written by lauren d. h. miertschin

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Breaking

It might take more pages than the actual story to explain why I wrote this one a little over a year ago. Not sure either if anyone cares. So, I'll leave you with only this story, and with one note to say that I had no intention on demeaning anyone, or offending anyone. I use very little profanity in my fiction; in this case, it was needed.

THUD. The crash on the window ripped Carla from an ill-fated meditation. She tore off headphones, jumped up and ran toward the sound. Heart beating in her throat, she listened, careful not to move, she peeked out her bedroom window.

Nothing. A strong wind swayed the blackened trees. A half moon shined brightly. A train whistle blew in the distance. Teeth clenched, Carla yanked the curtains open. She refused to notice the calm, deafening silence.

No man wearing a hockey mask, tightly gripped a blood-stained knife. No strangled kitten hung from the Maple outside her window. No prowler. No mangled car. No reaper. Nothing but an empty street that whistled softly beneath waning moon.

She flung the curtain shut and made it to the light switch in seven steps. Seven steps back to the window, she tore the curtains open again.

Still nothing.

She closed them and waited, twenty-one, specifically seven, three times, carefully counted seconds before pulling the curtains open again. The neighbor’s orange tabby cat slinked about Carla’s mother’s car. Then he darted off and disappeared in the trestled honeysuckle along the driveway.

Curtains pulled closed again, one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand, four . . .

“Honey?” Mrs. Burke rapped at the door.

. . . one thousand, five, one thousand, six, one thousand, seven . . .


. . . one thousand, eight, one thousand, nine, one thousand . . .

“PLEASE, are you all right?” Tap, tap, tap.

. . . ten, one thousand, eleven, one thousand . . .


. . . twelve, one thousand . . .

“Carla! This instant!”

. . . thirteen, one thousand, fourteen. One thousand.

“What is it, Mother?” She marched seven steps back to the door, flipped the lock and yanked it open. “I swear. What is your problem?”

“Oh, Sweetie. You MUST answer me.” The wine glass in her mother’s hand half full, a white smile revealed it was her first for the night. “We’ve discussed this before.”

“I’m not a little girl. I’m twenty-five for goodness sake.” Her arms stiffened, fists clenched. “Mother fuck,” she screeched. “Mother f f fuck!”

“Oh Carla! I swear. You need to settle down.” Mrs. Burke took a gulp from her drink.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

“Just wanted to make sure you’re all right.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Off my back.” Carla returned to the window. The curtains yanked open, she studied the street. Curtains pulled shut – one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand . . .

“Sweetie, please, let me help you back to bed. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”

“Leave.” Four, one thousand, five, one thousand, six, one thousand, seven, one thousand, “LEAVE.”

“Don’t think that I can’t tell you’re counting YOUNG LADY.” Mrs. Burke took a drink. Her eyes teared as she approached her daughter. “What’s the matter Sweetie?” She reached an arm out and clutched her daughter’s shoulder.

“The noise. Didn’t you hear it?” Carla’s elbows locked. She clenched her fists again. “Mother fuck, mother fuck,” she said.

“Now that’s enough. You know your father can’t take this.” Mrs. Burke withdrew her free arm and took another gulp from her glass. Then she searched her daughter’s dresser for a coaster. Settling on a ragged, paperback copy of The Way of the Pilgrim, she set her glass down.

“Carla?” Mrs. Burke moved in closer. “Remember last week, you actually witnessed it? That bird, remember, smacked head-on into the window?”

“Mom! Of course I remember. But if that’s the case now, Mother F . . . Fff, that would be the sixth bird to crash into the window this month. Six Mommy. SIX.”


“Mother fuck, mother fuck,” flew from Carla’s lips, her arms stiffened. Another peek out the curtains, she walked around the bed to ensure her steps added to seven before falling down onto the comforter. Her eyes shut tightly, eyebrows raised, then relaxed, raised, then relaxed. “I’m fine,” she said blindly. “Go away.” Carla flipped over onto her stomach. “Mother fuck,” she said beneath her breath. “One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand . . .”

“Sure Sweetie.” Mrs. Burke’ voice cracked. She stroked her daughter’s head. “You have such beautiful hair,” she sighed. “Most girls would kill for a natural auburn like yours.” A waste, Mrs. Burke thought; her eyes teared up. Then without saying another word, she retrieved her glass and took two large gulps to finish it as she walked out of her daughter’s room.

* * *

The hot water ran out before Carla finished her shower. Then the struggle. No matter how she configured getting dressed, she somehow managed contamination. Rookie mistakes, all of them. A toilet flushed without closing the lid. A toothbrush dropped into the sink.

Pound. Pound. Pound. “Damn it, Carla. The rest of us gotta shower.” Drew kicked the door. “Screw it,” he mumbled and ran downstairs to catch the bus. Carla’s brother was in the final stretch now, only a month left – his valedictorian speech already written and approved with only a few minor suggestions (like omit the Jesus reference and replace it with “higher power”). He had only to decide which of the several college offers to accept. Most likely, Drew would attend Pepperdine come fall.

