Standing in the kitchen, late at night….
Standing in the kitchen late at night, I glimpsed movement outside the window that looks out on the backyard. I blinked my eyes to clear the sleep from them. Fearing a face-to-face confrontation with whatever or whoever was out there, I turned from the window and crawled back in bed beside my husband. Assuming I’d imagined seeing something, I quickly fell asleep. The night passed as usual.
When I awakened in the morning, I didn’t recall what I’d experienced during the night. I showered and dressed and left for work. When Lon and I returned from our jobs in the afternoon, we sat at the kitchen table eating dinner.
“Our pumpkins are gone,” Lon said. We both stood up and went into the backyard. We’d placed four pumpkins at the bases of post-mounted birdhouses in each corner of the yard. The pumpkins were no where in sight. We returned to our dinner and discussed who could have taken them. Our discussion ended as it had begun. We didn’t know where to point our fingers.
After cleaning up after our meal, Lon needed nails for a project he was working on. We headed in our truck down the street in the opposite direction from where we’d gone to our jobs earlier in the day. In the middle of the road in the next block, an orange mess covered the pavement. We looked at each other and laughed.
Halloween brings out mischievousness in youngsters. Pumpkins draw teenagers like magnets. We know from personal experience. Maybe we’ll replace the pumpkins but our instincts warn us that doing so may only prompt another smashing incident.
Halloween equals trick or treat. Since we’ve been tricked, I’m looking forward to the treats. Without further ado, “Trick or treat, my friends.”
I enjoyed your story, Shaddy. I thought initially you were going to say you saw some animal in your yard, but not the two-legged kind! Good of you to look on this incident with humor.
Don’t give me too much credit for my sense of humor. We do have pumpkins in the backyard but no one has even touched them. My submission is half fiction and half nonfiction. What genre does that fit in? Perhaps it could be identified as Embellished Nonfiction.
Maybe it falls into the ve-e-r-r-r-y creative non-fiction category?? Wherever it lands, it certainly is believable and that says a lot for your writing here.
I enjoyed your story, Shaddy. At first, I thought you might be setting up a Halloween ghost story, but your trick or treat tale turned out to be much more fun.
Good one Shaddy. A very timely piece that could only be written by an adult. I’ll have to see what secrets my kitchen late at night has to share….
Standing in the kitchen, late at night…
I look out the window over my sink and see a woman standing in the bus shelter across the street, waiting for a bus. She looks so lonely that I reach up to the high cupboard for the vodka bottle and pour myself a tall inch in a juice glass. I can’t stop the tears from falling. My eleven cats pad over counter tops, linoleum, and furniture–oblivious. The tops of 36 quarts of tomatoes make a few random tinking sounds as they seal. It’s been a busy day. With a sigh, I turn the gold ring on my little finger three times round, and wait for the magic. I calmly watch as the three little men climb out of my toaster. I realize I will not sleep again this night.
The men don’t take long to set up their instruments. One has brought his trumpet, one a stand up bass, and one an electric guitar. I ask them to play “Stormy Weather” and then “Brother Can You Spare Me a Dime.” Slowly.
I look out the window again at the woman at the bus stop. It’s Helene. Lovely Helene. I named one of my cats after her, the black and white one. I sip my vodka and scan the house for that particular cat. There she is on the back of the old tapestry sofa. I lift my chin at her, and she pads over, followed by her sidekick, Maurice, the fat tabby. I tap the kitchen counter, then the window. The cats leap up and then look out to see Helene. “Go get her,” I whisper. “It’s too dark and windy to be out tonight.” Both cats blink at me. Maurice saunters off to sleep on the rug by the empty hearth. Helene the cat disappears.
I push my half-gray hair out of my face and ask the guys for another tune. They’re shy; not big talkers, but they’re willing to give me the soft jazz I find soothing on a long night. “Something slow from ‘Porgy and Bess’.” They nod and give me ‘Can’t Stop Lovin this Man of Mine.’
