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12 December 2008 @ 03:51 am
"Chaos"  
Good heavens, it's late.

I just tried to spell that "heaven's."

Hmm.

Iiiiiit's brigits_flame time again! Yes, some ungodly hour of the morning on Thursdays IS usually B_F time! XD

The prompt this time was "chaos," and eltea was wonderful enough to proofread, and I just wrote a ten-page paper on water symbolism in The Gangster We Are All Looking For, which is an amazing book but still almost killed me, so I apologize if this isn't exactly Pulitzer material. XD

Also, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who voted for my entry last time; you guys are awesomesauce. x)

(Has anyone else noticed that for probably eighty percent of my B_F entries, the mood is "exhausted"? XD)

It doesn’t always work the first time.

“Jason, sweetheart,” Elizabeth Bryant, also known as Liz, also known as Mom, repeated, a little louder. “You’ve got enough of those; please come here.”

Distractedly and more than a little reluctantly, Jason Donahue pried his attention away from the coupon dispenser, which someone had been foolish enough to place below the threshold of a four-year-old’s maximum reach, to look at his mother. As Liz beckoned, he trotted obediently back to the cart, his straight cornsilk hair fluttering, half a dozen identical coupons clutched in his fist.

“Thanks, hon,” she told him, turning to the cereal again. It was kind of funny how the painstakingly innocent-looking child support checks changed her existence in subtle ways—for instance, leading her to buy whatever cereal was on sale any given week, come what may.

What sometimes came were miserable breakfasts, but she was broadening her gustatory horizons, and wasn’t that a good thing?

Melissa approved of the gaudy colors on this week’s cardboard box, so Liz let her hold it and trace the bright letters with a pudgy fingertip. Jason tugged with a small hand of his own at her jeans, which were a bit loose due to the way she’d been losing weight and sanity over the course of the last few months.

“Mommy,” he said solemnly, “can I ride in the cart?”

“We’re almost done, sweetheart,” she reminded him. “And don’t you like to help load the bags into the car?”

‘Car’ was generous, given that it implied consistent functionality. In the rusty case of Liz’s… vehicle, turning the key in the ignition didn’t always work the first time.

There was a pattern here.

The kid at the checkout was new and looked frazzled. His apron-uniform sat stiffly, and he seemed to be worried that the bagger would break his nose any second now.

The world was an unpleasant place, so Liz gave him a pleasant smile and coaxed the cereal box out of Melissa’s hands to offer it to him, shushing her daughter gently with logic that she knew a two-year-old couldn’t really hope to understand. Melissa did some high-quality lip-wobbling, but then, thankfully, she moved on.

Liz’s checkout chum—whose nametag read Hi! Let RYAN help you today—was tussling with the barcode reader, pink flaring in his cheeks.

“It doesn’t always work the first time,” he mumbled, glancing up with a sheepish smile before ducking to the task again.

“I know the feeling,” Liz replied.

It was then that several things happened at once.

In retrospect, Liz should have realized that watching the barcode drama play out had been a supremely unwise decision given her choice of shopping companions.

Unfortunately, she didn’t think of that until Jason dodged around the cart and skipped out of the line towards the exit, hopping only on the blue tiles, at the same moment that Melissa’s searching fingers sent the whole box of various flavors of Icebreakers mints tipping off the shelf and tumbling to the linoleum. Deprived of her second plaything in as many minutes, Melissa bent over the side of the cart and strained for the plastic containers rolling everywhere, starting up a wail. Liz caught a glimpse of Jason wavering on one foot, arms pinwheeling, as he prepared for the leap to the next blue square, then lost sight of him as the bagger dropped the carton of vanilla ice cream back onto the conveyor belt, cursing, and crouched to start pulling in armfuls of Icebreakers as if collecting piñata loot. RYAN helplessly set down the barcode reader in favor of cringing, and passersby made noises that were sympathetic or amused or both at once, and Liz was about ninety-five percent sure her face was on fire from unadulterated mortification, and where the hell was Jason now, oh, God—?

And then there was a guy—a man—a person of the male persuasion, a person dressed in blue jeans and an open red Oxford shirt over a white tee—who was lifting Jason into the cart and then kneeling to gather mints, remarking in a wonderfully smooth voice, “Here, let me.”

RYAN—for of course he would always be RYAN in her mind now—cautiously touched Melissa’s shoulder, looking as though he expected her to bring a shelf-load of Icebreakers down on his head, and proffered the cereal box, which she gladly accepted. Jason occupied himself sorting through the remaining contents of the shopping cart, presumably attempting to determine whether anything she’d promised to buy “this time” was missing. The bagger went back to bagging, and the guy—man—male drew himself to his feet, holding a great deal of mints, and smiled at Liz.

