Monday, July 2, 2018

Sloopy

Prompt: Cats and Dogs | Word Count: 300 Words Exactly | Genre: Memoir


Thunder rumbled overhead. Trees swayed in the wind and rain. My little brother and I reveled in the wildness of this summer storm raging beyond the covered deck where we stood. Beside us, Sloopy’s head lifted, nostrils flared. Hackles raised. Then the little white beagle jumped to his feet, tearing madly across the deck, braying and barking as if he’d seen a cat. 

Jim’s quizzical blue eyes met mine before we ran to peer over the handrail. Lightning flashed, and we could just see Sloopy nosing around in the wet brush, where something was moving down by the creek. 

“What is that?” Jim’s voice cracked, high pitched with excitement.

“I can’t tell. Kittens, maybe?”

Sloopy was snuffling and wagging his tail, unconcerned by the storm; now surrounded by small fuzzy critters making odd chirping noises.

Then another slightly larger creature came out of the brush, growling fiercely. It stood on its back paws, dark stripe across white face, beady yellow eyes flashing. Abruptly it let out a vicious snarl and attacked our little unsuspecting dog. 

Wild shrieks of pain and violence echoed across the night. It just about broke my thirteen-year-old heart. Not thinking of our own safety, we ran as fast as we could, barefoot across the deck and down the stairs, trying not to slip or fall as we made our way towards the commotion.

“Don’t let your dog hurt those poor raccoons.” The stupid old lady that lived on the other side of the creek appeared, beaming her flashlight on the animals scurrying off into the brush. But our beloved beagle lay shredded in a pool of blood and rain, whimpering in shock and pain. And Sloopy died while Jim and I held him in our arms and cried, oblivious now to the storm raging around us.

Rain Rain Go Away

Prompt: I never knew | Word Count: 1800 Words Exactly | Genre: Fiction
Due August 8, 2018


Mama used to like to say it was raining cats and dogs whenever it stormed like this when I was small. When the wind and rain came down so hard it near blew the trailer apart. Lightning would reveal Mama setting buckets out to collect rainwater leaking from the roof, while me and Dougie would make faces and giggle at each other, cause we never did see no cats or dogs in those storms.

The storm tonight puts me in mind of that old trailer. God, how I long for the security Mama gave us, no matter how false that security turned out to be. I wish I had one of them old buckets, too. I’d collect some of the rainwater pouring in sheets off the bridge. It’d be good to clean the mud off myself after I slipped down the embankment on my way home from the soup kitchen.

I’m sitting in one of my bag chairs, looking at my rickety tent and worrying about the rising river, ‘cause it sure looks like it might overflow before long. George’s tent is still pitched about three yards away, though, so I figure if the older man thinks it's safe to stay, I should take his lead.

Lightning streaks across the sky. There he is, standing before me as if I’ve conjured him out of my musings. Except… It’s not George. Nor anyone I'd served at the kitchen tonight.

A strong, distinctive scent of cologne drifts on the wind. Sudden anxiety overtakes me as broken memories bombard my mind; Daddy touching me, hurting me. My whole body is instantly trembling, and I struggle to remember I am no longer that twelve year old girl. Concentrating to slow my breathing delays the moment when recognition comes and I realize this isn’t Daddy standing before me, although the resemblance is strong.

"Dougie?”

“My name is Douglas.” I hear disdain, or disgust, in his voice as he surveys my surroundings. “What are you doing out here, Marilyn? It’s raining cats and dogs.”

At that I make a face at him, like I’d done when we were small, and that sets me off to giggling.

I catch the sneer on his face before he wipes it clear. I suspect my face has gone white as a ghost.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” I say, trying to regain my composure and hide the panic his sudden appearance has caused. I pat the empty chair beside me for him to sit. “You might as well come on in out of the rain. What brings you out on a night like this?”

He eyes the wobbly chair critically, but folds his tall, lanky form cautiously into it. “I was looking for you.”

“Yeah? You ain't never bothered to come lookin for me before.”

“How can you think that? Marilyn, we never stopped looking for you.”

“Really? Who were you lookin’ for me with? It sure wasn’t Mama. Last I saw her, she was lyin’ dead on the floor with a needle sticking outa her arm. Even though we all knew Mama didn't use drugs. How come it took you ten years to find me?”

“Listen, Marilyn,” he raises both hands in a gesture of peace, “I’ve got a suite at the Nines downtown. Let’s go get some food and get you into a shower. After you’ve had some sleep, we can make a fresh start in the morning. How would that be?”

The Nines! Huh! Little brother made it good in life if he can afford to stay at the most expensive hotel in Portland. I should be happy for him, I suppose. But, God, he looks so much like Daddy, in his suit and tie, all clean shaven and clean cut. Like the man in my nightmares.

I can imagine what he must think of me. Torn jeans and thrift shop dress two sizes too big, covering the three layers of shirts I wear for warmth. My thick golden hair dull and unkempt.

There’s that scent again. The same fragrance Daddy wore when he hurt me. That smell had been in the kitchen that day I found Mama, too. I want to shrink back into myself and hide.

But this is Dougie. Not Daddy. Surely my little brother isn’t here to hurt me.

