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Bedtime Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

“He fell again,” my husband mouths to me, then returns to his phone call with his-brother-who-I-cannot-stand. “No, no. I’m right here. I can be there in twenty minutes.”

Of course he’s going out in an ice storm in the middle of the night. Of course he’s the one my father-in-law calls, a man who patently favors my husband’s inept older brother and overindulges his younger one. Of course he’s riding to the rescue. That’s what martyrs do. 

My husband paces, phone still in hand. “Did the doctors say anything else—what caused the fall?” 

Dehydration, I say to myself. Your father never drinks anything but coffee and whiskey, oftentimes together.

“He has a urinary tract infection, too?” My husband looks shocked that his father’s poor lifestyle choices have had a negative impact on his health. 

Of course he has a UTI. Primarily brought on by dehydration, I want to say, but at this point in our marriage, we’ve had too many conversations about the same things. I’ve learned it’s better to say nothing. Eggshells can only be walked on for so long.

My husband hangs up the phone and starts to get dressed.

“Sorry I woke you up,” he apologizes, but the apology is insincere. He wants me to commiserate with him, but I’m not playing this game at 3:00 a.m. I have my own problems. We have our own problems.

“I have to get up and change the sheets anyway,” I mutter. 

“Night sweats?”

“Yup,” I pull off a pillow case. It’s drenched.

“Maybe try hormone therapy?”

Maybe go to hell, I want to say, but I conjure up an icy smile which looks suspiciously like a grimace. No, I don’t need any more synthetic hormones floating through my body, thank you. Remember how I spent twenty years on the pill because you wouldn’t get a vasectomy?

“I love you,” he says, giving me a perfunctory kiss.

“I love you, too,” I reply, wondering for a second if I really do. 

He leaves for the hospital. 

I luxuriate in his absence until 4:17 a.m.

“Mom! MOM!”

My eyes open before the second time my name is called. My name. My name has been Mom for over three decades. Even my husband calls me Mom. 

It’s our youngest. She’s weeping, mascara and eyeliner running down her puffy face in black rivulets. She’s blubbering, incomprehensible and hysterical.

“What—what’s going on?” I say, getting out of bed, finding a robe, knocking over a glass of water. 

“Mom, I wrecked the car . . . I. Wrecked. The. Car.” She caterwauls, falling into my arms. She smells of alcohol, tobacco, and my perfume, which disappeared from my vanity last month. And why cigarettes? Why can’t she just vape like her iditoic peers?

“Slow down. Tell me what happened.”

I hand her a box of tissues and she blows her nose. 

I wait, wrapping a thick fleece blanket around myself. After my perimenopausal night sweats, I expect to get the chills—and they arrive as advertised. 

“Okay, don’t get mad,” she starts. 

This preface to her confession is when I know it’s going to be expensive.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m all right, but the car is t-totaled!” A new round of sobbing begins. 

I pat her on the back, wondering if I can put her in a warm bath then go downstairs to eat a pint of ice cream. Any flavor. Doesn't matter. 

“Tell me exactly what happened,” I pull back, looking into her tragic, raccoon eyes. I note she has a new facial piercing. I ignore it (for now) and affix a look of genuine concern. 

“Okay, Mom,” she sniffs dramatically. “So I backed into a car at Taco Bell. And then the driver was really mean to me—he yelled! So I left, but I ran over his foot.”

I raise my eyebrows and start counting the felonies. 

“On the way home, a cop followed me. He pulled me over. I waited until he was out of his car—then I took off!”

“You. took. off.”

“I was scared because I had been drinking—” her lower lip trembles. “And then I hit the sign.”

“What sign?”

“The sign outside our subdivision. The Walnut Grove sign.”

That’s a brick wall. You ran the car into a brick wall?”

“Uh-huh,” she cries. She buries her face into my chest, wiping her nose on my nightgown like a five year old. The thought of strangling her seems very appealing.

“Darling, I’m going to need you to take a shower and go to bed. When dad gets home, I’ll talk to him. We’ll sort it out. Just go to bed now, all right?”

“Uh-huh,” she blubbers. “I’m sorry, mom,” she apologizes, but the apology is insincere. She is sorry she got caught. 

When she leaves, I lay down on the bedroom floor instead of making up the bed. I gather most of the pillows in a heap and briefly consider making a pillow fort. How nice it would be to have someone else to deal with aging parents and adult children. 

I sulk, staring at the ceiling. 

I’m in the sandwich generation, my mother complained one afternoon when I came home from school. I didn’t know what she meant and asked her to make me a ham and swiss. I had wondered why she burst into both tears and laughter at my request.

Now I know. I am in between two generations whose incessant needs make me wonder who I am.

“Every woman in her fifties wants to run away,” my mother told me before she died. “And the ones who don’t are few and far between.”

“I think I hate everyone,” I confessed to her. “Especially men.”

Menstruation. Menopause. Mental breakdown. You see a trend?”

We laughed.

“Running away is easy. Fighting is much harder,” she said, lifting my chin, looking into my eyes to see if I was listening. “And I didn’t raise any wimps.”

