Sunday, April 30, 2017

#8- Out of the Box

It was a nice, spring day outside. A nice day to be one of the few people in town not trapped in IKEA. Ridley stood in the massive parking lot holding her ferret, Carol, who was on a leash. Her black hair was finally of the length where she could tie it back into a pretty substantial ponytail. She stood there, hair tied back, ferret in her arms, and with red, heart shaped sunglasses covering her eyes. She was trying not to smile.
Her father was locked inside IKEA. But her amusement was slightly dampered when more police cars pulled in, sirens blaring. They were now saying that this was a hostage situation. A quiet, but friendly young police officer with a crew cut started walking up to Ridley. This particular officer was familiar with her home situation, so she knew he wasn’t coming to ask her why she was by herself.

“What brings you here, young lady?”
“My dad’s inside.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. He’ll be okay, don’t worry.”
“I’m not.”
“Oh.. well, uh…” he didn’t quite know how to respond to that “...we were thinking it may be best for you to clear out. Things might get a little hairy over here and you’re well, a little young and all..”
“Yeah. Okay.”

Ridley set her ferret down and started walking home, as if she were walking a dog. The crowd of police officers watched after the peculiar sight as Ridley walked off into the distance.

Several hours later, back at the apartment, the house phone started ringing. It was the police officer from earlier. He told her she could expect her dad home tonight, he’d made it out of the store safely.  But Ridley’s father didn’t stumble in the door until much later that night. His loud, drunken stomps woke her from her sleep. And for the first time maybe ever, he walked into Ridley’s room. He stopped for a moment, taken aback by the colored-pencil mural that stretched a colorful forest scene across the far wall behind her “bed”. He finally spoke:

“You wanna know something about your mom, Rid?”

#7- One Year Later

It was Spring a year later and they had found the missing body from the Gazebo Murder. Ridley’s old yellow raincoat was a little too tight now. She sat under a tree near the water tower, attempting to draw the crowd of people at the farmer’s market in a little red sketchbook. The bins of apples were what she wanted to draw next, but her set of colored pencils had been missing a red for a while now. The murder she lost her red colored pencil to was still a mystery. Orange would have to do.
No. Orange was wrong. They looked like pumpkins. Ridley snapped her book shut and hopped to her feet. It was time to go home. At the library Ridley had learned from a poetry book what a haiku was, and lately she’d been constantly making them in her head, and jotting them down in notebooks.

Can’t replace a red
Apples turn into pumpkins
Orange just won’t do

Her father was still rarely home, and when he was he was barely conscious and he smelled bad. Ridley was 10, and now knew that this was called “drunk”. He wasn’t home when she arrived back at the apartment, and Carol the ferret, still clad in his red ribbon, greeted her at the door. He trailed at her heels as Ridley went to shut her father’s bedroom door- she didn’t want to see the squalor he lived in. In the past year she’d gotten into the habit of keeping the rest of the apartment pretty neat on her own.
She collapsed onto her mattress in her own room, and Carol curled up in the crook between her neck and shoulder. Ridley zoned out staring at the ceiling for a while. The bangs she still sported stuck to her forehead with sweat as she daydreamed. Growing up taking care of yourself is a lot to manage; sometimes you forget to just be a kid. In the years to come Ridley would come to feel like she missed out on a lot of the whimsy that came with simply letting yourself be a child. In the years following that, she’d realize that some people just can’t afford whimsy. She pulled a notebook out of one of the stacks of books on her floor and jotted down another haiku:

Ferret in my hair
Fourth grade going on forty
I lay on the floor

#6- Crying in the Fairy City

Today was an anniversary. And even though it was a Saturday, Ridley found herself at school. Or rather, in the alley behind the elementary school. Some days you just have to get away from your dingy apartment. Especially days like today.
Ridley had given up on wearing the locket most of the time, but today wasn’t a day for giving up on things. Mother taught her better than that. It was a cliche gold, heart shaped locket, and she couldn’t keep her fingers from constantly fidgeting with it today.
She sat there on the sidewalk, when suddenly there was a click, and she was surrounded by fairy lights. She took it all in, the twinkling string lights illuminating tiny twig houses, the most beautifully ornate structures, with delicate leaf roofs and round doors. An entire city hidden in this little alley, an edifice to all that is microscopically magical. It was breathtaking.
That’s when Ridley lost her composure. Tears thundered out of her and her tiny frame shook with sobs. Four years ago today, Ariel Lee Aberdeen died. And Ridley’s dad still wouldn’t tell her what took her mother. Four years later and Ridley still didn’t know how or why. And so here she was, crying in the fairy city.

