Friday, January 25, 2008

Canceled Date

Up at the festival, up too late, couldn't sleep without writing. Enjoy:

In a hoarse voice better suited to a motor engine than a soft, delicate girl she tells me over the phone, “They sent me home sick from work today.”

“Are you okay?” I wonder, concerned.

“I’m fine. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to make it tonight. I want to so bad, though.”

“I want you to.” As I speak, I imagine her lips coming closer and closer to mine, but, as if it were in a bad dream, they never touch.

She coughs away from the phone, then, “When is the show again?”

“It’s at 9:30, but listen, sweetheart, if you’re not feeling well, you don’t have to come. I’ll just bring someone else. I don’t want you to come out if you’re not feeling well on my account.” It kills me to say that. Of course I want her to come.

“Well…” As she debates with herself, I can almost feel my cheek pressed to hers.

“Seriously, if you’re sick I don’t want you to feel obligated to come out here to see me. I’m not that important.”

“Yes, you are….”

“No I’m not. I just want to make sure you feel better. We can go out next week. What day works for you?"

“But you got tickets and everything.”

“I know, I know…” It’s killing me. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling the memory of her scent into my lungs: a mix of a sweet smelling lotion, chewing gum and her shampoo.

“Are you sure?”

“Am I sure? I want you to come out. You said you were sick and weren’t sure you could make it.” I can almost feel my fingertips brushing the hair out of her eyes, around her ear and caressing down the back of her neck.

It gives me the chills.

“I do want to come out, I’m just so sick.” She coughs again, almost as though she’s trying to punctuate her statement.

“It’s okay. I want you to feel better.” It’s true. But I wish I could do that with her here.

“Well, can we go out Monday? I’m off work.”

“If you’re feeling better. I’ll take the whole day off.” I would, too.

“You’re so sweet.”

“So, Monday is it?”

“I’ll let you know if I’m feeling better.”

“I will.”

“Okay. It’s a date if you’re better."

“All right. Good-bye then.”

“Good-bye.”

It wasn’t until after I hung up that I thought to say, “I love you.” Aside from this, I hadn’t talked to her much in three weeks; we’ve both been working so hard.

I take a deep breath, trying to come back to reality and it’s almost too hard. I haven’t been close to her in so long that I can feel the phantom imprint of her pressed against my body, realizing all too soon that it’s just longing.

Will Monday never come fast enough?

Perhaps then I’ll finally muster the courage to kiss her, but I'm doubting it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Old Mr. Fowler

This short story was an exercise I did for myself. I gave myself an hour to write a phone conversation. About a fourth of the way through, I realized the time period was a bit ambiguous. So, the first 1/3 of the piece seems like it could be today, but then I got the feeling it was set at the dawn of the telephone era.

I don't know....

Anyways, here it is:

“Hello?” he answered into the phone.

“Is Henry there?” came the gravelly, unsure voice of the aged man on the other end.

“Henry? No one here by that name.”

“Is this little Tom Spade?”

“Yes. May I ask who’s calling?”

“This is John Fowler.” A ghost from the distant past.

“Mr. Fowler?”

“Yes, son.”

“Wow. It’s had to have been fifteen years, at least.”

“Seventeen.”

“Golly.”

“I’ve been gone for a long time.”

“You can say that again.”

“Well, I’ve been back now a week and I can’t seem to find anyone I know. They’re either dead or gone. I happened to see your ad in the newspaper for your shop and thought you might be able to point me to your father.”

“I wish I could, Mr. Fowler. But, truth be told, my father and I haven’t spoken in quite a while. I’ve heard he moved out of the state, but I certainly wouldn’t know how to get a hold of him.”

“You haven’t spoken to him?”

“No, sir. We had a bit of a falling out and sort of went our separate ways.”

“How long has it been since you talked to him?”

“Oh… Nine, maybe ten years. We stopped speaking shortly after he and my mother separated.”

“Your parents separated?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why? I mean, if you don’t mind my asking.”

“Lots of reasons, I suppose. Chiefly though, I think it was money. I think he loved money more than anyone. She was the sort to spend it freely, regardless of how hard-earned it was on those she loved, not realizing that the money was the greater love for him.”

“Did she tell you that? Your mother?”

“To tell the truth, sir, I never really talked to her about it. Frankly, I never really speak to her about much of anything. Over the years I simply surmised as much. But where have you been all these years, Mr. Fowler?”

“Abroad. Here and there. I don’t expect you to understand, but I had to leave the world for a while. Now I’m back and trying to pick up where I left off and it’s been so terribly difficult…”

“Everyone wondered where you’d left to. It all seemed so sudden.”

“Hmmm…”

“Most people thought you must have died. You didn’t write or call.”

“It was for the best. But it does bother me that things changed so much in my absence.”

“That seems quite selfish to run away for the better part of twenty years and expect everything to be the same when you get back. People change, Mr. Fowler. But I imagine you knew that.”

“Sometimes you know a thing and still hope it’s not true. And it seems as though you’ve changed into a respectable young man. You have your own business, you seem respectable and well-off. Your father would be proud of you.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. My success doesn’t profit him.”

“Perhaps you’re being a bit cynical. Or maybe, perhaps, you’re right.”

“Perhaps.”

“Since I’m in town, would you care to join me for coffee sometime? We can catch up properly.”

“Well, I am quite busy with work…”

“I understand, no time for old friends of your parents.”

“It’s not—“

“—It’s alright.”

“We could do it next week…?”

“No. I’ll be long away from this place this time next week. Truly, you’ve made me realize there really is nothing left for me here.”

“I might be able to break away this afternoon, if—“

“No. I insist. Your work is important, I understand that. Thank you for speaking to me as long as you have. If you do happen to speak to your father again, you’ll tell him that I was looking for him, yes?”

“Mr. Fowler, I can’t see that happening. But, if by the grace of God we happen to run into each other and he’s gotten over himself and I’ve, by some miracle, been able to get over myself, then I’ll be sure to mention it.”

“Thank you. That is all I ask.”

“It’s all right. I suppose it was good talking to you, Mr. Fowler.”

“It was good speaking with you as well, Tom. You’re a good lad.”

Tom hung up the phone and was struck by the absurd and unlikely nature of the call he’d just received.