For today’s challenge, try a twist on a technique Ray Bradbury used to beat writer’s block.
Write a new piece using at least five of the nouns from Bradbury’s sample list, above: The lake. The night. The crickets. The ravine. The attic. The basement. The trapdoor. The baby. The crowd. The night train. The fog horn. The scythe. The carnival. The carousel. The dwarf. The mirror maze. The skeleton.
This week, I’m trying something different – a fictional short story. I haven’t done this much at all, so I’m not making any promises.
I’d already spent most of the evening hours crying, couldn’t eat my supper, alone, having gone through half a box of Kleenex. I knew that tomorrow, he was leaving the state, moving far away. I’d probably never see him again. Then, it hit me hard – 1400 miles away, it’s so far! I screamed, “No!” and the pain was the worst pain I could ever remember feeling, such a terrible pain, between my breasts, as if someone had wretched open my flesh, stuck their hand into my chest, and ripped out the beating organ that sustained my life. I fell to the floor in agony, and lay there crying and wretched for what seemed like hours, but was only minutes.
I could no longer contain myself. I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit there and cry all night. I picked myself up off the floor, got my keys and my purse and headed for the door.
Once in my car, heading down the highway, I knew where I was headed, towards his town, his house. I knew it was a fruitless effort, I couldn’t very well knock on his door. What would his wife think? Still, I thought, maybe, perhaps, I can catch one last glimpse.
The evening had cooled after that hot, summer day, so I drove with my windows down, hair blowing in the wind. I kept telling myself what an idiot I had been to get involved with a married man. It was my one rule – “Never get involved with someone who is taken.” I screwed up, and now it was costing me. Oh, if only I had listened to myself!
Once I reached the off ramp, his exit, I wondered how many times he had driven this way, this road, this path. Eventually, I turned into his subdivision by the lake. That intersection was near a small stream, tree-lined, and I could hear the crickets in the brush. They seemed to be singing a sad song that night.
As I turned onto his street, I could see the U-Haul in the driveway. There were still lights on all over in the house, even in the attic, though it was approaching 11:00. I drove slowly, hoping to catch a glimpse, but saw no one. At the next street, I turned around, then stopped and sat a few houses down, thinking perhaps, possibly, he’d come out to put something in the truck.
After a few minutes, I realized this stake-out was pointless. What was I really going to accomplish here? It was then, I thought, “I’ve just got to say good-bye. I’ve got to let you go.”
I turned the key in the ignition, put the car into drive, and pulled out slowly. As I passed his house, the house I’d never driven past before, I took one last long look, hoping I would see him through the window, so I could blow one last kiss, wish one more fare thee well.
But, I saw nothing, so I kept driving, picking up a little speed, I made it to the subdivision intersection. I stopped and then couldn’t bring myself to step on the gas and turn the wheel. I sat there for a few moments, and then, on a whim, I turned the other way. I couldn’t drive home just yet, to that empty apartment. I didn’t want to be alone.
As I drove down the road a bit, I saw a carnival. Why, I don’t know, but I pulled into the grass to park. I decided I’d check it out. Maybe I’d find the pieces of my broken heart near the carousel. Maybe he was here with the family, and I’d get to see him, if even from a distance, one more time.
My feet crunched on the gravel. I smelled the fried foods and for a moment remembered my own hometown carnival that occurred each summer of my youth. There wasn’t much of a crowd, so even people watching that night wasn’t going to free my mind of the God-awful truth. “Leaving, he’s leaving, what am I going to do without him?”
I noticed the Ferris wheel, and decided I’d like to ride it, for old time’s sake, for it’s hopeful nostalgic affect. I wanted to go back to my youth, even if for a moment. I thought maybe the Ferris wheel could transport me there.
I bought tickets enough for the fare and went to stand in line. It haltingly turned, loading and unloading passengers, and I made my way to the front of the line. I started up the ramp, with my tickets out, and the attendant stopped me. He said, “Wait, someone has to ride with you. You can’t ride alone.”
I looked at him perplexed, “What? Are you kidding me? I don’t remember this ever being a rule before.”
“Well,” he said, “it’s a new policy. It’s for safety reasons,” and he turned his neck to spit chewing tobacco onto the ground, turned back and then with the back of his hand wiped his face of the spittle remaining on his chin.
“Oh,” was all I could muster. I thought to myself, “I can’t even ride the Ferris wheel alone. How am I going to mange my life alone again?” I turned around and shuffled like a zombie down the short ramp. Once I stepped off, I realized I just wanted to leave. I turned to a family waiting for their turn and handed them my tickets.
“Here,” I muttered, “I won’t be needing these after all.”
I think I heard them saying “Thanks, are you sure?” as I turned and unhurriedly walked away, dragging my feet, towards the parking lot, back to my car.
I got in and sat for a second. I wanted to cry, but my eyes were already swollen and sore. I flashed back to a few days before, the last time I saw him. Hhe was heading down the stairs outside my apartment and had stopped at the first landing to look back as I stood by the rail.
“Tell me you’ll be okay,” he asked.
Whether he needed to hear it, or I needed to voice it, I looked at him lovingly, evoked a wee smile, and replied, “Yes,” I paused fighting back the tears, “I’ll be okay. I’ll always be okay.”