Tag Archives: fiction

Digging Deeper or Branching Out: What Are You Reading?

So I used to be unable to say who my favorite author was. To be honest, I still don’t know that I’d have a straight answer. But my main issue was this: I rarely read more than one book by the same issue.

What? How could that be?

I guess my problem is I’m always so eager for new and different content that I tend to just run to another author instead of checking the library catalogue to see what else that single author has written.

But in the last two years I’ve finished all the novels by two different women. And it made me start to think more about this reading dilemma. Is it better to branch out to new things, or to dig deeper into an author’s works to get a better understanding?

My college required us to take two “advanced studies” literature classes. These involved honing in on an author of my professor’s choosing. For my British literature professor it was C.S. Lewis. For my American one it was a slightly less well known historical fiction author named Denise Giardina.

IMG_2763.JPG

The thing was, I’d not only never had the chance to really dig deep into an author’s works on my own time, but I had never done it in a class either. Most of my professors had us read a dozen texts over a semester, spending a maximum of a week with each author. So to have the time to really sink into someone’s works and study them was incredible.

It gave a better feeling of the author as a whole. We noticed Lewis’s incredible metaphors, his regular and saddening misogyny, his clear influence from George MacDonald, Tolkien, and others. With Giardina we noted her themes of universal salvation, the regular brokenness between fathers and children, the continual concern for the earth and the animals.

Recently I finished reading all of Rainbow Rowell’s novels (though not her short stories yet). I’m not trying to put her on the same level as my literature classes. But I do really enjoy her works. And it was very wonderful to think by the end how much more I noticed repetition and variation between the books. Even with a teen fiction writer like Rowell, I think reading more than one book of hers has made me better away of her writing. Her simple yet humorous style. Her concern for body positivity. Her regular theme of choices and how those affect us.

The reality is I think we need to do a little of both. There are some people who just sit and read one author’s works, or maybe a couple they  rotate through. And then there are others who never touch the same author twice.

I think it’s good to have a mix. Have authors you can delve a little deeper into and understand more about their writing individually. And have other books that are a little more out of the blue. I think nothing is more important for a reader, and especially for a writer, than to absorb a variety, but maybe not at the cost of losing any sense of roots.

Do you stick with one author? Do you branch out? Do you have any authors you’ve read multiple works by? Have you ever taken a class devoted to just one writer? Any other thoughts are great too, but there are a few to get you started!

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Reading

Reading Challenge 21: A Book with a Great First Line

So there are plenty of books out there that people classify as having a great first line. But I looked over a few lists and one of those reads was a book on my list that I figured I should probably try out as an English major. And that was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Though most people probably think of A Tale of Two Cities for famous lines, or just something that’s become iconic as a whole. But I couldn’t help but love the simple yet compelling nature of Plath’s first line.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. “

Again, not overly descriptive or overwhelming, but still enough to possibly inspire curiosity. And I liked that from the start.

The book covers Esther Greenwood’s descent into madness. Between the stress of work and school and her problems with her boyfriend and her mother, Esther has a complicated and messy life at times. As she begins to breakdown the reader comes along with her on her journey.

That’s about the best I can do to summarize. It’s not a really complex plot. So with that in mind I’ll leave it there.

I picked up the book out of duty. I’d seen it on a bunch of lists of books that should be read over your lifetime. I’d also heard it called an American classic and all kinds of other things. And I’d read some of Plath’s poems for my literature classes and knew she was a renowned writer. I also will admit I figured if Kat Stratford is reading it in 10 Things I Hate About You that has to be a good sign, right?

tumblr_kvy2h02zYD1qadfqfo1_500

But when I started reading I was immediately surprised by something. With a lot of books I’ve read out of a feeling of obligation, I was thoroughly bored in the beginning. Sometimes my interest would pick up halfway through when the book became more interesting. But most often, I felt like I would never make it to anything better. But with The Bell Jar I was immediately hooked.

The first line drew me in and the simple (and yet simultaneously poetic) prose and unique story really made me want to continue reading. I found the narrator Esther sympathetic and liked her naivety. One of my professors always said an unreliable narrator is like the author and the reader playing catch over the narrators head. And I felt like I had some of that going on during the book, which was fun. I also just really enjoyed Plath’s clear wit. She made me chuckle in places, even if the story did become somber.

I saw someone review it on goodreads with a single star saying it was too depressing. Personally I feel like I’ve read books that were far sadder than this, and I though I felt terrible for Esther and the other characters, I never felt overwhelmed with sorrow over what was happening. Perhaps that’s just my own take though. I think the messages about women and their rights are still relevant today. The treatment Esther goes through is quite outdated, but it’s still interesting to see the struggles of someone who is mentally ill put onto a page, and I greatly admire Plath for being willing to share some of her own experiences. There is a good amount of racism that is somewhat concerning to a modern reader, but I think given the time period it’s at least more understandable.