“Carla, Sweetie,” Mrs. Burke greeted her daughter. She smiled, unaware of purple stained teeth. Bacon sizzled on the stove top, biscuits rose beneath an oven light.

“Good morning, Mom,” Carla’s eyes were puffy from crying. “I hope that you will forgive me for last night.” She pulled a chair away from the kitchen table with her foot. Soapy cleanliness wafted the bacon aroma.

“Whatever do you mean?”

“It probably was just a stupid ole’ bird.” Carla lowered her hips, landing butt on the seat precisely on the seventh count.

“Stupid ole’ bird?” Mrs. Burke scurried off to the stove, where she cracked two eggs into bubbling butter in a cast iron pan. “Better eat up, Sweetie.” Mrs. Burke peered over her shoulder, checked her daughter out head to toe, and then made an approving nod before turning back to the pan. “Don’t want to be late to your interview.”

“No more over-easy, Mom. I hate over-easy. And by the way, why is it do you suppose that birds keep crashing into my window? SIX TIMES, Mother,” Carla’s voice cracked. “When was the last time a bird crashed into your window? Ahhhhhhhhh.” Carla clenched her fists. “Mother, mother, mother, fff, mother ffffffuck . . .”

Mrs. Burke’s shoulders dropped. She smoothed her apron then carried Carla’s plate to the table – two eggs thoroughly cooked, no bacon. “I suppose,” she said, “oh, HELL Carla. I don’t know.” Mrs. Burke looked around for a glass before realizing she had none. “When I was a girl,” she said. “You know that cabin I told you about.”

“Big Bear?” Eyebrows raised, lowered, raised. Fists clenched, elbows locked, Carla walked over to the kitchen sink where she washed her hands under scorching hot water.

“Yes, sure, that one. I can’t remember a single trip to the cabin when some silly bird didn’t crash into the windows.” Mrs. Burke chuckled. “Those poor birdies just laid there on the balcony, then suddenly, like it was nothing,” she giggled, “they fluttered away.”

“Really?” Carla raised her eyebrows then lowered them and squinched her nose. “You never told me. How many times?”

“How many times what?”

“How many times, the birds, how many times did this happen?”

“Oh, lord, Carla. I don’t know.” She rubbed her eyes, sliding her fingers over to her temples where she made small circular massages. “Please take your meds now,” Mrs. Burke said. “And remember, no one at the interview needs to know about them. None of their business. I think it’s even illegal for them to ask.”

“Mother fff. Mother f . . . fu . . . fuck, fuck.”

* * *

Carla handed the Human Resources manager her completed application. Eyes focused on the computer screen the woman tucked stray hairs back into her piled up, chestnut brown updo. “It’ll be about fifteen minutes,” she said and tossed Carla’s application to a stack upon her desk, but not before adding a pink streak from her nail polish to the page. A keyboard clicked from the desk behind the woman, its monitor obscuring the employee whose busy fingers plugged in a stream of data. Carla counted the key strokes as she rushed off to the restroom where she could hide.

A flurry of raised eyebrows erupted inside the bathroom stall. Squinched nose, elbows locked, fists clenched. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand . . . “Ffff. FF . . . FF . . . fu, fuck,” she whispered. Carla regretted not taking her medications. They made her so tired. How was she supposed to land a job if she fell asleep during the interview?

Fluorescent light accentuated dark circles beneath her eyes, prompting Carla as she gazed into the mirror, to wonder how she would die. Car accident? Earthquake perhaps? Crushed beneath freeway overpasses. No, probably not. She always thought she’d be murdered. Eyebrows raised, then relaxed. Fists clenched, and then relaxed, she coated her hands with pump soap. Careful to scrub between fingers, along nail edges, she finally plunged them beneath running water.

“Mother,” she screeched and jumped back from the sink. “Call that hot?” She tore seven paper towels from the dispenser. Eyebrows raised, Carla stared back into the mirror, ashamed, knowing she would skip out on another interview. She could never work here, not when they couldn’t even guarantee her safety with a simple thing like hot water.

Damn, she thought. I could do this job too. Carla knew that if she could get through the interview, she’d blow them away with her number memorizing ability. Her bother, Drew, couldn’t even top her on that.

She nudged the bathroom door open slightly. The Human Resource manager’s head remained down as she poured through a stack of papers. Keys tapped away behind her. The clock on the wall struck a loud noon.

Eyebrows raised, then relaxed, raised then relaxed, Carla crept out from behind the door and made her way toward the exit. Human Resource Lady preoccupied herself with paperwork, but behind her a head poked out from the computer monitor. Fingers still plugged away at the keyboard, a young man with kinky blonde hair winked at Carla. He opened his mouth to crack his jaw and winked at her again, all the while his fingers tap, tap, tapping.

