The journey of me as a writer has been a long one. Since I was a child I loved writing stories and sharing them with anyone who would read my work. This class became a dream come true for me because it showed me so many new writing techniques and exposed me to new genres. Never before this would I consider myself a fan of not only writing poetry but reading it. My writing has grown mostly in the topics I choose to write about. In the past, I usually never strayed from fantasy and science-fiction. Today, I write realistic fiction based on my own personal struggles and trials in life.
I am sharing with you my short story, “Landslide”. It is my favorite and most prized writing. It’s a story of love and loss, and the struggles of addiction and watching your loved ones change into monsters before your eyes. This story is extremely personal to me and my own life.
That’s the second red light she ran. Daddy was sick. Can’t miss it.
While she speeded down country roads, kicking up clouds of dirt, the only thing on her mind was her father, and the cancer that would take him from her.
Her mother was no help. It was friday night, Mona would be out. Her mother was the dragon lady, the monster in every one of her closets. Her 40 years of alcohol abuse had washed away every nurturing instinct in her. Rather than care for her dying spouse, she went out to drink. Daddy was all alone in that big old house.
When she arrived the house was dark. She ran through the screen porch and through the door, turning on the hallway lights, and making her way to her father’s office, where he slept on an old futon, oxygen tank beside his head, tubes in nose.
She felt the tears rush into her eyes as she looked at him. He looked so much smaller, weak and fragile. Not like the dad she knew. This man looked like a corpse.
She smoothed her flannel shirt and pulled up the desk chair next to his bed, taking his hand in hers, using the tips of her fingers on the other hand to brush away her tears.
“Hi Daddy.” She mouthed. He continued to snore.
She swallowed, and the two of them sat there, like old friends, sitting in silence seldom the hum of his oxygen tank.
The sun streamed into the house, and the crack of the screen door announced Mona’s arrival.
“Willis? You up yet?” She called hoarsely.
Mona stumbled into the office, blinking a few times before realizing the woman next to her husband was her daughter.
“Donna?” She squinted.
“What are you doin’ here?” Mona wrapped her arms around herself, standing up straighter. “I was just out running a few errands this morning.”
“Is that so? How come I can smell the booze on you from here, Mona? Huh?” Donna glared, crossing her arms angrily.
Mona gulped. “I don’t need this from you, Donna.”
Mona turned around and walked out, putting her hands against the walls as she stumbled down the hall into the kitchen. Donna followed her.
“You know I’ve got Gemma and Sammy flying in. They’ll be here this afternoon.” Donna leaned against the wall.
Mona slammed a fist on the counter. “Goddammit,” she looked at Donna with a pleading glare. “Please tell me you haven’t called your Aunt Denise, too.”
Donna shrugged, “sorry Momma. We all need to be here for Daddy.”
“Why can’t you get it through your pointy little head that I don’t need you or your siblings or my goddamn sister’s help?” She shouted. “Who’s the one who’s taken him to all of his doctor’s appointments? Who held his hand while he faced hell in chemotherapy? Me! Right here! Your father and I alone! In this house!”
Donna heard her father groan.
“You’ve got this taken care of? Is that what you call leaving your sick husband alone in the freaking dark and going out drinking? You have gotta be shitting me.” Donna seethed.
The screen door opened and cracked.
Mona cast Donna a glare sharp enough to cut glass. “Now look what you’ve done.”
Aunt Denise waddled through the door and trotted into the kitchen, carrying a two liter of Diet Coke in one arm and a box of Paczki donuts in the other.
“Well don’t just stand there help your dear Aunt Denise with these groceries!” Denise laughed, Donna grabbed the Diet Coke from her arms.
Denise pulled Donna into a bear hug. “Ah sweetheart, your poor daddy.”
Donna cringed lightly.
Denise spun around, and grabbed her sister in the same manner.
“Poor Mona!” she cried, “oh Mona, you are so strong!”
Donna gagged audibly.
Donna made the choice to drive to the airport unaccompanied. Mona and Denise were way too much when put together. But it seemed like the caffeine and donuts cured Mona’s hangover. Maybe she would be pleasant by the time her least favorite children rolled into the house.
