M-I-C–see you real soon! Claudia Barillas comes home to our contest



Why? because we like you.



Am I alone among you who have missed Chuck? (aka Claudia Barillas)

She has been, as Leonard Cohen suggests, oppressed by the figures of beauty. Waiting for perfection before engaging with the world and her friends at the Playground that is A Word with You Press.

We missed you, my dear.  Glad this contest has brought you out of a premature retirement.  A lovely story, poignant, and clearly heart-felt when you wrote it.  I suspect your fans will second that devotion.

Here is


by Claudia Barillas


The tiny tiles on the floor of San Francisco restroom blend together into long colored lines that make it seem endless. And it almost is. Twenty-eight stalls. The largest in the park. But it’s better that way–I can stay in one place for the most part. More work is less running around, and believe it or not, less stress.

I don’t handle stress well. Never learned how, or just wasn’t built for it. I’m so afraid of trying to catch up that I refuse to let myself fall behind, and the further ahead I stay, the more the threshold of what counts as ahead moves, until I’m moving twice as fast as anyone doing the exact same job, and still making the same amount of money.

This isn’t what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not what anyone wants to do with their life. My department is full of students, retirees, and women whose husbands have everything covered, and just want a little extra spending money. That’s not me. I’m a college graduate looking to move out of my parents’ house and trying to find direction in life. Sometimes I ask myself what I’m doing here and then I remember: applying, here, there, everywhere. No one else so much as called me back. It was this or nothing.

I used to have dreams, which may have included having enough money to visit Disneyland once every couple of years, maybe even stay at the hotel. They did not include cleaning toilets, even the ones at Disneyland. Now my only dream is to get out. To work in an office so I can get paid to sit down. To work in a store so that if I do have to clean a toilet it’s maybe once a day. To work somewhere small, where I know where everything is and how everything functions, so that I don’t want to die every time someone approaches me to ask a question. I thought forcing myself into a crowded place where people would come up and talk to me would make me stronger, help me fight my anxiety. It’s made me weaker, more afraid of people than ever. I’m tired of staring at the ground all day hoping the guests don’t see me. I’m tired of pretending I don’t see them and skittering off the other way. I’m tired of crying in the back every time someone is mean to me.

I look out at the water of Paradise Bay and wonder how deep it is, wonder if it’s possible to drown in it. I hate myself for wondering. And when I finally ask someone, I hate him for not asking why I want to know. I change my location preference, putting Paradise Pier at the bottom of the list. No need to be tempted. No need put myself where the chains that hold our trash cans in place after hours sit freely in a pile such a short walk from the water that’s so dark at night.

Sometimes I think of Walt Disney as my father. He was more a part of my childhood than the man that title should belong to, and now in my adulthood, he provides for my needs. Maybe if Walt really were my father, I would have it in me to be someone better.

I’m not the same kind of person Walt was. I couldn’t pack my things into a single suitcase, get on a train, and put all the money I had to my name towards paying rent on a studio that might never pay off. I don’t have the talent to back up a move like that. I don’t have the courage. All dreams and no drive.

A person like me can’t be ordinary. My only options are spectacular greatness or spectacular failure, and I’m running out of time to be great. Twenty-six is too old to become special. I should already be there.

There’s a statue on Buena Vista Street, in Carthay Circle. Walt and Mickey just off the train. The Storytellers’ statue. Even on my days off I come to work, give my money back to the man who gives it to me. I approach the statue, not caring for the cast members and other guests that mill about. “Can I do it?” I ask. “Is there still time? Can I still be great?”

Father Walt, too long dead to answer me.  Father Mickey, too long soulless to care for my inquiries. But the true Father, the one who always lives and always cares, the one who was always a part of my childhood and now in my adulthood provides for my needs says. “It’s not too late.”

I believe him. If he says it’s not too late, then I swear, it’s not too late.

I leave the statue, the park, the resort. That monster of someone’s dream gone too far when other dreams can’t even start. I find a quiet place. I sit. I write.

Even if no one else ever knows it, I am great.

49 thoughts on “M-I-C–see you real soon! Claudia Barillas comes home to our contest

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    I found this story a slow motion of sad surreal longings of hidden emotions. There is a feeling of invisible discounting of a person’s life exposed to crowds which seldom appreciate, more often complain left frustrated in their own existences. There is a sense of being trapped here which could easily be experienced as a hopelessness were it not for the dreams of this young lady. There is a silver lining about this young woman residing either at home, school or this restroom. She is looking down far too often, but on occassion she shows signs that here is a passing stage in her life that probably won’t equal the outrageous ambitions or successes of Walt Disney’s rag to riches story, but she leaves us with the hope that her life will improve and flourish. Very nice writing Claudia.

