Monday, February 21, 2011

An Untitled Short Story

Julie Titus threw out a challenge on Twitter that if anyone wanted a short story idea she had one she wasn't going to write. I decided to bite and Julie sent me her story idea and I whipped up a rough draft using her idea. I haven't titled it yet, so if anyone has a title you'd like to suggest I'm wide open for ideas. I wrote this in first person, because that was a challenge for me. It's a rough draft and critiques are welcome. I also hope to write a draft in third person. Let me know what you think.

"Oh, crap!" Jumping out of bed, I grabbed my frayed rob, rushing out of the bedroom. "David Michael, Cassandra Lynn, get up. I overslept and we're all going to be late."

I could hear their mumbled groans as I rushed back to the bedroom for a quick tooth brush, face wash and into my nurse's uniform.

"Mom, Corey wet the bed again. I need a shower."

"So-wee." Corey sobbed at the top of his lung.

"You don't have time for a shower, David, just wash off. Cassandra, get Corey changed while I see what I can throw together for breakfast."

Of all the mornings for David to forget to reset the alarm. But then that was classic these days. He couldn't even take the time to give me a quick peck on the cheek, let alone pay attention to anything I said the night before--like don't forget to set the alarm, I have to be back at work at nine.

"Okay, Sierra, pull it together," I muttered. It's seven forty-five. Twenty minutes to the school; thirty minutes to the baby-sitters and thirty minutes back to the hospital. I'd be a little late, but that was better than now showing up at all. And with the flu running rampant we were so short-handed the hospital probably wouldn't even notice.

"Hurry up kids." I could hear them arguing upstairs, Corey still screaming at the top of his lungs. "Cassandra, what's wrong with Corey?"

"David called him a baby."

"David Michael, you apologize to your brother." As if that would help.

"He is a baby." David yelled down the stairs. "A bed-wetting, cry-baby."

Rummaging through the cabinets I looked for something quick and simple. No time for cereal, and I certainly didn't have time to cook. Pop tarts it was. Pulling the box from the cabinet I tossed it on the table glancing again at the clock. Eight a.m. Where had the last fifteen minutes gone? "Last call, get down here now!" I yelled up the stairs reaching for my purse, coat and keys.

"I can't find my math book," David yelled at the top of his lungs.

"Mom, Corey threw up on my shoes." Cassandra screamed to be heard over David's yelling.

Taking a deep breath I counted to ten and headed upstairs. Minutes were ticking by quickly. Stopping by David's room I picked up his book bag and coat and tossed them to him. "Downstairs, now." I proceeded to Cassandra's room went straight to the closet and pulled out a pair of shoes, tossing them to her along with her coat. "Downstairs, now!" Picking Up Corey, I headed for the bathroom and washed his face.

"I not a baby," he whined sniffling against the washcloth.

"Then stop acting like one," I barked before sitting down and landing a quick swat on his backside. "Downstairs, now." Picking up Corey's coat I breathed deeply again before heading downstairs.

"Mom, David ate the last pop tart," Cassandra whined as I entered the kitchen.

"Enough," I yelled, glancing again at the clock. Eight-thirty. How had that happened? Grabbing my purse and keys I herded them toward the door. "Move, we're late."

"I've got a math test and if I'm late the teacher won't let me take it," David whined.

Fastening Corey's seatbelt around him, I slammed the door to the van. "You should have thought of that before you wasted the last half hour."

Okay, 20 minutes to school, thirty minutes to the babysitters and thirty minutes back to work. I could still make it by ten if I hurried.

My sour mood had rubbed off on the kids who now sulked in the backseat. At least they had shut up. I screeched to a halt in front of the Windsor Elementary. I saw Principal Birnman approaching. "Hurry up, kids, get out before he gets here."

"We need lunch money," David piped up.

Grabbing my purse I rummaged around coming up with three dollars and some change. "Here, give divide it with your sister," I muttered shoving the money into his. "Get out."

The knock on my side window shouldn't have surprised me, but still I started, jerking around. Rolling down the window I smiled in a way I hoped wasn't too unpleasant. "Good morning, Mr. Birnman. I'm sorry the kids are late. I overslept. Too many hours at work I’m afraid. The flu has really wiped us out there." I stopped talking, noting the stern jaw, beady eyes and scrunched up forehead.

"Mrs. Holloway, it's imperative I speak with you about David. His grades are near failing, and his attitude has become both disrespectful and antagonistic."

