This is it! The very last finalist! djmcleod17's story is rough around the edges—the dialogue punctuation needs serious work—but I'm impressed by the convincing fights, which change tempo and whipsaw between emotions exactly as they do in real life. Thanks, djm, for bringing up the tail end of an impressive collection of Sparkler fiction.
Next week, I'll post a roundup of all the stories, and ask you to pick a favorite and tell me why you love it. I need help choosing the winner!
You Don't Know Me
“What’s wrong with you? Are you stupid?” You act retarded!” he heard her screech. George just sighed and continued typing on his laptop. He tried to block out the screaming of his wife at his daughter. His eyes flicked towards the window to see the bare tree branches scrape the window as the bitter autumn air shoved them against the glass. He sat in a worn chair covered in patches sewn in to cover the rapidly deteriorating cushions. The television quietly hummed in the background while he silently clacked the keys on his laptop.
“George!” she called. “Aren’t you going to do anything about her? She’s your kid too.”
George looked up at his wife Pam. Then he glanced over at his sobbing daughter, then back at his wife.
“Darcy, do what your mother tells you,” he said calmly.
“That’s it?! And you call yourself a father,” Pam said in disbelief. She glared at him for a moment before turning back to Darcy who was wiping her tears away.
“I told you that you had to clean your room yesterday and it’s still not done. How many times do I have to tell you?” she snapped.
“Sorry mom. I was busy with basketball and school and homework and Juke. I didn’t have any time and I’m still not done with my homework,” Darcy replied.
“Juke? See I knew you couldn’t handle having a dog. I never should have let your Dad convince me to get him for you. Don’t think I won’t sell him,” She yelled.
“Mom that’s not fair it’s only been one day. I promise I’ll do it tomorrow because there is no practice,” Darcy begged.
George continued typing on his laptop for work.
“No I don’t think so. You’re going to stay up and do it tonight,” said Pam.
“But Mom I still have a ton of work to do.”
“I don’t care. You should have thought about that before you decided to get a dog. What makes you so busy? You’re only sixteen. The only thing that you have to do is go to school and do your chores.”
“I have to take care of Juke, do basketball, and do my homework,” Darcy exclaimed.
“Well then I guess you can’t handle having a dog and that’s why I’m selling it,” Pam retorted.
“That’s not fair! I’ve wanted a dog since I was five!”
“And you don’t take care of it. You didn’t even walk her today.”
“It’s dark out and I just got home. Do you want someone to kidnap me?”
“They wouldn’t want to kidnap you,” Pam snarled.
“Mom!” Darcy yelled.
“Don’t raise your voice at me! Give me your phone,” Pam said as she held out her hand to take the phone.
“Dad, aren’t you going to do anything about this?” Darcy cried. Georges face was illuminated by the words on the screen.
“Dad!” She called louder.
“What?” he said as he broke his trance with the monitor. “Just do what your mother says. What’s the problem?” George said.
Darcy looked at him in disgust and slapped the phone into her mother’s hand.
“Watch how you hand it to me next time,” Pam sneered as her daughter stormed up the stairs.
George got up from his chair and put his lap top on the table.
“I’m going to bed,” he said.
“That’s all you do is sleep. Both of you are lazy. That’s where she gets it from,” Pam said.
George ignored her comment and dragged himself up the stairs. As he walked down the hallway to his room he heard a
quiet whimpering coming from Darcy’s room. George paid it no attention to the noise and proceeded to go to sleep.
The next day, George woke up bright and early to take Darcy to the bus stop. He groggily gazed out the window to see the orange sun shining like a giant pumpkin pie sitting in an ocean of blue table cloth. It was the end of a long season of snow covered fields and bare trees. The crisp morning air smelled like new leaves and new beginnings. The spring had just settled in and held promises of unforgettable memories and relinquished stress.
As Pam lay in their bed sleeping, George put his clothes on and headed down the stairs to wait in the car for Darcy. He walked past her shuffling feet and she prepared to go to school.
“Hey Dad! How are you?” Darcy asked.
“I’m fine. How late did you stay up last night?” George asked.
“Two thirty in the morning,” she replied.
“I don’t know how you do it. You need to start going to bed earlier and listening to your mom”. He told her.
“She’s crazy though. I’m trying and she doesn’t even care. Once I asked her if she even liked me and she changed the subject,” Darcy explained.
“Watch your mouth. She does love you. She just sees you going down the wrong path and is trying to help you.”
