This is a new way for me to write. I’ve not done it this way ever before and I don’t know why. It could be an age thing. It could be a conceit thing. I’m not sure.
If you’ve ever read a story from me that was anywhere from two thousand to five thousand words or more, then I did it all in one sitting. That means I’ve made notes about the idea in my head, I’ve agonized over writing it in my journal, I’ve made outlines and story notes in my notebook, and then I put it all away and just write. I would ejaculate words and leave myself drained, washed over with emotion like an orgasm. When I was younger, it was worse. I wouldn’t even make notes. I would just write a story until I got tired of it. There are actually two that are near and dear to me that I still keep and look at from time to time. A dear friend of mine read them both and made notes in the margins about what he liked and didn’t like, and then when he turned the page and I’d just killed the story he wrote something like “Are you fucking KIDDING ME? That’s it! I want more.”
Anyway, this new way to write is less intense. Less emotional. And I think the tone captures that. There are some things I am trying here, most notably stopping after a period of time and walking away. The period is defined as the point where there are too many options for my character to do and I need to step away. When I’ve done that here, I’ve thought about the story more and then continued to make notes in my books, but I’d only write a few lines like “He should do this” followed by one line of “or” then another few lines of “He should do this” and do this over and over again so I have options in my head when I go back to it. Sure, it seems silly to the rest of you, but this is how it is I write stories. Doesn’t work for everyone, but this is the way that it words for me right now.
So, what you’ve got here is the first 1086 words with 192 word excised out of the beginning and another 800 words or so added to the end. I want to keep the pace going and keep it interesting and keep the interior dialogue to a minimum, so my tactic is to use mystery by introducing topics and items that need closure and you need to keep reading to get that closure. Additionally, the phone is going to be a device and a symbol at the same time. So, while my character is talking and is opening up to this new person in his life, he’s still reserved. When he answers, the phone though, he lunges at it because he needs the connection more than he wants to admit and he only ever tells that the truth. Or, well, that’s how I’m seeing it.
For those of you that are following, this is the anatomy of my story. Thanks for reading.
He slipped into the outside lane and commuted on home in silence – he couldn’t find anything on the radio to listen to. The traffic thinned out as the highway reached the end of the line and he watched the cars, looking for a black Mercedes sport coupe, not that he would know what to do if found one.
He pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex, locked up his car and went on up to his tenth floor apartment. He shared the walk and the elevator ride with other tenants and he made polite eye contact with them, smiling his hellos, staring straight ahead or at the climbing numbers on the elevator display or at the digits on his watch – a watch that told him, despite the achingly long time he felt, insisted it was less than ten minutes from his car door to the couch in his one bedroom apartment.
After dumping out the contents of his backpack onto his kitchen table, he pressed the ‘play’ button on his answering machine and went to the fridge, pour himself a glass of milk.
“You have,” the machine told him, “one new message.”
He coughed and choked on his milk and leaned over the sink so as not to spray milk all over the floor.
“Hi, Dougie,” the female caller said. “I want you to know that the lawyer will be sending over the papers probably tomorrow and for sure before the end of the week. I just want them signed and I want this over with, you know? So, please, let’s just sign it and get this over with?”
He jabbed the delete button on the phone base and took his glass of milk with him to the couch. He flipped open the lid on his laptop and surfed through what Netflix would have to offer this evening while he had dinner. He took the laptop with him into the kitchenette, so he could look further while he checked his freezer for something he could eat.
The phone didn’t finish its first ring before Doug picked it up.
“You want this over with?” he said. “You didn’t say one word about Sarah. Let me speak to her. I haven’t even seen her in weeks. The least you can do is let me talk to her.”
Doug waited in silence for two heartbeats. “Jessie? So what about it?”
“I haven’t even started, Sweetheart,” the caller said.
He checked the call display. The number was blocked. He cursed himself under his breath for being so anxious to answer the phone.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else. How can I help you?”
“Who’s Sarah?” the caller asked. Sounded female.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m sorry for having answered the phone that way. What can I do for you?”
“You don’t remember me?”
“Um, can’t say that I do. Listen, I just got home from work, so if you could cut to the chase that would really help us moving things along. Let me know what you’re selling. I might even be interested.”
He leaned back against his counter, crossing one arm across his chest, holding the phone to his ear with the other.
“Oh, Sweetheart,” the female caller said. “I’m no telemarketer. We’ve not met, but you’ve seen me.”
“Listen, ma’am, I appreciate what you’re trying to do here….” Doug said.
“Banana,” the caller said.
“The last time you saw me I was driving a black Mercedes and I had a banana in my mouth.”
Doug’s eyes popped open and he mouthed the word, “Holy shit.”
“How did you get my number?”
“Is your phone cordless?”
“Yes,” Doug answered. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”
“Come to the window and wave hello,” she said.
A knot formed in the middle of his chest and he had a moment where it was hard for him to breathe. He didn’t move.
“I don’t bite, Sweetheart,” she said. “You can trust me.”
“It’s not biting that I’m worried about.”
He walked over to the window, careful to stay out of direct view of anyone looking up and into his apartment. A thought occurred to him and he checked the balcony, too. What if she were crazy enough to climb up along the outside of the building or connive her way into an adjacent apartment, above or below or next to him, and clamber over?