Overall I’m giving this book full stars. The story is interesting and the writing is my ideal (I already know some of my followers have different opinions on what good writing is, but this is mine). I highly recommend at least trying this book.

What are some of your favorite first lines? What do you think makes a great first line?

Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Past Entries:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Soley for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

15. A Book of Poems

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Fairytales and Farewells- A Short Story

I’m feeling in the mood to write depressing fiction this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about fairy tales lately, so I thought I’d write a piece with this inspiration in mind. Enjoy!

38230_1251561949734_6692994_n

Fairytales and Farewells

So this is goodbye.

In movies they make a big deal of these kind of things. Tears and broken words and people hugging. In the traditional story motif, when a character bids family and friends farewell to set off on the quest, there’s teary smiles and well wishes. It’s not like that for me.

Goodbye is numbness. Goodbye is unreal. Goodbye is something it never should have come to. But I suppose by now I know everything has to come to an end. Even the things that once made us happiest.

I used to never feel like I belonged. I was the awkward uncomfortable child who spent recess on the bench with a book of fairytales to hide the fact that I didn’t have any friends. I faced teasing at school, intense conversations my parents didn’t think I could hear at home. And I began to be aware that no matter what I did I would never be quite right. Normalcy wasn’t an option. So maybe there was something else.

I used to imagine I was a foundling. That one day I’d go back to my people and find the real place where I belonged. Maybe I was just like the little ugly duckling, waiting to swim among my fellow swans. In the meantime there was misery, and I began to despair that redemption never would come.

But when I was ten was the first time I met Zayn.

Another day on the playground bench, ignored by the teacher on duty as a few of the boys in my class through balls my direction, made sneering remarks. I huddled in on myself, book up to my face as though to shield me from the world. And for a while I absorbed myself into fiction and I could forget who I was and where I was and everything that was wrong and difficult and hurting.

It was his voice that drew me out of where I’d buried myself.

“Hiya.”

I looked up to see him perched a few feet away on the bench, blue eyes staring at me intensely, this crooked smile never wavering.

“Hi,” I murmured, sliding the book down.

“I’m Zayn, nice to meet you,” he said.

I managed to stammer out my own introductions. My fingers were tight on my book. Could I go back to reading? I didn’t know. Was that rude? But did it really matter considering who I was and what other people thought of me already? Zayn was new, he’d probably figure out soon I wasn’t worth his time.

“I like reading too,” Zayn said. “If I bring a book out next recess, can I read with you?”

I nodded and then ducked my head back towards my book, trying to hide my embarrassment. Zayn didn’t seem to figure out I wanted to be alone. After a long moment of him sitting there in silence, I turned to offer the book I was reading.

“It’s Hans Christian Anderson. Do you want to read with me?” I asked.

He flashed pearly teeth and reached for the book. We flipped back to the beginning and for a minute I thought we’d just go about reading ourselves. Then Zayn started speaking out the words, voice slow but steady, keeping himself flowing through the story of the small mermaid trying to win her prince.

For the next year of grade school, we spent recess like that. Always with a book, always with each other. Sharing a simple love of reading that none of the other kids ever seemed to understand. Hiding in the realm of books that had come to be my safe haven.

Zayn was always there. He didn’t ever question the way I dressed, or when I’d tell him I didn’t want to go home because mom and dad were fighting again, or when I came to school with a bruise on my cheek. He told the other boys to piss off and kicked the basketballs they threw at me back in their faces.

For a while I was almost convinced Zayn had slipped out of the pages of one of my books, or straight out of my imagination. But storybook characters can’t hurt you. People you imagine don’t break your heart.

We were friends all through our young years of school, but puberty was when disaster struck.

I hadn’t anticipated it, but it made sense. Zayn was the one who had rescued me. It wasn’t dissimilar from the princesses in fairytales. I was his damsel. And if that was the case, it made sense I might unintentionally hand over my heart. What I was oblivious to, was the fact that Zayn never once saw us that way. For him, I was a fellow nerdy classmate he’d befriended on the playground. And nothing more.

So it was logical that a few months ago he started dating this pretty girl in math class. I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I shouldn’t have been so angry. I should never have shouted at him one day. And above all, I should never have told him how it made me feel.

