Footprints in the Hallway

The Website of C.L. Mannarino

Tag: family

Describing Judgment, and #ROW80 Progress

It’s making fun of my mom and Sister 2 for watching the Bachelor a couple years ago, and then stopping every so often, mesmerized and yet self-loathing for allowing myself to become so captivated.

It’s falling in line with the two of them, but in the “okay” sort of fashion: the one where you sit with popcorn in your lap, sneering at the lines of women who sign up for this show. But not just the fact that they signed up: the fact that they’re dressed in gaudy clothes, and three layers of makeup. The fact that they all look the same, sound the same, act the same, treat each other the same, but in different shades of cruelty.

It’s asking each other “but why would any self-respecting woman even begin to think she can actually find love on a TV show?

It’s feeling like a bigger, better, smarter person for not falling for it, not signing up, not being one of those clone girls who says the same thing every other clone girl does when she gets interviewed in their one-on-one back rooms: I’m just so in love. I think I’m falling for him. He’s so hot. This is the most incredible experience.

It’s watching them get googly-eyed over a guy they’ve never met, and know nothing about, and rolling my own eyes. It’s listening to them get jealous and petty when other girls express the same interest, and scoffing at them for not remembering that all the girls who are on the show are on it for the same reason. It’s watching them cry and sob when they start interpreting the guy’s actions, or get booted off the show, and laughing to myself because “you didn’t really know him” and “you went on one date, how can you say you’re in love?”

It’s yelling, “This is what you signed up for!” at the screen when they all, inevitably, tear up about how they didn’t expect it to be like this, they didn’t expect it to be this hard, they didn’t expect to have to fight for someone’s attention.

It’s listening to them talk about all the reasons why they’re doing this as a “last resort,” and hearing the same fears I had about being lovable and finding someone, and realizing they’re just like me, at the core.

What right do I have to judge? Hell, I thought of online dating as a last resort to finding anyone. Sure, the show is designed to be fake, with set-up drama, but the people involved, and their emotions, are very, very real.


I’m making progress! I think I’m almost at 30,000 typed words, but there’s a notebook on my desk with at least 5,000 in it. The notebook is probably the least rambling part of the whole story. On the computer, Swans 2 reads like my college diary: lots of speculative thoughts from a young woman who believes she’s in the throes of a real relationship, but has plenty of doubts and is still, at the core, dramatic.

Which is unlike the shero of Swans 2, who is still a teen, and is actually in a real relationship. Otherwise, the story and my diary are similar. I have a ton of revision to do, and a two tons of pacing to increase to actually, you know, get to the end by the end of this ROW80 session. We’ll see. The side plots are definitely pushed to the side in favor of the romance between the hero and shero, and I keep thinking “if you bring in those plots, you can both weave them into the story, and you can have them written up, all before you revise, so that you don’t have to go back and actually write the parts you’re avoiding.”

Except my brain is having too much fun throwing things at me when I’m not looking. It’s making this particular car very hard to steer in the direction I was aiming for. But all writing is rewriting, and just because this draft isn’t doing what I like, doesn’t mean I can’t rearrange it later.

Like this? Then come get up close and personal with me and my projects on the first Monday of every month.

Describing Embarrassed

When you’re making a presentation, it’s forgetting all your lines, and your materials, and becoming hot, and sweaty, and panicked while a group of bored, impatient, sympathetic, and tired faces wait for you to either begin, or walk away.

It’s seeing someone wave to you from across the room, and waving back, only for them to bypass you completely, having been looking for someone else.

When you follow someone with the vague notion that you’ve been walking with them the whole time, only to really look at them and realize that you lost the person you were with, and the person you’re following is wondering what the hell you’re doing.

It’s doing your best to impress a member of your family, and then one thing after another goes wrong in rapid succession.

When TSA pulls you out of line at the airport, it’s the tense, heated feeling of feeling like everyone is watching you, both from other waiting areas, and from the very line you were pulled out of.

It’s taking off with your bike, only for a stranger to come running over screaming at you, and the chilly realization that your bike was actually on the other end of the rack.

Like this? Then come get up close and personal with me and my projects.

Two Sisters

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.


