Monday, May 25, 2009

Supply and Demand

“No way she can go to camp this year,” her dad said. “Not until I find work.”

“What about canceling the fishing trip with your brother?” asked her mom. “Or at least postponing it for now.”

“Christ, Shel. One weekend a year. One fucking weekend where I own my life. That’s all I ask anymore.”

Melanie watched the vein in her dad's forearm bulge as his fist squeezed atop the kitchen table. Grass tickled her calves.

“She’s been looking forward to it all spring. It will crush her not to go.”

“Great. I’m the ogre again,” her dad said. “Can’t do anything right.”

“I would do it in a heartbeat,” her mom mumbled a moment before throwing the garbage disposal switch. “And I’m the one who actually—”

The racket chewed up the rest.

“What’d you say?”

Nothing,” her mom said, flicking the switch back off.

The long silence grounded Melanie’s insides like the banana under the blade. She picked a paint chip off the windowsill, and touched it with her tongue.

“All right, Shelly. All right.”

She saw her mom’s mouth pick up a smile before she moved to hug Melanie's dad. His fist slackened back into a hand, before falling to his side.

Melanie dragged her knuckles along the house’s wood siding, and ran for the field. She stumbled, snatching some wildflowers on the way back up. Her nose dipped into their velvety fragrance as a bee buzzed her ear.

Melanie smoothed her shorts. And then the hair.

Her shoulders pulled back an inch.

“Yes, Prince Phillip, I will do you the honor of becoming your wife,” she said, and curtseyed to the air. Her eyes spotted the floral archway and widened. “It’s perfect!”

She ducked under the blossoms and sighed.

“No, no. Mummy and Daddy will just have to understand, that’s all.” She put on her best approximation of an English accent. “It’s simply out of the question now.”

Melanie sank to her knees and started to twist the stems of a flower crown. She twisted, and twisted again. When she placed the crown upon her head, she forced her mouth to pick up a smile. A princess bride's smile.

“Camp is for babies,” she said, folding her hands demurely in her lap.

Her jaw tightened.

“Not me.”


Linda S. Socha said...

Well written and painfully real feeling Sarah

Aniket said...

You do it again. The next best thing that you write after love stories is fiction from a child's perspective. You protray the simple yet deep emotions so very effectively.

Its a beautifully crafted piece...

Sarah Hina said...

Linda, I'm happy this one connected for you. Thank you so much. :)

Aniket, I really appreciate your saying that. It is an area I feel more comfortable stretching myself now--maybe since my own kids are growing up, with all the complexity and pain that process entails.

Thank you so much for the very kind words. Always. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, painful emotionally. to see a family struggling.

Catvibe said...

It is sad that the tension in her home is causing her to grow up too fast. Perhaps she changed her mind to be in her father's favor. Not sure why, but there is some attempt to deal with it, solve it, going on inside her. At least she has her fantasy world to retreat to. Perhaps she will grow up to write great fiction. :-)

Karen said...

Wonderful, Sarah! From the tension between the parents to Melanie's licking the loosened paint chip, this is so real! I love the ending, her telling herself she is too grown up, yet plaiting a crown for her prince. Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

So well done. The fight. The pushes and pulls. The pressures.

And the stoic child. I find it especially poignant that she slips her pain under her prince. And he smoothes it away.

Aine said...

It is heartbreaking to see families having to make such choices. Basic values and priorities are forced into focus. And children are often stronger and more understanding than adults expect.

Interesting point that Jason mentioned-- made me read again. I can't help but notice the impact of the socialization of girls in this piece. How she's doing the prince the honor of marrying him (as if it was his choice entirely), how she feels grown-up after she's married, how she's been taught to put her father's happiness above hers despite his reluctance to do the same for her. Hmmm. Makes me reflect on the influence of such gender socialization in myself. In some ways I am like Melanie, in other ways different.

CoFfEe AnGeL said...

This is a little heart breaking piece of do u do it? Every little thing about the little girl...all the descriptions...they're all perfect...
Extremely well done :o)

Margaret said...

The tension in the air, the struggle between the parents is so clearly vivid here Sarah.

Sarah Hina said...

Charles, I was watching a show about the children of the US recession, which is what prompted this piece. Yes, very painful.

Cat, maybe she will! :)

Yes, I think she feels terribly for her father in so many ways. It's hard for a man to be out of work. Even though both parents are flawed here, I do think she's eager to justify a reason to give him a break.

Karen, thank you for pointing out the irony of that. :) Wanting to be grown up, and self sufficient, can be a strong pull for a child in the middle of difficult circumstances.

Jason, she does try to smooth it out, as you say. But I wonder how much that coping mechanism will isolate her in the end.