"I hun-gwee!" Cory screamed from the backseat before bursting into crocodile tears.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Holloway, I'll speak with him."

Pulling my own rather crumpled pop tart from my purse I handed it to Corey as Mr. Birnman continued to drone on and on about the importance of parental support.
Starting the car I hit the window button and smiled at Mr. Birnman. "Sorry, sir, I really have to go."

Glancing in the rearview mirror I saw Mr. Birnman shaking his fist at me. That was just great. Could this day get any worse?

No sooner had the thought processed than I noticed the yellow light signaling I was low on fuel. "Thir-stee!" Cory screamed from the back seat with more crocodile tears.

Okay, no need to panic, there was a Shell station just ahead. Quick fill-up, grab a juice and I could be on my way. Pulling in next to the pumps I grabbed my debit card and hopped out. "I'll get you a juice, Corey, just stop crying, please."

Inserting the card into the slot I typed in my pin number and waited. "Sorry, ma'am, you need to call your bank," blurted out over the income for the entire world to hear.

Opening the door I grabbed my cell phone, dialed the number and went through the normal routine of card number, birthdate, last four of social.

"Overdrawn? But that's impossible." The voice on the other end wasn't sympathetic as she extolled the virtues of keeping a close eye on my balance, and this was the third time I'd been overdrawn in the last two months. One more and my card would be revoked. David.

"Okay. Could I just transfer a hundred dollars from savings to my checking account, please."

I listened to the voice as it asked another barrage of questions.

"No, I don't have the number with me. You've got it right there in front of you!"

The voice continued to drone and informed me if I didn't have the number I would have to come into the bank. Slamming the phone shut I got back into the car, once again confronted with Corey's screams for juice. Ignoring him I started the van, praying I had enough gas to make it to the bank. Thirty minutes later I pulled into the Chevron station next to the bank and filled up. It was now ten a.m. and I was an hour late for work. It would take at least fifteen minutes to get to Marybeth's and drop off Corey, and then another thirty minutes to the hospital.
Driving as fast as I dared I cut the time to Marybeth's to ten minutes, jumping from the van and grabbing Corey I raced to the door.

"Mrs. Holloway, I thought maybe you weren't coming today."

Pushing Corey into her arms, I shook my head. "Running late."

Turning I started back toward the van. "Oh, Mrs. Holloway, I forgot to tell you, I can't babysit anymore after today. I got a job."

Great. Just freakin' great. Now on top of everything else I had to find another babysitter before morning.

Pulling out of the subdivision I headed toward Man-O-War. I still have a 30 minute drive ahead of me. I was over an hour late, and if traffic was any indication I would be almost two hours late by the time I finally got there. Unless. . .

I knew what David would say. But Dennison Lane would cut fifteen minutes off my commute time. It was dangerous due to the construction, and the fact it probably hadn't been cleared like the main streets. Still fifteen minutes was fifteen minutes. Turning left on Beaver, I took the Dennison turn-off, trying hard not to read the warning signs. My gaze drifted to the rearview mirror and I caught sight of my reflection. Oh, my God, do I really look that bad? I'd probably scare the patients to death. Little wisps of hair stood on edge, deep dark circles surrounded both eyes, and my lips were drawn into a perpetual frown. No wonder David no longer kissed me goodbye. "Oh, God, if I just didn't have to deal with people today. No patients, no doctors, no babysitters or principals, no kids and especially no David. No screaming, crying or arguing. In fact, no noise at all. Just one day. All I needed was one day to pull myself together."

Pulling into the parking lot I parked and glanced at the clock. Eleven a.m. That couldn't be right--not unless time stood still. Maybe Dennison was a short shortcut than I'd thought. Stepping out I noticed the quiet. An unearthly, unnatural quiet. Where was everyone? Even the guard was missing from the shack.

Grabbing my purse I headed in, running a hand through my messed up hair. Carol Ann was going to be furious I was so late, but she'd get over it. Pushing open the door I entered the hospital, stopping just inside. "What the. . .," I mumbled. There was no one there. No patients, no nurses. The hospital appeared to be deserted. I spent the next hour going from floor to floor, room to room, but it was the same everywhere. Not a single soul. Had there been an emergency evacuation? All the phones were dead and my cell wasn't getting a signal. Everything was sort of gray, like the electricity was functioning on low.

"Dammit, they could have called me." Everyone knows not to come in but me. Thanks a lot, Carol Ann.

