"Let's Go Home"

>> Friday, October 14, 2011

Jan (on the right) with Lisa Mikitarian
One of my writing buddies is a gal that I met through FaithWriters. Her name is Jan Ackerson and she lives just a few hours west of me. In the last three years, she has played numerous roles in my quest to become a writer:

*road trip co-pilot     *brain-pickee       *lunch date
*mentor/encourager/kick-in-the-pantser
*tutor                        
*future editor

Yup, she is one all-around important gal.

Jan also has a really cool writing blog called  "One Hundred Words." The whole theory is that there is power in just a few well-chosen words. She posts character studies, observations, and slice of life stories that are one hundred words--exactly. Since writers are a wordy bunch, this is a real challenge. And she does an awesome job at it. (Be sure to check out her blog and see for yourself.)

Not too long ago, Jan held a contest. She invited  writers to pick one of her stories and expound on it up to 1,000 words. You could either use the story itself or just the characters. The prize? A $50 Amazon gift card.

I'm a Kindle owner so you can bet I was yelling, "Woo-hoo, I'm in!"  I started re-reading all her delectable 100-word morsels and finally found just the right one to work with.

And I didn't win.  *wah*

But it was fun and a great exercise because being limited to 1,000 words is kind of hard. (Can't imagine trying the 100 thing...) Thought I'd share my entry in hopes of making you smile.

And if you're so inclined, feel free to send me an Amazon gift card...my Kindle would be eternally grateful.

(The italicized is Jan's original story.)
                                        "Let's Go Home"
The woman pushing a stroller was half a block ahead of Kris. She was probably in her sixties—a proud grandma. Every few feet, the woman would peer into the stroller, murmuring something Kris couldn’t hear.

Kris’ steps were quicker than the grandmother’s, so she heard what she said while parking the stroller in front of the library:

“You’ll be fine here, sweetie. I’ll just be a few minutes.” The woman disappeared inside.

Oh, surely not, thought Kris. You wouldn’t leave the baby… she hurried to the stroller, angry.

There sat a contented fat calico, wearing a white lace bonnet.

Kris stepped back, stunned, and hoped no one had seen her faux pas. She whooshed a relieved sigh after peering down the empty street and returned her gaze to the stroller. The cat blinked, appearing quite indignant that the intruder dared disturb his nap as the clip-clop of hurried steps announced the return of the woman.

“Oh dear, Mr. Patty-Cakes. Have you been naughty again?” The woman fussed over the stroller, rearranging a pink crochet blanket. Eventually she straightened up as Kris gawked. “Did he try to escape? He does that sometimes. But for the most part, he’s a good boy. And oh, how he loves our walks. Don’t you, Mr. Patty-Cakes?” She slipped a bag out of her pocket and popped a Kitty Kookie into the cat’s eager mouth.

Kris’ jaw dropped as the lady tossed another treat in the air and neatly snagged it in a move that would make Orville Redenbacher proud. Not knowing whether she should applaud or be nauseous, she swallowed and croaked, “Why no, Ma’am. He didn’t try to escape. In fact he didn’t move a bit.” She felt proud of the cat—and wondered why she would champion for the chubby feline. “It’s amazing that he stays in there.”

The lady harrumphed. “Well, it certainly took a while to ‘convince’ him of it. And occasionally he forgets. Come along then—we must be on our way. You may walk with us.”

Dumbfounded, Kris trailed behind and wondered where they were going. The lady chattered on about nothing and everything, pausing only long enough to inquire of Kris’ name. She halted her march in front of a brick building with a sign that read, “Shady Oaks Retirement Home.”

“Is this where you live, Ma’am?” Kris had passed by the pleasant structure with well-manicured lawns a hundred times.

“Yes. We’ve lived here for several years. It’s nice enough, if you like that sort of thing. But since Homer left us, we just never got around to moving. My darling Patty misses our old house, but they feed us well.” Kris smirked, as it was apparent that the rotund cat had not missed many meals.

“Well, dear, it has been so nice to meet you but I must get Mr. Patty-Cakes his dinner now. Why don’t you come visit us sometime? We’re in room 238 and I’m sure my little dumpling would be just delighted to see you again.”

Before she knew it, Kris had committed to a visit the following weekend.  She turned to leave then hesitated. “Uh, Ma’am. What’s your name?”

“Oh, of course—silly me. It’s Ginger. Ginger Marley. Nice to meet you, dear. See you soon.” With a wave, she fluttered off, cooing to Mr. Patty-Cakes as she maneuvered the stroller inside, leaving Kris staring.

And trying to figure out what the heck had just happened.

Kris quickly became a regular visitor at Shady Oaks. She and Ginger (and of course, Mr. Patty-Cakes) became fast friends. They strolled the grounds, played Backgammon, and often chatted in the common room over afternoon tea.

On a leaf-scattered autumn day a few months later, she hurried into the lobby and saluted the receptionist. She hustled toward room 238, anxious to see Ginger’s thrilled reaction over the chamomile tea she had found. And Mr. Patty would jiggle a happy dance when he spied the bag of Kitty Kookies.

A quick rap on the door brought no response and as Kris pushed open the door, all she found was Mr. Patty-Cakes perched on the easy chair. She turned as the receptionist skidded to a halt in the doorway, panting. “Oh, Kris, I tried to stop you…”

“So where’s Ginger? Did she go out? She knew I was coming today.” Mr. Patty-Cakes yawned and jumped down to weave around her legs. She absently picked him up, stroking color-splotched fur.

The receptionist hesitated and took a deep breath. “No one knew how to get a hold of you. Ginger, well… she passed away this morning. We were hoping you would come today...I’m so sorry…”

Stunned, Kris sank into the chair. Tears slid down her cheeks and plopped on Mr. Patty-Cakes. Undisturbed, he burrowed into Kris’ lap and with a purr, kneaded in pre-nap preparation.

“Has anyone called her family? What about Homer? I don’t care if they’re divorced. Someone should let him know.”

The receptionist shook her head. “There is no one. They never had kids. And what made you think she and Homer were divorced? They lived right here together. He passed away shortly after they moved in, but she stayed on. Always said that if it was good enough for Homer, it was good enough for Mr. Patty-Cakes.”

They hadn’t talked much about Homer. Kris had just assumed that when Ginger said he’d “left” them, she meant they were divorced. Her stomach started to roll as understanding hit like the twenty-four hour flu. “You mean I was the only one she had?” Tears striped down the cat’s tummy as he dozed, oblivious.
Patches: My version of "Mr. Patty-Cakes"

She abruptly hugged the tubby calico, startling him awake. He squirmed, but soon calmed as she settled him in the stroller, tying the white lace bonnet under his chin. Tucking the pink crochet blanket around him, she headed for the door.

“Come on, Mr. Patty-Cakes. Let’s go home.”

3 comments:

Joanne Sher October 14, 2011 at 11:07 AM  

What a sweet story. And Jan IS amazing. So are you :)

Rita Garcia October 15, 2011 at 1:45 PM  

Jan is an absolutely amazing in every way! Thanks for sharing this delightful story. Hugs! :)

dandelionfleur October 21, 2011 at 10:25 AM  

Really enjoyed your story, Kim! And I laughed at how Jan has been part of your writing journey--especialy the first point.

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