#5- A Christmas Present

The water tower was on a hill, so Ridley could still make out the tree on top of her apartment building, Winthrop Place. The tree had been lit just a few minutes earlier in a big ceremony that was very pretty. It was a good night.
Ridley laid in the grass underneath the water tower. The ferret sat sniffing around next to her. She was still deciding on a name, but in lieu of a collar she had tied a red ribbon in a neat bow around the little rodent’s neck (so she’d be able to recognize him if he ran off)
Earlier that evening, Ridley was shuffling home in her yellow rain boots and a big white parka, and just starting to get her annual sadness around the holiday season. It goes like this just about every year: Ridley loves the holidays; She gets swept up in the twinkling Christmas lights around town and the snowmen and the sleigh bells, and then she gets home on Christmas Eve. It’s been 4 years since Ridley’s father has gotten her a Christmas present. Her mother used to be the festive one.
But this year, just as Ridley was starting to get bummed out, she found a red box on the floor in front of her apartment door. The girl’s mood skyrocketed back up to the levels of, well, a child around Christmas time. The box had no tag on it, and as she carried it inside, she heard a wild scratching sound coming from within the box and almost dropped it in her shock. She ran inside and tore open the box, and out sprung a wiry brown and white ferret. This was turning out to be the best Christmas Ridley could have ever asked for.

Carol. That’s what Ridley would name him. Carol.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#4 - Red

The only sound in the room was that faint scratchy sound of a pencil drawing. Except it was colored pencils on Ridley’s bedroom wall. Ridley slept on a mattress on the floor, and on the wall above her mattress was a pretty large window. She sat on her knees in front of the window. She was drawing dainty little vines and leaves that swirled around her window frame, all in shades of red and blue crayola. Her tongue was slightly out of her mouth in her concentration, then she let out a sigh after adding the finishing touch for today. The window project was one Ridley had been working out in her head for a while now, and she added onto it some each day.
She let herself collapse back on her mattress, and let out a puff of air to move her bangs from in front of her eyes. She turned over and read the invitation again.

"Hello. We are excited that you are coming to dinner with us. Hopefully, you will make it through the night. This is a black tie affair, please dress accordingly. Take care to prepare  your character roles.  Your life may depend on it.

       Time: 8:18
       Place: 7th Floor storage room"

Ridley was supposed to be the butler. She was already in an old white button-up shirt of her dad’s. She had tried to shrink it in the dryer, and that worked some, but it was still far too big, and hung off of her small frame, giving her kind of a pirate look. She slipped into her one pair of black dress pants and looked down at her legs. She sighed, then wiggled her toes. The pants came down to just above her ankles- she’d grown out of them. In the end she decided to roll them up just a little so there were cuffs on the ends of the legs and the length looked intentional. Now came the part of her costume that Ridley had been looking forward to.
She tiptoed into her dad’s bathroom and carefully opened the top left drawer- the one of mom’s old things- and pulled out a brown eyeliner pencil. Leaning over the counter slightly, to get a closer look in the dingy mirror, she penciled on a nice curly mustache using the eyeliner. She then put the pencil back exactly as it was when she found it (mom’s old drawer was the only thing in the apartment that Ridley’s dad kept neat, beyond neat, obsessively in the same orderly condition it had been in for years), and tiptoed back to her own room.

Ridley’s black mary-janes hurt her feet a little as she made her way to the 7th floor storage room. When she walked in the storage room, she saw that it had been cleaned out thoroughly since last time she was here, and was now a glistening and classy dining room. She wasn’t too surprised though. This room was always changing. She was one of the first ones here, so the room was quiet and mostly empty. In the corner she noticed a shiny service cart and tailcoat that were meant for her. She slipped on the coat and along with it her solemn face of the evening.

