Cowcatcher Persona

The Word of the Day over at Merriam-Webster is an old-fashioned one I haven’t heard for years. A COWCATCHER is an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track. Since cows no longer wander about freely, I suppose locomotive makers no longer see the need of adding one.

Just for fun I decided to re-purpose this word for our day and created this verse:

Your words hurt,
I try to explain.
I feel the sting;
see the pain in their faces.
But his cowcatcher persona
tosses my words to the winds
and plows on.

Sudden Reality Check

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LIFE’S ALLUSIONS

My response will be a story about a young couple who’ve come to a crisis-point over life’s allusions and illusions.

THE BUDGET WON’T REACH

Rick pulled out his receipts and the notebook in which he was recording their monthly expenses. For several weeks Lexi had been alluding to the lack of money for extras; this morning she’d actually had to leave some things at the checkout because the debit card wouldn’t cover her grocery bill. The cashier had been nice about it, but she was so humiliated.

Her allusions were getting him down. He’d hoped to give her so much more than a tight budget and no money for extras. If possible he would find some way to free up some more funds for groceries. They did need to eat.

He started entering the receipts in his notebook when he came across one from Turner’s Home Trimmings. Lampshade: $42. Lampshade? Guess that explains why there wasn’t enough to cover the groceries, he thought.

Rick was annoyed. Why on earth did she buy a new lampshade when funds are so tight. She seems to have some serious illusions — or delusions? — about the lifestyle we can live on our income. Well, this lavish spending has to stop. Now.

“Lexi,” he called. “Did you just spend $42 on a lampshade?”

She hurried into the room. “Yes, I did,” she answered defensively. “The shade beside the couch was looking so tattered, I was ashamed to have anyone into our living room. I know what Mom would say if she saw it.”

“We could have made do with it for another year. I hate to disillusion you, but we can’t afford all this nice new stuff at this point in time. I’m not earning the kind of money your Dad is, not yet, so you just can’t spend like your mom does.”

“It’s only one thing — the first new thing this year. And there’s always VISA.”

“There is NOT always VISA. Credit does not mean FREE. Credit means deferred payment — preferably only until the end of the month. We have to cut out ALL unnecessary expenses until I’m earning more commission. Then you can buy new lampshades and such.”

“Well, if it makes you happy, I’ve cut out one expense. I’ve stopped buying birth control pills.”

Rick nodded. “Well, if you can do without…” He stopped and looked at her sharply. “And…?”

She blushed.

“And…?”

“And now we’re going to have a baby.” She sounded embarrassed, uncertain.

Rick put his head in his hands, extra expenses scribbling themselves in his brain. “That’s wonderful.” He took a deep breath and looked up at her again. “We’ll manage somehow.”

Lexi had imagined how she’d share the great news and they’d be so thrilled together. Now her illusions had burst like a pricked bubble, turning her stomach over on their way down. She rushed to the bathroom.

The Always-Never Syndrome

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is IMPECCABLE
The Word of the Day Prompt is KNIFE
and the Discovery Prompt is TEACH

When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…

The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome

Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.

When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”

“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.

“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”

“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”

“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”

“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”

“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”

“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”

“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”

“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”

Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”

Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.

Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”

“Well…I guess…”

“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”

Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”

Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”

“I suppose…”

“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”

She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”