Abigail D. Malik

Category: Uncategorized

Debut novel is out!

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I’m giddy with excitement and gratitude to announce that I’ve published my first novel, I’ll Dance At Your Wedding, on Amazon Kindle. Publishing this specific work was a goal for 2019, and I got in right under the deadline! I’m so excited about having a new novel in 2020.

The first draft of I’ll Dance At Your Wedding was created in 2014, and I decided to dust it off in 2018. Between you and me, I was scared to go back and read it again…I was afraid what I’d written would be garbage. Turns out, it was okay. Good, in fact.

I hope you enjoy reading about the Patterson family – Claire, Meredith, Lillian and Fred – as much as I enjoyed creating them. Here’s the synopsis:

Claire Patterson loves her family, but sometimes she feels like they hold her back. It isn’t fair that she doesn’t get to do all the things every one else does, especially her sister Meredith. On Christmas Eve, Claire decides to take control of her world – at the expense of a family Monopoly tradition…and her sister’s chin.

Empowered by the awkward incident, Claire has the motivation she needs to start making her own choices just as she meets Michael Crum, a young man (11 years younger than her, to be precise) who is just like her. A young man who opens up her world.

“I’ll Dance At Your Wedding” is a funny and real look at what it means to be different. And how one family’s growing pains make way for two individuals to start feeling like they belong.

Short fiction: Sister Stella

washing machine

Every morning for the past seven years, except on Tuesdays, Stella suited up in well-worn sneakers, baggy jersey shorts, and a blue scrub top with her name and the WashCity logo embroidered on the front.

“Hello there!” a young woman rang out on a Sunday morning. She burst through the laundromat’s front door, one leg holding it open as she maneuvered inside with a lime-green plastic basket filled with clothes and a grocery bag filled with hangers.

“Well, hey,” Stella said, squinting at the woman and wiping down the basin of a washer. Stella could never remember anyone’s name. The customers all seemed to look alike, even the ones she knew had been doing their laundry there for years.

“How are things?” the young woman asked.

“Oh fine, just fine,” Stella said. She closed the washer’s lid gently and wiped down the outside of it before lifting it back up and moving on to the next one. “This morning I found $200 in someone’s pants pocket.”

“You did what?!” The young woman dropped her belongings on the floor in front of a washer and turned around to look at Stella.

“Oh, Mr. Jenkins is always leaving money in his clothes pockets,” Stella said. “I’ll call and tell him we found it, and he just goes, ‘Oh huh, wow.'”

“That must be nice!” the young woman said.

“Yeah, he’s a good guy. So good looking. It just makes my day when he comes in here,” Stella said. “He’s Irish, and he has that Sean Connery accent.”

Stella shook her head from side to side.

“So good lookin’.”

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10 Pop Culture References The Golden Girls Can Teach You

GGWhy on God’s green earth would anyone today enjoy watching a 30-year-old sitcom about four older women’s lives in Miami? That’s a joke question, of course, because the answer is, “There are infinity reasons why anyone should love The Golden Girls.” One particularly good reason is the abundance of pop culture references peppered throughout the seven seasons that aired from 1985 to 1992.

The references to film, music, television, books, celebrities, and more offer learning opportunities for those who weren’t around then or are too young to remember anything besides Care Bears and slap bracelets. And for those who rocked it loud and proud during those two decades, here are some humorous flashbacks.

Before Snuggie and ShamWow, there was Amazing Discoveries.

In season seven, Blanche is imploring Dorothy to get up off the couch and join her at her favorite bar, The Rusty Anchor. But Dorothy is staring at the television, absorbed in Amazing Discoveries: “Look at that,” she says from the couch. “The thing just shucks the corn off the cob. It just shucks it off.”

Hosted by Mike Levey, Amazing Discoveries ran from 1989 to 1997 and is said to be the pioneer of “direct response television” (today’s Proactive, PedEgg and others). According to Direct Marketing News’ 2003 story on Levey’s death (he was only 55), the Amazing Discoveries host was once known as “the most watched man on television,” and throughout the nearly 100 episodes that aired, many fans tuned in just to see what style of sweater he’d have on.

Donald Trump has always kind of been disliked.*

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Personal Essay: Wrestling Mania

wrestlingShe leaned across her seat, tapped me on the arm, and pointed to the WWE Live ring in the center of the arena floor.

