Lauren Wellbank

experiences may vary

Month: October 2016

Moms Can’t Pee Alone and Other News

A week ago today I got to do one of the rarest things that I ever get to do.  I went to the bathroom alone, with the door closed, and nobody frantically called for me from outside the door.  My daughter was still asleep and my husband had already left for work.  Pee, peace, and quiet.

Side note: I know moms always complain about not getting to go to the bathroom alone and I get it, I really do, but in the grand scheme of things I’d much rather do other things by myself, like eat or shower.  It would be nice to have a meal where I wasn’t constantly giving bites to my daughter so she could decide she wants some of it only to end up throwing food that I could have otherwise been eating onto the floor.  And the last time my daughter joined me in the shower she dumped a pitcher of cold water down my back while I was shaving my legs, because she is the worst. 

Anyway, back to the toilet.  So there I sat, basking in the silence of the morning, and watching in wonder as the second pink line appeared on the pregnancy test.

That’s right, I’m pregnant, again.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Family costumes are my absolute favorite.

And this was written a little over two months ago in the heat of summer with the air conditioner whirring constantly in the background.  If all has gone according to plan, it is Halloween (or Halloween-ish) and blessedly chilly.  Or at least not 90 degrees.

This is going to be a short post.  Really I just wanted to do the whole “humble brag pregnancy announcement” thing and have an excuse to show off because… well because there are only so many more times that I will get to say, “I’m pregnant”.

This whole experience has been worlds different than the last time.  Firstly, because being pregnant while also running after a toddler is a horse of a different color, but secondly, a lot of things are old hat.  And speaking of old hats, did you know that once you hit 35 you get a shiny diagnosis of “Advanced Maternal Age”?  Yeah, that’s a thing I will be talking about in great detail next week.

Happy Halloween everyone.  I hope your children don’t notice when you pillage all their good candy.  And I hope the walk around the neighborhood trick or treating puts them into a long and blissful sleep.


Happy Halloween!

Help! Mom Overboard!

Two weeks ago, I would have told you that I was jealous of my friend*.  That her life was perfect and that she had it all together.  That her marriage was happy, her child was perfect, and everything had gone and was continuing to go exactly how she had planned it.  She was the mom that I envied, that I compared myself to when I was in the weeds.

What would she do in this situation?

How would she have handled this better?

She is potty training her kid?  What is wrong with me and my kid that we haven’t even started that yet?

And then we met for coffee.  She laughed at me when I told her my assumptions.

“No, no no no.  I have no clue what I’m doing.  Don’t do what I do.”  We laughed, talked about other things, and went about our lives.  She went back to work and I went back home and started dinner while my daughter sat at my feet begging me for chips.

Chips, you better believe my friend would never give her child chips.

It was somewhere between that third and fourth potato chip that it finally hit me.

I have been comparing my entire life to half of someone else’s story**.

And I’m not the only one.

Facebook, Instagram, and the 24/7 flood of “look at me and how great everything is” makes it almost impossible not to do it.  All we are seeing is the best side of people, their projected image of their life.  Then we take all the parts of our life and compare how we are doing.


Happy day at the pumpkin patch.  No irony here.

We don’t share the pictures of the screaming at the top of their lungs temper tantrums, the sleepless nights, the jealousy we feel when our husbands go out for a night with their friends while we stay at home and watch another two hours of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  We share the pumpkin patch pictures, the happy faced child in her ballerina outfit, and the home-made-free-range-all-organic-chicken soup pictures.

And we compare our entire lives to those brief glimpses.

Recently a mom I met online shared that she was feeling particularly terrible about how she parents.  She complained that everyone she knows is doing it so much better than she is.  That she has friends with multiple kids that work and go to the gym and have spotless houses and manage to get their kids to soccer on time.  There she is with just the one child, no career outside the home, and can’t seem to manage any of it.

And, why are some people so much better at this than others?        

I immediately thought of my friend.  Even the people that seem like they have it all together, don’t.  At least, they don’t think that they do.

Maybe it’s just that they show the best side to the rest of the world.  Maybe it’s that the things that we fail at seem so much bigger than the things that they succeed at.  Maybe we’re own worst critics.

I decided then, in that minute, that parenthood pushes us all overboard.

