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American Contemporary Speculative

I’m not going to say another word. 

There’s really no point. We go round and round and round. It’s just so tedious.

Of course this is a waste of time—and money. But I’ve found that in almost thirty years of marriage to her, she is an expert at doing both—often simultaneously. She could teach classes on how to waste her time and my money to make herself feel better. 

Does she want me to be happier? Then she should just let me be me. 

She remembers me, right? Same guy she’s known for decades. I’m not that hard to figure out.

I work. I come home. I watch a little television. I drink a half dozen beers. On the weekends, I cut the grass and make sure the cars have their oil changed every 3000 miles. On Sunday, I might play a little golf with my friends and drink a dozen beers.

We’re fine. 

I don’t need to come here and empty my spleen in this claustrophobic room painted in soothing pastels with cheery motivational posters of an eagle soaring.  

I don’t need to sit here with Mr. Cardigan and his “safe space” to talk about things better left unsaid. 

Let sleeping dogs lie, all right? 

We’re fine. 

Mr. Cardigan talks to us about Japan—for $275/hour. “Say kintsugi with me,” he coos. Why do I repeat it along with her, like a dope, like we are watching Romper Room? Mr. Cardigan explains how kintsugi refers to the Japanese tradition of repairing cracks of broken pottery with gold. “The Japanese do it to show how we should embrace flaws and imperfections.” 

Exactly. 

She should stop trying to fix me. At my age, I’m not changing. She can fill in whatever flaws or imperfections I have with whatever she wants, which seems to be a litany of complaints about shit I’ve always done wrong since the day we met.

And what if I don’t change?

What is she going to do—leave me?  

I’ll help her pack.

She’s right, though. I do stay at the office too late and take the long way home. 

Why should I hurry home? To get browbeaten? I’d rather drive to a couple of hardware stores to find a lightbulb we don't need. Anything to get out the house with her eyerolls and disgusted sighs. 

But I’m not going to be treated like I’ve been her life’s biggest disappointment. 

And the things she accuses me of. Just grossly unfair.

If I were going to talk, which I’m not, I would say—yeah, I look at other women. And it might shock her to find out that sometimes they look back.

Are there cracks in the foundation of my marriage? C’mon. It’s been thirty years, Mr. Cardigan. We don’t have cracks; we’ve got fissures.

The Japanese got it right, though. Those cracks are ours. Maybe that keeps us together—that we’re perfectly imperfect. 

But you know what? I don’t even care. I’m just going to sit here. 

I’m not going to say another word. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

He’s just going to sit there and not say another word.

That’s not the point of marriage counseling. I can go round and round and round by myself. It’s just so lonely.

Doesn’t he want to feel better about our marriage? Then he should let Mr. Cardigan do his job. 

He remembers me, right? Same girl he’s known for decades. I’m not that hard to figure out. I work. I take care of the kids. I watch a little television. I eat a half pint of ice cream. On the weekends, I do all of the housework while he plays golf with his friends. 

It’s not fine. 

It would be nice if he quit treating me like the help. Maybe he could be as charming to me as he is to the receptionist at his office.

I like Mr. Cardigan trying to give him the communication tools he needs to fix whatever chasm has opened up between us. Maybe he will learn to ask for what he needs. 

What does he need from me these days? Anything? All he wants is to be left alone.

After our youngest left for college, it just seemed our family was over. 

Suddenly, I was roommates with a stranger—a stranger who has said some shockingly cruel things over the years.

Maybe I should let bygones be bygones, right?

We’re not fine. 

Mr. Cardigan has us repeat the word kintsugi together. Surprisingly, he and I both repeat it at the same time. Perhaps he is paying attention after all? Maybe he likes the concept of non-attachment, the acceptance of change. Maybe he’ll stop being so closed off—so much more since his father passed. Mr. Cardigan says: “The Japanese show us how we should embrace flaws and imperfections.” 

Exactly. 

We both can change. I’ve been working on myself, trying to improve.

But what if he doesn’t change?

What am I going to do—leave him?  

Maybe I should help him pack.

He stays at the office too late and takes the long way home. 

Do I want him to hurry home? To be ignored in person? I’d rather binge a Netflix series or disappear into a book. Anything to avoid him avoiding me. 

