a big beautiful mess


Today’s writing prompt is brought to you by the random word generator at textfixer.com, which spits out a random string of six words to get the creative juice flowing. I let myself slide with one word unused.

alphabetical – hatch – seducer – cruise – airport – low


I didn’t want to go on this cruise. In fact I’ve never wanted to go on any kind of cruise. They’re expensive and stuffy and low-bourgeois or wanna-be bourgeois or lowbrow or something along those lines. Wasteful. Mundane. Artificial.

Anyway, there I was. Because I love Sam, and because I want to make her happy, and because I’m good sister or something I guess.

A 16-day cruise to the Bahamas and surrounding islands, etc., etc. All-inclusive, all-expenses-paid by Sam herself, because otherwise there’s no way I would be able to afford something like this, she being the more fiscally responsible of us two.

I’d brought a stack of books, an empty journal, and my iPod, fully loaded with new downloads, because I was convinced that this was going to be the most boring 16 days of my life. But, as they say, how wrong I was.

In alphabetical order, the list of things I did not expect to happen on that 16-day cruise: attempted kidnapping, murder, reconciliation, seduction, and xylophone concerts.

Okay, so maybe not all those things happened. But certainly more than one did. I’ll tell the story.

We met at the airport in Miami, her flying in from Philadelphia, and me from Seattle. I was exhausted, as usual, and felt like crap and needed to take a shower. She was tired and cranky as well, but was happy to see me, so I was happy to see her. We’d arranged to spend a night at a hotel to recover from the flights before boarding our ship the next day.

After a brief argument about who would pay for the Lyft to the hotel, we heaved our bags into the trunk and drove off. It was only 4:00 in the afternoon when we arrived at the hotel, but we were both so tired that we fell asleep immediately.

At midnight, I woke up, hungry. I groaned a small, low groan to myself and heaved myself out of bed, pulled on my airplane slippers as quietly as possible, and padded out of the room and down the hall to the elevator, in search of a vending machine or an all-night cafe.

When I made it down to the hotel lobby, where a little corner-store-style shop operated out of a window in the wall, I found that Sam had had the same idea. I stopped, glanced back in the general direction of our room, and said, “Oh.”

“Hey,” said Sam.

“You’re awake.”

“You catch on quick.” She didn’t smirk. She slurped from her little apple juice box and looked at me.

“Yeah, I just, uh, just came down looking for a snack.”

“They have Uncrustables,” Sam said helpfully.

Behind the shop window sat a heavy, middle-aged lady who looked like she had never really seen better days, but they weren’t getting any better now. She sat on a ratty swivel chair, her head depressed into the cavity of her neck for minimal neck muscle effort, all framed by a mauve cardigan that had indeed seen better days. Her eyes drooped halfway, and it was difficult to tell if she was sleeping or simply stoned. Her gaze was fixed somewhere around my left boob. I stood there fixedly staring past her at the array of options behind her head for a long time. Finally, I asked her for a peanut butter and jelly Uncrustable and a carton of milk and a Snickers bar. She mechanically collected the items and recited an amount, at which point I realized I had not brought my wallet. “Um.”

Sam got to her feet and put a ten on the counter without saying anything. “Thanks,” I offered, but she’d already gone back to her overstuffed armchair by the fake fireplace.

I arranged myself in a decidedly uncomfortable doctor’s waiting room chair with my measly midnight snack and dug in. Once I’d gotten through the Snickers and started on my soggy sandwich, I glanced at Sam. She was gazing into the methodically waving flames of the fake fire.

“Should be a good trip,” I suggested, to break the silence.

“Yeah. I’m glad you decided to come.” She looked at me and smiled.

“Me too, I think.” I chuckled. “I never thought you would be a cruise type of person.”

“Well, a lot has changed about me since you moved out west.”


A silence.

“What did you eat?” I asked lamely.

“Twix and a granola bar.” She looked at the wrappers in the top of the garbage can between us. “I regret it.”

We laughed, shortly.

“I’m gonna go back to bed,” Sam said.


She stood and walked away, me with my half-eaten Uncrustable dripping into my cupped hands. I knew this was going to be a long trip.

OctInSeSt 2


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