  2. Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    Claudia…have you been spying on me? ^_~

    I totally relate to well…everything. In my late twenties, still living at home, wishing for something more. Funny thing though, I never thought to turn to good ol’ Walt. A few bad experiences at his park probably might be why. That, or I simply tossed him aside as a hangover from childhood to face the sobering realities of adulthood.

    I remember watching a Holocaust documentary and one survivor talked about how she had to march in the snow towards the end of the war. She said that there were a few things that saved her life in the midst of the darkest time of modern human history: one of them being imagination. She imagined her life after the war. She imagined the parties she intended to throw: red dress or blue dress? One color is my favorite and the other just flatters me better. What should we eat? Drink? What music will play? As long as the music plays, we dance! Imagination kept her will to live strong, versus the ones who stared blankly at the damning reality before them. It is dreaming, imagining what could come. It’s the only way we’ve ever moved forward.

    After all, Walt had to dream first too =) Lovely job <3

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      Spying? No. If you walked by I’d probably flash a quick smile and then runt he other way.

      Walt had a dream all right. He had a suitcase and a dream, a suitcase and a dream. A suitcase and a dream, a suitcase and a dream. /Red Car News Boys

  3. FJDagg says:

    So, is it really “The happiest place on earth…?” Or the measure of what we’ve become…for who knows how many people? Thanks, Claudia, for letting me see it that way.

  4. thorrn says:

    Oops…editor in disbelief spelled chucks name rong. I will fix it tonight.but regatding that erro..as one of our regulars had posted: what sin, a name!

  5. Ken Weene says:

    Knotts such a great way to live. Almost like surviving on Pluto. Goofy if you ask me. Not even a mouse should have to clean those bathroom stalls. Duck out and invent a new gyros. Become a Scooge and get yourself a Buena Vista to look out on. Annette and all the gang are watching.

  6. Terrie Leigh Relf says:

    This is a good piece, Chuck! My parents were both inspired by Disney to be artists. . .I like how you take us through despair into hope. It’s not too late at 26 or even 66! I agree with Stars. . .imagination – and forward thinking!

  7. barbkeeling says:

    We are all GREAT, but “we” need to know it first. Your story made my soul hurt. Grab Mickey’s glove and do a dance, life is a whirl of glad and sad. Jump on the happy wagon and let yourself swing. Adored your writing and story telling. barbk

  8. Michael Stang says:

    Claudia, the true father of hope, the one that always lives, haunts this coming of age story. I want to call it a memoir, but I don’t want to step on delicate toes. The fragility of which you write is inspiring; the setting could not have been better. I was expecing film noir, but Disney’s and Mickey’s iconic statue served enough. The ending…masterful. Indeed, my lady, this-and you, are great.
    So where you taking me with that 500?

  9. Mac Eagan says:

    CHUCK! (welcome back)
    One of my first thoughts when I read the prompt that Thorn provided for this contest was that this expression, teetering on the brink of cliche’-ness, would fall victim to melodrama. Then Thorn posted Kristy Webster’s story as the first entry and correctly commented that she had set the bar high.
    Now you have come along and firmly grasped the bar that many of the rest of us were hoping only to touch, and put it that much farther out of our reach.
    Beautiful story. Real. Identifiable.
    Elegant use of the prompt. You put as much emotion into the prompt as it could possibly hold and not a grain more.
    Yeah, we’ve missed you.

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      Hi Mac. I stopped worrying about originality and avoiding cliches years ago when Ir realized that I just wasn’t that clever. Instead I just write what I feel, knowing that even though it’s been writing thousands of times before, it’s never been written by me. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the entry.

  10. Tiffany Monique says:

    I wanted to see everyone’s comments before I added my own. We are all thinking the same thing. There is a disenfranchised air that still somehow has hope in it. Even if it is hidden the tomes of written words that we the readers don’t get to see. You’ve created an emotive character, and that character sold me on melancholy so bad, I almost felt bad about being in my mid-thirties… almost. Yes, it is one of the best submitted so far. Peggy would have loved it and commented long and hard about it, and that is the coolest thing I can say. KUDOS

      • Tiffany Monique says:

        Then I appreciate your bravery, your candid openness, and I pray you have that scandalous hope still there inside you percolating as you write, despite the circumstances that surround you. You ARE a character, and *that* is a high compliment in my book… ask Thorn and Billy. 🙂

      • Mac Eagan says:

        I very respectfully disagree that you didn’t create a character. We are all characters.

