Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Funny

“Speak now,” Kurt told his wife, Madison.

She heard her brother, Lionel’s, voice through the phone.

“Hello? Mad? You there?”

The previous week’s events flooded Madison’s memory. So much unnecessary drama. They hadn’t seen each other since their mother’s memorial. She suggested meeting up. Big deal. She would fly to see her daughter, Wilma, in Seattle. Why couldn’t he meet in the middle? Portland’s halfway between Seattle and Los Angeles. One state each way.

Travel is so difficult. And family connection, so important. On Monday, fishing for easy agreement, she sent a simple text.

‘Coming west in May.  Might you and Jill be traveling then? Could you wander north as I wander south? Cross paths in Portland? Love an informal reunion. Fun. Been too long.’

Lionel’s formal reply disappointed her.

Sorry, wish we could, but aren’t traveling now. Won’t fly after Hawaii and Covid. And can’t leave our beloved cat. Too far to drive. Happy to see you in LA.’

She replied immediately.

‘You always drive up the coast.’

Only day trips.

‘Oh. Thought we could meet in Portland. Cat is stopping you? Sad.’

Never hurts to be sympathetic. But his cold response stunned her.

‘4 days round trip with no time for anything but, ‘Hi. Bye.’ That’s sad.’

Work with me here, Bro! So disappointing! Tears flowed as she texted her feelings. He sent another before she hit send.

I invite you to deal with your own disappointments. Happy to see you in LA. After our many trips to Florida. You’re due.’


Lionel couldn’t take full credit for his last text. Jill, his therapist wife, offered the textbook phrasing.

He threw up his hands, “Portland? Why visit the burned-out storefront capital of the US?”

Jill laughed, “Don’t forget to pack your ski mask.”

“And in what world is Portland midway between LA and Seattle? She on the metric system?”

Jill nodded, “I can’t believe she dissed Strophe like that. Cats don’t shelter well. What’s she thinking?”

On Tuesday, Lionel got drawn in by Madison’s new text until the third sentence.

‘I appreciate that travel is less fun. I don’t like flying either. Get a sitter for your cat. Easy peasy. You only came here for Mom. We’ll never meet again, without effort. Re-evaluating. Seeing Wilma and friends in Seattle and Portland. Want to see you and Jill. Hope to meet in the middle.’

Lionel tossed his phone onto the couch. That awakened Strophe. He stroked her until she purred. He stared at the phone. Strophe watched him as he talked.

“So, it’s my fault if we never meet again? Going to squeeze me in between parties with your friends? Can’t wait… Let’s have lunch. Have your people call mine.” He grabbed his phone.

‘Mad, you say you want connection. But reaching you by phone is impossible. Do you feel connected lecturing me via texts about effort? I’ve lost count of the trips we took to see you and Mom. How can I prove you’re not an afterthought? Speaking of effort, been to LA lately? Route your trip to P’land via LA. Easy peasy. BTW, the cat is a labor of love. Guilt is not connection.’

Barely a minute passed before Lionel received her response.

‘I’m not guilting you, El. Stating facts. C’mon, if mom didn’t live in Florida, I’d never have seen you. That’s reality. I get it. I’m hoping for a compromise meeting spot. To reconnect.’

“I see,” he said. “So, I guess you never came to LA because mom wasn’t here.” His phone chimed.

‘As I said earlier, I’m trying to connect with people I love. Will be in touch. Never dreamed I kicked a hornet’s nest!’

Lionel mused, “I wasn’t thinking of hornets. But your words do sting, Sis.”

When Jill got home after work, Lionel had descended into a three-alarm funk.

“Why do I do this to myself? I was minding my own business.”

“Don’t let her rattle your cage.”

“A little respect too much to ask? What’s her problem? The little princess lose her toad?”

Jill looked at Madison’s texts. She made an editorial suggestion. On Wednesday, Lionel wrote.

‘Feeling unloved? Please know we love you. We’re not traveling now. God bless you.’

Madison responded in moments.

‘Really? I lectured you? I asked so we could coordinate. Sorry my modest request was rude and selfish? Now I must change plans to suit your highness’ demands. Only wanted to reconnect. Why’re you offended at my staying in touch? Can’t believe this. Hope you’re happy. Sheesh!’