When she pulled into the Delta gate, she saw both of them, Sammy already tearing up, and Gemma on her phone. Donna got out to meet them at the car, hugged both of them, and helped them put their luggage in the bed of her Ford.
Gemma climbed into the front seat, immediately pulling out a cigarette and rolling down the window before lighting up.
“You know Don it’s real good to be back in town.” Gemma smiled as they got off the highway. “Nothing has changed. It’s just like a photograph!”
Sammy gave an uneasy smile out the window. Life had been hell for him here.
“Sammy,” Donna called to the back seat, watching him squirm in the rearview mirror. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he frowned. “I’m just all anxious about seeing dad.”
Sammy moved away to California fresh outta high school, and when he left it wasn’t on the best of terms with his parents. Sammy was ‘too sensitive’ his father said. Later to find that Sammy was gay. When Daddy found out, he didn’t look or speak to his own son. Sammy ran away and never looked back.
“I thought you took one of my Xanex on the plane?” Gemma furrowed her brows, flicking the cigarette butt out the window.
Sammy gulped. “I did.”
Donna and Gemma shared a glance before starting to giggle at their baby brother.
When they pulled up they could hear Momma and Aunt Denise cackling on the front porch.
“Oh boy.” Sammy sighed, grabbing his duffel bag and slinging his backpack over his shoulder.
Gemma had three bags, slinging them on her arms and marching right through the screen door. Aunt Denise screamed with delight. Donna wrapped her arm around Sammy as they walked in reluctantly. Sammy was shaking.
“Oh my God!” Aunt Denise cried. “You are so gorgeous! Look at her, Mona! She’s simply beautiful!” She wrapped her arms around Gemma, making Gemma worry about her hair. Mona chuckled and gave Gemma a slurred “hello.”
When Sammy walked in, they all fell silent.
“Well well well…” Mona giggled.
They started cackling once more and grabbed at Sammy, pulling him into long hugs and kissing his cheeks. Sammy was almost relieved.
Donna noted the bottle of rum on the table, illuminated by the Citronella candles.
Gemma made her way inside and up the stairs, completely missing Daddy’s office. She placed her things inside her childhood bedroom where it seemed like not much had changed, just her boyband posters and stuffed animals were thrown out. Sammy’s room, however, had an entire remodel. Now called the “computer room”, it had a laptop propped on a card table, his bed and dresser gone, the room now painted in shades of cream to cover the once green walls. He sighed and made his way back downstairs.
“Have you checked on Daddy recently?” Donna asked the two drunken women, raising a brow.
“Have I checked on Daddy recently?” Mona cackled. “Have you?” She screamed at Denise, brow raised to mock her daughter’s. The two were banging on the table and wiping tears from their eyes as they screamed with laughter.
Donna rolled her eyes and made her way into the house, opening the French doors into Daddy’s office and feeling around in the dark for the lamp on his desk. The room was now dimly lit. She turned to see him in the same position that he was in when she kissed him goodbye before leaving for the airport.
“Daddy,” she sighed, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Daddy.”
He didn’t stir.
“Daddy.” She shook him lightly. “Daddy?”
She shook him hard.
She put her ear to his chest. Nothing.
“Oh my god!”
She bolted from the office and into the kitchen, grabbing the phone off the wall and punching in the digits 9-1-1.
“9-1-1 what is your emergency?”
“Send us an ambulance please!”
Gemma and Sammy came into the room.
“What is your emergency?”
“My dad doesn’t have a pulse! Hurry or so help me God!”
She put the receiver on the hook and ran back into the office, he was still lying there motionless. She placed her hands on his chest and furiously pumped and pumped, trying to jumpstart his heart.
“Come on, Dad!”
Nothing. Gemma gasped.
She was wailing on his chest, pumping hard, begging for some sign of life to come from him. Nothing. She didn’t stop. Her vision went black and she didn’t stop trying to bring her Daddy back.