It’s a funny thing. As children adults tell us so much how important it is to be honest and voice what you really want to say. Especially about feelings. There’s a whole lecture from the school counselor on conflict solving the little I felt ___ when you ____. It sounds all nice on paper. In the real world it sucks.

Zayn tried to pretend it was fine when I finally worked up the courage to tell him. He apologized and said he respected that and appreciated honesty. But the Zayn I knew died that day, replaced by a stony replica who stopped inviting me over and sitting with me at lunch and telling other people to not pick on me.

After six years, the barrage of those old emotions coming back was overwhelming. For a good portion of my life I’d stopped feeling like I didn’t belong. I’d begun to feel I had a place. Maybe I wasn’t quite so much of a mistake as I’d felt like the beginning portion. But with Zayn gone, those painful emotions fell back into place, sweeping me up in a drowning tide I could not escape.

If I was truly a damsel, and my circumstances were my tower and dragon, and Zayn was not my knight…what was there for me? Few fairy tales ever answers that for you. Almost every princess has a prince, as sexist and frustrating as that can be. But if you’re helpless to stop any of it yourself, what is left? Sure self-empowerment is great, unless you’ve got no energy to fight in the first place. I might as well be Sleeping Beauty for all the energy and motivation I had to make life change.

So this is goodbye. The realization that whatever I had is gone. That whatever there is in the future I don’t want to face alone. That whatever happens, I am incapable of handling this level of grief and farewells and endings. So often the story ends with a kiss, a wedding, a happily ever after. Stories don’t tend to prepare you for when they don’t. So this is mine.

I sit here in these last moments looking down at the churning sea below. Was it supposed to come to this? Is this what love is supposed to feel like, stabbing in your chest and panic in your mind and utter overwhelming inability to move at the mere thought—

But none of that will matter anymore. After all this time, none of it has. My sacrifices, my honesty, my bravery. The few little bits and pieces I’d cradled inside me for so long, wasted on a foolish boy who cared nothing for such fragile bits of vulnerability.

I have nothing left here. I have nothing to fight for. I have no ending in mind, and so I depart on this quest in hopes of finding a happier ending to what I have now, in hopes of finding what’s right and true. In hopes of finding where I truly belong, hoping to make my home in these icy waters, my portal to the next place. I’m going and there is no stopping me…

So this is goodbye.

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

On with the Show- Fiction attempts

This is an exercise I wrote a few weeks ago playing with point of view for my fiction class. While I’m not sure the transitions between character’s minds works, it’s something I thought I’d share with you for this week. So without further ado, enjoy!

On with the Show

John wondered what was the appropriate thing to do in this situation. He shifted a bit from his spot watching his wife. Brenda stood just a few too many feet away from him for things to appear normal, but he bit his tongue on the issue. Her eyes kept darting back towards the hallway, shoulders stiff, head turning a tad too quickly a few times too many. He wondered vaguely why she hadn’t just left him in for the night. Wouldn’t that have been nice? Flipping to a random news channel and leaving it on for background noise, petting the cat a bit, grabbing a beer and kicking his feet up without fear of Brenda slapping at his toes with one of her magazines. Well, that was too much to hope for he supposed. He subtly adjusted his beret so Brenda wouldn’t see his facial expression.

Carol was late. Brenda glanced at her watch for the fifth time since they’d walked into the building. She shifted her purse and the plastic Target bag holding the bouquet she’d made John go out and buy. Her fingers tugged at the blooms, checking for withering ones. She huffed yet again. John had bought a handful of marigolds. Men were so oblivious sometimes. When she’d said bouquet she’d expected him to do better than to pick out a flower representing grief. He might as well just stick basil in it for good measure. After all, a hateful plant would do him justice. She glanced over to eye his baggy blue shirt with distaste. Why on earth did he choose clothes so ill-suited to his gangly frame? Sometimes it felt like she was really seeing him for the first time, like someone had flipped on a light switch in a dim room. She was about to remark that his beret was crooked, when the soft clip clop of heels distracted her, pulling her attention back to the tightly bundled figure of Carol. Sighing, Brenda fixed a little smile to her mouth without worrying if it matched her eyes.

“Sorry I’m late,” Carol said with a little huff both in an effort to catch her breath and to dispel the cold air from her lungs. She offered a feeble smile to the couple, catching just a whiff of the anxiety between them. Then again, she couldn’t imagine how difficult this had to be. She glanced at the large bouquet bagged in Brenda’s hand, then the little orange gift bag John was clutching, knuckles going white. Well, best to come well stocked to a starring daughter’s opening night. Especially if you also bore news of divorce. Carol shook off the thought and glanced at her friend more warmly. “Well, shall we go in?”

