callistahogan: (Default)
So. In Creative Writing class, we had to write a story based on single-frame movie photographs. We were supposed to write a short "snapshot" of a story, and I really liked what I came up with. I thought some people here wanted to read them, so I decided to post them for some feedback.

1. Flowerbed:

It was just a part of her life at this point. There was nothing strange about sitting in her kitchen, ankle-deep in dirt and flowers. If anything, her current situation was normal—more normal than anything else that had happened of late.

The girl's strap fell from her porcelain shoulder. She reached up and put it back where it belonged, smearing mud across her shoulder and collarbone. She wiped a tear from her eyes, covering her cheeks with the toils of her springtime labor. Her hand dug deep into the pile of compost, focusing her eyes on the entrance to the kitchen.

He'll see.

The voice inside her head was vicious, full of unmitigated hatred.

He'll see what happens when he does that—not even her own consciousness could give words to what he had done—and leaves me here alone to take care of Brian and Chelsea. He'll see that it doesn't work the way he wants.

They'll all see
.

A man appeared in the entrance.

“Lydia,” he said, taking a step into the kitchen. He dropped his hands to his sides. “Lydia, what are you doing?”

She stood up, rubbing her hands on her nightgown. A smile crossed her features. “You made my life a mess,” she whispered, “so I just wanted to return the favor.”

She crossed over to where her husband was standing. She gathered the rose he carried in one dirtied hand and looked at it for a long moment. Sweetness invaded her nostrils, along with the bitter earth behind her. Her hand contracted around the rose's stem, and a thorn punctured her skin. She dropped the flower.

“Goodbye, Jonathan,” she said. “May you have fun with your new woman.”

And Lydia walked away. Both from the mess in her life, and from the man who had caused it.

2. Man and Woman:

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of my wedding night. I dreamed of the perfect white dress and the man who would sweep me off my feet, riding with me into the sunset. I dreamed of the ceremony, full of adoration and love shining from our eyes. I dreamed of everything being given to me: flowers and rings and a gentle kiss upon my lips.

I certainly did not dream that, shortly after I received that perfect ceremony, I would be standing in my room, back turned to my husband, dressed in nothing but a snow-white bra and long skirt. The porch door was open, letting in the cool breeze. Goosebumps rose along my skin, but I did not even shiver.

“Carla,” John begged. “Come back to bed?”

“I can't.”

“But you know this can't work.”

“I don't know anything.” I paused. “Of the sort.”

John let out a sigh from behind me, and I heard the bedsprings release as he stood up. I did not turn to face him, just took a step closer to the open door.

“Don't take a step closer.”

“But it's not my fault.” His voice was pleading. “You know it wasn't. I protected myself. We both did.”

“So what's the damn problem, huh?” I stood on the threshold of the door. “What's your damn problem?”

“I don't have a problem.”

I knew without even having to turn around that his hand had extended, about to touch my shoulder, but then he retreated. He walked back to the bed, back turned to mine. I didn't say a word, and neither did he for a while.

“I just don't see why you have to make such an issue out of this. We're not ready. You know we're not.”

“So you just want me to—”

The words could not force their way out of my throat.

“Yes.”

“Well, I can't.”

A heavy sigh from behind me. “Then what do we do now?”

“What do we do now?” I snorted. “What do we do? You and I... John, you and I do nothing. Understand? Nothing.”

When I turned to face him, his eyes were wet.

“Don't do this, Carla.”

“I don't have a choice.”

Another heavy sigh. It seemed all John could do lately was sigh.

“Then it's over.”

This time, I could not hold in a sob. My hands closed around my stomach as my eyes locked on John's back, walking away from me. My voice left me in a whisper.

“Fine.”

3. The Woman in the Water

Water is your worst enemy. You hate water with the fiery passion that can only come about through experiencing a terrible situation when young. You hate water so much that your chest tightens, your breath comes out in a sharp exhale, and you have to shut your eyes in order to reach a trembling hand to the tap in the shower.

It's illogical, you know it is, but you can't help it. It terrifies you. It horrifies you. It makes you want to live in filth, if only it meant that you didn't have to feel like you were about to die when that first stream of water comes down on your head. If only water didn't make you feel like you were about to drown at any moment.

It's only fitting, this fear, when you look down on the small blue and green planet and remember your death.

It happened one summer morning in Florida. It was expected to be nice, but you didn't feel like going outside. You often didn't feel like going outside, because your house was by the ocean, courtesy of your ailing mother who wanted nothing more than to look out the window and see the ocean in the mornings. You would have smiled at the irony if the mere thought of going down to the waterfront did not scare you to pieces.

The sun streamed in from your open window. You breathed in the warm air, crisp with the slightest hint of the cookies baking in the next room. It smelled delectable—but wait. You could smell something else, something that wasn't so satisfying.

It was the smell of incoming rain, damp and slightly musty.

You thought it wasn't going to be that bad. Just a little shower.

You laid down on the floor, breathing in the smell of cookies. You decided to take a nap, just a quick nap. And you ignored the TV that you had turned on that morning. As your eyes closed, a reporter appeared.

“Warning: Flash floods expected...”

You didn't hear the warning.

4. The Old Man in Front of the TV

He had been like this for as long as Samuel could remember. Dead to the world, unable to speak, staring at the TV day after day—nothing changed. Ever since he was a boy, sitting in his grandfather's lap as his mother and father looked down at them, all his Grandpa could focus on was the show in front of him.

