Tag Archives: Forgetown

Forgetown 1.14 – The Fight For St. Stephen’s Begins

The news was out, of course.

It would have been un-Christlike to say it, but both Fr. Tom and his right-hand woman Jean McGinty knew that the leak about the parish merger could only have come from St. Stephen’s. From their point of view Fr Andrucyzk and his staff thought of it less in terms of a leak and more as ‘the best defence’.

Fr. Andruczyk ‘didn’t do email’, so all his commmunications were intercepted by Sal Lezek who — in this case — gasped thearically, attracting the attention of the Women’s Spirituality Group meeting in the dining room. They all put down their study guides and watched, wide eyed, as Sal rolled past the open door on her way to the kitchen where Fr. A was embarking on his second helping of the donuts the ladies invariably brought for him.

“They’ve gone and done it,” Sal wailed. “They’re closing us down and we’ve all got to go to St. Therese!”

Well, from there, the Women’s Spirituality Group had forgotten all about the Psalms and the meeting broke up in a cacophony of exclamations and half-formed memories, plans for the future and not a few dabs at moist eyes with crumpled Kleenex pulled from the depths of a purse or a sleeve. The ladies all — eventually — went home, stopping along the way to share the news with Flo in the Dollar Store (because her uncle had been a St. Stephen’s priest back in the day, God rest him) and with Andre Marek, who could always be found in Pat’s Kitchen on Steel St at this time of day and who knew more about the history of St Stephen’s than any man alive. Tones of outrage sang down the telephone lines and by the time Fr. Tom was arriving at the St. Stephen’s Parish House for lunch, the “Save St. Stephens” Facebook page had received an extra 754 belated “likes” for a total of 1027. Not impressive numbers, Andre would later comment, but his accountant’s heart coldn’t help but swell at the thought that it was — a quick doodle on his napkin told him — a 73.4% rise on the disappointing number it had stood at for most of the past year, and almost 200% more than the number of people at mass on an average weekend. That had to mean something, didn’t it?

Andre peered at the flat screen of hs phone. With the font bumped up to accommodate his weakening eyesight, he could only see three or four words on each line of the Facebook app. Most of them were in all-caps.

SAVE OUR CHURCH, the screen screamed. The comment came from someone whose name he didn’t recognize.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

Andre stabbed at the ‘Read More Comments” option and let his eyes drift down the screen.

[outrage]
[bickering]
[more outrage]

Heat rose to his face. Fumbling, he thumbed into his phone:

“If you care so much where have you been for the past year?”

He stared at the screen. What he had ACTUALLY managed to produce with his arthritic thumbs read,

“If you all. Cars so much where have you been dorky be teas….”

He sighed. He should, he knew, probably take this as a sign that God didn’t want him to add to the vitriol being spread around in His name. His thumb hovered over the ‘delete’ key for a second longer, then he pressed down again until he was left with nothing but an empty comment box and a blinking cursor.

A gum-snapping teenaged waitressed sidled over, waving a coffee pot.

“What’s happening in the world, Mr Marek?”

He looked up at the girl. She was unmistakably kin to Pat-of-Pat’s Kitchen. Probably a granddaugther at this point. What a thought. He didn’t know her name, though he felt he should.

“Change,” he said, laying his phone on the formica table top.

The girl sighed deeply.

“I could go for some of that,” she said, pouring his coffee and turning away.

Andre blinked and watched her go. I got old, he thought. When did that happen?

Forgetown Episode 1.04 – How Stella Lost Her Groove

ForgeTown Cover“I’m going to kill you, you little creep!”

Yeah, that’s what I said. Top of my voice too. I know Kath’ll be all ‘pipe down, missy, what about the neighbors’, but I don’t care. The little snot was dangling a bird — a dead bird — right in front of my face. Who wouldn’t yell?

I don’t want anyone in this stupid town to like me, anyway. I don’t even want to be here. I was dragged —no choice — like a prisoner transfer, against my will. Really there should be a Geneva Convention for kids or something.

I know, I’m being a total cliche: pre-teen drama queen. I can’t help it.  I’m the one who’s had her whole life ripped out from under her. I was all set to start the coolest middle school on the face of the planet…ok, probably the coolest middle school on the planet. Granted I don’t know all of them. In fact do they even have middle schools in other places? I mean, like, do they have middle schools in England? I’m guessing probably. But what about China? Or Thailand? We did a whole unit on Thailand with Mrs Murphy last year but nobody ever thought to tell us whether or not they had middle schools. They made us learn all about the boring system of government and the food and drink but seriously, no adult thought that we’d be interested in where the kids in Thailand spend most of their waking lives?

