Several authors are coming out with stories based on the various versions of "Maggie May" or "Maggie Mae." The story titles will be: "Maggie May - author's pseudonym" e.g. "Maggie May — Jake Rivers"
This is my third semi-annual "invitational." The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "This Bed of Rose's." The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: "El Paso" "El Paso City" and "Faleena."
Regards, Jake Rivers
An eruption of cheers from all around her ended the thoughts that swirled in her head. The crowd shoved her from every direction as they tried to get closer to the rope that kept them off the track. Thirty four year old Liza Penwell wanted to be almost anywhere but standing right there on a sunny weekend morning.
"Here they come!"
"Who's in the lead so far?" The words were so loud that Liza cringed.
Liza took a step back as the mass of bodies moved forward once more. Shoulders and elbows bumped into her from every direction. The laughter and conversations came in every range of voice until they blended into one. For a few seconds she panicked, frozen in place, almost as if she had become a statue.
"I see him! He's in front!" Gloria screamed as she grabbed the man next to her and jumped up and down. In her excitement, she didn't even care if she knew him, he just happened to be the closest.
"Come on Erik!" Liza looked around to see who had yelled before it occurred to her she herself had. The encouragement was habit, from standing in this position week after week, giving the same boost each time.
Whistles and clapping joined the announcement given over the huge speakers hanging high above. Liza would have missed it if Gloria hadn't taken her hand right then.
"Let's go congratulate him," Gloria said as she dragged Liza along.
The crowd parted as they approached. At fifty-six, Gloria Carballo was still slender from a weekly exercise routine of tennis, swimming and the gym. The two had met a few years ago when Gloria started at the hairdresser Liza used. Liza was early for her appointment one day and the two chatted off and on. A bundle of energy and full of laughter, Gloria sparked a spot missing in Liza's life, and they'd been friends ever since.
"Erik! Great finish."
"Hey buddy! Congratulations!" Erik's friends called out as they waved.
"It looks like you're going to need another case for trophies now," Gloria said as she stopped in front of Erik.
The statement hit a sore spot between Liza and Erik that Gloria wasn't aware existed. Liza hated the rows of awards and trophies that filled every shelf and bookcase in the living room and den. They even had appeared in the china cabinet last week. That had been the last straw for Liza. It had felt as if she no longer had a spot in their home to call her own. The argument that followed had been long and heated. Things were still unsettled days later.
"Hello," Erik greeted the older woman. "You look gorgeous today, Gloria, as always."
"Of course I do, darling. I pay enough people to make me look that way." The sassy comeback came with such a straight face Erik burst out laughing.
"Gloria, I know everything's natural about you, so don't pull that one on me," Erik replied.
Liza listened to the easy interaction between her husband and best friend as she stood off to the side. So far, Erik hadn't even realized she was there. He always responded first to the cheers and applause from the people waiting at the finish line. Liza learned early in their marriage that Erik thrived on the attention and encouragement of others. Back then, she was one of his greatest admirers.
People separated into smaller groups now that the races were over and the noise level went down. Liza just wanted to go somewhere quiet for dinner and relax.
Liza stepped around Gloria and smiled. "Great race, honey."
"This is what I train for, remember?" Erik said with a sarcastic undertone.
"Your hard work paid off today, Erik," Gloria added.
"Let's celebrate. There's a great little restaurant across town with the best cheesecake ever." The offer was Liza's attempt to smooth things over with Erik.
"I can't eat that. You should know better by now. I have to eat a specific diet when I'm in the middle of a race schedule. Have you forgotten everything I've told you?"
Erik gave Liza a long glare as he spoke and then turned his back to her to gather up his gear. It took about fifteen seconds before Liza stopped pretending to be happy. She spun around and walked towards her car without saying another word.
"Liza, do you want to tell me what that was all about?" The older woman asked as she jogged up to her.
"Not now, Gloria."
"I'm your friend, Liza, talk to me." The plea from Gloria went unanswered as Liza entered her car.
