Momma Jean

Photo Prompt: © Jean L. Hays

 

“Don’t you go spendin’ no money!” Momma Jean announced.

In a whirlwind of industrious determination, she began rummaging through shoe boxes and ancient suitcases, closets, and plastic bags, flinging this or that onto the table.

I didn’t dare to offer help. Once Momma Jean got like this, it was best to keep out of the way.

“Now!” She finally straightened, hair askew and dust-bunnies clinging to the edge of her house-dress. My inveterate neighbor was out of breath and in her element. “You tell me what that costume look like, and I make it for you. You win first prize.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

The Bag

Photo prompt: © Ted Strutz

 

She stopped by to check on her elderly neighbor and saw a bulging bag on the curb. Odd. Trash-collection was two days away. Ethel could get ticketed.

She grabbed the bag. The thing was heavy! How did the ancient women lug this? She carried it up the path to the door.

“Ethel?” she knocked. “It’s Belinda.”

Silence. Was Ethel sleeping? Belinda knocked again. Waited. Rang the bell. Used her key.

There was no one home. All personal effects gone.

Heart pounding, Belinda rushed to untie the bag.

A mess of photos spilled out, scattering Ethel’s life to the ground.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Hold My Spot

Photo prompt: Na’ama Yehuda

 

The rain swelled and lessened, as did the line of people, standing dutifully in the raw, spitting day.

“How long?” A woman asked, leaning heavily on her cane.

“They’ll let you in,” I said, pointing. “You don’t need to stand in the long line.”

“What if they won’t? I don’t want to lose my place,” she fretted.

“Don’t worry,” a young hooded man motioned in direction of the building. “I’ll hold your spot.”

I smiled at him.

“Come,” I linked my arm in hers, round sticker prominent on my jacket “I’ll show you. I’m so happy you’re here to vote!”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s FridayFictioneers

Note: Thank you Rochelle for using my photo! 🙂 Yay hurray! (It was, indeed, taken during an election day, where people stood in the pouring rain for over an hour, as the line stretched along sidewalks and around the corner in my neighborhood. The above is a depiction of real events). If you are in the US and aren’t registered to vote yet, please do! And, when elections come – any election – Vote! Your voice matters. Don’t let anyone convince you it does not.

The Instructions

luma-pimentel-1vnB2l7j3bY-unsplash

Photo: Luma Pimentel via Unsplash

 

“I’ve written it all down,” she’d said.

“Anything you need to know is there,” she’d promised.

“It’ll a breeze,” she assured me, one hand already on the door handle. “I won’t be too long. It’s just a short gig. A few hours at most. He’ll likely sleep right through to my return anyway.”

But the baby slept through about five minutes and then would not stop crying and I had no idea what half of the terminology for baby-brand stuff meant or what “up to the spoon line” was supposed to be when I couldn’t find any spoons with lines, and no clue how to “keep a hand on the baby at all times” while also needing two of them just to untangle the tabs on the darn diaper and another two to keep the baby’s feet from kicking it away … And the clean bottles came separated from nipples, which had multiple unrelated parts that needed assembly like an Ikea cabinet from hell … And what on earth is a spit-up cloth and how is it different than a towel or a blanket?

Speaking of, how does one swaddle a baby without dislocating something in the process of making it into a mummified burrito?

And did I mention the baby would not stop crying?

 

“You’re a saint, Rick!” she’d said. Even kissed me on the cheek like I was some long lost brother and not the neighbor who happened to live next door and perhaps smiled a few times at the baby on the elevator.

“I know it is last minute but I’ve been waiting months for the opportunity … I’ll make you dinner,” she’d promised, and her relief at having a solution for the baby was so palpable that I felt guilty extricating myself from what she’d misunderstood as “yes” when at the very most I’d meant “maybe, but not really.”

 

“It was a breeze,” I said.

“He woke up but is now sleeping like an angel,” I assured her, ignoring the baby’s heft on my desperate bladder. I hadn’t dared to move, lest the baby woke again.

She looked tired and worried and sad and a little worse for wear, and I wondered how the gig went but didn’t want to ask after she appeared to hold back tears when I’d asked if she had a good time.

“Did the instructions help?” she asked instead.

I nodded. “Perfectly.”

 

 

 

For the SoCS Prompt: Instructions

 

Waterproof

Girl on Bank CCC25

 

“How come she’s not wet?” Ricky whispered.

Tim shrugged, but his own eyes were round.

The two were lying on the bluff above the pond on damp bellies, and passing a pair of miniature binoculars between them. Tim’s Nan would have his hide if she found out he’d ‘borrowed’ them, but Nan was dosing after an early toddy … And anyway, they needed the binoculars to spy on Gertrude, their new neighbor, who they suspected was a covert operator, or a witch, or both.

