March 4, 2008

photo fiction contest entry

The Write Stuff Photo Contest #2 [link]
The challenge:
Take a picture of whatever you wish.
Post that picture on your blog.
Write a
fictional story based on that picture.


Life is fragile as a dime store cap gun. One good crack with a smooth tumbled river rock, and it's all over. I suppose that's when it began, the day Ian got all up in my face for losing his best Lego storm trooper when he knew damn well he'd lost it himself in the Thompsons' ivy. We were only seven--he was turning eight the next day, but he was going to be held back in second grade. Ian couldn't count the consonants in his own name.

I remember the spit flying from his lips. I remember an animal rage in his eyes. I remember telling him I never had his storm trooper, but his voice screeched higher when the tears came and he called me a stupid liar. And then I remember the push and the tumbling backwards, off balance, tripping on the bed of river rocks my father had just spent two days shoveling out of wheelbarrows.

What happened next is still in debate. Ian says I threw one of those rocks at his head. That I tackled him and took his cap gun and smashed it on the concrete driveway. But how, my mother asked later with a bloody paper towel in her hand, had I ended up with a forehead gash requiring four stitches? He vowed he'd never play with me again as he stalked home, his dirt-streaked hands holding the remains of his cap gun.

Two days later, we got out our light sabers and played a grand Star Wars game. It seemed all was forgotten. I even got to be Obi-Wan so I could wear the hood over my big bandage.

Tomorrow Ian turns eighteen. I’m giving him two birthday presents, just two little things. I think about little things a lot these days.

Dad finally left, and Mom took her little diamond ring off her finger. It’s better for both of them, really, with me moving on soon. But when Dad came home to get some stuff, his little key wouldn’t open the door any more. Little things have power. Sometimes.

The day Mom changed the locks, I bought Kathleen a new cell phone, the littlest one they make now. Our second anniversary, at least the way I count it. I’ve loved her since fifth grade, but it wasn’t until sophomore year she finally kissed me. A bunch of us were snowed in at Marian’s house, and I found a little corner on the basement stairs where we hung out, talking about nothing until she just leaned down onto me and put her lips to mine, soft and dry, cracked with winter. Her breath was cinnamon red-hots, and her hair was strawberry shampoo. Her long, slender fingers hovered on the back of my neck. We fell asleep on the stairs until Ian found us in the morning and we all went home. Kathleen gave me one of her earrings when she left, a little diamond chip I wore for two years.

I took it out this morning. It’s on my desk in front of me, next to the Lego storm trooper I dug out of the Thompsons’ ivy after lunch. I’ve got a book propped up so if Mom sticks her nose in my room, she won’t see any of it. Not the earring, not the storm trooper, not Kathleen’s cell phone, not the positive early pregnancy test. Mom would flip if she saw that little thing.

At first when I saw the box in Kathleen’s medicine cabinet I freaked. EPT? We’d been careful all three times we’d made love. I’d swiped a little box of Trojans from the drug store where I worked. So I didn’t understand why she had the EPT box. At least it was unopened. “Just in case,” she’d said. And she kissed me. Just a little kiss.

Yesterday she was out when I stopped by, but her dad let me in to drop off some CDs. I wrote a note, hated it, crumpled it, tossed it in the trash. That’s when I saw the little corner of the EPT box buried under some tissues. I dug it out, found the positive test stick. Then I heard her phone.

She left it, I guess. Incoming text message. From Ian. “Neg or pos? Luv U!”

That was yesterday. An hour ago I acquired my other little birthday present for Ian. I dig it out of my pocket and place it on the desk. Now a neat little arrangement of little things: a Lego storm trooper, an earring, a cell phone, a pregnancy test, and a thirty-eight caliber bullet.

But a nice, smooth river rock would be more satisfying.

11 comments:

Maria said...

fantastic!
And I love the first line!

bluesugarpoet said...

Great "little" story. Love how you've weaved a few thematic elements from beginning to end.

b said...

I read the whole thing and that is something. I cannot read bad writing. I just wish there weren't a fictional bullet on the desk. Does it really need to be there?

b

pjd said...

maria, thanks for reading it! Glad you liked the first line. It sort of came to me when the story emerged from a nebula of hazy ideas.

bsp--thanks! your comments mean a lot to me, as you know. I hope I didn't hit you over the head with the "little things" theme. did I ever send you an update on GMD status?

b: (the names get shorter and shorter!) thanks for reading it. I'm glad you liked the writing. For me, the bullet is an important piece of the relationships and who the MC is. I didn't really select it so much as that's who came out when I wrote the story. Will he actually use it? A little unclear, but at the point he's sitting there, he definitely thinks he will.

Chris said...

Great story, but I have come to expect great things anytime I visit your site. You wove a haunting tale. I agree with you, the bullet needs to be there, but I wonder at only one? I took the story as he was going to seek blood from all of them, but that’s because I've been down that road in real life; double murder/suicide. Maybe all we need to see is the gun and not a bullet count, leaving the reader to make the call. However, I didn't get that he may or may not use the gun. If it's important for the audience to see, you might consider adding to the piece, but I don't think it really needs it.

Anyway, just small thoughts, the piece is wonderful with out my meddling! I love the last line.

ChristineEldin said...

I have to come back later and read this, but I love that photo!!!

pjd said...

chris, thanks so much for the compliment!

chris(tine), I hope you do come back and read it. Your thoughts would be very much appreciated.

UL said...

wow, i was caught up from start to finish, esp. liked the last line on river rock...the photograph seems so innocent like you said, but the tale..wow! Just wow!

Chris said...

No disrespect to Jodi, but yours was the best, not only in the story line, but construction as well. I suspect many people voted for their own piece, but then again I'm a bit of a cynic.

Kerri Witt said...

You're a natural story teller. Well written.

There's magic in simplicity.

pjd said...

chris, kerri, and UL--thanks for the kind words! I was out of town all weekend and only just now got back to find that Annie and Jodi had won. Congratulations to them! It's always fun entering these contests, and I really appreciate you all stopping by and reading my entry.