I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.

Friction: the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another

JoShell puts more weight into the rag as she scrubs the counter. The drippings from the candy resist her efforts, stubbornly clinging to the counter.

I hate her! JoShell mumbles as she shoves against the candy.

From day one, the friction between JoShell and Karl’s mom was fierce.

But this takes the cake!

JoShell takes out a scraper to pry some of the sugar clumps from the counter.

We’ll see about this! JoShell’s elbow smashes against the counter when the scraper slips above the caramelized sugar.

“Dammit!” JoShell throws the scraper across the counter and cradles her elbow in her right hand.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” Kyle comes through the door as he asks, snagging a piece of toffee bark as he sidles up next to her.

Friction: the action of one surface or object rubbing against another

yle, JoShell’s third. The middle child. Peace maker. Sensitive. Thoughtful.

He cried when he first learned about his aunt JoBeth. The others, even his older siblings who were old enough to remember her, took in the information like evening news. Kyle would have cried again listening to his Granny muddy JoBeth’s memory. I’m not having it.

“Nothing, sweetie. I banged my elbow against the counter.”

“What a mess,” Kyle exclaims, picking up his mom’s rag. “Do you have some Comet or something? Friction is your friend. We’re learning that in physics.”

Kyle is also the smart one. The others are bright, but Kyle applies himself.

“I think I’ve had enough friction for one day,” JoShell mutters.

“Friction gets a bad rep. We can’t live without it, you know.” JoShell digs under the cabinet sink while Kyle explains. He likes to explain things. “Friction saws wood. We rub our hands together to warms them with friction! Friction makes fine finishes on furniture and propels objects through the air, across the land, and on the water. We need to stop the car? We apply friction…”

JoShell holds up her Bar Keepers Friend in front of Kyle’s face to stop him, then begins sprinkling it over the candy spill, but when Kyle begins to scrub, she pushes him back.

“Actually, stop. I wasn’t thinking. Water. It’ll dissolve if I’m patient.”

“Are you sure? It’s hard like… like really hard.”

Frictionconflict or animosity caused by a clash of wills, temperaments, or opinions

“Water is my friend.” JoShell uses dish towels to help pool the water on the candy. “Do they teach you about water in physics?” JoShell regrets the harsh edge in her voice, but she doesn’t have the strength to soften it.

“You shouldn’t listen to her,” Kyle says.

He heard. He knows. Kyle is the sensitive one.

“She means well, but, you know.”

“No, I don’t know. I don’t see it.” JoShell is normally reluctant to trash the grandparents in front of her children, but Kyle knows. He sees, and she’s tired.

“It’s the way she was raised. Blunt. The thing is, she makes assumptions. Even dad has trouble getting along with her.”

JoShell remembers the last fight between Karl and Sandra. Father’s day. All five children were there. JoShell shooed them out of the room like they were toddlers again, but it was too late. Sandra has opinions and she will be heard.

“I could live without some kinds of friction,” JoShell confesses, touching the counter to test the water and sugar.

“Me too,” Kyle leans his head against the top of JoShell’s. She looks up at him, the delightful child. By the time he goes to college, and he will go to college, he’ll be six foot four or five. He’s already taller than Karl.

Friction: the clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views

“The thing is, life has both. The helpful friction. The hurtful friction.” Kyle is also her philosiphical child.

“I know.”

“Do you still love dad?”

JoShell pushes away from Kyle. “Where did that come from?”

“I dunno. There seems to be more friction between you… I know… Well, you’ve been together a long, long time. You were barely adults.”

Karl and JoShell had been together since they were sixteen, pregnant and married at eighteen.

Sex is friction, she thinks. She and Karl were party buddies in high school. Wild, adventurous, fun, and lots of good friction over the years. But after 22 years married, they’re partied out. There’s less the good friction.

“You don’t have to answer,” Kyle tells her. “It’s none of my business.”

“You’re right,” JoShell begins. “There’s more friction between us lately. I think we’re just tired. The problems with your big brother, work,…”


“Yes, Granny, too. It’s a lot.”

“But you’re not… when you and dad fight, you’re not mean like Granny.”

JoShell shakes her head, “No, I am. I know the words that sting.” The words that stop a heart.

She begins slopping up the sugary mess from the counter with the towels that had pooled her water. “You shouldn’t worry your head with these things, Kyle. We’ll be okay.”

Friction: the rubbing of one body against another

“I know.” He grabs one of the towels to help her soak up the sugar water. “Friction can wear away at a surface, at a person, but we couldn’t live in a frictionless world. Without friction, we wouldn’t even be able to keep our clothes on!”

“Well, it’s no secret that your dad and I lived pretty frictionless in our teens!” JoShell laughs, a little uncomfortable on the topic.

“There’s another ‘F’ word.”

JoShell shoots Kyle a stern look.

Force, mom. Force. Friction and force. Like joy and sorrow. Friction and force.”

“Which is which? Is friction joy or sorrow?”

“Depends. And sometimes they are one. Like melancholy, joy and sorrow together, right? Friction and force come together too. Frictional force. That’s how we move things.

“So, what was the water?” JoShell asks, wringing out the last of the sugar water.

Kyle stares at the running water and his moms hands rinsing the rag of the mess. “Love. The water is a bit of love that dissolves the hard, stubborn candy. And magic. It’s also magic.”

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022.