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Twisted Sister, part 5: Gravity

In Responses on July 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

by Tara Wiley

Links back to the beginning of the story…

Twisted Sister Part One

Twisted Sister Part Two

Twisted Sister Part Three

Twisted Sister Part Four

Setting: Traveling west, through Nebraska on I80, in the Very American Man’s car
Characters: Gillian, who used to be Joan, who used to be Jenny, who knows too little; and the Very American Man who chooses to be called Joe. He knows too much.

Mile Marker 380

Gillian/Joan/Jenny: This wig is itchy. Is it really necessary in the middle of the night? In the middle of nowhere? In this car?

The Very American Man (Joe): Yes.

Gillian/Joan/Jenny: Whatever.

The Very American Man (Joe): Get some sleep.

Gillian/Joan/Jenny: Sure, I’ll get right on that.

Mile Marker 361

Gillian: Wow, the heat lightning is impressive. I remember that from when we lived in the midwest growing up. That, and the locusts.

Joe: mmmmhmmm.

Gillian: Look at it! When that certain patch of sky lights up you can see all the layers of clouds hiding behind each other.

Joe: Some things are better left in the dark.

Gillian: My gamma used to say, ‘Don’ worry child. One day all hidden’ll be revealed. The Good Book says so.’ She said the light always shoo’s the dark away eventually. You believe that?

Joe: Do you?

Gillian: Don’t be so cryptic. If I have to sit here in this god-forsaken car going who knows where and not go crazy then you at least have to entertain a morsel of conversation.

Joe: Your gamma was wise and naive all wrapped up in one.

Gillian: You knew her, didn’t you?

Joe: I didn’t say that.

Gillian: aaaargh, you are going to be the death of me.

Joe:  I most certainly will not. I’m doing my best to be the opposite. You, on the other hand, seem determined to be the death of you.

Gillian: That doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Joe: Sure does, from my point of view.

Gillian: Enlighten me, then.

Joe: (silence)

Gillian (turning up the radio): Oh, I could sing this song all night…
“…brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do I’ll still feel you here ’til the moment I’m gone.”

Joe: There’s kleenex in the glove box.Your family and their musical abilities… Such a beautiful voice, Gillian. Why didn’t you study music in college?

Gillian: I did. I studied the rhythm of poetry, the lyrical quality and subtle harmonies in great prose. Even in music, it’s the words that grab me. This song, Gravity by Sara Bareilles. What do you think it’s about?

Joe: A twisted relationship. Something I happen to know a lot about.

Gillian: So that’s what you hear and relate to. I hear that. But it’s the layers of beauty poured into every line that draws in every listener. It could be about friendship, or family, or addiction –

Joe: – or a past.

Gillian: Yes. Or a past.

Mile Marker 285

Gillian: You know I’m not 18 this time. I have ties that cannot be broken. I have children-

Joe: Children you love?

Gillian: With my life.

Joe: Then you will do things you think you cannot do. You will protect them by breaking their hearts. You have no choice, Gillian.

There once was a lawyer who went to confession. ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have broken all the commandments.’

‘Well, haven’t we all?’ chuckled the wise old priest. ‘But what has pressed you to enter into confession on this day?’

‘I have defended the guilty and condemned the innocent. I have lied when I thought I was telling the truth. I no longer know one from the other, Father. What shall I do?’

‘My son, you do what we all must do. You make the next right choice. Then you make the next right choice after that. Eventually, the truth will be made clear again.’

Gillian: Am I missing the punchline?

Joe: No punchline. Just the truth. Make the next right choice.

Gillian: And if I don’t know what that is?

Joe: Then trust me.

Gillian: And why should I? I don’t even know you.

Joe: But I know you. I know that your right foot was a half size larger than your left until after the pregnancy, Joan. I know how you got the scar on the inside of your left arm, Jenny. And Gillian, I know where we are going, and I know you are strong enough for it.

Gillian: I want to get out of this car. Now. Pull over! NOW! I have to get out! I will take that wheel from your hands! I will not stop hitting you until you pull over!

Joe: Would you like for me to drop you off at this cornfield or at the feedlot with the cows? Perhaps you would prefer a chicken coop? When was the last time you saw a car? STOP hitting me. STOP IT. Stop screaming and listen for a minute.

