Serena put her feet up on the dark green leather sofa and leafed through her new science magazine.  As she reached an article about quantum computing, a cardboard ad fell out into her lap.  She figured it was an ad to renew her subscription until she picked it up.  “You’re on the road to nowhere” it read in fairly large Courier New print.  She turned the card over.  A photograph of an old Norelco refrigerator decorated the back.  She’d owned one just like that back in the day.

31 responses to “Norelco

  1. The refrigerator. Terror clutches my throat and I fling the card across the room, feeling my muscles constrict, pulling my wrists to my shoulders, curling my hands downward and in. I shudder as I hear my childhood scream, the vision of the refrigerator door closing, locking me inside, my punishment for the sin of being a child.

    The fridge lay on its back like a white and chrome porcelain coffin. He would leave the door propped open, its mouth ready to devour me whole. “Don’t make me put you in there again, lassie,” he would say as if I could make him do anything. If I had that power he would have died long before he killed my desire to live.

    Holes bored around its sides gave me enough air to survive the hours of my periodic entombments, that is if I lay still and breathed with my mouth pressed to a hole. Screaming did nothing but deplete the oxygen, and I learned to lay curled and still. The heat from my body turned the place to a sauna.

    My body tingles as I recall the wetness of my perspiration mixing with my pee, sometimes my filth. When he would finally open the door, the air hitting my lungs gave me the feeling of a newborn taking its first breath only to question why. For what purpose? And the answer wrapped itself around my neck, heavy as a logging chain – so he can do it again. And again.

    “Now clean yerself up,” he would say pushing a bucket of water and a cloth toward me across the concrete floor with his booted foot. “And the box, too, lassie. Unless you want to lie in your own stink the next time.” His eyes buried deep in a face of hate glared at me. “And yes, there is going to be a next time.” Then he would laugh.

    I rub my wrists, reliving the need to flex my joints.

    In the “box” as he called it, my limbs would numb and my mind would try to count the passing of the seconds, the minutes, as a lack of feeling whitewashed the pain of my captivity. “One, two, three …forty-nine, and as oxygen deprivation muddled my brain I would drift through the colors in my crayon box – red, blue, purple – and pass out reciting the alphabet – C, D, G, P.

    I would try to imagine what my mother looked like, what she smelled like. Certainly not tobacco and ale and sweat like my father, my captor. I had neither memory of her nor a picture. So I was content to make my own – a vision much like an angel dressed in white with feathery light wings bearing the smile of the Virgin Mary. These thoughts were fleeting, and as hard as I would try to lock them in my shuttered eyes, they would drift away like fog across a pond.

    My thoughts go to that day of my last release when he opened the lid of my white coffin and sprayed me with his garden hose, drunk and laughing. I remember him tripping on the hose, slipping on the wet floor, and falling backward. His head resonated like a melon dropping on the floor.

    With great difficulty I lifted him to the box, and as he was coming to, pushed him backwards into the vessel. I folded his arms, tucked his knees to an immovable position, and closed the door to eleven years of hell. The latch clicked, not operable from the inside.

    When he came to, his muffled yelling and now-empty threats had lost their power. “Lie still and breathe through a hole, Daddy,” I told him. And I ripped a piece of cloth from my dress and plugged a hole. And another. And another.

    They found me in a couple of weeks, sitting naked on the cellar floor, knees to my chin, rocking forward and back next to the box, chanting, “Don’t make me do this again.”My dress was torn to strips, strips to pieces, pieces to threads.

    I am sitting on the floor of my room, knees to my chin, rocking back and forth. My hospital gown is nearly shredded, my fingertips red and sore. I hear the door open, the doctor’s shoes squeaking on the concrete floor. He calls my name.

    I look up at him and plead, “Don’t make me do this again.”

    Copyright 2013, Jeff Switt

    • galelikethewind

      Well, Mr. Poe, nice way to ruin an otherwise sunny, happy morning.
      Did you really write this fantastic tale just in answer to Ann’s challenge? Or is it from a book you are working on? Masterpiece. I can see a movie deal with Vera Farmigia as the victim, and Jeff Bridges as the antagonist.
      Loved this.

      • Why, thank you Gale. Yes I wrote it this morning in response to the prompt. I’m sure someone can counter my darkness with something light. I simply don’t do that well. WHERE’S YOUR TAKE ON THIS??

    • Very dark indeed! But definitely a keeper. Very affecting too.

    • I felt sick.

      Good job!

    • alysiastarbuck

      OMG!! Just read this. I could feel the terror. Fantastic job!

    • Horrifying, in a good way. I’m a fan of Clive Barker, so this is right up my alley. I like your take on the old Norelco.

