Kissing Crisis

(This is called flash fiction because it is so short. You’re sure to have enough time to read it! Besides, it’s fun!)

“Stop the car!” The words spill out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Pull over! Now!”

Wide, brown eyes meet mine. Scott’s olive complected skin drains to sickly pale.

I’m almost as stunned as he is. What on earth have I done? Bare seconds ago we were on a sunny Sunday afternoon drive. Everything was – is – perfect. What could beat being in Scott’s Honda Prelude? Him in his black leather bomber jacket, me in my favorite red coat. Neither of us feeling the need to talk. That’s one of the most amazing things about Scott. We can sit in complete silence and it’s okay.

Oddly enough, that’s the problem. It’s too perfect.

In a flurry of autumn leaves, the car skids to a stop at the side of the road.

“What’s wrong?”

“This is insane…” I mutter.

“What’s insane Beth? I thought you were having a good time. You said you liked -”

“I was having a good time!”

“Then what…?”

I think I’m going to scream. The situation is killing me, but I can’t go on without knowing the answer.

“What?” he asks again.

I close my eyes, then turn on him.

“Why won’t you… kiss me?”

His already pale skin grows paler.

“I’ve got chapped lips,” he says before turning to look away from me, out his window.

“Are you out of your mind? I Don’t Care!

He just sits, giving me sidelong glances like I’m some kind of disease.

“Last week you got my roommates to help you set up that kidnaping date,” I add. “You drove me into the mountains for a romantic picnic, just the two of us. The whole thing had make-out session written all over it. I was game. I was thinking it was about time something happened. But no matter what I did, you weren’t interested. I felt like a pariah. So why did you set up the situation in the first place?”

“It’s just that…” he let’s out a heavy breath. “I haven’t kissed a girl since high school.”

“What about Melanie – that girl you flew from Arizona to Texas for your high school prom? We bumped into her on campus a few weeks ago. You said you took her out on a date and gave her a kiss goodnight. In fact, according to you, after she closed the door to her apartment you could hear her and her roommates, giggling and gasping with excitement!”

Scott rubs a hand across his face.

“That was just practice so that when I kissed you I wouldn’t make an idiot out of myself.”

“You can’t be serious.”

He shrugs and shakes his head. I’m flabbergasted.

“All this time I’ve been thinking she is the girl of your dreams, wondering why it was so easy for her – on a first date to get a kiss. Do you know how many dates we’ve been on? Official dates, not including the way we’re almost constantly together. At least five! – Melanie isn’t the girl of your dreams is she?”

“No!”

“You’re not just saying that to make me feel better?”

“If I wanted to be with Melanie I’d be with Melanie right now!”

“Are you attracted to me?”

“YES!” This is exclaimed as if it’s been the source of significant torture.

“But you don’t want to kiss me because your lips are chapped.”

He rolls his eyes at me. I note how his lips are pretty chapped. Still, it’s no excuse, chapped or not, if I wanted to be kissing someone, I’d be kissing them.

“Why now? Why the sudden crisis?” he moans.

“Because I’m sitting in this car feeling like I’m in heaven except for one thing. Unlike all the other guys I’ve known, every time I’ve tried to get you to kiss me, you’ve resisted. I found it kind of admirable at first, like you didn’t take that kind of stuff lightly. Then you told me you kissed Melanie when you took her out. So what was wrong with me? Why hadn’t you kissed me?

“That kidnaping date last week confused me the most. I tried everything other than outright kissing you, myself. Under those circumstances, I don’t know of any guy other than you who wouldn’t have taken advantage of the situation. And I can’t let myself keep falling for you, not if you can’t – or don’t want – to cross that threshold.

“That’s why I told you to pull over. Because right now I’m thinking, if nothing changes between here and home, I’ve got to let you go.”

Scott’s eyes flash fire. Suddenly he has my face in his hands. His chapped lips come down on mine…

Over the last two months he’s given me plenty of time to speculate about his kissing skills. I’ve been worried that maybe he kissed like a dead fish all wet and slobbery, or a vacuum, the kind where I’d have to tear my face away and check for damages, or a conqueror with such an aggressive tongue I’m bound to gag. Maybe after being so perfect in every other way, the attraction I felt wouldn’t be there any more and I really could move on.