The woman at the bus stop, the beautiful Helene, is my dead sister. It’s her ghost that my cat brings home to me tonight. I am glad to have my little sister in any form, but it’s awkward. I can’t even offer her a cup of tea. We gaze at each other and both sigh, hers soundless, mine a familiar hopeless refrain. At the end of her lifetime Helene taught me many things. She encouraged my lost flamboyant streak and enjoyed my silliness and odd theories. She believed in my toaster musicians and in the power of cats. I liked to cook for her—beef tenderloins and mushrooms, homemade bread, fish chowder, good coffee.
Helene has to go now; she never stays long. I stand in my kitchen, late at night, as she fades and the music dies.
This is why we bow to you!
Wow! Awesome imagining and putting it to words. Yes, ma’am.
It just keeps getting better and better, Ann.
Ann, your story has such ambiance and feeling. After reading it, I could only sit back in my chair and ponder. The music produced by the toaster musicians adds a quite unexpected twist. I agree with Barbara that you include several dangling details that make the reader really want to know more about the speaker.
The ending has my head spinning. Three little men climbing out of your toaster. That’s quite the gold ring or you had a very, very tall inch of vodka. That’s the way to finish with a bang!
This story starts out so normal as the woman in the kitchen transfers her feelings of loneliness to the woman in the bus shelter. The need for a solitary late-night drink and unusual number of cats seems to back this up. The idea of canning tomatoes then slaps a label of normalcy on everything leaving the reader to wonder whether she just really, really likes canning (as she seems to really, really like cats) or whether she has family but there are emotional issues. Then you slingshot us out into the universe when the three little men climb out of the toaster and she takes this totally in stride, saying she isn’t going to be getting any sleep! The mind reels with possibilities of what could happen next.
Ann, I never stop learning from you. This is a fascinating bit of writing using a very limited amount of words. This is a skill I admire and truly wish to learn.
Standing in the kitchen
Late at night
Awakened from sleep
By a beam of light
The motion sensor, all knowing
In the dark it sees
The dance of branches
In the Cypress trees
It’s light shadow shows
Upon my wall
Just above my bed
Like a wake up call
On and off it goes
All night long
While the wind careens
And puffs its song
Not a deer or raccoon
Nor person there
Just the show off wind
Playing power games without care
House safe and secured
For the rest of the night
I’ll try once more for sleep
Knowing everything is alright
I’m applauding…hear it?
I can hear the wind and see the silhouettes of the leaves dancing in the light.
This is a lovely piece.
Wow, Parrot! Your poem is a delight–a creative approach to the prompt. For me, the rhythm is reminiscent of the classic “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I admire poets.
I’m very fond of poetry that’s about the odd simple things of life. Here it’s your motion sensor light, an awakened sense of anxiety, and then the descending feeling of things being just normal, just the “show off wind”–an interesting visitor and presence.
Thank you all for your wonderful comments. Means a lot to me.
Ladies, I’m enjoying your stories, like all good writing, the enjoyment doesn’t end when the last period is placed.
As is your style, you touched my heart.
Standing in the kitchen, late at night, the breeze from the open window above the sink fluttered the white linen curtains as she stared out into the darkness. She rubbed the chill bumps on her arms as her mind was a million miles away. Her hand reached to where her long dark hair tickled her barely covered breast as the breeze blew past her.
Sleep eluded her. Her eyes were tired but her mind was awake with thoughts she shouldn’t have. She returned to the bedroom where he was still sleeping that sound sleep that a man recently satisfied sleeps. She kneels beside the bed and watches him, her love since junior high and her love for life. She gently runs her fingers through his hair and breaths in his scent, she never wanted to forget his scent. A tear ran down her cheek and joined the others as they dampened the bed sheet.
She had been through this before, she can get through it again. She was ashamed of herself for having the doubts and wondering what if it all turned out different this time. She rubbed the chilled bumps as she climbed back into bed. Sleep finally came, and came hard.
