Friday, February 5, 2010

#fridayflash: How She Found Out

“Hey family,” Sandy called out as she bumped the front door closed with her butt. “I’m home!”

She kicked off her snowy boots then went into the kitchen, her arms loaded with a couple of grocery bags, her purse and a big trendy bag from the drug store gift shop in town.

“Whadja bring us, Mom?” asked seven-year-old Cory as he landed into his mother’s packages with all the grace and finesse of a station wagon. She barely had a chance to put the bags down before Cory was pulling everything out.

“Wait a minute, will ya?” she begged. “Let me get my coat off for chrissakes.” 

Cory ignored his mother, studiously pitching food he didn’t like onto the kitchen floor. Gwennie, his four-year-old sister, heard the commotion and came out to investigate.

“Whatzat?” she asked, holding up a zucchini.

Sandy told her, then took it from her and put it in the fridge.

“Whatzat?” she asked. 

“Soy sauce. Pass it to me, Gwennie, will you please? Cory, where’s your father?”

“In the bathroom.”


“It’s barbecue sauce. And that’s eggplant. Cory, be careful what you’re doing. There’s eggs in there.”

Sandy hung her coat on top of two other coats and a pair of ski pants and some soggy mittens, all of which occupied one peg on the rack on the kitchen wall. She picked up Cory’s book bag and Gwennie’s backpack, both abandoned on the wet floor, and draped them over a chair.

She turned around to finish unpacking groceries and her husband of 14 years stood amidst the chaos, looking at her.

“Hi,” she said. “Have a good day off?

Rick nodded. “Yeah, it was ok. Nothing spectacular. Got some stuff done. You? How was work?”

She shrugged. “You know, same old, same old. But hey, I got some cool stuff at the drug store.”

It was a few days after Christmas and most of the stores still had boxing day sales going on. Sandy had got a bunch of bargains and she could hardly wait to show them off.

“Hey Mom, what’s this? Cory was into the big trendy bag and had pulled out a small box.

“Oh yeah!” Sandy brightened. “This is so cool! Marilyn at work? She collects salt and pepper shakers just like me and she went to Mexico over the holidays and she picked me up a pair. Wait ’till you see them, they are so cute! Here, Cory, pass them to me, will you? Careful, they’re very breakable. Thanks sweetie. Good job.”

She opened the box, unwrapped a couple layers of tissue paper and held out a Mexican bandito pepper shaker made of terra cotta, sort of in the shape of a bowling pin, only with a sombrero on top. It was painted in bright, sparkling colours: emerald pants and a purple poncho.

Cory’s eyes popped open and he thrust his wiggling fingers towards it. “Can I hold it, Mommy, can I hold it, please? Please?”

“Be careful,” Sandy said, passing it to him. “Just settle down and be careful.”

Gwennie watched her brother, a smile lighting her own small features.

Sandy pulled out the other shaker, a senorita, dressed even more colourfully than her dashing husband.

“Oh!” said Gwennie, reaching her own hands up for the shaker.

“Be very careful, Gwennie,” Sandy said.

As she was about to take it from her mother, Cory reached over and snatched it from his baby sister, who immediately started to wail.

“Cor, jesus, give your sister back the salt shaker,” growled Rick. “I am so sick of this shit.”

Sandy swung Gwennie up into her arms for a hug, while Rick cursed out his son and Cory, oblivious to what was going on around him, started putting the shakers together like they were kissing.

“Look Mom,” Cory said happily, “they’re kissing! Just like Daddy was kissing that lady in the driveway today!”

Sandy said “Wha?” and looked at Rick, the man she trusted more than herself, her partner, her soul mate, her best friend.

Her husband lowered his head and stared at the groceries strewn all over the floor.

Sandy felt the blood drain from her body. Her knees went rubbery. She put Gwennie down, almost dropping her, and sagged against the kitchen counter.

She stared at her husband, beseeching him to straighten this out.

He kept his head lowered. And said the one word that wouldn’t be making any of this better, any time soon.

“Sorry,” he said.


  1. oh! quel surprise eh? great dialogue and pace. love the photo too.

  2. In all that hubbub - the kids' stuff strewn, the clamor of coming home.. It was hard to read the end. Well done - felt like I was standing there.

  3. first of all, the shakers are fabulous. at the risk of being repetitive, the story sucked me in so well i felt like it could have been happening in front of me. i wanted to help pick up the strewn groceries, admire the shakers first hand, backhand the husband and hug the wife. great job!

  4. Yeah, great dialogue!

    If Cory had had any sense he would have turned what he knew into an allowance increase.

