Monday, August 01, 2011

500 Miles

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow 100 miles
     --Peter, Paul & Mary, 500 Miles

The daughter set the rest of the box of photos down.

"Mom? Who's this a picture of?"

The grayed woman reached with angular, hardened hands. "Let's see."

"It's just a guy by himself. Under a tree. Here."

The photo met fingertips.

No expression flickered on the woman's face. Her eyes didn't blink. Everything in the room suddenly felt heavy to the daughter. Nailed into place.

"Who is he?"

"Someone I used to know," the woman said.

"There's something different about him. I can't quite see his eyes in the shadows. Where was this taken?"

"I don't really remember. By a house, I think."

"What was his name?"

The woman stared at the photo.

"Do you remember it?"


"He was a boyfriend, wasn't he!"

"Not exactly."

"Oh my God, this is juicy. Before you met dad? Did he know?"

The woman turned the photo down in her lap. "No, there's no story to tell."


"Hey, are those pictures of you and your sister back in Minnesota?"

"You're not changing the subject!"

The woman's eyes dropped down to the folded hands in her lap.

Finally, her expression did change. Reflected light sparkled under her eyelashes.

The daughter's excitement evaporated. "Hey, you've got to see these." She grabbed back the box with a little too much eagerness. "Look, do you remember this one? I insisted on wearing my ballerina costume into the pool. You were ready to kill me that day."

The daughter managed to slip the other photo out of her mother's hands.

"I remember," the woman said, sounding far away.


SzélsőFa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SzélsőFa said...

aww, daughters do grow up fast...

i liked this vignette, partly because it somehow seems to illustrate something i have recently written. what a (non)-coincidence :)

Erratic Thoughts said...

kids are inquisitive yet so understanding...ahem what my mom says about me...:D
This is nice....

the walking man said...

And that is one reason I have no photographs of my past. some questions are best left unasked and if you do not present an answer to an unasked question then the question never will rise,

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, the tides of creativity do seem to unite us often. I'm not surprised you wrote something similar.

Erratic Thoughts, ah, I see you've done a bit of nudging and digging yourself. ;)

Walking Man, I see the wisdom in that. Maybe more is appropriately sealed away in our heads.

SzélsőFa said...

tides of creativity
i'll use this as an escape next time i'm not writing :)))
on a more serious note: i know inspiration does come in waves - sometimes unexpected. i wonder if it comes in recurring cycles, as, like, matched to the phases of the moon, or related to the events and actions of one's life, or are just random...

Precie said...

So much poignantly left unsaid.

Cat said...

No fair, Jason, leaving us guessing!

This piece, especially the beginning, felt like a series of snapshots. We see some things clearly (the woman and her daughter's hands, the mother's discomfort, the girl in her ballerina dress), others less so (the man's eyes, the exact relationship between the woman, the man in the photo and her current husband). It tells part of the story, but not the whole story. And we have to fill in the blanks.

This one grabbed me, Jason. Excellence as usual.

SzélsőFa said...

in my read, Cat, the best thing about these vignettes are these gaps/blank spaces i bet Jason intentionally creates.
so that readers may 'fill' the gap on their own.
it worked for me this time.

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I often notice that people seem to move in common cycles. I do wonder if creativity follows suit.

Precie, yes, the mass of things unsaid is almost a third character in the story.

Cat, that was a very astute analysis! You really pulled out things that I intended to drive the experience of the story. Thank you for the close read!!

Szelsofa, I think it also comes from my tendency to read people in real life. I don't get a narrator filling in the backstory, so I tend not to provide one in my writing either. Some people probably hate it, but I force readers to make their own judgments.