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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Life (05/13/10)

TITLE: Clutching the Pendulum
By Chely Roach


Tomorrow we have to go to a funeral.

I desperately dread going.

It sounds shallow, but Iíve nothing to wear. Thatís a half-truth; nothing I have fits properly anymore. In the back of my closet is a timelessly simple black dress. Once, the wrap-around tie loosely cinched my waist, creating a feminine hour glass silhouette. In the fondness of the dressís memory, today Iíll excavate it, take a deep breath, and try it on. The fabric will not drape gracefully across my curves, rather it with bunch and bulge over the expanse of my now matronly hips. My reflection will more closely resemble over-yeasted bread dough wrapped too tightly in black Saran Wrap than an hourglass cutout.

Today, I will have to shop.

When I get to the store, a decision will await me: new dress, or slimming shape wear. Due to the loud, 80ís inspired patterns that dominate the racksónone of which exude refined funeral-wearóIíll be forced to shop for the latter.

A dozen torture garments shall be collected and schlepped into the dressing room, including an unflattering dress that is two sizes too small to gauge exactly how slimming the ugly, tight underwear really is. Corsets, camisoles, unitards, high-waisted-shorts, and singlets that were all created with space-age technology and copious amounts of synthetic fabric. Their labels will tout various claims: muffin-top eliminator, saddle-bag smoother. My favorite will be ďeasy-upĒ, because shimmying into those bodysuits will be anything but easy.

As I yank, jiggle, and manipulate the spandex, up, up, up over my muffin-top, saddle-bags, and belly-jelly roll, I wonít be able to stifle the grunts from my fat-strapping contortions, nor will the other women in the dressing room stifle their giggles.

After I finally find the undergarment that best smoothes and smooshes, while still allowing reasonable lung expansion and blood flow to my intestines, Iíll begrudgingly lay down a fifty to pay for it.

Once I am in my car, Iíll scribble notes into my ever-blank checkbook register so that I donít forget a single hilarious detail before I can find time to get the whole story out of my head.

Because tomorrow we have to go to a funeral.

I desperately dread going.

Itís not that I was especially close to the deceased, or even to those that survive him; he was an in-law to my in-laws. I met him once at a wedding. I will only recognize him because his name will be printed on the little cards with the twenty third psalm on the back. His face, caked with makeup and wax, will not conjure up fond memories or make me shudder at the profound sense of loss. I will hug the family, whisper the expected platitudes, and pat the bereaved hands with trained empathy. But I will not cry.

Not yet. Not with them. Not for them.

But tomorrow night, long after the kids are put to bed, when my husband settles into his rhythmic cadence of gentle snores, only then will the hot tears ruin the coolness of my pillow. I will smell the funeral lilies in my hair, think of the rows and rows of folding chairs, hear the clichťd Scripture verses in my mind...and I will allow myself to revisit my grief. Even after twenty years, the loss of her is not a scar, but a scab; a cycle of forgetting, healing, remembering, and infinite mourning.

When my tears morph into the inevitable sobs that I always fear will wake my beloved, Iíll rise from the warmth and familiarity of my bed and seek out the blue and white glow of my computer. With my pendulum plummeting through its descending arc, I will concentrate on the painóthe eternal, dull ache in my chestóand then carefully twist the source of my grief into something else. I almost never tell my exact story. No, the details must be fabricated to distance myself; without that armís length the words are usually stilted. The scenes, the ages and genders of the characters will be generated from thin air, but at its core, the unbridled emotion that will chase me from my bed tomorrow night will be intertwined in every syllable.

And by the time the final word is discovered, and the last period is set in its place, my tears will be dry. I will return to my belovedís murmured snoreónuzzle against his slumbering warmthóand God willingÖsleep.

Tomorrow we have to go to a funeral.

I desperately dread going.

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This article has been read 668 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke05/20/10
I plan on coming back to re-read this because there is much to ponder. You tell this with such warm humor and deep sorrow woven together that it almost feels like two different writers, yet, like two different pieces of fabric in a quilt, put there by the same seamstress, it works. I really really liked this. I'll be back.
Maria Egilsson05/21/10
Woven between these words is a grief that is very deep. One that is so raw that the truth of it can never be fully revealed; even after 20 years.

The writer finds moments of relief by disguising the grief in many other stories. Finding rest for a little while. At least until some other "trigger" stirs up the pain once again.

This is writing that leaves a lingering sorrow in the reader. There is no bow tying it up into a neat, happy package.

T. F. Chezum05/23/10
Very profound. Very well written. Incredible.
Beth LaBuff 05/23/10
There is so much emotion, depth, masterful description and characterization here. This is so very good!
Connie Dixon05/24/10
Very well-written piece. Love how you sandwiched it together, beginning, middle and end. (I'm sure there's a word for that). Great descriptions, detail and emotion. Good job!
Maria Kana Santos05/24/10
Great descriptions and narration throughout your article. I've missed understanding the main point of the entire story. I truly would like to try to dig deeper into what you've written. If I've appeared calloused about your real grief for the loss, please forgive me. Thank you for your patience with a simple reader like me. God bless you.
Rachel Phelps05/24/10
Michele, once again you have completely awed me. I have nothing else to add. Heartbreakingly lovely.
Marita Thelander 05/24/10
Oh Chely... some things never truly leave us and yet we learn how to deal with it, to process, ponder and allow others to do the same.
Susan Montaperto05/24/10
Very emotionally real. Thank you. My father died last year I'm still getting over it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/25/10
Wow! As usual, I'm swept away by your writing gift. Your writing is so deep, it took me a second read to grasp all the nuances of your own remembered grief.
Your humor is such a vivid contrast to the real "meat" of your story, it almost leads the reader astray. Then it makes the grief even more poignant.
AnneRene' Capp05/26/10
You've captured a piece of me in every single thought. The humorous and the dread. This took me on several journey's right beside the MC. Very nicely done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/21/10
I love how you so fully shared a day in the life of...It was a journey that made me smile, brought too vivid pictures of the dressing room scene, and finally broke my heart. I too hate going to funerals for the same reason. It brings back that pain that I try to tuck away so I can make it through one day at a time. Thank you for sharing.