“Grandpa,” Samuel said, walking out of the kitchen and into the living room. He surveyed his grandfather's open robe for a moment. When he was young, he would have averted his eyes—but that was not possible now. “Oh, Grandpa.”

He leaned over the arm of his grandfather's chair, careful not to get in front of the TV. He grabbed the lapels of the robe and tucked them over his grandfather's chest. He focused in on his face, but nothing.

Not even a blink.

Samuel sighed.

He should have expected that nothing would have changed, but still. He couldn't stop the pang in his chest.

I just want to know him.

Is that so impossible?


5. Man With Briefcase in Rain

“Driving is my refuge.”

“Really?” His wife's voice was tired, only a hint of confusion in her tone. “Honey, I don't see why you can't just come home. We can be your refuge. Kaitlin misses you.”

Benjamin drummed one hand against the steering wheel as he held the phone to his ear. He sighed into the phone, making static fill his ears. “Listen, Port,” he said gently. “I know that you want to help. And I'm sorry, but I just need to be alone.”

“But why?”

He didn't know how to answer. Because things aren't the same. Because after what I saw... there, things can never be the same. Being with you... being with Kaitlin... trying to pretend everything is fine... it's too much.

I want to trust you, but I can't.

Somehow he knew Portlyn would not like those answers. So he lied.

“Because things aren't working out between us,” he said. “You can feel it too.”

Portlyn's voice, when she spoke, was raw. Full of hurt. “Because you won't let me in.” Her voice cracked. “Ben, please. I know that being overseas changed you—and I'm sorry that I changed too, but—we can work this out. We have to.”

“I'm sorry.”

“No. No.” Portlyn did not give up. “No, don't say that you're sorry. You are going to come home right now, and we are going to talk about this like normal people. We can work this out. For Kaitlin's sake and for—”

Silence.

Ben almost didn't ask, but he had to.

“For whose sake?”

“For mine,” Portlyn said but much too quickly.

“Don't lie to me,” Ben said, ignoring his hypocrisy. “What's wrong?”

“I'm—”

Ben pulled over on the side of the road. The only sound was the rain pitter-pattering against the roof of his old car and the harried breathing of his wife on the other line. He gripped one hand on the steering wall tightly, turning his fingers white.

“What?”

“I'm—”

“Tell me.”

“I'm—pregnant.”

“Oh, God.”

“I'm sorry.”

Ben stared out the window. How—? He wracked his mind for any instance of intimacy since he returned, but nothing came to his mind.

“I'm staying at Charles' house tonight,” Ben breathed.

“No, Ben, please—”

Click.

Ben flipped his phone shut and threw it in the passenger seat. He stared out the windshield, eyes dry. His fingers tightened against the steering wheel, chest tightening. He almost felt an itching in the back of his eyes, but not quite. He felt dizzy, lightheaded. He smashed his hand against the dashboard of the car, making the whole thing shake.

The walls of the car closed in on him, and he had to get out. He threw the car door open, not caring where he was going. He just knew he had to get somewhere, get out of that car—that car that still had the scent of his wife's perfume in every spare crevice. He grabbed his briefcase and stepped out of the car. He stood just outside it for a moment—inhale, exhale, and then quicker: inhale, exhale—and then dropped his suitcase.

He walked to the middle of the road and stopped. He had suddenly remembered.

Charles.

He had been there with him. And while he had returned—

Charles had not.

What the hell do I do now?

6. Yo La Tengo

And then nothing turned itself inside out.

Willow.

Her name suited her personality. She was tall and thin, like a willow tree, and she swayed in the breeze. The name was frail, almost breakable, and so was she. But she was like bark, strong. She was stronger than she looked.

“What's wrong?”

This question is directed to a man, standing under a streetlight in front of a typical suburban house. He looks lost, like a puppy dog who just needs a home. He is leaning against the light, looking down at the ground, but he looks up at her voice.

“Nothing a girl like you would be interested in,” he says.

“Try me,” she says and skips over to him. “I'm a good listener.”

He hesitates. “This is a big problem for a little girl like you,” he says. “How old are you? Fifteen? Sixteen.”

“Seventeen,” Willow says. “And that's not exactly little.”

“Much smaller than me,” the man says. “I'm forty.”

“I'm an old soul,” Willow responds.

The man laughs. “Are you?” Willow smiles as the man straightens up, looking more cheerful. “Well, if you insist—I guess I could use someone to talk to.”

“Wonderful!” Willow chirps. “Can we go somewhere?”

“Sure.”

Willow entangles her arms with the man's. “What's your name?” she asks.

“William.”

Willow and William.

The lost soul and the puppy dog.

What a suitable combination, she thinks as they walk down the street, and the lost puppy lets out a laugh at a lame joke Willow cracks. Willow smiles; she's already done her job, and it hasn't even been five minutes.

She cheered someone up.

And his empty world...

Well, nothing turned itself inside out. And all because of a kind word.

I felt very much like Hemingway writing some of these. More specifically, the second one. That one was inspired by a specific short story I read of his. Anyway, I really want feedback of these stories (I want to know if I fail at fiction), so *hinthint* comment *hinthint*?
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callistahogan

March 2010

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