“Goodbye” Story, and Lessons to Learn

Every week on Thursday, I meet up with a couple of other creative writers, and we talk about stuff we’ve written. Two of them are short story writers, which is totally my favourite area. One is in the middle of writing a novel, and brings us extracts. There are a couple of others who turn up sporadically, but with me and my poetry / short stories, we’re the centre of the group.

Last week we decided that this week we should all write a piece of Flash Fiction – a story in 500 words or less. It’s something they’ve all had some experience of and I haven’t, but I was totally up for the challenge. After all, if it’s half way between the two media I use write, it can’t be too hard, right?

Before I go further along this line, here’s the story, with a brief introduction (which may be part of it’s imperfection. It’s the last 500 words (and the only words yet written) of a short story idea that was born from a dream, fully fledged. Sounds corny, I know, but I was SO excited that it happened. I woke up and wrote and wrote notes of what happens, and, while I have yet to re-read them, they came to 20 A5 pages of scrawl.

Anyway, without further ado:

old-lady

“Here’s your car.”

She stood, patient and warmly smiling by my car, her hands clasped on her handbag in front of her, as I fidgeted with my car keys.

“Well, this is goodbye, then,” I said, trying to inflect my voice with a heartiness that fell flat.

She smiled in sympathy at me, a ‘poor boy’ smile at my attempt. “You’re not used to goodbyes, are you? I am.” We looked at one another.

“Tell me,” she said, “Can I… can I touch your face? … Can I feel… if it’s…?” She didn’t need to finish that sentence. I took her right hand, gently, and brought it up to my face, then let go. First she touched my forehead, just with the tip of a finger, then moved it gently sideways, her other fingers joining it, and slowly moved to my hair, and brushed lightly against my ear. Her hand circled my ear, and I looked down to her to see that she’d closed her eyes. I removed my glasses. Still brushing lightly, with the tips of three fingertips, she drew down to my bristly cheeks and sighed as she touched my chin. Then, infinitesimally slower, she drew her whole hand up my face, feeling with each finger the contours of my lips, cheeks, eyes, nose, and finally back to the forehead, before it rested for a second, then lifting her hand slowly away. She opened her eyes, full of sadness.

“So much the same, and yet so different… … did I tell you how, when you picked up the phone, your voice… it made my heart leap?”

She looked down at the tarmac, and I said, “Things change. Time moves on, and things don’t just stay the same forever.”

“And despite it all, the dead would want us to be happy, to live our lives.” She chuckled. “Sometimes the clichés are true. I hear them at funerals. You’re far too young to know the real truth of that wisdom, a lesson it takes a whole life to learn, and yet… it still surprises you, catches you by the throat.”

“Still, I’m glad to have met you.”

She smiled warmly at me. “You know, in all you have shown me, nothing has felt quite real, except the time I’ve spent with you.”

It seemed wrong to, but I leant down, and lifted her chin, and kissed her, briefly, softly, on the lips.

“Goodbye.”

I stepped into my car and drove away.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Having read that, a few points, which may explain its confusion. It is about the narrator’s grandfather’s lover, and she’s not blind.

This was amongst the criticisms I received – lack of clarity. I’ve also learned to cut all cliches from my writing (including “sometimes the cliches are true”) , and that,despite all the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting, I still have a long way to go.

Which is why I’ve posted this version of the story – as something to look back on when I’m better at this and say, “Yes, I’ve improved.”  I think Flash Fiction merits more practice, for a start, and I also think this story may resurface as a complete short story.

Please feel free to post comments!

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