Once upon a time, there were two sisters named Bright and Shadow. Sister Bright ruled the day. She ruled the sun when it rose and fell, the scurry of activity, and the visible beauty of things that grow and bloom in the light. Sister Shadow ruled the night. She ruled the moon when it spun around the earth, the dreams of the creatures on earth, as well as the night activity that often ensued, and the visible beauty of things that only thrive when the moon is dark.

Every day, the sisters would go about their activities. Bright would wake the world and watch over the creatures as they hustled to accomplish their chores. Every night, Shadow would bring dreams to the creatures who slept and observe the creatures who wandered about by the light of their shining eyes.

One day, as Shadow waited for her turn to rule the night, she watched Bright going about her work.

“She makes it look so easy, so effortless,” Shadow thought to herself. “And she has such a wonderful time—she can dance in the sun and sing with the morning birds. People are awake to see her flowers and trees and they love her best when they are sunny and warm. So many more creatures come out and play during the bright, warm days than they do during the shadowed, cool nights.”

The more she watched, the more Shadow felt she ought to do something about this. She wanted to know what it was like to bask in the sun. After all of the nights when creatures had nightmares and did bad things to each other in the dark, she wanted a chance to create happier times. So, when Bright was settling down to rest among the clouds, Shadow moved in behind her and took hold of the sun. Instead of putting it aside, Shadow stayed with it, rising as it rose and falling as it fell. Behind her, she could hear the moon crying, calling for her attention, but Shadow ignored it.

“Just one night,” she promised as she helped the sun back up into the sky. “I promise. For one time, I want to be in charge of making the day.”

Day rose with Shadow in the lead. Shadow watched as the flowers opened up, people yawned and rose, and life went about its business.

Something was wrong, though. Unlike when Bright brought the day, the sky wasn’t as clear as before—it felt like someone had put a sheer white covering over a swatch of navy blue fabric. Behind every beautiful thing lurked something heavier and harder.

Even the creatures seemed to notice this. They wandered around with dark circles under their eyes, blinking and yawning in the sun. They snapped at each other and grumbled as they went about their business. Even Shadow began to feel unwell after being so close to the light for so long.

“This isn’t right. This isn’t the way Bright does it. What’s happened? Why are they acting this way?” Shadow asked out loud as she pulled the sun through the sky. Her upset and disappointment with what had happened brought heavy black rain clouds and for the rest of the day, torrential downpours fell from the sky.

As she brought the sun below the horizon, Shadow saw Bright sitting on her cloud, her arms crossed over her chest.

“What were you doing?” Bright asked, her voice hard and cold.

Shadow wiped a tear from her eye and put the sun back in her hands. Bright’s arms held it close. “I thought I could be you. Just for a day, I wanted to see all the beautiful things you get to see. I wanted to feel the sun shining, see the creatures moving about, and watch the flowers as they bloom. I wanted to forget all the ugly things I see at night and make wonderful things to see when the sun is up. You’re so lucky, getting to see those treats every day.”

Bright put the sun down on her cloud and stood up. “Yes, but you’re forgetting something—you have beauty all around you, too.”

Taking her sister’s hand, Bright picked up the moon and together, they twirled with it into the sky.

“I’m going to stand on the other side of the night,” Bright said. “When you reach me, I want you to be able to tell me three things that are beautiful about your nighttime. Notice everything that happens and let me know what you see.”

Shadow wasn’t convinced, but Bright had already walked away. Taking a deep breath, Shadow began to wander through the sky. At first, when she looked down and saw the world below, she didn’t see anything different. Creatures dreaming and wandering. Flora waving in the wind. By midnight, however, she started seeing things she hadn’t noticed before: the way the ocean seemed to glow in the moonlight; how creatures would skitter about and dance together in courting rituals; and how some of the dreams that were had were comprised of happy things like friendship and family.

When Shadow reached Bright, she was glowing. Bright smiled and took her sister’s hand.

“What did you see?”

“I saw happy dreams, the many different colors of the dark, and the way the creatures below us dance when the wind is cooling off the hot land.” As she spoke, Shadow’s face fell.

“What is it, dear sister?” Bright asked.

“I’d forgotten how beautiful the night can be. I guess I see these sights so often that I take them for granted. I forgot that some creatures prefer the night over the day and that nighttime has its good things, too.”

“Just like daytime has its bad things,” Bright said, smiling.