For the most part we all start out on the boat, dancing and having fun.  Then come the kids, the boat shifts, and we all go into the drink.  We’re all in bad shape once we hit the water, but some of us are better swimmers, or at least more graceful.  Yeah, in the beginning we’re all drowning and swimming for that life boat.  Some of us do it with grace, some of us flail around for a while, but we are all outside the boat and trying to get back in.  Some of us just get there faster.

So my message to other mom’s is this, don’t judge yourself based off of what other moms are doing.  Maybe it seems like everyone else is doing the breaststroke while you’re helplessly doing a doggy paddle.  Maybe you can’t even see the life raft.  Maybe you’ve decided that you are staying right where you are and the boat will just have to come to you, thank you very much.

Parenting is all about survival mode.  We’re all doing our best.  It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect or Instagram worthy.  Our kids just have to be clean-ish, fed, and loved.  That’s our job.

Well that, and to find a way to be happy with how we’re doing, and if we can’t manage that, figure out what we can do to make ourselves happier.

Parenting is hard- the kids, the responsibilities, the mountains of laundry that seem insurmountable, let’s not go borrowing any more trouble.  We have enough to worry about just trying to get back to the boat.

*I say “friend” and talk about one instance but this is actually a combination of a few of my friends that I admire and look up to who are kind enough to remind me that they don’t really know what they are doing sometimes either.

**Not that anyone has ever accused me of knowing what I’m doing or being the gold standard but I just want to state for the record that I have no goddamn clue what I’m doing either.  Despite any well-lit, heavily filtered, Instagram photos you may stumble across.

Thirty-Five is the New Thirty-Five

On the 19th I will turn 35, making these my last few dying days in my early thirties.  I thought I’d approach this day with sadness at the loss of my blush of youth, regret for the things that I didn’t do with my life (still haven’t written that Great American Novel, have I?), and dread because now I’m staring down the barrel of 40 (40??!?  How did that happen?!).

That didn’t end up being the case.  Instead, I am spending these last few days making demands (after all, 35 is a big birthday and deserves all the fuss that my close friends and family can muster), and enjoying any extra attention that I can get.

Guys, I’m going to be 35 and my life is pretty awesome.  Granted, I’m not running through the house singing while tiny cartoon birds change my toddler’s diaper (good god how I wish), but this life is better than any life I could have imagined in my twenties.


When you turn 35, you get excited about getting new dish towels as gifts (thanks, mom!)

Plus, at 35 when people ask you what you want for your birthday, you actually get it.  That’s probably because you are no longer asking for things like a trip to Cabo or a new car (not that I ever asked for those things).  My big wish this year was a writing workshop (thanks hubby) and a fancy bottle of salad dressing from a winery in the Finger Lakes that my parents visited last year (thanks parents).  Literally, all of my wildest dreams are coming true.

***Oh, and I keep telling anyone that will listen how awesome an edible arrangement would be.  Seriously people, one with the pineapples cut to look like flowers… maybe some chocolate covered strawberries… I mean, come on, I’m almost 40.***

This is a much different approach than the one I took five years ago.  The Lauren of my 20’s was a completely different beast.  I am a few years older than my husband and on my 30th birthday I declared that I would spend the next few birthdays aging backwards until my husband and I were the same age, and then we could proceed forward together, as equals (because that’s how aging works).  I think I stuck with it for two years.  By then the reality of being in my 30’s had sunk in and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Actually, it was way better than I ever could have imagined.

Gone were many of the insecurities, struggles, and trials of my twenties.  Financially, I was secure.  I had put my time in as a bastion of light in the dark recesses of the mortgage industry.  Most of what had happened in the early 2000’s had started to rebuild and I had found stability in my corner of the market.  And things worked out perfectly for me to be able to leave said mortgage industry and stay home and wipe butts full time.

Gone are the days of wondering how my ass looks in my jeans or what size dress I’m wearing.  My body is what it is.  Sure, I happen to think I look terrific (thanks mainly to awesome genes and a non-sedentary lifestyle).  I am also not far enough removed from my teen years to remember how I felt about my looks back then.  When I look back at old pictures, I realize that I was perfect.  Same goes for every other period of life.  In the moment, there was so much I wished was different, but when I look back I wish that I still looked the way I did then, as opposed to how I look now.  I assume that trend will continue for the rest of my life.  So I’m going to go ahead and embrace how I look now and save myself the regret in five years when I think, “If only I looked as young, well rested, and fit as I did at 35.  Youth is wasted on the young, waaaaah.”