Anyway, I was so over that school by half way through last year, but then I was supposed to be going Boston Latin and that’s like super cool and Olivia was coming, and both Emilys and, OK McKenzie Gravas was going to be there too, but none of her evil gang of friends made it, so we might have been able to turn her away from the dark side…

Now I’m here with stupid Robbie dangling dead birds in my face and laughing like a maniac and I’m going to some unnamed public school with who-knows who else. And oh yeah, here comes Kath, round the corner of this ugly new house, and she’s got ‘that’ face on. What do you want to bet I’m the one who gets in trouble for ‘making a scene’ while sweet little Robbie will get a pat on the head and a quick ‘tut tut’?

It’s all right for her. She’s an adult. They make friends no problem. Meet in the market? Oo, we’re new here, we should be friends! Leaving church? Oh hi there, you must come to the parish picnic, let’s be friends. And this, this summer was going to be great. We were finally old enough to be allowed to take the T all the way to the Common. We were going to do picnics and hang out at the pond and pretend we were movie stars. And now I’m going to be in my room, a recluse, with no-one to do anything with. I”ll have to spend the whole summer on Instagram with Olivia and the Emilies. I’ll probably get so pale I’ll get sick from Vitamin D deficiency and have to miss the start of school because I’m in hospital undergoing some special light therapy and then I’ll be The New Kid for the next three years, even though I only came two weeks late. Oh God.

“What are you two doing?” That’s Kath. She hates it when I call her that, but what am I supposed to do? She’s always been “Mommy” and I can’t call her that now. Changing what I call her is weird anyway, so why not just use her name?

“Is that a dead bird? Oh God, Robbie, get rid of it and go inside and…I don’t even know if we have running water yet so you can wash your hands. Oh Robert Julio Morris, how could you do this?! Stel, you OK? Young man, come with me. We’re going to the car. I’ve got some Purell. Don’t make this day any harder than it has to be!”

She hugged me! Robbie’s giving me that ‘help me’ look over his shoulder but there’s nothing I can do when she’s in a mood like this. Ride it out, little brother, and I’ll see you on the other side. Poor kid.

And that’s my mother for you. Completely unpredictable. How is a girl supposed to know what to do with a mother like that?


 



Forgetown Episode 1.03 – Kath And Evan-Devon-Maybe-Ethan

“Robbie? Stella?” Kath’s voice hissed across the still morning air.

“Kids!” Don bellowed and was rewarded with as swift punch to the upper arm from his loving wife.

“What?”

“Shh! Do you want us to be ‘those neighbors who yell at their kids’?”

“Do we care?”

Kath stopped, one foot on the first step of their new house and stared at Don. So perceptive in so many ways and completely thick in so many others. No shame, that man, that was his problem. Still she had enough shame for the whole family.

“Mrs Morris?” The youngest and most distractingly good looking of the movers met them on the top step, hand outstretched.

“Hi, so nice to meet you,” Kath smiled her friendliest style, the one that said ‘I’m totally not looking down on you because you do manual labor for a living, in fact I respect it and I’m desperately uncomfortable because I’m sort of your employer for today and I’m not the kind of person who has servants…’. Stop it. Don’t lose the plot, Kath. Back to the gorgeous man-boy-for-hire. “Actually it’s Ms Rodriguez.”

The man-boy’s eyebrows twitched upwards and he glanced briefly at Don who, as usual, was enjoying the moment.

“I, uh,” the adonis began. Now he was checking his clipboard. “Sorry, I just, uh…”

“It’s OK, Bud,” Don swept in, reaching into his pocket for the shiny new front door key. “You have the right place. She took me, but not the name. She’s old-fashioned that way.”

It was true. While it had been all the rage to keep your own name back when Kath and Don had married, Kath had been faintly annoyed to notice that it had remained, on the whole, a fringe trend. Younger women shed their names as quickly as they had previously shed their inhibitions, adopting their “Mrs” and a pre-packaged set of conservative social values as soon as they marched back up the aisle. It was very strange. It hadn’t been so bad in the professional world of Boston’s advertising industry but she had started to notice a lot of her friends leading a double life after kids came long: Ms Individual at work, Mrs FamilyName at the Home and School Association. She should probably do the same but she couldn’t. No matter how much confusion it caused she couldn’t stop the “Rodriguez”slipping out.

