Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Summer of 1974 - Short Fiction

This is in response to a writing prompt: SILENCE at
Sunday Scribblings blog.

This is a slightly-altered scene from an in-progress novel in which the main character in 2004 reminisces about her life, thirty years earlier. In the novel, scenes alternate between the two time periods. Because the scene below takes place in 1974, note the lack of computers, cell phones, e-mail or text messaging.

Intaglio Printing Plate

The Summer of 1974

        Cali hadn’t uttered one word for three weeks. If others spoke to her, she nodded, shook her head, shrugged, or ignored them. Those who knew her thought she was being her usual introspective self, concentrating on her assignments.  Those who did not, chalked up her behavior to an artistic temperament.
        Cali felt like a robot. She told herself to get out of bed. She did. She told herself to walk to her art classes at the far end of campus. Her body obliged. She instructed herself to complete her printmaking projects. She signed and numbered her prints. She commanded herself to go to the cafeteria. She nibbled on tasteless morsels. She told herself to return to her dorm. She spent evenings there, alone, waiting for the phone to ring. 
        Yet sometimes, her mind would skip from one action to another causing her to wonder how she had arrived where she found herself, doing what she was doing.
        Tyler had returned home for the summer, but he hadn’t called nor written, hadn’t acknowledged her correspondence. His parents had no answering machine, so she was unable to leave a message. Eventually, her letters sounded like groveling. She stopped writing to him. 
        She couldn’t believe that Tyler wouldn’t at least tell her if he didn’t love her anymore. Ignoring her was cruel. Tyler had never been cruel. He admitted he had slept with Dawn, just that one time. Why couldn’t he be forthright enough to tell her the truth again?
        Tyler had hurt her then, but this time he had annihilated her spirit. Yet, she hadn’t shed a tear. She was dead inside.
        Each night her dreams conjured up scenarios, both possible and impossible. He had been in a terrible accident. Surely he was in a coma. He had been abducted by aliens. He had run off to South America. Someone had kidnapped him. He was in prison. He had been a figment of her imagination. He had spontaneously evaporated. He had amnesia and couldn’t remember who he was. 
        The image that seized her mind was that of the dark woman with intense black eyes she had seen exiting Tyler’s off-campus apartment. She caught herself imagining a naked Dawn on Tyler's bed.
        She wished she could use an eraser to wipe that picture from the insides of her eyelids, but the image was there permanently, as if etched in acid on a copper intaglio plate.


Altonian said...

Yes, that not knowing can be a killer, giving rise to all kinds of fantasies - from the unreasonable, to the unreal. Very literary piece.

Tracey said...

Oh CJ!! That was an incredibly beautiful, yet sad and lonely story. I love the way you wrote that & the ending of the 'other woman' being etched in memory as if on a intaglio plate. I love the silence here. All this takes place in the young woman's mind. No words needed. Bravo, my friend! :-) PS: I must come back & take my time to browse your blog. It's SO RICH with beauty!

jaerose said...

What is not said is powerful here..the feeling of walking around in a body disconnected rings true for this reader..and 1974..very pleased that 30 years later there are new ways of talking..jae

Robyn Greenhouse said...

This kind of silence hurts so much!

Josie Two Shoes said...

A powerful word-painted portrait of a woman operating on remote while trying to tame the terror in her heart. Excellent writing!

oldegg said...

Silence is certainly a hotbed for imagination. What sadness you have portrayed here but the greatest sadness (one would imagine if it is part of a novel)is that the affair is over without explanation. The cruelty of this is so painful but is not sufficient for Cali to stop hoping. Love is a hard taskmaster.

PS. I am still waiting for Maori critics to shoot me down after 70+ episodes!

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Oh, yes, the mind can be very cruel at times!

zanzinece said...

Nice little excerpt, CJ, just right for the prompt : )