Trifecta: The Ties That Bind

Written for Trifecta Writing Challenge: Week Eighty-Eight.

I’d like to slap Margie’s cow-eyed face, but watching her grovel is fun, so I stir my coffee and wait, eyes down. If I look aat her, I’m going to start laughing.

“Connie,” she says, voice wobbly and ingratiating at the same time, “I wouldn’t ask if it was for me or my kids, you know that.”

I do. Last time she asked me for something I shot her down cold. A loan, she’d said, to pay her son’s tuition. Let him grow up as ignorant as you, I’d said. What’s it to me? I don’t know why she thinks I’ll care any more about my brother. Our brother.

“You guys can’t keep coming to me with your hands out whenever you’re in financial crisis, Margie.”

She draws in a gaspy breath, high and thin, like she’s sucking on helium, and I almost expect her voice to come out like Mickey Mouse, but it’s her usual simper.

“Connie, he’s got enough money for this month’s rent, and then they’ll be on the street. Come on, we’re a family. Families band together when shitty things happen, don’t they?”

I meet her gaze full on, and she holds eye contact. Finally growing some nads after all these years. “He should have thought about that before he screwed up his job, shouldn’t he?”

“God, that’s so unfair! He didn’t screw up, he was laid off, and you know it.”

I shrug, slurp back a mouthful of the sludge she calls coffee.

“You know what, Margie?” I say. “Where were you guys when Petey died? Neither of you gave a rat’s bumhole that I’d just lost the best friend I ever had.”

It’s kind of hilarious watching her struggle to suck back the outrage. Truth be told I couldn’t have been happier when I found that fucking parakeet feet up in his cage. As she well knows.

“How much?” I ask.

They’re not getting one stinking cent, but it’s a gas seeing her face spark with hope.

(333 words)

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  1. #1 by Jo-Anne Teal (@jtvancouver) on July 31, 2013 - 8:25 am

    Kallan Annie – The voice on the main character is pitch perfect! I love the thoughts, the dialogue and the turn of phrase. As always, amazing. I don’t mind bitter or mean when it’s written so damn well :)))

    • #2 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Jo-Anne, for your wonderful, generous comment. Bitter and mean are so much better on the page than they are in real life, aren’t they?

  2. #3 by LaTonya M. Baldwin on July 31, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    The writing is tight, but I’m stuck on the speaker. I can’t figure out how old she is, which matters in so much that she’s incredibly bitter, has the money but references a pet bird and calls him screw for being laid off. Her speech and attitude don’t give me a sense of her beyond the bitterness.

    • #4 by xandranihilo on August 1, 2013 - 3:39 pm

      I agree, perhaps some hint of the source of the bitterness.

      • #5 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:33 pm

        I appreciate the feedback, Xandra. Maybe I stripped out some of the wrong detail when I pared this down.

    • #6 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:16 pm

      I think I may have trimmed some necessary detail to get this down to the requisite word count. Oops! If I decide to flesh this out, I’ll add those pieces back in and give some more context to the character’s bitterness. Thank you, LaTonya, not just for taking the time to read this closely, but for being willing to offer constructive criticism. I truly appreciate it.

      One question, though, I don’t quite understand how the character referencing a pet bird adds to the confusion around her age–can you elaborate on that?

  3. #7 by Cobbie's World on July 31, 2013 - 11:35 pm

    Sometimes we like what people write about because of the storyline. Sometimes, it the delicious use of language that reels us in. But, in this case, it is a brilliantly conceived character. She is one of the nastier characters I’ve come across during my time in Trifecta and I mean that as a compliment. Thank you for linking up this week and sharing such a memorable character with us all. 🙂

    • #8 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:19 pm

      Tom, your comment made my week! Thank you so much. She is one of the nastier characters I’ve written, and I’m pleased to know that her nastiness translated from my brain to the written word.

  4. #9 by chamblee54 on August 1, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    A story like this gets paid back with interest.

    • #10 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:19 pm

      What a lovely comment! Thank you so much.

  5. #11 by Kir Piccini on August 1, 2013 - 2:04 pm

    Sibling rivalry on steroids…honestly, I wanted to cry in her wake and her meanness. (I’m very sensitive..obviously) but that’s a compliment to your writing. I hated her, feared her, wanted to put her in her place…and that’s because you wrote her in such a rich, unaltered way.

    thank you for sharing and linking up (and now I’m going to call my sister and tell her I love her)

    • #12 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:27 pm

      Kir, I’m going to treasure this comment for a long time. Wow. Thank you so much. I have to admit that I hated this caregiver, too, and wanted to give her a good stomping myself.

      I’m glad this inspired you to give your sister a call–I love my sisters mightily myself, but I’ve seen horrendous behaviour in other families.

  6. #13 by Valerie on August 1, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    First of all, my friend-congrats on last week’s win!! You so deserved it!! And your piece this week is equally brilliant! Families are such tangled, tangled webs. I get stuck in my own more often than I care to admit:)

    • #14 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:29 pm

      Thank you, Valerie! That’s very kind of you. Families really are tangled, tangled webs–in good and bad ways, for better or worse.