“She’s been sitting there forever,” Ricky groaned. Spying was a lot more glamorous in movies. And less muddy. “I’m soaked. How come she’s not wet?”

Tim fiddled with the binoculars. The dials didn’t work much but it made him feel important, if only because he forbade Ricky to touch them. “Must be she used spells. To make her waterproof.”

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge: #25

 

 

Third Yawn

man person cute young

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

“We’ll be okay,” he promised, even though he had never cared for a baby, let alone one quite so young.

It didn’t matter. He’d google it. He’d even call Aunt Edna if he had to.

For now, there was nothing to do but reassure Margo, who looked as if a semitrailer had gone over her once and came back for seconds. He had no idea what bleeding in a new mother meant, but he didn’t think it could be something to ignore, even as he simultaneously tried hard to not imagine the exact nature of it.

Still she argued with him till he said, “what if you give whatever this is to the baby?”

She let him call the paramedics. She agreed to call her mom.

“There’s breast milk in the freezer!” Margo remembered as EMS wheeled her out.

He was curious enough to head straight for the kitchen to check it out. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for till he spotted a few small zippy bags in the freezer’s door. They had a date scrawled on with a sharpie and contained an off-white substance. Didn’t look like milk. Well, maybe like a watered down version of ‘milk’ from the vegan aisle.

He stood there and wondered how the milk got from the freezer to the baby’s tummy. Do you cook it? Does it get ruined if you microwave it? Isn’t it supposed to be in a bottle? He hoped Margo’s mom will arrive before he had to figure that out.

He shut the freezer door but his mind would not shut the topic. How did the breast milk get into the bag in the first place? Did people sell this stuff? Was it hers? How does one milk a breast? Do you even call it “milking”? His mind conjured images too odd to contemplate. He wasn’t sure he liked realizing that women’s breasts had … um … practical uses.

The baby whimpered and he jumped to pick her up from the swinging car-seat-like-thing she was strapped into. Took him a good two minutes to figure out the clasp. Fort Knox, this thing. By then the whimper became full on red-in-the-face howl. He tried not to panic. Did babies normally get this loud or was the baby sick? He thought of Margo’s bleeding. Would he have to check, you know, the diaper area?

He bounced the baby lightly against his chest and she burped and dribbled some off-white liquid that looked like the breast milk in reverse. It wet his shirt but he didn’t care because the baby quieted. He wasn’t sure whether to keep bouncing her or not. What if she burped up more and ended up losing all the food in her tummy? He settled on a sort of light jiggly dance. Seemed to help. When he peeked down he saw the baby’s eyes had closed. The tiny mouth was closed, too.

A huge yawn stretched his.

He’d just come home from a double shift at the construction site and was dreaming of bed when he remembered that he’d promised Margo he’d check on the stairway light. He knocked on his neighbor’s door to let her know it was just a faulty light-switch, and was alarmed at how awful she looked when she opened it.

Margo rented the one-bedroom above the studio apartment he liked to think of as “his bachelor pad” though it was more like college-dorm-meet-thrift-store-shabby. Margo had already been pregnant when she’d moved in, and he’d felt a combination of protectiveness, shyness, and admiration for the young woman. Her mother had given him a critical once-cover and a ‘best not mess with my kid’ look when she’d come for the birth. He cowed under her glare and tried to stay out of their way. He hoped he passed muster when Margo’s mother found him making room for the stroller in the small landing. She didn’t say much, but she was marginally less glacial afterwards.

He’d been relieved when Margo’s mom left. Now he couldn’t wait for her to return.

Another yawn. He wasn’t sure how far away Margo’s mom lived. An hour? Two? More?

Margo had left her mother’s number on a sticky note, but he didn’t want to call. Told himself she had enough to worry about, though in truth he just didn’t want her to think he was as inept as he felt.

I did get the baby to fall back asleep, though, he thought defensively …

The third yawn threatened to swallow half the baby.

He lowered himself gingerly onto the couch. Hoped the baby stays quiet. She did. Good. He’d just close his eyes for a moment.

***

He woke to pots and pans and the smell of eggs and coffee. There was a slight weight on his chest. He stared down to see a downy head peeking from under a brown blanket.

“You were both fast asleep,” Margo’s mom manifested, apron-clad and a sudsy sponge in one hand.

He blinked.

She smiled, and he noted to himself that she didn’t look half as intimidating as he’d remembered.

“How’s Margo?” he chanced.

“She’s stable,” her smile thinned, with worry, not critic. “They gave her blood and are keeping her for observation but I can bring Ella to visit her later this afternoon.”