Shadow hugged her sister. “Thank you, Bright, for helping me remember what I’d forgotten.”

After that, Shadow made sure to watch for one good, new occurrence whenever she brought the moon into the sky. She realized that her sister had unpleasant days the way she had unpleasant nights, but they could always be balanced out by something nice somewhere in the world.

So, in light and in dark, Shadow and her sister, Bright, lived happily ever after.

The End


The Lot

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.


“Impounded, dad?” Shay asked, driving them up to the lot.

“It’s not my fault,” he growled.

She laughed, ignoring the glare he gave her from the passenger’s seat. “Oh, yes. Because all cars just happen to drive at speeds reserved for race tracks. And they all belch black smoke right before you’ve gotten where you needed to go.”

“It’s still—a perfectly—good—car,” he said through clenched teeth.

“That’s called denial.”

Prompt: (see photo) from writeworld


"Please Don’t"

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

“That’s a lot of blood.”

Fifteen-year-old Clare spun around. In the doorway to the upstairs bathroom, her little sister, ten-year-old Harriet, stood staring at the bathtub. In it, a tall white tub of food-coloring and corn starch had fallen open and was spilling out all over the white porcelain. Clare’s cheeks turned pale.

“It’s not blood. It’s fake. It’s prop stuff. The kids in the play asked me to get rid of it as part of our clean-up.”

Harriet looked at her with clear blue eyes. The freckles dusting her nose and cheeks looked sharper in the light over the cabinet. “They needed you to clean it up for them?”

Clare sighed and turned around again. “It’s not like that. You wouldn’t understand,” she said as she got to her knees and plunged her hands into her mother’s yellow kitchen gloves.

“I understand that mom’s going to have a fit when she sees this place.”

Clare scoffed and tossed a wayward lock of of hair out of her eyes. She looked at Harriet over her shoulder. “Then don’t tell her, okay?”

Harriet laughed and walked out of the room. “Oh, I won’t have to! You’ll never get it cleaned up in time for her to not see it.”

As if on cue, they both heard the sound of a door slamming in the driveway. Both girls froze and then looked at each other.

“Harriet…” Clare warned.

Her little sister clapped her hands over her ears, her long fingers like pudgy spiders against the sides of her head.

Clare’s body slumped and she shook her head. “Please don’t say any—“

“I DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING!” Harriet called. She spun around on her heel and almost knocked herself over when her elbow hit the doorframe, but she caught her footing and marched off to her room, her short hair bouncing on her shoulders. “LA LA LA LA!”

Prompt: “That’s a lot of blood.” from writeworld

June 1980

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.


“I don’t think this is a good idea.”

Seven-year-old Shay looked over her shoulder at her five-year-old brother. She stood at the very edge of the roof of their back porch, her new pink kite fluttering in her hand. A hot wind whipped her hair off of her face and stung her nose as the sun glared down at them, mere hours away from the horizon line. He was hovering a few feet behind her with his head poking out to the side as he tried to watch what she was doing, his eyes wide and round.

Terrified, but curious.

“Are you afraid, Andrew?” she asked.

He lifted his eyes to her as he clenched his pudgy hands in front of his tubby waist. His lips pursed and he nodded.

Shay smiled at him. “Don’t be. It’s just a kite. Besides, you’re too short to run. Now the wind will just do the lifting for me.” She turned back to where the breeze has gentled and raised the kite higher.

Andrew gasped. As she flung the kite into the air, pitching herself forward, he called out, “DON’T!”

Shay wobbled. Heart fluttered in her chest. She waved her arms around, flapping against the breeze to keep herself in place, but she could already feel herself starting to fall.

Her sneaker lost its grip on the roof. She slipped.

“SHAY!” she heard right before she hit the ground, her arm crushed underneath her side.

For a second, she couldn’t breathe, just blinked at the black expanse of the driveway underneath her. As she regained her bearings, she muttered, “I think it’s broken.” A second after that, she burst out crying. Andrew’s cries of “MOM!” filled her ears from where he was still standing on the rooftop.

Image found here. I’m hoping this will be the first miniature of a series about Shay (maybe even a few Clare stories) as she grows up, but I won’t promise that I’ll be posting about her every week. I hope you enjoy!