Hello all! I have finally decided to create my own blog to celebrate God's blessing to me as a writer! He has worked in so many ways, and this is one avenue in which I can share those many exciting ordeals with you! I hope to post updates on my journey as an author in not only my present novel, but, Lord willing, also in my future novels as well! Feel free to comment! God bless!
Monday, February 4, 2013
English 409: Intro to Fiction
I have been participating in this class at Purdue University since the beginning of January, and now... my first short story is due! I have critiqued the short stories of others for almost four weeks now, and now... it's my turn! I get shivers just thinking about it! (Pardon the cliche) I have been up for the past three hours refining and printing my short story. I actually had to print out one copy for every student in the class (18). The final copies are being printed now. I thought anyone who was still listening might appreciate a snippet of some things I write. So, here it is! Tell me what you think! I could use some critiquing!
English 409: Workshop 1
February 8, 2013
Instructor: Conor Broughan
At six o’clock on
a Tuesday evening, I stepped over the threshold of the Grand Central Station
entrance from the ticket booth. The place brought a world of strangeness to
everything familiar to me. The suits and ties dashed about in a frenzy,
dragging weighty suitcases behind them, a palm pilot in hand. Tight mini-skirts
waddled upon the five-inch stilettos with a tap-tap-tap along the cold marble
floor. Shoulders pushed past my shoulders, both directions. I turned an entire three-hundred
and sixty degrees. People rushed past me before I bumped into a steel bench,
wiggling promptly into the wedge available to me. I hugged my purse, right
between the seductive businesswoman and the gangster with the blaring screamo
music, as I glanced up at the clock again. The screeching music, the woman
beside me yelling into her phone, a few wailing kids a few feet away, and the
loudspeaker above announcing the arrival of the next train rattled in my brain.
My ears actually felt numb with it all. A high ringing noise pervaded the air. Face
after face passed me. I felt the dizziness crowd my eyes as they all whirled
around me, their lives never on hold.
The hands on
the clock slipped past seven. The entire world around me pushed and shoved
their way through the hurried crowd, trying to clamber their way up their own
ladder of success. They all had their reasons for being there, and none of them
had to do with mine. None of them cared. They had their own troubles. You could
see it in the way they nudged in and out between their fellow human beings
without so much as an “excuse me” on their lips. They never heard each other.
They never saw each other. It was the only thing familiar to me. Ignored by
fellow man. That was my credo.
shoulder-to-shoulder with those on my bench, I awkwardly slipped my hand into
my purse and withdrew the ticket I had just purchased. I pulled back into my
little slot on the bench quickly as a Donald Trump wanna-be backed into me. My
ticket was yanked from my hands, and I surged forward, grappling along the
floor between the tasseled loafers and beige heels for my precious ticket. They
came dangerously close to stepping on my little fingers, but I snatched up my
ticket and backed into my seat on the bench, holding my ticket closely to my
chest. I couldn’t lose it. It took all my guts to get this far. And this time,
I was determined to go through with it. I was determined to leave. I tugged on
my sleeve and chanted, “Carson’s a loser… Kate’s a loser… Carson’s a loser…
Kate’s a loser…”
I could hear
Dan’s voice in my head. “You deserve better than this, Wendy.”
I tugged a
little harder on my sleeve with my twitching fingers and accidentally elbowed
the kid next to me. He tossed his black hood from his head and ripped the ear
buds from his ears. “Watch it, lady!” he sneered.
“I’m sorry,” I
apologized quickly before he reinserted his ear buds. “I’ve come here at least
three times before, and I always end up going back home. I just can’t stand the
crowd,” I explained, flustered and reaching out for some sort of warm, human
whatever…” he replied with a look as if I should be accompanied by an orderly.
I looked back
down at the yellow paper: my ticket. The destination: somewhere south. I didn’t
care where. Location didn’t matter, just direction. So long as it was away, I
didn’t care. I just wanted to be away. I smoothed out the crumpled edges with
my unpainted fingernails. How many times had I chickened out? I couldn’t do it
again. I had to go through with it. I had even bought the ticket this time. I
couldn’t go back home. The heartlessness of the hardened crowd around me
reminded me of that. But the inky paper was too soft for a place like this.