“Wrong path, what wrong path? You don’t know me. I never do anything wrong. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I get good grades, and I have practically no social life because I am always here doing what she says,” Darcy shouted.
“Well, that’s what your mom says,” George replied.
“Well what do you say?” Darcy asked.
“Nothing. I say what your mom says,” George said. Darcy grabbed her backpack and headed towards the door.
“You need to get your own opinion,” Darcy muttered under her breath.
George heard her and decided not to say anything. The ride to the bus stop was silent and only took two minutes.
“Love you dad,” Darcy happily said as she got out of the car.
“Love you too,” George smiled as Darcy closed the door.
He watched her for a moment as she went to meet up with her friends at the bus stop. She showed no signs of what had happened the previous night. Her tear stained cheeks lost their color and the unmoving frown she had worn disappeared after only a night’s sleep. The smile that rested upon her face then was deceiving. George knew that his daughter felt a deep pain inside. Her smile was only a mask, a curtain to shield her true feelings with the world.
George thought to himself, what can I do? I have to do what my wife asks, but it hurts me to see my daughter like this.
George turned the car around and began to drive back to the house. He looked in his rear view mirror to see Darcy watching the car leave. For a hair of a second, her smile disappeared. Her eyes lost their twinkle and her face lost its warm glow. It became hollow and broken. George’s eyes began to tear and he quickly turned his attention back to the road.
After returning home, George took a hot shower. He started to compulsively scrub. He tried to wash the pain away and rid himself of his problems. When he came out of the shower he was nearly raw. When George came out of the bathroom he was startled to see Pam standing by the bed.
“You should have made her walk George” Pam said sternly.
“Sorry Hun” he said back.
He put his clothes on and looked outside of the window again. The wind blew hard brushing the old fallen leaves onto the window.
“There are new leaves growing on the trees now Hun,” George said.
“I don’t care. You need to talk to your daughter. She said she cleaned her room yesterday. I went in there and it’s not done,” Pam explained
“Really? I went in there and she straightened up really nicely. She just didn’t get a chance to vacuum,” George said.
“What, so now you’re defending her? She didn’t vacuum. That’s part of cleaning a room George. Everybody knows that. She’s so stupid. I shouldn’t have to remind her about it.”
“You can tell her when she gets home. Why not calm down while she’s not here. She can do it when she gets home,” George suggested.
Pam exploded. She yelled, “Don’t you tell me to calm down. You don’t do anything. You need to learn to discipline your kid. That’s what’s wrong with her.”
“I have to go to work now,” George said calmly.
All day during work, George thought about what Darcy said about having his own opinion. It’s just easier he thought. Just listen to her and there are no problems.
George tried to stop thinking about it and immersed himself in his work. He even stayed an extra two hours. Finally his boss came in and told him that he should go home. The entire drive to George’s house was spent thinking about what he should do.
George pulled into the driveway and heard loud voices coming from inside the house. He walked to the front porch and unlocked the door. The dead leaves from the aged trees brushed across his feet while he turned the key and opened the door. Inside he saw the same, familiar, scene of an argument between Darcy and Pam. He sighed and sat down in his usual chair and took out his laptop.
“I told you to clean your room yesterday and it’s not done,” Pam screeched.
“I did clean my room mom,” Darcy said.
“No you didn’t. You didn’t vacuum it so you’re staying up late again.”
“Mom that’s not fair. I can vacuum it any time,” Darcy complained.
“Give me your mp3 player,” Pam shouted as she held her hand out.
“Mom! Why can’t you just leave me alone? You need to calm down,” Darcy said. There was a moment of silence. George looked up from his laptop in horror. Darcy knew not to talk back to Pam. Beads of sweat began forming on Pam’s forehead and her face turned as red as a tomato. Her fists clenched and her knuckles whitened. Darcy saw Pam’s face and began to rapidly apologize. Pam’s nostrils flared as she stepped closer to Darcy. She pulled her hand back and slapped Darcy across the face. Darcy fell to the ground as George immediately rose from his seat in shock and disbelief.
“Don’t you ever talk to me that way ever again,” Pam screamed.
George ran over to help the now sobbing Darcy from the floor.
He whispered to her “Go to your room and I’ll be up there in a minute.”
Wiping her eyes she nodded and quickly ran up the stairs making sure not to look at Pam. Pam stood still shaking in anger and disbelief. George turned to Pam and looked directly into her eyes and said, “We need to talk about this.”
Based on "Can't Help But Wait," by Trey Songz