Obviously, I assume that I won’t embrace 40 with the same devil may care attitude that I have for turning 35.

And I love, and am loved, without insecurity.  My husband and I have a solid foundation that I no longer question (except, you know, when we move because that shit is for the birds).  I don’t have to worry if I’ll ever find love, if I’ll die alone, how many cats I can reasonably have before I begin the descent into madness, I know the answers to all of those things now (six, six is the maximum number of cats that I can handle at one time).

And now I’m wondering what the next five years will bring, and what the years beyond will bring.  Will I continue to feel the same way about my life that I do about wine, that it’s better with food it gets better with age?  Will I continue to embrace my flabby backside as much as my crow’s feet?

Who knows?

Who cares?

Another perk of being closer to 40 than to 30, you just don’t give a shit.

So, happy almost birthday to me.  And here’s hoping that I still feel this way in the harsh light of Thursday morning.  When I’m sure to wake up with a few new grays, a cake hangover, and tiny fingers feeling around inside of my ear canal.

35 is the new 35, because screw every other age. 

When You’re a Mom, Nobody Cares That You’re Sick

Once, when I was about fifteen, I got very sick.  I had been feeling poorly for a few days before I finally told my mother that I probably needed to go to the doctor.  It was there that we received the diagnosis of a sinus infection coupled with bronchitis.  I was given a prescription and strict instructions to go home and take it easy.  And take it easy I did.  My mother spent her days making sure that I had plenty of OJ and watermelon (don’t ask me why, but I always want watermelon when I’m sick).  She ran out and bought me the good tissues, the ones that were two-ply and had lotion on them.  The absolute best part was that she made, from scratch, my favorite soup and served it to me in bed and with a side of saltines.

I got worse before I got better, but I did get better.  And I got better in the lap of luxury because she let me stay in her bed since my room was always drafty, and because that’s the kind of stuff mom’s do for their sick kids.

That was about twenty (Jesus Christ, twenty?!) years ago.  Oh, the good old days, when being sick meant a vacation from your life and a mom sized butler.


Thanks to snapchat filters I don’t even look like I have strep throat and have had very little sleep.  I just look like a really sad panda instead.

Now, I find myself having to sit down and try and catch my breath because I just stood for fifteen minutes (apparently the absolute maximum effort I can expend).  I had to make myself chicken noodle soup because somehow I ended up with strep throat.  Strep throat which, by the way, I’ve had for about a week already and didn’t do anything about except suffer in silence, because I thought that what I was experiencing was jaw pain from grinding my teeth during the two to four hours of sleep that my tyrannical toddler allows me each night.

A toddler who, by the way, just does not give a single solitary shit that I’m sick.  She is too busy pulling my pants down while trying to get me to give her one of the carrots that I’m cutting up for the soup.  Not so that she can eat it, noooooooo, she wants to take a bite out of it and then hide the rest somewhere in the house for me to find later*.

If my mother were here she would be telling me to lay down, take a nap, or at least snuggle up under the covers and rest.

Instead I am with my daughter, and if she so much as sees me look at a couch/chair/anything that could be used to rest, she immediately asks me for something; milk, a cookie, a snuggle (alright, I gladly give into the last one).  But no, there is no rest for the weary… or the mother.

Being sick as a child relieves you of all responsibility.  You don’t go to school, you don’t go to your afterschool activities, you don’t really even have to do homework if you don’t send someone to pick it up for you (like a nerd).  You just lay around and let someone (mom) hand you whatever you need to eat, drink, and make sure the remote and tissues are within your reach.  You know what being sick is like when you’re a mom? It’s like every other day except you feel like you actually might die while you’re making everyone’s lunch.  And don’t get me wrong, you can ask your husband for help, and if he’s not sick he may actually give you some, but chances are that your kid is going to behave like an asshole and demand mom anyway because that’s what kids do.

When you’re sick as a child your mom usually calls and makes your doctor’s appointment, drives you there while you’re all safely snuggled up in the back seat wrapped in your favorite blanket, and she sits in the waiting room alternating putting the back of her hand on your forehead or cheeks and giving you kisses.  In other words, it’s all about you.  When you’re a mom, chances are you had to lock yourself in the bathroom to even make the phone call to the doctor (which hurt because you had to yell a little bit to be heard over the sound of your child frantically pounding on the door and screaming, “Mommy!”).  You have to get both yourself and your toddler dressed and into the car so that you can drive to the doctor’s office, where you spend the entire time comforting your damn kid who is now convinced that you are there for them and that they are about to get a shot.  If your child is anything like mine, you also have to hold them and bounce them throughout your entire exam as they scream at the top of their lungs while you get poked and prodded in all your sore spots.  Then, as a bonus, maybe they will scream the whole time you’re in line at the pharmacy window to pick up your prescription because they want crunchies.

