Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Story-Time Tuesday - Writing Fiction

Jenny Matlock
If you missed where this story started just click here to read it or simply click on the Story-Time Tuesday link at the top of my blog to take you to previous chapters.

Writing Fiction - Chapter 27

Here's where Chapter 26 left you...

I never got to finish my sentence because just then my stomach rebelled against the five aspirin I’d taken at home. I covered my mouth and made a mad dash for little hallway that led to the bathroom.

“Never again, Pearl,” I told myself after I did the nauseating deed. I drank water from the faucet and splashed more cold water on my face after dabbing some of the residue off my jacket with damp paper towels.

I leaned my aching forehead against the cold, tile of the bathroom walls for a moment and tried breathing through my nose until I felt less nauseous.

Plastering a bright ‘everything is just fine’ smile on my face, I shoved open the door of the restroom.

I stopped for a moment to swallow down another round of queasiness and then I froze in place. Surely it had to be my imagination. Surely that wasn’t Jay’s voice ordering a double shot of expresso from Julia.

Was it?

And now, Chapter 27 continues...

This was getting ridiculous.

Every single time I wanted to talk to Jay to get an explanation for his bizarre behavior with Sp…edgar, he hadn’t been around. And every single time he wanted to talk to me, I’d blown him off.

I gathered my courage and stepped around the corner.

The coffee shop was empty except for Julia and Jay. Fortunately Jay was sitting with his back to the counter. My clogs made it easy for me to be sneaky, so I quietly approached the counter, handed Julia some cash, motioned for her to put the extra into her tip jar, and carefully picked up my steaming cup.

I was so conflicted, I felt as though I was spinning in a circle…not a great way to feel when you have a hangover. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to leap out of my throat. I felt horrible. My head felt close to exploding and I’m certain I looked pretty disgusting.

I was at a crossroads. I couldn’t decide if I should sneak back into the bathroom and wait until he left or sit at a table by the opposite window and hunch over with my back towards him.

Maybe it was the headache, maybe it was just that I felt lousy and grumpy and mean, but I decided instead that enough was enough. Every time I’d tried to be prepared for meeting this man, it had ended disastrously. I was just going to face the uncomfortable mess head on.

I squared my shoulders and silently approached his table.

I pulled out a chair and sat down without looking at his face. I was afraid if he glared or yelled at me I would lose my nerve.

Oh, I wish I could tell you I was mistaken, it wasn’t Jay at all, I idiotically stammered out an apology to a total stranger and then took my coffee to another table. But I can’t.

It was Jay, and even though I thought I looked horrible, I had nothing on this man.

When he glanced up at me the single thought that flitted through my head was that this person was broken. He was shattered and put back together badly with Elmer’s glue and masking tape in the hopes the cracks would be less noticeable.

I pulled my coffee closer and tried to find courage in the caffeine to prepare myself to start a conversation.

Although my head was still pounding, I felt stone-cold sober. Hesitantly I reached my hand across the table and put it over his. He didn’t move.

“Pearl, what are you doing?” I questioned myself. “Something is seriously wrong with this guy. Take your coffee and get out of here.” For some reason, I couldn’t.

Have you ever watched one of those TV shows where something is so terrible that you can’t change the channel? You want to, but your mind is trapped in horror and you’re paralyzed? That’s how I felt.

We just sat. His hand didn’t move and I was unsure what to do.

The pain emanating from this broken man was almost visible.

I cleared my throat. Darn. As unbelievable as it sounds, I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was babble-less, and brain-less, and clue-less how to proceed in this uncomfortable situation.

Getting up would’ve been cruel; sitting there and saying nothing might be even meaner.

I cleared my throat and tried again. I actually had a deep-thought kind of quote to share that I used to write on sympathy cards about rain and rainbows. Instead what came out was, “Knock, knock?” Don’t blame me. Blame Millie. Obviously there was a large quantity of beer still floating through my blood stream, influencing my words.

I hoped for a moment that Jay didn’t hear my inane question, but instead he looked up with a puzzled expression and asked, “Who’s there?”

I didn’t mean ‘knock, knock’ like a knock-knock joke, I meant it like “Ummm, helllloooo…is anyone home?” so I didn’t know how to proceed.

Jay removed his hand from under mine and tapped my arm, “Who’s there?” he repeated.

I thought as fast as my pounding head would allow. I could only recall one knock-knock joke and it was an incredibly dumb one.

“Ummm… boo,” I said.

Jay paused and then replied, “Boo who?”

Holy cow! What was I doing? The punch line for this juvenile humor was definitely not a great one for the current situation. “Boo who?” Jay repeated.

I had no choice. I had to finish it. “Awwww…please don’t cry,” I said quietly.

For a moment, I thought that Jay didn’t get it. Thank heavens.

After a second, though, he tried to smile. It was ghastly, reminiscent of “Night of the Living Dead”.

I tried to come up with something to redeem my thoughtless remark. Instead I blurted out, “So, do you need to talk?”

The moment of silence stretched out for a second and then he shook his head ‘no’.

I patted his hand and tried again, “Jay, look, it might help you to talk about it. Since my husband ummm… ummm… “ It was the weirdest thing, but in that moment I couldn’t think of a single euphemism. I tried again. “Jay, look, sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know and maybe ummm… you could talk to me.”

Before my husband began ‘plowing his last row at the farm’, he used to accuse me of being nosy. “Leave people alone, Pearl,” he’d say, “If they want to talk to you, they will.” I told him that sometimes it wasn’t quite that easy and sometimes people needed a little nudge. “But, Pearl,” he’d said, “Why does it have to be you doing the nudging?” I’d never been able to explain it to my husband and I probably can’t explain it to you either, but it’s a weird little trait I have. I know inside my heart when I’m supposed to nudge. I almost feel a person’s pain calling out to me. My Grandmother had called it ‘channeling sorrow’. My mother, God rest her soul, had called it ‘acting crazy’. I’d just always figured it was some weird quirk I was born with.

The main problem with the quirk was, if I didn’t act on the cosmic message to butt in when I was supposed to, I felt terrible. Terrible, as in ‘can’t sleep, little comfort in chocolate, and guilt.’ Considering I was already suffering a hangover, I didn’t want to feel worse, so I tried nudging again.

“Jay,” I said gently, “It’s just that…”

He interrupted me. Harshly. “Oh no, Pearl, “I thought to myself, “Here we go again.” Instead I was shocked to hear, “You were right.”

He continued quietly. “I’m a jerk and a moron and I have absolutely no idea why I’m telling you this stuff.” I just sat very still, pretending to sip my now cold coffee. The sun streaming through the window made me feel a little drowsy. My head was still pounding, although less viciously now, so it was easy to just sit in silence.

“I don’t deserve Spot. It was my fault that he got out of the house…”

During the next long pause, I felt drowsier still. I was actually afraid I might fall asleep until Jay’s next words jolted me out of my comfort level.

In a monotone voice, he continued, “After my son was killed my wife didn’t want the dog. She told me and told me to get rid of it. She couldn’t even call the dog ‘Spot’ because she said it hurt too much. I couldn’t bear to get rid of Spot because he was the only comfort I had. In the end, though, it didn’t matter because, when she left, she told me she never wanted to see me or the dog again.”

Holy cow!

Jay had been looking down at the table while he said these shocking words and now he looked up at me. He had a look on his face I can’t really describe. It was a combination of defeat, anger and pain. For a moment I regretted my nosy nudge.

“Jay, I think I’m going to need some more caffeine before we continue this story. Do you want something?”

He did.

This moment felt too serious for a frivolous coffee drink.

As I waited for Julia to add Half and Half to my cup of plain coffee, I realized my headache was diminishing even further, but, just to be sure I was at the top of my nudging game, I asked Julia if she had any aspirin. She reached under the counter and handed me a little paper package along with a clear plastic cup of water. I quickly swallowed them, paid, and took both coffees back to the table and Jay.

He took his cup of dark brew from me and started looking bleakly into the steaming depths.