  7. #15 by Laura Alonso on August 1, 2013 - 5:50 pm

    This had me smiling a lot. Love how you dragged out until the end, as if she couldn’t have got any more wicked…. but she did. Lovely write and thanks for the read and comment on my story The Secret this week. Means a lot coming from a winner!
    Happy writing

    • #16 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:35 pm

      Thank you, Laura–and glad to meet you. She is wicked to the bone, this one. I loved your The Secret, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work over the next few months!

  8. #17 by jannatwrites on August 1, 2013 - 6:30 pm

    Ah, families. I get that sometimes we have to say ‘no’. I don’t think being family grants one to an automatic handout. While I believe that sometimes we have to move on, I would love to know the source of such bitterness for this character.

    (In the years after my grandma died, my dad had to pretty much sever ties with his siblings. They squandered the small inheritance from the sale of her estate and kept coming to him to fund their mistakes. That’s the only time they talked to him. After years of being used, he decided to cut the contact. He doesn’t exude bitterness, though :))

    • #18 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:42 pm

      Families can be as ghastly as they can be wonderful, nurturing and supporting. I totally agree with you, by the way, that automatic handouts should be a familial obligation, but I also believe that when push comes to shove, healthy families have one another’s backs.

      Your dad’s choice must have been a painful one to make, but there comes a point where you have to make decisions to protect yourself and those you love. It’s a testament to his family values that he put up with his siblings’ sponging for years. He’s definitely not the sort of person I had in mind when I conceived this character!

  9. #19 by lovelylici1986 on August 1, 2013 - 6:37 pm

    Oh, yeah! I like this. You really went for it with this character. Not likable, but totally abhorrent. Readers like to have a character to hate or want to slap on occasion, I think.
    -Alicia Audrey

    • #20 by kallanannie on August 1, 2013 - 8:55 pm

      Thank you, Alicia! What an inspiring comment. You’re right that there was nothing likable about this character–not one redeeming grace, I’d say. I’d kind of like to slap her myself. 🙂

  10. #21 by Tina on August 2, 2013 - 1:45 am

    Wow! What a horrible person! Hopefully not based on anyone you know.

    Great job with moving things along using dialogue. Lots of information contained in the undercurrents of that conversation!

    • #22 by kallanannie on August 3, 2013 - 3:54 am

      Thanks, Tina. Fortunately I don’t know anyone quite this vile, although I’ve met a few people who come pretty darned close. 🙂

  11. #23 by KymmInBarcelona on August 2, 2013 - 10:02 am

    Nothing breaks up a family more definitively than money. Truly evil sibling you’ve drawn here.

    concrit: I will echo a bit of the unanswered question of why she’s so bitter. The language she uses is a bit indeterminate and disconcerting (my feminist side recoils at the ref to a woman ‘growing ‘nads’). I think you could revise the language with an eye to this (if you wanted to revise it).

    And yes, that spark of hope was the cherry topping this devil’s cake : )

    • #24 by kallanannie on August 3, 2013 - 4:28 am

      Thanks for the comment and the feedback, Kym. If I decide to expand this, I’ll definitely include a bit more backstory on the bitter.

      About your second point, though, I’m a bit confused .First, I’m a feminist too, but my character is very much not. You’re not saying that our characters should only say things that we’d say, are you? I’m not being snarky here, I’m genuinely curious about this.

      Also, I realize that “nads” seems to have become synonymous with male genitalia in the common parlance, but the term is not in fact gender-specific–it refers to the parts of male *and* female bodies where gametes are synthesized (i.e. testes and ovaries). The fact that we always assume “male” when we hear the term used to connote courage, is a pretty sad statement about how we ascribe certain qualities along gender lines.

      Thanks again for a thought-provoking comment!

  12. #25 by Suzanne on August 2, 2013 - 1:18 pm

    Great character! Unpleasant, cold and hints of twisted. Well done!

    • #26 by kallanannie on August 3, 2013 - 3:55 am

      She’s definitely unpleasant. Thanks so much, Suzanne!

  13. #27 by ivymblog on August 2, 2013 - 1:55 pm

    There always seems to be that relative who expects to be bailed out because they made bad choices or have the shittiest luck. At what point do you get fed up and cut them off?

    I, too, would like to know more of the back story. The pacing, voice and tone of the piece is great. I think this could really be fantastic if you decided to expand on it. I would love to read more. 🙂

    • #28 by kallanannie on August 3, 2013 - 3:56 am

      Thank you, Ivy. This character has set up shop in my brain, and she was kind of fun to play with, so I may revisit this at some point in the future. Really appreciate the comment!

  14. #29 by Anne Chia on August 2, 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Waoh! I could feel the evil dripping off this one 🙂

    The oldest fight in the world between families is money isn’t it? I loved the dialogue, as well as the nuances I inferred from the non-speaking portions with descriptions. Great read

    • #30 by kallanannie on August 3, 2013 - 3:58 am

      So glad the nasty came across! Money does tend to pull people apart more easily than it draws them together. Pretty sad, really. Thank you, Anne, for letting me know what worked for you–much appreciated.

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