was a badly broken ankle, but it was my daughter that convinced/pushed me to enter the blog world!

Jocelyn said...

Oh I am so excited that she is started!!! Love the title of the Blog!!!

I think I am going to try that for breakfast this morning!!!!

Wishing you a great day!!!

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

I'm enjoying Tuesdays with Pearl. This one may have to go on indefinitely. :)

Jeanie said...

I can't wait for Pearl to get her blog online. I want to be her first follower.

Viki said...

Oh, I'm really getting excited now. Is she finally going to get her blog started or is she going to side track herself again. I'm wondering now if there is ever really going to be a blog. Now I've got two conclusions I've come to about Pearl. Hmmm.

Your bringing up some really good points with Pearl about how resentments build up in a marriage.

Mrs. M said...

Pearl is starting to come out of her shell of grief. I'm looking forward to reading her first blog post.

Susan Anderson said...

Blog away, Pearl! We're all rooting for ya...


Anonymous said...

Pearl is making progress and I am getting more excited to see what her blog is going to be like. Those caller ID's are one of my favorite modern day gadgets. Looking forward to next Tuesday. Hugs

The Words Crafter said...

I just bet she felt a rush of excitement! I did the first time mine came up. I don't even remember the background I had....

Yay for Pearl!

As for being the irritant, a pearl may start out as one, but it ends up becoming something so wonderful that people admire it and are willing to pay lots of money for it....

Willoughby said...

I wish I didn't have to wait a whole week to find out if Pearl is going to start writing! You're writing is absolutely capivating, Jenny!

H said...

Grrrrr! It always stops too soon!!

Amy said...

I don't know of anyone who put that much work into starting a blog. Did you? But it is cute, and a great distraction for her. What happened with her son?

And now I am wondering how often I take my hubby for granted and all the things he does. I know I would be lost technologically were it not for him. What great inventions these husbands are, don't you think?

Now I am going to send mine an email telling him how much I love him, all thanks to this post.

Lourie said...

Why DO we have to press every number imaginable and talk to a computer in order to get a human being!? Yeeesh! I am excited for Pearl. Off to read the next installment.