Tag: flash fiction

The Secret Life of a Bedsheet – Tara Mandarano

I am the worn and well-loved bedsheet Janetta slept on for fifty-four years, before she got trapped in the bathtub one day for over twenty-four hours, and never lay on me again.

She ordered me out of one of those Sears catalogues when she got married in the early 1940s, a stunning young woman, all sharp cheekbones and inscrutable green eyes. Awash in the double glow of matrimony and the purchase of her first real home, she was drawn to my muted tones, which suited her quiet-but-pleasant personality.

I remember her talking with her stepmother before she decided on me. Asking her opinion. Janetta did that with everything. All matters to do with the house had to go through Margaret’s approval process first, before anything could be definitively decided upon.

It’s just the way Janetta was. Motherless since the age of nine, she looked to the practical older woman, her middle-aged father’s brand-new wife, for all sorts of guidance when it came to life.

Margaret was kind in a blunt, straightforward way, happy to educate her stepdaughter when it came to all things etiquette. She knew how to set a table, how to cook the perfect pot roast, and most importantly, how to fend off unwanted advances from unsavoury men.

When she saw my pretty-yet-practical pattern peeking out of the catalogue, she promptly nodded her assent.

***

I remember when Janetta’s husband started spending more time with me, refusing to get out of bed. He’d been through the war years before, and his own internal battles, as well. A shell of the man he’d once been was the version of him who eventually came home to her.

He bought her a panda that sat on their dresser. He called her “Jan” in private. He genuinely loved her. But as he got older, he suddenly stopped wanting to go out. His social anxiety and psoriasis became his whole universe, and it was hard for her to live with.

I can’t count how many of her tears seeped into me over the span of their marriage.

Sometimes his water and salt would silently roll down and plop onto me, too.

I kept all their secrets in my pleats.

By morning, though, I was always dry again. And spotless.

But bickering and stubbornness leave their invisible stains and strains, and it was clear even to me that something essential had been lost between them. A lump of bitterness grew as they tossed and turned at night. During the day, they would take to their separate quarters of the house. Him to read the newspaper in the study, her to her domain in the living room, to watch daytime TV.

No matter the mood of their marriage, however, she always washed me religiously. Every Sunday I took a tumble and was spit out, bunched up and soaking wet. Never a believer in dryers, Janetta would pin me on the line to sway happily in the breeze.

The backyard, with the combined scent of her flowers and his cigarette smoke, became my beloved second home. The rays of sun hitting the folds of my fabric felt like heaven.

***

When he was gone for good, Janetta would spend more time curled up on top of me, childlike and empty. I could tell she was lonely by the way she would just lie there, clutching one of her many teddy bears. She had an entire collection sitting on her bedroom shelves.

It was during those times of sadness that I wished I could curl my corners around her in a comforting embrace.

Instead, I would just leave lines and marks on her already-wrinkled face.

***

When she laid out her trousers and blouse on me that fateful Saturday afternoon before her bath, I never dreamed that that time would be the last.

I could hear her calling out in pain from the mint-green tub when she couldn’t get out, and then a silence descended, more frightening then her whimpers had been.

I had witnessed so much of her life being a part of her bed, but I could not see the beginning of her end.

Eventually the firemen broke down the front door and rescued her, but she slept on the couch that night after her grown children eventually left.

I was suddenly and irrevocably bereft.

***

The next morning, Janetta would go to the hospital and never return home. Weeks later, her daughter would wonder out loud at her formal clothes laid out on the bed, and weep as she put them away for donation.

As he cleared out the house, room by room, her son would dutifully strip me off the mattress and toss me carelessly into a black garbage bag, as if I was worthless.

It was only when one of Janetta’s granddaughters came to look through the house for keepsakes that I dared let myself hope. When her fingers fumbled across me underneath some old, frayed pillowcases, my heart leapt.

I could tell she was looking for some mementoes and sentimental things to remember her grandmother by. As I lay there, all folded in on myself in sorrow, I saw her go to the kitchen, and I thought my chance at salvation gone.

When she came back a minute later with a pair of scissors, I was puzzled at first. Then she proceeded to cut out a square and put a patch of me in her pocket.

All I could think was that a part of me had survived, when Janetta and her husband had not.

***

Now I spend my days pinned to a crowded bulletin board in the granddaughter’s sunlit den. Faded by time, I am tacked up beside an old black-and-white photo of Janetta and Alfred as they strolled down Yonge Street in the 1940s. Glamorous and gorgeous, they are frozen in a frame, a forever way back when. And me? I am content, grateful to be close enough to brush up against their edges once again.

 

Tara Mandarano is a writer, editor, and copyeditor based in Canada. She balances life with a tyrannical toddler by consistently reading past her bedtime. Her work has also been published on Canadian Living, The Huffington Post, The Sunlight Press, Mogul, Mothers Always Write, Thought Catalog and Mamalode. Please visit taramandarano.com to see more of her writing or follow her on Instagram @taramandarano.

