Friday, August 27, 2010

The Yin and The Yang of It

Kathleen is my opposite in looks and temperament. I have dark hair and mahogany eyes. Kathleen’s Irish eyes are cerulean and she was born a redhead.

“A true redhead,” she would tell new friends, “all you have to do is look at my…”

We usually interrupted here because we understood that Kathleen did not censor herself, did not feel the need, did not get embarrassed about using such words as hoo-haw in front of a stranger.

Reserved and hating to be the center of attention, that's me. But Kathleen knew how to break the draconian rules the nuns imposed without ever getting caught. The girl who could say things the rest of us could not because we thought the world -  as we knew it - would end.

Everything is described larger, better, longer in her world. She told me when she met her future husband at a party, it took just "one look" before they kissed for three hours.

“It was only fifteen minutes,” her husband said.

My shyness troubled her. Once, while on a shopping trip with us, her husband modeled a pair of trousers too small for him. We tried not to laugh.

"I just need exercise, dammit," he said and people turned their heads to us.

I walked across the aisles to allow Kathleen time to tell him that thinking is not the same as doing. But, really, I was pretending not to be here with those two.

A saleswoman came to help and he complained he did not need "two wives telling me what to do.”

From across the room,  Kathleen winked at me. I worried.

"You need to listen to us or there won't be any sex tonight," she told him.

Handing him a larger size, the nonplussed saleswoman looked over to me. She called out that “the second wife should come and have a look.”

Shoppers stared as I tried to hide in an empty dressing room.

Through the years, Kathleen’s dinner parties were never oh-I-just-will-throw-something-together affairs, and her telephone invitations held breathy promise of something themed.

“Sister,” she said during one of those calls, “Please come to my loggia party!”

So on a balmy August evening, we sat beside a mural of an ancient Tuscan scene she painted that morning. A group of male friends walked up the driveway dressed in white toga-like outfits. They carried a pallet where Ferret Bob, called that not because he resembled one but because he owned thirteen of the mammals, perched regally, with silver-plated leaves festooning his head and silver makeup highlighting his face in the twilight.

I looked over at some friends and knew we shared this thought: How on earth can we invite Kathleen over to just…dinner?

Kathleen dyed her hair to a golden blonde sheen that day. It suited her. While chatting new guests brought by friends, Kathleen told them she wanted to travel to Ireland to meet relatives, when the talk inexplicably turned to beauty products.

“Oh, no,” I heard her say. “This is not my natural hair color. No. I am a redhead. A true redhead.”

She stopped, and turned to me, and waited. I stood a few feet away talking to the toga boys. I cleared my throat and said, “She can prove it. All you have to do is look at her hoo-haw.”

Kathleen smiled. The world did not end.

© 2010 Marisa Birns

Note: A year ago today,  I wrote my first fiction piece for #fridayflash. This is it.


  1. You had me at hoo-haw.

  2. LOL :) That's fun! Congrats on the year!

  3. Terrific... any redheads are my kryptonite.

  4. Happy anniversary, Marisa! Looking back on this one, how do you feel? Would you tinker with her shyness? My favorite part is the "check the drapes" comment. My hair's brown, mustache is blond and beard comes in red. I have a lot of bush jokes.

  5. Hahaha this was grand. I'm a true redhead. O.o

  6. That was excellent. Many giggles all the way through, and the last line slayed me.

  7. REDHEADS. Mmm. Yum. And redheads who openly speak of showing their hoo-haws as proof of redheadedness rule. ;)

    Fun read.

  8. Happy anniversary, Marisa! Thanks for bringing this back - I was not around a year ago so it's fresh to me. And holy, moly, this was awesome! No learning curve for you - you just jumped in with a world class story. And yah, any story with hoo haw has gotta be a winner!
    Congratulations for a year of writing consistently amazing stories and for always commenting on other people's stories and being so supportive. I always get excited to see your comment on my list. And I'm always excited to read your stories.

  9. Anonymous7:46 AM

    Super. What fabness: 'I cleared my throat and said, “She can prove it. All you have to do is look at her hoo-haw.”
    Penny @triplecherry

  10. We all know someone like Kathleen! I really like the way you write and your use of language, very rich. Never heard it called a hoo haw before though! Lol

  11. I'm hee-hawing at the hoo-haw!

    I've got a friend a bit like Kathleen. I'm not as bad as the narrator by any stretch in terms of shyness, but she can make me cringe a little sometimes :-)
    This was fun - the scene with the husband was really well done particularly

  12. Doh - silly me neglected to wish you a happy #fridayflash aniversary :-)

  13. Anonymous8:47 AM

    Wickedly funny. A great way of celebrating.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  14. Happy Flashiversary! I was going to say that this made me want to dye my hair red but then she became a blonde. Well, Hoo-haw, I'm already there ! :)

    Fantastic re-flash!

