Posted by: sulya | 24 September 2009

500 Words of Fiction: Margaret






How hard is it to answer to your name? Other bitches do it, he thought with a stab of guilt as he got out of his chair and balanced on weak, sore knees for a moment before heading for the stairs.

One laboured step up after another brought him out of his world of dark wood-like paneling and geometric patterned brown and orange carpeting; of booze bottles doubled in a back splash mirror on top of an extra wide bar fridge and up into her world of bows and butterflies. No one believed him and they never had anyone over anymore so he couldn’t share the madness  but each and every one of the dining room chairs had a giant pale rose fabric bow tied to the back of it like they lived in a wedding. The walls in all the rooms upstairs were covered in huge stenciled or free-drawn and painted butterflies.

She’d even let the grandkids draw butterflies on the walls of the kitchen when they were little. He had managed to draw a line in their bedroom, though. Literally. He got a big black indelible marker from his tool kit in the garage and drew a line down the middle of the bed, over the pale oak flooring, up the middle of the dresser at the foot of the bed and as far up the wall as his arms could reach and said, You put a butterfly anywhere on my side of this line and I’ll divorce you.

She’d smiled serenely as she watched him do it, didn’t try to stop him, listened to his statement as if he were a radio program about gardening or fishing and calmly said, Good to know.

That black line had never come out of that set of sheets. It had soaked down to the mattress and she kept washing them and putting them back on the bed anyway. She alternated them with the other set of sheets they’d had for years. He’d set his boundary on the new sheets. The ones she’d coveted for three months at the local linen store until they’d gone on sale.

As he got closer to the top of the stairs he could hear Margaret on the phone. She is always on the damn phone, he thought. It never ends.

Worse, he could hear her say, No I’m not being dramatic.

Biggest lie I ever heard, he thought, woman is dramatic every minute of every day. Always has been, always will be.

At the top of the stairs he saw Liz talking on the phone, not Margaret. Their daughter Liz. She was compulsively twirling the long cord that extended from the old built-in wall-phone to the receiver. His heart warmed. She’d done that when she was fifteen too.

Where’s your mother?

Liz looked up, tired but kind.

She left you. Seventeen years ago. She married Jeffry, Dad. Don’t you remember?



  1. *long exhale*

    Amazing Sulya. I’ve been enjoying all the fiction pieces but this one is my favourite so far.

  2. Thank you so much Sally. And thank you for taking the time to comment. I feel like I’m alienating people with all these fiction pieces but it’s what I’m needing to write, you know? Nice to know people are still reading and super nice to know that you’re enjoying them. Thanks again.

  3. I love that the guy who threatens divorce over some drawings and draws a line down the centre of the room is the one accusing women of being dramatic (I actually said “ha!” out loud at that part)…

    I love that Liz is kind to her old man even though you get the sense she has been through this with him before and has every reason to be impatient…

    I love that a story this concise can convincingly portray a man as both a flawed husband and loving father.

    Yep, it’s a few days later and I’m still thinking about it. Well done!

  4. Wow, Sally. I mean, Wow. I think you just made my day or perhaps made all of stinky rotten September retroactively better.

    Thank you so much.

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