Did he wink at me? She peered over her shoulder expecting to find someone behind her as she made her escape. No one. Eyebrows raised, lowered, raised, Carla was almost in the clear, mere steps from freedom. With one swift move she held out her arm, and keeping her stride, pushed the door open. A heart beat sped up into her throat. And as she took those final exit steps out the door, Carla turned back for one last look, against her better judgment. Lot’s wife who looked back at Sodom came to mind. Would she too turn into a pillar of salt?


“Mother fuck,” Carla said when she saw him coming after her. “Mother fuck.”

Ken caught up with Carla on the sidewalk, but remained some distance as he spoke to her back. “I think you’re per-per,” Ken slammed his fist into his chest, “perfect for the job.”

Carla spun around to face him. “What do you know? What the HELL do you know?”

Ken’s smile evolved into a jaw crack. He cracked it again. “You should sss-sss-st,” fist to the chest, “stay.”

Breathe. Breathe, damn it. Carla’s hand shaded her eyes from the bright sun as she raced off toward the alleyway where she was sure she’d find a short cut to the bus stop. One, one thousand, two one thousand . . . “Tomorrow I’m going to start feeling better,” she muttered. “Tomorrow.”

The alleyway clear, Carla averted her eyes from the trash and dirt strewn on the wayside. She picked up her pace to turn the corner, with a quick look behind her, the guy from the office gone.

Eyebrows raised, then relaxed. Fists clenched, she stunned herself with a jaw crack. Carla stopped dead in her tracks. She cracked her jaw again. And then again, erupting into a flood of jaw cracks. “Mother Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she yelled and turned to run back out of the alley.

“Where you headed so fast Missy?”

“Fff, mother fuck,” Carl screeched as she turned around, confused to find the source of that voice.

“Over here, Bitch.”

In front of her stood a man, a pull-over sweatshirt-hooded man, wearing blue sweatpants to match. She noticed his torn athletic shoes, but not the rock in his hand. THUD. He threw that rock so quickly, Carla didn’t have time to react. It hit her smack in the middle of the chest. She gasped for air, stumbled back.

As she turned to run the hooded man grabbed Carla’s arm and pulled her body to his. His breath reeked of liquor. She shuddered at the sight of an infected cut that leaked puss on his cheek.

“Like I said, Missy . . . Where you headed off to so fast?”

“Mother F f f f f,” Carla bowed her head and let out a single deafening wail.

The man jumped back, nearly losing his grip on his victim. “What do we have here?” He chuckled. “A fucking retard? Don’t tell me I’ve caught myself a retard. Oh lordy, lordy. I ain’t never had me one of them.”

Carla yanked at her wrist, but his grip did not budge. Millions of germs jumped from his cracked and caked-on-dirt skin onto hers. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three one thousand . . . “I’m such an idiot,” she screamed.

“Oh Sweetie,” he said. “Sweetie. Sweetie. Sweetie.” His grin revealed several missing teeth. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”


Before that heart beat could rush up her throat and choke her, she found the hooded man collapsed into her arms. His body weighed down heavily upon her, pushing Carla down onto the beer and piss stained asphalt. Billions of germs whirled about the two. A fly landed in the puss on his face. “This is how I die,” Carla moaned, “eatin’ alive.”

She thought she could hear fingers tap, tap, tapping. And there he stood, the kinky-haired blonde, three-hole punch in hand. He reached out to her with it and his face contorted in a jaw crack attempt. He contorted his face some more before closing his mouth. Then he helped her crawl out from beneath her attacker.

“Mother f,” she said. “He dead?” With her foot she poked at the hooded man’s abdomen, her left hand still clutching Ken’s.

“N-n-na. He’s s still breathing,” he said and gently pulled Carla way from the drunken pile. “Have this,” he continued and handed her the three-hole punch as if he handed her the jewels of the nation. “Use it wisely,” he said. Mouth opened, crack. “You’re no id-idiot.” Ken averted his eyes from her, then after cracking his jaw he looked back at Carla. “B-b-b-brea,” he said.



“What?” Carla cracked her jaw.

“B-b-b,” Ken slammed his fist into his chest, “Break away,” he finally blurted out with controlled force. The two’s eyes locked on each other. “Once you ba-br-br BREAK AWAY, then it won’t m-m-matter.”

“What the hell?”

“You’ll know what I m-m-mean.” Ken smiled. He had a calming twinkle in his eyes. “Just care about now. Be f-f-f . . . Be f-f-fr.” Ken smiled. He’d try again later.

Carla released her hand from his and dusted off her knees. “Be free,” she mumbled to herself. She cocked her head looking at the friendly stranger, noticing straight teeth and a strong jaw. She licked her finger tips and smoothed down her auburn hair. One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand . . . three-hole punch poking out from her purse, she locked arms with someone she thought that she might understand. Four one thousand, five, one thousand. And they both walked back to the office to see if she might land a job. Six, one thousand, Seven.

(c) Lauren D H Miertschin

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