  15. Hoo-haw!
    Celebrate your anniversary all week :)

  16. I remember this one and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. Happy flashiversary!

  17. Hoo-haw! I didn't get the pleasure of reading this one the first time around so I'm very glad you brought it back - such fun!

    Hey, I'm a natural red-head, but I see no need to prove it. ;)
    Happy anniversary Marisa!

  18. Yes!! I'm not the only one who calls it a hoo-haw! Oh this is a wonderful story. I had no idea it was your flashiversary...congrats and keep up the excellent work. I always look forward to your stories.

  19. Happy anniversary, Marisa! I love this story... I'm also a true redhead, and I've been known to make my friends cringe with my sailor-mouth at times. I don't throw parties like that, though. Hmmm... :)

    Great story!

  20. Happy Anniversary! When I started reading this I thought "hey, I've read this before" then realized it was for your anniversary. So, that just proves that you've been memorable from day one! Loved it then, love it now.

  21. AWESOME STORY!!! I see this phenomenon with me and my girlfriends. The married ones always have the largest mouths and will talk about ANYTHING turning the single ladies' faces red at the mere mention. When one girl passes from single to married however, the weirdest thing happens. She loses all that fear. Fear of what, I never discovered. and yeah. The world never ended.

    Brilliant! Happy Flashaversary!

    I call it a hoo-haw too. *L*

  22. I missed this last year as I didn't start reading until a few weeks later. Repeating my comment on Jim's and Catherine's anniversary stories: Friday Flash does good things. It's nice looking back at our work.

    Always enjoy your stories. Keep it up!

  23. a year of perpetually hitting the heights. Well done and please keep 'em coming!

    marc nash

  24. Loved it - light and funny - but with a nice underlying depth.

  25. Aw I'm glad you re-posted this one! A good laugh, definitely.

  26. Happy Anniversary! Nothing like a red haired hoo-haw to brighten up your day.

  27. Anonymous12:43 AM

    Great to read too :)

  28. Sweet and hilarious, and such an impressiver narrative arc for so few words. Glad you brought it back - Happy Aniversary! (Of course I also want to write Hoo Haw followed by several exclamation points - but I know I shouldn't) ;-)

  29. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Fabulously funny. I really enjoyed that. Like everyone else I am giggling at 'hoo-haw'. Also love the scene with the 'two wives'. Brill

  30. All this talk of hoo-haws had me thinking that I had clicked over to Cathy Olliffe's blog by mistake. A fun story, Marissa, that really conveyed the friendship of these ladies.

  31. Congratulations on one year of terrific stories!! I didn't read this one last year (didn't start up until October), but I'm glad I got to read it now. Always wanted to be a redhead... ;)

  32. One year... congrats! I'm on my one year email too. Thanks for sharing and hope to see you in another year still writing for #ff...


  33. The thing I really liked about this, other than the great characters, the way it moved in a circle, and the cuteness of it, is that until I got to the end, I thought it was a true story of you and a friend.

  34. Love love this -- the characters are completely engaging and I'd read more about them! Hope you'll do something more with this piece!

  35. Happy Anniversary, and thanks for welcoming me to the flash fic crowd.
    I love how at the end, the MC got to come out of her shell. I have a friend who helped me do that over the years, and I'm sending her the link to make her smile too. :)

  36. Happy anniversary Mari-girl!

    I'm so sorry for my delayed comment... I was running after my own tale with the #WeSeWrimo challenge. Now that it's passed I can appreciate your first #fridayflash. :)

    Wow, you had an eye for people right from the start! Love how the shy sister talks about the hoo-haw at the end.

  37. i really liked the beginning....the character descriptions really took you into the story being told. "hoo-haw"---it could be crass-er. :) LOL



  38. I really enjoyed this. It made me laugh. My sister is also named Kathleen and is a redhead. She doesn't use that line though.

  39. I'm a blonde! Really!

    Very funny, and made me smile. We all have Kathleen's in our lives. Loved the evolution of the sister. And congrats on a one year #fridayflash anniversary -- hoo haw! Peace...

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