Pride and Prune Juice

I’m feeling too lazy today to write a blog post, so you’re getting a short story instead. Poor you.

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     It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. It is also acknowledged that an old man in want of a wig can’t be choosy in that department.

Mr. Bennet, God rest his soul, had learned the hard way. He had, after all, married “one of the silliest women in Heartfordshire.” Mrs. Bennet, the devil take her, had been quite a beauty in her youth, before the crows feet and smile lines. Yet she was known to the neighborhood as a perpetual woman of no more than one and forty years. With five daughters, the youngest five and sixty, one could hardly expect her to own up to her real age.

“Girls!” said Mrs. Bennet, interrupting her daughters from their afternoon naps. “What news I have. Neverfield has been let at last!”

“Netherfield,” Mary, the third eldest, corrected her.

“Yes, Mary, that. A gentleman of great fortune has taken it. His name is—” Mrs. Bennet paused and began reciting her “ABC’s.” “A. Appleby? No, that can’t be right. I think it starts with a B. Bright. Brightly? Ah, yes, Bingley was his name. What a fine thing for one of you girls.”

Elizabeth, the second eldest, said, “How can it affect us?”

Mrs. Bennet looked quite put out, or perhaps she was constipated again. “Do not be so tiresome, Lizzy. You must know that I mean for one of you to marry him.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design? Nonsense! How can you be so tiresome? But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of you.”

“More likely that he should fall down and not get up,” said Lydia. She was the youngest of the girls but the most sociable. Why, she would spend hour upon hour at the local VFW.

Mrs. Bennet pretended not to hear this… or perhaps she really hadn’t. “We must introduce ourselves at once.”

Jane, the eldest, complained at once. “Shouldn’t we leave the introductions to him?”

“Pish-tosh,” said Mrs. Bennet. “You must seize every opportunity that comes your way. Honestly, do you all want to remain old maids for the rest of your days?” She looked from Jane to Lizzy to Kitty to Lydia. Surely Lydia would be in for the chase.

“Don’t look at me,” cried Lydia. “I am only five and sixty.”

Kitty pulled her spectacles down her nose. “Do not look at me, either,” she said. “I am not that much older than Lydia.” Her hands shook as she tried to thread a needle.

“I have decided on a lifelong celibacy,” Mary declared.

Mrs. Bennet turned to Jane. “Jane, surely you can afford to bring me some happiness.”

Jane let out a great snore. She had fallen asleep again.

Elizabeth arched a penciled eyebrow at her mother. “Surely you will find happiness if you took your pills as the doctor prescribed.”

Mrs. Bennet wrung her vein-riddled hands. “It would not matter if he should prescribe twenty such pills since only a match would make me happy.”

“Depend upon it, Mama, that when the doctor prescribes twenty happy pills, you’ll think we’re all married, and then it won’t matter.”

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     Mr. Bingley visited all the houses in the neighborhood. The nieces Long, Charlotte Lucas, and finally the Bennets. He stayed no more than half an hour but made up for the shortness of the visit by promising to attend a dance at the local hall.

The afternoon of the dance, all the Bennet women dressed in their best finery, and once Mary had found her good set of teeth, they left for the Regency Retirement Centre.

Mr. Bingley was tolerably good-looking and gentlemanly; he had a grandfatherly countenance and unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. (“The gold-plated crutches must have cost Mrs. Hurst a fortune!” exclaimed Mrs. Bennet.) His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, barely looked like a gentleman, but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his handsome features. Within five minutes of his entrance, it was circulated that he had ten thousand pounds a year, along with a live-in chiropractor and a vast library of reading spectacles. All the women declared him handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for a good twenty minutes. Then his manners were discovered. He was discovered to be proud and above being pleased. Rumors even began to circulate that his hair was not his own and that his breath smelled of rot.

Mr. Bingley quickly learned and memorized the names of all the principle people in the room; he danced every dance and never complained of a bad knee or pulled muscle. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy only danced once with Miss   Bingley and spent the rest of the evening shuffling about the room, speaking only occasionally to one of his own party.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by a rheumatic hip, to sit down for two dances. During this time, Mr. Darcy came to stand near enough for her to overhear a conversation between himself and Mr. Bingley.

“Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you stooping about by yourself as if you had a hernia.”

“I certainly shan’t dance. You know how I detest it, unless I am acquainted well enough with my partner to remember their name. At an assembly as large and noisy as this, it would be impossible.”

