BIBLIOPHILEFILES FIVE LINES: The Incredible Irresistible Importance of Smile
This is a short story exercise. Each participant was instructed to use the five lines below in their story of 2500 words or less. We could add NO extra dialogue. We’ve had one month to write our stories. They will be judged by bibliophilefiles other participants and you beginning TODAY, March 1st.
I hope you will vote (for mine) and that you enjoy reading this story, as well as the others you will find posted on bibliophilefiles! I’ve never done anything like this before and enjoyed it a great deal. Oh, be assured it is complete fiction—mostly—except for the hair part. That was and is
Unfortunately only too real.
Here are the five lines:
1) We create ourselves; 2) The last twenty-four hours are making me seriously reconsider our friendship; 3) Whatever, whatever…it’s not happening; 4) I can’t fall in love today I didn’t do a thing with my hair- come back tomorrow; 5)It’s raining again.
And here is the story…
The Incredible, Irresistible Importance of Smile
It’s raining again.
And for me, a wet day is as depressing as it gets in my book—the one still being written in my head: Things I Could Just As Well Do Without. Thank You.
As it begins to rain, even in winter, especially in winter, I can feel my hair curl—with or without my daily flat iron struggle. This alone is depressing.
After almost six decades of wondering what gives on the top of my head, I marvel that such disturbing disarray would continue to win out over my determined assault to tame it. I’ve tried plastic curlers of all sizes, vegetable cans, even a not to be repeated or ever again discussed attempt to actually iron it—you know, with a real iron.
In the please let me be pretty battle, flat irons are second only to the eyewear industry’s miracle of high index plastic that allows me to wear thin lenses instead of ones that make me look like I’ve stolen two of Sherlock Holmes’s magnifying glasses and applied them directly to my face.
But I’m getting sidetracked. It was raining, and I hate getting out when it’s wet.
Today, it’s also cold. Wet and cold—this means a hat, which means destruction of my scrupulously flattened hair, means feeling more unattractive than I ordinarily feel on any given day and it’s simply—excruciating. And, a hat, because I have to take my Aunt to the doctor, wait for her to get her extra clothing on and off, on and off and count on the fact that there will be no “Thank you, Dear” at the end of it all either. What—ever.
The only bright spot about any of this is I’m sure she’ll have a book ready to exchange for the one I’ve just finished. Her library is full of old classics and she never fails to pick a great one. But still, it’s wet—and cold.
And still, I’m—peeved.
Without too much fuss, I collected her, Volume I of The Complete Sherlock Holmes and found that the rain had modified from torrential to steady downpour. We shuffled ourselves up and into the cottage turned medical office without an umbrella, which I would have appreciated frankly and began divesting ourselves of coats, scarves, gloves, water and her plastic hat.
Why do ladies of a certain age always wear those hideous plastic hats? She says it’s because she can wad it up in her pocket, it takes up no room, is always handy, looks the same when she pulls it out and is a darn sight easier to manage than an umbrella. Hence the no umbrella thing. Besides which, I guess I couldn’t have held on to it and her up those steps.
Sidetracked—the hat thing: unfortunately, the only winter hat I own was my late husband’s—a wonderfully warm woolen sailor’s watch cap. When I pull it on, I still feel close to him. I say unfortunately, because as soon as I pull it off, hair flies in most any direction other than where fashion would likely prefer. By the crackling thereby produced, I could probably power a small kitchen appliance.
We look around at a room relatively full of folks, as it always seemed to be—because the receptionist said they were running behind—as they always were—the case with all doctor’s offices, I suppose. Most folks seemed to be retirees; so I was comfortably sure there would be no one to impress.
I guess I’m nearly in that pensioner category myself, actually. But I claim the Peter Pan Complex, still refusing to grow old inside; so it’s hard to think of myself actually doing so. According to my best friend, I’m supposed to be actively seeking a mate. I’m still debating her “actively” assessment.
After checking in and settling my Aunt, I claim a chair by the only table in the room graced with a lamp and open my book prepared for a long wait. Just as Sherlock was about to indicate the ‘game was afoot’ once again, the door burst open to admit what could have been a huge annoyance to my foray down cobblestones and under gaslights. However, I soon found it to be an unexpectedly delightful distraction.