This place where you couldn’t escape someone’s touch, yet be so terribly
abandoned. With another glance at the crowd around me, I had to get out. I had
to go home. I had to be away from this. I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t
do this. It was too strange. It was too terrifying. I made for the door.
I kicked through
the mail that had been shoved through the slot in my door as I walked into my
apartment. Tossing my purse on the counter, I bent over and picked up the
various envelopes as I slipped off my shoes and left them by the door. There
was a check from Dad in a long, business-like envelope… and another from Mom in
a more square, pink slip… Each was worth one-thousand dollars. Dad used to just
send me a hundred or so every so often, then I made the mistake of telling Mom
that he sent me money. So, of course, she had to out-do him. She sent me
two-hundred. Once Dad found out she was sending me two-hundred, he sent me
three-hundred. It was a ridiculous, immature cycle that benefitted me pretty
well once a month. I didn’t even have to pay for rent, anymore.
light on my land-line blinked as I dropped the rest of the mail on the counter.
I picked up the phone and selected my message. I jumped up on the counter and
let my legs swing as the dial tone came and I waited for my message. Ripping up
my train ticket, I let the pieces fall into the garbage can below me and
glanced around my apartment. I nodded with satisfaction at the cleanliness. I
wouldn’t have shoe marks on my coffee table, couch, or even on my carpet.
Everyone took off their shoes at the door. The walls were a distinct shade of
eggshell with taupe trim. I always left the ceiling fan running. With so much
clean air and space, I could breathe. All of my dishes were neatly put away and
stacked by color to coordinate with the Formica countertop. I had left
everything as I had hoped it to be found: neat and orderly so that organizing
them for a sale after I was gone would be easy.
was cluttered with A+ Biology exams from St. John’s University and Disney
magnets. Old pictures of me and Kate were scattered over it. Our red hair
blended into each other’s, and we set off our own green eyes. I sighed at how
people thought we were twins. I didn’t even have freckles. We used to act like
it, though. People said that if they stood between us when we laughed, it would
be like a surround-sound stereo system. Our skinny arms were wrapped around
each other tightly. I was wearing my favorite Colts hoodie with the little rip
in the sleeve so I could slip my thumb through and play with the little bit of
dangling string. I was actually smiling in that picture. I used to like it. But
that picture was taken before our parents’ divorce.
The magnet of Aladdin
and Jasmine held up the picture of me, Carson, and Brody, my Border Collie that
had died two months ago. Carson had given him to me when we first started
dating. In that picture, Carson wore his hair a bit longer. But lately, he
started cutting it short. I kept telling him I liked it longer with his hazel
eyes. But Kate liked it shorter.
I zoned back in when my message finally began.
Hey Wendy… This
is Dan… I was just wondering when we were going to meet tomorrow. Gimme a call.
I sighed. Poor Dan. He was trying so hard to cheer me up. I dialed his number.
“Hey Dan. This is
Wendy,” I sighed, relieved to finally be back home to familiarity. He had no
way of knowing that I was planning for a few short hours not to show up
tomorrow. I was planning on being very far way by then. I went to the freezer
and yanked on the door.
Hey Wendy. We
still on for tomorrow? Dan’s sweet voice sounded from the other side.
“Yeah. Where do
you wanna meet? When?” I asked as I pulled out the milk. I opened the lid and
cracked the bit of ice forming on the top, pouring the freezing milk into a
tall, blue glass.
Well, are you
sure Carson’s cool with us hanging out? Dan asked from the other end.
“He’s meeting me
here afterward. Don’t worry about it, Dan,” I reassured. I withdrew the peanut
butter from the Lazy Susan and peeled back the lid. Grabbing a spoon from the
silverware drawer, I jumped back up onto the counter top, peanut butter in one
hand and milk in the other.
You know my
policy on boyfriends, Wendy. I really love hanging out with you, but if he’s
not cool with it, neither am I, he warned.
“Don’t worry about
it, Dan. How about the polar bear exhibit? Nine?” Just then, another call came
in. It was Carson. “Is that cool?”
be great. I’ll bring my Bible, he said calmly. He always remembered the
“Hey, I’ve gotta
go. Carson’s calling me.”