Gillian: I don’t want to listen to another word you have to say –

Joe: Alright, then, don’t listen to me. Listen to that voice inside of you. Listen to your gamma. What would she say? What would she do? Close your eyes and listen, Gillian. We’re stopping in a few miles for gas. If you feel you must leave then, leave, but I warn you it is not the safe choice, not the next right choice. And you know it.

Gillian: I hate you.

Joe: I can take it.

Gillian: You know that’s a hateful thing to say. I mean it, I hate you.

Joe: You hate THIS. So do I. And maybe you’ll hate me in the end. But not yet. You don’t know me well enough to hate me yet.

Gillian: But you know me. I feel naked sitting here all exposed to some stranger. So yes, I hate you. I hate you for making me sit here naked.

Joe: You trusted Yvonne without knowing any of her past.

Gillian: She earned my trust.

Joe: How?

Gillian: With time. With loyalty. And honesty.

Joe: Honesty? How can one be honest when you don’t know everything about each other?

Gillian: She never lied to me. I never lied to her. There were just some things we didn’t tell, that’s all. And we were both okay with that.

Joe: So you mean, some things are better left in the dark?

Gillian: Shut up.

Mile Marker 210

Joe: Almost to the gas stop. So you decide. Time. Loyalty. Honesty. That’s what I’m offering here. I’m not standing outside the bathroom door to make sure you come back to my car. But I’m asking you to trust me. Our families have trusted each other. You don’t know the whole story yet. Some of it you never will. But I believe you know the next right choice.

Gillian: (singing) But you’re neither friend nor foe though I can’t seem to let you go.
The one thing that I still know is that you’re keeping me…

Joe: (whispered) safe.

House on Fire

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 12:11 am

House on Fire

Did you  notice something missing between last and this week’s prompts, something like a story response? Well, a mighty migraine took its place in my world last week… BUT another fearless blogger worte a potent response you should not miss.


So, follow the link below, read her story. and give her some happy feedback! 🙂



Parts of the Whole (Twisted Sister, Part 4)

In Responses on July 13, 2012 at 3:20 am

by Tara Wiley

You and I will never read that volume.

Guido Reni, like his own eye’s apple,

Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it.

Guido Reni dying, all Bologna

Cried, and the world cried too, ‘Ours, the treasure!’

Suddenly, as rare things will, it vanished.

-Excerpt from “One More Word” by Robert Browning

Poetry and stained glass, arts filled with symbolism found in precise cuts of word and polished sand. The artists refine and divide, heat and chisel, until the multifaceted gems of choice words and color shock the observer with newly illuminated truth.

As a student at Baylor University, I spent hours on end in Browning Library. I studied beneath shafts of sunlight filtered through exquisite stained glass windows illuminating poetry by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I struggled through classic literature, learning to dissect story arcs into plot and subplot; setting, protagonist, antagonist; the primary and secondary colors of words.

Yvonne and I studied together, falling in love with poetry and prose over and over again. I could dissect the words like a scientist. She, on the other hand, was an artist. She found inspiration in the classics, then reinterpreted them with her own beautifully crafted stories and poetry. I knew my future lay in editing, perhaps in marketing. I predicted I’d one day see her name on the New York Times bestseller list.

Until that day, sixteen years ago.

The alert urgent email from Yvonne Smith came across my laptop as I sat at Starbucks reading a science fiction book I was about to promote. The words seemed so unreal, I wondered if they were part of the novel I was reading.


I am so sorry for telling you this by email, but I do not have your phone number, and Yvonne’s phone was destroyed in the accident.

Please call as soon as you get this. There was a terrible crash followed by an explosion. Yvonne is – I cannot type it yet. Please call, now.


I spent the next week in Enid, Oklahoma, helping Peter make the funeral arrangements. As waves of grief overcame him, I would take over. He would do the same for me. Somehow we made the necessary choices together. We buried her charred remains in Waco and ordered a simple gravestone to be delivered in one month’s time. I had never made these kinds of arrangements before. I did not know she would lie under the freshly upturned earth without a marker for thirty long days. Peter would be back so we could see this final moment through together, the widower and the best friend, her only family.