And the number one thing the doctor wants you to do (right after drink lots of extra fluids), is now and always has been, to get lots of rest.  I’m assuming that he was able to hear my laughter above the sound of the screaming child.  Okay, doc, I’ll get right on top of that.  What part of this five minute glimpse into my life indicates that I’m going to be going home and taking it easy?

I guess the moral of this story is don’t grow up.  Stay young and cared for forever.  Also, thank your moms.  Because at some point they most likely had to take you to the doctor’s office when they were sick.  And like the saying goes, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

I love you mom.  Please come take care of me.

*I found the carrot three days later under the crib.

Carry On – Friday, a short story

This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th.  This is the fifth and final chapter, titled Friday.

You can view the previous chapters here (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), or by clicking on the chapter titles in the tool bar to the right.     


The smell hit him before he opened his eyes.  The pain in his stomach had completely taken over any rational thought.  In the early morning hours the sound of flapping wings and claws on the steel of the car pulled him out of his dreams.

Or he thought they had.  When he looked out the window, there was no sign of the nightmare birds.  I’m going insane, a small voice inside his head repeated, I’m losing my mind.

Click click click.

With shaking hands he pulled the picture of Lisa off the night stand and looked at it.  Memorizing the color of her hair (blonde), the shape of her face (a perfect oval), and the small scar under her eye from an accident when she was a child.  He wanted to remember every detail in case he never saw the picture again.  When he was through he stood up and made the final walk out to the kitchen.  The sun seemed brighter than it had all week.  The cool mornings having finally given way to some of the summer heat and humidity.  The smell was stronger now.  Joe looked over at the kitchen table on his way to the door.

Sunday night’s dinner sat there, still untouched.  It was the last meal that he had even attempted to eat.  He had pushed it to the middle of the table when he realized he wouldn’t be able to finish eating it.  There it sat all week, rotting.  Somehow he hadn’t noticed it since then, but he noticed it now.  It buzzed with flies.  Turning away from it he continued to the door.  Both the smell and the sound of flapping wings were stronger now.  At least he thought they were, Joe found he could no longer his thoughts.

Click click click.  Taking a deep breath he opened the door and walked into the blinding light of the morning.

There was only one vulture, and maybe there had only been one all along.  It sat on the trunk of the car watching Joe’s slow progress across the yard and to the drive way.  Once he arrived the bird squatted down a bit and hissed, spreading his expansive wings wide.  Joe did not shrink back this time, or hesitate, instead he came closer yet until the bird relented.  Here, the smell was at its strongest.

Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, Joe punched the three numbers and waited for someone to pick up.

“Hello, this is 911, what is your emergency?”  For a split second he considered hanging up, that he was making a mistake.  The birds had been an apparition, they weren’t real.  None of this was.  Everything was fine.  He would live a long and happy life, even if he lived the rest of it alone.  Nothing bad was going to happen now.  All of the bad had happened in the past.

Instead he cleared his throat and gave the dispatcher his information.  Without ending the call he dropped the phone on the ground.  It took him a moment to get his hands to work, but he was finally able to put the key into the lock of the trunk.  The familiar sound of the rustling of feathers sounded from overhead and Joe looked up at the birds, all lined up in the tree above the house, waiting, watching.

With a weary certainty he opened the trunk.  He had gotten used to the smell, after all he had been smelling it all week.  However, upon opening the trunk it hit him again like it was the first time.  Fat black flies flew out in spurts.  Inside, the shape was almost unrecognizable.  Blonde hair was matted to a misshapen head.  Hair that Joe knew, after all, he would know his Lisa anywhere.

In the distance the sirens sounded.  The police would be here for him soon but he couldn’t look away from her.  He had to remember every detail.

The sirens came closer yet.