The bell jingled merrily over the door as a customer came in. Neither of us looked up. We just sat, intent on our drinks and unsure how to continue the conversation.

To be continued, Tuesday, March 22.

(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Jennifer R. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Jennifer R. Matlock. All rights reserved.

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Jocelyn said...

Another perfect chapter...and a great way to start my day!!! Yay for the first civil conversation!!! I think!!!

Wishing you a great day!!! :-)

Jeanie said...

I like the direction this is taking. Nothing like a good Knock Knock joke to finally get a conversation started.

Arkansas Patti said...

Oh oh, I see I need to do some catching up. I really need to know the beginning here. I may be hooked.

Mighty M said...

I love where this is going!

Ames said...

Well see? See what happens when Pearl shuts up! The man starts talking. Jeeze Louise!

Now we can finally find out what's eatin Jay...that's if Pearl can be quiet long enough for Jay to get two words out of his mouth. Where's the duck tape when you need it?

This is driving me crazy. :D~Ames

J. Kwiatkowski-Schuler said...

It's very fresh and brave and honest.

Viki said...

This was excellent. I was surprised. I thought for sure his wife had died but it was his son. Good work.

Nezzy said...

The knock~knock joke was an unexpected treasure. Loved the read once again girl.

God bless and have a terrific Tuesday sweetie!!!

Anonymous said...

Good for Pearl! Love the way she went up to Jay and put her hand on his and has started him talking. Still loving this story very much sweet Jenny. Hugs

Sue said...

Every Tuesday when I look at my reader and see that it's Story-Time Tuesday, I smile.

Today, I really needed this diversion. Thanks, Jenny, for all you do to make people smile...

and not just on Tuesdays.


Kira said...

Thanks SO much for stopping by! You're a great writer. Keep it up!

Just Like June

Nellie's Cozy place said...

Hi Jenny,
It was so good to hear from you hon.
Thanks for coming by today and for your sweet and encouraging comments. That is so true what you said about marital arguements, it sure takes 2 people who want to work together, that is for sure.

Hope you get to try the salad??
Think you will really enjoy it.
The great thing about it is you can pretty much use any kind of fruit you want.
I have used raspberries,peaches, strawberries,and mandarin oranges, and next I am gonna try apples. So far they have all tasted great.

Wow, I love your story here, it is great, can't wait to hear the rest of it. You really are a gifted writer, your stories are always so interesting and just grab my attention. Am I correct in thinking you are writing a book here?? If so, I am sure you are gonna sell a lot of books, once you get published.
Blessings hon,

Willoughby said...

Jay just starts talking and then the chapter ends! You really know how to torture your readers, Jenny!

It's such a long wait until next Tuesday, and since my birthday is this Friday, maybe you should post the next chapter a few days early! Just a suggestion!

Judie said...

WAAAAAAAAAA!! I can't stand the suspense!!!!

Amy said...

Finally! Getting somewhere. I love it. And poor Jay. Not so much a jerk now after all. I guess it goes how wrong it is to judge. :)

The Words Crafter said...

pssst! i'm whispering. i don't want to break the spell. they're talking! i mean, they're talking. wow. yay.

(it's hard to whisper in print.) can't wait till next week....

3generations said...

Hi! It's Emma from Tablescape Times Three. You'll be glad to know I am not a fan of make-up. Thank you for your nice comments on my ideas for my 13th birthday! I LOVE Design Star. My birthday is in June and my best friend loves old movies and stuff like I do. So I was just thinking ahead because she would actually like to come to a party like this. I have been home sick from school since October if you are wondering why I am sending you a thank you at 11 in the morning. I really like to write, too. I like your blog. I hope to have one for my writing someday, too. I have written several stories. I am trying to get my mom to publish some. Reading is important to me. I was a late reader because of dyslexia, and I have to use spellcheck for everything. And then my mom still has to double check it. I am glad I like to read. It has really helped me since I got sick. I don't know how people go through life without reading. Maybe I will post a poem I wrote about being sick. Anyway, thanks again.

H said...

Yay :) They are beginning to talk. At last!