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December 12, 2009

I haven’t had any creative writing time in the past few weeks, it’s all been footnotes and not fancy free. However, I did not want to fall off the Friday Flash train, so I am going to post one of the first sketches (…or flashes) that I wrote a few years ago.

Yellow Ribbon

It was the second white glove inspection of this particular Saturday. Tessa wondered how many more she would need to go through before finally passing. Because passing meant she would be allowed to go out and play with Heather. Her thoughts were wandering back and forth between the toy that had been in the wrong place during the last inspection, and her newly acquired hair ribbon. The toy was her tattered Mrs. Beasley doll, whose black plastic glasses only remained attached in one place, causing them to hang down her worn-out cheek on the other side. The new ribbon was a bright yellow color and long enough to tie around Tessa’s head as a headband, just like all the girls at Terrace Elementary were tying theirs. Best of all, it matched her old soccer uniform just perfectly.

Tessa had learned to wait out this ritual. But unlike other childhood rituals, she found no comfort in this one. Her father made the Saturday white glove inspection a lesson she could never learn. He drank cans of Budweiser because he deserved to. Watched football because he wanted to. And inspected Tessa’s room without giving her a chance at success because it was fun. Every Saturday he inspected and found one thing out of place and every Saturday he told her he would come back in one hour to re-inspect. One more hour of punishment for being alive. And one more hour to clean more than she had to, all in order to fill the horrible minutes around the two it took her to meet his demand and earn a chance at going outside. Sometimes she got out after two or three hours of re-inspections, and sometimes she gave up just as the sun was giving up to the night.

Tessa looked at herself in the mirror on this Saturday and admired her pretty ribbon. She liked to take it out of her hair, just so she would get to put it back in again. Then she heard him coming down the hall. Her heart picked up speed and her breathing became increasingly shallow with each approaching footstep. He walked in and laughed, “Tsk…tsk…tsk, Baby Marine,” he said, pleasing himself with each syllable. “Looks like you are going to be in for another hour because I can already see something out of place.” She felt her life seep out with her breath. “You failed,” Tessa’s father said as he smiled again, exposing grey teeth.

But unlike all the times before, and for a reason she didn’t even know, Tessa decided in that instant to stand her ground. She screamed, “No! I am going out to play! I passed your stupid inspection!” She moved toward him to try and fit her small body through the tiny bit of space his six foot frame did not steal from the doorway. “About Face! Baby Mac!” he snapped like a pit bull. But Tessa wasn’t stopping. And just as she could feel the freedom on the other side of the door, she also felt the familiar sting of her father’s hand. It burned like fire under the skin on her leg. She knew his pink hand print, outlined with blood-tinged welts, would soon follow. But she also knew there was no one else home that day, and that she was going to get it way worse if she didn’t keep going. So Tessa did. She kept going, down the narrow hallway and straight out the front door. Then she ran as fast as she could, because she felt him reaching for her, even though she knew he was still in the house.

Tessa arrived at Heather’s green and white house and smiled when her friend opened the door. Heather’s father stood behind her welcoming her inside. “Hey, you wanna play?” Tessa asked.
“Sure.” said Heather.
“You wanna trade hair ribbons?”

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Barb Relyea permalink
    December 12, 2009 10:33 pm

    Oh, god! You sent me right back to basic training in the Air Force. I hated white glove inspections. No matter how hard we tried, there was always something the Captain could find wrong.

    Ten demerits for you.

    Barb Relyea

  2. December 13, 2009 12:29 am

    Oh boy, I’m taking a deep cleansing breath after that one. Poor, poor Tessa. I’m glad she found the strength to rebel and hope she keeps going! You build a lot of suspense in such a short time and it works beautifully. Here’s an odd twist … my first fridayflash was about a little girl named Tessa who has a terrible parent. Have a look … http://wp.me/pGgaC-1

  3. December 13, 2009 12:37 am

    My heart goes for your Tessa. Great story, and glad to have read. Peace, Linda

  4. December 13, 2009 1:51 pm

    Sorry, Barb. 😉 Yes, when you have the power you can choose to use it for good or for bad. I’ll take your demerits, and thanks for reading.

  5. December 13, 2009 2:01 pm

    Olivia, usually when one gets the taste of rebellion, it is hard to go back. 😉 Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    I read your Tessa story and aside from the completely weird coincidence that you’ve written about Marines and about your own Tessa, I have to say your story story was really touching. I could feel her frustration as she tried to keep her feelings locked down. And oh my, I could taste that cupcake with her, too. Thanks for pointing me to it.

    I wonder if we would be two of those people who always show up wearing matching outfits. 😉

  6. December 13, 2009 2:18 pm

    Thank you, Linda. I always look forward to reading your work as well.

  7. December 13, 2009 4:10 pm

    This story takes me back. Except it was with my mother, the bathroom that I could never get to shine quite enough, and I wore a red ribbon.

    I liked the pacing of the story. You set the scene and situation, the rebellion and then led into the acceptance of consequences. None of it matters compared to a play date. Nice turn at the end.

  8. December 13, 2009 5:38 pm

    Ech, gads, I need a bath after this one! Cuts a little too close for anyone who survived an abusive parent. Great story, though, and I’m so glad Tessa made it to freedom, if only for the afternoon!

    Good work!

  9. December 14, 2009 6:48 am

    Run Tessa run!!! I enjoyed the pace of this story. Well written.

  10. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    December 14, 2009 7:01 pm

    Poor Tessa. I had a friend who endured much the same when I was growing up. As difficult as it was to watch, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be Tessa, (thank God).
    I had a Mrs. Beasley doll when I was 5, my favorite toy ever. Thanks for bringing back that memory.
    Very well-written story.

  11. December 15, 2009 12:55 pm

    Hey Chadwick, thanks for reading. And since I seem to have some sort of bug preventing me from posting on your blog, I will tell you here that I thought “The Appearance” was really well done. Very believable, because there is no resource humans will not mine, exploit, and destroy for a buck. And yes, the cable news would come up with a catchy tagline for the event. The truth hurts.

  12. December 15, 2009 1:01 pm

    Thank you Donna, Michelle and Deanna. It isn’t an easy subject, whether you went through yourself, or knew someone, or even if you have no connection. Kids should be safe, and when they aren’t it is the worse thing. Again, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

    Best,

    Lou

  13. December 16, 2009 1:10 am

    The taste of rebellion you mention is sometimes the only thing that can save a child in such a situation. Yeah, run I say, and don’t look back.

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