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

I Do Not

Decided to give a snippet of fiction after all the other stuff I’ve been posting lately. I’m taking a fiction writing class right now and we had an exercise the other day supposed to help us work on point of view. We were supposed to describe an incident at a wedding from a variety of different viewpoints (a first person peripheral, third person objective, third person limited). Feel free to do this exercise on your own practicing POV, or just using the prompt to get you started on a story or poem. It can be entertaining actually. If you do write one and want to post it, feel free to link back to my blog. I’ll share any response I get. Anyhow, this was my favorite so I’m sharing it here:

I Do Not

Every little girl is supposed to have big and exciting dreams about her wedding. But after being a part of my cousin Allison’s, I’m not so sure I ever want to get married at all.

Before this summer I’d only ever seen weddings in movies. You know, like when Cinderella gets her shoe on and then she’s in the same dress but it’s white with a veil and she rushes off and loses her shoe again. It’s like the same ending to every princess movie ever. Except Frozen, cause mom says it’s progresso-ive.

I mean most of it was ok I guess. Allison got a ring and she cried. And she asked me to be her flower girl and cried. And she got a dress and cried some more. For being a happy occasion she sure didn’t seem very happy, but mom always shushed me when I tried to ask what was wrong.

Allison walked out looking like a white glitter store had exploded. And she and Gerald did the whole long saying promises about stuff like being sick and being healthy and all that cause apparently sometimes when you’re sick people stop wanting to be married so they have to promise to be married anyways. And they did the gross kiss stuff and everybody clapped for some reason.

But it was during the after part- the inception- that everything went really bad. I had wandered over to try to sneak more dessert while my mom was distracted talking to Aunt Judy. And that’s when I saw it. A man in a tux had his hand on Allison’s arm, holding it tighter than you hold a baseball bat. And Allison’s face had gone all tomato soup colored like mine does when I say something I’m not supposed to.

They were yelling at each other, but I wasn’t sure what exactly they were talking about. Mom always says my leaves-dropping is a bad habit.

“You’re not right for him!” he snapped.

Allison shot him a look. “I don’t know what you want but you leave us alone you hear!”

My forehead crinkled up as I concentrated on listening. I grabbed some more cake, but even as I stuffed big pieces in my mouth I was more focused on what was going on with Allison.

Of course, right around that time Gerald suddenly seemed to appear out of nowhere. Guess he had to swoop in like Superman to save her from the bad man. Except, instead of going all hero on the bad guy, he started yelling at Allison instead and then some at the other guy who was called Ron. And the guy Ron kept saying the word love over and over again to Gerald and Allison started freaking out real bad, especially when Ron said that they’d apparently been sleeping together for years. I didn’t really understand what everyone was so angry about. I have sleepovers all the time and nobody gets mad, but everybody seemed all upset, especially Allison who went from tomato soup to stop sign red, and Gerald started stammering that he could explain.

Either way there was a lot of yelling and people started noticing something wasn’t quite right and soon there was more commotion and hollering. It’s funny cause mom always tells me that I’m not supposed to yell and I’m a big girl so I can talk in a normal voice, but for some reason all the adults got into their yelling and didn’t seem to notice that they were breaking the rules. And next thing I knew Allison was slapping Gerald, and then the guy Ron was punching at Allison, and suddenly he and Gerald were wrestling on the ground like me and daddy always used to do. And Allison was screaming and crying some more, but I wasn’t sure what that meant since she’d been crying all along.

Mom took me home sometime after that. And all I know now is that Allison and Gerald don’t see each other anymore, which is weird since they just got married. So I guess those vows things aren’t really that important after all. And I saw Gerald once at the mall having lunch with Ron, so I guess they still get to be friends and have sleepovers. But mom says I can’t talk about it, and all Allison says when I see her is that men are bass tards, which I still don’t understand and mom gets mad at me whenever I repeat it.

So that’s why I never ever want to get married. But mom says I might change my mind later. I think she’s got it all wrong.

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

Blind- A Halloween Short Story

In honor of Halloween I thought I’d write another short(ish… ok not really too short) story. Um…I kind of thought I knew where I was going with this, and then I lost it. Sooo…it probably will mostly just seem like weird ramblings having some vague connection to Halloween while trying to have a message too and failing at both. But hey, I can’t just work out the kinks and post it another day…so this is as good as it gets. Here it is!

My pumpkin I carved this year.

          My pumpkin I carved this year.

Blind

Fred looked cautiously out the dark window into the foggy night. He was so sick of this. Always feeling the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. Always looking behind him. Always wondering if something was going to jump out of the shadows and turn on him. For days now he’d hardly slept.