  2. Zowie. Makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Nice work. Little nauseous right now.

  3. galelikethewind

    Serena turned the card over and examined the font more closely. She had been mistaken, this wasn’t Courier New, it was created on an old typewriter. How in the hell did this end up in my magazine, she pondered.

    Albert Barnrobbin was struggling with his latest short story entry for Flash Fiction’s online competition. The muse was in hiding. He decided to step away from his computer for a while. As he gazed upon the L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter that his wife had given him for Christmas last year, he decided to try a new tack.

    Albert took a piece of printer paper from the mouth of his HP Ink-jet, and slid it into the back of the roller of the rickety old machine. It took him a few minutes to find the rhythm of typing on a machine again. It had been forty years or more since he had developed his typing skills on a manual model similar to this one. As he practiced a few lines, he saw that the quality of the print on this cheap paper really didn’t do justice to his words. Albert reached into his file drawer looking for a better quality of paper to use. He spotted an old ad for a Norelco Refrigerator that was in his collection of memorabilia from his past life. Alfred had been a salesman for Norelco in the mid 1950’s and this was a sample from his master sales book. The reverse side of the ad was blank, and the paper quality was perfect. It was a nice buff color and had the texture of fine linen, He carefully fed the paper into the back of the roller and slowly turned the feed knob until it was lined up perfectly.

    Albert sat, and waited for the ideas to come. And he sat. He stared at the blank paper, and kept his fingers poised over the round black keys with their white capital letters and symbols. After a half an hour, he angrily turned the knob until the paper was about halfway through. He began to type:
    “You’re on the road to nowhere” came out. Albert jerked the paper out and tossed it into the small trashcan under his desk. His wife emptied the trashcan on the following Thursday, pouring the contents into the blue Recycle Trash receptacle provided by their city.

    The recycling center in Pasadena combined all the items discarded by its conscientious citizens onto a thirty foot long conveyor belt. At various locations along the belt, trash was separated by type: paper, plastics, cardboard, glass, metal, and so on. Albert’s page left the conveyor an ultimately ended up in a bale of paper headed for a large printing company. A company that produced The Computing Science Magazine. The same magazine that Serena held in her hand.

  4. My Norelco has a freezer section that floats in the upper left hand side of the refrigerator. “Freezer” is the operant word here since there is no automatic defrost function (a feature that’s so common now, they don’t even mention it any more.) About every two months the white snowy ice has built up at about an inch and a half all the way around that deep rectangular box. That means the door on the freezer won’t close right, and the ice now builds up even faster.

    I figured out a way around that finally, since I’m eager to keep my old Norelco for sentimental reasons. I have an Inuit family living in the freezer compartment now. I let them eat my frozen haddock and cod, and they maintain the ice coating at a reasonable ¾ inch—deep enough for them to use for ice blocks when they want to rebuild their little house or when they make ice cubes for me in lieu of rent.

    My only worry is that they will get adventurous and want to come out to see the rest of the house. After all, they are great hunters. They’re not scared of whales, seals, those big walruses, or even below zero weather. So far, they seem to feel at home in the Norelco.

    I wouldn’t mind having them as houseguests, but I’m not sure what my cleaning lady will think. Her name is Reba, and she’s never been outside the state of Iowa. I’ve been pretty vehement about not having her clean the inside of the Norelco, and she’s already annoyed with me for that. Luckily she has not met the musicians who live in my toaster, but they tend to come out at night which is nice since I get sad at night. They play me some of my favorite blues tunes like, “I Need Some Sugar in my Bowl.” That always gives me a chuckle, since I’m 86 and I’ll tell you right now that road is going nowhere.

    • galelikethewind

      Ah, and you failed to mention the Zombies who live in the micrciwave and of course old Lucifer who inhabits the oven..but it’s probably better not to go there. Inspiring piece, Ann. Thx

      • galelikethewind

        Microwave, he meant, typing into his tiny Iphone with his stubby fingers while lying on his back in bed, barely awake.

    • alysiastarbuck

      So creative! I love the idea of an Inuit family living in there making their homes from the ice. Well done.

  5. Serena put her feet up on the dark green leather sofa and leafed through her new science magazine. As she reached an article about quantum computing, a cardboard ad fell out into her lap. She figured it was an ad to renew her subscription until she picked it up. “You’re on the road to nowhere” it read in fairly large Courier New print. She turned the card over. A photograph of an old Norelco refrigerator decorated the back. She’d owned one just like that back in the day.

    Reading science magazines was a nightly ritual for Serena. She started reading them after her husband of 50 years had passed on into the night. She didn’t completely understand many of the terms the articles brought up, nor did she care. The words reminded her of her late husband’s nightly discussions with her. This always helped salve the wound of her loss.

