Sunday, February 24, 2013

The House I'm Talking About

Do you know the house I'm talking about? 

I know you've passed by it a thousand times on your way through town. It sits off the road aways, half hidden by scrub and oaks. There used to be a fence, but only the gate remains; hanging there like dusty hand bones, waving in the wind and clattering against the sidewalk. 

You know the house. Every time you pass by you wonder, what happened there? You can see in the lines of the roof and the stone in the foundation that this house had been important, once. To someone. Now it sits there, vines and vermin eating its flesh, stinking up the landscape, a rotting relic of prosperity past. 

Small, scared children creep up the porch stairs to touch the doorknob, cold under their hot hands. They run with screams stuck in their throats, swallowed by nervous laughter once they're safe on the other side of the broken gate. Teenaged couples slip away to sleep on its bare floors, burned by cigarettes, covered with dirt and sweat and illicit acts. They spread blankets and make fires and lie back to back after all is done, pretending to sleep and praying for dawn. 

You know the house. On the porch there is a chair, rusted green metal, rounded back, spring loaded legs. Your grandma had one on her porch, but in red. You sat there for hours reading Nancy Drew and comic books and drinking sweet tea out of jelly jars. I wonder if a child sat in this chair on summer days and solved mysteries and looked out at the road and wondered where it went. 

There are big trees in the backyard and I suppose if there had been a child, there must have been a tire swing. I spend too much time looking up into the sun, searching branches for pieces of rope. I run my hands along the trunks and pretend I can feel the footholds. If I stand too long in the sun and manage to forget the noise from the road and put my face against the warm wood, I can feel the tree shake under the weight of a boy climbing up. 

There is a low stone wall around one side of the house. It has fallen in parts and bits of stone have been thrown carelessly against the house, making messes of windows. The holes like little mouths gaping, caught in perpetual screams. 

Do houses weep? Do they cry as they crumble and wail as we abuse them, kicking corners and slamming doors? Does the earth cry out in pain as we dig it up and shove things in it that don't belong, like mailposts and birdbaths and flagpoles? 

Do houses miss us when we're gone? Do they silently beg us to return and fill them up with laughter and love and tears, until their walls swell and beat like great, living things? And do they die, then, when we abandon them? When we decide that they are, afterall, only things? When we pack up our possessions and don't bother locking the door and leave them to become detritus, legend, mystery? 

I imagine they do. 

And I imagine they take one small breath, beat one small beat, when we pass by and later remark, do you know the house I'm talking about? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh, Henry.

You exhaust me, little boy. 

He is so very loud and always moving and forever insisting that he can do it, yes! He can and he will and I shouldn't dare try to help. I give us a ten minute head start to every outing, an allowance for him to put on clothes and buckle buckles and close doors and climb up and get down and do everything just so. 

I will, occasionally, make the mistake of doing something for him. Then I must bite my tongue and clench my fists and stand back as he undoes what I have done, and redoes it himself. 

He changes clothes a dozen times a day. Yesterday, he insisted on wearing his new Spider-Man underwear. All seven pair. All at the same time. 

He seems to have read a little boy manual, and follows it to the letter regarding nose- and butt-picking, animal noises, climbing and jumping, farting, and generalized mess making. He is maddening in his endless energy and strong in his will and there are many days when I feel utterly and completely defeated by him, our small dictator, our benevolent despot.

Katie was reading through a book of baby names one day and came across 'Henry'. 

"It means," she said, "Ruler of the House!" And we all laughed, because it is true. 

He marches through this space giving us orders and demanding attention and we scramble to accomodate. Because we adore him. Because he is our little prince and when he gives us his affection we all feel like we've been blessed from on high.

Because there are few things in this world that beat Henry putting his fat little hands on your cheeks and kissing you softly on the mouth. Because, when Henry says 'I love you', you feel like he loves you more than anyone else. 

He is the baby, and we should all be ashamed at how we fawn over him. But we don't care. We laugh and squeeze him and say, "Isn't he amazing?".

Today, Henry is three years old. He came as a surprise, was born in a hurry, and has spent his whole, short life wrapping us tightly around his tiny finger. Happy birthday, sweet boy of boys. You are loved, completely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013



She was a little bit dirty, he could tell. She sat there with her elbows up on the bar, cigarette in hand, shoulders hunched. She twirled her drink with her free hand, rubbing a finger up and down the glass, collecting the moisture. Every few twirls, she'd reach up and press her wet finger to her lips. It must be cold, he thought. There was a small piece of tobacco clinging to her lower lip and he wanted desperately to pick it off. 

She dipped a finger in her drink and sucked the liquor off, and that is when he decided to stay. 

"Hello," she said, but didn't smile. 

By his second drink he was no longer bothered by the stickiness on the barstool or the sweat stains under her arms or the constant stream of smoke that spilled out of her mouth, rolling over her tongue and dancing on her words.