Keep your cool,
Wendy. I hung up on him.
What’s up?” Nothing in my voice suggested that he would have never seen me
again, had I not chickened out two hours before. My secret was safe.
Not much, babe…
About tomorrow… Kate wants to come over, too. I figured the three of us could
chill at your place. It’s been a while since you’ve seen your big sister.
I tensed up so
quickly, my hands shook with the phone clutched tightly. I almost threw it
across the room. Instead, I shoved my milk and peanut butter into the sink with
a loud “CLANG!”
What was that?
be fine,” I lied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up before he could say he
loved me first. I sighed softly, then turned to the dishes I had rashly
discarded. I washed them slow enough so that I could read the little bits of
Bible verses I had taped up to the wall over the sink. It was the story of
When I was
done, I yanked the picture of me, Brody, and Carson off the refrigerator.Then, off came the best pictures of me and
Kate. I threw them all into the sink and stuffed them down the drain. I flipped
the switch for the garbage disposal.
“It’s too bad we
aren’t here around feeding time,” I remarked as Dan and I stood in front of the
polar bear display.
“That’d be pretty
cool,” Dan replied. He was always cool and collected no matter how large the
elephant in the room. Nothing could shake his nerve. He stood taller than me by
almost a foot and a half and was only eighteen months older than me. He was
going to turn twenty-two in June. He wasn’t quite as handsome as Carson, with a
thick, clumsy smile and hair that belonged in a fashion magazine from the 80’s.
He had a Bible small enough that his pocket soon accepted it and began to form
fade marks around it. For the longest time in high school, he threatened to
wear a kilt permanently to honor his heritage. I wouldn’t have put it past him.
Needless to say, he wasn’t my type. But I loved him for it.
“Are you going to
talk to Carson?” he asked me pointedly.
“Well, I can’t,
really,” I replied, tapping on the glass lightly. Dan’s head cocked my way. “Kate’s
coming over with him.” He breathed out heavily.
“This has to stop,
Wendy,” he said, irritated. “Couples should talk about their problems. And he
has a lot of them.”
I continued to
stare into the aquatic blue before me where the blurry, white bear glided
around elegantly. I just listened. When it came to talking to Dan, listening
was better than replying. He normally had something truly earth-shattering to
say if you gave him long enough.
This time was
“I can’t help you
anymore, Wendy,” he said. His voice had a tone of surrender. “Believe me, I
want nothing more than to go break that guy’s nose. But you need to fix this.”
I tried listening
again, but he wouldn’t have it.
“Wendy,” he pushed
my shoulder a bit so I would have to face him. His boring, brown eyes looked
straight into mine. They shifted as he glanced from one of my eyes to the other.
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
I shrugged him
away and looked back at the polar bears. “I’m so sick of everything, Dan,” I
murmured as I continued to stare. “I’m so sick of it all.”
“Then fix it,” he
“Kate’s my sister.
I can’t help who my family is. This problem isn’t just going to go away. It
might even be better if I…” I stopped myself before I let my secret trip to the
train station slip from my lips.
“Don’t run, Wendy,”
he said softly. I looked at him, but he only continued to follow the graceful dance
of the polar bear in the water with his eyes. “Remember Jonah?”
“I’m not running from
God, Dan,” I sighed.
“But you’re running
from your problems,” Dan quickly corrected me. I wondered if he knew about my escapades,
but I was done arguing with people. “You know I’m always here for you, right?”
he asked after a few moments of silence. “And I’m praying for you.”
We stood parallel
to one another before the aquarium. He reached up and put an arm around my
shoulder, just like my Dad used to. “Yeah,” I replied. “I know.”
The first thing
I noticed was the shoes, or lack thereof. There were no shoes beside the door.