“Why don't you just tell me why you're here?”

“Really, Marilyn; I must insist...”

“You ok out there, Mare?” George’s familiar, gravelly voice cuts across the wind. I feel my stomach begin to unclench slightly as the older man climbs out of his tent. His long gray hair blows wild in the wind. He has on a sweatshirt and thick pajama bottoms and his feet are bare. He is a most welcome sight.

I only met George a few weeks ago. He arrived the same day I set up my tent here under the bridge, when he pitched his next to mine. There was something about the ex-vet that put me at ease immediately; told me I could trust him implicitly. I’ve never met anyone like him. George exudes a sense of security I imagine a real father might offer a daughter. He calls himself my guardian angel. A few nights ago I even found myself telling him my story, though I’ve never told it to anyone else. Not in the ten years since I left home after finding Mama ODd in the kitchen when I was sixteen.

He hadn’t teased me about how na├»ve I’d been, thinking I could just go to Hollywood and become a famous actress. I thought it would be simple. I’d always done so well in drama and played the lead role in several productions. My school friends called me Marilyn Monroe; probably because of my beautiful blonde hair and slim, curvy figure. But I used up all my money on the bus ride from Atlanta, and once I’d arrived in Los Angeles I had no idea how to go about landing an acting job. I hooked up with a guy who suggested I do some modeling for him, but that put me in a bad situation and George says I was lucky to get away. I hadn’t shared the details with him, but I’m pretty sure he can guess.

After that I found refuge at a woman’s shelter and was so grateful for the care and protection I received that I began helping out in the kitchen, cleaning rooms, and babysitting. I was there eight months; until Daddy appeared one day and I managed to escape before he found me. Fear has kept me on the move since then, where I continue serving at shelters across Northern California and Oregon.

George clears his throat, bringing me back to the moment. “Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”

“Uh. Sure. George, this is my brother, Dougie.”

“It’s Douglas.” The chair falls over as he stands, extending his hand to George. “Douglas Dempsey.”

The older man gives Dougie a long stare, but I can’t tell what he’s thinking. It must have been a pretty firm grip, though, ‘cause I can see Dougie wince.

“Why don’t I leave you two to talk,” George suggests, “but holler if you need me.” He turns a look on Dougie and warns, in a low tone, “If you hurt her, you’re history.”

We remain standing after George leaves, and for a moment we just listen to the incessant rain and the muffled traffic on the bridge overhead.

“Dougie, how’d you find me?” I’d worked so hard to stay off grid.

“It wasn’t easy; I can tell you that. With no identify to trace, and no criminal record, it’s like Marilyn Dempsey never existed. Last week, though, a background check was run on you at the Portland Rescue Mission. I take it you volunteer there? Marilyn, what are you hiding from?”

The sudden change of topic takes me by surprise, and for a brief, unguarded moment I remember the little boy I’d left behind. I close my heart against it, though, not wanting to delve into the past I worked so hard to leave behind.

“Just tell me why you’re here, Dougie. Why now, after all this time?”

“Is it not enough that you’re my sister, and I’ve finally found you? God, Marilyn. I never knew why you left me, when Mama died. Father said it was because you were confused, and suffered from delusions. He would have gotten you help if you had stayed.”

I can imagine! Just like he helped Mama.

“Father’s a tough man, you know. He set high expectations for me, and even though I disappointed him, he gave me a good life, with education and privilege. Not something Mama could have ever given us. Or achieved on our own.”

There’s that disdain, again.

I see no sense in convincing him of the education and privilege I’ve gained in caring for others with the generosity of my time.

“So here’s the thing, Marilyn,” he’s all business now, “Grandma Dempsey passed away last year. She left an inheritance to us, and as soon as we present ourselves to her attorney we’ll split a half million dollars.”

I feel my eyes widen at the thought of so much money. “Wow!” I begin to understand why he’s taken the time to find me. “I take it we’re required to present ourselves together?”

His eyes narrow and there’s annoyance in his stance. I can feel tension radiating off him now, humming in the air like electricity preceding a lightning strike. “Will that be a problem? It’s a half million dollars.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Father won’t be there. You don’t even have to see him.” He looks away, studying the river and rubbing his neck. Another waft of cologne drifts my way. “Come with me, Marilyn. I’ve made all the arrangements.”

Thunder rumbles in the distance and the rain increases in fury. Like my heartbeat.

I hesitate for a moment, then make up my mind. It won’t right the wrongs of the past, but it would make me feel a whole lot better.

“Hey George! Did you hear! Dougie says I’m gonna be rich!”

Dougie visibly relaxes at this, and smiles when I ask, “What room are you in? I’ll pack my things and meet you there in the morning.”

He tries his best to persuade me to come with him right now, but eventually I convince him to go away.

“Well?” George pops his head out of his tent as soon as Dougie is gone.

“I think if you hadn’t been here tonight, I might have ended up in the river!” I shudder, and begin stuffing my chair into its bag.

“Marilyn Monroe, indeed!” says my new Guardian Angel, stuffing my other chair into its bag. “So, Spokane?

“Actually, I think I’d prefer Seattle.”