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American Contemporary Drama

“I’m going—I’m going,” she mutters, pushing her three-wheeled shopping cart out of the alley. As the proprietor glares at her, hands on his hips. She stops to inventory her possessions, often rifled through by miscreants in the middle of the night. 

“I warned you about coming back here,” the man says, menace in his voice. 

“And I curse you and your children.”

The man shakes his head in disgust.

“And I curse your restaurant and your health and your cock!” she cries. 

“I’m calling the police.”

“I’m giving your restaurant one-star!” she screeches, her voice reverberating down the alley.

“Get out of here.”

“This place is infested with vermin!” she calls out to people on the street, pointing at his establishment. “They combine ketchup bottles and reuse dinner rolls!”

“Witch!” she hears him say. But she isn’t sure that is the right word. No matter.  

“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!” she whispers, taking her time to vacate the premises. 

That is enough for him—a filthy woman spewing nonsense at him this early in the morning. 

She is loathsome, dressed in a soiled pink bridesmaid dress and unlaced combat boots. Her blue eyes are pretty, but set in an angry face. She could be sixteen or sixty. Either way, he thinks, she’s lost to this world

He turns his back on her, returning to his customers. 

She spits in his general direction. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

The spring zephyrs are warm, much welcomed after the ice and snow. She’s grateful to spend her nights outside under the stars. The winter night spent in the public shelters were long, noisy, unnerving. Besides, underneath her lice-ridden blankets and coats, no one could see her lovely dress. In the middle of the street, she twirls, taffeta rustling like a princess running down the staircase, just before midnight. 

A car honks.  

She looks disappointed, struggling to push her shopping cart—another wheel going wonky. People rush around her in the crosswalk like a flood. She momentarily wonders where they are going in such a hurry.

Already the sun is high overhead. She looks at it directly, squinting a bit. When she looks away, spots swirl in front of her eyes, her peripheral vision blurs. She stands on the street corner and waits for the spots to disappear. 

Eventually all things go away, if she’s just patient. Especially time.

She wonders what happened to the hours since the man yelled at her in the alley. It could have been five hours or five days ago. 

Regardless, she is now at a verdant park packed with people eating their lunches, sitting on park benches, taking in the fresh air with a promise of spring.

In round colored barrels, her gardens sit patiently, ready for her to dig her fingers into. 

Her first garden is full of paper cups and plastic bottles. Some are half full of delicious brown liquids, sometimes still hot! A few glass bottles have screw tops—with a little residue at their bottoms—from which she drains every drop. Once there was a container filled with urine, but she knows the smell too well now to be fooled again. 

Her second garden is full of paper. She sifts through all the headlines, the problems of other people, and looks for glossy magazines with photo spreads. She finds a page with a blonde haired, blue-eyed model. She tears it out and holds it up with two hands. It’s like looking into a mirror! She practices posing like the advertisement: nonchalant, insouciant, desirable. 

“I see you checking me out,” she calls after a group of young men, walking by her at a brisk pace. “Hey, I’m not interested in you! Thank you for your service, but I’m taken.”

They ignore her, elbowing each other, making crude remarks. 

She knows how men are. 

She stops making the pose from the magazine, folds the picture up, and puts it down the bodice of her dress. 

Her third garden reminds her of the potluck dinners her parents dragged her to as a child growing up in Ohio. In the church recreation hall, a long table had been laid out with containers full of surprises, some good, some bad. All deserved a taste or two. Noodle casseroles. Jello salads.

She tries to remember the last time she ate, but gives up trying to put the day’s events in order. All she knows is that her stomach is gurgling and greasy paper bags are stacked in semi-orderly piles around the last of all possible gardens. 

She patiently sifts through the take out trays. Half a chicken tender. A few spoonfuls of cold macaroni and cheese. A half box of stale donuts! She gleefully grins, one dirty finger scooping out the filling of the Bavarian cream. She licks it clean.

🜋 🜋 🜋

She pushes her cart over by the playground, sitting far enough away so the young mothers don’t scold her. Of all the city dwellers, these are the ones who she fears the most—the ones who say the most hateful things in the cruelest of ways. These are the ones who can cut her to the quick.

Seeing the children brings her joy, watching them clamber over the ladders and slides. She yearns to push one in a swing or play on the teeter totter with another. She sees the mothers and nannies hand out juice boxes and Goldfish crackers and cheese sticks. She notes how they carefully clean the children’s hands with sanitizing wipes before handing them cut up grapes and slices of oranges.

