Parental Rights

This fucking skirt. I could give a shit less what I look like if I’m not comfortable, and this skirt sucks. It twists, it clings, it’s all over the damn place. Of course, I can’t stand still, so that could be a factor. My left foot bops, my right attempts to jitterbug. My shaking hand holds a cigarette that will burn down to the filter after a few cheek hollowing, lung harrowing inhalations.

I can’t decide which is worse – the grey outdoors where I’m standing, the sun on vacation, leaving us mortals clinging to its memory and feeling only half alive, or the painful harshness of the indoor fluorescents, the sadistic and efficient creators of which are on my find-out-I-have-a-terminal-illness hitlist.

No Smoking, says the door. Yeah. Fuck you.

I eye every person that passes, searching. Not you, not you, definitely not you; you do not have the answers to the questions that I am asking. I am twenty-five years old, defiantly clueless. You do not have the answers to the questions that I am asking.

Hello, I rehearse in my head. Hi. I’m your daughter.

Stranger words have never passed through my mind and I want to grab one of the grounded in well-being and ask them if they have ever had to say those particular words in that particular order. Excuse me, have you ever had the pleasure of introducing yourself to one of your parents? If so, how did that go for you?

Hi. I’m your daughter. Still strange.

I turn my head and I see her staring at me through the window. I was told she’s my grandma, but I’m not sure how to process that information. I’ve never met her, there are no over the river and through the woods cookie baking memories between us. As soon as she realizes I’m looking back at her, she looks away. Hi, I’m your granddaughter. Still strange.

My body can’t handle one more iota of nicotine, so I light another cigarette, and man, it hurts so good. There are so many butts strewn on the ground it looks like a homeless man came and made a collage. I look for pictures in them, like you do in clouds, but it’s just dirt and garbage. It’s nothing.

Hi. I’m your daughter. Still strange.

I take as deep a breath as my riddled innards will allow and pull the door open. Yes, that’s right, hush your conversations and stare. I will offer you a smile, regardless.

As the door whooshes closed behind me I am in another dimension. Though this first room is barely larger than my high school homeroom, I have never been somewhere that felt so cavernous.

I chant my mantra in time with my steps- Hi, I’m your daughter. Hello, I have never seen a single person in this room before, will you welcome me into your family with comforting arms, because this hurts me too you know, or will you all just keep looking at me like you’re more afraid of me than I am of you?

An arched doorway, into soft lighting, softer music, and the stink of flowers.

I know from television that the insides aren’t inside, the organs removed and weighed and recorded in posthumous posterity, and the mouth has been stuffed so you don’t notice the sunken cheeks. For a moment, looking at smooth eyelids, I get a mental flash of garish, cartoonish, giant black X’s stitching them shut.

I shake the image away, take a waxy hand in mine, and bore my words through the shell.

“Hello. I’m your daughter.”

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Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “Parental Rights

  1. This is good. It stirred up some emotions, surprisingly so, as I have never been in this kind of situation but I definitely understood and felt her pain.

    • Thank you – I’m glad that you felt something, most especially because you don’t relate to the situation. Your thoughts are always welcome and appreciated.

  2. Wow, definitely emotional…and the little details that you describe so well (discomfort of a skirt, the cigarette butts looking like a collage) add so much texture and reality to the story. Excellent.

    • It’s odd, that hyper-awareness that you can get when you’re looking at everything besides what you know you’ll have to face eventually. Thank you so much, for reading and for letting me know what you thought.

  3. Wow. This was good. I did not see the ending coming. I could feel your character’s emotion, and I had hoped the parent she was meeting would understand her, but, I guess that’s not happening. Of course, now I want to know the character’s backstory on this. πŸ™‚

    • Ha, I feel like I impressed myself when I make Michael say ‘wow’ πŸ™‚ I guess she’ll just have to hope that her grandmother loosens up a little bit, and hey, who knows, maybe she’s got some siblings out there too…

  4. This is GOOD, heartbreaking, gut punching GOOD. I did not see that ending coming too, and it did stir a lot of feelings for various reasons. Death is so final.
    And beside the content, it is written so well, beautiful phrases throughout!

    • At the ending, I actually had ‘stink of funeral flowers’ first but then took it out. I’m very glad that I did, because it seems that it let the ending hit a little harder, which I’m glad of. I’m also very glad that you put GOOD in all caps, TWICE, because reading it that way in my head makes me smile, so THANK YOU πŸ˜‰

  5. Stacie

    Really good Shannon. This felt real.

  6. Startling. The anger, disguising the pain, followed by the ending. Excellently well done, Shannon!

  7. You jumped right in there with a slap of emotion. Anger, frustration, fright… all of it. The ending was a bit surprising and, shall I say, stranger still. Loved every bit of this.

    • I’m so glad that I was able to get all of it across, and very happy that you loved it. You shall say, because that made me laugh πŸ˜‰

  8. Meg

    I love the repetition as a device throughout this piece. The anger and anxiety are palpable. Well done.

    • I don’t think rehearsing what you’re going to say EVER makes it less strange when it comes out of your mouth, and yet we have a tendency to practice all the same. Thank you!

  9. This is wonderful. You brought some powerful emotions to life.

  10. Can’t believe TTY this is fiction. Sure as hell felt like a real deal.

    • Well, I consider that a hell of a compliment. I will say that it’s based on a recurring nightmare that I used to have, but that’s as real as it gets. Ha, I’m most certainly not 25, that’s for sure…

  11. Really like how you revealed the setting. A great example of showing and not telling. And the last few paragraph really rang true for me; the weird thoughts you have when you’re nervous, the way inappropriate humor masks feelings. Nice work, Shannon!

  12. This was one of those pieces where I felt like I really nailed what I was trying to do, but you never know until you get feedback from impartial readers, so thank you for everything you just said. I’m happy that it works, and very glad you liked the things that you did. Thank you!

  13. Yes, I would say you really nailed what you were trying to do πŸ™‚ This was amazing. I didn’t expect the ending either, and that made the realization all the more effective. Wonderful character development, too! My favourite descriptions were “there are no over the river and through the woods cookie baking memories” and “it looks like a homeless man came and made a collage. I look for pictures in them, like you do in clouds, but it’s just dirt and garbage.”

    • While I know you can’t write for other people (well, I mean, you can, but…), I really appreciate that you take the time to mention specific lines that stick out for you- not only is it just plain nice to hear, anything that rings for someone is a boon for constructive self-editing. So, thank you so much, and I’m really happy that you thought it was amazing πŸ™‚

      • I’m so glad πŸ™‚ I know how much comments can mean and can feed the writing process – happy to oblige.

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  15. As you say, I think it was a great decision to edit out the mention of “funeral flowers” – the plot twist is so dramatic that the more subtle the language that takes us there, the better, I think. And you managed that balancing act so skilfully here.

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