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By Marshall Norman McCarthy


Just have a good day. He dragged the razor across his cheek, wincing as it tore instead of cut. Just have a good day. Were his eyes always this sunken; were the bags beneath them always so dark? Just have a good day. How was his wife still able to look at him with that old spark, the one that hadn't guttered out over the years?

'Just have a good day,' he repeated his mantra to his reflection, putting down the razor and checking his work. Free of stubble, yet his face seemed haggard, worn; another day's journey towards the end.

All his life he'd been told that men age gracefully, that they get better, more handsome with age. Thinking on that as he scrutinized the ever unfamiliar man in the mirror, he believed he understood now the word conceit.

'Just have a good day.' Now he was speaking to the cat, who sat on the little table near the front door watching him pull on his coat. How many times had he wished, in childish fashion, that he could switch places with the little orange beast? He'd even asked the cat to trade places with him one day, but, in classic feline fashion, he'd been answered with a nonplussed stare.

The January air bit at his face. The ice storm had passed, leaving his world sheathed in slippery reflections. At least today the car started. It groaned when he turned the engine over, sputtered for a moment and, just as a curse was set to leave his lips, his little sedan coughed out the last of its reluctance, and hummed. He cranked the heat and waited for the windshield to clear.

Just have a good day. Easier said than done. If he could just stay home and work away at his little projects, tinkering and creating, he could find that sort of satisfaction. He could, even if he managed to only take a single step towards progress, be happy.

But pulling out of the parking lot of his apartment building, happiness was eight and a half hours away.

The streets were bustling with routine traffic. He navigated his route to work in the half awake way of daily commuters. Images of accidents bubbled up in his mind. He saw himself skidding into a ditch; T-boned at an intersection; head on with an eighteen-wheeler. Those shouldn't be nice thoughts, but to him they seemed like salvation. Old fantasies, born in a darker times, now resurfacing…

Just have a good day. The mantra repeated, but it was his wife's voice speaking in his head. An end to him would be no end for her. She was a tough chick, but when they'd put those rings on each other's fingers they'd sworn to face the world together. They'd sworn to stand against the darkness, hand in hand, surviving by the strength they shared.

And so images of fatal accidents were followed by scenes of grief, by the sight of her face tear streaked, the sounds of her raw voice wailing at the injustice that all feel when someone they love is taken from them.

He may never understand that woman's love for him, for a man with artistic aspirations fumbling with the work-a-day life, but he'd hold to it like a lifeline…

* * *

'Hey, babe.' Even sitting on the couch in her pajamas, wrapped in one of those thin blankets she picked up at a bargain, his wife was stunning. It was the way her eyes lit up when he walked through the door. Every time. No matter how shitty their days went – and working retail that was often – she always had that same Everything's Right with the World expression when he got home.

'Hey, love,' he said, unable, and unwilling, to fight the grin that hitched at his mouth. 'How was your day?' He hung his coat, shuffling over to her.

'Don't even get me started.' She shook her head, lit them each a cigarette. 'Yours?' She handed him a smoke as he sat beside her.

'Doesn't matter.' He leaned into her, shoulder to shoulder.

'Bad day at work?'

He could go on about it, weaving his tale of retail hell, but looking into those big brown eyes, he knew that it would only sully this moment and, realized as he puffed on his cigarette, this moment was what he'd worked for. This moment when he could forget about his boss, his customers, and just be rejuvenated by her.

So he kissed her, deeply, instead of seeking commiseration. And when they parted, and he saw her girlish smile, he deflated, shedding off the stress. It would return with the dawn, but for now, all was right.

'Let's see what's on T.V.,' he said, putting an arm around her. They settled into each other and he decided then that, yes, he had had a good day.

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Daily Deviation

Given 2014-02-14
Just Have a Good Day by mnmccarthy manages to turn a bit of day-to-day life into a compelling and uplifting narrative. ( Suggested by DailyBreadCafe and Featured by inknalcohol )
:icondailybreadcafe:
Hello, you popped up in my message centre so i thought i'd leave you a critique.

I liked this piece. It's one of those stories about normal life that still manage to be compelling and interesting to read even though nothing particularly special happens. I once read that little things are just big things that are noticed (i can't remember where i read it, but i'm sure i did) and you've taken one of those small day-to-day things and turned it into a big thing. So well done.

The story is well written, although i did see a typo: "a darker times" should probably just be "darker times" and you've managed to hold tension throughout. I can see how you could've struggled to maintain the tension in a story about "normal" life, but i think the repetition of "Just have a good day" works wonders here.