What She Knew – Sue Powers

She had a birthday, became thirty, became morbid and suffering and told her husband she would bear no more children, that inherent in birth is the sentence of death, that all childbearing is selfish, an illusion of immorally and how well she knew that she would die soon (what is thirty, forty more years compared to eternity?), that she was powerless, that her only life was moving along a path she could not remember freely choosing and she would not know all experience, live all the lives, reach all the corners that she might, but if nothing else, she said, she wished better for her unborn offspring than this anguish, this knowledge of nothingness-after-life.   

Take an aspirin, he said. Not unkindly.

Sue Powers has an array of publishing credits, among them Saturday Evening Post. She’s the recipient of a fellowship & grant from the Illinois Arts Council in Prose and two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has 21 fiction publications.

 

 

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Dear beloved readers—

This letter originally was supposed to be about all the awesome work we have been publishing and all the great things to come for DDR. Like many of you, I have experienced a range of emotions recently.  Mostly heartbreak, anger, and confusion… But now, it’s time to speak.  

Dying Dahlia is so proud and honored to be able to share work by women.  Dying Dahlia along with many other publications believe that women’s voices need to be heard.  When I started DDR it was for that reason and that reason alone.  And we will continue to do so.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault here are some things we here at Dying Dahlia want you to know…

Do not be silent.
We hear you.
We believe you.
Speak your truth.
And know that we stand with you.
You are not alone.

I, too, am a survivor. I was sexually abused as a child. And like some survivors who are stepping forward now, the trauma I experienced happened over 20 years ago. Do I remember the clothes I was wearing? No. Do I remember the dates it happened on? No. But I remember. 

It happened.  It mattered.  You matter.  And I believe you. 

I don’t know what is going to happen in the coming days.  I know that I am inspired by the women who are using their voices to stand up for what is right.

We want to see and hear your voices.  On blogs, on social media, in our submissions, in other journals, wherever.  We support you and your efforts to stop this plague.  Because it is a plague.  It is not okay. It has never been okay. 

There are many people out there who believe as I do— survivors should be heard and supported. If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, reach out to them.  This is an incredibly painful and overwhelming time for many survivors right now. Listen to them. Come from a place of love.  That’s all that is needed.

But most importantly, to all the survivors out there— stay strong and speak your truth. To a friend, to a family member, to the world. Put it in a poem, in a story, in a song or just say it out loud.

And don’t stop. Don’t ever, ever stop. I know I won’t.

Much Love,

Abbie Copeland
Editor-in-Chief

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). You can visit their website rainn.org or call their free confidential hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).

Feed Me – Carrie Mumford

Once a guy took me to Point Pleasant Park in the rain and sat me on the rocks overlooking the ocean and fed me spaghetti he’d cooked from a Tupperware and told me he wanted to drop out of school and buy a boat and sail around the world with me. The spaghetti was dry and the next summer he fell in love with a boy at the yacht club.

xxx

Once a guy made me lobster and lasagna. He called his adopted nonna and she coached him over the phone on how to melt the butter, when to take the noodles out, how to rub the spices between his hands. We slept in dog-dirty sheets and he told me about his brother’s time in jail and how he himself had stolen a register full of cash once but that was okay because it was the guy’s own fault for leaving it open when he went in the back to get the pizza.

xxx

Once a guy cooked me plantains and showed me how to choose the perfect mango, how the sweetest meat was closest to the pit. He recited a poem he’d written for his ex about kissing on a bridge in the rain and told me she’d left of her own accord and that it was her fault and her fault alone. He told me to be good be sweet be kind when I left him a few months later, of my own accord.

xxx

Once a guy made me baloney sandwiches with mustard on brown and he’d doubled in size overnight. He told me about his new girlfriend, how her hair was curlier than mine and her bum bigger and how we were so different because she was a cheerleader and I was a point guard but he liked that about her. And then we went upstairs to his dad’s camera room. Antique cameras stared at us on the single bed with baby-blue sheets. His feet hung off the end and we had perfunctory sex because we had to. 

xxx

Once a guy ate snowflakes off my eyelashes. He rolled on top of me and my snowmobile suit from the seventies, waited for the snow to fall, licked it from my eyelids, my cheeks, my lashes. He told me the stars always made him think of the Tragically Hip and the tobogganing hill made him think of weed. He drove me home in his crappy car and told me my mom was bad for me, as if she were something I could quit, like cigarettes.

xxx

Once I made a guy shepherd’s pie because his dad had a heart attack. I borrowed a cookbook from my mom and spent four hours boiling and mashing and frying and baking, and then I dropped it off at his house. He answered the door in an open housecoat and boxers and wouldn’t let me come inside. Behind him, his ex said, “Who’s that?” and I still handed him the pie and he still took it. I never got my dish back.

Carrie Mumford has lived on both the East and West coasts of Canada, and many places in between. Currently, she lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, three naughty cats, and one rambunctious dog. Her first novel, All But What’s Left, is forthcoming in June 2018.