29 comments

American Contemporary

“Okay, little ladies . . . You know this is a difficult conversation for all parties concerned, but I am going to ask you for 110 percent. I am going to ask you to bring your ideas to the table as we think outside the box. This should be a constructive meeting for all of us. We are going to use our time together to make positive and productive decisions—results-driven decisions—for our future as we drill down on determining what are the most important things to our individual and collective lives. So no tears, all right? I forbid anyone in this room to cry, okay? We do not need all that extra emotion while we are having an ideation meeting. If we all dissolve into tears, then we will have to circle back at a later date. Nobody wants that, am I right? This situation has been hard enough on everyone—myself included. Moving forward, we have important decisions to make—life changing decisions—so let’s ruminate on the tasks at hand. Let’s discuss things and make proactive choices, okay? We need you to take things to the next level. With our collective synergy, I know we can find a successful resolution in meeting the needs of this family. So I need you to be present. I need you to be concise. I need you to be constructive.” 


What I say: “Okay.”


What I want to say: Constructive derives from the Latin word construere, meaning “heap together,” as in my dad is heaping together his infinite bullshit, self aggrandizement, and posturing on a funeral pyre for this family. Dad, take a look at mom sitting on the far end of the couch. She looks like you have ripped out her intestines through her sinus canal. How constructive do you really think this meetup is going to be? 


My younger sister and I look at each other. She shrugs in silence. I remain as stoic as an Easter Island statue. 


My father looks flustered and tries again. “I know the past few years have been difficult ones for us all. It’s no secret your mother and I have had our problems. We have had years of marriage counseling that only seemed to deplete our bank account as well as our patience with one another. I will admit I have said things that I now regret. Your mother has said things to me that she might regret. I will also admit that I am not a perfect man. Your mother will agree with me on that point, I’m sure. But we have never regretted having you two girls. You are the loves of our lives. No matter what happens, we will both always love you with all of our hearts. That is the prime directive—ensuring that you know that we love you. We want to split our time equitably and equally so that all of your needs and wants are strongly considered and hopefully met. So, moving forward, your mother and I need your input on some important decisions. These are not individual decisions. We are going to make these decisions in the collective.”


What I say: “Okay.”


What I want to say: Collective derives from the Latin word colligere, meaning “gathered together.” Well, here we are, dad—all gathered together: your soon-to-be ex-wife and your daughters. You remember us, dad. The ones who are inheriting a soon-to-be stepmother. It seems like your sidechick should be part of this collective decision making. Where is she, dad? You’ve gathered us all together. I guess she couldn’t gather together with us? Hey, you remember when you first heard that phrase—gathered together—don’t you, dad? We are gathered together here today to witness the joining of two lives . . . yadda yadda yadda. I understand that you may have forgotten your wedding vows. It would certainly explain your actions over the past year, but we’ve seen your wedding video a few dozen times—back when you had hair—and a waistline—and integrity. 


My younger sister and I look at each other. She frowns. I frown, too. 


“So, girls. I love you. Your mother loves you. And we are gathered together here today to make some important decisions. Your mother and I decided to save a truckload of money by working out the primary physical custody and visitation schedules for you girls. I mean, you are both in high school. It’s only three or four more years to hash out these things until you are adults and off to college. Frankly, I’d rather pay for your college tuition than some feckless attorney’s fees. So let’s do a deep dive until we gain traction on the logistical matters. We can keep all lines of communication open as there are a lot of moving parts in the future dynamics of our family.” 


What I say: “Okay.”


What I want to say: “Family” derives from the Latin word famulus, which means servant. You have to appreciate the Roman sensibility in understanding what a family truly is, dad. It just makes sense: family members serve each other. Without the servant component, we are just a group of people sharing living space. Veritable roommates! So be careful how you throw that word family around. Serving does not mean self-serving, dad—your raging midlife crisis notwithstanding. I get it, though. You put in a good twenty years or so, coached a few soccer teams, showed up for some daddy daughter dances, and now it’s time to serve yourself. Gotcha, dad. You do you. 


My younger sister and I look at each other. She rolls her eyes. I try to keep from snickering. 


“Well, it basically comes down to one question. Who do you want to have primary physical custody of you? It’s completely up to you. Take your time. Feel free to think about it—”


What I say: “Mom.”


What I want to say: “Mom.”


My younger sister and I look at each other. She nods. I nod, too. Then we go over and sit by our mother on the far end of the couch. 


October 20, 2021 00:28

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29 comments

Bruce Friedman
20:01 Oct 21, 2021

Brilliant as always Deidra. Love your neologism sidechick. When I started to read the piece, I was put off by the length of the paragraphs of the father’s dialogue. Then I realized you were probably using their length to amplify the BS being spouted by him. Great work.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:28 Oct 21, 2021

You're being too kind :) I should go back and break up those blocks of business blather. But, indeed, the father is simply exhausting, hence his Word Walls. (The mother will be just fine. The father will be downsized during a merger and end up as a "consultant" who lives in increasingly smaller apartments.)

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Bruce Friedman
11:59 Oct 23, 2021

Deidra, I like your use of the term "Word Walls." I agree that the father is exhausting. For me personally, long paragraphs are also exhausting and will sometime cause me to stop reading. I love the energy of staccato dialogue with short paragraphs. I don't think anything would be lost of shortening some of the longer ones.