Don had the door open now and was asking the chief moving guy his name. Kath missed it — it was something like Evan or Devon or possibly Ethan — and was kicking herself for being so damned awkward around new people. She had sworn it wasn’t going to happen here. She was facing a whole life of new people and she was just going to have to figure out how to do the small-talk thing without sticking her foot in her mouth or dissolving in to a puddle of perspiration every single time.

“Tell you what, let’s keep it simple,” her husband was saying. “I’m Don and this is Kath. The holy terrors are Robbie and Stella and you just feel free to give them a kick up the rear if they get under your feet.” And then everyone was laughing like old friends. It wasn’t fair. Smart and charming. She cast and appreciative eye over her husband. He had grown out of that awkward male-in-his-thirties thing and was looking — though she daren’t say it to his face — quite distinguished now. Rugged. Streaks of grey. Smile lines setting in around the corners of his eyes. Yeah, she’d picked a good one. And he made beautiful children too…

The thought had barely started to form when it was cut short by a piercing scream from somewhere down the side of the building. She and Don reached the corner of the building at a run together. Evan-Devon-Maybe-Ethan, to his credit, was only a pace or two behind.




Forgetown Episode 1.01 – Moving Day

It was one of those big orange moving trucks. That was what caught her eye.

Mary Szabowski swayed by the window, gripping her walker. She had been on her way to John’s faded old recliner, ready for her daily dose of Good Morning America, but this promised to be much more interesting.

A big orange struck filling half the street? That meant a corporate move from somewhere far away. Or someone with more money than pick-up-driving friends. But why would someone like that move into this neighborhood? Mary shifted her weight and adjusted her grip not he walking frame. Her feet were numb in her hard-soled slippers and she would have to sit down before long. Not until I get a look at the new neighbors.

Moves around here ranged from a procession of pickups and station wagons disgorging laundry baskets overflowing with possessions, to the occasional Two Men and A Truck move — usually on the way out, when the babies were preteens and Dad and finally been promoted often enough to qualify for a crippling mortgage in one of the new developments eating up the land where Mary had spent childhood summer afternoons on friends’ farms. Not that anyone farmed anymore, except those incomer hippie-types with their brown clothing and their farmers’ markets and their godless, ungroomed children.

The long shadow of a silver Minivan slunk around the corner, followed by the car itself. It gleamed, almost pink in the early morning sun. It pulled up outside Number 4 and the doors popped open. The rear doors slid, like something from a B-movie — automatic, Mary noted. You could tell about these things, even from a distance. With a grunt, she shuffled around the break-open between her two tall living room windows to see if she could get a look at the big car’s plates. Wheezing past a lifetime encased in glass and wood — the crystal champagne flutes Mitzi had given them on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary; a sugar bowl from her grandmother’s china set; the track and field trophy John Jr had won, senior year in high school; and frame upon frame filled with pictures of people looking as they had when Mary had still seen them regularly — she lunged at the second windowsill, slid the fingers of her free hand between the vinyl mini blind’s slats.

Massachusetts plates? They had come a long way. Putting it all together, she’d have to say he’d come to work at one of those, what did they call them now, ‘life sciences’ companies that powered the greater Philadelphia region. Or it could be ‘her’ whose job had moved them, Mary reminded herself. She felt the familiar stab of pleasure and bitterness at the fortunes of women half her age. She shoved it aside. She was turning into another Mitzi, and she would not let that happen!

Two children tumbled out of the open doors, scrambling up the driveway — a boy and a girl she thought, though this seemed to be one of those years when it was fashionable for boys and girls to wear each others’ hair and dress in bright, baggy unisex clothes, so she couldn’t really be sure.

Her knees trembled. She really would have to sit down soon — and that nice Colin Firth was due on GMA this morning. She wouldn’t want to miss that. Still, she could manage a few more minutes at the window. The new neighbors were getting out of the car now, and who knew if she’d live long enough to enjoy another moving day, at her age. You wouldn’t get to watch this kind of thing at that ‘care community’ in Ohio that John Jr kept dropping hints about. Just old fogies like her, trailed by a Barcalounger and a scant few boxes of mementos to clutter up a single, uniform shelf in their rooms. Mary clucked her tongue and raised the arch eyebrow that had once been the terror of generations of children passing through the halls of Forgetown Elementary, not to mention the former child-inhabitants of Phoenix Street. He won’t get me into a old folks’ home, she vowed. Not while I have my wits about me. Dropping all pretense now, Mary fiddled with the blinds until they were wide open and turned her full attention back to Number 4, while her legs still held out.


