8.12.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by Michael Brosilow for The Steppenwolf Theatre
Photo by Michael Brosilow for The Steppenwolf Theatre

August 12, 2013: He just wouldn’t listen.

6 Replies to “8.12.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. He paced the room hunched in thought and muttering.

    ‘I can’t do this,’ he said. ‘I can’t keep doing this.’

    He was not alone. A second man sat at a wooden table pushed to one side of the room. The second man was not listening. It took an effort to do this. He had his fingers in his ears and he was singing a childish ‘la-la-la’, just loud enough it covered the first man’s mutterings.

    The first man stopped pacing, ran his fingers through his thinning grey hair and sighed. Outside the dark pressed itself against the window, black and heavy. Inside a bare bulb threw out a hard white light that made deep shadows in all the corners and under the table. The first man stood as if waiting. He checked his watch. It was late. In every respect it was late.

    The man at the table paused in his ‘la-la-las’. He eased one finger out of one ear, slowly and uncertainly, testing the room for quiet. Finding that the first man had stopped talking he relaxed, sat slumped in the chair and dropped his hands to his sides.

    They stayed in silence for a short while, neither of them moving, one man sitting and the other standing. They did not look for each other with their eyes, but they were fully aware of the other’s nearness. Then the man at the table smiled, as if he had suddenly remembered something pleasant, which he had. He cleared his throat as if he might speak, thought better of it, and held fast to the thing he remembered.

    The first man drew breath and began pacing again, still hunched and thoughtful, but no words spoken. It was a small room, maybe three or four paces from one wall to the other so that he was always spinning on his heels and walking back into his own shadow.

    ‘July 10th, 2001,’ said the man at the table at last.

    The first man stopped in his tracks again. Still they did not look at each other, but there was a difference from before, an almost imperceptible leaning towards one another and a softening in the man standing.

    The man at the table laughed.

    ‘Swimming in the Sweetwater river.’

    The first man sighed again. ‘I can’t keep doing this,’ he said, though now when he said it his words had no conviction and were more breath than sound.

    ‘The water a cold sharp shock and the moon full and bright.’

    It was a different time, a better time. It was a memory that they turned over and over when time or words were hard between them, turned over and over as pebbles in a river are turned over, shifting form one place to another and in time become smooth and round and perfect.

    The first man smiled, almost resigned. He sat at the table and looked across at the second man. ‘Do you think we could just be reasonable men?’ he said.

    The second man wasn’t listening. Without his fingers in his ears and his too-loud ‘la-la-las’ it took a greater effort, but still he wasn’t listening. He was smiling, too. He was thinking about Sweetwater and a whole pocketful of memories that he could at any moment lay down on the table like a winning hand at cards.

  2. Lindsay, good use of this scenario. Wow! It had ME stumped. I like the way you used the omniscient narrator, too…I always think it’s difficult to use and keep the suspense going, but you did a beautiful job with it….

  3. Thanks again, Judith. I was going for something Beckett-like in not wishing to disclose precisely what the thing is that the first man can’t keep doing and also in not defining what the relationship between them is exactly. And why the Sweetwater river? Just because it is such a lovely and resonant name. Thanks for giving this your attention.

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