Together they replaced the circular containers on the shelf while RYAN contentedly scanned away at the various items Jason passed him.

The guy-man-male had stunning blue eyes, and he wasn’t wearing a ring.

He arranged the paper bags in the trunk while she strapped Melissa into the car-seat, and when she circled around to retrieve Jason from where he was bouncing in the back of the cart, he brushed his ringless hands against his jeans and then offered her the right one.

“I’m Aidan,” he said.

She took his hand, which was warm and firm and very gentle.

“I’m Liz,” she replied.

He smiled, and she did, and Jason might have bounced a little higher.

It didn’t always work the first time.

And sometimes it didn’t have to.



 
 
Feeling: exhaustedexhausted
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Vitamin C: Neartierfal on December 13th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
lol, that was the intent! I mean, uh, I'm true to my artistic roots and am definitely not deliberately trying to create something for the audience... XD

I'm a tremendous cheapskate when it comes to food. And, uh, everything... 8D

I didn't notice "realisation" had an S until I just realized that it must've, so... yes. Reciprocal! :D

It's funny, 'cause he originally was five years old, and my younger half-brothers are, what, six and four already?, and the kids I babysit are almost the same age, and... or are my brothers five and three? I think they're six and four... XD Uhhh, there was a point, which was that my three-AM lunacy probably leans in your favor. XD

Basically YAY. ^______^
Charlottekoneko_zero on December 12th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was brilliant. I love short stories like this...

Your writing style is lovely. It's expressive whilst maintaining a wonderful, open simplicity that really draws the reader in. You get a lot of feeling and imagery across without using irritatingly flowery language - and let's face it, stories are always so much more enjoyable when you don't have to trawl through excessive adjectives.

The storyline itself and the characters are ever so sweet. Very realistic, too, which I like. The subtle details were great as well - the different surnames, for example, and the fact that you just allude to her problems rather than falling into the tempting trap of explaining the little family's entire backstory.

I love the way it related to the theme in more than one way as well. All too often there's just one defining moment that relates to it, or it's so overloaded with thematic subtext that it just gets ridiculous and cliche. You had a defining moment, sure, but you also had little hints of/at chaos (in various forms) throughout.

Overall, a very sweet and elegant piece.

Seriously, I'm very impressed. Go you! *waves pompoms*

(And thank you for introducing me to this interesting new thingy-mi-bobble of a community!)
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Oooh, I'm glad you liked it! ^^

On one of my recent entries, the editor's comment was "try using less descriptors." And I certainly haven't cut them out, but I have been looking into it, since I know I do lean on them sometimes. XD But yeah, I hate it when stuff is too deep and symbolic to be comprehensible. XD

I was very vividly picturing the local grocery store, lol. I spent many half-hours of my childhood wandering up and down the aisles, and begging to be put in the cart, and asking for brand-name cereal. XD

...the secret is that I actually forgot about the theme until I was about to get to that part. XD I planned it out to revolve around the cash register moment, then... got distracted by the kids and RYAN the bagger and forgot. XD

Thank you!!! ^^

And you're very welcome! 8D
Bettabetta329 on December 12th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Excellent job! This was just really good. It reminded me of an Updike story I read a couple of years ago.
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Thank you! I had a good time with it last... this morning. XD Glad you enjoyed it! ^^
Desert_Rosedesert_rose on December 13th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)
I love this! I want to meet my future partner like that, especially if he's that gorgeous!
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :) I rather liked the idea of grocery store serendipity, myself! ^^
lee_teratilee_terati on December 13th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
This is a very cute story. I am glad that Liz met someone interesting (and hopefully more than that) at the grocery store. This should give hope to a lot of people who, like me, hate grocery shopping :D
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :) And hee, anything that makes grocery shopping more fun! ^^
jamais_toujours on December 13th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
Awww this is adorable. I love the description of the children causing chaos at the till. Great job :).
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks! ^^ I am of the belief that troublemaker children feed off of each other for the maximization of consequences! XD

I'm glad you liked it! ^^
richelle2972richelle2972 on December 13th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
He, he, I totally pictured the Safeway that you, Eltea, and I always go to as the location. : )
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 13th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
lol, it's totally the Nob Hill by my house; have you ever been there? XD
richelle2972richelle2972 on December 13th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. : ) Yes, I've been there a couple of times. One time it was to buy tortillas (hahahahaha good times with Jackie) and another was to buy ice cream with Mary 'cuz ice cream was definitely necessary. : )
Vitamin Ctierfal on December 14th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
We've been going there forever, so it is pretty much synonymous with "grocery store" in my mind. ^_^
Eltea: Unrealistically Pretty Meeltea on December 13th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Haha, so was I! XD