“I would not be as fastidious or senile as you are,” croaked Bingley, “for a kingdom! I never met with so many pleasant and memorable octogenarians in my life; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”

You are dancing with the only handsome woman in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet through his pince-nez.

“She is the most beautiful creature I ever laid my good eye on! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who’s very pretty. Let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” Turning round, he looked at Elizabeth ‘til, catching her eye, turned and said, “She is tolerable, but too wrinkled to tempt me; and I am in no humor at present to mind old biddies who are far past shelf life. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smile—if that is her real smile—for you are wasting your time with me.” Mr. Bingley hobbled in one direction, Mr. Darcy in another.

Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. Stubborn and prejudiced in her old age, she never forgave Mr. Darcy for this slight. Not even years later, though she could not quite recall his name or the particulars.

Mr. Darcy was too proud—and constipated—to overcome his pride. So, in such states, they lived to the ripe old age of eighty, drank much prune juice and caused Jane Austen to roll over in her grave many, many times.

 

The End.

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Psst! You know how I have a book coming out this year? Well, my publisher hasn’t given me a date yet, and I’d decided to hold a contest. One guess of the release date per person, correct one to answer gets a $10 Amazon e-gift card. U.S. residents only are eligible for prize. No purchase necessary 🙂

Release Date Guess Contest

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Friday Freebie: Coffee Date

A belated gift to your for National Coffee Day (this past Tuesday.) Behold: The Coffee Date…

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            When he told her he loved her, she asked him why. They’d been sitting at the same sticky counter of the same dingy café for an hour, tops, and the words had been somewhat of a shock to her system.

She studied him when he didn’t answer.

The man’s hair was black, slick. He smelled of Old Spice aftershave and some off-brand deodorant. His tie dangled around his neck, and his collar was unbuttoned.

Maggie had stopped sipping her latte for this slovenly man; she needed an answer. Time, after all, wasn’t free—and neither was this decaf, non-fat vanilla grande with extra foam. “Why do you love me?” she repeated.

He gave her a look that said, “You’re kidding me, right?” But his tone was civil when he replied. “Work with me here. We come to this joint every day, yes?”

“Yes,” Maggie agreed. What was he getting at? “We do come here every day, goodness knows why.” She gave a meaningful look around the café, her nosed turned up.

He smiled and nodded his agreement of her assessment. “And we both order the same decaf, non-fat vanilla grande latte with the extra foam on top, right?”

“Right.”

He chuckled, a deep, rich sound that made her hopes sore up to dangerous heights. “So when I said ‘I love you,’ did you really think I was talking to you?”

Reality snatched at Anticipation’s tail, holding it earthbound. Blinking hard, Maggie flipped over her copper hair, forming a veil between them. She did not want him to see her expression. On the outside she was angry. On the inside, though, she was raging. Darn tears spoil everything.

He leaned over and whispered through the confessional screen of hair, his breath reeking of coffee and vanilla. “I said I love the food. It’s to die for, isn’t it?”

Maggie scoffed. What had she expected? A proposal? Marriage? A Family? Ridiculous! Finally, after all these weeks, she worked up her nerve and asked him the question that had been burning on her lips: “Who are you? We’ve never met, right?”

A pause. He laughed, one loud blast of sound: “Ha!”

The curtain of hair between them parted. “What?”

“Nothing. It’s just…when you said that, you reminded me of someone.”

Maggie’s eyebrows shot up into her bangs. “Who?”

“That’s the thing,” the man said with a frown. “I don’t remember.”

Paging Dr. Foor. Dr. Foor to radiology.” It was a cold, feminine voice blasting out through speakers somewhere in the room.

The two looked at each other. They looked around for the speakers, but couldn’t find them.

“Well, this was fun,” said Maggie, rubbing her forehead. “Tell me you don’t love me again some time.”

“It was a pleasure for me, too, miss.”

Dr. Foor from radiology shook his head. He’d been standing there, observing the odd exchange, pity welling in his eyes. “They must’ve really loved each other, once upon a time.” He turned to his patients. “Come on, Mr. and Mrs. Miller; time for your CAT Scan.”

Free Friday Read (Because I Felt Like It)

(This was written in last week’s writing group. We were all given the same opening line and were told to write the rest of the story until time was up. The following came from goodness knows where.)

Lace ties unraveled from her hair.

Rapunzel had been living a lie. Sure, she was stuck in that tall tower with the witch as her warden, and there really was a real prince who visited her every weekday when the witch was out. The lie? The lie was…complicated.

Her hair, her glorious golden locks, were full of lice.