He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror, jumped at the very sight, trembled momentarily before trying to steady his already racing heart. Darkened shadows permanently affixed beneath his eyes greeted his sight. He looked at his greasy unkempt hair, his sunken cheeks. If he had once been handsome he didn’t remember when. The anxiety building within him was beginning to utterly overwhelm him. If this was his enemy’s goal then the man was succeeding.

Or perhaps man was too kind of a word.

Fred curled in on himself slightly on the couch, wondering when things had gotten so bad. His thoughts raced in frantic circles while he tried to steady himself, pull it back together.

Man, no. That was not the right definition. Though in his crazed state perhaps these things were better left unconsidered. He shuddered at the mere thought of his stalker, the fanged and furred menace that had only recently made him start questioning his grip on reality. Monster, yes.

The teenager wondered again briefly what might happen if he told someone. His parents perhaps. Would they send him to the  madhouse he so deserved? Perhaps. He wished for the seventh time that night that they hadn’t gone to the party. Maybe they could have protected him. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so alone and defenseless on this lonely Halloween night. Especially since some terrible beast was after him.

He’d been walking home probably two weeks ago when it had happened. A strange man with fangs and fur and claws had approached him, growled his name, chased after him when he fled. Fred could still picture those glowing feral eyes, the horns perched on curly hair. The little abnormalities that made this devil all too frightening to behold.

A knock suddenly echoed through the empty house, interrupting his memories. Fred froze in fright for a moment, before reassuring himself it was probably just trick-or-treaters out looking for candy and not really caring that the porch light was off. Idiots. He could be a child-molester, for all they knew.

Fred rose carefully from the sofa and ventured towards the door, carefully trying to avoid any line of sight from the windows, tiptoeing close. Another grave knock rang out in the house. Fred paused for just a moment before venturing a tad bit closer, peering carefully out the little window and hoping he wouldn’t be seen back. He sighed in relief at the sight before him, undid both locks and opened the door.

The girl standing there brightened at the sight of him, dark pretty eyes sparkling, lashes batting in amusement. Fred felt his heart lift slightly, pounding now for a different reason entirely as he took in the short ruffled skirt, fishnets, and low cut bodice. The pink did fine things for her coloring, brought out her fair skins hues, made her dark hair seem more lustrous.

“Princess?” Fred guessed.

She giggled and did a little curtsy that did nothing to lengthen the already ridiculously revealing skirt. “Yep. And what are you… a zombie?”

Fred gave a weak smile and glanced around, suddenly remembering what had caused his appearance to so rapidly decline. ‘Um…you’d better come in.”

He locked the door behind her, though she seemed utterly oblivious to the clicking of the bolts. She examined the house around her with careful attention to the details before spinning to face him once more all smiles. Fred shifted from foot to foot, trying to figure out what Morgana, the prettiest girl in his high school was doing on his doorstep on a chilly October night. Nonetheless he tried to put aside his confusion and fix a dashing presence to himself, asking her to have a seat and offering her something to drink.

Morgana let those long lashes flutter against her pale cheek, and smiled again, though this time with teeth. Had Fred not been exhausted he might have noticed right away, but it took him a minute. Fangs. There were two white glittering fangs situated amongst her other perfect teeth. And not the plastic kind either. They were too real for that. Fred took a step back, gulping. Beauty had never seemed so false.

“What’s wrong, Fred? Weren’t you offering me a drink?” she purred.

Fred shook his head and stepped back once again, back bumping awkwardly against a chair blocking his path. He tried to lubricate his throat enough to allow sound to escape, but his mouth hung open as dry as the cold fall air. Nothing came to him. His already sleep-deprived brain struggled to come up with something to say. Words failed him utterly.

“I think I’ll take that drink,” she whispered. “I think I’ll take it now in fact.”

In a childhood move, he closed his eyes as though hoping this might banish the terror before him. If you couldn’t see it, it couldn’t get you. Wasn’t that how it worked? He recalled years and years of pulling bedsheets over his head, hoping maybe this would keep the monsters away. But the monsters were here. And they were very real. And very much not deterred by him closing his eyes.

A soft breath fell on his bare neck causing more shudders to course through him in repulsion at the very thought of her so near him. What once would have had him shivering for different reasons now was utter disgust in his eyes. Soft lips descended and brushed against his collar, a mockery of something he might once have desired. Fred might have once desired to flee, but in his weariness there was nothing. Only the desire for it all to be over. The desire for sleep, dreams, and of course death. He presented his neck just as he might with an executioners axe, readying himself for the inevitable.

It never came.

