A Story Challenge — More Meaning with Fewer Words — ‘After’

June 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm 2 comments

Here’s the story ‘after’ I accepted the challenge to bring it in under 10 minutes, told orally.
(Not) Rushing to the Climax by Sue Black
I was standing on the cracked linoleum floor in the kitchen – all alone – watching the dust motes dance in the sunlight. And there it was again. The question that popped into my head every now and again over the last 30 years, no matter how hard I shoved it away, was back. “Why the hell did I ever get married in the first place?”

When I first met him, I didn’t know that there would never, ever be any rushing John Black. You certainly can’t tell by looking at a guy that he’s a thinker, a planner, the kind of guy who likes to give it some thought, do a little research, find the best deal in town, and then ….. give it just a little more thought. Can you?
Back when we were in high school, my best friend Diana Durkin and I sat at a corner table in the school cafeteria and gazed longingly across the crowded room to the table where the finest boys in the senior class were sticking French fries up their noses. We sighed. “What do you think?” Diana leaned in and whispered to me. “Which boy is perfect?” I knew right away. “John Black. Diana, look at him. Freckles. Curly hair. He’s gorgeous. John Black’s the only one for me.”
We were totally unaware that over at John Black’s table he had an issue that required some thought on his part and a bit of research too. “Who should I ask to the dance next Friday? I can’t decide. Diana or Sue? What do you think?” Sucking on chocolate shakes, John’s friends began waving their hands, nodding their heads, and looking our way. And then silence. Consensus. “Hey, John, it’s an easy decision. Dude, Diana Durkin’s boobs are way bigger than Sue’s. Ask her.”
He didn’t. He thought about it. A few weeks later John asked me to go with him to one of those Friday night dances. It was so romantic: the school cafeteria; my head on his shoulder; and lingering in the air the scent of old French fries, boiled hot dogs and baloney sandwiches.
It was the start of something good. We dated for one whole year.
And then another one.
And another.
And another.
And another.
And another.
Unfortunately, from time to time during those years, John stepped out of our relationship. “Gotta give it some thought.” I soon discovered he was doing more than just thinking; he was conducting additional research; looking for a better deal.
I am not bitter.
We dated one more year.
That’s the year John graduated from college, moved to Chicago to start work, and left me back in Madison,WI to finish my degree. It seemed like I was the one always sitting on a Greyhound bus on weekends, traveling back and forth so we could be together.
It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. John and I were curled up on the couch and it seemed like a good time to bring it up. “You know, John, marriage might be the next logical step in our relationship. This isn’t a threat, but if we’re just dating, I can probably find someone closer to home for that. What do you think?” Oh, you should have seen the look in John Black’s eyes – big, huge actually, a little watery around the edges. He swallowed with a loud “gulp”. He didn’t say a word. By then I knew he was going to have to give it some thought. So I waited.
We went out to dinner that night, then to a movie. I waited. On Sunday morning we ate breakfast on the balcony of his apartment – coffee, newspaper, favorite radio station. I waited. That afternoon the Arboretum was gorgeous – blue sky, warm sun, soft grass – a perfect place to talk. We didn’t. I waited.
Sunday night found us in the bus station. Crowds were pushing past us, in a hurry to be on their way. It was cold and grey. We were standing at the end of the line in a puddle of oil and water. The yawning door of the bus began to swallow up my fellow passengers. I had to shout to be heard over the engines, “I guess I’ll see you next weekend?” John nodded. We inched forward. “You’ll call this week?” He nodded again. “Good bye.” We kissed. I turned. One foot on the first step, next foot on the second, and I was in. That’s when I heard it – John – over my shoulder – down at the bottom step of the bus, “Well, I s’pose we could get hitched.”
My feet froze. I turned around but the door was closing. “Stop! Open this door!” The driver shifted into gear. “Stop! I need to talk to John Black!”
“Sit down, lady.” And then we were gone. The miles stretched between us. So many questions swirled in my head. “What the hell? Did he really say hitched? Was that supposed to be a proposal?” I caught sight of my reflection in the window. I was smiling. I couldn’t wait to get home and call Diana Durkin and tell her, “I kinda sorta think I’m engaged.”
And we were. We got married. And that leads me to Part 2 of this story.

In the first year of our marriage “she” came into our lives. I didn’t know it, but John saw her every time we went to the mall – at the Sears store. She had long thin legs. Her body was as hard as steel. And he thought … maybe … he should have her. She was, after all, the table saw of John’s dreams.
But first he needed to give it some thought because maybe there was a better table saw on the market; maybe there was a better deal to be found; maybe it was too soon.
Then one day, months later, something about her was different. Across her chest were four red letters, S-A-L-E. John sprinted ahead. Even from a distance I could hear him talking to her. “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oo- o-o-o-o-oh Sue!”
“What, John, what?” But he was incapable of conversation. His chest was heaving up and down. He had a sheen of perspiration across his forehead. He could only point at her sale tag and say “Now! Now! Now! Sue, now!”
It was then I realized this all sounded vaguely familiar. Yes, I had seen John Black excited before but, dammit, never that excited. “Sue, there will never ever be a better price on this table saw. Listen, it’s December. Christmas is coming. You haven’t gotten me anything yet, right? She’s all I want.”
I looked at John, the afterglow still present on his face. I looked at the price of that table saw. I looked back at John again. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I was really thinking, “Honey, I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money on you for Christmas.” John got his table saw.
The problem was we didn’t own a home and we were moving a lot. So we just kept pushing around that 125 pound unopened box – 13 times over the next 11 years.
On the day we finally moved into our first real home, I watched the two of them out in the garage – together for the very first time. John’s eyes were shining as he gently stripped away her cardboard layers. His fingers shook as they caressed her shiny steel frame. Two hands embraced her long, lean legs. He began to fondle her perky little buttons. Aw, shit. She was still in great shape after 12 years of marriage. I ran back into the kitchen.

And that’s the way it’s been ever since – me, standing alone in the kitchen watching the dust motes dance in the sunlight and listening to the sounds of the two of them out there together in the garage, never ever knowing when they’ll actually finish a project. There it is again – that question – “Why the hell did I ever get married in the first place?” And there it is – the answer. It’s because she still lives in the garage; and on a cold night like tonight she’s covered with an old blanket.  Hmmm, come to think of it I’ll be covered with an old blanket later tonight too. But next to me will be John Black. When he wakes up in the morning and starts a new day of our marriage, he’s the guy who gives it some thought. He’s the guy who whispers, “Sue, I found the best deal around a long time ago.” And when I roll toward him tonight underneath that old blanket and tell him, “Honey, I’m cold. Will you warm me up?” – he’s the guy who’s going to take a very long time to do it. After all, there is no rushing John Black.

Entry filed under: Just Do It -- Stories from the Field, Living Out Loud, Noodling Around -- New Stories, Steering the Craft_Writing Exercises. Tags: , , , .

A Story Challenge — More Meaning with Fewer Words — ‘Before’ Saying It Out Loud

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sheila Glazov  |  June 13, 2011 at 8:52 am

    You hooked me! Grand story! You got my brain popping and my heart smiling Thank you!

  • 2. Lainie Levin  |  June 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Sue, this is beautiful. You’ve managed to tighten it up and still maintain your unique voice. I could hear your telling as I read it. =)


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