The bedroom door opens, jostles me awake.

“Honey, why are you on the floor?” my husband asks, eyes bloodshot and weary. 

I stand up and reach my arms around him, grateful for his presence. “I was down there getting a new perspective on life.”

“Then you’re feeling better? No more hot flashes tonight? No more chills?”

“Oh, they’ll be back.”

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything for your troubles?” he grins, and I wonder how he missed our car decorating the entrance to the neighborhood. 

“Probably a good lawyer or two,” I smile, kissing him lightly on the lips. 


February 22, 2022 02:07

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67 comments

K. Antonio
11:04 Feb 22, 2022

Oh, sometimes I lie down on the floor to contemplate my existence. Sometimes, I fall asleep there too. The part where the MC says that she thinks she hates everyone was so relatable. I enjoyed how there was an emphasis on what wasn't being said, keeping those italicized snippets of internal thoughts was a great way to show tension/friction. I don't really have any feedback. I just enjoyed the story! It was short, real and I related to the MC during multiple times.

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12:09 Feb 22, 2022

Sometimes I fall asleep standing up, usually teaching, while waiting for an intelligent response. (Wait time is totally overrated.) This MC was particularly cathartic. (She needs a spa day. In Vegas. With a pack of crazy girlfriends.)

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Dustin Gillham
21:39 Feb 22, 2022

I can relate to this because at least once a month my MANstrual cycle makes me feel pissed off and the cramps are excruciating. But for real, I see you. As usual, I love it.

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22:18 Feb 22, 2022

Hahahahahahaha ❤️

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A.R. Eakle
19:49 Feb 23, 2022

I really like the tone you write for the mom. She doesn't really say much, but we're so deep into her head that she doesn't have to have much dialogue. I really like that about this story. She's calm, yet quick in what she says.

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20:31 Feb 23, 2022

She's a mess :)

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Mike Panasitti
16:04 May 14, 2022

How you manage to create deep characters within the confines of flash fiction is truly a marvel. Mendacity is another of the "men" the character could have hated, but three is a charm. Would you mind reading "Soft Spot," and giving a tip or two on how to improve characterization? Thank you and cheers.

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16:26 May 15, 2022

Would love to read your latest. I love your stuff. :)

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❀Leo Fall❀
16:36 Mar 07, 2022

I really like this story. Do you have any tidbits of advice on how to write similar to this? I'm trying to write a casual story for a change and I can't seem to figure it out.

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17:33 Mar 07, 2022

It's kind of stream of consciousness. Use italics for internal monologues, as the character thinks things she cannot say out loud :) Honestly, just trust yourself -- and the reader. Your observations on people are probably accurate. What you like, we like. What annoys you, annoys us. Don't apologize. Just let your characters comment on the human condition as it is -- and as it probably always will be :)

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❀Leo Fall❀
17:39 Mar 07, 2022

Thank you!

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18:25 Mar 07, 2022

And keep writing -- daily, weekly, always :)

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Kelsey H
08:32 Mar 05, 2022

I so relate to the feeling of being needed in so many directions you describe in this story! I love little "slice of life" moment scenes like this, and I really enjoyed the snippet of conversation between the narrator and her mother we get, some things are just so timeless.

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18:09 Mar 05, 2022

I'm glad this poor mother didn't come off as whiny, but you know -- some days you just gotta vent. (And hooray for characters we can live vicariously through!)

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L.M. Lydon
23:45 Mar 02, 2022

Harsh! It's great! I love the tension between the spouses at the beginning ("remember how I spent..."). I also enjoy the exasperation with what is clearly articulated as the kid's constant drama ("ice cream...any flavor"). Your narrator has such a sharp sense of humor.

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Cora V
16:50 Mar 01, 2022

Had to send this to my own mama because this really hit home. No I didn't crash my car, but the feelings and stresses you presented are so relatable and valid. Adore it!

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18:12 Mar 01, 2022

You may need to take Mom out for Mother's Day Brunch, too. Those poor women worry over us -- and for good reason :) :) :)

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Michael Regan
20:56 Feb 28, 2022

I loved the line - "Remember how I spent twenty years on the pill because you wouldn’t get a vasectomy?" I think we all know a guy like that ;)

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23:24 Feb 28, 2022

I married a guy like that :)

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E.K. Haven
20:55 Feb 28, 2022

I really enjoyed this story! I feel I relate, despite the age difference between the MC and I.

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23:24 Feb 28, 2022

Rage females rock :)

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19:23 Feb 28, 2022

I like the snarkiness of the mother. Her daughter is an idiot and her husband is a whiner. She is the fixer. Loved how she handles everything.

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20:38 Feb 28, 2022

Probably true of most family dynamics. Moms rock :) and she drinks way too many mojitos with her ride-or-die girlfriends.

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13:54 Feb 28, 2022

So funny, this line...I stand up and reach my arms around him, grateful for his presence. “I was down there getting a new perspective on life.” I can totally relate. A good friend of mine decided we needed to go lay in the dirt one day when I was visiting. We first lay quietly, regrouping and re-energizing...then solved the world's problems.

