Thursday, February 11, 2010

Honorable Mention

I know it's not Friday but it is Thursday and next week I'm sort of changing my blog schedule around and Thursday will be the day I post excerpts from my WIP's. So gentle readers, you get two surprises from me this week.

This is the short story I entered in the Genre Wars contest over at the Literary Lab which received an honorable mention and is going into the anthology. I am so excited. I hope you like it. Any comments, questions or criticisms are welcome, but if you're going to criticize, beware, I may withhold the danish from the buffet.

High Tide

Owen sat on the deck and watched the gulls swarming over the school of frenzied skipjacks trying to get away from the voracious blues underneath. Summer was fading and the blues were running almost every day now. He thought about grabbing his pole off the back patio and throwing a line into the surf but couldn’t be bothered to go to the fridge in the shed to get the worms.

High tide had started coming in and the breeze had turned. Owen went into the cottage to close the windows. It would be cold later, not that it mattered. Dee wouldn’t be coming tonight. He closed the windows none-the-less; there was nothing worse than sleeping on damp sheets.

Owen grabbed a beer and went back out on the deck. Skip and Henry were down on the beach now with their poles and buckets. Skip’s dog chased some gulls off the beach further down past the breakwater that had had the audacity to land there after their feeding frenzy. Owen watched Henry cast his line and secured it in the makeshift pole-holder he’d put together with PVC pipe, duct tape and his lawn chair. Henry was creative that way.

Owen thought about the fight he’d had with Dee. Again. Was it his fault, or hers, he wasn’t sure. He only knew he hadn’t heard from her in twenty-seven days. She was usually the one who called after their arguments, to make him feel like an asshole so he would apologize, but she hadn’t called. At first he’d be damned if he called her. He wasn’t going to apologize for something he didn’t remember but he knew without a doubt that she would remind him. Now he thought it was too late to call.

Owen went back into the cottage, grabbed the phone off its cradle before he thought about what he was doing and dialed her number. One, two, three, four rings and the message played, “Hi, it’s me, leave a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, thanks.”

He waited for the beep. “It’s me,” he said and couldn’t think of anything else. Well, he could but how did he start. ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘I’m an asshole.’ ‘When are you coming down?’ ‘I miss you.’ Would she even buy that one? Finally, he just said, “Call me if you want.” He hung up.

He grabbed his old jean jacket off the back of the chair, put it on and went back out to the deck. Owen wondered where she was, what she was doing. It was Thursday, 4:30. If they hadn’t had the fight, she’d be on the highway, on her way down to see him. She’d stay the weekend, maybe until Tuesday if he could convince her, which he usually did. Where was she now? Home. At her wacky girlfriend’s with the weird name. Somewhere he would never know about, fucking some other guy.

Henry came clambering up the small stretch of rocks that separated the beach sand from the road. One more good storm and Owen would have the beach in his driveway.

“Hey man,” Henry said, “How’s it hangin’?”

“Same shit, different day,” Owen replied.

“Where’s your girlfriend? Ain’t seen her in awhile,” Henry stopped and put his hand up to shade his eyes. The sun was starting to set, glowing red over the lighthouse on the hill.

“I think we broke up.” Owen said with truthful regret.

“Oh that sucks man. She had nice tits.”

Henry was a pig but he was right, Dee did have nice tits. Owen didn’t respond.

“Blues are biting, why’n’t you grab your pole and come down.” Henry said.

Owen looked over the huge rosa rugosa in front of the house to see Skip reeling something in. “Nah, I’m waiting on a call.” This was almost true. Owen doubted Dee would call him tonight. She’d probably wait until morning after she finished screwing the new guy.

“Your loss man.” Henry trudged back down the beach.

Owen downed the last of his beer and went in the house. He placed the empty bottle on the counter and opened the fridge to get another, decided against it and stood in front of the kitchen window that looked out to the east end of the beach. Skip’s dog was still chasing gulls, or were the gulls chasing the dog, Owen couldn’t tell.

The phone rang. Owen reached behind the counter and picked it up. His heart did a little fluttery thing before he said, “Hello?”

“You called?” It was Dee.

“Yeah,” Owen said not knowing what to say.

“What’d you want?” She wasn’t friendly.

“I don’t know.”

“Then why’d you call?”

“I don’t know. To say I’m sorry, to say I’m an asshole, to tell you I miss you.” And your tits.

There was silence on the other end of the line. Owen opened the fridge and got another beer. He cracked the top and took a long gulp.

“Owen, I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Her voice sounded tired.

Owen didn’t want to know what this was. “This what?”

“This, us, this thing we do. For Christ’s sake O, we’ve been dancing around for too long now. Something’s gotta’ give and I’m sick and tired of the bullshit. I’m done.”

“Look, why don’t you come down and we can talk about it. I…I’m sorry. I really am. You can tell me all the things I’ve done to piss you off and I’ll work on them. I swear. C’mon, we can go to that funky little Chinese place in the city that you like.” He was grasping at straws, he knew, but the tone in her voice made him believe she was truly done with him this time.

“O, please, we’ve done this a hundred times already. It’s not working. I can’t lie to myself anymore.” She sounded sad.

