Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #15

Friendship
by John Rowlands


The rough wooden cross sat tilted, shoved to one side by the winds from the constant stream of cars on State Highway 81.

Jenny straightened the cross. Most of the flowers she’d put at its base two weeks ago had blown away, so she replaced them with the new plastic ones she'd bought yesterday at Wal-Mart. They looked just like the other real flowers. Next she rearranged the jeweled necklace lying next to the cross. She knew her memories of that one night with too much beer, a car and a tree would never die.

Highway 81 was dotted with these homemade crosses at random intervals. For Jenny, this particular cross was a gathering place for ghosts. They clung to the windswept gravel and encircled the gnarled oak. She felt them so strongly. She knelt and sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Katie.” As she cried, she felt them come nearer.

She held one final flower in her hand, a blood-red rose, the thick stem studded with thorns and its end sharpened to a point. She knew now she’d made the right decision.

She swallowed hard, then with eyes wide open staring at the cross, she plunged the pointed, plastic stem of the rose into her neck. Blood spurted as it punctured the artery.

She mumbled a prayer as her life stained the grass around the cross. Removing her necklace, she laid it next to the jeweled one. “Katie, I won't leave you alone” she vowed. “Soon, I will be with you.”


(John Rowlands is the pretentious literary persona of a real person, occupying the ever brief moments that lie between his many faces as adventurer, traveler, scholar, conservationist, and wage slave, while providing an excuse to refer to himself in the third person. He currently resides in Virginia and is collaborating with Dr. Hannibal Lecter on a cookbook.)

14 comments:

Aniket said...

I do like the piece, but I love the bio. ;)

Its a simple story which is very well written. The pacing was perfect too, no word is wasted. Bravo.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Remorse can take on many forms. Here, it takes a turn for the worse.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Wow...interesting!

Jade L Blackwater said...

Ouch - what an ending! Nice bitter reminder.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Something different, something terrible, something heartbreaking-magnificent job.

Tabitha Bird said...

Awesome! :)

Peter Dudley said...

The stupidity of some people. A plastic rose from Wal-Mart? Doesn't she know she could get an infection? That could be serious!

The voice in this piece is very reminiscent of another one I recently read...

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wonderful voice. Pulls strong emotions.

Also pulls me up short as I ponder how hard it would be to accurately stab the artery with a pointed stem which bends and without a mirror. Plus it's studded with thorns - which is an interesting detail if she pierces the skin of her hand first, but you don't say that. Leaves a disturbing hole for me. I'm afraid all this kicks me out of an otherwise great story.

Deb Smythe said...

Good job with the imagery. The fake flowers and plastic cross made her final choice all the more real and tragic.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi John!

It's so awful... something so awful to live with... to carry around that responsibility.

Dottie

JaneyV said...

There's something about suicide stories that leave me hollow inside. Such a pointless waste of life but then so is dying at the hands of a drunk driver. You wrote the contrition and grief with great skill. I only wish there had been a hopeful ending.

Laurel said...

Palpably sad.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Oh wow, this is eerie!

Catherine Vibert said...

I'm with Aniket. I loved the piece, but the bio made me crack up. :-) Death by plastic rose. Good one!