Leaving the hospital I head back to the car and turn on the radio. Nothing. What if there had been some sort of terrorist attack and everyone had been evacuated?
Where would they take them? And why was it so freakin' quiet?

"Calm down, Sierra. There's a perfectly logical explanation for this. I'll just go back to Marybeth's. She's a news fanatic and she'll know what's going on."

It was a little freaky driving down the empty streets. No cars and all the lights on green. It took me less than fifteen minutes to get back to Marybeth's. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw her van still in the driveway. I knocked on the door and waited. "Marybeth? It's me Sierra." No answer.

Walking around the house I knocked on windows, trying to peer in. She was home. She had to be home. Kicking out a basement window I climbed in and made my way upstairs and through the house. Empty.

Okay, I'm just tired. That's it. This is all a dream. A bad dream, but still a dream. I just need a short nap and when I wake up everything will be back to normal. Sitting down in the recliner I close my eyes and in no time I'm fast asleep.

I have no clue how long I slept, but when I woke the house was still empty, and the world was still quiet. It appeared to be close to dawn. I had to find David and the kids.

I kept my eyes on the road, looking neither left nor right, and I didn't worry about stopping for lights and stop signs. There wasn't another single person anywhere.
Pulling up in front of the house I fought back tears of fear and frustration. David's car was gone and the house was dark and lonely. Still I had to know.
Unlocking the door I went inside, calling out. "David, kids, I'm home."

Going from room to room I picked up pieces of my life. David's shirt where he'd dropped it the night before. Cassandra's hair berets. David Lynn's comics and finally Corey's stuffed "gobie". Tears came in earnest then as I remembered my prayer. No, people. No David. No kids." I hadn't wanted them so God had taken them away from me. How could I do that? How could I even think that? "I want them back. Please, I want my family back." I cried out, hugging the small stuffed dog to my chest. "Please, God, give me my family back."

* * *

I don't know how long I cried. Long enough to cause my body to hurt inside and out. Suddenly there were voices above me. "David?"

I felt his hand wrapped tightly around mine.

"I'm here, honey. Everything's gonna be okay."

"What happened?" I croaked, my throat dry, voice raspy.

"You were in an accident. God, Sierra, I thought I'd lost you. You've been in a coma."

"How long?" I asked opening my eyes, blinking in the bright light.

"A whole day. The longest day of my life."

There hadn't been an evacuation. No magical disappearance. No bad dream. A coma. Twenty-four hours of nothing. I wanted to laugh, but it hurt too bad. I honed in on David's voice, whispering to me.

"It's gonna be all right, honey. I promise things are going to be different. I'm gonna spend more time at home, help you with the kids. I love you, Sierra."

Closing my eyes, I drifted back into the darkness, this time into a deep natural sleep. Everything was going to be okay. David loved me. He was going to help with the kids. I had his promise. A promise of a better life. "Please, God, don't let this be a dream."


  1. Wow! Great ending. You've got a good story here, Linda.

  2. Thanks, Edie. It's really Julie's story as told by me. Still in rough draft form, but I'm working on it.

  3. I usually don't like short stories because they feel rushed and as if they didn't really end, but this one is good. I liked it. I felt when it ended, that the story was finished and that I could feel good about the characters and where they were heading.

    Learning a lesson can never hurt us either, and this one has a good message, being late is never worth taking chances on our life, and that family and those we love are more than all the other junk that occupies our time.


  4. Thank you, Sam. You praise means a lot to me. Especially with this story.

  5. I wrote something similar about my high school, but it was a dimensional rift. LOL Got rid of those icky people though.

    Good story. I liked it.

  6. Sheilagh Lee said:This is similiar to a story I wrote at Christmas. you had an eerie quiet though I didn't I really like that effect in the story.

  7. Parts of this I kept looking over my shoulder.. okay.. I'm not a nurse and I've only two kids but what the heck? Was she their filming MANY a morning when my kids were young? lol I felt the urgency and frustration wow did it bring back memories. Girl you had one of these mornings. The ATM not working and everything. No way you could put such genuine feeling in there. I think SOO many women would relate to this. And first person challenging? You were dead on the whole time. When I write first person my tense is always off. You nailed it! Great short really enjoyed it! =)

  8. Wow, Eli, thank you. And this was the rough draft. I'm hoping to finish it something in the next week or so.

  9. Really enjoyed this. Love the premise :)