He hadn’t meant for this to happen.  He had only wanted to talk to her, to tell her not to leave, that he loved her.  She didn’t understand, she wouldn’t listen to what he was saying.  It wasn’t the first time they had fought and she had walked out.  But it was the first time that he believed she wouldn’t come back, that it was truly over.  It couldn’t be over, he loved her.  He loved her so much.  So he tried to make her stay.  He did everything he could but in the end she only stopped when she fell.  When she tried to get back up he pushed her down again, and again, and again.  Finally, she did stay.  Now she could never leave.

The lights were just barely visible through the trees as the police came down the street.  Even then, with the sirens at their loudest as the police pulled into the driveway, Joe was able to hear the sound of the birds.  He looked up and watched as they flew away.  Hundreds of them, they cast a shadow over the yard as they rose into the air.

Joe raised his hands above his head as the officers instructed.  They approached him cautiously, looking from him, to the trunk, to the sky where his eyes were still fixated.  He made no attempt to respond to their inquiries and did not resist when they locked the handcuffs on his wrist.  His eyes never left the empty sky.

The arresting officer later noted that the suspect had only made a single sound, and it was as he was placed into the back of the squad car.  From deep in Joe’s throat had come a clicking sound.

Click click click.

The End.

Carry On – Thursday, a short story

This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th.  This is the fourth chapter, titled Thursday.

You can view the previous chapters here (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), or by clicking on the chapter titles in the tool bar to the right.     


The first thought he had upon waking was that something was amiss.  Everything was just as he left it, but at the same time, nothing looked as it should.  Although early morning, the light was all wrong.  The sun was too low, too close, too bright.  It was as if it sat directly outside his window, shining just for him.  It hurt his eyes and beat directly into his head.  It acted as a spot light and directed his attention to the worst of the pain.  His throat still throbbed dully, but it felt more like a tether that held together the two real pains, his head and stomach.

Click click click.

Pressing the palms of his hands into his eyes, he rolled into a fetal position.  This was it, he thought, something was seriously wrong with him.  Between throbs of hot pressure Joe wept.  He begged and pleaded for death, for the birds to finally take him.

The birds roared from outside his window.  Dozens of them flapping their large wings just out of sight, causing the curtains to stir.  Causing the air to smell like the rotting flesh that stuck to their talons.  He imagined it, bits of scavenged flesh, stuck on their feathers and claws.  Rising heat was the only warning Joe had before he leaned over and let bile spew from his mouth.  Sweet relief hit him immediately and the burning seemed to recede momentarily to some searing pinpoint within him.

Click click click, came again from outside.  Without cleaning up his mess he rolled back to the other side of the bed and pulled the covers up around him.  There he remained, unmoving and unseeing, as the day went on.

Time passed by and still he laid in that bed, the covers pulled up to his ears, trying to drown out the birds.  The birds that had come for him. The birds that only he could hear. 

The end of chapter four.

Click here to read the final chapter, Friday.

(To receive notifications when the next chapter is posted, follow on facebook at

Carry On – Wednesday, a short story

This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th.  This is the first chapter, titled Monday.

You can view the previous chapters here (Monday, Tuesday), or by clicking on the chapter titles in the tool bar to the right.     


There were four birds sitting on the car when Joe looked out the window that morning.  He had skipped his coffee and went straight to the sink to push back the curtain.  They looked at him, as though they had been there all morning, just waiting for the curtain to move.  He walked outside and waved his arms wildly at the car, trying to quietly chase the birds away.  One took off immediately, two more fled when Joe was only a few feet away, but one remained, unfazed.  It spread its massive wings as they both stood, stock still, neither willing to make the first move.  Finally, with a hiss, the bird caved in and launched itself unceremoniously into the sky.  Joe’s eyes followed it for a moment before his entire body went ridged.  His mind went blissfully blank as his body stiffened, shook, and then collapsed.

Not much time had passed, the sun was still low in the sky and the air held onto the early morning chill.  At first Joe thought he was still in bed and had dreamt the whole weird scene with the birds.  Maybe it had all been a dream and he would find himself snuggled up with Lisa, both of them wishing for just a few more hours in bed together.

When he turned his head to look at the clock on his nightstand (next to Lisa’s picture), the pain brought him back to reality.  He was still in his front yard, shielded from the street by a row of arborvitaes and trees that he had never known the name of.  The front yard was mostly secluded.  He could have laid there for days and no one would have noticed.  Slowly he sat up and felt around his head.  His fingers came away clean.  Once he was satisfied that he wasn’t badly injured, and wouldn’t fall back down, he rose up and headed back inside the house.