The ambulance arrived and paramedics stormed into the house, prying Donna off of his body, her breath catching as she grew hysterical. Mona came in then, screaming her head off.
“What the hell happened?!”
“He’s dead! He’s dead you insufferable witch!” Donna pushed passed her mother, causing Mona to fall to the ground and watch as they carried her husband out of the house on a gurney.
Donna rubbed her eyes as the fluorescent hospital lighting strained her vision. Gemma sat beside her, staring blankly at the wall, all her makeup was cried off. Everyone looked like hell. Especially Mona.
They brought him back, but they only thing keeping him there was a machine.
Donna sat and looked at her father, or what he was now.
“You have two choices. If we bring him back, he would have serious brain damage. He wouldn’t be himself.” The doctor frowned.
“I don’t care what he comes back as, as long as he comes back with a pulse!” Mona yelled.
“Wait.” Sammy spoke for the first time during all of this.
“The second option is we pull the plug.” The doctor looked sympathetic.
Donna knew what to do. He had been in so much pain, so his days were numbered anyway. It just didn’t seem fair to bring him back into his suffering. She inhaled her courage and stood.
“Option number two, please.”
Mona shouted. “No! Sit down Donna!”
“Stop it, mom.” Gemma said.
“Are you sure?” The doctor asked.
Donna looked at her father, hooked up to millions of wires. He wouldn’t be her dad anymore. “Absolutely.”
The goodbyes were short and sweet. Sammy couldn’t handle it and went and wailed in the bathroom. Gemma and Donna held on to each other and Aunt Denise held Mona as she sobbed, soaking the front of her shirt. They unhooked him and in a few moments he was gone. Donna kissed his forehead, pulled the sheet over his head, and they wheeled him away.
Mona wiped her tears, and took a sip from her flask hidden in her purse.
“Well,” she began. “We all know whose fault this is.” She drunkenly pointed at Donna. “That,” she paused, “little girl over there just killed her own daddy.”
“Mona…” Denise began.
“Be quiet you fat sow!” She bellowed. “She killed him. She did, and I hate her to death!”
Donna’s face turned red from trying to hold in her wrath.
“You know, Donna, it don’t shock me one bit what you did. Every man around you, you kill. Remember your husband?” Mona licked her lips and took another drink.
Gemma curled her fingers around Donna’s arm.
“Everybody knows,” she giggled, “everybody knows. He killed himself to get the hell away from you. Everyone knows that. I’ve just got the balls to say it!”
Donna pulled out of Gemma’s restraint, walked calmly towards her mother, and slapped her with as much strength she could muster. Mona fell to the floor in a puddle.
“I’m not gonna take this from you anymore, Mona!” She yelled.
Mona wiped her face.
“I am your mother goddammit! I am your mother!”
“You don’t get it, do you? A man I loved died today! My dad died today! My only parent died today!” Donna could only see bright, hot, candy apple red.
Mona whimpered on the ground.
“You’re not my mother and you never have been. You will never see me again after the funeral. That is a goddamn promise I intend to keep.” She grabbed the flask from her mother’s hand, took a long swig, tossed it down beside her, and walked out. She kept walking with Gemma at her heels.
Donna glanced at Gemma as she attempted to touch up her makeup in the car mirror.
Gemma, despite how hard she tried, she was never good enough for anyone. No matter how much makeup she wore, how perfect her hair was, or what outfits she wore no one thought she was worthy. She left home and went to Hollywood. She wanted to be a movie star. The farthest she got was an extra in an animated feature.
Donna pulled up to the Delta gate and sighed, pushing her sunglasses up on her head.
“Well I’ll see you soon, okay?” Donna said, tears forming in her eyes that matched that of her siblings.
Sammy and Gemma both nodded before they all said their goodbyes, and walked away with their arms around each other. Donna waited until they disappeared from view before driving away.
She pushed down her sunglasses, and turned on the radio.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac started playing through the speakers, and she smiled as tears ran down her cheeks. The setting sun filled the cab of her truck in warm orange light. She felt like her Daddy was right there beside her again, and she wiped her tears as she said goodbye to her past.