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

June 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm 1 comment

Here’s the story ‘before’ I accepted the challenge to bring it in under 10 minutes, told orally.
(Not) Rushing to the Climax by Sue Black

There is no rushing John Black. For those of you who don’t know, John Black is my husband and he admitted he wouldn’t mind if I told you this story … as long as he doesn’t have to be in the room
When I first met John Black I wasn’t even aware of that one tiny, little personality quirk. How could I possibly know? You 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, read an article about it, find the best deal, and then ….. give it just a little more thought.
But I will admit, although it takes him a long time to think things through and make up his mind, sometimes John Black makes some very good choices. Take me for example.

On a sunny September afternoon, first semester of my sophomore year in high school, I was told by my parents, “Sue, you will not date until you are 16 years old.”
My woeful, pleading, and ultimately good-for-nothing response: “But that’s four whole months away! I can’t wait ‘til December!”
Fortunately, my best friend Diana Durkin pointed out, “Sue, we’re not too young to look. Follow me.” We made our way to the high school cafeteria. Diana and I sat at a corner table. Across the cafeteria, at their very own special table, sat the finest boys in the senior class. They looked good. With our chins propped up on our hands, Diana and I watched them during fifth period lunch. Weeks later, we got up the nerve to walk past their table. We smiled. They smiled back. We giggled all the way back to our table and began the discussion of which boy was perfect. It didn’t  take me long to know exactly what I wanted. I quickly narrowed my choices to two – John Black and his best friend, Gary Bakker. A few weeks into October, when we learned Gary Bakker already had a girlfriend, my decision was made. John Black was the only one for me. 
Across the cafeteria, John Black had a problem. You see, he wanted to ask a girl to the dance – one of two girls, actually. But before he did that he was going to have to give it some thought. As part of his research, he had opened it up for discussion among the other senior boys. What two names were brought to that cafeteria table across the room?  Diana Durkin and me.
John and his friends, over French fries and chocolate shakes, carefully listed the pros and cons of each of us. It didn’t take long for those boys to point out that Diana Durkin’s …. “pro’s” …. were definitely bigger than mine. But that didn’t seem to matter to John. He asked me to go with him to the dance after the Friday night basketball game. And so it was – my first date – in November of my sophomore year.
It was so romantic: the school cafeteria; my head on John’s shoulder; the scent of old French fries, boiled hot dogs and bologna sandwiches lingering in the air.
We dated for one whole year.
And then another one.
And another.
And another.
And another.
And another.
From time to time during those years, John stepped out of our relationship to “give it some thought”. I soon discovered he was doing more than just thinking; he was doing some additional research; looking for a better deal.
We dated one more year.
It was in that seventh year that John graduated from college and moved to Chicago to start his first job; I was still back in Madison, WI finishing my degree. It seemed like I was always the one taking the greyhound bus back and forth on weekends to visit him. It was while I was on one of those long bus rides that I realized there were probably a few things in our relationship that needed to be discussed. “John,” I put on my sweetest voice and best smile as we sat side by side on the couch, “marriage might be the next logical step for us. This isn’t a threat of any sort, but if it’s just dating we’re doing, I can probably find someone closer to home for that.” Oh, you should have seen the look in John Black’s eyes. I could tell he was going to have to give that some thought.
The weekend was over and we were back in the crowded station. The bus engines were running. Noxious fumes swirled around us. It was cold and grey and we were standing in a puddle of oil and water at the door of the bus that would swallow me up and take me away for another week. I kissed John good bye. “I’ll see you next Friday.”  And then I turned away. As I started up the stairs of the bus I heard him say, “Well, I s’pose we could get hitched.”
The crowd was pushing me from behind. I wanted to stop, I wanted to turn around and say, “What the hell?” But I couldn’t. I was forced down the aisle of the bus. I found my seat. The driver pulled away. As the miles stretched between us, I stared out into the darkness. Did he really say hitched? Did he think that was romantic? Was that how I’d imagined it would be? Was that even 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 think I’m engaged.”