I’m not going to be treated like I’ve been his life’s biggest disappointment. 

And the things he accuses me of. Just grossly unfair.

Are there cracks in the foundation of my marriage? It’s been thirty years, Mr. Cardigan. We don’t have cracks; we’ve got fissures.

The Japanese got it right, though. Those cracks are ours. Maybe that keeps us together—that we’re perfectly imperfect. 

But I’m not going to sit here in silence.

🜋 🜋 🜋 

These two again. Instead of focusing on the communication skills I’ve taught them, she’s mastered criticism and defensiveness, while he’s even better at stonewalling and showing contempt. 

Next session I am going to have them repeat shoganai. Maybe they need to learn a little Japanese stoicism. Most times, life’s outcomes are not in our control.

But these two? They’d be better off in a cage match.

Above all, I hope their check clears. 


August 04, 2021 00:51

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29 comments

K. Antonio
14:38 Aug 09, 2021

YO, THIS WAS TIGHT! I thought this was wonderfully-crafted! It read so well. Honestly, playing with perspective can be so challenging, THIS felt effortless. I can only imagine the work; Maya Angelou often said that easy reading usually meant pretty hard writing. Really stellar job!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:42 Aug 09, 2021

Sup, bruh. This literally is every married couple I know at two or three decades in. So more creative nonfiction than fiction (ha ha). And probably a satirical representation for every marriage "coach," for that matter --- who likes to monetize highly complex familial structures, much like a death metal bands profit off of teenage angst. But I digress. Sad to see the end of free Reedsy contests. :(

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Michael Martin
17:33 Aug 06, 2021

Very well done on multiple fronts. It was realistic; it almost felt like a continuation or even a slightly alternate version of my last story ("If Loving You is Wrong") where a somewhat lengthy marriage allowed the wife to pick up on problems before she discovered them. The issues between the husband and wife, when viewed from different perspectives, appear drastically different. The best was the comedic ending, though it felt a bit short (only because I wanted more of that perspective). "I hope their check clears" lol

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Deidra Lovegren
18:25 Aug 06, 2021

Just keeping it real. haha. Thanks Michael, for your continued support. I'm going to check out yours right now :)

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Shoshana A
07:35 Aug 04, 2021

Ohh, Deidra! I am amazed to see how beautifully you make ordinary look extraordinary. The way you spun the story around marriage and related issues is very thoughtful and just perfect. I loved reading the story. Waiting for some more....😊

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Deidra Lovegren
07:50 Aug 04, 2021

High praise indeed! This couple is unredeemable—but stubborn. I’m sure they will be just fine, gritting their teeth to smile at their 50th wedding anniversary. 🍰

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Scout Tahoe
04:03 Aug 04, 2021

This is hilarious, in my opinion, the way they go back and forth. They're basically thinking the same thing so they just need to say it. Hopefully Mr. Cardigan can help them. I know he's got it in him. "These two again." *eye roll* -"I don’t need to come here and empty my spleen—in this claustrophobic room painted in soothing pastels with cheery motivational posters of an eagle soaring." It might just be me, but this sentence is a little clunky. It's all in the em-dash, I don't understand why you put it there. Sorry if this is unhelpful. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
07:16 Aug 04, 2021

Poof - em dash begone! Very helpful as always :) Hopefully it’s more clear now — 😵‍💫 Thanks so much for your comments!! Woo hoooo

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Scout Tahoe
14:43 Aug 05, 2021

Poof! Deidra appears. 🪄 I don’t know where the woo hoooo came from but I like it.

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Sofia Sabharwal
09:22 Oct 05, 2021

Hey Deidra! You've beautifully and sarcastically portrayed the complaints of contemporary couple-- male's dominant ego-- Let me be me! and female's submissiveness and quietness-- ready to put all the efforts to establish a happy marriage. But actually, it's neither Mr. Cardigan nor his Japanese stoicism would ever work until the wedded pair values each other. Truly, going-through-the "Golden Repair," made me feel as if I'm walking on two tracks-- one is paved with absolute, amusing, symmetrical similarities and the other with tough, bold, o...