She awoke to a room full of sunshine, and the smell of frying bacon. She jumped up, and ran to the kitchen where he stood at the stove. He looked at her and smiled, “Now that’s a vision I will never forget.” She looks down to see that her thin nightgown had fallen off her right breast. She couldn’t believe that she felt the warmth of embarrassment rise in her ears. He took the bacon off the fire and walked over to her, cupping her bare breast in his hand. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tight, so tight that maybe, just maybe, it would be tight enough to fuse them together.
Their embrace was interrupted by a honking horn in their driveway, “My rides here, I love you with all my heart, and I will come home as soon as I can.” With that he embraced her once again and turned to leave. He picked up his duffle bag, and walked though the door to join the rest of his platoon as they headed to war.
He turned and looked back at his house, the last image that he carried with him was her standing at the kitchen window, the morning breeze warmed by the morning sun fluttering the white linen curtains. She was standing there holding her long dark hair as it tickled her exposed breast. With that image in his mind, he knew he could make it through hell and high water in order to get back to her.
As is your style, you touched my heart. (I recently misplaced this comment but this is where I meant it to land).
Yes, you truly are a romantic! Nice quality, Walk.
Walk, what a stirring story…
Made me cry, Walk. Beautiful images.
True love from Walk. We always knew you were a romantic at heart.
I hope you do not mind my popping back in to post. I do not like to read others’ pieces before writing, so now I will enjoy what you have written. Looks like I am a little late for this one, though…
Standing in the kitchen, late at night, I chill out in the peace and quiet–a welcome break from the daytime hubbub. These restful nights are my chance to invigorate myself and to replenish my cool for the inevitable stretches of frenetic activity to come. Occasionally, I am called to action around 2:00 a.m., but the interruption is usually brief, and within moments, I gently slip back into my low power mode.
This particular night, standing in the kitchen feels different. Looking around, the kitchen table is in its usual place, though it is covered with gift boxes, curls of blue and orange ribbons, and ripped open envelopes with colorful bon voyage and congratulations cards poking out at various angles. The coffee maker and toaster are situated in their customary spots on the corner counter. The desk by the phone is in its typical semi-cluttered state, but a big envelop–empty–with the return address of the University of Virginia cannot be missed, neither can the discarded high school ID card. Katie left home today to go to college. That is what is different.
From the moment she could walk, Katie adored popsicles. The grape ones were her favorites because they made her lips and tongue purple; they even tinged the edges of her teeth. Purple-mouthed Katie loved growling like an ogre while chasing Daniel around the kitchen table. Daniel yelled. The more she growled, the more he yelled. At some specific point known only to them, they would change direction, and Daniel would chase purple-mouthed Katie. With the change of direction, he growled, and she shrieked. They loved the noisy chase-the-ogre game. I always secretly watched, worried that one of them would slip and fall on the ceramic tile floor. Luckily, they never did.
Trite as it sounds, children really do grow up quickly. One day Katie was through with purple popsicles, and all she wanted was Coca-Cola. The hip high school gals drank Coke while they hung out at the mall after school, and many a middle schooler’s aspiration is to be as hip as the high schoolers. Despite my belief that milk was the better choice, I was happy to let her grab Cokes when she wanted them. As for the milk, no need to worry, Daniel always took care of it.
When Katie “finally” (her word) made it to high school, she was rarely at home. She preferred going with her friends to jamba juice for supposedly healthy fruit smoothies, which is completely normal for a fifteen-year-old. Besides, Daniel, clutching his ice-cold, sporty Gatorade, always gave her such grief every time she walked in the door with one of those fruit smoothies. Occasionally, she grabbed a pot of yogurt on her way through the kitchen, but generally, when she was at home, she was in her room texting her friends, visiting on Facebook, studying, or all three. Gone were the games of chase-the-ogre around the kitchen table. Life with teenagers–when they are not in conflict with their parents or each other–is generally quieter than life with rambunctious youngsters. Luckily, both hip gal and sporty guy still enjoyed Eggo® waffles for breakfast and ice cream for dessert!