“If he can crawl over to the edge and touch the rope, he’ll be free,” my mom whispered excitedly, as a grown man in a mask tried to get his head out from between some other grown man’s pretzel-twisted legs. I didn’t know which was more fun: the professional wrestling match or my mom’s knowledge of it. Who knew beneath that sweet personality and gentle smile there was a woman who got her kicks on body slams, trash talking, and men in tight pants?

Funny thing is, she always has. It’s a family tradition: in the 1970s, my mom would travel with her mom and aunts to the big city of Charleston, West Virginia, to see professional wrestling matches when they rolled through town. It was a big to-do for them, and so for her 62nd birthday, I wanted to experience with her what she had so many years ago with her mother and aunts.

The woman was pumped. My dad half-jokingly said he’d be on standby in case she got out of control and had to be escorted out of the arena.

She was well behaved, but she wasn’t quiet. Completely unfamiliar with modern wrestlers like Randy Orton and CM Punk, we mostly booed and cheered and shook our fists according to what the crowd did. Sometimes, though, we based our cheers on which wrestler was better looking.

“Oh, come on! Get up, you wimp,” my mom growled throughout the night. She slammed her hand on the armrest in frustration. “Yeah, hit him harder!”

During intermission, she reflected on the wrestlers she saw in the 1970s and 80s: Andre the Giant, The Million Dollar Man. Then, in the 1990s, when Pay-Per-View was something fancy, my mom’s family gathered at someone’s house to watch a match, everyone chipping in some money and plenty of food to spend an evening with “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts – with his real snake, Mom reminds me! – and so many more.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a resurgence in the popularity of professional wrestling. Who can forget “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his infernal t-shirts? Every boy in my high school had one.

That night at the arena with my mom, it was easy to suspend disbelief. It was escapism at its best, and I haven’t spent such a unique Friday night since. That WWE professional wrestling match was fun. We’d both do it again in a heartbeat, only this time, my mom said she’s going to brush up on today’s wrestlers, so she’ll know at which wrestlers to really direct her screams.

Personal Essay: Ode to the Boot-cut Jean

jeansRack after rack of jeans fills my local Goodwill store, a sea of discarded, heavy denim to wade through in search of a good-enough pair. Shopping makes my arms hurt, as my left one holds try-ons and my right one screeches hangers rhythmically down the line. To the left, away you go – wrong size, weird color, too long.

And boot cut. Mostly, they’re all boot cut. On one hand, the sad thrift-store sea of discarded boot-cut jeans is puzzling – what exactly is wrong with that style? It clearly used to get a lot of love. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter why they’re there en masse because they now present themselves as an opportunity to the forward thinker: buy a bunch and hoard them until the style returns.

And the style, like so many others, will come back, raging and loud, perhaps just as strong as the skinny-leg fad it feels like we’ve been experiencing for quite some time.

Unaware of it until recently, I’ve been sort of preparing for this revolution. Folded reverently in a dresser drawer at home is a pair of 2001 Calvin Klein’s: dark blue denim, the most flattering back pockets you could imagine, and boot cut. I even remember saving the money to buy them at the mall that summer after high-school graduation. During my first year of college, I rocked them almost every day, and then, as happens sometimes, they started to feel a little too tight. But I kept them; something in the back of my mind whispered, “Just in case.” More than a decade later, having toted them from city to city and season to season, they fit again. They look good.

Except, of course, for the legs. Those poor Calvin’s seem almost bell-bottomed compared to the straight-leg pants folded on top of them in my dresser drawer. Sorry, Brooke Shields, but something has come between me and my Calvin’s.

Depending on whom you ask or what you read, this most-recent skinny-leg jean fad (that is, since the 1980s punk-era fad) has been in mainstream culture since around 2005. Yet it has hit cultural saturation, it seems, in just the past couple of years. It’s a level of saturation that makes you grumble “Oh, come on!” when you can’t find a pair of jeans that will stretch over a strong, muscled calf you once thought was an asset.

In these moments, I look longingly toward my bedroom, where my 13-year-old Calvin’s rest, nestled snugly between newer pairs of denim. A decade from now, I wonder, how many 30-somethings will sort through a sea of consignment skinny jeans, arms aching, and think, “What in the world…?” before pushing them on down the rack.

Maybe, Brooke, I should wiggle back into my Calvin’s. Maybe the time for a boot-cut revolution is now.

Personal Essay: Basement Blues

basementThe suspicious feeling in the back of my mind insisted every now and then that living in my friend’s basement was too good to be true.

