The monthly writing group I belong to met last night and we read our stories in turn, then provided feedback as usual. Sometimes I wish my fellow writers were a little more brutal with me, I guess I feel like I need it, but they are always helpful in their encouragement and suggestions.
We were given three prompts to choose from, I chose the one in which you picked a number, went to your book shelf to find that number book, then that number page and finally that number sentence. I went tot my very large “to be read” shelf because I wanted a book I didn’t know the plot of or the characters, so that it would not color or bias my own story. I landed on Tender is the Night by John Steinbeck. This was a lot of pressure, he’s one of my favorites. You’ll see his first sentence in italics than my story picks up in the second sentence.
Comments encouraged, even the brutal ones. Especially the brutal ones:
Nicole waited silently till he had passed; then she went on through lines of prospective salads to a little menagerie where pigeons and rabbits and a parrot made a medley of insolent noises at her. She left the garden gate swinging on its hinges as she walked on towards the worn dirt path nearer the curtain of tall pine trees and their earthen smell; pausing for a glance back at the garden and animals. What was needed now was peace. The garden signaled work and sweat in her mind; things that must be done. The noise of the animals added to her feelings of necessary flight. They were demanding something of her, although she wasn’t quite sure what.
Nicole disappeared behind the pine branch veil; her steps softened by the thick rug of green needles. The sounds and sights of the place behind faded too, beyond existence.
Sam had been pale, sick with hangover. He had walked heavily by her, but not seen her. He wouldn’t bother to look and Nicole preferred not to be seen or smell the rancid alcohol that permeated out of his pores.
She had gone to bed earlier than him but felt when the bed indented for his body. She had smelled the sour beer on his breath, had rolled over to face the wall opposite. This had become the nightly ritual more often that not and as it increased, so did Nicole’s trips down the dark pine path.
It was a perhaps a mile, the pine trail, after passing through the thick forest the trees eventually held back to reveal a range of grassy dunes and low shrubs that gave way to a white-tan uninhabited beach. The beach was a small cove with both tips of the crescent ending in rocky cliffs and the middle hedged in by grassy dunes, wind stunted shrubs and the pine forest. The Pacific beyond was a dark and icy blue that changed hue to match the sky; usually an overcast gray blue.
Fine grit mounds of sand, soft underfoot, gave a slight crunch as Nicole moved nearer the steady crashing waves of the cove. The beach was eerily and utterly abandoned by shore life; there were no echoes of gulls or barks of dogs giving chase. Nicole gave it no thought.
She thought instead of what it would be like to wander out into those waves; to continue forever into the ocean. Was it more courageous to take one’s life or to continue in the toil? Into a vast unknown with infinite possibilities: frightful, glorious, or perhaps landing in the exact same circumstance. The alternative: daily repetition, trying and failing, mundane and mediocre. Better, maybe, the drudgery that you knew than to roll the dice and get something worse. To be reborn into a war zone, famine, or an incomplete body. What if hell waited on the other side? She did not believe in hell but knew lack of faith did not guarantee its non-existence.
It was the idea of surrender to the waves and water than drew her to the shore. To feel the pull and push of the current, becoming a part of something bigger and abandoning her being to the universe. Nicole removed her shoes and stood, unrealizing, ankle deep in the surf. The ebbing of the water drawing her mind and body, calling surrender.
But in the back of her mind was panic. The possibly of the point of no return and that fear would set in; the drive to live ending her in terrible fight.
Nicole turned, feeling absent from herself, detached somehow, and found her shoes waiting in the sand. She followed the path she’d left in the sand back up to the pines. She would come again and again; whenever the noise of life became overwhelming, whenever he drank too much, whenever she dreamed of an ending.