The past couple of days have been an extra busy celebratory send-off for Katie. She and her friends enjoyed an old-fashioned Friday night slumber party like those they always begged to have when they were in middle school. The kitchen and den were alive with energetic feminine voices. The soon-to-be university freshmen tried to enjoy one last breath of childhood before forging ahead to the unknown. Although momentarily distracted by a pillow fight or two, they knew deep down that they were on the threshold to their adult lives. All night long, the Coca Cola flowed, the popcorn popped, the conversation gushed, and the giggles danced.
Saturday night was the grown-up party, complete with cheese platters, crudité trays, and cocktails. Daniel spent most of his time in the kitchen trying to avoid the inevitable: “Your turn is coming up, Danny! Where do you want to go to school? The University of Virginia, like your sister?” Completely bored, he slumped in a chair at the kitchen table and absently sipped one of Katie’s beloved Cokes while engaging in a stare fight with the dishwasher latch. I knew he was going to miss his sister, but he never said a word about it in front of me.
Yes, everyone left today to take Katie to Charlottesville, except for Daniel, who went to stay with a friend. In the dark silence of this night, I am standing in the kitchen like I always do. I am much emptier than usual. Even though my family does not consider all that I am a part of, all I do, and all I see from my prime spot in the kitchen, I prize my vital yet unassuming role of helping sustain them and keep them healthy. The panic and hullabaloo that occur when I stop doing what I do is proof enough of how much they value me. But imagine how surprised Katie, Daniel, and their parents would be to know that I appreciate my quiet nights in the kitchen, that I enjoy it when everyone is constantly opening and closing my doors, that my favorite time is the just-back-from-the-weekly-grocery-shopping fullness, and that after 12 years of standing in this kitchen, I, the dependable GE refrigerator, am part of the family.
Never late! I heard that phrase, “Standing in my kitchen, late at night” in a concert, sung by a woman I thought was not too good, but that line was. It’s an archetypical moment for many of us. You use it to capture a turning point in your life. This is a keeper.
Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us, even if it is from the fridge’s pov. Very well written!
Standing in my kitchen, late at night as the cool refreshment of an ice cold glass of tea reinvigorates the dry paste inside my mouth. My eyes adjust to the moonlight seeping through my window bringing with it a sense of mysticism. Silence fills the air as I try to ponder the dream that woke me before it fades from my mind. Walking back to the recliner that cradled me to sleep, the light of the remote control catches my eye. I decide to power on the television and see what story I can find that will lull me back to dream.
I barely notice the news report of a hostage situation in progress at a New York City bank as a knock at the door sways my attention. ‘Who could that be at this hour’ I wonder aloud to myself as I struggle to push down the leg rest of the recliner. I turn the light on to the front door as I’m greeted by a woman whose beauty and reputation precede her. I am embarrassed for a moment as I cannot seem to place her name. She tells me that her car has broken down not far from here and there is no Motel in town. She offers to pay me for a night of rest on my couch so that she may call for help in the morning. I offer her my bed and refuse any compensation, treating her as I would any other person in need and making no fuss of her fame. She thanks me profusely and enters with her bag which I take and then lead her to the room. For a moment, our eyes meet and a spark of electricity fills my heart. Like something in a romantic movie she leans to me and we begin to kiss passionately. The kiss is broken at the sounds of screaming which only my ears can hear. I must turn away from my carnal desires and do what I was meant to do. I rush from her arms and through my front door, stopping only for a moment to make sure no one around can see me. My arms stretch forth towards the stars and my feet slowly lift from the ground. Quickly my speed increases as the sound guides me to the source of panic. I descend from the sky and grab the front of a greyhound bus teetering on the edge of certain death. The impossibly tall cliff beckoning for disaster. As my greath strength bring the wheels to touch down, the door opens and releases a flood of grateful four legged friends of all breeds and sizes, barking their appreciation at the heroic feat of superhuman rescue. I smile and wave to the throngs of cheering onlookers as a loud repetitive beeping noise shakes my core. I open my eyes and angrily slap the alarm clock. I regard my adventure for several moments before resigning to the fact that life is not a dream … and Morgan Fairchild was the name I couldn’t remember.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle