Butts, drop whatever you're doing, sprint to the nearest library, and check out Nine Stories by JD Salinger. I'm almost positive that none of you have read this miraculous collection of short stories, as no one made even the slightest allusion to either Seymour Glass or Teddy McArdle (two of Salinger's greatest characters), despite last week's prompt practically BEGGING for their inclusion. I'll forgive you for this grievous oversight as long as you PROMISE me you'll read the book as soon as possible—it's absolutely phenomenal, and you won't regret it. NOW, onto the best and brightest of last week's submissions, which were a delightful hodgepodge of grand theft auto, fan fiction, kisses in the rain, and fun-erals (they seem less sad if you spell 'em like that).
Sparklers' Choice (with 11 votes): Briar_Rose_Unwritten! Her story is quietly powerful—check it out here!
I sit, rigid, unmoving, staring at the plane ticket on the kitchen table in front of me. The wall clock ticks monotonously, the only noise in the otherwise-silent room, and I feet my heart beat in the spaces between the ticks.
Tick. Thump thump. Tick. Thump thump.
I have forty five minutes to decide.
I want to stay. I want it more than anything right now. But looking around the room, I find it so full of painful memories that even the air hurts to breathe. Every day, I would wake up and came down into the empty kitchen to make coffee. Every day, I walked out to the mailbox to pick up the bills, then had to come back into a house I knew would be vacant. Every day since The Phone Call.
It’s not supposed to be that way. I wasn’t a kid that long ago; I still remember growing up on Disney fairytale movies. She meets the prince, she falls in love, and then there’s happily-ever-after with some cheery theme music right up until the credits. As a child, you turn off the movie right when the credits – the boring part – starts. But now, I am faced with the credits of my life. A black screen with my name on it. Just me.
I had the funeral at the house, and I think that’s what really messed me up. I didn’t have much of a choice, though; we weren’t rich, and I wasn’t working at the time. It was only Teddy, making the money and bringing it home, walking through the door every night in time for dinner except for the night of The Phone Call. We had been married six months. We had student loans to pay off together. We had just bought a house. Teddy and I were scraping by, but that was okay. It was okay back when it was Teddy and I.
But then one day I got The Phone Call. Teddy wasn’t home, and it was late. I couldn’t reach him on his cell. And then our phone rang. There was a voice on the other line that I didn’t recognize. It was a young lady, and she told me to come to the hospital. She told me about the drunk driver.
But the drunk driver was okay. Teddy wasn’t.
I had no family here in the city. My mother flew down to help me, but we were never close, and I think I made her nervous. I didn’t cry during the day. I was listless, walking around the beautiful little house Teddy and I had bought. But at night, I would wake up screaming.
So now I have forty-five minutes. The plane will not wait for me. But the ticket… the ticket waits. Waiting for my decision.
Slowly, painfully, I pick up the ticket. I walk for the door.
Dagger's Choice: ily2012! Here's her riveting, heartbreaking piece:
My fingers itch, the light burns my eyes. I fiddle with the phone dialer, waiting, waiting for the click on the other end of the line. Outside, the sky is gray and pale. The sun has yet to rise.
“Hello,” his voice says. It’s gravelly, rough- painful.
“Tell me Teddy.” That is all I say. He should know who I am.
“Aurora,” he sighs. And the way he says my name, I just know. My knees give out on me, my back hits the telephone booth wall. It’s not true, I think over and over. It can’t be.
“Don’t,” I interrupt. If he doesn’t say it, it won’t be true. He just can’t say the words. They are just little, tiny words, but they will make or break me. God, how cliché is this? I cower from mere words, I deny the truth I already know.
“I’m so sorry, Aurora.”
“Sorry for what?” I can see him now. Running his hands through his curly hair, blinking too many times.
“Your mother passed on this morning. She-” His voice catches. For a moment, there is complete silence. I hate it.
“She died in her sleep. It was painless.” But I just shake my head. He can’t see me, but I have to deny it somehow. Set the record straight, in a way. My mother would not have wanted to die in her sleep. She was brave, a fighter. I know a lot of people say that about the dead, but I mean it. She always said she would be awake when she died. She said she’d go down swinging.
“The funeral’s Saturday.”
“Bye Teddy.” Click.
I close my eyes and slide to the floor. She is dead, my mom is dead. Gone, and I can’t get her back. And how unfair is that? Because I was never given a chance to save her. I failed a test before I could even take it.
The darkness behind my eyes lights up. My eyes sting as I open them, and I bite my cheek hard to keep the tears back. The light is coming from the sunrise, adding color to the dreary sky. It’s beautiful, but cruel in a way. That the sun would paint the sky as the color drains from my life. What’s the saying? It’s always darkest before the dawn. But dawn is here.
Dawn. That’s what my name means. As a kid, my mom would always remind me that my name meant the sun rising. She said it was hope. In the last few months of her life, when the cancer got worse, she would ask me to lend her some of that hope. She said she wasn’t necessarily looking to be cured, she just wanted the pain to stop. In whatever way possible.
Painlessly. Teddy’s words echo in my mind. I look at the sky, now fully lit up. The day has begun. The darkness has ended with my mother’s pain. I sigh.
The sun has risen.
My sincerest congratulations to all the winners; you'll each shortly be receiving some ferocious noggins and 1/4th of a gourmet donut. And now for this week's prompt, which, in a dramatic change of pace, calls not for a story but for a single sentence:
Write the opening line of a novel—and make it the best, worst, funniest, most heartbreaking, most ridiculous, or most powerful sentence you can think of. It must be only ONE sentence, and it cannot be more than 75 words (but there is no minimum word count).
If you need some inspiration, this post is chock-full of ideas.