When I looked up, Kate had one foot on the couch, pulled up to her chest, and
the other on Carson’s stomach as she lounged on the arm of the sofa. She was
wearing her shortest cut-offs with a spaghetti-strap tank top. She let her long
hair drape over the couch, away from her thin neck. She pushed her shoulders
forward slightly so her shirt drooped even lower. A bowl of popcorn was on the
coffee table, and two glasses of Mountain Dew were set—without coasters—on my
wooden couch arms. Carson was slouched down into the couch, his shod feet on my
clean, glass, coffee table. He had rolled up his plaid sleeves, one hand on the
channel changer, the other on Kate’s upper thigh. His thumb was slowly moving
up and down. One battle at a time, Wendy, I thought, raging. One
battle at a time.
“You guys!” I
burst out, trying to stay calm. “You know I don’t like shoes on the couch and
coffee table! Why can’t you take them off at the door?”
“Oh, come on,
Wendy,” Kate replied with a screwed smile tweaking the tips of her mouth.
“Yeah, keep it
down, babe. It’s the eighth inning,” Carson replied, turning up the volume. He
didn’t even look at me.
“That’s a nice
way to greet your sister,” Kate sneered. “I haven’t seen you since Mom and
Dad’s divorce. Why not a nice, “Hi, Kate! I’ve missed you!””
commandment tells us not to lie, Kate?” I asked, hoping it would prick her as I
let my purse drop onto the kitchen floor. Kate and Carson had been walking
through mud, and it was all over my clean, white tile and carpeting. I glanced
back at Carson and Kate on the couch. Kate had put both her feet on the ground.
Mud from her shoes flaked away as she stomped them down. She leaned in to
Carson, and he slipped his arm around her waist, resting his hand on her
better?” she hollered from the living room. “She always was a prude,” she
muttered to Carson softly. I snatched some paper towel from the counter.
“Don’t worry about
her,” he replied, just as softly. “She’ll get over it.”
she’d be a little sensitive to the sister she hasn’t seen in almost two
months,” Kate said, getting louder and louder as she spoke to make her point
“All I’m asking
is that you respect my living space when you come over to hang out. I really
like keeping things clean,” I said patiently, crawling around on all fours to
pick up the bits of mud that had crumbled off in trails.
“I hear ya,
babe. I’ll be more careful, next time,” Carson said, looking at me straight and
nodding a bit. I could tell he was sincere and almost thanked him.
“Oh, come on,
Carson!” Kate butted in. “Don’t be a wimp! She can handle a little dirt!”
I bit my
Kate,” Carson said, almost annoyed. “The commercials are over.”
Wen!” Kate exclaimed. “Your hair is disgusting! When was the last time you
“I took a
shower this morning!”
“If you’re so
obsessed with this place, why can’t you at least put a little more effort into
your appearance? Talk about hypocritical.”
deeply. “I will overlook the fact that that was a complete misuse of that word
and merely repeat that I showered this morning.”
“Yeah, I know,”
Kate said, sitting up a bit and propping herself up on Carson’s knee. “I was
going to shower, but you used all the hot water. Thanks for being so
“Um- this is my
apartment,” I seethed, glaring at the precarious positioning of her hand as she
continued to lean on Carson. “If you want to come and eat my popcorn and drink
my Mountain Dew and use my electricity and—yes—even use my boyfriend, you’re
going to play by my rules. That means, shoes go off at the door,
coasters go under the drinks, you’re going to sit at opposite ends of
the couch, and get your slutty hands off my boyfriend.” Kate gaped.
babe,” Carson muttered before Kate’s red face could cuss me out. He was still
staring at the baseball game. “I don’t care if you don’t.”
“Yeah, Wendy, you sound like Mom.”
Kate,” I said with a tone that bit her words off. We glared at each other,
faces and eyes screaming a thousand words. I squeezed my eyes closed, then went
to my room to cool off. I closed the door half-way and heard Kate and Carson
from the other side.
you could freak out any more over a little dirt?” I heard Kate ask.
totally insane. My Mom never got that mad at me,” I heard Carson concur.
I softly opened the door and peeked through. Kate had turned over so she was
leaning face first into Carson’s chest.
obsessive! How can you stand to be around her?” Carson shrugged. “She’s got to
be a bummer to go clubbing with.”
“Oh, we don’t
go clubbing,” Carson interrupted her, popping popcorn into his big mouth.
“She’s a bit too righteous for that.”