Great piece, well done!
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
3 out of 3 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconcommndershepard117:
I hate read your work on this and I find it interesting. The man in that short story sounded very stressed out that morning as well as grumpy. It reflects on everyday lives, like what happened and how they are coping. This reminds me of when I had to go to work at a grocery store years ago and I hated working there, but needed to make money while at college. I like it how you use that sentence have a good day as a way to make that man feel better and confident. I was picturing him driving in the rain knowing that he was in a bad mood and the rain showed what he was feeling. It is very interesting and this will remind me to have a good day even when I feel upset.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
2 out of 2 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

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:iconderiveanemone:
DeriveAnemone Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I hope your job gets better, and congratulations for the DD! Also, your wife sounds awesome. :) (Smile) 
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! And my job is so bad, I was just in mood the day I wrote that.

And yes, my wife is pretty damned awesome :D
Reply
:iconnicotheripper24:
nicotheripper24 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Excellent work
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :D
Reply
:iconthe-raven-soul:
The-Raven-Soul Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Loved this! I love how the normality of this seems to show off the best in life despite its... well, normality. :heart:
I could have probably written an elaborate congratulations on the DD comment but I figured you've gotten enough of those, so I'll be short. Brilliant piece, this DD is well-deserved, and I hope to see more written works from you! :meow:
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. I don't normally write creative non-fiction, usually I write sci-fi and fantasy which allows me to write things a little more over the top, so I figured if it's non fiction than lets get as real as I can. Real life can seem mundane, but only until you sit down and explore it that you realize there's special qualities in even the most day-to-day affair.

And yes, you'll see more writing from me...maybe even more pieces like this one.

:D
Reply
:iconthe-raven-soul:
The-Raven-Soul Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I personally really wanted to get into being a professional writer, but my long works always get cut short and turn into short stories or are just not finished and my short stories end up having loose ends that I can't explain.
I kind of gave up on that dream, but seeing such lovely simple pieces like this inspires me and urges me to try again. I mean, hey, practice is supposed to help right? I've just always been scared of feedback and never really posted anything... maybe I should try.
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I was in the same place with my writing not all that long ago. Jump into my hard drive and you'll see a bunch of half finished novels and half-cooked stories. It eventually got to a point where I just said 'fuck it' and started posting here on dA, and since then I've notice my writing improving from the feedback I've received.

I say work on some short stories before going after another longer piece, post them up, ask for feedback and work at it like that. Don't let being a professional writer be a dream...make it a goal. :D

I'll be happy to give you any feedback, if you decide to post anything. :thumbsup:
Reply
:icontruthistruth:
TruthisTruth Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Congratulations on the Daily Deviation! :clap:
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :D
Reply
:icontruthistruth:
TruthisTruth Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconfinallyawaken:
finallyawaken Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I had read this early in the morning and only now do i have time to comment.
I think that this is one of the best literary Daily Deviations i have read in a while. Short but intriguing, and very emotive. Wonderful job!! You definitely deserved this DD and by looking and reading through your expansive gallery i am surprised that you don't have many many more :)
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Wow! Thank you for the kind words, and for having a peek at my other work too. That's like the cherry on top of this awesome day :D
Reply
:iconfinallyawaken:
finallyawaken Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! Oh it was much more than a peek, more like an incredible journey through words! :D I'm glad you are having such a wonderful day!
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:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Ah, shucks! I'm glade you like my stuff :D.
Reply
:iconmissdudette:
MissDudette Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
:iconclappingplz:  Short and beautifully sweet. 

TheOnlyBean, and Tattered-Dreams, lookie lookie!  
Reply
:icontattered-dreams:
Tattered-Dreams Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Interesting... Probably wouldn't have read it if it wasn't pointed out, but now that I have its quite a nice piece :)
Reply
:iconmissdudette:
MissDudette Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
I thought it was a bit of a cool breath of air. It's reunify tell different from most I read too.

Say, are you a Neil Gaiman fan?
Reply
:icontattered-dreams:
Tattered-Dreams Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Occasionally its nice to read something totally new :)

And no; I can't say I am. I've heard the name, but not read any of his stuff.
Reply
:iconmissdudette:
MissDudette Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
I just wondered. I've read a few short stories of his, and one book called Neverwhere. This Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar by Fuelreaver   got a DD the other day (they're characters from the book) and I got to remembering the book and I regailed to the Bean about it. And she'd read the book too, but hadn't remembered a lot of it. But it's really dark and gritty, and I was thinking, you know, I bet Rachel might like this author since she's a horror fan.  So I dun asketh. :3