His vision warped in and out on him but he made it back to the bedroom without further incident.  From the safety of his bed he used his cell phone to call the office and let them know that he was coming down with something and wouldn’t make it in today.  Squeezing his eyes closed he tried to make his head stop swimming.  The pain in his throat had also returned but it was nothing compared to the burning in his stomach.  Rolling onto his side he laid in his bed staring at the photo of Lisa.  Outside there was a click click click but he ignored it.  He watched her until his eyes gave out and eventually closed.

Once he was asleep the dreams came.  At first they were pleasant.  They were of the two of them when they first started dating.  The memories that they consisted of were not real, the events had not actually taken place.  They had never stayed in a cabin on a lake, yet that’s where the dreams took him.  The two of them sitting on a dock at sunset, watching as deer came out from the woods and down to the water to take a drink.  Lisa’s head on Joe’s shoulder, the two of them sitting n happy silence.  The birds were flying overhead and into the distance.  Their silhouettes against the sun, casting shadows over the water, gentle chirping fading with the light.

In his room, Joe tossed and turned.  No chirping had followed through his dreams, but there were birds here as well.  Through the window came the soft flapping of wings on the wind and the occasional scraping as the birds touched down outside the house.  Click click click.  Their numbers grew as Joe slumbered on.  He and Lisa, together once more, in his dreams.

The end of chapter three.

Click here to read chapter four, Thursday.

(To received notifications when the next chapter is posted, follow on facebook at

Carry On – Tuesday, a short story

This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th.  This is the second chapter, titled Tuesday.

You can view the previous chapters here, or by clicking on the chapter titles in the tool bar to the right.     


It was another cool morning and Joe was having a hard time getting out of bed.  The windows had been left open again last night and a chill had settled in the house.  He laid in bed with the blankets pulled up around his shoulders, glad that he had yet to swap out his winter flannel sheets for the lighter cotton ones. To add to his troubles, had woken up with a sore throat as well.   He took a moment to consider calling out of work, he could blow a personal day and just lay in bed for the rest of the day.  Thinking better of it, he kicked off the covers and got up to start his day.

All the bones in his back cracked as he stretched out the kinks from the night before, the crack crack crack the only noise inside the small bedroom.  His eyes flitted over to the nightstand where a framed photo sat next to a glass of water.  Reaching out he took the water without giving the frame more than a passing glance.  There was no need to look too closely at the picture, he had every detail memorized.  The long honey colored hair that hung just past Lisa’s shoulders.  The small scar on her right cheek.  The large happy smile.  Putting the water back on the night stand he cleared his throat.  It took a moment or two before he was able to push the painful memories out of his head.  The thoughts had nearly paralyzed him.  The longing and sadness warming his chest and creating a hot lump that he could not swallow down.  But it passed, he had gotten better at swallowing his feelings down.  The sadness, the anger, the shame.

Joe found himself once again lost in thought at the kitchen table when the sound came.  Click click click through the kitchen window.  He was tempted to stay where he was and not look upon that ugly visage again, but curiosity won out.  As Joe rose he swayed slightly, his vision clouding for a moment.  “Woah.” He whispered as he steadied himself on the back of the chair.  The sore throat from earlier this morning had abated but with the darkening vision the pain came back.  He cleared his throat and moved to sit back down when the click click click came again.  Click click click.

Walking to the window, Joe pulled back the curtain.  The bird from yesterday was back, but he was not alone.  There were now two of the large carrion birds sitting on the roof of his car.  Both of them had turned towards the movement when he pushed back the curtain.  Their beaks seemed larger than they should be as they glared at him.  Joe cleared his throat once more, maybe a little louder than he normally would have, hoping to startle them away.  Instead they looked back at him with mild interest.  The darkness threatened to cloud his vision again as he stood there.  Joe hung his head as he gripped the sides of the sink and closed his eyes, willing the darkness away.  After a moment his vision cleared and he looked out the window, the birds both gone now, as if they had never been there in the first place.  Filling a glass with water he took a few deep gulps and looked warily at his car.  When he was sure that neither the birds, nor the darkness, were going to return he put the glass in the sink and left for work.

The driveway sat empty until dark.  Joe pulled in and turned off the engine, sitting quietly in the dark for a moment before making a move to go into the house.  He was still shaken up from what had just happened in the parking lot at work.

