(written for creative writing class, won best story for the class, unedited)

John Royal

1

The sound her staple-gun made was one of excitement and release. These were the climaxes of posting announcement pages. This particular page emblazoned with YARD SALE, in alternating red and green characters, under that read 10:00 -> 5:00, also in alternating Christmas colors, and a third line that held an address and date, this time in full black letters. This particular yellow sheet came from a stack of more yellow sheets, all reading the same thing, but all unique in the letter colors. The woman who held the stack (whoa, whatta bod) and office weapon thought that the alternating letter colors were clever. This woman, one of long brown hair and high cheeks and slanted eyes, whose standard of clever was obviously low, was called Wendy. The bright colors would definitely catch a driver or passer-by’s eye. Maybe both, Wendy thought. If she was lucky.

Stepping back, to make sure the poster was good and straight, she noticed the myriad of announcement posters that had come before. “LOST DOG — REWARD”, (a cute yellow lab) “WE BUY HOUSES!”,”VOTE FOR GOVERNOR JACKLE — HE’S OUR MAN!” among others. She wondered what the final results of these were. Was the dog found, or did was a heart broken (oh my poor doggy, ohhhh)? Did they (whoever they were) ever buy houses? Did Governor — No, he hadn’t. (government government government government) She had remembered that. That election was years ago. Back when she didn’t need to hold yard sales. All the negative possibilities flashed through her mind, and it made her wonder; did this pole, this wooden electricity distributor that had seemingly turned into a public notice board, hold anything if not stories of tragedy?

Then, a thought: Maybe this pattern changes with my poster? Then, another: No.

The woman lifted her gun to the bottom of the paper once more. Ever careful, she added one to bottom of the page, then, turning the gun ninety degrees, added a staple to the first staple, creating a metal plus sign over the yellow paper. She repeated this with the staple below, as well.

Wendy took a step back, wondered if anyone would actually pay attention to the sheet (of course they would), and, satisfied, tapped the poster’s skin and said “Don’t let me down.” Then, with her stack and gun, she walked on down the sidewalk (not going anywheh), counting the wooden poles that held up the street lights until she got to four, where she was to post another poster (carefully, carefully).

2.

It was now 11:43. The time had passed quickly, and not one person had shown up. Not a one.

Outside, Wendy had set up four five by two foot plastic tables that she had bought especially for this event. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. But now, she thought looking at the crowd that had so obviously gathered at her sale, she wondered if maybe she would make enough money to even cover the costs of the tables.

The tables were arranged, on her driveway, in what would have been a square if lines were to connect them. Each table held items that all belonged to a particular theme. One table was “Electronics”; old radios, a broken TV (she thought earlier someone could have some use for, and if they did, they would of course come to her yard sale and be happy to find exactly what they need, giving Wendy whatever prize she would ask for it), old and used kitchen appliances (she hadn’t used the blender since the ’90s), and a Walkman or two. The next, “Kitchen Supplies”: Forks and spoons, spatulas and knifes, a set of cups and a special set of plates she had won as a child from an oldies radio station (the plate showed a young Elvis, with a microphone to his lips, and on each unique plate, the lip was in a new different and exciting state of quiver) that she didn’t really need or use anyway. The next, a category that had to be used because nothing seemed to fit into the other tables (which was perfect), “Miscellaneous”: Old books, cheap notebooks that were never used, all of her VHSs (time to upgrade, anyway) and empty picture frames. The last one read “Baby”: This one held a pre-assembled crib, a portable car seat/rocker, tiny clothes. Pair a’ shoes.

As Wendy looked over the tables again, the sight of the “Baby” almost made her throw up. Her throat semi-closed and she couldn’t cough up enough tears. Her hair fell in her face again. She didn’t blow it out of her eyes. She remembered.

3.

Dillon is the love interest. He was handsome and black-haired, and held a physique that would intimidate even the most confident and jerky guys. She had met him in high school. “Whoa, whatta bod.” “You really know how to charm a girl.” It was the kind of love where virtue and honesty toward parents were spared. But it was more than that. She really did love him. She really did, as he did her, and they got older they would live together in a small apartment. But things had changed. He was going away.

Dillon had signed up to fight because of her. No, she thought. For her. But, even if it was “because” more than “for,” he had brought it on himself in the first place. He got her pregnant. Not the other way around. It was his fau – No. He was going to fight for her.