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16:47 Feb 28, 2022

Laying on the ground is completely underrated :)

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Niveeidha Palani
11:30 Feb 28, 2022

This is good.

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16:47 Feb 28, 2022

Wish you were a judge :)

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Niveeidha Palani
00:54 Mar 01, 2022

Every time I take a visit to one of your stories, you blow me away all the time. Definitely deserves at least a shortlist

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01:01 Mar 01, 2022

Not this week. Not recommended. Oh well :)

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Niveeidha Palani
06:45 Mar 01, 2022

Oh well, there's always next time :)

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01:03 Mar 01, 2022

So, Niveeidha. Any chance we can get you on the podcast? https://www.readlotswritelots.com/ Take a listen to see if you'd like to chat about books and writing and life with Russell Norman and myself. We have also set up a space for writers to read their own work. Come aboard, if you'd like? https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/podcast-2/

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Niveeidha Palani
06:39 Mar 01, 2022

Aw, I'm flattered. I'll definitely think about it, and get back to you! :)

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03:59 Feb 28, 2022

Deidra, this was very engaging, I was instantly hooked! Loved all the dialogue, and especially the thoughts and catty commentary of the narrator 👏

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16:53 Feb 28, 2022

Thanks, Hannah. Nothing like a middle aged crisis to fuel inner rage :)

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03:09 Feb 27, 2022

Good story

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15:30 Feb 27, 2022

Woo hoo 😃

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Alex Sultan
16:59 Feb 24, 2022

I enjoyed the story, friend. I like the dialogue a lot - especially for the daughter. The whole exchange, and the 'I raise my eyebrows and start counting the felonies.' made me laugh. I think you got the 'how tiring life can sometimes be' feel down very well, and then some more with your humour. Well done 🙂

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19:14 Feb 24, 2022

I've paid lawyers for a few of my progeny's felonies, so....good research? :)

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Suma Jayachandar
14:34 Feb 24, 2022

A tribute to sandwich generation- classic Deidra way! Pitch perfect, as usual:-)

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15:24 Feb 24, 2022

You are so kind :) So...any chance we can get you on the podcast? https://www.readlotswritelots.com/ Give a listen and see if you'd like to chat with a fellow teacher about books and writing and life...? Very mellow. My buddy Russell Norman and I also set up a space for writers to read their own work (since we know all the nuances.) It's our new hobby: https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/podcast-2/ Thanks for the read. Onward :)

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Suma Jayachandar
03:23 Feb 25, 2022

You can be very pursuasive! You know that? Of course you do😊 I'm honoured and scared by equal measure that you think Im worthy of it. So, yes. Will get back to you on email?

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09:33 Feb 25, 2022

Fortune favors the bold. 😎 Lovegren.deidra@gmail.com

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J.C. Lovero
12:42 Feb 24, 2022

Another great story Deidra! I really enjoyed being in the MC's head and experiencing her thoughts with her. Being a parent is one of the most selfless things that we don't give people enough credit for! You are so good at dialogue, by the way :)

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15:27 Feb 24, 2022

Thanks for the compliment! I'm immersed in dialogue all day (since I teach high school). Writing short stories is a good place to purge all those voices from my head. So...any chance we can get you on the podcast? https://www.readlotswritelots.com/ Give a listen and see if you'd like to chat about books and writing and life...? It's very mellow. Russell Norman and I have also set up a space for writers to read their own work (since we know all the nuances.) Come aboard if you'd like. https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/podcast-2/

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J.C. Lovero
22:34 Feb 24, 2022

Hey Deidra, Glad you have a place to put all the voices :) I bet you hear lots of great content day in and day out. Also wow, I'm honored. Definitely interested. The podcast sounds like a fun time. Let me know how to get in touch!

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Russell Norman
23:03 Feb 24, 2022

Deidra usually gives out her e-mail address, which I will let her do if she so wishes. However you can also send us an e-mail via bluemarblestorytellers@gmail.com and we can start up a conversation via that address.

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J.C. Lovero
23:31 Feb 24, 2022

Thanks for the information, Russell. I'll start with the email you provided!

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23:38 Feb 24, 2022

lovegren.deidra@gmail.com

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Francis Daisy
03:01 Feb 24, 2022

Such a relatable story on so many levels...the phone call in the middle of the night, to the spouse who just doesn't get it, to the having to take the pill because he refuses to get a vasectomy himself, to having to deal with the mid-night child crisis...all of it and more......you nailed it. Great story! It's amazing how much we juggle every day, all day, day after day. Thank you for writing this!

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12:20 Feb 24, 2022

Always fun to write your own therapy :) Glad it resonated. We're together in the trenches!! Woo hoo

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Francis Daisy
22:51 Feb 24, 2022

We've got to stick together! Strength in numbers for sure❤

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Dorsa S.
14:35 Feb 23, 2022

existence is the most overtaxing thing, and this story mirrored that perfectly. i pity the mc a bit in this, which is amazing writing on your part. great job on this!

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16:31 Feb 23, 2022

Thanks, Dorsa! Our MC needs a day off -- or a Xanax. :)

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