By the sounds of stomping off rain, giggles, laughter, had my eyes been closed, it would have been quite difficult to tell how many of them there actually were. Once sorted, it seemed to be five—four children of differing sizes and a charmingly large father.
Each had to be divested of coats, hats, gloves, umbrellas, back packs, book bags and heaven be praised—galoshes—one set pulled off while the child was virtually upside down! I watched this drama unfold because, truly, I don’t think I’d ever seen such a display. I’m quite sure I’d never seen it performed so lovingly by siblings and what was indeed a father—a six-foot, 200 pound, full head of darkish brown hair with slightly greying temples, glasses-wearing father with a heart-fluttering smile who looked like a really nice kind of a guy.
Whoa. Not sure where that came from. I glanced quickly back at my book. Suddenly, however, cobblestones and gaslights and street urchins on a page just could not hold me like these real life characters in a small cottage/office on a rainy late afternoon. My eyes wandered off the page again.
After the children were checked in, instructed, given their own books, and found seats as suited them, one came and sat in the chair to my left—without a book—without anything to amuse himself, or so I thought. Now, it has been a while since I have consorted much with children, say, fifteen years, if one were counting. So, I wasn’t quite sure why he chose that seat, as others were available, nearer his siblings in fact.
He was quiet. So was I. I looked at him. He looked at me. I tried to read my book. Sherlock decided to smoke his pipe and think deep thoughts for a while.
This Youngest Son was really cute, I thought. Made up of just the right amount of mischief. It showed in his bright eyes, with which he looked at me, as if over a pair of glasses—as if privy to the secrets of the world. One knows that look. It says, I know, you don’t. I could tell you, but probably won’t.
He even had the requisite amount of freckles to go with more than slightly red hair. Probably about eight or nine, I figured. Old enough to think proper thoughts, well past the Why, Mommy? Why?, and into the conversational annoyance stage. Yet, he didn’t speak. He just—smiled.
What ho! Sherlock, get busy! I need some help here! Then my gaze traveled unbidden from Youngest Son, who had become suddenly fascinated with his fingers, to Oldest Daughter. Fifteen maybe, strawberry blond hair and—black lipstick? She might need some fashion help, or else she’s kept on the Halloween stuff a little late. But then, I guess a lot of the girls go in for the, what is it? Goth. That’s it. The Goth look. I can’t even see her eyes with that dark shadow. At least her Dad lets her express herself. That’s a good thing—I guess.
But she’s attentive to Younger Sister—reading to her. Good that she reads. Looks like she’s acting all the parts out and they’re both laughing. Oldest Daughter happens to look up and smiles. I smile back. How interesting. I didn’t know fifteen year-old Goth girls were even able to smile anymore. At least I haven’t seen one do so. I kind of thought it was against some rule or other.
Younger Sister is rather the most serious looking of the children really. She has darker hair pulled back into a bun. I guess her sister does it for her. She has round glasses, a skirt and blouse and would look like the librarian I used to have in second grade if it were not for that beautiful smile. I can’t imagine her saying, shush! She does look through her glasses, however, rather than over them. Reassuring somehow.
She must be about five, maybe six. What a wonderful age. One isn’t jaded just yet. Fantasy holds a world of possibility and parents remain invincible and don’t—die. Or they’re not supposed to. Home is safe. Or it’s supposed to be.
And Dad is really paying attention to First Son, too. Wow! Amazing. Not on his cell doing business. In fact, none of them are connected. Not one of them has electronics. No cells, earphones, iPods, iPads—i nothings! I hadn’t noticed that before. Dad is leaning in, talking to his son and son is talking back. And they’re laughing, too. This boy is maybe twelve and apparently can’t talk without both hands. A kindred spirit if there ever was one! I do the same thing. So difficult with a cell.
First Son is so animated and Dad seems truly interested. He’s alternatingly serious and humored by this child, who happens to look quite like him, really—same expressive eyes with brows that lift, one more than the other—and they both tilt their heads at the same angle, to the right, when listening—and throw them back when laughing.