“I had a child,” she says out loud. No one responds.

I had a child, she says to herself. A long time ago. 

With her whole heart, she tries to remember how old her son is. It seems like something she should be able to remember. 

Unfurrowing her brow, she sees a bag of baby carrots by the rock climbing wall. Since it is April, she will plant them in the good soil. Although her hometown in Ohio boasts the best carrots in the state, she figures New York City can grow them just as fine. 

Moving with purpose, she retrieves the bag, using her teeth to open it while she scurries away. Climbing over the embankment to a quiet area of the park, she diligently takes each carrot, one by one, planting it into the dirt. She breaks up clods to make the planting easier. 

But one clump does not feel like dirt at all. 

Puzzled, she grabs hold of it, pulling hard. 

A dirty baby doll dislodges from the earth, forgotten by those who once loved it, its blue eyes still sparkling although covered by filth and time. 


April 10, 2022 15:19

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58 comments

Lavonne H.
20:23 Apr 11, 2022

Hi Deidra! As I read, I FELT the word 'etheral'. What a gentle way to bring the life of another human to the forefront of an often busy or apathetic society. Even though it is your story, you are still giving voice to a woman, somewhere who is without one. I thank you for that (someday, I will share why). And congrats on a legacy of 100 stories! Is there cheese, wine and chocolate to celebrate?? All the best to you. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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22:56 Apr 11, 2022

Endless chocolate. Mountains of cheese and throw in some warm baguettes, too. And let's just sit on the couch. Going outside is so overrated :) I worked in Washington, DC in the early 1990's. People without homes were on every block and street corner... A co-worker of mine often shared her lunch and talked to some of the regulars on her smoke break. I always admired her for talking to these men and women as well-regarded peers. She completely changed my outlook.

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Lavonne H.
04:27 Apr 12, 2022

I am touched by what you have shared. Your co-worker was a natural social worker! I never felt completely comfortable but the one part of my job that was meant to "change outlooks" was teaching elementary students (yes, even grade 1s) about 'homelessness.' One regret with retirement. And to share, yes 'people without homes' is the least stereotyping label since we need labels for funding and programs. But one fellow, a real curmudgeon, informed me that he wasn't without a home! The "city" was his home. He identified as a citizen first and f...

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Shea West
22:01 Apr 10, 2022

Every town has one of these people don't they? The lost and unwell. And when they're gone it's a collective grief to not have them there anymore... When she admired the model in the magazine and saw herself in it, my heart kind of broke. But when she pulled the baby from the soil I almost thought she might see herself there too... Perhaps you meant to do that, or you didn't. As your reader I interpreted as such! The moment she shouts about her child, also sad. I love how you can write about the subjects that we all know to be true and une...

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18:17 Apr 11, 2022

The baby doll at the end was absolutely symbolic of lost innocence, the loss of her child, the loss of her childhood dreams. Old story. Young country girl wants to make it in the big city. City chews her up and spits her out. Tale as old as time... I saw these women in Los Angeles when I used to travel for conventions. They just seemed stuck in time. People without housing, the new way to refer to "homeless," is a much better descriptor. It's the "othering" that adds to their isolation. Still people with stories.

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Shea West
19:16 Apr 11, 2022

I grew up in that part of California and know what you speak of... here in the PNW it's a tragic human issue, especially in the Portland area. We've seen an increase in tiny home villages for those that are unhoused and I think it's an incredible thing!

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23:04 Apr 11, 2022

McMansions need to go. We need to get back to smaller sustainable housing for all. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

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Cindy Strube
20:13 Apr 11, 2022

💯🥳 Standout lines: She is loathsome, dressed in a soiled pink bridesmaid dress and unlaced combat boots. Her blue eyes are pretty, but set in an angry face. She could be sixteen or sixty. Either way, he thinks, she’s lost to this world. He turns his back on her, returning to his customers. “I had a child,” she says out loud. No one responds. I had a child, she says to herself. A long time ago. She makes me think of a woman I knew - not homeless, but if you didn’t know her, you might think she was. Weathered, tanned, creviced skin; ragg...