The monthly rent was more than fair, the house was in a nice, side-walked neighborhood, and the adjacent garage had ample room to store all my boxed- and bagged-up belongings. Besides, as my previous landlord, as well, my friend had decided to sell that house, and I needed to find a new home quickly. This temporary landing pad gave me time to search and her a few extra bucks.

And so for the first couple of months, when friends asked how the living situation was going, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to answer with “It’s great! Can you believe it? Things are great.”

Until that weekend I went out of town and returned Sunday evening to find my friend perched on the living room sofa waiting on me.

“Hey! You need help with your things? Hey, so. You’re either going to really love what I did or really hate what I did.” She spilled it out in one long breath, smiling tightly.

“Okay…” I replied, instantly worried she’d taken on a weekend wallpapering project. She lead the way as we trotted down the basement stairs.

“I was down here cleaning, earlier today,” she began. “And I moved your bookshelf to vacuum. Then I saw your clothes on the bed, so I started folding them, then when I noticed your books still packed, well, I thought, I should unpack those for her…” Her words became just a buzz as I took in the basement and realized what she’d done.

The neatly stacked boxes and bags filled with my life were no longer safely stored in the garage where I’d left them. Now, all of my belongings were unpacked, and she’d gone through every item, placing them around the basement where she though they belonged. Like a parent touring a preschool for the first time, I followed her from station to station while she explained why she put which item where.

We both knew, I thought, that me crashing in her basement was never a permanent living situation. So I’d decided in the beginning to unpack only the necessities. But my books, previously tied up neatly in plastic grocery bags, now lined the shelves. She had rearranged the little living-room area I’d created, and clothes folded in stacks on the bed two days ago now hung in a closet on hangers that didn’t belong to me. My DVDs, unpacked and mixed with some of hers, were lined up on a shelf in alphabetical order.

Then she told me that she put away the basket of laundry sitting on the floor. She folded what needed folding, hung up what needed hanging, and put away underwear that she decided now belonged in a nightstand drawer labeled with the typed phrase “Underwear, etc.”

All of the laundry in that basket was dirty. And the nightstand that was beside my bed when I left for the weekend is now what holds my dirty underwear.

“Wait,” I muttered, as I fumbled through the drawer. “If my underwear is here, then where is my…?”

Everyone knows that the top drawer of a woman’s nightstand is the goody drawer. She has been in my goody drawer, and she has seen, touched, and moved my goods.

The word violated flashed across my brain. I felt sweaty and weird.

By this time, she had gone back upstairs, leaving me to explore this brave new world she’d created. Before she left, she said by way of explanation that once she started going through and unpacking my things, she just couldn’t stop herself. And before she knew it, this had happened, and she waved her hand around the room as she scurried up the basement stairs.

Grabbing my phone, I burst through the basement door that leads to an outdoor patio. Pacing like a caged tiger, I called every friend I had.

When I finished sharing, in near whispers for fear she might hear me, I reluctantly went back inside. Everything felt slightly off kilter. That voice in my mind knew the basement was too good to be true. Curling up on the couch, I couldn’t make myself sleep in the bed on which she’d, for some reason, changed the sheets and comforter and added some throw pillows.

Things weren’t really the same between me and my friend. She’d seen too much in her basement, and I had, too.

I moved out as soon as I found another place. It was probably time to leave, anyway. No self-respecting 26-year-old woman with a full-time job should live in someone’s basement. Nothing good happens to anyone in a basement after, at most, the age of 17.

But I always hoped that maybe spying my goody drawer inspired her to get her own. If anyone was ever in need of something to occupy her hands on the weekends, it was her.

Travel: Guatemala’s Semuc Champey is Heaven on Earth

10151612885471742The decision to backpack around Guatemala was a surprisingly quick one. My best friend and I had batted around the idea of traveling internationally to celebrate turning 30. The intent was real, but the discussions were vague, until one day she received a text from me.

“We should go to Costa Rica” was my suggestion based on a friend’s recent trip. “How about Guatemala?” was her suggestion based on a friend’s recent trip.

Four months later, I departed from Lexington, Kentucky, and she from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we arrived around the same early afternoon time at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City to begin 10 days of backpacking around the country.

The night before, the question “What have I done?” sprinted through my head.

