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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: 24 Hours (01/27/11)

TITLE: What I'd Like to Tape to Mark's Forehead


In my dream, I'm skimming through cirrus clouds. I'm less a graceful glissade, than a tired trail of white feathers, frayed at the edges. I start to roll from my side to my back, but Mark's buttressing my frame.

In my bones, it feels like he's been there forever, yet it's only been ten years.

When I met Mark, he was a grocery store manager with smallish, deep-set eyes. He looked mean. So mean, that I'd been dubious about applying for a job. When he told me I was hired, I almost said no.

Six months later, I was somewhat shocked to find myself in love with a man whose countenance made babies cry.

He'd worn me down.

Each time he carried groceries for Tory, the morbidly obese woman with diabetes; each conversation with Albert, the town "nut" who spent his days outside the store with a portable karaoke machine; each night he stayed late so one of us college kids could go home early to cram for a mid-term—with every act of kindness, his face softened in my eyes.

So when I applied to become his wife, and he offered me the position, I didn't hesitate.

Tulle replaces the feather-like clouds in my dream. Yards of ethereal fabric twirl like cotton candy encasing a stick. I want to escape, but I'm not ready for the reality of vacation alone with Mark in a secluded cabin on a remote mountain range.

"You awake?" he asks, caressing my cheek.

Instead of answering, I fake-stretch. The sheets feel starched, luxurious—very un-home like, but if I don't slip out now, it'll get awkward.

"Hey, where are you going?"

"To make some coffee. Did we get everything out of the car last night?"

"Yeah, but I'd rather have you than breakfast right now."

"Ha-ha," I say, but it's not funny. The pressure, no matter how he packages it, is ever-present. Does it faze him that we have hyper toddler-twins, and a seven-year-old with pyrotechnic tendencies? Work-related stress, financial stress, extended family stress—nothing dissuades him.

And how do you tell the nicest man in the world that you don't want him? You don't. It wouldn't matter how I assured him that it wasn't him; he'd be hurt. So I shift and dodge until I finally cave—and guilt becomes his benefactor.

The coffee's brewing when he struts into the kitchen, boxer shorts, no shirt. I jam a plate into each of his hands.

"Oh, come on, Landon," he says. "No kids, no neighbors, no worries. Can't you relax?"

"Not really." I jerk the coffee carafe from its stand.

"But it's your wifely duty." It takes him a moment to notice my disgust. "What's wrong?"

I can't go so far as to tell him that for the first time in a decade, his eyes look beady to me. But that's all I hold back. "Did I ever tell you how my dad wrote scripture verses in large print on long strips of paper that he taped to my mother's vanity mirror?—So she'd be reminded of exactly what her duty was."

He shakes his head.

I gesture to his shoes in the entryway. "Even your inserts get a break, Mark. It's not a wifely duty. Quit pressing me!" The carafe in my hand makes bold contact with the counter, shatters.

We don't exchange another word.

Hours tick by, the quiet amplified in the remote setting. We've never engaged in the silent treatment before, and I'm fascinated with it—how two people can share a single bedroom, bathroom and kitchen in a mute, contact-less dance.

As the day continues, a strange companionship develops—he's there, but sometimes I actually forget, feel an isolated peace. That peace brings God to mind in a way I haven't felt in ages. By the time we go to bed, my anger has completely dissipated. We lay side by side, not touching. After an hour, I bid him goodnight. "You, too," he says.

I wake up early—a shaft of light having found its way in the break between the curtain halves. Mark's already up—I can smell coffee brewing. I wonder what he's brewing it in.

He doesn't hear me sneak up behind him. I turn his body to face me, am relieved to see the man I love.

"I'm sorry," he tells me.

"Me, too," I say.

Ah, the benefits of twenty-four hours of decompression—now that's something I'd like to tape to Mark's forehead.