A crash echoed in the little room. His eyes popped open gasping, looking at the girl before him who had been all too ready to sink her teeth into his throat, confirming what he had indeed imagined and feared. But his gaze was drawn back to the front window where his horned-assailant stood growling and snarling as his body tangled with the blinds he’d crashed into after breaking through the glass. The cool autumn air rushed to fill the room, replacing all heat with its biting chill. Fred breathed deeply trying again to steady his racing heart. The smell of rotting leaves filled his nostrils as wind rushed into the room.

“You Monster,” Morgana hissed. “Stay back, he’s mine.”

The creature still wrestling with the blinds snarled at her, eyes lighting in the darkness with something so utterly inhuman that Fred couldn’t even place it on the spectrum of emotion. He suddenly snapped to motion himself, pushing the chair to topple behind him and then backing further away from the beautiful girl so intent on sucking the very life out of him. Literally.

There was a moment of calm, and then everything happened at once. Morgana lunged at Fred causing him to topple backwards, just as the creature untangled himself and rose on shaky legs. He let out a growl and moved forward at a pace unknown to man. His clawed hands found Morgana’s body and grabbed for it, picking her up as though she was a Barbie doll. Fred again let his eyes close in a defensive reflex. He curled slightly in on himself once more, listened to the growls and screams before there was silence.

The rustle of the leaves on outside greeted his ears, but otherwise there was nothing. After a long moment he slowly looked up again, finding Morgana’s body strewn across the ground, the creature standing panting over it. Yellowed eyes found Fred and seemed to deem him unhurt.

“Why?” Fred managed to whisper, still not willing to rise from his place on the floor.

“Not all is as it appears,” the creature hissed, voice still a deep guttural groan that normally would have frightened the wits out of the boy. But he was already feeling crazed enough he didn’t flinch away. Merely looked at this strange beast that had guarded him, protected him, killed for him.

“No,” Fred whispered, pulling himself up to hands and knees and then slowly moving to stand. The creature growled and swooped forward, clawed hand catching the boy before he could tumble over. Fred’s eyes were drawn down to the sharp nails now resting lightly on his bare arm. There was such gentleness in the way he was held up, in spite of the deadliness that had caused Morgana to be killed.

“You must rest,” the creature said. “You need sleep.”

The boy didn’t protest, lost for any sense of energy or thought in the moment. This creature that had so driven him to this point, was now the one leading him back towards healing. How could that be? The girl he’d thought was beautiful was evil and mad. This creature he thought malignant had in fact disproved his trepidation by being his rescuer, and now his caretaker.

“What’s your name?” Fred asked gently.

If such a ferocious mouth could manage a grin this was it, the twisting of the corners, a little drool falling down a fanged tooth. “Costin. You are kind, asking such, Fred.”

The boy nodded, too wearied to get anything else out. “Was…was this why you approached me on the street?”

There was the briefest nod that Fred almost feared his addled brain had imagined it. The beast spoke once more. ” Seek to know no more,” he whispered.

His eyelids felt heavy. Had those parting words been a spell? Into the darkness his mind slowly crept, disallowing him from rejoining reality, whatever that might be.

-*-

Monday morning. Fred’s gaze could not be drawn away from Morgan Elliot’s form as she giggled and flounced across the checkered cafeteria floor. He remembered his dream so clearly, the strangeness of whatever had happened Halloween night still lingering in his mind. Morgana… No, Morgan, was busy giggling away with her friends, looking at him occasionally while batting those long lashes. He was trying to separate the dream Morgana from the real Morgan, but it was difficult.

On Saturday he’d gone downstairs to find no signs that his Halloween night had been a reality. There was no body, or broken glass. The room was put to rights and his parents asked after him with no sign that they’d sensed anything the least bit wrong. And Fred had been left to constant pondering about the strange enigma of that Friday October night.

He was drawn from his thoughts by Morgan’s shrieks.

“Monster, get away!” she hissed, baring her teeth in a disgusted grimace, dark eyes fixed on the boy who’d tried to sit at her table.

Fred looked up at that. Monster. It seemed too familiar. He fixed his gaze on Gus, the boy who had shuffled to his feet and was edging away. Fred’s heart clenched as he watched the boy’s uncertain gait move towards the nearest empty table.

After just the briefest moment pondering it over, Fred rose and marched past Morgan. She giggled and simpered at him, trying to reach out and grab his arm. He withdrew his hand as though burned, glared at her, and resumed his resolute walk to the previously empty table, slamming his backpack onto the bench and sitting down across from the rejected boy.