He had felt poorly all day.  The dizziness coming and going.  After considering leaving early to go home and rest, he decided to stick it out.  When the day had finally come to an end and he was able to walk out that door he was relieved.  But that relief was short lived, because as he walked through the semi-dark parking lot to get to his car he discovered that he was not alone.  Something moved quickly near his car.

A moment later his eyes had fully adjusted to the gloom and he saw what had caused the movement.  A vulture had been sitting in the shadow of his tire.  The vulture, having seen Joe, crouched down and spread its wings wide and shifted its weight from side to side, click click click.  Joe stopped in his tracks.  He and the bird remained motionless, their eyes locked together.  A hiss came from the bird, low and angry.  A warning to Joe, “Don’t come closer” it said.  Or, Joe thought, maybe it was saying, “Come on in.  It’s cool in here.  It’s cool and dark.”  An invitation.

Stomping his foot and breaking eye contact he waved the bird away and hissed back, “Get lost.”  The bird held his ground for one more moment before pushing off and taking flight.  The sound of the large wings flapping through the otherwise quiet night made Joe shudder.

Soon, they said.

Each flap issuing the warning, or maybe the reassurance, soon.  Soon.

Now Joe sat in his driveway, trying to shake the fear he felt in opening the door to get into his house.  He was beginning to feel poorly again, and although the night air was cool, his skin felt flushed.  In the end, the desire to get in and lay down outweighed his fears.  He pushed himself out the car and into the house.  Once inside the house the fear abated and he almost felt silly.  Maybe it wasn’t a vulture in the parking lot.  It was dark and he hadn’t been feeling well.  Hadn’t been feeling well for a few days now, actually.  Maybe I am coming down with something, he thought as he walked through the house turning on a light in each and every room.

Joe pulled the covers up to his neck as he got into bed later that night, shivering slightly at the cold air coming through the window.  He was suddenly exhausted and desperate for sleep.  His eyes fluttered twice before he closed them for good.  Just before his conscious thoughts slipped away for the evening, he registered two things.  The first was that the pain in his throat had spread down, sending an unfamiliar burning towards his stomach.  The second was that in the distance, he heard the flutter of wings and a soft click click click.

The end of chapter two.

Click here to read chapter three, Wednesday.

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Carry On – Monday, a short story

This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th.   This is the first chapter, titled Monday.


Joe was sitting at the kitchen table when he first heard the noise.  It was so quiet that at first he didn’t even notice.  He had been sitting still, lost in thought.  His hand wrapped around his cooling cup of coffee.  It was early summer and most mornings were still cold enough to need a jacket.  Although the night had been chilly, he had left the windows open throughout the house.  The noise was now coming through one of those open windows.  A steady click click click came softly through the kitchen window.  Joe rose and walked to the sink and pushed the curtains aside.  Outside it was early morning and the sun was shining through the trees.  A slight glare was reflecting off of his car.  Shielding his eyes, he tried to locate the source of the noise.  It didn’t take too long.  Perched on the roof of his car sat a very large bird.  No, Joe thought, not just a bird, a vulture. 

As if naming it had called his attention, the vulture looked towards the window where Joe stood.  It shifted its weight and stepped side to side, issuing another click click click.  An involuntary shudder went through Joe as he watched.  The vulture sat as tall as a medium sized dog.  Its wings were pulled up around its neck. A neck which held up a hideous red face that was looking in Joe’s direction.  A darkness seemed to seep towards the car.  Shade fell over the house and over the vulture.  Spreading his wings wide, the bird flapped twice and then took off into the air, not bothering to cast another look back in Joe’s direction.

Joe’s hand was still holding back the curtain as he watched the massive bird fly up into the sky.  The darkness had receded and the sun was shining back down as if it had never left at all.  The bird continued to rise up until he was out of sight.  Joe only gave the bird one more thought as he let the curtain fall back into place and dumped his half full coffee mug into the sink.  That can’t be a good sign.

Turning back to the recently vacated table he tried to remember what he had been doing before he’d noticed the clicking.  A dull headache bloomed slowly behind his eyes.  Rubbing his temples, he looked around again.  He’d been getting ready to leave for work and thought of something he had to do but he had forgotten it just as quickly.  Lisa always said that he was good for that, losing his train of thought.  Sometimes she would tell him that his thought train had crashed.

It had definitely come off the tracks this morning.

The end of chapter one.

Click here to read chapter two, Tuesday.

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