Fiction Friday Part 12: Mr. Wong Goes Down

– Posted in: Fiction, Novel in Progress, Tammy Thinks, Worst Mom Randomness, Writing

We’re back to present day — actually January 2012, a few months before Eric shows up at Peter’s door. This is a little glimpse into what’s going on with Peter’s dad, James…

Want to get caught up? Start here. And if you want a list of the whole shebang, go here.


James Wong had never seen the bathroom from that angle before.

Thank God his wife had convinced him to spend the extra money to have heating installed under the marble tile. Later, when he’d tell the story about his stroke and how he laid there on his belly with his right cheek pressed against the floor, everyone always laughed when he got to the part about how the extra five grand suddenly seemed like an excellent choice.

And James Wong was all about excellent choices.

But that day, on the floor, his first thoughts weren’t about any decisions he’d made. His life didn’t flash before his eyes. He didn’t see his mother coming home from her second job to the one-bedroom apartment they shared and helping him with his homework. He didn’t see himself arranging and rearranging the phone, rolodex, and lamp on his desk on his first day of work after graduating from Harvard. He didn’t see his patent leather shoes stepping on the white steps of the U.S. Capitol for the first time.

That day, on the floor, with most of his right eye shielded by the flesh being pushed up from his flattened cheek, he saw something he’d never noticed before.

The baseboards.

The baseboards were white, semigloss, and at least six inches tall. They had a piece of molding at the base and another along the top. Above them began a non-descript but somehow perfect shade of brown, and below them were, of course, the marble tiles.

James Wong had to make choices every day. Which battles to wage. Which senators to lean on. Which favors to cash in. He did not, however, make any decisions about baseboards.

A person didn’t become a vice president at the Heritage Foundation by figuring out which baseboards to put in a bathroom remodel.

But clearly someone had to figure it out. And lying there, he realized his someone had tediously looked through books or samples to decide exactly how high the bathroom baseboards should be. And what color to paint the walls. And which toilet to install (he was quite sure she’d consulted him on that but none of the choices came to mind).

And suddenly, the fact that he’d flippantly said, “Brown,” as he grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door one day seemed crueler than hitting her. Crueler than yelling at her. Crueler than ignoring her all together.

color swatches She stood there at the kitchen island with her swatches fanned out. His coffee was poured. His suit had been dry cleaned. Which of the colors did he like for the new bathroom? He  was watching the morning news. The anchor was wearing a brown jacket. . . Newt Gingrich has defeated Mitt Romney in South Carolina. . . reporting a new leak at Fukushima nuclear power plant. . . brown jacket. . . protesting in Lisbon over austerity cuts. . . brown, yes, brown.

That morning, she went and picked up new swatches. All browns.

So he laid there that day, on the floor of his brown bathroom that he never really noticed was completed, and waited for her to find him. And a sudden sense of panic gripped him. What if she didn’t come back. What if he’d noticed the baseboards too late. What if this was the detail that did him in.

When he could talk, he would tell her the bathroom looked nice. He would thank her for working so hard on it. He would apologize for not noticing.

James Wong was all about excellent choices. But at the moment, he had no other choice but to lay on a hard, marble floor and hope that his wife would forgive him for choosing brown.


Read Part 13: Eric Meets the Drag Queen


This week’s prompt: March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb” — for our writing: to be deflated, belittled or humbled after the failure of a daring or boastful act.

I’m putting a couple restrictions on this one though to sharpen your lion’s writing claws before we submit to our kinder, gentler lamblike selves: 1,000 words max and no dialogue, all description. *Show* not tell: how your character has softened, deflated from the beginning of his/her intro in even one post? to now. 

And please check out my fellow writers. We’ve changed our name from “femmes” to “friends” because we’re adding boys…

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16 Comments… add one

Verity March 29, 2013, 9:45 am

Such an amazing picture of a long term marriage where each partner takes the other for granted….so real. Nice job!
Verity recently posted..Friday Fiction – ChanceMy Profile

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:26 pm

Thanks my friend! I’m glad you like it because I kind of thought it was crap when I put it down.

Kelly DeBie March 29, 2013, 10:02 am

Dude. Living one’s life in the pursuit of perfection for someone else. Gah.

This fiction stuff……
Kelly DeBie recently posted..Friday Fiction Challenge, dischargedMy Profile

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:24 pm

Yeah, can’t figure out where I come up with this stuff…

molly March 29, 2013, 11:01 am

I’ll pick up where DeBie left off — this fiction stuff is killing me. I mean that in a good way, but sheeshus. Wong sounds… well, uptight. You painted (ha!) this brilliantly today, Tammy. Is there nothing you do wrong? I was on the cold floor with him, without Elizabeth Gilbert feeling sorry for herself. This dude doesn’t feel sorry for himself … yet. I like where you’re going; marriage … the brown baseboards is in the same category that I term “invisible cleaning” – the kind of detail work that no one wants to do, and no one knows is done, but it’s how the homes keep running — someone to pick out the colors, put away all the winter stuff, get the pool passes ready, clean out the junk drawers, give things to charity, raid the shelves and cabinets of unused gear so that we don’t become a burden to ourselves as we age. Invisible cleaning. nice. I have two posts started and abandoned about invisible cleaning… is it any wonder? ox
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Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:23 pm

That’s really funny that you have two posts started and abandoned about it. See — not even you give a crap. No one cares about us! Not even us!!;)

And like you have to truly ask if I do anything wrong. Seriously…

Sandra March 29, 2013, 11:44 am

I was there on the floor, in your character’s head, playing the movie of his life. I will never look at bathroom floors and baseboards the same way. Tammy that was a great piece!
Sandra recently posted..Fiction Femmes Fatales #4My Profile

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:20 pm

Thank you Sandra! I’m so glad I could get you down on the floor.:)

Verity March 29, 2013, 12:18 pm

Just a follow up comment – I just looked at my bathroom baseboards. Aaackk – dirty! The things we don’t notice until so astutely pointed out!
Verity recently posted..Friday Fiction – ChanceMy Profile

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:19 pm

I know. I hate my baseboards. Especially in the bathroom. They get dusty and sticky because of the steam, I think.

Susanne Nelson March 29, 2013, 4:57 pm

Very interesting perspective. I learned more about Peter today. I hope his wife finds him.

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:18 pm

I’m glad you said that. Learning more about Peter was really the point. So much of us is our parents.

Clearly Kristal March 29, 2013, 5:15 pm

Tammy: This was brilliantly done! My favorite piece of yours thus far. The symbolism of a neglected relationship as the brown baseboards. Like Molly said – I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert right now – so fitting.
Clearly Kristal recently posted..Fiction Friday #3: Danny Boy – RedemptionMy Profile

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:17 pm

Thank you so much Kristal! I wonder how many writers have put people on bathroom floors.

Quirky Chrissy March 31, 2013, 8:45 am


I think this is my favorite piece of yours. The detail. The imagery. The RAW emotion. There is so much in so few words, Tammy. WOW.
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Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:16 pm

Wow right back at ya! Thank you so much!

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