Gus glanced up, golden hazely eyes meeting Fred’s blue. He smiled a bit uncertainly, the grin lopsided as always on his somewhat disfigured face. Fred hesitated but smiled back at the boy, not knowing how he’d never seen it before. He’d never really looked at this other boy in earnest, never tried much to see beneath the scars of untold abuse and hurt, knowing so little beyond that this boy bore a face only plastic surgery could probably ever cure.

“Hi, can I sit here?” he asked.

Gus nodded, though there was just a moment of hesitance. “You’re Fred,” he whispered, voice hoarse as though not used to being taken up in speech.

Fred smiled. “Yes, I’m Fred. And you’re Gus.”

The boy’s eyes lit with something akin to happiness, though Fred probably would have gone so far as to call it joy. The deformed mouth stretched a bit more to try to accommodate his crooked teeth into a blinding smile. Fred let his own smirk rise to the occasion. Never had insane dreams had so sweet of consequences.

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

-William Shakespeare Macbeth

________________________________________________________________________________

Partially inspired by this prompt: http://themeasureofabook.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/writing-prompt-32/

4 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing Prompts

Closing the Door- a Writing Prompt

I made myself do a writing prompt today. I noticed short stories were one of the top votes for what people wanted more of, so here’s a short story in dedication of this weeks Daily Post Writing Challenge:

Write a new piece using Nighthawks by Edward Hopper as your inspiration.

nighthawks_by_edward_hopper_1942

So here’s my response to the challenge. Decided to just take my own thoughts on it and roll with it to create a short story.

Closing the Door

The door hasn’t opened since I’ve arrived. It’s a lonely night at Phillies, my typical haunt on quiet nights like these. The cold October air makes a nice cup of coffee in hand a welcome treat. I sip at the bitter drink with relish, glad of the distracting nip the heat gives my tongue. Makes it easier to forget the long work week I’ve had and the emptiness back home waiting for Annie to get back. Ill mothers in New York sure don’t make anything any easier. I’m getting sick of it to be honest.

Hal is working busily behind the counter. He turns and gives me a smile, obviously glad of the company on this lonely fall evening, only the pelting rain on the window giving any noise in the little room.

“Your dame gone again?” he asks curiously, wiping off the counter yet again til it shines. I almost pity the man, forced to try to find work to keep him busy. I hope business doesn’t stay too slow for long.

I smile at the question nonetheless. He always asks after Annie, even though they’ve never made acquaintance. Still, it’s nice to have someone to talk to about it.

“Yes. Caught a train sometime yesterday morning. Thinking maybe we ought to convince the mother to move closer. Can’t keep this traveling going every weekend. It’s not working.”

Hal nods understandingly, probably thinking of his own wife Linda back home with the kids. He’s a lucky man Hal. A wife. A family. I suppose it’s why I worry so for Phillies, not only for my own comfort but to keep this good man employed bringing back bread to put on the table. I often envy him, til I see how empty the place is.

I sip at my drink reflecting on that. I’m just thinking of getting something to eat when the door opens, a bell jingling merrily in its wake. I turn and glance, only to have my jaw drop at the sight before me.

A red-haired woman waltzes in, a man in a smart suit tagging after, holding the door ajar so she can saunter up to the counter and drop into a seat. My jaw is hanging half open, unable to believe it.

She leans against the dark wood, her arms in pale contrast. I gaze cautiously at the red dress adorning her slim form, the wide neckline, short sleeves, the flirty skirt riding up slightly as she sits down. Her dark heels click as she situates herself, turning the briefest glance to her companion beside her, his eyes darting anxiously back as though to ensure all is well.

The tension in every muscle of his broad shoulders is visible beneath the neat tailored lines of his suit, a puppy on the verge of doing some trick, trying to ensure he does it to perfection. His large hand reaches to join hers, swallowing it up. He sits calmly, tall frame hunching comfortably over the counter like his companion, knees folding up neatly to rest on the lower rung of the bar stool. He smiles, lips flitting up as his blue eyes journey back towards the woman who has so captivated his attention.

I sit there unsure how to even react. The cup of coffee in my hand has paused in its journey midway to my mouth, the harsh smell invading my nostrils, wafting into my mouth I’ve left ajar allowing me to taste the teasing steam. A basic instinct of wanting to flee happens first, then a second to rise and take action against events unfolding. But I do neither. Merely shut my trap with a loud clap and sit there gazing on at the scene playing out before me.

“What’s buzzin’ cousin?” Hal cheerfully addresses the man. “You and the girl having a nice night on the town?”

The man gives a crooked grin showing pearly white teeth, looking back at his companion for just an instant before settling into more easy conversation. “Sure are, aren’t we, doll?”