My 12-year-old L.L. Bean backpack was stuffed with just enough to sustain me. (Once home and unpacked, I proudly realized I had packed two shirts too many.) I registered our trip online with the U.S. Department of State and emailed pictures of my passport and credit card to my most level-headed friend.

However, I hadn’t brushed up on my Spanish nor had I done a recent Google news search on the country. My public-library borrowed Frommer’s Guatemala was only halfway read. And while I’m normally able to effectively shut out my father’s isolationist commentary, his concise voicemail from a few weeks ago reared its ugly head in my own: “Did you know that Guatemala borders Mexico?!”

Guatemala was my first time traveling abroad.

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Travel: The Unique Opportunity That is a Van Ride

photo by A. Malik

In the van waiting to catch the ferry on the way to Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Van rides have meant something special to me ever since returning from a 10-day backpacking trip in Guatemala where so many of my hours there were spent crisscrossing the country in vans with travelers from around the world. The Israeli grandfather wildly snapping pictures, screaming madly at the radio during a soccer match, being gently scolded by the driver for exiting the van during a very short ferry ride – he’s a small piece of my van crew that’s such a strong part of my travel experience in Guatemala.

Even pickup trucks played a vital role in traversing the country, particularly in my attempt to successfully complete the last leg of an eight-hour trip from the Tikal ruins to Semuc Champey, a Guatemalan national park located in an isolated, hard-to-reach area near the small town of Lanquín. Nestled in the valley of a jungle, turquoise freshwater-filled pools have been etched atop a natural bridge of limestone, under which rushes the Río Cahabón. It’s an Eden, and in order to trek the narrow, bumpy path from Lanquín to El Portal, the hostel at the edge of the park, I stood up in the back of a pick-up truck. My body jostled against a dozen others, gripping the truck bed’s side metal bars for dear life (or at least to keep my teeth in my head) as six kilometers (almost four miles) felt like six years.

For me, now, van rides are opportunities. Is there a shuttle involved in this trip? I’m in. Can we take the bus? Yes, we should. Want me to climb in the back of your pick-up truck? Well, let’s talk first.

Even the shuttle van at the car mechanic is an adventure waiting to be had with travelers from around the world. One morning, months later, back in Kentucky and at 8 a.m., I hopped into the backseat beside a young woman with long blonde hair. We exchanged good mornings. Her father, gray-headed and likely in his mid-60s, sat up front next to our driver, Kim. Less than a minute later, we picked up another passenger.

“The last time I was in a van,” I said as I scooted to the middle seat, “I was in Guatemala. It didn’t have such nice seatbelts.” The man turned around in his seat, and he was smiling. We began to discuss Guatemala, a country of which he is quite fond.

“Did you go to Chichicastango?” he asked, referring to the well-known market that brings nearly the entire country together for buying and selling handmade goods and homegrown foods. It was, I had to tell him, the one thing on the travel to-do list that went unaccomplished. The market is open Thursdays and Sundays only, and we couldn’t sync our travels to make it either day. He said I should visit Oaxaca, Mexico, and this time to make sure and visit the market.

“Where are you originally from?” Driver Kim asked him, after he began to speak and we heard his soft accent.

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Personal Essay: Whether it’s Urban Appalachia or Southern California, Quality of Life is All Relative

photo by A. MalikRay Garcia moved from San Diego to Ashland, Kentucky, about two years ago. He and his two brothers, Sergio and Ron, own and run a restaurant in town that offers locals a Southern California-Mexican style of cuisine not found in Ashland or, as Ray said he’s discovered, in Kentucky.

On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon, I interviewed him for a magazine article about the restaurant and its influence on Ashland. As a native Ashlander whose parents and sister live there (and probably always will), I leave Lexington and head east 120 miles on Interstate 64 about once a month to visit.

With a population of about 22,000, Ashland isn’t at all as urban as the urban Appalachian cities of Chattanooga, Asheville, Pittsburgh, and others. It is and always has been, however, a Mecca of sorts for the northeast part of Kentucky, with its two malls, city park, and dining options.

Something Ray said to me during our talk stuck in my head. He said he’s noticed that people in Ashland are “down on themselves” and where they live. Young people are eager to leave Ashland for bigger and better places, and some almost apologize to him for Ashland when they learn he’s from a much bigger, more cosmopolitan place.

But after living and working in the Ashland area for almost two years, he doesn’t see it that way. “What’s wrong with this place?” he always asks the naysayers. He said he thinks those in Ashland should feel prouder of where they live.

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