Monday, April 8, 2013

Unacceptable

I anxiously bounced my legs in unison, the toe of my right shoe firmly planted in a white square of linoleum, my left in a square of black.  The clock above the ice box ticked at me, its face scowling 8:33.  Father's Saturday paper was sprawled over our narrow breakfast table, leaving only enough room for his favorite mug.  The rest of the dishes had long been cleared.  Mother and Betty stood side by side at the sink.

"Junior!" Father bellowed, "For the last time, you're going to shake the house down. Here, read the Sports section."  He pointed to its place on the table without looking up, licked his index finger and forwarded his own progress.

"Dad, I have a ball game at nine.  I'm late for warm-ups."

"Son, you may be excused when everyone is finished."

While drying her hands on a striped dish towel, Betty turned to look at me.  She mouthed the words, "I'm sorry," folded the towel and turned her gaze to the counter where the painted, metal file box still sat.  Its gold padlock now secured nothing, but a bitter emptiness.

* * * * *

While we were eating breakfast, the letter was delivered.  Mr. Booth brought it over well before the postman usually arrived.  Betty always got the mail on her way in from school, but this particular piece must have gotten lost.  The familiar slap of the back door screen announced our neighbor. 

"Good morning, folks."  Mr. Booth tipped his wide-brimmed white straw hat at Mother and Betty and patted my back.  

"'Morning, Tom.  What do you have there?"  Father asked with a smile.

"This letter was delivered to our home by mistake.  It fell right out of Marie's LIFE magazine."

Father casually extended his hand to relieve Mr. Booth of the letter, but he turned to Betty.  "It's for you, young lady.  It's from Smith College and it feels promisingly hefty."  Mr. Booth exaggerated the weight of the letter in his hands and presented it to Betty with a bow.  

Slamming his large palms down on the Formica, Father exploded, "Elizabeth Jane Murphy!  No daughter of mine is going to waste precious time and money going to college.  We've discussed this to death.  Damn it, Betty.  Give me that letter!"  He lunged toward her knocking his chair to the floor.

"Fine!  Take it!"  Betty's bright red face seethed with anger.  "I already have acceptances from Vassar, Barnard, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley.  I'm going to college, Daddy!  You can't tell me what to do."

"The hell I can't!"  Father screamed as he began to throw open drawers and cabinets.  "Where are the letters?  Where are they!?!"  He was up in Betty's room before Mr. Booth and I reached the gate at the end of the sun dappled yard. 

Looking back toward our house as I walked slowly to school, I saw a thin, twisted line of gray smoke escaping from the chimney.  "I'm sorry, Betty," I whispered.


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This piece is a work of fiction and was inspired by this week's the speakeasy writing prompt.  Click on the button below to read the prompt and the other beautiful writers who hang out there.  Thanks!   

15 comments:

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    1. Thanks, babe. I appreciate you always reading.

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  2. very nice job of setting up the traditional family roles from the beginning

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    1. Did the late 1940s come across?

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    2. heck, I thought the 1970's were there.

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  3. I understand why Tom is apologizing to Betty at the end of the story, but not sure why Betty is say she's sorry to Tom in the first section. Maybe I'm missing something? I absolutely love this line: "Its gold padlock now secured nothing, but a bitter emptiness."

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Bee. My idea was that the Father has only become more strict and controlling since the incident with the acceptance letters (which occurred earlier that same week, perhaps.)

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  4. What a tense scene you've woven! I felt the characters' helplessness.

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  5. Thank goodness we didn't live back then! Strong character, that Dad. Glad he's not my Dad!

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  6. Oh, man! I hope she eventually gets to college. I'm kinda mad for her.

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  7. Wonderful story Kristin! And I'm sure a real experience for a lot of women back then. Great job developing the father's character — his controlling self-absorbedness made me so angry. Well done!

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  8. Goodness is he a control freak or what! Well done, you captured him perfectly.

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  9. This is a cool take on the prompts. I hope she gets her college education. I wonder which school she would choose?

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  10. He bugged me I hope she goes to college

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  11. It was very subtle but you got the controlling aspect of that father until you could feel the slow tension of the other people not wanting to fuel his anger.

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