In our staff break room on January second, four years ago, I announced that I would finish my novel by year’s end. On the following January second when I entered the break room for my morning coffee, I received a lot of flack with several people commenting about unfinished business. Their voices dripped with false sincerity as they asked when I’d have my earth-shattering novel finished.
It was my fault. I was far too vociferous when I announced my resolution the previous January. I waxed poetic about the book and insisted timely completion was critical.
The comments were even more pointed during the next two years, but today, as I approached the break room on the morning of January second, I had everything under control. I came in early, took my coffee to a prominent table, and tucked my carrier bag underneath.
My colleagues filed in, collected their coffee or tea, and the first group approached my table.
“How goes it with the never-ending battle with your literary muse?” my chief tormentor asked. He swept his arm around the room. “You really must get it finished. We’d all buy copies.”
I smiled sweetly, reached into my bag and pulled out a copy. “Hot off the press, and for you, a special price, twelve dollars.”
They all came forward and meekly purchased their copies. I didn’t leave the break room until I’d sold all the copies I brought with me.
Back in my office, I counted my ill-gotten earnings, two hundred and sixteen dollars., The libations after my seven-thirty draw at the curling club that evening would be next. And after choir practice on Thursday evenings, we always went to the pub. My friends in both places had been just as dismissive of my chances of finishing the book as my work colleagues. After they’d succumbed to their guilt and bought a book, I’d have sold the fifty copies I ordered.
The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write
a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees,
This week’s story comes from Cathy
MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological
drama, with elements of suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships, is
available from her locally or on Amazon.
New Year’s Resolution by Cathy MacKenzie
The whoosh of the wind almost knocked
Callie to the ground. She was aware the winter wind was in a rage but hadn’t
expected it to be this bad. She managed to stand and struggled back to the
motel room. Thankfully, the porch extended the length of the motel units, with the
two ends enclosed, so she could easily open the door and get in out of the cold.
She looked out the window. The mailbox
across the road had blown off its pole and lay on the pavement, waiting for
disaster from an oncoming vehicle. She pictured hers and Dan’s house and hoped
the flimsy plexiglass around the swimming pool remained intact. Nearby trees
would wreak disaster, too, should one of them topple. Would Dan bother
checking, or would he be luxuriating in the man cave, cut off from the world’s
She should have stayed home rather
than running off like a spoiled brat, especially on New Year’s Day. But would
it be too much for her husband to pay attention to her once in a while? Seemed
all Dan wanted to do was watch television. He was a movie freak but would watch
movies over and over, not realizing he’d already seen them. Two minutes into a
movie and Callie recognized a repeat.
Did he even know she wasn’t at home? Several
times over the past six months, she’d left the house in the afternoon and gone
to the mall. He’d still be sitting in front of the boob tube when she returned,
none the wiser. She snickered. Boob tube? How apropos.
This time, though, she’d been gone
three days. She had every intention of returning home. In fact, she’d already
decided to return the following day. Four nights would be enough to jolt her
husband back to reality. He’d have missed her so terribly that he would never
again ignore her—but if he wanted her home, why hadn’t he telephoned or texted?
She had checked her phone every hour. Nothing. Playing hard to get, no doubt.
They’d played silly games in the past.
She yanked the dingy drapes across the
window, plopped to the queen-sized bed, and flicked on the television.
The next day, she checked out,
cringing at the bill for a second until realizing the money would be well spent
if some sense had been knocked into her husband.
She sped home, anticipation coursing
through her loins. She had missed him terribly. The feeling would be mutual;
she was certain of it.
She pulled into the snow-covered driveway
and parked behind his truck. She unlocked the side door, jumping at the shrill
beeping. Though they’d cancelled the alarm system, the deafening noise would be
enough to scare away even a fearless robber.
She dropped her purse on the counter
and flung her coat at the kitchen stool.
She glanced around the kitchen, noting
the clean table and empty sink. If he’d cooked, which he must have if he’d
wanted to eat, he had cleaned his mess. Score one!
She ambled down the hall. Quiet. Too
quiet. Where was he?
Despite the sun shining through the
living room windows, the ceiling light glowed at the top of the stairs going to
She stopped. That noise. Was someone
down there with him?
She shuddered. What if he was angry? What
if he never talked to her again? What if he wanted a divorce?
Had she gone too far?
The voices ceased and music blasted,
the tell-tale sound of the television. She relaxed. Dan liked the volume loud.
But at ten in the morning? She smiled. Definitely bored. A good sign.
Soundlessly, careful to hold onto the
railing, she descended the carpeted staircase.
He was sitting on the couch when she
reached the bottom. Thank God he was alone. If he’d had another woman, she
didn’t know what she would do. Serve her right, though, for trying to teach him
a lesson. She regretted her actions, but she’d make it up to him. A New Year’s
resolution formed in her head.
“Hi, honey. I’m sorry. Please forgive
As usual when he was pissed off, he
ignored her and continued to stare at the screen.
She crept toward him. “I’m sorry. I
just felt like I needed to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to miss me. I
wanted to feel needed.”