Her Prince Charming, who climbed the long tresses hadn’t noticed…yet. Perhaps he figured that his raging case of itchy scalp was the fault of his faithful companion, a man named Philoneus, who was cursed to walk on all fours for the rest of his days, unless he found someone to love him just as he was–but that’s a different story for a different day.

Rapunzel had tried everything to get rid of the lice: shampoos, tea tree oil, hexes. But the lice were still driving her bonkers.

It came down to this: would she do what needed to be done to save her sanity and end the wretched itching? Or would she keep her true love?

“Sanity before hu-MAN-ity.” She lifted her straight razor and went to work on her hair. “Goodbye, Prince Charming, never to climb my locks again. Farewell.” The blade snicked across her scalp, golden waves tumbling.

The City: A Slice of Life

In honor of this fairly bad day, I offer up this little vignette. Enjoy.

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The city, in all its infamy, loomed before Cindy, the one, the only, the fabulous…But it mattered no more. Cindy was a has-been, a washed-up star of the moving pictures before they became talking pictures.

Where there ought to have been wonder, Cindy looked around her with disdain. “Can’t they clean things up?” she thought, like she was still somebody. Someone. Something.

The buildings climbed heavenward, and the farther into the city she strutted, the taller they grew. It were as if someone, God maybe, had taken a giant watering and willed the dead concrete to sprout roots and reach for the stars.

Cindy had been a star, a bright, shining star. And now what was she? A black hole?

“Move it, a-hole!” a balding buffoon barked at Cindy, who had just stopped to light a cigarette.

So, Cindy was an a-hole. “And what does that make people who live in this city by choice?” she wondered.

She changed her mind about the cigarette, dropped it to the busy sidewalks and watched as some elderly slut in heels ground it down unwittingly. The ashes scattered beneath many quick-moving feet, and blew into oblivion, caught in a stray wind. It was a metaphor for her life: all hot one minute, withered to nothingness the next.

In her mind’s eye, she was back in her childhood home, all dressed from head to toe in satin. Cindy’s skirt was blue, the top white with a blue sash bow tied around her left arm. “You’re my little star,” Mother said as she nursed the youngest, Sarah, a golden-haired child with no sympathy for Cindy’s drama.

“I’m going to act on the stage when I’m big,” she told her older brother, James, who snatched the nosegay right out of her hands and held it aloft. “Jimmy, give it back. It’s mine, from my many adoring fans.”

“You’ll never make it on stage,” James laughed, passing the nosegay to their younger brother, Clark. “You’re too dim.”

Dim, Cindy thought as she now stared at the graffiti on a brick wall in a back alley. It reminded her of that moment in her childhood, the moment when she had decided once and for all that she would prove James and her father that they were both wrong. And now here she was, in a big, strange city with no money and no name and no star.

She thought of her father, James Senior. He had been bald for all of her existence, and maybe then some. A stern man, he had unsuccessfully forbidden her from pursuing a career in film. “It wouldn’t last, Cynthia,” he would tell Cindy. That was before they found the cancer in her throat.

He’d been right: it was all hopeless, cigarette ash in the wind. Maybe she’d take up writing song lyrics. “My career is dead.” In this day and age, it could be a hit, an anthem for a generation. My career is dead. Dead, mute career-woman walking. She slumped to the ground and wept.

A Frayed Knot and a Short Story

This is where a joke could possibly be inserted. But this isn’t funny. This is serious. I’m serious: my nerves = frayed.

You see, one of the sad truths about being a writer is that we take things too lightly and too seriously at the same time–at least, I do. “What is she taking seriously now?” you ask. Good question:

– Twelve things out on submission, waiting for an answer

– Writing/publishing future

This song

And I am a bundle of nerves. But if I were very serious and very stressed, I would be writing my book right now and not worrying over publishing. A treadmill walk, isn’t it?

So, to end this rambling/weird post, here’s a micro fiction that I wrote. I hope it stresses you out and makes you laugh, because I am so stressed and need a good laugh right now. Behold:

The Ice Cream

She sat in the park and at her ice cream slowly. It had been given to her by a stranger jogging past. Just the end of the cone, mind, and it wasn’t chocolate. It was Strawberry. Mm. Daisy’s favorite.

What would Mom think? What would Mom do? Try to grab it out of her mouth, no doubt. Maybe even make her throw it up. The thought made Daisy hurry and finish that treat before Mom got back.

Daisy saw Mom down the way and quickly scarfed down the rest. She smiled at Mom innocently…tail wagging.