Friday, March 25, 2005

Songs for Kate (fiction)

[A guest entry from Katherine]

Mommy checklist is nearly complete this morning. Roger has left for work, complete with a bag of carrots to help fend off Doughnut Day at the office. Max, Tim, and Sophie are on their way to grade and middle school with sack lunches in hand. There’s just one sack left at the end of the kitchen counter – Kate’s gym bag. And if I know Kate, her hot pink iPod is nestled among her smelly trail running shoes, gym socks, and faded scrunchies, just screaming to get outside.

“Katherine dear, don’t you think these drapes have faded enough?” said my mother, sliding her free hand up and down the drapes with the precision of a military inspection. I almost expected her to hold up her cocktail glass to zero in on every sunspot. The morning drunk’s magnifying lens.

“Oh, mother,” I replied softly, arching a sponge across the breakfast carnage at the table with the speed and efficiency of a mother of three. We both have our morning rituals, Mother and me, and playing nice is just a part of the act. Mother gets a starring role like every other weekday morning, opening not with a ‘hello’, but a question, just condescending enough to get under my skin, but not enough for me to risk being the fool in questioning her motives. Instead I play the straight woman, responding with a kindness that just beg for more.

Act II comes quickly, as it usually does when the spring sun breaks boldly through the living room windows. Like any faithful supporting cast, I watch mother command the stage from the corner of my eye, in awe of how she can pour out such drama in a scene she has performed a thousand times. First, the sun hits her face, forcing her eyes closed. She breathes. Next she lifts her double Old Fashioned in a smooth but exaggerated motion, letting the glass block the sun from her eyes as she tips the last of her all-liquid breakfast down her throat. She breathes deeper this time, feeling the sun and drink release her, and glides towards the couch where she has cat-napped enough times to leave an imprint on the cushions. Not as big as Roger’s basketball season imprint on the other end of the couch (complete with Cheeto-orange outlines on the arm where the remote sits), but worn as well as any sun-drenched drapes could ever be. Mothers performance was epic as usual - precise, fast, but not rushed. Good thing, since Kate is getting restless.

Mother has always called me by my full name, Katherine. I think she enjoys how it rolls off her lips with authority, unsurprisingly recalling ghosts of childhood scolding long since forgotten. Roger, my husband, picked up on this early so he generously opted for Kathy. As in “Kathy the loyal spouse and friend, changer of diapers, and listener of woes”. And of course, once again, supporting actress. Mommy, Katherine, Kathy – each comes with a house full of expectations, and although rewarding, are expectations nonetheless. Kate has always understood this. She knows that even Academy Award-winning Supporting Actresses yearn for a starring role.

I took off my apron, and glanced over at the gym bag. Kate never cleans that thing, and it showed, particularly in the spotless kitchen. What gets into that girl? Maybe I’ll never know what makes her tick, but I’m always curious. It so many ways, she is my idol, leading a life of adventure and never once apologizing for being comfortable in her own skin. She is sexiest without her make up, glowing with confidence and optimism that is drawn from within. In many ways, she is woman, unabridged.

I grabbed the dusty gym bag and tip-toed out to the garage to open it in private. As expected, the iPod was right on top, complete with the “Songs for Kate” playlist. I scrolled through the list of 40+ songs, seeing all her favorite trail running divas – Aretha, Tina, Janis, and even a bit of Shania and Brittany. One list, three generations of undeniable Girl Power. I pictured Kate’s ritual, pulling on her grubby trail running gear and heading in any direction she pleases, the siren songs and fresh air filling every sense, filling her soul to the point of spilling over. Some days she runs, some days she walks. Some mornings she will just sit and watch the wild around her, just to prove to herself that this is her time. Kate is in control, and she can do what she pleases, when she pleases.

The smelly running gear has a familiar stench that engulfs me. At first I feel like gagging – that’s sooo Kathy – but within a few breaths the familiarity calms me. I slide off my clothes and step into Kate’s shorts. I stroke my hair back into the faded scrunchie. I pull on the white socks, permanently stained from miles of trail running, and then the shoes, still wet from yesterday’s run. The screaming hot pink iPod finds its place on my armband, and the earphones slip into place. As “Songs for Kate” begins, I feel the blood rush through my legs, arms, to my toes and fingers. I become one with the smell, with the rhythm of the song, and my heart catches up.

Curtain in 30 seconds…it's time for your run, Kate.

- SD

[This is fiction, btw. Just thought y'all would enjoy it. Full copyright, 2005, all rights reserved. ]


  1. have GOT to submit this stuff!!! I don't know where, but you should. My wife loved it.


  2. Trail running habit as mild schizophrenia. That's a new one! I don't see many fiction blogs. Are there others? - Trish

  3. You got me on that one. I had to read it a couple of times.

  4. Scott, this is very good fiction. I loved the device of having the first-person narrator talking about herself as if another. Very clever, very good writing.

  5. I was worrying whether some drunkard's daughter had usurped your blog control and posted this. She sure can catch the essence, I thought.
    I'm glad I don't have a stinky bag of runner's kit to worry about.


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