Lionel knew what to write. Jill had told him to keep it simple.

“No, not ‘bless your heart.’ That might sound snarky. You trying to escalate? Or what?”

               ‘As I said, God bless you.’


Arriving Kurt home from work, Kurt found Madison lying in bed, in the dark, with an ice pack on her head.

“Wow! I thought I had a tough day. What’s going on, Babe?”

She turned and murmured, “Could you get me two Excedrin and a diet Coke?”

He caressed her head. “It’s time for dinner, Mad. That’s your breakfast, right?”

She sat up. “Don’t worry about me. How was your day?”

“Shipments come in. They’re shelved. Customers buy. Wash, rinse, repeat.”

Madison groaned, flopped onto her pillow and fumbled for her phone. She showed him the texts from her brother.

“Kurt, why do brothers need to be so mean?”

He looked over his glasses. “And I thought your trip was all planned. Maybe take a step back. Yes, travel is stressful. But you’re not even packed.”

“What did I do? Does he even want to see me? We used to be close. Did Jill turn him against me? Hey, Mr. Manager, how would you manage this?”

Kurt re-read the texts and smiled. “What if you enlist him in solving the problem? Ask for his input.”

‘El, sorry for not accepting your ‘no.’ And for not being a solution finder to my own problem. I accept your choice not to travel. I need to come through LA. Sorry I lectured. Nobody likes that. Sorry for poor communication.’

She didn’t wait long.

‘Apology accepted, Sis. Easier to talk though. Hate making my thumbs do the walking. Hope to see you.’

Was that so hard?

‘That’s what I’m after.’


Madison held the phone Kurt had handed her. He nodded encouragement. She heard Lionel’s voice.

“Hello? Mad? You there?”

“I’m here…”

Kurt smiled, gave her a thumbs up, and left the room.

“Again, sorry for the confusion.”

“Forget it. Let’s move on, Poopsie.”

“What? You called me ‘Poopsie’?”

“Always called you that. Since we were kids.”

“Well don’t.”

“It’s affectionate. Since when…?”

“I never liked it. Told you…”

“Sorry… Really. Force of habit. Don’t mean anything by it.”

“Then don’t, okay?”

“Never again...”

The silence stretched out too long. Lionel looked at his phone. Had Madison hung up?

He said, “Hello?”

“Still here.”

“Good… So, is this what connection looks like?”

Madison refused the bait. “Tell me about Hawaii.”

“Yeah… Nothing bad there. But the flight back was literal hell. Endless lines. Jammed in the rearmost seat. Cargo hold would’ve been better. Couple seated in front of us had a cranky infant and a two-year-old…”

“Oh no…”

“…who shrieked for hours. Alternating solos and duets. I got home so beat down and dragged out exhausted, when I got Covid a week later, I actually felt better.”

“You’re kidding!”

 “If I never get on another plane…”

“Had no idea. El, let’s hang out in LA.”

“Sounds great. Can’t put you up. But can get you a good motel.”

“Don’t expect you to put me up. Just to put up with me.”

“Easy peasy.”

They signed off.

A while later, Kurt texted Jill.

               ‘All well here. How about you?’

               ‘Peace reigns. Thanks!’ she replied.

March 24, 2023 00:03

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Francis Daisy
19:57 Apr 03, 2023

So very true! Often we "read" too much into the text-talk when we really need the talk talk. So much is lost in tone, expression, and voice when we rely on what is just on the screen. We need to pick up the phone and make the phone call more often and rely less on the texts. Excellent story!


John K Adams
20:18 Apr 03, 2023

Thank you, Francis, for reading and liking so many of my stories. Nice to know someone agrees that in the era of 'social media' so much nuance is lost to primitive communication modes when so much is gained by actual conversation.


Francis Daisy
12:06 Apr 04, 2023

You're welcome. It's always a pleasure to read your stories!


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Delbert Griffith
11:36 Mar 24, 2023

Sibling rivalry at its best, along with spousal input. The brother is unbending and controlling, so I don't think I like him much. Still, the story was tailor-made for a Lifetime movie. LOL Nice texting 'dialogue." Good job, John. Cheers.


John K Adams
12:51 Mar 24, 2023

Thanks, Delbert Always like your input.


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