Sunday, March 01, 2009

Shiver - A Piece of Fiction

Some time ago I wrote a short, fictional piece (one paragraph) that played off of some people I see around town. A few weeks ago, I came back to it and lengthened it a little more. Here's the result:

She sighed as she adjusted her hat that had drooped in front of her eyes again. That and her coat couldn't keep the chill off that emanated from the window next to her. But it was such a rare, sunny day that she didn't want to move away from the brightness.

"You know if you sit there long enough, you may freeze and we could make you a permanent installation art piece," Andy contemplated Sheila's bundled figure. "This place could do with some sculptures," he said over his shoulder as he went back behind the counter where a heater kept him a few degrees warmer than the patrons in the coffee shop.

Sheila grumbled internally, "Why do I insist on coming here? I could go somewhere much cozier. Not that it would provide better inspiration." Blank pages of her composition book lay open on her lap. She twirled her pen around between chewing on the cap.

Clarke shifted uncomfortably at a table next to her. He never seemed to lack words to set onto paper. Everywhere she saw him, he was reaching for cocktail napkins or the backs of envelopes to fill with endless scribbles. Some time ago, she had a discussion with him at Coda about writing. It was the kind of discussion that shook him from his sleepy demeanor and filled his mouth with spoken word,

"I write a lot of stream of consciousness. I don't always know what it means right away, but that's not so important. It's what you think it means and what you get out of it. I've had people tell me how something I wrote really affected them because of how it reminded them of something from their childhood, or of some other minutiae from their lives. It gave them something they didn't expect. So my writing changes with each reader. I like that. I also like creating stories. Taking ordinary life and making it something unreal. Of course, around here what isn't unreal?"

Sheila listened more than she spoke that night, which is not what she was expecting. It was a pleasant turn of events. She didn't quite understand what he meant about the "unrealness" of the area until a few months later. That's when Clark's book came out.

The book became a dizzying success. At one point, some Hollywood types were throwing around the names of Kim Kardashian and Denise Richards as possibilities to portray make-out girl. The success surprised not just Clarke, but everyone else in Smythport. Apparently, all those hours Clarke isolated himself writing what Sheila thought were his "stream of consciousness" over a beer were really him recording his account of the humanity that weaved in and out of Coda every night.

And even though he had changed names and places, it dawned on people where they stood in his fictional world. That created some new drama for a few weeks, leaving the regulars at Coda to form awkward huddles around the bar. Ultimately, some couples split, leaving the broken halves to glare at each other over glasses of syrah and IPA. But after awhile, people began to mellow or just slip back into the disreality they had built around themselves of drinks, drugs, and disco.

Clarke didn't let success and the money that came from his book's popularity change him too much. He kept out of people's way for a good while, but found that most didn't feel a need to bother him when he was at the Perplexed Cat huddled over his paper with a mug of coffee to keep him warm.

Sheila shivered. She closed her notebook with a snap and tucked it away into the vast depths of her purse.

"I've had all I can handle today, Andy."

"Ah. Letting yourself fail so soon!" he admonished. "You didn't give your tea proper time to warm youself through."

"Nothing could warm me in this place," she answered, walking out the door into the dazzling January sunlight.

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