Short fiction; untitled

I wrote this in 2002, as an assignment for a writing class for a scene in which setting was of primary importance. I’ve always loved it, so I thought I’d share it with you here.

***

The sound of a neighbor’s lawn mower and the slight breeze from the open windows made it difficult to concentrate at the computer. Abandoning further attempts at productivity, Amelia rolled her chair away from the desk and went downstairs. She picked up her book and a rag to wipe the pollen off the rocking chair and went out the door. As she ran the rag lightly over the seat of the chair she grimaced, noting that the green paint was already starting to fade from the arms. She draped the rag over the rail of the porch and dragged the rocker to the far corner so she could be closer to the wisteria. Scott had planted the vine three years ago as little more than a shoot, and although it had already grown up the side and across the top of the farmer’s porch, the cascading blooms were concentrated near the few feet closest to the roots.

It was still early in May but the clematis vine, which Scott faithfully trimmed back every fall, had already woven itself thoroughly through the balustrade, providing the illusion of privacy.

Amelia opened her book and started to read. The sun made her eyes water and shading them with her hand didn’t help. Her attention wandered. She was distracted by several large bumblebees who were working in the wisteria. It wasn’t so much the noise they made, which was considerable, but a childlike anxiety that they would turn on her. She couldn’t remember whether or not bumblebees actually did sting people, but she was prepared to err on the side of caution. She glanced up at the ceiling. Scott had said there was a hole in the soffit that he’d seen hornets going in and out of, or maybe wasps, she hadn’t been paying attention. Whichever it was, she knew for sure that they were dangerous. Scott was going to spray something in the hole to kill them, but she didn’t know if he’d ever done that.

She contemplated moving her chair closer to the door, away from the bees and hornets, but a glance in that direction reminded her that she’d never watered the plant with the little purple flowers that was hanging from a hook in the ceiling near the stairs. She pushed herself angrily up from the chair, setting it rocking, and walked the length of the porch to the watering can that Scott insisted on keeping handy so he could minister to the garden whenever the spirit moved him. As Amelia reached down for the handle she saw her face reflected in the water. She watched as a tear made its way down the side of her nose and fell in, causing small ripples where previously all had been still. She watered the plant, despairing of ever learning what it was called now that Scott was gone.

The chair continued to rock after she’d gone in the door and back up to her computer.

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12 responses to “Short fiction; untitled

  1. I can see why you like this one, Judy. I think it’s a fine piece of writing–I was totally surprised by the ending. As for sense of place, it reminded me of that well-known story about Nabokov: a young man came to him seeking advice about becoming a writer. Nabokov told him to look out the window and tell him what kind of tree he saw. I think an answer of “I don’t know” would be the kiss of death.

  2. Scott is GONE?! I think there needs to be a piece from *his* point of view. Like, “Scott hung the scaevola on the porch, glad that the bug spray had finished off the nest of hornets (or was it wasps?). Admiring his handiwork, he tripped over his own watering can and plunged down the stone steps with that fieldstone siding he was so particular about. There was a snap. The watering can continued to drain after he was gone.”

  3. I don’t like Andrew’s version! Not at all! But Judy’s was lovely. Feel like I spent a moment on your porch in Massachusetts. And at some point I did see it coming…

  4. It was subtle in a beautiful way.

  5. This is a strong, short piece.

  6. Completely didn’t see it coming, and my thoughts immediately went to one of my HS friends who a couple of years ago completely unexpectedly lost her husband, who was her world. Debating whether sending it to her would be good or bad. Thinking best not to, it’s too powerful. Nice piece.

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