Temblor- Prompt 2

by | Oct 18, 2020 | Dean Cleaning Two | 4 comments

Temblor

 

Mornings were hectic with a preschooler and a second grader, one a girl, the other a boy, both insisting that they don’t need a shower, they don’t want oatmeal, and they will not put on their uniforms. The father is in New York on a business trip. He’s been gone for a week, but it really doesn’t matter because when he’s home, he’s not home, he’s already gone and at work ‘til seven, sometimes eight. But the evenings are easy. Feed them, read a book, say good-night and close the door.

 

But mornings! Faces squinched up with sleep. Tempers shooting out of fingertips. Shove. Push, Shout. Cry. Mom pouring Capt. Crunch for him, toaster waffles for her. Milk spilled.

 

When the carpool honk sounds, they pour out the door, boy, girl, mom. Barry’s old Jetta emits its morning death rattle. Doors open, the girl has her leg in, her backpack swinging over her shoulder, and the mom screams, the car is moving, but it isn’t. Barry yells. Kids scream. The mom looks around, the chimney dances, a brick falls, wisps through ferns, thuds dirt. Barry’s out of the Jetta. Behind the gate, the terrier barks, yelps, runs back and forth. Earthquake.

 

They stand on the grass, far from the house, the trees, the telephone wires. Barry and his kid, her boy, her girl. The jolt lasted a couple of seconds. Hearts drum. They catch their communal breath.

 

Barry asks, “What now?”

 

The mom says, “I don’t know.”

 

“Should we go to school?”

 

Their faces are pale, the boys shout.  “Stay home. Stay home.” The girl plops on the ground. shreds the grass.

 

Barry says, “That’s probably it, don’t you think?”

 

“Could be a foreshock,” says the mom. “I don’t know.”

 

“Let me take them. I can bring them back.”

 

“If they’re here, they’ll just worry about it.” The mom hugs herself, heart racing. “Let them go.”

 

She watches as the old Jetta backs out of the driveway, and when the car is gone, she walks to the gate, opens it, and gathers the terrier in her arms, the two of them shaking in the sun.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Kella

    Gay, this is such an evocative event on which to focus: an earthquake. I love the opening description of readying two children who are not thrilled to be up, to be required to make decisions about uniforms, breakfast, and movement: “But mornings! Faces squinched up with sleep. Tempers shooting out of fingertips. Shove. Push, Shout. Cry.”

    So many beautiful, rich lines of description and movement:
    “…insisting that they don’t need a shower, they don’t want oatmeal, and they will not put on their uniforms.”
    “He’s been gone for a week, but it really doesn’t matter because when he’s home, he’s not home, he’s already gone and at work ‘til seven, sometimes eight.” (THIS! I don’t think people often realize how alone mothers are in this set-up)
    “…gathers the terrier in her arms, the two of them shaking in the sun.”

    It is outstanding that the characters in this piece go about their day, not as if nothing happened, but in spite of it. So lovely & alive & interesting! I enjoyed reading your writing so much, Gay.
    ~Kella

    • Paul Beckman

      Gay-Your beginning read to me like reading a story to a five or six-year-old. It was the way you phrased this so accurate and simple until it wasn’t because of the earthquake and then it was again with “she walks to the gate, opens it, and gathers the terrier in her arms, the two of them shaking in the sun.”. I so enjoyed this.

  2. Tommy Dean

    Love, love this opening paragraph! Rings so true and resonant!

    “But mornings! Faces squinched up with sleep. Tempers shooting out of fingertips. Shove. Push, Shout. Cry. Mom pouring Capt. Crunch for him, toaster waffles for her. Milk spilled.” Love the staccato firing of these sentences! How they fit the feeling of the narrator so well! So overwhelmed that they can only describe it in fragments!

    “Barry’s old Jetta emits its morning death rattle. ” Love this description and the way it precedes the earthquake is genius!

    “They catch their communal breath.” yes!

    he girl plops on the ground. shreds the grass.Yes, love this! I know this girl now!

    Love the dialogue and the ending here, gives me a Carver kind of feeling. Love how understated it is, and I love the return to the shakes!

  3. Roberta Beary

    Love this story both for the memories (of when I lived in Japan when my kids were small and earthquakes were not uncommon), and for the amazing story-telling.

    You left me wanting more. I hope you make this a longer piece.

    Favourite line: “Could be a foreshock,” says the mom. “I don’t know.” The layers of that statement!

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