“Dee, I love you, I don’t want to lose you.” Owen grasped the only straw he had left.

“Owen please, don’t start.”

“Well, what do you want me to say? It’s true. I do love you. I want us to be together. Look, I’ll go up there for the weekend. I can be there in forty-five minutes,” he glanced at the clock, “Okay, maybe an hour. We’ll talk, we’ll go out, we’ll stay in, we’ll do whatever you want to do. Please Dee.”

The silence was deafening. Finally she whispered, “I’m sorry Owen, I can’t. Not anymore.” He heard the click of the phone and the line went dead.

Owen placed the phone back in its cradle. He stood at the sink looking out the window. Skip’s dog had something in his mouth and was dragging it up the beach. Owen wondered if the crazy mutt had finally caught a gull.

He wanted to cry, thought he should, but didn’t know how. There was an ache in his guts, something he’d never felt before, he didn’t like it, but didn’t think Pepto-Bismol would take care of it. He should drive up to Providence and find her. Talk to her. He should, he knew he should.

“Aw fuck.” He said to the house. He stared out the window at the empty beach. The setting sun hit the windows of the A-frame on the other side of the shoreline, half a mile down the beach. Its red glare hurt Owen’s eyes. He turned away from it and looked around his little house. What was he supposed to do now?

He went into his bedroom and grabbed a few things for overnight, stuffing them into his backpack. In the kitchen, he grabbed his keys and his beer and went out to his truck. He threw the backpack onto the front seat, put his beer in the cup holder and started the Chevy. He let it idle for a few minutes as he sat thinking. Should he go? Would she be pissed if he showed up? What was it he wanted from her anyway? Marriage? Commitment? A decent sex life? What the fuck did she want from him? He’d never asked.

Owen turned off the truck took his beer and his backpack into the house. The sun had set and the pink and lavender sky made the ocean dance darkly in front of his little house. Skip and Henry were still down on the beach.

Owen made his way out to the shed and got his box of worms. He grabbed his pole off the patio and headed down to the beach. He glanced in Henry’s bucket and noticed a big blue and a striped bass that was definitely under the thirty-two inch limit.

“They catch you with that, you’re gonna’ be in some shit you know.” Owen said.

“Who’s gonna’ tell?” Henry asked.

“I thought you were leaving. I saw you get in your truck.” Skip said.

“Yeah, I was, decided not to. I’m gonna’ fish instead.” Owen said while putting a worm on the hook. He walked down from the two men about ten feet then cast his line past the breaking waves. He walked back to Henry and Skip, put his pole on the sand and waited for the line to bob.

© 2010 Anne Gallagher
No part of this story can be reused without the express permission of the author.

**Now that I've re-read it, I can see some glaring 'oops, probably should have changed that' but there it is. What do you think?


sarahjayne smythe said...

I like this. I like the bite it has just under a very understated surface. I also really like the dialogue between Owen and Henry. It’s spot on guy talk.

And his conversation with Dee was dead on. Simple and painful as he flails around, in over his head and unable to make to make it work.

Now he thought it was too late to call.

I’ve been thinking about simple words and their power lately, and I think this really hits that. This line guts me.

He wanted to cry, thought he should, but didn’t know how.

This is elegant, and makes Owen ring true as a character.

What was he supposed to do now?

Again, such a simple question that really just covers it all. And who hasn’t asked themselves this in the midst of bad things happening?

What the fuck did she want from him? He’d never asked.

This may be the saddest line of all. Never asking is usually our biggest regret.

Anyway, congrats on your win. This is a lovely piece.

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah Jayne -- Thanks so much. Like I said I'm not really literary in the sense of prose, I like simple. Of course I never looked at this the same way you did but now that you've pointed out so many things you liked, I have a happy warm glow about me.

Summer said...

That was wonderful. Congratulations on Honorable Mention--you definitely deserved it.

Piedmont Writer said...

Thank you Summer. Nice of you to say so. Stop by tomorrow too, have another little tid-bit I'd like to share.

Falen said...

congrats! Now i want to go fishing...

Shelley Sly said...

This is great! The word that comes to mind is Honest. You didn't hold anything back here and didn't just make the guy look like nothing mattered. You showed everything that was going through his head and how he chose to react. You even had some humor in there sprinkled with the dramatic moments, which is one of my favorite kinds of storytelling. Bravo!

Davin Malasarn said...

You already know I love this story, Anne. It feels so accessible to me, like the emotion is so close and vivid that I know what I'm feeling from reading it is real.

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah A -- Me too!!!

Shelley -- Thank you. I try and keep my writing as honest as possible hence the swear words and the whole fishing. Guys I know back home do that. They fish to not think about their problems.

Davin -- Thank you sir. I like emotional angst, it's what we all go through, so I try and keep as honest and real as possible.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...


That definitely described the feelings of a break-up...a little too well. It made me a little uncomfortable because it was so realistic.

Great job!! :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks Hannah -- I see you know real life men like Owen too. Aren't they special? They'd rather fish than figure out how to fix a broken relationship. No wonder she dumped him.

Lady Glamis said...

Well, you obviously know that I like this story. :P