Come back tomorrow for the next episode: “On Phoenix Street” or subscribe to receive new episodes by email.

Writer, Interrupted

I was having a great writing morning, after a day when I couldn’t get my head to either wake up or focus on one thing for more than four seconds (I think that was, actually, my personal best).

I had just written most of a short story (a new episode in the Forgetown series) and was firing up my laptop in order to transfer my handwritten version into Scrivener (the program I’m using for this and most of my writing now).

“Just about to” I say, because then my 11 year old (wow, that still shocks me. I did so much blogging when he was a baby and toddler, that typing about him as an 11 year old seems weirder than looking at the evidence in front of me) burst out through the door to the deck, clutching handfuls of fabulously creative figures made from bits and pieces of Lego Hero Factory in a cross-over (in our minds at least) with Doctor Who. He wanted to tell me all about what he had created.

And really, how could I say no?

I see it as a mark of my increasing maturity that I did not run flailing around the deck, stamping my feet, wringing my hands and crying ‘No! No! No! But it was all going so well!”. Instead I listened to my child tell me all about his daydreams, made manifest in shades of plastic.

Eventually, of course, I dismissed him with the excuse that I had to get some stuff done before we went out to pick up his brother, and that was perfectly true. But I did listen and nod and even offer a thought or two during the 25 minute oration, which shows I was paying attention and not merely thinking about my own story behind fake-interested eyes!

In the Good News department, I finished the story and typed it up (with roving edits) this afternoon while said brother rotted his brain on a new twitch-video game. Will make amends later.

I’m up to 9 episodes complete in the Forgetown saga. When I get to 10 it might be time to start putting them online.  What do you think?

 

Introducing Forgetown

Running StoryADay May is a fabulous experience. I love interacting with the other writers and watching them push themselves and celebrate themselves and actually *do* the thing they’re always saying they want to do.

But it does tend to have an adverse affect on my own writing, oddly enough. I didn’t have a workable plan for this year (writing stories set in the ‘universe’ of my ongoing novel turned out to be too distracting, because I just kept wanting to get back to the novel). I did write several stories that might or might not end up being part of the novel (or adding to that universe) and some separate stories, but I certainly didn’t make it to 31.

Still, I did write and now that May is over, and having taken several days (14 or so) to wallow in the freedom from my daily deadline, I’m finally back to writing again.

Serial Stories

A few months ago I picked up 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, intrigued by the idea of it being a, set in Edinburgh, a city where I love-love-loved living and b, having been written in daily installments for The Scotsman.

I had started it before May started and put it aside, but have been tearing through it again recently (and just picked up the sequel, having been quite delighted to realize that there are something like seven more volumes).

One of the things I really liked about it is that it wasn’t perfect. It was just OK in places. And it wasn’t until later in the book that some really interesting characters turned up, and that I started to look forward to each new day’s segment.

The reason I liked this, is that it reminds me that the more you write, the better it gets. And it doesn’t have to be flawless.

Rising To The Challenge

For a long, long time, I’ve wanted to write something like this, set in and around the fascinating little town where I live. I was first inspired by the Lake Woebegon stories on A Prairie Home Companion, but couldn’t see a way in. Alexander McCall Smith’s style resonated much more with me: entertaining, whimsical, never taking itself too seriously, examining the minute details of everyday life to entertain and examine larger issues, seeing and celebrating the ridiculous while not being too silly…Scottish, in a word.

One of the things that struck me was that the author, in his introduction, said that he was enjoying writing his daily installments so much that it had never, not once, seemed like a chore. That sounds like something to aim for!

So I’ve found a way in to my long-cherished dream, and started a series of stories loosely centered around a family who moves to a small town something like the one I call home. I have a cast of characters to get me started, and I’m sure that others will turn up — especially since one turned up, uninvited, on the first page and endeared herself to me immediately, stalling the arrival of the ‘main’ characters by an episode.

I haven’t decided what to do with these stories but, if I can get a few more under my belt soon, I may start publishing them here. They’re meant to be just for fun. Just to see what happens. I feel like I have a sense of what will happen throughout this first ‘season’ of their lives in Forgetown (as I have named their hometown), so I plan to write until they reach that point and then take a break.

Of course, I still have other projects on the go, like the novel I’m determined to finish and the series of non-fiction articles I’m writing for someone else, and of course, keeping the StoryADay community ticking over…

Ambitious, moi?