Sunday, January 27, 2013

The not so good mother

I've been going through what I wrote during November, National Novel Writing Month and trying to salvage bits as short stories.  I am definitely a short story writer and not a novel writer.

For those of you who expressed interest in what I was writing, my first edited (but subject to more editing I'm sure) short story is available for reading here

For those who don't have a Tumblir accoutn:

Tillie Vanderslide wasn’t a bad mother but, she wasn’t a good one either.  She had given little  thought to being a wife or a mother when she left her parents’ home at the age of eighteen.  Heavens, she was so sheltered when she left home, she hadn’t even known where babies came from.  She impulsively married an older man she met at the munitions factory where she worked.  It was rather impulsive for him too as he had to retrieve the engagement ring from his previous fiance.  After they were married, she discovered that she was not the second in possession of that particular engagement ring, but the third.   Tillie’s parents had not done much to prepare her for her adult life and she was truly ignorant of the facts of life.   While she witnessed the birth of many animals on their family farm, she and her siblings, were sheltered from the actual breeding process.   Imagine her surprise when she gave birth just nine and one half months after her wedding!    She tried her best to take good care of her five offspring that just kept arriving with the regularity of the mail.  Well, fortunately not that regularly.  The fifth child was actually, a “late arrival”, born just after the first two children had left home.   

The first child nearly died when he drank an open jar of white paint that he took to be milk.  The second one was nearly trampled to death by her own pony.  The third child nearly plummeted to his sure death when the family took a trip to the Grand Canyon one year.  Now, if that child had died, it truly would have been deserving and in the long run, a blessing.  No one knew why he was so close to the ledge other than sheer stupidity but if truth be told, he was throwing rocks over the side which could easily have injured or killed hikers below.  He would later go on as an adult to do much more harm than good and inflict much undeserved pain and suffering on those around him.  The fourth child refused to wear her seatbelt as she was told and fell from the moving car.   Fortunately, she only suffered a few scrapes and bruises.  

The fifth child, the later life baby, proved to be the hardiest of the bunch.  While the others all sustained injuries that took them repeatedly to the hospital, this fifth one seemed positively unbreakable.  His first accident occurred when he was still in his walker.  Someone had left the door to the basement open and he rolled off that first step, plummeting down a full flight of stairs to the concrete floor below.  At merely three years of age, he fell through an open trap door in the floor of a second-story barn while Tillie admired a flock of geese in the distant sky.  He landed safely, with no visible signs of injury in a pile of hay below.  It was difficult to say who suffered the greatest shock - Tillie who turned around to find her child gone, a rake lying next to the open trap door; the child who suddenly found his world had disappeared from beneath him; or the cows below who had the sudden appearance of a small boy landing atop their dinner.  

A few years later,  the fifth child was left alone for the first time without a babysitter.  He loved to snoop through his parents’ belongings and this time found a loaded gun.  Like most children, he was unable to resist picking it up.    He fiddled with the trigger and discharged a single bullet into the dining room floor.   In the winter of his ninth year, Tillie was pulling this fifth child down the road in his sled.  She was getting older now and the child was wearing her down with all this physical activity.  She had the sudden idea of passing on this burden and impulsively tied his sled to the family dog.  The dog was a certified car chaser and took off after the first car that went by, pulling him madly down the road.   Luckily for all involved, the fifth child tumbled out of the sled just in time to avoid being hit by a fast moving truck.  When he nearly set fire to himself in his own bedroom while his mother was having tea in the living room with a neighbor, it was the neighbor who insisted she smelled smoke and persuaded Tillie to check on the child.  Tillie and the neighbor got there in time to see the charred ceiling where he had been tossing wadded up paper up into the light fixture where they had started to smolder.  

There were many other incidents with this fifth child that Tillie didn’t learn about until later.  The children, now that they were grown, seemed to find all of these dreadful near-death episodes a great source of amusement at family get togethers.  This fifth child once taunted a bull on a neighboring farm and managed to jump over the fence just in time to avoid being crushed between the horns of the bull and the wooden planks of the corral.  Another neighbor found him climbing up the antenna tower next to her house and then jumping from her roof to the ground.  She threatened to call his mother, but didn’t.  This fifth child had a best friend, who went along with all these dangerous schemes, including the bike ride across a railroad bridge over a highway.  A man, a perfect stranger actually pulled his car off the highway onto the shoulder and ran up the embankment to the bridge where he roughly pulled the two boys from their bikes and lectured them sternly about how they could have been killed by an oncoming train.   

Much later, when all her children had grown up and moved away, and her husband had been dead for quite some time, Tillie frequently awakens at night in alarm.  She has recurring nightmares of her five children.  Silly ones that couldn’t possibly be true: of her accidentally flushing them down the toilet or finding them all neatly folded in a big suitcase like a set of newly starched shirts.  When she emerges from such nightmares she lies awake for hours afterwards wondering if she had been a good mother.


Elizabeth said...

That was absolutely wonderful and I can't wait to read more!!

vivienne strauss said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! Currently editing two more short pieces.

Shin said...

Great story indeed! I'm glad I found out you have this besides all your pictures I enjoy ;)

vivienne strauss said...

Thank you very much, Shin!

holly aka golly said...

You are a woman of many talents!