Sunday, August 27, 2006

Entry #55

by Rebecca Hendricks

The tire goes, and I pull to the side and stop, clutch in neutral, pull the hand brake with its click click click set, high-beam clarity dropping into blackness. Crickets. The tinny purr of the little engine. My heart, pounding. I feel your eyes on me as you straighten from loading your bags into the van, starched camouflage, polished boots, wry smile, I gotta go, you’ll be fine. I will call.

I take a slow, deep breath. I’m shaking. How long have I been sitting here? I turn the key, the engine stops. I kill the lights. Tick, ping, tick, the engine cools. My eyes adjust to a bright moon, my white hands on the wheel. For a moment, I feel the touch of yours, fingers curling into my hair, thumb tracing ear lobe, face against face, it’s okay, you’re okay. I love you.

Out of the car now, rear hatch up. Where’s the flashlight? Don’t look toward the dark rustle, creak, shhhh of the swamp. The spare is underneath a pile of vacation junk I don’t want. I couldn’t keep waiting for your call, I had to get away, and now I can feel your arms wrapped around me, holding me close, salt tears on starched shoulder. Bye.

I’m back in the car. Doors locked, a blanket, moonlight on the empty seat beside me. You’ve been missing for twenty-seven days. What’s one more before I get to a phone and call the base again?

I know what they’ll say.

[Rebecca Hendricks has worked as a noodle-maker, audio editor, film grip, and secretary. She is currently working on both a GED and a Master's degree, and hopes someday to learn how to cook. She plans to win the lottery. "Runaway" is her second attempt at short fiction because, as the title of her blog reminds her daily, "how hard can it be?"]


Joni said...

You've conveyed the infiltration of the pain of losing and waiting in everyday actions so well. Nice sound effects too! Great job.

Anonymous said...

nice job, Rebecca

Anonymous said...

I really like your sound effects...tick, ping, tick... Excellent.

Anonymous said...

Moonlight on the empty seat beside me. I like this.

Anonymous said...

Missing for 27 days. A lifetime. I can feel the pain. Enjoyable reading.

anne frasier said...

wow, very nice, rebecca!

absolutely fantastic immediacy to this story. i also loved the structure of it.

great job!

bekbek said...

Thanks. Joni, yeah, it was the waiting that I wanted to convey, or maybe the not-waiting. The way barriers seem to crop up even when you finally make a decision to start moving on.

Thanks, robert. I am nervous about this one, for some reason. I think I got a little lost between the fear of the dark and the sense of loss. I wanted to use both, but it might be too much for 250 words.

Anne, thank you very much. So tell me, how come writing like this can feel a bit like a chore at the same time as a wickedly fun adventure? I don't get it. Hard but fun? You truly must be addicted to keep going the way you do.

bekbek said...

ooh, look, more comments!

nicholas, THANK YOU! I knew the sounds were important, with the character all alone in a little car, but I myself really liked the sound of the engine cooling. It's always been really noticeable to me. Thanks for noticing!

Linda, he really should've been there, shouldn't he? Better yet, driving. Better yet, stopping her from putting too much air in the tire in the first place... not that some of this is based on some real events or anything. *rueful grin*

bofire, would you believe I changed the number of days about a dozen times?!

anne frasier said...

bek: well, a gal's gotta eat and i'm too old to be a whore. but you're right about writing being a chore AND an adventure. sometimes it's just a chore, but it's both when things are going well.

i also loved the sounds.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the rustle and shhhhh of the swamp was chilling.
Good writing = good read.

Jaye Wells said...

Wonderful structure. I wonder if in her grief she is more prone to notice little things to avoid her fears.

Anonymous said...

Sadness, pain, and despair. The emotions touch the reader's heart.

Scott said...

the dark rustle, creak, shhhh of the swamp

This put me in the moment. Such a nice line.

Aleah Sato said...

This is great. I enjoyed reading every line, especially:

"high-beam clarity dropping into blackness."


bekbek said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments, all.

Jaye, good thought. I think I was in two places with the details. Partly, I've been at the side of the road, in the dark, and every tiny sound seemed so insanely loud. With this story, I wanted reality and desire to be in conflict.

klgilbert and Scott, the inspiration for the event came from a breakdown on Alligator Alley, in Florida. There's a fence the whole way, but there are alligators... THE WHOLE WAY. Ever since then, every highway shoulder has seemed sinister to me, and the sounds are scary. I definitely wanted to make that part of her story.

Someone said it elsewhere in the contest, but the comments truly are the best part! I'm really grateful.


Bhaswati said...

Very nice, Rebecca. The sound effects work very well, as do the stray thoughts that haunt her every now and then. The prose is taut, intelligent, and impactful. Good one!

Fran Piper said...

One moment she's in the very detailed and present now, the next, she's completely elsewhere in her mind. This rings true.

Also like the subtle way you explain her situation, without any obvious exposition. Good job!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your well-deserved win!

Anonymous said...

Wow, brilliant story, Rebecca. It deals with the loss and the waiting so effectively. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

That was powerfully crafted. I'm literally in shock. I can't think of anything like it. The confusion was palpable. A perfect example of show, don't tell.

Highest marks overall. Congratulations on Fourth Place!