I wrote things for my Creative Writing class.
Turns out people want to read them. People who obviously lack any sense of taste (but are otherwise lovely creatures with a plethora of talents).
Here’s what I turned in today.
Daphne, Called Doug
Later, she would say that none of it would have happened, had it not been for the post office job. It was a rite of passage in those days, fought over tooth-and-nail by the fearsomely enterprising mothers of Ochopee, Florida, a town so small it was frequently omitted on maps. The post office job was renowned for its successful record of marriages, a string unbroken since 1912, when an engagement was successfully arranged before the future groom was blown to bits by a grenade in Austria. This year, it had gone to Daphne (called Doug by most everybody but her mother), born May the fourth, 1949 to a glum dentist and his busybody wife, who spent most of her shift putting up postcards of places she’d rather be, wishing for something, anything other than that.
“Daphne. Daphne? Daphne!”
“It’s Doug.” The girl escapes up the stairs and into her room, dragging a battered, much-beloved trunk across the door in a practiced motion before the incessant rapping of sharp knuckles on wood begins.
Her brown hair has twined its way from its stifling mass of bobby pins, and her pantyhose has as many runs as there are years of drab existence lined on her father’s solemn face. Daphne-called-Doug whips off the offending garments, stripping to a plain white bra before tugging on well-worn, shapeless overalls.
“Daphne, honey, come outside. We can talk about this!” There it is, the saccharine tone in her mother’s wheedling voice that says Doug’s teeth grating.
“Ma, I told you, I’m not getting married. Ever. And even if I did, it wouldn’t be to Roland Myers.”
Roland Myers, with his fleshy features and baby fat, dressed just carefully enough in the summer heat—beads of sweat climbing above the tight collar of his obscenely white shirt—to earn the title of ‘dandy’ among the eligible girls in town. Roland Myers, whom Doug knows is right now sitting stiffly at the kitchen table, staring about with wide eyes and worrying a starched handkerchief between sweaty palms.
Doug’s mother lets out an indignant squawk and rustles downstairs, all two hundred and forty pounds of her and three skirts too.
“Well, I never!” comes faintly from the stairwell—her new favorite phrase, plucked from the pages of a magazine serial about families who spend their time loving feverishly and plotting because they have too much money to do anything else.
“Well, I never,” Doug mouths to herself in the mirror of her white vanity, hands on hips and eyes rolled to the heavens.
“Go up there and do something!” her mother hisses downstairs, and oh Lord, now her dad has been enlisted. He trudges up the stairs with the resigned air of a man going to his doom, sighing at every step while Doug feverishly tosses every article of clothing she owns with a minimum number of frills (not many) into a traveling valise.
There’s tentative knock. Doug feels an inexplicable swell of rage as she viciously stuffs a serviceable gray dress into the valise, glaring at it viciously.
“Daph—Doug? Your mother wanted me to come and talk to you.” Doug can imagine him now, standing there behind the door, shifting from foot to foot awkwardly, scratching his black-turning-gray bristles with a long, pale finger. She packs faster, reverently lays on top the travel issue of Life Magazine she bought for 25 cents at the lone gas station and hid under her mattress for years, blushed over like a secret lover.
“Dad—it’s okay. I know you don’t want to be in the middle. You don’t have to do that anymore.” Suddenly she’s bone-tired, gazing at herself in the mirror, standing in worn denim in the middle of her room, a flurry of lace curtains and blue bedding—blue, not pink, because she put her foot down. Literally, stomping on the floor of the only store to sell bedding in town, tinny music dim in the background as Doug’s mother laid a veiny hand on a package of crisply starched linens, pink like a baby’s flushed skin after a bath, and cast an exasperated look toward her husband as he shied away and poked gingerly at a gaudy, floral bedspread. But that was March, and it’s July now. Sweat beads on the nape of her neck, and it’s time.
Doug draws out the pair of scissors from her vanity, fighting the irrational impulse to shut her eyes as she lifts them to her head and hacks. A chunk of hair, liberated, falls to the floor of her room. Already she feels lighter. Giddy, she lifts, cuts, shapes for herself a slightly crooked bob and gives herself a crooked grin in the mirror to match.
“Honey? Please come out. Your mother wants to talk to you.” Her father’s long-suffering voice floats in under the door, but the short-haired woman standing tall in overalls isn’t who he wants. Doug lugs a small chest out from under her bed, heavy with the tips she hoarded from the post office, the result of months of scrupulous politeness to a few admirers and charm to the older patrons.
She tips the merrily rattling coins into her valise, nods to the foreign bedroom of who-she-should-have-been, then slips out of the open window and runs along the edge of the roof to swing down the gutter.
Her father knocks. Her mother mutters. Roland’s hands flutter.