  5. Grrrrr! I HATE cheating spouses! Aside from that, your story is wonderful! So true to life... coats piled up, four things going on at once, and then the bomb at the end. Your writing is easy and enjoyable to read. It's so natural, but there's also a depth to it that really makes it matter. I enjoyed this a lot. ~Olivia

  6. What a way to find out... I wondered why you included the fact they'd been married 14 years. It made sense at the end.

    I'd like to hear read about what happens next...

  7. What a dope, doing it with the kids around. I didn't care for the picture at first - goofy things like that give me the willies. But by the end of the story I went back and looked at it and saw that it was perfect, the fragility of the shakers complimenting the human fragility. Very natural writing.

  8. Your writing is's like being right there in the midst of this ticking time bomb...

  9. Thanks for your comments, everyone. It seemed real because it happened to me. I changed the names and fictionalized it somewhat, but it's basically my story. Only I was married to him for 19 years, and we had two boys, not a boy and a girl. And, David, there are plenty of stories about what happens next and some day I'm going to write them. I just have to be in the mood to rehash a lot of heartache.
    I loved Mark's comment the best: "what a dope, doing it with the kids around." ha! Exactly!
    The kids were were at school... we lived in the country, where it was very quiet... you could hear the bus coming for a mile, but he was busy necking with his co-worker in her car... they'd been out for a romantic lunch ... he was so preoccupied he didn't hear the bus pull up. The boys got off the bus and saw a strange car, so naturally they walked up to see who it was and literally had to peer through the glass because it was all steamed up. And there was Daddy kissing another woman.
    Those are the shakers... that's how it went down.
    Am I cheating because my story is based on reality? I don't think so. I think most stories stem from some sort of reality, some kernel of truth. At least, mine are.
    And this is my story... if anyone should write it, it's me... and when this shit happens, truth really is more interesting than fiction.
    Feeling melancholy this morning...

    Thank you so much for your comments. I really, really, really appreciate them.

  10. I'm so incredibly sorry that happened to you. But I am glad you're able to work through some of it on the page. Enjoyed the language and the dialogue very much. Well done.

  11. bouncy, fast paced - great dialogue.

  12. Great dialogue as others have said, and the reveal packs a punch
    How awful for you to have to go through that.

    Of course you're not cheating because the story is based on reality! We're supposed to write about what we know, aren't we? Although thankfully I never experienced what happened in my horror story this week!

  13. Hmmm, yeah... it grosses me out when people feed live crickets and tiny fish to their pets... never mind freshly harvested hearts. Oooh but it was a good 'un!

  14. No wonder this rings so true. Great writing, wonderful description of the everyday details of life, capped by the death of a marriage. Very well done.

    Barb Relyea

  15. I knew where this was going, yet it was still shocking. Lovely paced writing...

  16. You've captured frenetic family life truthfully here - I only realised how truthfully from reading your comment. How awful. Your dialogue is realistic and punchy - a well told tale, though I imagine it was hard to write.

    I agree with Mazzz - no cheating from you in telling a truthful tale. Well done.

  17. Wow, so this is truth fancied up? Ouch. But you captured it so well. I'm really impressed. Hey, thanks for joining us Cathy.

  18. I think Mark put it best: "What a dope." Nice capture of the moment, everything going peachy, and the pace change after the reveal I could feel the weakness.

  19. As a divorced woman myself, I am very sorry that you experienced anything like this. Based on reality or not, your voice for fiction is strong. This piece has a terrific hook and compelling tension throughout. I knew it was coming from the title but couldn't stop reading until disaster hit at the end. Well written and I especially think you structured the piece for maximum impact.

  20. Good story. I was waiting for Cory to break the salt and pepper shakers, but instead he broke the marriage. Well, I guess technically Dad did that...

  21. Wow, you captured the hectic life of a mom/wife so well that I was beginning to feel exhausted! Very nice, funny phrases like "with all the grace and finesse of a station wagon." And the continual “Whatzat? placed in the text so well...I like how such an "ordinary" day is completely changed by the end. That being said, I'm sorry this is based on a past "ordinary" day of yours. :( I don't think it's cheating to write from life at all--from my own experience it's almost harder at times. Consider this a very brave act of/from your soul--and a treat for us. :)

  22. You've captured the chaotic nature of the moment very well. I think this was probably not easy for you to write.

  23. I too am so sorry you had to go through such a painful time in your life. I've been there and I know how horrid it feels, (although my husband was seeing at least three other women at the same time, rather than just one), but thankfully that chapter has been over for many years, and I'm now married to a wonderful man.
    Dialogue here is fantastic. Even when it happens to us, no matter what it is, it takes a great talent to write the experience well, and you have that.


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