She sat beside him and grasped his
arm. “I was wrong, though. I shouldn’t have gone this far.”
She leaned over to kiss him. Her lips
grazed his cheek.
His blood pressure machine perched
precariously on the armrest. After suffering a heart attack a few years
previously, he religiously—and fanatically—checked his pressure.
She touched his face, and his head plopped
toward his shoulder. The blood pressure machine fell to the floor.
New Year’s Eve usually ends with a bang, the New Year rolling in like an eel on a waterslide. Funny how everyone’s so gung-ho that last night of the year—ready to give up cigarettes, booze, and everything fattening that tastes oh so scrumptious. Then, barely before one’s eyes are open that first day of the new year, resolutions are flushed down the sink, just like that half-empty bottle of wine you dumped the prior night after several too many, when you knew you were going to make that resolution to quit drinking and figured you’d get a head start.
That’s the way it is with me, at any rate.
I needed to quit drinking before I ended up like my dear, sweet mother—drunk pretty near every day of her life, sloshing words, stumbling about the apartment, sleeping with a different drunkard every night—dead at forty-nine of cirrhosis of the liver. But she didn’t care. She believed life was to be enjoyed to the fullest, and she’d live her years doing whatever she wanted. Drat the consequences.
Like Ma, I had too many sexual partners; unlike her, I hated myself after each encounter. I had never taken a sip of an alcoholic beverage until I was in my fifties, long after Ma had passed on. Perhaps I had always worried I’d end up like her and had been afraid to drink. Like mother, like daughter.
Despite my sexual escapades, I first needed to reform my drinking. Later, I’d tackle the sex problem.
I started my New Year’s resolution early. After Boxing Day, when the stores first reopened after the holidays, is when I quit cold turkey. That morning after my shower, I dumped the four unopened bottles of wine and the two half bottles—one white and one red. Down the drain they disappeared, the liquid gurgling from the bottles like a belching boozer. Then I attacked the boxed white wine. I dug the knife into the cardboard flaps, pulled out the bag, and slashed a hole in the plastic. The liquid gushed from the bag like a faucet without bladder control.
Relief and a sense of satisfaction washed over me. I skimmed above the clouds, like a hundred bricks weighting my chest had been lifted. Unfortunately, the euphoria lasted only until two o’clock that afternoon. Just one drink. Just one.
I hopped in the car and headed to Sunnyfield Mall, where I parked in the lot just outside the liquor store. The flashing neon lights, bright and tempting, were blazing, even in daylight, likely on purpose. I hesitated several seconds until my willpower won.
The cashier knows me by name, which is embarrassing. I’m the type who likes to lurk, sight unseen, in the background; throw a dark, all-encompassing shroud over me anytime and I’m happy. I nodded at her greeting, certain she knew of my New Year’s resolution, certain she knew I was in the process of breaking it, certain she knew I’d be a drunken toad yet another night.
I continued to the wine section, where I ambled down the aisles. My mouth salivated. I licked my lips, savoring the taste of the sweet nectar which was sure to come once I had made a selection and was back in the privacy of my home. I picked up a bottle of merlot, put it back, and picked up a bottle of chardonnay. No particular brands. I was like a kid after Christmas with grandparents’ money to throw away on candy or useless toys.
I eyed the boxed wine, but a bottle contains less than a box, of course. If I was careful, I could make a bottle last the week, unlike a four-litre box of wine, which could be stretched for a month—not under normal circumstances, mind you, just with my new, half-baked resolution gone astray. Surely I could ration a half glass a night and keep to some sort of plan. Couldn’t I? I snatched a bottle of sauvignon blanc and headed to the cash, my New Year’s resolution gone “somewhere.”
Standing behind several people, I scanned the various items on the racks either side of me— small inconsequential items, meant to entice one while waiting—miniature bottles of liquors, fancy gift bags, corkscrews, and wine nozzles. I selected a glaring red corkscrew, which I fingered while watching the two people ahead of me, one an obese woman with unruly gray hair. I peered around. No one looked my way. Nonchalantly, I slid the small item into my coat pocket. No one saw. No one paid any attention to me; no one ever did.
You dumb fucks. I could steal a dozen of them if I had wanted.No one would have been the wiser.
“Excuse me,” I said. I inched my way around the two individuals behind me—an elderly gentleman and a teenager who likely wasn’t a teenager since he gripped a bottle of rum—and returned to the wine section where I replaced the bottle.
Still no one paid any attention to me. The cashier who had called me by name was nowhere to be seen.
Back in the car, I removed the flashy corkscrew from my pocket. I stared at it for several minutes before I tore it from the cardboard backing. I liked buying new items and discarding the excess materials. What a waste, I’d think many times, but manufacturers continued to wreak havoc on earth’s ecosystem.
I felt oddly exhilarated and refreshed, just as I had when I dumped the wine earlier that day. I had never stolen anything before, not even a lollipop or a pack of gum that my friends used to brag about. I was on a high, like I had smoked several marijuana joints. Perhaps I could keep my New Year’s resolution after all.