And we were. And we did get 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 had been interested in her for a long time. He saw her every time we went to the mall – the Sears store. Sometimes he thought up excuses to go to the mall just so he could see her again. She had long thin legs that went on forever. Her body was as hard as steel. She wore around her neck a sign, listing each and every one of her finest qualities. She was the table saw of John’s dreams. And he thought … maybe … he should have her.
But first he needed to give it some thought. He needed to do a little research. Maybe there was a better one; maybe there was a better deal to be found; maybe it was too soon.
Then one day, as we walked through the tool department of the Sears store, something about her was different. There were four red letters emblazoned across her chest, beckoning to John, S-A-L-E. John ran ahead. He stood so close to her. With his eyes half closed he gazed deeply into her sale price numerals. Even from a distance I could hear him saying something that sounded – vaguely – familiar. “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oo- o-o-o-o-oh Sue!” I ran quickly then. “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 why those noises sounded so familiar. I had seen John Black excited before but, dammit, never that excited. I asked “Honey, what are you thinking?”
“Sue, there will never be a better price on this table saw ever again. I have to have her! It’s December. Christmas is coming. You haven’t gotten me anything yet, right? You can give her to me for Christmas.”
Well, 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 much money on you for Christmas.” Instead I reasoned, “Honey, we don’t even own a house yet. What do we need a table saw for?”
“Sue, trust me. This is going to come in real handy some day.”
We got the table saw. And you know what? John Black was right. We pushed that huge box, that table saw nestled inside, into our small two-room house. No basement. No garage. That unopened box was going to sit in front of our couch. It became the coffee table I’d been wanting!
Over the next 11 years we moved that 125 pound table saw, who still lived inside of her box, 13 times. Sometimes, she slept on my side of the bed – our nightstand. Other times we dressed her up in a checkered tablecloth and put glasses of wine on top of her – our picnic table. It was during that last move that our friends put that unopened box right in front of our couch!  After a couple of weeks I finally told John, “Honey, if I had known it was just a piece of furniture we were buying so long ago at Sears, I might have picked something different. Maybe it’s time to move her to the garage. Maybe it’s time to take her out of her box.”
Oh, you should have seen the look in John Black’s eyes. I could tell he’d been giving that some thought. John smiled then. He jumped up from the couch and I watched as he stretched out his arms and gently wrapped them around … her. He pushed. And she responded. He pushed. And she responded. With each thrust they moved closer and closer to ….. the garage. John’s eyes were shining as he took her gently from her cardboard home. His hands caressed her steel frame and her long, lean legs.
Shit. She was still in great shape after 12 years of marriage.
When John began to fondle her buttons I had to turn away. I ran back into the house.
I stood in the kitchen for a few minutes, trying to catch my breath. Listening. There was no sound coming from the garage. No motor running. No boards being cut. John had not yet turned her on. I was pissed. I knew from recent experience he didn’t need to be taking so long for that. But then there it was! It was her; she’d come alive; her motor was humming. I looked at the kitchen clock. Ha! A quickie. But he’d never been that fast with me.
Well, as you can see, time has passed. After all these years, there’s still no rushing John Black. When he’s out in the garage working on a project with her there’s no telling how long it’s going to take the two of them to finish the job. I take comfort in the fact that she still lives in the garage; and on a cold night like tonight she’s covered up with an old sheet.  Hmmm, come to think of it I’ll be covered up with an old sheet later tonight too. But next to me, under that sheet, will be John Black. He’s the guy who, when he wakes up in the morning and starts a new day of our marriage, gives it some thought. He’s the guy who hasn’t done any extra research during our marriage because he tells me, “Sue, I found the best deal around a long time ago.” And when I roll toward him tonight underneath that old sheet 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 A Story Challenge — More Meaning with Fewer Words — ‘After’

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dan  |  November 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

    For what it’s worth, I like this one better. It has a depth of feeling and personality that seems to be lacking from its revision.


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