As if she knew she was the topic of the conversation, the baby stirred and stretched a small fist at his jaw. Her eyes opened and she contorted her face, ready to cry.

“I’ll take her,” Margo’s mom put the sponge down and wiped her hand on her apron before reaching for the baby. “Did she eat?”

He shook his head. Still a bit dazed and surprisingly disappointed at the loss of the small heft over his heart.

“I’ll make her a bottle.” Margo’s mom nuzzled the baby’s neck, and tilted her head toward a phone on the coffee table. The smile was back. “I took a photo, by the way. Of you and Ella. Was too sweet to not share.”

 

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS challenge: Yawn

 

Unwelcome

Photo prompt © J Hardy Carroll

 

They left for the summer and came back to find new neighbors had moved in.

The intrusion wasn’t noticeable at first. They’d come home at night and were busy settling back in after a long absence. It wasn’t till the next morning that Abby screamed and they ran upstairs to see the child frozen in terror, hands still on the windowsill.

A swarm of buzz swirled around her.

“Call 911!” Simon pushed his wife out of the room before slamming the door behind her and grabbing the blanket from the bed. “Tell them a nine-year-old has disturbed a hornet’s nest!”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

My Neighbor’s Bike

 

toddler s pink bike near wall

Photo by Afta Putta Gunawan on Pexels.com

 

My first bike

Was a neighbor’s bike.

“Too many hills,” my mom had said

As if topography in any way diminished

The accelerated thrill

Of legs off pedals

From the top of the rise

To our street.

There was no arguing

Or vowing to share and never fight.

We knew her words were code

For “we cannot afford.”

But my sister’s friend across the street

Did have a bike

And with it the absolute power to dispense

Rides, routes, direction, and duration.

There were no training wheels

To ease one in.

There was no question of admitting

Complete lack of experience

And risking an evaporated offer.

So it was guts and trepidation

A stranglehold on the handlebar

And the utter exhilaration

Of flying.

 

 

For Cee’s Share Your World Challenge

 

What Neighbors?

Middle of Nowhere AtaraKatz

Photo: Atara Katz

 

Middle of nowhere to the right

A cabin’s leveraged on a cliff.

Amenities are extra-sparse.

The mountains, extra stiff.

A modest perch amidst snow caps

To rest

And watch clouds drift.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Heat-wave

Met a neighbor downstairs yesterday. She was sitting on the stoop with her dog by her feet. My neighbor is usually quite peppy. She looked wilted and a little green around the gills. Sweaty. Bleary eyed.

I asked it she was okay, and she shook her head.

“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” she said. “Got dizzy. Maybe it’s the heat.”

I gave her a cold water bottle. Asked the café next door for a towel moistened with ice-water and wrapped that around her neck. I’d have helped her to my air-conditioned apartment but I didn’t think she should climb several flights of stairs.

She didn’t want me to call 911. Said she’d just sit on the shady (but steamy) stoop and rest. I offered to help her into the café next door instead. Had her sit down in the air-conditioned space. The dog could not enter but the waiter understood and let us sneak the leash out through a crack in the door so she can still keep hold of the pooch.

I asked again if to call 911. Didn’t want to scare her, and indeed it could be heat-exhaustion, but heart-attack in women rarely displays the classic ‘clasp your chest’ as in men. It could be something else …

She shook her head. “I don’t need 911. I’m taking this new medication and maybe it made me more sensitive to the heat. I think there was something about it on the label. I’ll be okay.”

She said the cool air already had her feeling better. So we sat. I watched her, ready to call 911 if she got worse. She didn’t. She took small sips of her water. The waiter brought another cool rag to replace the one that already warmed. She took deep breaths.

Her coloring improved. The dog, who’d been standing vigil by the door and anxiously observing her, finally lapped the water we’d placed for him, then lay down with head calmly on front paws. His reaction reassured me. It reassured my neighbor, too. She smiled and took a deeper breath. The dog lifted eyes to her and his tail slapped the ground in return greeting. Both relieved.

We sat a little longer. When my neighbor felt like herself again, we thanked the café workers and I walked her home. She was going to take it easy the rest of the day. Hydrate. Stay indoors.

Summer is lovely, but it can be tricky for many. Medications are often not taken into account, yet should.

I can be a certifiable momma hen … so, bear with me. … It’s been hot yesterday and it is hotter still today. A heat index of 109F or so. Life doesn’t need to stop, but know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t ignore them. Take precautions, check your medications for heat-sensitivity warnings, and take good care of you, of young and old or people who are in any way infirm or vulnerable to heat. Be mindful of pets, check on neighbors. Keep hydrated. Keep cool. Keep well.

SacramentoReady.org heatstroke