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Deidra Lovegren
13:12 Oct 05, 2021

They'll be all right. Both need to get over their individual and collective midlife crises. :)

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Bruce Friedman
18:26 Aug 14, 2021

I love your reference to kintsugi. The notion of cracks in a marriage that are repaired but in a manner that's both obvious but also with precious material (gold) is appealing. This idea will stay with me for a long time. On another "technical" matter regarding your writing style, you don't use quotation marks for the remarks of both the husband and the wife. They don't seem necessary when each is thinking or musing internally. Is there some sort of rule that you have in mind about this? When to use and not use quotation marks?

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Deidra Lovegren
19:17 Aug 14, 2021

Hi Bruce! Regarding quotation marks, the sections are really kind of dramatic monologues -- not a back and forth discussion...so I left them out. I usually just use quotation marks when I have characters speaking to each other in direct quotations. I use italics for internal monologues.

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Bruce Friedman
20:46 Aug 14, 2021

Thanks. I need to keep this in mind. The main character in the story I am working on is engaged in a one-person monologue and I need to decide whether to follow your lead and not use quotes. In your story I was also aware of the brevity of your paragraphs consisting of internal monologues by the couple. This format seemed to propel the story quickly forward which I liked. However, I was wondering if this could feel bothersome for some readers?

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Deidra Lovegren
10:35 Aug 15, 2021

Experiment and see what suits you best. You are the god of your own world — when it comes to writing. As for bothering readers — that’s not my main concern. I write to entertain myself — if others like it, yay!! If not, oh well. What people like to read at any moment is so subjective, a writer would go bonkers trying to figure out how to please them. You do you. Have fun creating your world and your people. Use strong verbs. Write authentic dialogue. Select a relatable theme. Most importantly, have fun 😎

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Bruce Friedman
22:10 Aug 15, 2021

Perfect advice, Deidra. Write to entertain yourself -- if readers enjoy the same material, bully for them. I am new at this "game" but I have discovered that you are in the right groove when writing if you can't wait to get back to your own story to see what happens next. One is simultaneously both the creator and the audience for the same material.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:16 Aug 15, 2021

Find characters you love or love to hate. Let them take you on an adventure. Try writing in present tense to amp up the action. Don't overexplain. Foreshadow and leave clues, but respect the intelligence of the reader. The ending should be surprising BUT expected. Nothing out of left field...clever, but realistic.

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Bruce Friedman
14:11 Aug 16, 2021

I really like your idea of using italics instead of quotation marks for the internal dialogues of my characters. I have just revised one of my stories in draft form along these lines. The text seems to flow better without the "he said" and "he muttered under his breath." Thanks for the tip!

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Phil Manders
06:26 Aug 08, 2021

Deidra You should consider becoming a teacher 😁 you could run a master class. It appears so effortless from the readers perspective. Very inspiring. Thank you.

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Fiery Red
17:53 Aug 04, 2021

Hey Deidra, I loved your story. Every bit of it. Thanks for sharing

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Deidra Lovegren
19:11 Aug 04, 2021

Thanks ❤️

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Hey Deidra. I loved this story so much! My favorite part was...all of it! Great work!!! -Breckin N. ;)

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23:01 Aug 12, 2021

I love the way you wrote all three characters. Their shortcomings and personalities were well-written and relatable; each of them felt like a real person. Even though the man and his wife thought they had no common ground, their similar lines showed they are more similar than different, proving their relationship has potential if they can open up. Excellent story!

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Blue Green
20:37 Aug 07, 2021

You have a gift for building personalities! Nicely done :-)

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Palak Shah
08:57 Aug 05, 2021

Nice story Deidra, I love the way that this is written and you have a great writing style :)))

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Hey Deidra! How have you been doing lately? Lovin' florida?

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04:51 Aug 04, 2021

Lol, this was nice. The different opinions, plus Mr Cardigan, it was a nice short read. I'd suggest a lil more addition to the wife's part, and a sentence or two on Mr. Cardigan's, but maybe that's just me. It was a good take on the prompt, and guess title fits :)

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Deidra Lovegren
07:17 Aug 04, 2021

Thanks, Sia. Mr. Cardigan deserves combat pay 💰 Haha

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02:46 Aug 05, 2021

:) Totally! ;)

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