“It’s all that
Bible crap,” Kate said, leaning up close to Carson’s face. “We should ditch
her. She’s such a buzz-kill.”
“Eh, I don’t
know,” Carson said, glancing back the direction of my room, then back to Kate.
“Let’s just stick around a little longer to see if she doesn’t lighten up. You
could lighten up a bit, too.”
Kate gave a
little giggle. “Stop tickling me!” She giggled again.
My coat in one
hand and my keys in the other, I stormed from my room, grabbed my purse, and
ran out the front door, slamming it behind me. I only caught a blurred glance
of the two of them in a flirty tussle on the couch. I heard the giggling stop for
a couple seconds, then recommence. I didn’t stay any longer to find out what
would come next.
You would think
that Grand Central Station would be familiar to me by now, my fifth time
standing amid the crowd. The cold marble beneath my feet freeze my toes as I stand,
motionless. The high ceiling, with all its intricate work, is too cluttered by lights
and designs to be a breathing space for my eyes. My claustrophobia adds to the
pressures that build up in my head, compressing everything to the sound of a
feather dropping in a lightless room. I don’t care about the neatness of my
ticket. I crumple it up in one hand, grasping so tightly that my entire hand
turns white. This ticket is going to take me farther north. Maine, I think. The
train is scheduled to leave in thirty minutes. I have to kill time somehow
before I start to notice the crowd again. I move to the wall and find a bench
there. I open my purse, the only bag I brought with me, and rummage through it
for something to occupy my mind. I find my Bible and remember Jonah, the
passages I had been memorizing over my dirty dishes. I quickly put my Bible
back in my purse.
Opening the brochure
advertising Maine, I glaze over the fall foliage and summer horse-back rides, dreaming
of the life laying before me. It’s only a few hours away! Soon, it will all be over.
I have plenty of money from the cashed checks and savings I withdrew before arriving
at the train station, and I’m really beyond caring that my registration at St. John’s
will be dropped. With Brody gone, there’s no one left to depend on me or care if
I suddenly break a date without explanation. But in Maine, I will make new friends.
The friends I’ll make in Maine will care about what happens to me. I can make friends
easily enough at church and work. Finding a job in this economy will be difficult,
but I know God will be with me. And He cares, too. I have to quit thinking about
what I’m leaving behind and focus on what adventures lie ahead!
But there is still
another fifteen minutes until my train leaves. I open my wallet and find the
various pictures I keep with me at all times: “My Treasures” I used to tell
people as I flipped through the various pictures of Mom, Dad, Kate, Carson, Dan,
and my other friends, telling my audience about how lucky I was. I stop on the
picture of Dan.
“Don’t run, Wendy.”
His words reverberate from the high ceiling of Grand Central Station. My heart feels
wrenched from my chest as I hear his words. Here, now, I have this one chance to
get away from it all, to be relieved of all my burdens, to let it all go with a
claim of anonymity to anyone I will meet hereafter. After getting off the train,
I will get rid of my ID. I will find a new name. Allison Birch. Yes. I’ll go by
that name. And my family is dead. If anyone asks questions, I’ll stick with that.
And I will be myself.
And I won’t think
about the look on Dan’s face when he comes into my apartment, all clean and ready
to be organized for a rummage sale… Yes, he would care. I know he would care as
I picture the disappointed look on his face. And God would care. He wouldn’t want
me to run from my problems, no matter how terrible. Dan and Jonah remind me of that.
God would want me to face my problems. That means, going back to my apartment and
confronting Kate and Carson. I really shouldn’t be with Carson, anyway. I would
break up with him. I would tell Kate how much she hurt me. I would ask her to treat
me better. If she refused, I would continue loving her as God loves me: unconditionally.
I wouldn’t be a doormat, but I would be ready to forgive her if she ever asks. It’s
a tearful picture.
As I sit on the
bench, my ticket in one hand and “My Treasures” in the other, I suddenly change
my mind. I’m no longer afraid of the crowd, only the scene I will come home to as
I go back to my apartment and find Kate and Carson. I gather my purse and belongings
and walk to the door, letting my crumpled ticket fall into a nearby garbage can.