"Let me guess," she said, "You sell insurance."

People always assumed he sold insurance, or worked in a bank, or was an accountant. As if these professions were the only options for men of a certain type. Of his type. Usually, he viewed it as a small minded stereotype but he looked through the smoke and into her eyes and said, "Yes, insurance." The lie came out naturally, as if he'd been doing it his whole life. Like there was nothing unusual about sitting in a bar in broad daylight, drinking gin and talking to a strange woman and breathing in her stink and smoke and lying about who he was. 

"Everyone needs insurance," he smiled.

He was very very drunk when they walked out and she, who had been very very drunk when he walked in, walked taller and straighter than he could manage. "It takes practice," she explained. He fumbled with his key until she took in from him, sliding it into the lock with authority. Once inside, he fell against the wall and she pushed herself up against him. Her lips burned his face and her hands scratched at his clothes and the smell of her filled his head. He felt sick and giddy. 

"Here?", she said and he did not know exactly what she meant. He only knew the answer was yes. Yes here and yes there and yes, but first, he caught his breath and found his voice and said into her ear,

"Let me bathe you."

He drew a bath and watched her undress. She was all angles and bones and, naked now, older than he'd first thought. Her skin was pale and freckled in odd places and shone silver in the marks on her belly and breasts. She caught him staring and covered herself awkwardly with her hands, like a girl. 

He took his time washing her, gentle and sure. She closed her eyes and gave herself to him, floating in the water, turning when prompted, holding her head back as his rinsed her hair. She was pink from the heat when she stepped from the bath, and he could feel her warmth under the towel as he dried her. "Through there," he said softly, and pointed to the door to his bedroom. He turned from her and drained the milky water from the tub, her sediment floating and swirling and clinging to the sides. 

She lay on the bed smelling of soap and sex, one hand behind her head and the other cupping her breast. 

"How do I look?", she asked, and he answered truthfully - happily - 


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Short Post in Which I Pander For Votes

Part Two of the story will be posted soon, but I had to break in and thank everyone who nominated SFC for Favorite Local Blog in Triad Mom's On Main's 2013 Moms Choice Awards. Last year, I was annihilated by the Blog That Shall Not Be Named. Help me make a slightly less embarrassing showing this year by going here - - to vote. There are several great blogs nominated, including my friend Kristen at Four Hens and a Rooster, as well as some fantastic businesses in a variety of categories. 

If you're visiting Southern Fried Children from TMOM for the first time, thanks for stopping by. I write short fiction and creative nonfiction about...well, lots of stuff. My kids, meth, love, cats who eat dead people. Whatever. I hope you poke around the archives and find something you like. 

Thanks for reading, and for your votes! 

Monday, February 4, 2013


(Part One)


There are fourteen black hairs that grow between his eyes. He know this because he plucks them every other Monday, as soon as he gets out of the shower. Fourteen hairs between two exquisitely manicured eyebrows. He plucks, then combs his eyebrows up and trims them straight with a pair of nail scissors. Every other Monday.

Every day, he lathers and shaves and trims his nose and ear hairs. There are more of these than there used to be. His hair he wears severely to the left, a razor sharp part that screams there is no nonsense here! He brushes and flosses, then brushes again, then mouthwash and lip balm. Then there is the business with his nails. He carefully pushes back each cuticle with an orange stick, then buffs them to a high shine. Oh, you paint your nails! A girl at the office had said once. He glared at her and bared his teeth and spat out, No

White shirt and black pants and red tie. It is reliable, and he finds it suits any occasion. He went to his nephew's baseball game once, dressed as such, and his brother in law remarked that a pair of jeans might be more suitable for the ballfield. 


He decided then that he didn't like baseball, even a little bit. 

He toasts an English muffin and empties the tray on the toaster. He takes his coffee black from a single serve machine and washes the mug as soon as he is done. He leaves a room as it was when he entered, and it is almost like he was never there at all. 

Some people may see a man like him and assume he harbors some dark secret. Perhaps he likes whores or dances naked to Lady Gaga or was once a seaboat captain with a lust for drink and a love of the sea. At the very least, they think, he wears thong underwear. But he had never been with a whore, nor did he know who Lady Gaga was. He became green at the mere mention of the sea and his underwear were as chaste and white as snow. 

He had no friends that he was aware of. He was simultaneously feared and ignored at work. He had no interests, no hobbies, no relations, no commitments, no joy or pain or life. 

Twelve, thirteen, fourteen. It must be Monday again. He plucks the last one and said aloud to no one, I need to get out. 

He walks home from work and instead of turning left where he should have turned left, he turns right. He walks into a bar and sits down on a stool that is crusted with something he thinks may be vomit. He starts to move, then sits again in despite the crunch of the leather.. He sits down, because he's sitting next to her.