Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)
TITLE: Edna's Upbringing
By Marita Vandertogt
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Edna opened the plastic grocery bag and pulled out the cans, one by one, lining them up on the kitchen counter according to food type. She kept them separated in the cupboard, not touching, something she learned as a kid, from her mother. Her mother was good at keeping things simple.
The receipt was long and she rolled it up into a cyclinder, like a cigarette and put it to her lips, mimicking her mother. Just smoking away the cash, but we gotta eat, she spoke out loud to the empty kitchen. She pulled a few more pretend puffs and tossed it in the garbage. Edna didn’t keep track of where the money went. When it was gone, it was gone. Extra was a word she didn’t use often.
Jackie would be home from school soon. She would watch for him from the window. His blonde hair rarely combed, standing out in different directions. His face always held traces of what he’d eaten, and where he’d been. I don’t need no washin, he’d tell her when she chased him with a soapy cloth. I’ll just get all dirty again. What’s the point.
Edna’s mother would say the same thing. Mostly focusing on what’s the point. She never saw much point in doing anything outside of only what absolutely had to be done. That’s how you keep life simple, she’d tell Edna. And simple is important.
Edna learned about simple through the rules of never having enough. And when she complained to her mother about why the dresses she wore to school every day were the same colour, the blouses and skirts the same, her mother would say, pulling at the cigarette in her mouth, the smoke sliding out through her nostrils, that this way Edna didn’t waste time getting ready for school. You just put on what was in your closet and it all matched. Besides, she’d say, the less you have, the less you have to be worried about.
She watched Jackie get off the school bus, his white t-shirt dirty now from a day’s play at school. But that was okay, because she had seven more washed and folded in his bottom drawer. This way, she told him, you never have to wonder what to wear, what matches what. Keep things simple, she’d tell him, when he complained about a lack of Batman or Mutant Ninja Turtles painted across the material. Plain is good, she would tell him, an explanation he accepted without argument.
You’re too intense, her mother used to tell her, long before Edna knew what intense was all about. But she held on to the word until it finally did come to define everything she did. Edna had developed a personality that could only deal with one issue at a time. She was easily confused.
Edna understood her mother a little better since having Jackie. Understood that there was no such thing as a simple answer to her life. though the questions themselves seemed innocent enough. And when Jackie asked the questions, Edna’s answers were ready, the simple answers.
Just keep everything in its place, and if you do, she’d tell him, the questions will go away. The answers are already there, we don’t have to look for them.
So if you find yourself confused by where this story is going, then my work here is done.
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