    The memory of that old refrigerator flashed into her mental view scape. They had only been married for a couple of years. This was their first home. Their first kitchen table. Their first refrigerator. She remembered it fondly. But it wasn’t a Norelco brand. It was a Frigidaire. “Somebody messed that one up,” she mumbled. With a snick, the radio turned on beside her. She jumped with the sudden, albeit soft, tones from the radio.

    I’m feeling okay this morning
    And you know,
    We’re on the road to paradise

    The song continued. Serena did not recognize the song. She dropped the magazine to the table. Still holding the advertisement, she reached to snick the radio off.

    Maybe you wonder where you are
    I don’t care
    Here is where time is on our side
    Take you there…take you there

    We’re on a road to nowhere

    Serena froze with the volume dial between her fingertips. The words galloped around her. She shivered. A damp sweat started to bead on her forehead. She lowered her hand from the dial and looked at the ad in her hand. She blinked. With swollen breathe she said, “They changed.”

    The words on the face of the cardstock now read, “NOWHERE.” Her heart thumped double time to the galloping beat of the music. The lyrics jumped out to ears. The magazine now lay on the floor. The room glowed with the memory of her days with her beloved. They danced the first night naked in the light of the fireplace. Their children played at their daddy’s feet while he read the paper on Sunday. Memories were blurred in their velocity as she recalled them.

    And it’s very far away
    But it’s growing day by day
    And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

    Her breath came in short gasps. She felt as if she were teetering on the edge of some endless faced cliff. Memories continued to spin in her mind’s eye. Their firsts and lasts.

    We’re on a road to nowhere
    We’re on a road to nowhere
    We’re on a road to nowhere

    The radio snicked off. Silence filled the room. The cardstock picture flittered to the floor. The words “Now Here” lay face up. Serena sat with a smile on her face, her dead eyes staring into the nothing that lay before her.


    Talking Heads

    Road To Nowhere lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

    • galelikethewind

      Great way to use those words to weave this story of a lost mate. You did a great job of stirring up the emotions. Nice work.

    • alysiastarbuck

      Wow. I like how the song weaved in and out of the story, bringing it all together. Well done.

  6. Pingback: Walterburgle | Serena

  7. So complete. I didn’t realize that was someone’s song, but it’s good to know that connections get made even when we don’t realize it. Keep this one!

    • I thought about using Ozzy Osbourne’s song as the thread here. That looked too hard to do. There are a couple of really good poems as well. But, the Talking Heads just called to me. 🙂

  8. If salmon fishing didn’t trump everything, I would write something I have in mind. Right now I’m sitting in the warm sun, glass of Corona and lime in hand, watching the fish jump in the Kenai River. Would you believe that in one day, 90,000 sockeye salmon passed the sonar counter? The count is over a million now and we’re waiting for the last half of the run.

    • galelikethewind

      Gully- how do Kenai compare to Copper River Salmon?

      • About the same size, but supposedly the Copper River reds have more Omega 3 oils. They are both wonderful. There’s no rod/reel fishing in theCopper, just dip netting. In the
        Kenai, there’s dip netting near the mouth of he river, then rod/river above that. And there are the winter kings, which beat all the salmon.

    • galelikethewind

      Thx. Caught a King out of Ketchican in Aug 2005. Fantastic meals for weeks on end.

  9. (Coloring outside the lines again.)

    More than I ever wanted to know about electric shavers, I think as I rescue the three round floating heads and the protective cap from the bathroom sink and floor where they landed. In seconds, like a well-trained soldier field stripping and reassembling his weapon, the pieces in my hand become a shaving head once again, ready to fasten to my husband’s Norelco electric shaver.

    I hand the shaver to him and watch as he shaves his face. He can still do that, despite the sudden jerks of muscles receiving erroneous messages from nerves gummed up with plaques. I watch and see his thumb move towards the button that will send the whole shaving head flying again if he touches it.

    The first few times I found the shaver in pieces, I thought he was doing it intentionally, perhaps to clean it. A flush of shame spreads through my heart as I remember saying, “Please don’t take this apart again,” while I fumbled with the pieces. Then one day I saw the explosion myself and realized it was involuntary.

    He can still brush his teeth, but I must comb his hair. He can bathe himself, seated on a shower bench in the bathtub, if I stand watch to see he doesn’t fall. I dress him, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as he loses more and more control over muscles. Often he does the opposite of what I ask—pulling rather than pushing, clamping his arms to his sides rather than raising them.

    What I find the most difficult is buttoning his Levis. After many attempts, I discovered that standing behind him and reaching around is the easiest, like buttoning my own jeans.

    Arthritis in my fingers adds to the problem, but it’s just another bump in the long road of Alzheimer’s care.

  10. Color to your heart’s content. This is a piece that wanted to get written. Good writing, as usual!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s