Instead it’s a never ending roller coaster tickle, walking barefoot in spring grass, new fallen snow glistening in the moonlight, dancing the polka, and an elegant waltz, springtime and summer, symphonies and sonnets. It feeds me, yet leaves me starving for more. I don’t just want him, I need him. His chapped lips do far more than simply touch mine.

After he pulls away we sit in silence for a moment. We’re both trying not to smile and failing. He turns the engine back on.

“Are we still on after I drop you off?” he asks with a cocky grin on his face.

I punch his arm.

“What’s that? Only if I kiss you good night? I’m willing to make the sacrifice if that’s what it takes.”

He gets punched again.

“If I’d known you were this desperate for a kiss, I would have helped you out a little sooner. You need to speak your mind more often.”

Punch.

“Wow. I think I might have felt something that time. If you think this is the way to get another kiss…”

I may never hear the end of this.

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The Zombie Apocalypse

You may think you’re safe from the impending Zombie Apocalypse, but you’re not. Recently I put together a few Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kits. Perhaps my list of items will help you be better prepared for the end of the world as we know it.

1. Business Cards for Dr. Scott C. Burdge:

As you may know, running is the best way to avoid zombies. That means your feet need to be at their best. Dr. Burdge is the man who can help keep your feet ready to face any disaster.

2. Trail Mix:

Stay in one place and you’re bound to be found. Trail mix was made for long treks.

3. Note Pad:

Successful strategies should be recorded and shared. Take notes. Write your story. What is written will endure long after you’ve been bitten. You’ll be remembered as the human you once were and not the zombie you’ve become.

4. Pen:

The essential companion to the notepad also doubles as a handy weapon. If a zombie gets too close, use the pen to stab it in the eye.

5. Hand Sanitizer:

After a long day of zombie killing, it’s always good to know your hands can still be germ free.

6. Rain Poncho:

Rain ponchos are not only useful in the rain. Zombie battles can get to be messy business. Clean up is a challenge. Wearing a poncho in battle means you can easily wash away the gore without soiling your clothes.

7. Fruit Snacks and Pudding:

These two items may strike you as tasty treats for yourself, but they are also a useful Zombie deterrent. Pop off the top of the pudding, mix in the fruit snack gummies and you’ve got something quite close to the brains Zombies crave. Use the mixture to lure Zombies into a trap, or toss it to the side as you run to distract them while you escape.

8. Utensils:

A small reminder of the civilized world we occupied before everyone started eating each other.

9. Emergency Blanket:

This lightweight blanket has the added benefit of being bite-proof. Just be sure to cover yourself completely while sleeping.

10. Matches:

Fire is not only essential for cooking and warmth. Zombies burn nicely. Ashes can’t eat you.

11. Water:

This is a small bottle to give you a start. Once it’s gone, you’ll have to find water on your own.

12. Starlight Mints:

If you’re thirsty and find yourself between water sources, suck on a mint.

13. Tootsie Pops:

Not only a tasty treat, Tootsie Pops remind you not to be a ‘sucker’ who gets trapped in a zombie herd.

14. Pocket Ninja:

This wonder tool does everything from opening cans to fixing your glasses. Don’t leave home without it.

15. Crunchy Bars and Crackers:

Short term survival food is essential until you learn how to safely scavenge for food on your own.

Remember, the path to preparedness begins with you. This kit is only the beginning. Keep an axe on hand at all times. Watch for the warning signs. If someone looks like they want to take a bite out of you, don’t hesitate to run. After all, the most important key to survival is your feet. Make an appointment with Dr. Burdge today. Later, you’ll thank him for saving your life.

Of course, I also had to include something for the many who will not survive:

Zombie Apocalypse Treats

It is an unfortunate fact that only one in ten will survive a Zombie Apocalypse. This is why only one kit has been provided. Given these grim statistics, the treats are provided as a gesture of consolation. When the day arrives, may your head be severed swiftly, so the rest of you may rest in pieces.

(For more information on 72 hour kits for Zombie Apocalypses and/or other emergencies go to http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm. Really, I’m not joking. Check out the website. If the CDC says doomsday is headed our way, you better pay attention.)