She gives a polite smile, hand moving to smooth the fabric of her dress. “Never better.”

“You two goin’ steady then?” Hal asks.

The man just shrugs, shoulders rising noncommittally to only semi-affirm anything. Hal chuckles seemingly pleased with this answer.

“The usual? Cup of joe?”

She nods and he answers for them both. I sit there feeling invisible for a brief moment, though it suits me well enough. I lean over my cup that’s redescended to the bar, sitting hunched with my fedora partly obscuring my face. Thankfully the couple is completely focused on Hal now handing over two steaming orders, smiling all the while.

“You sure are all decked out,” Hal says, still eager to make conversation as always in spite of the way the couple seems to be looking at each other as though asking for privacy. They seem caught in each other’s gazes, as two lovebirds too often are. “Special occasion?”

A rumbling chuckle comes from the man. “Just treating my baby. I’ve always loved spoiling her.”

“He sure is stuck on you,” Hal says. “Best wishes to you both.”

He turns towards me, but I’ve grabbed a newspaper and am taking to perusing it, though mostly my gaze is moving back and forth, not really paying attention to anything in print. The story in front of me is much more interesting. And I’m not giving up my observation for anything. Not when it seems so apparent that I’ve become utterly invisible to them both, able to view everything I normally wouldn’t.

They chat a bit, quietly amongst themselves, fingers lingering together against the dark wood, his large ones caressing hers. There’s a moment where I think perhaps I’ve been noticed, but curiously familiar eyes seem oblivious, focused only on the sight of love. Hal has busied himself again. He shoots me strange looks every now and then, but I’m just focused on the newspaper, my fedora low over my face.

After what seems an eternity the couple rises. The man thanks Hal with a bright smile, and takes the woman on his arm. She grasps it all too eagerly, clutching her purse in the other hand while looking ready to race out the door. To go home I can only assume, though to what I try not to let my imagination wander too far.

Hal bids them farewell. “Come again Andrew. Nice having you round the place again.”

He smiles and tips his hat to reveal the sandy blond hair underneath. For just a moment I fear he’ll turn and see me, but he doesn’t. And neither does his date, still hanging on his arm. Then the bell rings again as the door opens for the second time before shutting firmly behind them. I glance into the dark street and watch their shadowed forms disappear into the night.

“What’s wrong with you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Hal questions, reaching over to grab their cups and clear the empty counter once more.

“I suppose I did,” I whisper, my voice breaking in spite of my desire to keep it together. I can’t help it. My throat clenches, eyes sting as tears attempt ruthlessly to break free from well designed barriers. “I suppose this means one thing…that Annie is dead to me.”

Hal blanches suddenly. “That’s Annie? You’re joking!”

I shake my head, unable to voice the truth in my broken state. Something in me feels like it’s been torn out. My chest aches, my stomach clenches painfully. I suddenly don’t even want to think of food let alone consume it, no matter how hungry I am.

“Oh Tom, I’m so sorry,” he whispers.

“How long have they been coming here?” I asked, though I’m unsure I want the answer. Everything is adding up now. The weekends in New York. The excuses. The phone calls to give reason for absence. It’d been becoming more and more. I suppose I always should have known.

“A few months,” Hal whispers. “I mean Andrew comes in here all the time with girls. But this one seems to be a keeper. I don’t usually bother to learn their names…I mean…it just isn’t practical. But if I’d known…I swear Tom I would have told you.”

I shake my head. I know full well it’s not his fault. He could never have figured it out. Not with how much he remains in the dark. I always should have known it wasn’t real. It’s me who should have shut the door long ago when I had a chance, when I first thought maybe Annie wasn’t really in love with me.

“What can I do?” Hal asks.

I push my coffee away and put a few bills down. “Take this. That’s it. I…I’ll figure something out myself.”

Hal nods, though he is still looking at me with lines in his usually youthful energetic face. I push off the bar stool, head towards the door, not eager to look towards him again to see the mixture of shocked emotions.

“I’m so sorry, Tom.”

“So am I.”

The bell tingles again overhead and I’m stepping out the door that opened only twice in my hour at Phillies. I shut it slowly behind me, and the sound echoes in the empty air. I wonder suddenly if this is the last time I’ll ever shut it. I don’t see why not. I walk down the same dark street their shadows traversed moments earlier. I walk into the night not looking back. Only knowing that the further I get from the light of the restaurant, the darker things will get. But perhaps that’s alright. I’ll let the night swallow me up, let myself forget awhile. Take my time and figure out how to face the reality, that nothing will ever quite be the same again.

11 Comments

Filed under Writing, Writing Prompts