Thank you for the warm words here. :)

Aine, I have to admit that I didn't really consider the gender dynamics here, but you make some strong points. :)

I think she's recycling a standard fantasy for girls of that age (and one our daughter is becoming all too enamored with! ;)). And I hear what you're saying about the dad--for me, though, it was more about her wanting him not to feel so hurt and defeated by life.

But both of the parents here could have handled things a lot better, I agree. Sometimes, parents can be little more than children, too.

Coffee Angel, thank you so much!

I love blog writing because you can really immerse in one scene and not have to worry about tying it to something bigger. A lovely freedom in that, and a heightened state of writing. :)

Margaret, I'm glad you commented on that aspect of the piece. :)

For a child, there are few things more damaging than dealing with such daily conflicts and pressures.

Chris Eldin said...

Sarah, this is beautiful, and I agree with Aine, the gender issues came out very clearly to me.
You weave so much emotion into so few sentences. I love how you make sure every word counts.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Very realistic and poignantly wrought. I am sure many families, especially in these times, are making the hard choices. I love Melanie. She is priceless.

the walking man said...

“Christ, Shel. One weekend a year. One fucking weekend where I own my life. That’s all I ask anymore.”

Ha ha ha ha ha Dude you gave that up long before the child came along.

Sarah...You do this expression of tension so well. It is admirable the way you command the language and not the other way 'round.

It is interesting days we live in, in that 8 years ago, the time closest linked economically to out present the story's moral would have been presented much differently.

For example, depending on the undefined age of the child, the parents may have been arguing whether she needed to go to work in a coal mine or some such occupation.

the walking man said...

*burp* excuse me...80 years ago

Sarah Hina said...

Chris, thank you so much for your kindness and appreciation here. :) Yes, in looking back at this one, I can definitely see gender issues on both sides bleed through.

K, it is a difficult time for many. Our family is lucky to be mostly spared, but we certainly have family members who are really struggling.

And thank you for hugging little Melanie through your sweet words. :)

Walking Man, that's an excellent point. I actually considered making Melanie's predicament more severe, but decided this fit the times just as well.

Working in a coal mine. *shudders* Yeah, as a parent (or just a human being), that makes my skin crawl to imagine the extreme hardships of families during the Depression. Even Melanie is lucky when looked at through the lense of progress.

Thank you for the warm words about the language in this piece, too. I really wanted to master this moment for her.

Jennifer said...

Sarah, the "showing" in this is so well done--I'm in awe. It's so richly drawn.

(That paint chip thing made me nervous--we used to live in a historic home, and the whole lead paint issue worried me immensely!)

I know Cat explained the one situation, and I wanted to let you know about the other--I got my results and everything turned out fine. Huge sigh of relief!! Thank you for your support and good thought!!!

Sarah Hina said...

Jennifer, I'm so relieved!!! I was truly concerned, and some of that spilled over onto your blog post. But this makes my heart very, very happy. :) :)

Thank you so much for letting me know!! And for the very kind words about the piece.

(the lead paint thing freaked me out, too; it's amazing what kids will put in their mouths...)

Aniket said...

@ Jen:

Am glad that results were fine!

Greater of the two evil is conquered.
About the lesser one Cat explained. And we'll wait till you come around. :)

Be strong. :D

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

"And the right language can give me a lift like nothing else, except music, perhaps. It's a fight to find those words, but when we do, it is the closest thing to divinity that I have yet to find."

These are the very words that brought me here.

I thought you would be open to visit:
The post, "Markers," of Wednesday, May 27, 2009 is particularly relevant.

In "Supply and Demand" you have captured what I live in my work as an educational therapist. The "me" and "you" needs are so often confusing to children who yet see the delight of the "we."

Bob said...

I loved this, Sarah... I see it like a long poem as much as a story or scene... outstanding work as always.

Sarah Hina said...

Aniket, :)

Rose Marie, thank you so much for coming by here from Cat's! :) I truly appreciate your kind words, and the invitation to your blog. I look forward to stopping by shortly.

And yes, with two young kids of my own, I definitely see the truth in your words.

Bob, I really like that you see this as a poem. Sometimes, when the language is rich and finely tuned, I can view stories like that, too.

Thank you. :)

Karen said...

Sarah, I hope you're just taking a break and all is well.

Sarah Hina said...

Karen, thank you for checking with me. I sincerely appreciate that.

I'm going through a bit of a listless phase, but I promise to return when I feel more energy again.

I hope your summer is going well! :)

Sarah Hina said...

Okay, I guess I'm feeling a bit more energy now, given today's post. ;)