Peter was gone only a number of hours when the letter arrived in the mail. Only the last line kept me from calling him to turn around and come back.

I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Fourth!

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Today we are exercising our freedom to delay! Our families are enjoying vacation time with relatives, not so conducive to writing… We will be back next week with a submission from guest author Jen Strange! See you then!

Twisted Sister, part 3

In Responses on June 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

by Tara Wiley

Gillian. Joan. Jenny.

Now I know why I insisted on naming my first child Jenny. It was once my first name. I had forgotten, until now: I had five years of life before I became Joan, and my brother became Darian, and my parents… Who were they, really? What started all of this running and hiding and renaming? Would I ever know?

I drive North, working my way along state highways and country roads with no real destination in mind. Thirteen moves in the eighteen years of my childhood, followed by marriage to a military man, meant no place to call home. I think through each of these moves as the miles stretch behind me. Many of them came unannounced when I was growing up. A family member would come to the school in the middle of the day, check me out, and my first inclination of change would be the station wagon loaded to the gills with our belongings. I whispered most of my goodbyes into my pillow as we drove away.

But this is a goodbye I cannot whisper. I cannot even scream. Heartstrings tie me to a dusty Texas town where my lifeblood courses through the veins of two teenage girls. As the miles pull me farther away, I wish the tether would break and set me free. I learned as a little girl to quickly bond and just as quickly let go. I learned to love loosely. But then… When a woman gives birth and holds the squirming flesh that was knit in her womb, there is no such thing as measured love.

It is that same unmeasured love that makes me fight to place more miles between us, to keep them safe.
Read the rest of this entry »

Twisted Sister, part 2

In Responses on June 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm

by Tara Wiley

My ear is on fire, every rush of blood through my veins threatening to burst through hot, swollen flesh. I roll to a sitting position and the pounding sensation spreads through my scalp, deep under my skull, and for a moment, the pain supersedes any other awareness. My eyes are still closed; I am afraid to open them, but I press through the pain, needing to know: Where am I? What happened?

Sounds begin to enter through the fog before sights accompany them. At first, my incomprehension of jumbled words alarms me – have I suffered some kind of traumatic brain injury? – until a few crass Spanish words drift over me. The recognition sends a shock of adrenaline through my system, and the fog immediately lifts. Rusty bars barricade the buzzing florescent lights above, and the theme of barricading bars repeats downward in place of walls. Slowly the reality hits me: I am in a Mexican jail. Hispanic women in various states of consciousness surround me. The cell is swarming with them, and I have no doubt that my fair skin and dishwater blonde hair send the message she is not one of us before my words can confirm any suspicion.

Something is poking my thigh through the pocket of my tattered khaki pants (and whose blood is that? I wonder as I notice the rusty red stains on my blouse echoed by spatter on my thighs). I stand cautiously, my head still banging. I quickly empty the pocket’s contents onto the bench behind me and sit back down before the dark closes in over me again. I find the culprit of the poke, a single dangly earring, and it rushes back to me in a flood. A flight for my life, a scrambling thrashing of hands and feet and cries for help, and now I know why my ear hurts: the earring’s match was yanked through the thin flesh of my earlobe in the middle of the struggle. I hope this alone explains the blood, but I cannot know for sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Twisted Sister

In Responses, Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 1:18 pm

by Tara Wiley

Crumbled Doritos, a couple of highlighters, a crochet hook: the things I expected to find in the abyss of the sofa cushions. A cell phone I didn’t recognize, when I had been out of town for the past week and a half, under the impression my husband had sat at home alone every night pining for me? Not on the list. I swallowed the inner alarm. This is not a pair of lacy underwear.

The phone was turned off, and though the action brought on a sense of dread rather than a normal curiosity, I pressed the power button. Why was I suddenly paranoid? I had no reason to doubt Peter’s fidelity. He was a good man, we had a good life, a good marriage, good kids. Sure, the constant moves and pressures of the military brought strains, but we all learned to stretch and yield like human Gumbys. Resiliency is what we called it. And I had my career as a promoter for Whistler Publications, with its travel offering welcome escapes from motherhood. It was easy to enjoy now that the girls were in high school and Peter had a staff job that removed the threat of deployments.

We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

The ringtone crashed through my mental self-soothing. I dropped the phone like a child caught with a handful of shoplifted candy. The display flashed the incoming call’s number while the phone wiggled on the floor, the vibrate feature making it dance to the music. Ten numbers unevenly divided by two dashes slammed into my reality, and my eyes instantly stung with tears. How could this be? Read the rest of this entry »

Settling Unsettled

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm

by Tara Wiley

The chaos of renovation held Louisa prisoner that summer. Demolition, dust, hammer, nail. Workers covered in sweat, speaking with such thick dialects she could understand only every third word. Day in and day out, the pressures of minute decisions weighed on her:  which hardwood? What finish? Cabinet configuration? Closet here or no? She lost her excitement in these dealings within a couple of weeks. Perhaps if she agreed to live off site instead of being kept in all this – but she would not indulge herself any more in regrets.

The former owner transformed the 1920s bungalow into a duplex when his wife passed on and he no longer needed the additional space. She and John had rented one side for a year while he finished law school. Now it was time to find a place they could grow into as a young family. The landlord suddenly passed away, and his daughter placed the entire house up for sale just as John took the bar exam. They snatched it up for a song, planning to restore the lovely place to its builder’s original intent.

She didn’t have anything against the bungalow, really. She loved the arched doorways and thick walls. She adored the tiny mosaic tiles in the bathroom, even as she spent hours trying to keep them clean. Yet she fought to find delight in making this house her permanent home.

Louisa flipped through the builder’s supply magazine on her lap. Today’s decision: faucets. She peered at an understated fixture with just a nod to the right era of the house. Closing her eyes, she pictured her hands placed under that chrome faucet, water pouring over her fingers swollen with pregnancy, then later, her children’s fingers after playing in the dirt while she gardened. She lurched to her feet, the magazine fluttering to the brickwork of the entryway where she stood. The walls behind her seemed to loom in a bit closer. Read the rest of this entry »

Portraits of Heart

In Responses on June 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm

by Tara Wiley

The ancient attic stairs sagged and grieved with Grandma, whose sighs grew more audible with each steady step towards a roomful of memories. I cleared my throat anxiously as I followed her, ready to offer another escape, but she waggled her hand behind her to shush me.

“No, no, I may mutter and sputter, but this must be done, dear.” Her voice came firm from above. “And there will be good in it, I just know. Things to remember—“  sigh, step, “- things to put to rest,” – shove to the door, another sigh,  “-things to pass on. It must be done.”

A few cobwebs wrapped the tiny room, and in my fanciful mind, their presence added to the nostalgia of this occasion. But Grandma pragmatically dispersed them with another waggle of that strong hand and hustled over to the box closest to the eave’s window.

“We’ll start here, Hannah. You’ll enjoy these.” We spent the next hour immersing ourselves in the 1940s. Grandpa’s full Army dress uniform with all the brass still pinned in place was only partially attacked by moths. A certificate of commission. An old leather satchel Grandpa had used to transport documents, one of his many duties during the war. He had hated not going overseas, but the Army found plenty for him to do stateside. Grandma didn’t know many details. Back then, men didn’t share much about such things, she reminded me. Plus, they weren’t married at the time, only engaged, and that was long distance.

“It was a bad time to be a German in America,” Grandma reminisced. “I couldn’t help my name, my face, my parents. But Frank and I, we both did all we could to prove to ‘em all, we were on the right side. I left home, went to Omaha to be part of the female workforce. Oh, we needed workers back then! All the boys gone to war.

“Then there were the boys from over there, brought back and forced to work alongside us. POWs, they called ‘em, prisoners, but they didn’t look like prisoners to me. Dressed kinda sloppy, yes, indeed, but fed well, lived well, seemed to me…” I shifted my gaze from the contents of the box to Grandma’s face. She was far from me, sitting at a stool assembling who knows what with a gaggle of farmgirls on each side of her and a slew of foreign men across from her.   Read the rest of this entry »

Pardon the interruption…

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2012 at 2:28 am

Check back next week when we will be back at it!