Liza drove home extra slow since she knew her mind wasn't as clear as it should be. She ignored each chirp of her cell phone. The light was blinking on the answering machine when she walked into the kitchen as well. She walked right past it on her way to the dining room. Nothing was stopping her from the mission she had planned on the drive home.
A short time later, Liza closed the last box, carried it to the garage and stacked it with the other two. She reentered the house with a new sense of calm. Liza hummed as she dusted the shelves that just this morning had held row after row of trophies and awards. A few knick-knacks and photos soon lined the pristine wood.
"What the hell are you doing?" demanded Erik.
The tiny angel slipped from her fingers as she jumped at the anger in Erik's voice. Her mind had wandered while she cleaned and the sounds of the doors opening never registered.
"Where are my trophies? What's all this junk doing here?"
The tone in his voice became angrier at each word. Liza took a step back when Erik walked up to her with his fists clenched at his sides. Never before in their eleven-year marriage had she felt threatened by Erik. She had really pushed him by moving his trophies.
"You have your precious awards in every room of this house and I have nothing. This china cabinet was my grandmother's, given to my mother, and now it's mine, Erik. It's my house, too, and I've taken back the dining room as mine." With each word, Liza lost a bit of her confidence, as Erik moved.
"We'll discuss this later. I need a shower."
When their bedroom door slammed shut, Liza sank into a chair and let out her breath. She tried to go back in their marriage to a time when things were happy. How long had it been since they went to dinner or a movie? Or even just out anywhere together? Erik had taken up running about seven years ago. That's when things had started going down hill.
Both the ringing of the telephone and the vibration of her cell phone caught Liza's attention at about the same time. A quick decision to ignore both came when the answering machine kicked in and she heard Erik's' recorded message. She tuned it out and went back to cleaning. Mundane chores kept her hands busy, but it would take a lot more than scrubbing shelves to help her mind right now.
There was silence from the back of the house. Liza tried to remember if she heard the shower go on but couldn't. It might have been five minutes or an hour since Erik had left the room, but she wasn't ready for him to return.
"You haven't started dinner."
"I'll take some burgers out of the freezer, or if you'd like, we can just order something to be delivered," Liza answered.
"Damnit, Liza! You know I can't eat all that junk you order. I have to work hard to keep fit for these marathons and races. Not everyone is thin like you." He opened the refrigerator and reached in for bottled water.
"Would it hurt to miss one race and spend the day at home? It's been ages since we did anything together, Erik. What happens when we start a family? You can't be gone all the time then." Her eyes begged him as she reached out to him.
"I've told you I don't have time for a family right now. You have all those first graders you teach. They should be enough for you." Erik slammed the door shut and turned to her.
"Please, Erik, can't we talk about it some more? If we don't start a family soon, we'll be too old."
His only reply was a glare as he shoved past her on his way to the garage. The automatic door opened and she heard Erik's car as he left. The tears she had held back flowed from her eyes as she slid to the floor and sobbed.
A constant buzz woke Liza. She realized it was the doorbell as she sat up. Not yet fully awake, her mind thought maybe it would be Erik, so she ran to answer it.
"I've been worried to death. You didn't answer your phones and you took forever to open the door," Gloria stated as she walked right in.
Liza followed her best friend into the kitchen and crumpled onto a chair. Fresh tears fell as she pictured the scene all over again in her mind.
"Honey, what's wrong? Are you sick? Is it Erik? Liza, answer me." Gloria's voice was frantic.
"Am I wrong to want children?"
"I don't understand. Where's Erik?" The confusion was clear on Gloria's face.
"Do you like the way I did the china cabinet, Gloria?"
"Liza, honey, start at the beginning. What happened when you came home from the race? Tell me what you did." Gloria held her friend's hand as she spoke.
"He's never home, there's always practice, or a race, or training somewhere. We can never go out to dinner. There are trophies in every room, on every shelf— everywhere I look. I'm so tired," Liza whispered.
.... There is more of this story ...