January Writing Group: Cold Outside, Warm in Our Hearts
There aren’t many things that can entice me out of the apartment on January evenings, but my writing group is one of them. This time around, Ebeth did her first turn as host, and as usual we drank lots of wine and wrote lots of words.
I’ve scanned in the photos upon which each story is based, with the exception of Sacha’s, because someone in my household threw it out by accident when we were cleaning up for guests. It’s obviously gone, unable to survive in isolation from the other three photos. But in a classic twist on the domestic drama, S. Jam Fitzgerald insists that it’s probably still in the apartment somewhere, because he’s not a thrower outer, he’s a stacker.
The mystery is deep. Will it tear this family apart? Spoiler alert: No, but it will result in my being provided with a tray for my stray papers so I no longer lose track of them.
Sacha’s picture was of a bucolic country castle. Sorry Sacha!
By Greg Wands
It’s interesting to think about how things come to be. There’s a foot-worn path over a certain hill because someone, at some point, figured out that it was faster to walk over than around. A tree toward the top of the hill, simply because the wind dropped the seed in that spot. A crack in the stone slab, as a result of how the tree rooted. A handsome bench flanking the tree, because the carpenter who lives down the path found the shade of the tree to be a fine relief on a scorcher of a day. A carving in the bench, because Tom Phillips had to let anyone who passed by know for how long he would love Joni Harmon. Jimmy Phillips, because Joni wanted to let Tom know how much she loved him back. Jimmy, all grown up now, hand-in-hand with Lisa Robertson, ascending the path up the hill to bathe in the shade of the tree on this, a scorcher of a day.
By Elizabeth Rose
She was always surprised by the number of hours he could spend in a hot tub, entire afternoons at a time. She found it nearly impossible to sit still for that long, to waste whole stretches of a day just lounging around, and this restlessness had not abated just because the two of them were on vacation. She preferred to be productive, to accomplish things, to check items off of a list. However, since her companion had made it perfectly clear he intended to luxuriate in a pool of warm bubbles until dinnertime, she decided to try and relax by ordering a drink. She was now on her third “coconut colada” – what the drink consisted of, she could not say for sure – and that all too familiar feeling of self-disgust was creeping up on her.
When he had asked her if she would accompany him to Belize for a week, she immediately said yes. She saw no downside at the time and she’d never been to Belize. The affair had started out quite casually with him approaching her one night when she was out with a friend. At first she found his presence to be an annoyance. She thought it very presumptuous of him to assume he was welcome to join their twosome. Yet she found herself being charmed by him in spite of herself. There was a genuineness about him – or so she had initially thought. They exchanged contact information at the end of the evening and he had asked her out for the following weekend. Now, six months later, she was at an extravagant resort in Belize with a married man.
By Sarah Stodola
He turned on the faux-Asian lamp that had always taunted the aesthetic of conventional rebellion in his room. He vaguely remembered seeing it for the first time in the house of his grandfather, who died when he was nine. It used to light up the corner of the living room, where his grandfather liked to read the paper and smoke his pipe in one of those arm chairs that only old men can look dignified in.
Later, the hideous lamp made its way to Josh’s room, illuminating the many hours he preferred to spend alone as a teenager. His parents sometimes mistook his preference for solitude as a cause for worry. But it was never that. His had been, and still was, a solitude of introspection, not depression.
Now, with the lamp on, he lay back on his old bed and tried to re-inhabit his younger self, who’d lain just like this, listening to music mostly, and thinking about the big questions that teenagers by definition think there will eventually be answers to.
His room hadn’t been touched since 1996, the year he left for college. He felt a sudden anger toward his mother for never bothering to give this room a second life after he left. Now it was a time capsule, and that seemed creepy, even though he knew it was more than likely a product of mere laziness. And even though his father could have recycled the room, too, it was his mother who should have known better.
That his mother and father no longer lived in this house remained an abstract concept. Josh picked up his banjo, offered a silent apology to his younger self for it not being a guitar, and started strumming. It sounded flat in this room, like music couldn’t travel here, like something was holding it back. Which was dumb, he knew. It sounded flat because of the thick carpet.
[Photo of Bucolic Country Castle Goes Here]
By Sacha Wynne
From far enough afield, when the dim sky was tinted with the soft pink of supper club powder rooms (the magic shade that cast vibrant flickers of youth over even the most turgid matrons), one could believe that he stood in the shadow of an ancient castle. Perhaps not a king’s primary residence, but surely his majesty’s home during the hunt. In reality, the castle was neither ancient, nor royal: it was strictly academic, and was built as such in a nod to the European tradition that The Founders were supposedly so eager to buck.
As the sun continued its retreat, Roy watched as light peppered the windows. He looked at the strange new place that was to be his home for the next four years, and wondered: did his mother miss him, or was she happy her heels were finally free of his nipping. He wondered if, when he and Charlie returned home over the holiday break, they would be greeted by her dazzling grin, or the melancholy smile that creased her face. He wondered if her momentary loss of them weighed her down, as everything had since their father was lost. In The War.