        “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts . . .”

        What separates some writers from others is not the characters they have “created” but the way they are able to share those characters with us, the readers. What you share has depth and reality and resonates with the reality within ourselves. You feel what we feel and express it in a way that we can identify.
        I do hope you have another story planned for this contest.

        • Chuck Chuckerson says:

          I know you don’t mean it that way, but it’s kind of dehumanizing to be called a character. I’m typically a fiction writer and I don’t think of the people I write about in the same way I think about people who actually exist.

          Whether I’m a character or not, I still was not involved with my creation, so I don’t suppose you actually disagree with me so much as you think you do.

      • Tiffany Monique says:

        Ok, I wanted to reply to this idea DAYS ago, but google chrome wouldn’t let me, and I’ve been mucking about the site messing things up because my phone isn’t as fast as me… I digress. I agree with Mac. I believe you can BE and HAVE a character. I too hope for more from you. I think this is JUST the kind of conversation to which Peggy would add her 7+ decades of wisdom. Even your response is something characteristic to your character… not just the one we read, but the one you are! So Mac, kudos for the callout, and Chuck… you’re a real character, you know that? And I too look forward to your next submission to this contest.

    • Chuck Chuckerson says:

      Truly, I don’t normally write about myself, but it’s something I needed to say. Thank you for reading and for your kind words.

  11. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    I love this, but especially A person like me can’t be ordinary. My only options are spectacular greatness or spectacular failure, and I’m running out of time to be great. Twenty-six is too old to become special. I should already be there.

  12. Cindy Quach says:

    Hey Claudia, sorry for the delay, been passing out after work. This piece is beautifully written and I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my life. As children, we grow up dreaming big and fantasize about the glory of our future adult lives. After chasing a dream for many years, stumbling and facing various obstacles in the way, it’s hard not to feel bitter or disheartened when you’re not exactly where you want to be. You start to wonder if dreams are just that, DREAMS; wishful thinking and delusions of grandeur. When you wrote the paragraph about greatness and how you should already be there, it struck so many chords that I actually cried because it’s something I’ve fought myself over for many years. Thank you for writing this and I want you to continue writing because I know you are great.

      • Michael Stang says:

        Reading Cindy’s honestly written comment I was struck by the realization that your story, and Cindy’s easy parallels, are an important look into an equally as large issue with society, and how we have to live to survive in it with any kind of dignity. There are millions (whatever the age, though the younger ones show more tragic) of people failing their dreams. From the service industries up countless creatives fall in to the 8-5, 7-10, 24/7 and live a half life because of it. Hell kid I’m 63. 63? I don’t believe it. I am just starting out on getting serious about the writing thing. Yeah, trust me, when you nestle in a corner to write, my spirit is with you. Hope is what we make it, no one else has their hands on it. Anyone who has ever written is with you. They make everything clear or not. I wish you the best damn story and the best of luck.

  13. Mac Eagan says:

    I was browsing the site and a thought came to me so I had to come back to your story. I knew before I could write anything I first had to read your story again, to renew its essence in my mind.
    I know I can sometimes be the harsh one so before I go tossing rocks through your windows I want to make sure you know how much I enjoy what you have written here. There are many good pieces already posted and many more to come but I can’t see you not being a finalist.
    Well, except for what I saw as I was browsing the site earlier, as this post started out.
    If you decided to post this story just to share and to be able to express yourself, so be it. I respect your right to choose that destiny for yourself. But if you are interested in competing (and your story is already posted, so why wouldn’t you be?) don’t forget that one of the rules is that for each story you submit you must also comment on two other entries.
    To expand on something I said earlier, being a good writer isn’t just about how you relate thoughts and ideas using the written word. It’s also about being able to see the world in a slightly different way, or perhaps in seeing what others see although they don’t realize it, and bringing it to their attention. I have counted twenty comments on your story, all of the positive, and none of them “fluff.” You reached people with the words you assembled here. It isn’t just that you put the right words in the right order, but that you saw things in a way people can appreciate, and then shared it in a way equally appreciable.
    Again, if you aren’t interested in competing, so be it. But if you are, then go share that observational ability with a couple of other people and keep yourself in the running.

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