Pulling back the sheer curtain enough for him to look out, he saw the black Mercedes, and the blonde in dark sunglasses who was driving it, only now instead of a peeled banana in her hand she had a mobile phone to her ear. The sunglasses reminded him of something Audrey Hepburn might wear. She paced back and forth, looking up like she was trying to calculate the location of his apartment.
“What’s to stop me from calling the cops?”
“And tell them what? A pretty blonde lady in a shiny black Mercedes finds you interesting enough to follow home and ask you out for a coffee? Yes. I expect they will put their best men on the job.”
“I could tell them you pulled a gun on me on the highway and I tried to get away from you.”
“Listen,” she said. “Are you going to come down for a coffee or what? I’m asking here, I’m not fucking begging.”
She stopped pacing and looked down at the toe of her pointy black high heeled leather boot.
“I’ll be down in five minutes,” he said.
She looked up, scanning the balconies again, looking for a sign. “Not one second longer.”
“I said. I’m on my way down.”
He left his apartment wearing a dull red hoodie over what he came home from work. All down the hall and in the elevator his stomach lurched and the knot in his chest tightened as he wondered if he should have worn a sport coat instead. He had an old black houndstooth one that might have been better. He looked up at the reducing LED numbers above the elevator door and to the plastic keys of the numberpad, the one marked G lit with a dirty, soft, yellow glow. When the elevator reached the ground floor it aggravated the feeling in his stomach and for a moment it felt like the knot was going to go double.
“That was more than five minutes,” she said. She was a few feet from the door, still wearing her sunglasses, standing one leg cocked, one arm cross across her chest, her other arm held to her body, her forearm extended outward, holding her phone. He thought it looked like a Samsung. It was white.
He shrugged. “Where do you want to go for a coffee?”
She smiled and said, “I know a place. You can follow me.”
“Separate cars?” he said.
He followed her to Main Street and parked in the lot across from the old town hall. He’d driven along Main Street and passed the coffee shop she took him into, but he never had a desire to go in. It didn’t have a drive thru, window, for starters and it was sandwiched between a Thai restaurant and a jewelry store.
“I can’t believe you’ve not been here,” she said when they sat down at a small, circular table for two, the kind that reminded him of one you’d find at a strip joint. The chairs didn’t match. He looked around. None of the chairs matched.
“Very eclectic,” he said.
“Big words,” she said.
He looked at her for a moment, then relaxed, the knot in his chest loosening a little.
“What kind of coffee do you want?”
“Coffee flavoured,” he said. “Triple cream and sugar.”
He watched her wind her way around tables, touching the backs of chairs for balance, as if she was going to fall over, leaning in and apologizing with half-smiles and soft words. He didn’t notice at what point she’d taken off her sunglasses, but she had, and he could remember if she was wearing them when she sat down. He wanted to know what colour her eyes were. He couldn’t help but notice her ass while she stood at the counter. She was wearing tight black tights, with what looked like leather on the inside of her legs, and pointy toed black leather boots that came to just below her knee.
“Now, just what was so funny about a girl eating a banana when she’s driving her car?” she asked. Their coffees were in different ceramic mugs.
“I wonder if they are all the same volume?” he asked.
“These cups,” he said. He picked his up and showed it to her before taking a sip. “I mean, the coffee’s good and all and the concept of uniqueness appeals to a lot of people, but did they put any thought to how much cubic volume is in each of their mugs? Are they ripping themselves off or are they ripping us off?”
She laughed. “You really are a treat.”
“I was waiting for a clever double entendre about oral sex,” she said.
“Oh,” he said. “My ex wife always said I could never take a hint.”
“Is that who you thought was calling?”
He shrugged. “I don’t get many other calls. Telemarketers, mostly.”
“Girls don’t know what they’re missing.”
“What was that about Sarah?”
He nodded. “My daughter. She’s twelve. Smarter than she should be. Lives most of her time with her mother. I see her on weekends.”
“I’m thirty two,” he said. “We were young and it didn’t work. We separated about a year ago. Just a matter of paperwork to make it final.”
“Well, then,” she said. “That’s you wrapped up in a neat little bow.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” he said. “What were you expecting from a guy that caught you eating a banana?”
She shrugged. “You looked like you could use a friend and I wanted to go for a coffee.”
“Did you know this place was here?”
“Everywhere has at least one place to stop for coffee. Where do you go for coffee?”
“I don’t,” he said. “I spend most of my time at home or on my computer or with my daughter when she comes to stay.”
“Oh,” she said. “What do you and your daughter do?”
Doug went on to describe what the two of them did together, from the time he picked her up at her mother’s, to the place they always went for dinner, back to the apartment where he insisted that she finish her homework for the weekend.
“She hated it at first, just hated it,” he said. “But after a while, and especially now with her going into high school next year, it really starts to pay off. She calls it her bad habit, but I know she’s only joking.”
As he talked she shuffled her chair around to be nearer to him. She reached under the table and started kneading the folds of his jeans like a cat.
“Don’t mind me,” she said. “Tell me more about your daughter.”