A. J. Schoenfeld
I only write about the real world. But if you look close enough, you'll see there's magic hiding in plain sight everywhere.
Worth All the Hurt
My chafed and cracked nipple shrieks in pain as I pull my heavy swollen breast from my nightgown, exposing it to the sharpness of the cold night air. His tears cease and mine begin as I place the nipple in his waiting mouth. He gulps eagerly pulling the milk through my throbbing, clogged ducts, oblivious of the excruciating pain it gives me. I press my free hand against the side of my breast massaging the hard lump that is blocking the flow. The skin is hot to the touch and the pain deep inside my breast tissue burns with such intensity it makes me nauseous. I want so much to stop, but he needs this. So, I close my eyes against the searing pain, continue to massage the clog, and wait for this to pass as my tears pour down my cheeks.
Blizzard Of Tears
Snow falls softly, in a gentle blanket all around us. The world is quiet and serene. I could sit here forever and watch as the snow obscures the shadows and shapes of everything. There are no sharp edges in this world, the snow has softened and rounded them all out. There are no bright colors, the snow has turned everything white. There are no cars driving past or people racing about, the snow has driven them inside to hide. There are no sounds interrupting our thoughts, the snow has swallowed them up in silence.
As we leave Grandma’s house the snow packing the roads makes the tires of the truck slip and my heart climbs a little higher into my throat each time. I look at Dad behind the wheel in the seat next to me. He smiles at me encouragingly as he turns onto the freeway. As we approach the point of the mountain, I feel the back of the truck wiggle precariously behind us. I might only be ten, but I understand all too well how dangerous snow can be. I lost my cousin four years ago on a night like this and ever since I have secretly been terrified of riding in cars in the winter. Again, I look over at Dad and see his strong jaw isn’t clenched in nervousness, his knuckles aren’t turning white from the strain of holding the wheel. He actually appears completely relaxed. He glances over to me long enough for his eyes, full of love and reassurance, to meet my own. My heart stops pounding and the knot in my stomach loosens. No longer terrified, I am now able to enjoy the beauty of the silent blanket that is covering the world around me. I watch the flakes fly at the windshield like stars streaking past a rocket ship and enjoy the remainder of the ride home. Finally, after nearly twice as long as it normally takes, we pull into our driveway. Dad got us safely home and I now know he always will.
Between the Cushions
Despite the funky smell and the scratchy crumbs that slide into all my cracks, I actually prefer it here. When I’m here, no one wipes their buttery or cheesy fingers on me. My face is safe from being sat upon, or worse, farted upon. I’m not slammed around in annoyance when the Dolphins miss the final touchdown or the smaller ones are told to go do chores. No one rips off my backside and pries out my innards to be used for a game. Here I am safe from being kicked around, chewed on, stepped on, smacked about, or fought over. Truth be told, most of the time it isn’t an accident that I end up here. Sometimes, when they leave me too close to the edge, I purposely slide off and plummet into this dark, safe crevice. Once out of sight, I wiggle down as deep as I can get. Then, I patiently wait for all the fun to begin and I usually don't have to wait long. Though their voices are muffled in here, I can still hear them clear enough to really enjoy the impending pandemonium.
The screech of tires punctuated with impatient horns interspersed with the wail of sirens from varying distances had become deafening. I used to find comfort in the constant drone of the bustling city, but then it became all too much. It was everywhere, all the time. I laid awake in bed tossing and turning, trying in vain to shut it out. I struggled to pay attention to television shows, my mind constantly pulled by the incessant noise that permeated the air. I could not remember the last time I was able to actually read a book. I chewed my fingernails to bloody pulps as my anxiety swelled. I had to get away, somewhere far away from the claustrophobic crowds that pressed in around me whenever I ventured out of my apartment. I had to get out of that filthy city and find some peace and quiet.
Beep…beep…blip blip…beep…beep. The machine monitoring Sharon's vitals cuts through the heavy silence of the room. Louise sits by the side of her daughter, watching her chest struggle to rise and fall. She has been here before, sitting at the bedside of one she loves, waiting. First her father-in-law, then each of her parents took their turns moving into her home where she cared for them day and night until they passed. Then her husband, she laughs bitterly to herself at the memory of the damn pizza delivery he kept ordering every time she left his bedside. Perhaps at that point it was already too late for his fatty liver, but she still wonders if she would have had a few more weeks with her love without that damn pizza. It was excruciating watching him bloat uncomfortably and turn that sickly shade of gray, his mind slowly getting twisted around and confused as the toxins built up in his bloodstream. She never expected to live through that again but only a decade later, as her oldest son's liver succumbed to years of drug abuse, she sat lovingly at his bedside. She watched him bloat, turn gray, and lose his mind before finally passing away.
The Dragon's Tear
The sound of snapping branches and falling trees echoed through the forest. Something massive lumbered about, half stumbling and half running through the pines. The small boy held his breath and pressed his back harder against the rough stone wall behind him, trying his best to sink into it and become invisible. Sharp points in the stone dug painfully into his shoulder blades, fear welled up inside him and he desperately wanted to cry out for his mother. But he remembered the look of panic on her face as she stashed him in the small alcove.
For as long as I can remember my fingers have itched to put words on paper. I have drawers teeming with notebooks filled with half-formed stories and characters who exist only in my imagination. Ever since the third grade when I wrote my first epic story, The Toilet Zone, about aliens who invade a house through a magical conduit in the sewers, I have wanted to be an author. I have literally spent hundreds of hours twisting words into fantasy worlds over the past four decades of my life. Four decades of clinging to a dream and what do I have to show for it? A callus on my right middle finger the size of Nebraska, a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome, and enough disappointment to fill the ocean. In an attempt to reinvigorate my passion for writing I began entering short stories to challenges on Vocal ten months ago. A dozen stories in and I've had one like, one positive comment, eleven total reads, and earned a whopping $0.08. So now, I ask myself, why haven't I had any success yet and why do I keep chasing this dream?
The Eternal Dance
In a time before time and a world before worlds, where no light existed and no sound had been heard, three brothers sat back to back to back. They had nothing to worry about and no one to impress until Terra danced past in that shimmering dress and quick as can be she captivated all three. There was something in the way that she spun and she twisted that made each man believe she was the reason he existed. Wanting his love to show each brother began to glow.