Here in Houston ’tis the season for floods, hurricanes and preparedness. It hit too close to home a few months ago. The Bayou that is a short distance from our home flooded the road that runs over it. The water nearly swelled over the sides which have been fortified with extra piles of dirt and clay. And we live in a newer housing development with stricter building codes which are in place to prevent flooding. All the same, people’s homes less than five minutes from ours were flooded four and five feet deep.

Baton Rouge has recently experience the same. In both cases, volunteers from our church went to help for several weekends. I couldn’t personally go. They mainly needed muscle, so mostly men went. The women collected supplies and put together care kits for those who were displaced. Nothing feels better than doing service.

The Problem With Being a Parent

The Problem With Being a Parent

I’ve decided the problem with being a parent is the kids. No, it’s not that I wasn’t fully aware of the material aspects of the situation. Almost every prospective parent pauses to consider providing food, shelter, clothing, education, and any number of other basics before taking the plunge. It’s the other stuff no one explained to me, like personality quirks, for example.

My four year old daughter is determined to wear anything but what I have asked her to put on. I tell her she needs to wear pants, she shows up in shorts. We tell her to get ready for bed, she comes out of her room in a leotard. Sometimes I’ll find her dressed for the day in odd combinations like neon green floral shorts, a pastel print shirt, white cowboy boots (sans socks), and a frilly head band worn horizontally across her forehead.

This child is so driven by her own sense of style, she convinced her older brother he needed a hair cut and that she was the beautician for the job. The space underneath our dinner table, being conveniently out of sight, was transformed into her salon. My talented little hairdresser snipped off random chunks of hair until three bald spots were exposed across the back of my son’s head.

Needless to say, I was not pleased. It was, however, rather entertaining for the two of them as they watched their mother frantically search for some way to fix a mess that was un-fixable. As it turned out, my son was stuck with three bald spots for over a month.

The experts say that as parents we’re supposed to teach our children how to be responsible by giving them jobs, having them contribute to the needs of the family and home. Thus, I made up charts. All kinds of charts. Daily charts. Weekly charts. I evaluated what the kids could or could not handle from scrubbing the toilets (never) to depositing dirty diapers in the diaper pail (always).

To keep us headed in the right direction we have family meetings. My husband and I explain what is expected. Everyone agrees to help. Two mornings later, (if I’m lucky for two days) I’ll find myself reminding my seven-year-old son for the nine-hundredth time that he needs to make his bed.

“It’s too hard.” he complains. (Note, he has already performed the task to my satisfaction for at least two mornings.)

I tell him to do the best he can.

He says he needs to do his homework first.

I remind him that the bed should have been made before he left for school, thus the bed must be made before he begins his homework.

Suddenly the little man is gripped by the urgent need to relieve his bladder. He runs to the bathroom. (Heaven only knows why, if it was so urgent, he didn’t go running to the toilet sooner.)

An hour later I remember to check on his progress, only to find the bed spread and sheets draped across every piece of furniture in the room.

“Hey mom!” my son calls from beneath it all, “Look at my fort! Isn’t it totally cool?”

I’m ready to scream. Do you think any research has been done into the emotional trauma parents experience?

Just recently my husband opened our freezer and found one of our dinner glasses filled to the brim with half dissolved bits of pizza crust, olives, carrots, milk, tomato sauce, mushrooms and a small amount of water in addition to whatever else had been found left over from our pizza dinner two nights before. The two who had been assigned to dishwasher loading duty on that evening were called to be questioned.

“That’s our ‘spearment dad.” explained my daughter as if it was the obvious explanation we’d missed.

“We,” began my son in his most intellectual, know-it-all tone, “were trying to see if it would freeze.”

My husband paused to set the glass next to the kitchen sink and calm his emotions.

“Almost anything you put in the freezer will freeze.” he explained, “That’s why it’s called a freezer.”

“Of course.” replied my son loftily, “That’s what I thought. Rachelle was the one who wanted to know.”

My daughter stifled a giggle.

Both my husband and I suspected there was more to it than a simple “‘spearment” as she had called it.

“Well, please do not do anything like this again.” said my husband, “Now clean this mess up.”