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Kay Ee
04:33 Oct 21, 2021

I only just recently started reedsy and well you have already marked #1 for my favourite author. The descriptions were written beautifully and the dialogue flowed so beautifully! -Kay

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Deidra Lovegren
19:40 Oct 21, 2021

What an honor! There are so many talented people on this platform, and everyone is so generous and kind. Really a pleasure to be here :)

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Tiffy H
03:06 Oct 21, 2021

The first sentence caught my attention. I was already sucked in wondering what the question was. Great job. Please if you don’t mind give my latest story some feed back too to help my writing improve thank you ☺️ Keep writing

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Deidra Lovegren
19:39 Oct 21, 2021

Thanks, Tiffiana :) Happy to check your work out!

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Nora K.
01:16 Oct 20, 2021

Hey, Deidra. "Magnum officium." Yeah, that's some Latin-esque, and yeah, it had me checking Google Translate. Had a great storyline, and that last line hit hard. Comedic, honest, slightly sarcastic, fun. Magnum officium. Last time, I swear.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:03 Oct 20, 2021

High praise -- which I'm not entirely sure I earned, but I'll take it :) Woo hooooo My husband and I were watching the Die Hard Movies, and I based this "father" on the Harry Ellis character, the stereotypical yuppie and cokehead. One of my former students mentioned his parents actually doing this -- sitting down with his siblings and asking them who they wanted to live with -- and it always struck me as ridiculous and cruel. :(

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Nora K.
18:17 Oct 20, 2021

That sucks. Parenting is complicated.

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Tanya Humphreys
22:28 Oct 30, 2021

Reedsy Critiquer here... Congrats on a well written story with no grammar or punctuation errors! The paragraphs are long and normally that is quite irksome. But I get why the structure is as it is- it makes a clear statement of how long winded and insufferable the dad is. I read some advice not long ago from a professional writer who said that a paragraph should consist of no more than three or four sentences, that it made for easier reading. He is right. If there was a way to shorten the paragraphs but keep the strong feeling of the n...

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Deidra Lovegren
22:52 Oct 30, 2021

Perfect advice. Thanks for the reminder :)

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Faith Ogedegbe
07:29 Oct 26, 2021

Nice story.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:07 Oct 26, 2021

Thanks, Faith. I appreciate the read! ;)

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06:36 Oct 25, 2021

As always your ability to create amazing characters shines through. I can picture the family meeting, the mom in tears in the corner, the absent hated side-piece/soon to be step-mom. You only had two characters talking through your piece but I was able to picture each character vividly. My favorite line has got to be "It would certainly explain your actions over the past year, but we’ve seen your wedding video a few dozen times—back when you had hair—and a waistline—and integrity. " That line evoked so many emotions and made me want to jump ...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:09 Oct 26, 2021

BEST COMMENT EVER . . . and best hype-man ever! I definitely love your reviews. You bring me the motivation to continue down this solitary road. Thanks for the support. Thanks for the read.

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Faith Ogedegbe
03:34 Oct 25, 2021

Always at the top.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:10 Oct 26, 2021

Better than the bottom. :)

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Kate Winchester
02:48 Oct 25, 2021

I was drawn in by the beginning, and was curious as to what this conversation was about. I love the humor and the sarcasm. You do a great job of showing how dysfunctional this family is/was. Kudos!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:13 Oct 26, 2021

I traffic in sarcasm. Only way to be a high school teacher! The family will be all right, once dad is pitched over the side and the girls move along their merry way. I'm sure the narrator will major in political science in college! :)

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Kate Winchester
16:04 Oct 26, 2021

🤣 Yes!

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Mariah Cheng
00:02 Oct 25, 2021

What a great read Deidra! I enjoyed this :D

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Deidra Lovegren
00:40 Oct 25, 2021

That makes me so happy! ❤️ Thank you

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Sprite Akuma
18:15 Oct 20, 2021

Dang. I think this describes family decision making well. It's always what you say and what you want to say. I grieve for those who have not yet realized that saying what you want to say is healthier, that lying your thoughts out on the table is beneficial. Those who support you are the ones to stay with. Those who oppose you don't belong in your life. That's my point of view on it anyways. This was a very enlightening story and I couldn't agree with the main character more. It would make my day if you could stop by my profile and read my m...

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Deidra Lovegren
19:38 Oct 20, 2021

You got it 😎

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Keya Jadav
17:25 Oct 20, 2021

What I write: Wow Deidra, this is an amazing story. What I mean: You literally took this to a new level! What an incredibly unique way to portray a story! Very well described all the "bite my tongue" incidences and how behind a single word lies a huge ocean of emotions. Family is actually derived from the word 'servant!' ....whew, that's something new. Incredible! (From Latin word 'incredibilis' which means the same, hah)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:50 Oct 20, 2021

Your comments cheered me entirely 🥳 Thanks 🙏🏻 Thanks 🙏🏻 Thanks 🙏🏻

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Jon Casper
09:24 Oct 20, 2021

Such clever construction. And by that I don't mean heaped together. I love the parallel with "gathered together."

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Deidra Lovegren
15:07 Oct 20, 2021

Thanks, Jon! I've decided to write experimental stories these days for my own amusement and save my five bucks :) haha It occurred to me later that "gathered together" could be for a funeral. But I doubt this father's children will attend his...

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