Before he had to go, though, Dillon made his primary objective creating and preparing for the baby. He used his life savings (and it was his life savings. He hadn’t spent a cent as a child; his childhood dream being to go to law school – closest to Batman as he could be — but he had screwed up royally — or just screwed — and he was going to have to pay for his child) for a down payment on a small neighborhood (one the neighborhoods that had just began to pop up all over the outskirts of the city) home for his child and Wendy to stay until he would be back and work to move to a better house. He would be gone the months of Wendy’s pregnancy, and would be back about a month or two after the baby was scheduled to be delivered, so he also bought a plethora of things to get the home “baby ready;” he put together the crib (a large rocking pink one), as well as buying enough diapers, wipes and bibs to last a couple of life times (or months; neither of the expectant parents could be so sure), and of course a couple of tiny shirts and pants. They had no idea what size the baby would be when he left the womb, so they had bought a collection of various baby sized clothes. And a pair of shoes.

He also had painted the nursery (converted from a small dining room) yellow and pink. Very pleasing to a baby’s eyes, he had thought. He had also prepared a black bag and a copy of all the numbers of every taxi service in the city for when she went into labor (no family lived near enough or cared enough to be around to drive Wendy to the hospital), as well as a black bag that would stay by the door until the day came. “All of your information and clothes and — Everything you need for the birth is in here, Wendy. (She had thought it sounded a little like a question) Make absolutely sure you grab it after you call the taxi.” She nodded and said “I won’t forget.” Because she was, of course, so very very clever.

Before Dillon would leave to report to his post, seconds before, he had given Wendy a long, sloppy and wet last kiss. With this, he lifted his forearms and gently squeezed the upper arms of his lover; “I love you.” Then, with a pat of her bloated baby belly, “Don’t let us down.” Another quick kiss and Wendy was alone, crying and waving to his back.

She was so sorry. (let me down)

4.

She caught her own tears with her tongue. This was a habit she had developed from being a child, with her mother. Oh, my mother. More tears followed and she swallowed her sorrow.

5.

“Get your mutt off my couch, Windsay!”

Windsay would do it. The young browned hair girl of six sat on one knee and the dog ran to her and licked her face.

“It’s not a mutt. It’s Rowder.” Windsay blew the hair out of her eyes.

“It’s a damn mutt. I don’t know why your father let you bring that mutt in my home.”

Windsay wondered why w her father wasn’t “Harold,” but “Your Father!,” as well as why the family home turned into just her mother’s when she was yelling at the dog. Or at her dad. Or at the mail-man or the joggers or the… When she was just yelling.

“It’s a mutt, mutts belong outside.” Her mother then grabbed Rowder’s collar (a young yellow lab pup that had darker spots along his spine and bones) and dragged the resisting dog to the front door.

“Mommy, noooooooooo!!! Rowder belongs in here where I can protect him!”

“He belongs outside!”

“Noooooo!”

And that’s when Windsay’s mother let go of Rowder’s collar and Rowder felt freedom. He ran down the yard, around their red family mini-van and the tree that had been growing since Windsay’s birth. He ran over the sidewalk, and into the street. “oh no.”

A speeding blue car.

Screeching to a halt.

Thump.

A shocked child looking away into the sky and stuck out her tongue, not wanting to see Rowder scraped across the street.

“oh my poor doggy, ohhhh”

6.

She was choking now. Wendy tried to breathe and swallowed more tears. Choking.

7.

“‘I’m sorry. I choked. The time came and… And I just choked.’ Think that’ll work, Minny?” The sugared coffee skinned girl asked. The girl looked to be in great shape for a seventeen year old, especially sitting across from such an opposite.

“I don’t know… Does your mom not smell that kinda crap when it’s thrown at her?” The salty speaker walking with her carried great long blonde hair, the kind models have, Windsay would tell her. Her face was a pretty one, but not many people, especially the boys, noticed, because of what was underneath. A double chin followed by the kind of thick meaty body that you would mostly see sitting in the food court, and then the famous “Cankles.” But she didn’t seem to notice, especially when the guys would stare or point or laugh. The determined look that a swimmer gets during their last lap would appear on Minny’s face and she wouldn’t move her eyes or head and she would continue to walk and her hair would continue with her. No, she didn’t mind.

“Ya… I’ll only say something if she asks about the test.”

“That’ll work.” Minny rolled her eyes and bit into her sandwich (bread mayonnaise tomato cheese bread), and Windsay giggled. Right after that, a black haired bulky kid came and sat beside her. “Whoa…”

Later that day, Windsay, sitting at her desk, was approached by her mother.

“How was the test?”

“Err… Which test?” Windsay took no eyes off her US History Study Book. Government government government.

“Don’t play games with me — You failed it, didn’t you!” It wasn’t a question.