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This article has been read 1143 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Fitzpatrick02/03/11
Oh, I really like this piece. I like how you stirred the twangs of mixed emotions and pain with humor and topped it with a bit of cream at the end. Great job. The MC's thoughts and feelings were so relateable. Nicely done!!
Jim McWhinnie 02/04/11
Once again you have revealed a bit of the mysterious wonder that is woman. Downright dead-on descriptions.
Noel Mitaxa 02/04/11
Congratulations on your light touch on the deep questions and feelings that are part of the territory of emotional growth.
Glynis Becker02/04/11
Marriage really is a delicate dance, isn't it? This one tells it like it is and you do it with beautiful style.
Beth LaBuff 02/04/11
The tension between the two was tangible. Her dream description of herself, "tired trail of white feathers, frayed at the edges" in relation to her real life, speaks volumes. I loved the descriptions of their kids, "hyper toddler-twins" and a "seven-year-old with pyrotechnic tendencies." I smiled at the things her father taped to the mirror contrasted with what she wanted to tape to his forehead. Love this!
Marita Thelander 02/04/11
I like how you just taught a simple brief lesson in marriage through this entry. Great feel of stress unwinding into the flicker of romance. Nice. :)
Virgil Youngblood 02/04/11
Decompression and vacation -- that's something I can relate to. Except, it usually took me 2 to 3 days to leave the work place behind and enjoy the time away. Well done.
Colin Swann02/05/11
Oh, the complexities in human relationships - particular between spouses. A good lesson in being up front or rather never too late to put things right.
Charla Diehl 02/05/11
This presented a very realistic view of a day in the life of a couple who definitely needed a little "down time". I like the delicate way you handled the intimate exchanges. Two thumbs up from me.
Laury Hubrich 02/05/11
I like this story - very real. I especially like how things were worked out. Very nice job! (And I love the title.)
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/06/11
What a beautiful story to indicate the difference between duty and love in a marital relationship. Also, your carefully sculpted words demonstrate well how a little separation in communication from each other, plus some communication with God can mend a tired, stressed spirit.
Cherry Bieber 02/06/11
What a beautiful show of what happens when we don't act on emotion! It may not always happen in 24 hours, but it does indeed happen! This is very well done!
Rachel Phelps02/07/11
I love the understatement here. Even as someone who has yet to tie the knot, I felt and empathized and was carried through the story. Wonderful, my friend.
Loren T. Lowery02/07/11
Loved the way you made this story unfolded in an undulating rhythm. Feelings of distaste, to love, to distaste to love., etc. But never, apathy. Thank goodness never apathy. I liked too, how you made memory a part of why we feel and sometimes act the way we do.
william price02/08/11
Very entertaiing and enjoyable story. More great characters developed. I loved the interesting opening and discriptive transistions betweens scenes. My fav line was, "And guilt become your benefactor." And the ending was perfect. You can tell that love and respect and the relationship between the two are very important to your MC. A great entry, Lisa. God Bless.
Gregory Kane02/09/11
Amanda Brogan02/10/11
Congratulations on yet another beautifully written, wonderfully portrayed, well-won story!
Benjamin Graber02/10/11
Congratulations, Lisa! This was very well-written; you drew me right in!
Rachel Phelps02/10/11
WOOHOO! I'm so glad this one won. Congrats on an outstanding entry!
william price02/10/11
Way to go, Lisa. Great job and congrats!!!!!!!!!!
Joan Campbell02/10/11
Beautiful, Lisa! I loved how your 'hero' was not the stereo-typical hunk, but actually almost a little ugly and how your MC had fallen in love with him because of his character. I also loved the oh-so realistic nuances of emotion in their marriage - something I could really relate to. Congratulations on your 1st place EC!
Margaret Kearley 02/10/11
Congratulations Lisa on your wonderful descriptive and humorous (but full of truth) story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/10/11
Congratulations, dear Friend, on yet another wonderful story and well-deserved first place win!
Loren T. Lowery02/10/11
: ) Nice to see this, Lisa. Congratulations. Love reading your work. Loren
LaRae Lacrosse02/10/11
LOVE it! What a refreshingly honest confession of wife/motherhood and what happens to desire! Thanks for your forthrightness!
Troy Manning02/10/11
Congratulations, Lisa! Definitely a strong entry--not sure why you felt otherwise. I confess, as a guy, I found Landon frustrating, but certainly realistic. My favorite descriptions were those of the dreams that began the segments.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/10/11
This is great! Congratulations on your first place EC!
Bonnie Bowden 02/10/11
Congratulations on your 1st place win, Lisa. I liked the dream scences woven throughout. I thought your insights into marriage were wonderful; every relationship needs down time.
Lollie Hofer02/10/11
Ditto to EVERYTHING everyone else has said. Congratulations. I thoroughly enjoyed a peak into this couple's marriage...it really does reflect what so many of us experience in our own marriages. Loved the ending.
Japhet Mphande02/11/11

Thank you Lisa! This makes an interesting easy to read article. Its humour grabs me by the throat so I go on reading and it keeps on coming as a vivid story.
Connie Dixon02/11/11
I love how you put into words what cannot be put into words. The emotion, the feelings, the frustrations, the love, the hurt...it's all there. Congratulations on your first place and EC. Wow!
Michael Throne02/11/11
Ah, twins. I'm a sucker for any story that has twin babies or toddlers even mentioned. And yes, my wife was the woman and I was the man, and you described it all so beautifully. Great piece – such a rare, insightful story. Congratulations on your well deserved win!
Carol Penhorwood 06/02/11
You just know how to do it! You make writing seem so easy. The complex emotions came through so clearly. You are definitely an artist of words. I love to read what drips from your pen.