Dad turns my way. Ahhgg! He is looking at me!
Oh, my stars and garters! Did I just say that out loud? I snap my head down hoping for Sherlock to rescue me. I turn a page and steal a glance at Youngest Son. He is looking at me and his hand covers a giggle. Crap. I said it out loud.
What am I doing! I am blushing for crying out loud! I am sitting in a doctor’s office and thinking about a family that does not exist—not for me anyway, like, like—they are characters in a book! Besides, I am too old for him. This is ridiculous! A father who is too young for me—possibly—and has four kids and I could not possibly start over with—what am I thinking? Whatever, whatever—it’s not happening. Sherlock, you are miserably and absolutely not helping at all!
Wait. Now I am remembering a conversation with my best friend whose is always trying to hook me up with “Man: Available, Non-creepy, Children Optional (Maybe).” She has started calling herself Man.Com. It’ been awful, embarrassing and endearing at the same time. She feels now’s the time after eight years of being a widow to, well—. I thought I’d gotten used to being alone after giving up the love of my life. I’m still OK being alone. Just—perhaps not OK being—lonely.
What was it she said? Maybe four kids aged about six to around fifteen. He’s around fifty-five, maybe a little older. This has to be the widower that she’s been trying to get me to meet for the last few weeks. This is the guy she’s invited to her party tonight! This is the—the somebody I’m really gonna like the first time I see him! Oh, crap!
You may be my BFF, sweetie, but I have told you over and over that I will never, never have another serious relationship ever, ever again. I told you last week and I told you the week before and yesterday and this morning—and now the last twenty-four hours are making me seriously reconsider our friendship. I am NOT going to get involved with someone. I’m—not. Oh, Sherlock, please! Get a clue!
I take the risk of looking up again and realize I have noticed everything but the fact that my Aunt has been in, is out, has her coat and plastic hat on and is standing at the reception desk. I fold Sherlock into the fog that is not entirely London, look at Youngest Son, sigh—and smile. He smiles back, bigger this time, over those non-existent glasses of his—then glances over at his Dad. I walk over to my Aunt to make sure she is completely repackaged for the weather and then begin to do the same for myself.
Suddenly, I’m being assisted into my coat. I turn and look full into the face that had previously looked at me from across the room. I am oddly and inexplicably very warm. And inexplicably, I’m thinking, I can’t fall in love today, I didn’t do a thing with my hair—come back tomorrow—when it’s not raining and I’ve had my unwieldy time with the flat iron. But do I have words? No. Not now—when they might actually be appropriate! No! I cram on my hat, look up, and—smile, like the idiot I feel. Breathing seems a bit difficult. Crap.
Youngest Son is called in to see the Doctor and Dad walks over to go in with him, turning to smile again as the door closes them both protectively behind it. Breathe! I try to steal a look at the remaining children. They—smile, then giggle and return to the story they were sharing.
Standing at the door, as if suddenly, she has all the time in the world, my Aunt smiles at me as well. Un-be-leev-able!
I woke this morning peeved because I had to get out in the wet and cold. My hair was curling by the minute. I knew the rain, my hair, my hat, possibly my Aunt and my general demeanor would combine to ruin the majority of my day.
We create ourselves to be something we see reflected in the mirror every day, regardless of what image actually appears. Generally, what we see is the ‘less than.’ The poor creature there is what we have conjured based on a comparison with those we think more beautiful—which of course is nothing like we could ever be—and nothing like reality.
In less than an hour, feelings, connections, ‘electricity’ of a kind I’d not dreamed could ever occur again now seemed—possible. I’d at least been accepted via smile. Oh, the importance of just looking at someone full on and giving them that welcome!
Maybe I’m reading something into what has happened this rainy afternoon that has yet to be written. I’m not sure at this point. But what I do know is that I am going home to get ready for a party at my best friend’s home. She has someone she wants me to meet.
It was still raining as we walked down the steps. I felt my hair curling beneath my hat—but I really didn’t care. I just—smiled.