It was probably around nine. Ridley was getting tired; she’d woken up early that morning. The dinner guests were awkward yet amiable and Ridley had enjoyed taking it all in from the sidelines. She stood with her hands behind her back and noticed people’s nervous ticks and sideways glances.
All at once, the red colored pencil she had been fidgeting with all evening fell out of her hands and onto the ground. Just as she gasped and dropped to her knees hurriedly to retrieve it, the lights went out.
Ridley fumbled around and finally got a grip on the red pencil at the same moment that the lights came back on. Her heart skipped a beat. Ridleys hand, with the red colored pencil clutched in it, was not two inches away from a puddle of blood on the floor.

Monday, October 10, 2016

#2-#3 - and a Box of Crayola Colored Pencils

Ridley sat in the Bar contemplating the events of last week. She was allowed in the Bar, but just not allowed to sit at the actual BAR part of the establishment. She was here on business. An invitation to an environmental forum was sent to her apartment, and Ridley was the most competent representative in the household. Upon opening the invitation, it seemed of great importance, but now that she was here, the only thing keeping her from dozing off was remembering the events of last Thursday…

The minute Ridley saw the Ringmaster’s eyes, she determined that the circus was a magic one. In her head she referred to it as “the Magic Circus,” Young as she was, Ridley knew deep down that magic wasn’t real, but at 9 years old, she still needed magic enough to be able to find traces of it in real life.
That morning she had woken up early and headed off to the grocery store, a tiny crocheted bag full of change jingling in her pockets. One of her main sources of income was collecting spare change she found and saving it up until she had enough to take to the CoinStar at the grocery store and exchange it for cash. The little girl’s yellow raincoat stood out, bobbing down Applewood Lane in the gloom. The rain had subsided in Winthrop, but Ridley was still feeling cautious about trusting the weather.
      The automatic doors slid open for Ridley and she stepped into the store. The kid walked with such conviction that sometimes it seemed normal that she was unaccompanied in a grocery store. Ridley was born and raised in this town, and for years now she’d been doing her own thing. Most of the longtime residents were used to seeing her out alone by now, but a lot of people were moving in this year, and the strange glances cast Ridley’s way moved to town with them, but the girl paid no attention to that.
Today, she moved swiftly and purposefully. First, she hit the CoinStar, and exchanged the machine voucher for her $13.37 in cash at the Customer Service counter. Then she got what she needed and was gone, with exactly enough money leftover to buy her circus ticket, and a box of Crayola colored pencils.
Ridley bought her ticket on her way back to the Winthrop Place apartments.
Unintentionally, the crowd kind of split around her, so it was just Ridley looking up at the Ringmaster with a look that could only be described as defiant. This was one little girl who would not be intimidated by any strangers in town.
“One ticket, please”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#1- (Appt. 505)

The day started with a whisper.
In the ten minute interim between the snooze button and the second alarm, Ridley Aberdeen laid in bed listening. And a whisper in her ear told her to do it. The whisper must have snuck into the apartment between the sounds of the rain and thunder. She made a mental note to step up the sound security.
Ridley stretched an exaggerated, 5:45 AM kind of stretch. But she quickly prompted herself to stay alert, for after this week’s visit to the library, Rudyard Kipling had turned her into a man-cub, and transformed her apartment into the fierce jungle. But alas, the sleep cleared from her eyes and she was in real life, under her sheets, on her mattress on the floor of her bedroom.
First thing in the morning, she looked just a little bit too weary from her nine years of living. Sprawled out on a shabby old mattress, all pale and scrawny limbs, her choppy, black bangs stuck to her forehead with sweat. She admired the little white stains under the arms of her grey wife-beater tank top with curiosity- she’d just recently reached the age where she had to start wearing deodorant.
After a brief moment of hesitation, and a quick sigh to help her gain her composure, she willed herself off of the floor and over to the window. Ridey rubbed her eyes and searched the sky for animals in the clouds. But this morning the clouds were black and jagged looking, not the kind for cloud animals- cloud monsters, maybe. That thought gave her a kind of funny feeling, but oh well, she should probably start getting ready.
So she scrambled into the bathroom. The shower beckoned to her, but the shower running seemed much too similar to the rain, and Ridley couldn’t have any more whispers sneaking in. She decided that she could go without a shower this morning. Thoughts of the shower and the whisper made her little hands the tiniest but shaky, but Ridley wasn’t the type of girl to let such lapses in character last for long. In a very adult manner, she leaned over the sink and splashed cold water on her face- a habit she unknowingly picked up from seeing it in movies.