Windsay didn’t say anything (not even “I choked”), only stared at the same word she had been reading since her mother had walked in. Government government government government.

“You realize you’re wasting your life! Why you always let me down with school! You always let me down, Windsay. School isn’t a joke! You realize you ah not going anywheh if yah don’t get good grades, don’t yah! Why –“

Windsay had stopped listening there.

Government until the mother had left and the screaming had stopped. She didn’t know what all her mother had said and tried to soak up the wet spot that had now completely covered “government” with her shirt. It didn’t work.

8.

It was the summer after she had graduated from High School. And, as usual, her mother was yelling.

“You’re nineteen, dammit! Old enough to have your own life, why are you still here!”

Government wouldn’t work any longer. Windsay stood up from her desk (she was writing collage applications. she figured all the other applications would already be in, and sending it late made her unique. oh so clever.) and grabbed a black bag from under her bed, and went to her dresser. There, she filled the bag.

“And what do you think you’re doing! Young lady, sit back down!”

After filling her black bag of a couple of outfits, the young lady walked to her jacket and put it on (even though it was so sunny outside) and went into the kitchen to fetch her keys.

“Look what you’re doing! Youhh running away! Just a way to pass the blame! Whose fault is this but yours! Just like when you killed your dog!”

Wendy had her bag in her left hand and her keys in the right by this time. She was ready to go. But she wasn’t going to leave quietly.

“You sick bitch! You let my dog go! You –” Windsay took a deep breath in and thought for a split-second. But that’s all the time she took. Ever clever. “MY WHOLE LIFE IS YOUR FAULT! I DIDN’T ASK TO CRAWL OUT OF YOUR ****!”

Her mother was crying, but Windsay didn’t care. She made her way to the door and went to unlock it, but missed the key hole a few times. When she finally got it open, she burst out and began to walk around there red family mini-van, but she stopped and turned around.

Her mother was standing in the doorway, crying but ever persistent. “Come back, please. Please.” Windsay’s mother continued her crying after those words.

“Windsay… Please.”

The daughter in this fight dropped her bag, and saw a faint glimpse of hope in her mother’s eyes. It made her sick. Sick enough to scream.

“ITS PRONOUNCED WHEN-FU**IN-DEE!!” With that, Wendy picked up her bag and walked around the tree and onto the sidewalk, and from there the first bus that stopped as she walked by it. There, she would stare at the clouds until she summoned enough courage to call Dillon to come and get her.

9.

She pulled up her tank top and wiped the tears from her eyes, shaking her hair out of her face, and then looked up into the sky, at the clouds. The clouds always calmed her. She took three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out.

10.

“Out. Okay Wendy, you’re doing great. Breath. In. Out. In. Out. Good, good Wendy. Now, Wendy. Give me a push.”

And she did, gritting her teeth and staring at the ceiling. The ceiling was painted blue with white puffs, like clouds.

“In and out, Wendy. Let’s try another push. Carefully.”

Wendy breathed again and wanted to scream at the young, polite doctor. He was a light-skinned black man who wore glasses and his hair short. And she was too focused on (let me down) breathing to scream at him. But she was screaming, in her head. DAMN DILLON YOUR BABY YOU DELIVER OW OH MY GOD LET DOWN YOUR BABY DILLON!!!

“UHHNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!”

The doctor smiled as Wendy grunted. “Alright, Wendy, good job good job. Breathe. Breathe, and lets try another push.” The pain was almost unbearable for Wendy.

“AAAAAHHHHHN!!!!!!”

“Come on, come on Wendy. In and out. Carefully, push.” (government let government government)

“UURRRGGGGH!!!!!!!!”

(government let me government let me down)

“AAAACHHHHHH!!”

“Breathe, girl! Breathe!”

(government government)

“Push!”

(government won’t government let)

“UGHNN!”

(government down no won’t let government)

“Okay, one more will do it! Breathe. Carefully, carefully.”

“ACH-URGHHN!!!”

“Good job! Good job girl –” Her baby wasn’t crying. “Good… Good job.”

If Wendy would have been watching the doctor instead of her painted sky, she would have noticed the nurse whisper something into the doctor’s ear, and a sad, disappointed nod come from him.

“Wendy. Wendy. I’m so sorry…”

Don’t. Let me down.

12.

Her tears had stopped rolling, which was good. Finally, a customer had shown up. Tall, brown hair, and Caucasian, the man walked up to Wendy sitting on the lawn chair. He was holding something behind his back.

“Excuse me, m’am? I’m sure these are important to you, but, I was wondering. How much are these shoes?”

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