There's a really sad scene in it with a orphan girl and this awful bridge and Bean and I just about cried remembering that scene last night. :XD:
Reply
:icontattered-dreams:
Tattered-Dreams Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Whoa - that's some pretty awesome work! I may see about looking him up at some point - so much on my list to read first, though! :D
Reply
:iconmissdudette:
MissDudette Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014
Haha, same here! :D
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:icontattered-dreams:
Tattered-Dreams Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Good luck with yours XD
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much! :D :D :D
Reply
:icondailybreadcafe:
DailyBreadCafe Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014   Writer
Congrats on the DD!!
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:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you, you sneaky little suggester you! I saw I got the DD on my phone just before driving my wife to work, needless to say she was delighted by my happy mood.
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:icondailybreadcafe:
DailyBreadCafe Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014   Writer
:D you're welcome! Well deserved :D
Reply
:iconeremitik:
Eremitik Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
I have to agree with Grim on this one- too often I see writers dally among the whirlwind romance of a new relationship but seldom do I come across the subtle day to day romances that marriage and "til death do us part" offers- smiles, a warm shoulder, and warm blanket, the simple things of sharing a loved t.v. show and looking forward to seeing your partner at the end of the day.

Such a simple, yet elegant snapshot of what normal can be. Excellent work and congratulations on the DD.
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :D

If I'm being honest, a couple of times I tried my hand at that 'whirlwind romance' stuff, but whenever I did, it always seems to slide dangerously close to turning into erotica LOL.

But seriously, with my wife and I the romance has almost always been of the 'day to day' variety, and that hits home to me more so than the Romeo and Juliet fashion.
Reply
:iconeremitik:
Eremitik Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014
Its a tough genre to find the right amount of sincerity, sappy and romantic without going cliche.

Im with you on the romance front. My wife and I are very "down to earth". We do very little romance-wise with regards to trying to outdo ourselves year to year- Valentines, anniversary- We mostly try to not take each other for granted and consider our marriage a partnership as opposed to an extended courtship.
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
We mostly try to not take each other for granted and consider our marriage a partnership as opposed to an extended courtship.
I think there's a ton of wisdom in those words right there. It also sounds like a page from our (my wife and I) rule book, or would, if such a book existed. It makes that side of the relationship run a whole lot smoother, which in turns makes the rest easier to bare because you know you've got back up.
Reply
:iconeremitik:
Eremitik Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2014
Thank you-

Life is hard enough without adding relationship stress to it. Maybe we need to write that book of marriage rules? Of course, Im not sure how well it would sell because it seems our marriages are nothing like what most peoples are, lol.

I think part of that unhappiness is because people dont really understand what real marriage is- they have these ideas based upon what they see on t.v. or movies, or what has been handed down. Its sad really.

How long have you guys been married?
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
May will make it three years, so we've still got a ways to go, but i think we've got a good handle on it.

As much as I want to argue that people are above being influenced by tv and movies, I think you're right. My ex always seemed to take arguments from movies and bring them into real life, which, needless to say, drove me bonkers!
Reply
:iconeremitik:
Eremitik Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2014
Well, its not just tv and movies- but everything from music to the news we read and watch, books we enjoy and the overall societal expectations.

Congrats on the three years. I wish you two all the best!
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I think a lot of folk out there confuse fiction with reality, and assume that the way it works in a book or television or the news (which is often more fiction than fact) acts as a guideline or something. Like you say, it's all about expectations, and we've got people expecting Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde, instead of Mom and Pop.

Thanks!!!
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconrobson666:
robson666 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist
congratulations to the well deserved Daily Deviation Clap
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you kindly, Sir!
Reply
:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Congrats on the DD! :dalove:
Have a nice day! :party:
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you and you too!
Reply
:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure, thank you! :heart:
Reply
:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014   Writer
Lovely.  Just lovely.  Every day romance is better than chocolates and flowers.
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:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks Grim! Chocolates and Flowers have so little to do with real romance - and I can't write that shit without getting cornball! 
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:iconinknalcohol:
inknalcohol Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014   Writer
Agreed.  On all counts.
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:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
:D
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:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
When I worked in a video rental store, this was pretty much how I felt. It was soul sucking hell. "happiness was eight and a half hours away" <---well said.
I love seeing that misery melt away at the end.
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the comment! I wrote this on whim before heading to work, just looking forward to getting home to be with the wife (and to watch Farscape ;))
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:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Hells yes to Farscape! :D
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Surprisingly, this is my first go with Farscape. I don't know why I didn't watch it when it was on, but goddamn! I now love that show! 
Reply
:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I love the first couple of seasons. The last one, I'm  not a big fan of, but with tv series, that's usually how it goes.
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