Wednesday, August 25, 2010

21 Robert Creeley

This one needs a bit of explanation, here was the prompt: "Imagine hearing a conversation between two intimates - a married couple, siblings, or old friends who have weathered many fights. Your observer has happened upon these two people in the middle of a heated, emotional conversation. The person who hears this talk cannot be seen. Work at both the intensity of the words and the inarticulateness a moment like this can provoke. 500 words. "

I inched opened the door until I could make out the back of her head, brown hair undone from its usual sloppy knot, intertwined with the fingers of her left hand, listening to Sarah, who spoke from the other side of the table. Mugs of now cold tea sat between them.

"She wouldn't want him to have it."

"How would we know that for sure? She never said she wanted him completely forgotten either. He deserves something."

"For what? Living?"


"Living isn't something to be rewarded for. Good for you, you're alive. You don't get shwag for breathing."

My own breath punctuated the silent moments after that statement.

"This tea has gone limp. Want some more, I'll make more water?"

" No, I can't have anything else. I feel like I'm going to fall over anyways."

More breathing. More time.

"He can have it." Sarah's voice. "I don't care anymore. What's the big deal anyways? It won't make up for anything or change anything, but it will make at least one person feel better after this whole shitfest."

"Do you think she loved him?"

"I don't know. Maybe? She must have in the beginning. I mean, she had you after she had me, that had to mean something. I was the spite baby, but you were something else."

"Why close him off?"

"Do you wish she hadn't?"

"I wish she had at least let us decide for ourselves what the terms could be."

"It's not a contract, Jess."

"Isn't it? Isn't everything a contract? I agree to do this, you agree to do that? I won't hurt you, you won't hurt me? Conversations are contracts, we're all trying to buy into the same idea that people are rational and there are reasons for why people do and say what they do and say."

"If that were true there would be consequences for breaking it."

"Well, tada, look where we are now. Let him have it. Keep our end of the deal even if he doesn't know or care what the terms were in the first place."

"Ok. Fine. Ok, if you really think so."

She rose to clear the mugs, I let the door close and crept back upstairs to the guest room.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

54: Coincidence

The ring felt heavy in his pocket, like doom in metallic circular form, like a bad dream you couldn't shake, like an old bruise from a fight you couldn't win and never should have gotten involved with in the first place, like scar tissue, like two day old bread, like the shit end of the stick. The ring jangled against his keys, and sounded all of this with every shining tinkle.

She had said no. Not only no, she had taken one look at the ring, grabbed it from his hands, peered into the inside of the band, and looked at him as if he was a stranger with heinous intentions. Raping intentions.

Where did you get this?

He didn't answer right away. Who wants to admit that they got a wedding ring from a pawn shop? Who wants vegetables over cake?

Where did you find this ring?

Zales, I think.

You think?

Yeah, I forget the name of the place. Are you ok? Do you not like it? We can take it back, we can get anything you like.

She paused, considering him for a while. The crazed look faded from her eyes, replaced by..pity? Apathy? The look an adult gives a wayward child with a hand caught in the cookie jar?

I'm going to ask you one more time where you got this ring.

Can I ask you why you care so much?

No you can't.

More staring. More seconds ticking by like so many commas, so much perfunctory punctuation of time.

I don't remember.

Then I don't want to marry you. I don't want to ever see you again. Ever.

It wasn't until he was outside on the doorstep that he thought to look again at the ring, to investigate what initially caught her attention so vigorously.

Then he found it. The inscription.

The inscription to Anna, from her former husband who died what, five, six years ago?

He had bought, in a pawn shop, Anna's old engagement ring.

And now. What now? Return it? Pawn it someplace else, hope for at least settling even?

The worst part was that her first husband, Rob, had been a great guy, a love to end all loves. Even getting a date with Anna had been hard going. The first year felt like a constant seventh grade dance; always circling each other at arm's length. Even when they slept together (which was good despite the distance), it was more like he was making love to a half person, an idea of a woman, than a whole one.

This kept him interested. What was the whole Anna like? Like in bed, like making coffee, like swearing in traffic, like walking through the snow with her breath in foggy swirls around her face? Better than? More than?

Better than. More than.

It took him three years to find the better, the more. And now? Now nothing but a jokingly horrible coincidence jingling in a pocket on the way to a pawn shop.