The two of them always call their unique concoctions ‘experiments’ but, I’ve heard them making secret plans to feed the brews to their baby sister. Frankly, it’s not the notion of their baby sister consuming such muck that bothers me as much as them scheming to feed it to her.

Speaking of the baby, that singular, wiry little infant could almost count double for the trouble her two older siblings have caused. I believe she’s come to the conclusion that she is an adult, with all of the related privileges. Twice now I’ve found my makeup scattered and smeared into the carpet after one of her secret primping sessions. Mom and Dad’s bed is considered to be hers as well. She’s crawled between sheets to leave loving pen marks, smears of facial cream and dots of toothpaste.

What makes her the most dreadful of my three children, however, is her uncanny ability to escape from almost anything. Houdini would have been proud of a prodigy like her. She can climb out of any playpen, over any gate, under any play yard, out of any car seat, and into any cabinet or drawer no matter what precautions we take.

In the process of challenging her unique abilities, we’ve spent a significant amount of money. I’m proud of her obvious intelligence and physical dexterity. Her freedom, on the other hand, is going to drive me insane. The little daredevil will climb up to stand on high window ledges, her wobbly body scarcely retaining her position as she bangs on the glass with all her might.

What’s worse is that her mouth is constantly hiding (often swallowing) objectionable objects. I’ve already had the unique thrill of finding a large button in her diaper after it’s made the precarious journey in one end and out the other. Who was supposed to warn me about kids like her? Who was supposed to explain to me that there’s more to child raising than keeping them alive and showing them off in cute outfits at picnics?

My mother says I was a good baby. My parents also have an interesting picture of my father with a patch over his eye because I scratched it badly. There’s a lengthy gash down the front of the fridge my parents now keep in the garage. I’m told this was the result of little me having an altercation with a floor lamp. On that occasion, the floor lamp was deemed dead. Obviously the gouged refrigerator (brand new at the time) survived. There are even some tell-tale black marks around one of the electrical outlets at my old home where I decided to conduct an experiment of my own with a hanger. I admit it was a very memorable, yet painful experiment.

I remember how it used to make me angry when my mother told me to go change my clothes because she disapproved of the artful combination I’d concocted, and how huge and horrible our family room looked when it was time to pick up the toys. On my first day of kindergarten I trimmed my own bangs to one inch in length. Any member of my family can testify of my talent for avoiding dish duty by dashing to the toilet. (Trust me, I really did need to go.)

Maybe the problem with being a parent is that we’ve managed to forget what it was like when we were younger. Perhaps we remember the tough lessons we learned and don’t want our children to feel the same pain. It seems so much simpler to live the reasonably, get the work done when it needs to be done, wear what’s suitable for the weather, and think about the consequences before attempting something new.

Then again, maybe on occasion, it’s healthy to climb into my son’s bed sheet castle, to watch the look of triumph on my toddler’s face as she overcomes my latest attempt at confining her, wear the wild array of ribbons and clips my daughter’s twined into my hair, and see the world again from a whole new point of view.

In spite of the added stress, I love them. In fact, because of those exasperating moments, I think I love them more. It’s the balance between our two extremes which keeps us afloat. They keep me looking at new possibilities, I keep them within reason. It’s a system that, in it’s haphazard way, works.

Call Me Crazy

I know. You think I’m nuts. Hope in all things? Does this lady read the news? No! Wait! Does she even live a real life?

Call me crazy. As far as I’m concerned, the statement is true. But, as they say, ‘Rome didn’t fall in a day.’ It’s not like I can hand you some magical phrase that will change your world. We all know that’s not how life works.

Honestly, I was in the proverbial depths of hell when I came to the conclusion that there really is hope in all things. I could give you a lecture. But lectures are boring. Besides, I like to write stories. Here’s my first one:

Suicidal Thoughts

I could take the pills in my hand.
With a little water it would be easy.

My hand is shaking.

Some people say that life is hard and then we die.
So why not end it now before the hard part gets too big?

Nothing is better than nothing.

Now I see my children.
They are crying.
I am on the floor asleep.
Their sobbing will not wake me any more.
They beg for my attention.
They sit, lingering by my side
alone.

The pills will have to wait this time.

I hold my little ones
and weep.

 

You can figure out where the hope is in that one. It took me a little while to find it, but I caught on.