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23:01 Apr 11, 2022

Thanks for the shout out for my centennial story. Let's hope I'm getting better at this...(some weeks I wonder!) Life is brutal at times, and I think it hurts the gentlest of souls. Not a bad time with the horror show unfolding in Ukraine to remember how far basic kindness can go. Thanks for the read and your awesome support.

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Delia Tomkus
14:21 Apr 11, 2022

Yay you reached 100! And it's great too!

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17:12 Apr 11, 2022

HUZZAH. I'm ready for my close up now. I wish I burned a 100 calories per story (per paragraph?)

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Delia Tomkus
11:06 Apr 12, 2022

Lol haha

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Suma Jayachandar
03:17 Apr 11, 2022

Congratulations! The grand dame of reedsy completes a century! What a stupendous feat! This tale of destitution and the dehumanisation is so relevant all across the globe. The descriptions you have used to bring alive the plight of the nameless, faceless girl/woman going around scavenging and being despised are gut wrenching. That only shows what a masterful storyteller you are. More power to you! Cheering you all the way to your next milestone!!

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17:23 Apr 11, 2022

Beautiful Suma! I am honored you dropped by for my centennial event. Maybe the next hundred or so will show some improvement. Thanks for the wonderful chat last weekend. I am jealous of your gypsy lifestyle and all the new adventures ahead of you. All the best this week :)

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Suma Jayachandar
10:06 Apr 12, 2022

Of course, how couldn't I? Thank you for the chat. Yeah I know, it gets a bit tedious at times, but I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world :-) Thank you for your wishes.

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Scout Tahoe
00:36 Apr 11, 2022

WHO GOT TO 100? DEIDRA! Wowza - congratulations. This is a great story to hit 100 with because it’s such a nice twist of the prompt and who doesn’t love ending with babies? We love you, D. Good luck.

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17:26 Apr 11, 2022

LET'S GO. The first hundred is the easiest. Now I'll have to really mine my subconscious for fodder. God knows what's down there. Eeeeee. Thanks for the love, Scout. Huge fan of yours :)

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Scout Tahoe
02:35 Apr 12, 2022

I… posted a story this week. Dya mind reading over and letting me know if I should submit it? So unsure these days.

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11:44 Apr 12, 2022

Fortune favors the bold. We don't have time to be timid... Heading over to read now :)

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Scout Tahoe
13:33 Apr 12, 2022

It does, doesn’t it?

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13:43 Apr 12, 2022

Can't win if you don't play. And if you don't believe in your work, who will? You are a very solid, intelligent writer. Just keep going.

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❀Leo Fall❀
23:19 Apr 10, 2022

Happy 100th Deidra! I enjoy the flow your stories have quite a lot. I like the vibe of the story too, it has a certain touch.

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18:19 Apr 11, 2022

THANKS LEO :)

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❀Leo Fall❀
00:04 Apr 12, 2022

Of course <3

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Shea West
17:21 Apr 10, 2022

Haven't read yet. Just wanna shout Yassss at the rooftops to your 100th story. Legend.

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19:45 Apr 10, 2022

Are you busy delivering all the spring babies? :) Thanks for the good wishes on my centennial offering. If you are looking for a short fun contest, try: https://24hourshortstorycontest.com/ The next one is in July, but they take a limited number of people. Very, very specific prompts (which makes it even better.)

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Shea West
21:40 Apr 10, 2022

Yes, thankfully I just hit the tail end of all the spring babies! But I'm recovering from two nights of training doulas in Shanghai... so I'm tad tired! I'm always looking for good contests, I'll check that one out!

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Tommy Goround
10:36 Apr 24, 2022

Clapping. Thank you for a very enjoyable read.

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18:08 Apr 25, 2022

Woo hoo! Thanks BK :)

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Andrea Doig
16:16 Apr 22, 2022

Poor lady. That was a sad one. Beautifully written. Scared of the young mothers … I could sense that she too had a child once. As a mom of boys that brought a lump to my throat. Thank you for sharing.

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Kelsey H
07:35 Apr 22, 2022

This is a really amazing story, at first when she started shouting curses I thought it might be going in a humorous direction then it just went deeper into her life and ended up being heart-breaking with this line: I had a child, she says to herself. A long time ago. That was just so sad especially coming at that point after following her about her day for a while and all the little details like her looking at the magazine and the memory of her childhood. I love how nothing is really stated about what has happened to her, how she went from ...

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14:31 Apr 22, 2022

That is a really interesting point. I was intending this to be a comical piece -- between a street person and a business owner. Then, as my characters often do, she commandeered this story and told her own narrative. Your last sentence is profound. We can't judge anyone accurately. (Not even ourselves most times...) It's better to err on the side of cutting everyone major slack. Life's tough out there.

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Michał Przywara
23:52 Apr 15, 2022

Congrats on 100! Really strong opening on this one, particularly the dialogue and the inner thoughts. A creative way of working the prompt in. The actual story is sad and fascinating. The protagonist *seems* in high spirits for most of it, but it's a reality she's constructed for herself -- and it sounds like it's a way of coping with a horrible loss. The "gardens" idea is neat, if horrible, and we can't help but root for the protagonist. It's far too easy to forget that our "invisible people" are actually still people, and they have stori...

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Daria White
05:21 Apr 14, 2022

Congrats on the hot 100 Deidra! And thank you for the Like on my story! Living in Las Vegas, I see her brothers and sisters every day. Love that the trash cans are called "gardens". Your characters have so much life to them. I miss them when I finish reading!

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14:54 Apr 14, 2022

Thanks, Daria. What a great compliment about my little tribe of characters. Some of them deserve longer works, some others need to be written out of existence :)

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Alex Sultan
00:52 Apr 14, 2022

Hi Deidra - congrats on story #100(#101 counting 'The Play's the Thing'?) I enjoyed reading through this one. The first scene definitely sounds like a customer-service job, and I like how you wrote it. Also, I like how you turned it all around with the ending, making the character feel a lot more human - the symbolism in the last line especially.

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14:56 Apr 14, 2022

There are a few stories of my that were such garbage that I've deleted their digital footprint. I do miss "The Play's the Thing," but sold that baby off to the Canadians for $500. Always looking forward to reading your pure genius each week. :)

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Ed Hinojos
21:20 Apr 13, 2022

What a wonderful story. I forgot all about the prompt as I walked with this lady in her imagination. The world is cruel, but there are always those who can paint it in pretty color. Usually, it is those who have had the harshest life. Thank you for such a beautiful story.

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21:23 Apr 13, 2022

Agreed. Some people are far too good for this world. The biggest hearts suffer the most. ❤️

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Russell Norman
18:29 Apr 13, 2022

I hope this story isn't a portent of things to come for the great Deidra Lovegren :P

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18:55 Apr 13, 2022

Only if you leave me, Russell.

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Russell Norman
19:05 Apr 13, 2022

Never :)

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Dhwani Jain
15:46 Apr 13, 2022

CONGRATULATIONS ON 100 STORIES!!!!!! You know Sapphire? We have a collab coming up on my blog at 04:06 p.m. IST tomorrow (April 14). Do check it out, here's the link (https://djdhwanijain.wordpress.com/)

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15:51 Apr 13, 2022

I'd love to, but that's 6:30 a.m. EST -- when I commute to work :) Sapphire rocks! (pun intended) Have fun :)

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Dhwani Jain
15:51 Apr 13, 2022

No problem, its on my blog, you can read it later. XD Thanks a lot!

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Jay Mc Kenzie
00:42 Apr 12, 2022

So lovely. '“I had a child,” she says out loud. No one responds. I had a child, she says to herself. A long time ago. ' Heartbreaking.

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11:40 Apr 12, 2022

I can't imagine anything more horrible :( Infinite regret.

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Aeris Walker
23:25 Apr 21, 2022

Agreeing with Jay! That line made my heart hurt and managed to weave a whole backstory for this woman with one simple phrase. Great story.

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Calm Shark
18:51 Apr 10, 2022

Hey Deidra, I didn't plan on commenting but now I do. First of all, happy 100th story, you made it! Also, I was surprised to see you posting a story on a Sunday! I would expect like on a Tuesday or on a Wednesday. Anyways, I like the story and I also like how you make the dialogue flow at the beginning.

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19:49 Apr 10, 2022

Shark, you know me so well. I had some time this weekend, so I decided to knock this one out. Not my favorite, not my worst, but satisfying to make it to 100. Thanks for be an indefatigable reader. I appreciate you.

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Calm Shark
20:04 Apr 10, 2022

No problem Deidra:)

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19:39 Jul 18, 2022

How did I MISS this. YOU do have a gift.

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