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Friday, January 15, 2016

My submission for the Writer's Digest Short Story Competition 2016

I have been working on this until I can't look at it anymore and the deadline is today anyway.  What do you think?


Fade To White

By

Amber D. Meyer

 

He studied himself in the mirror and ran a hand through thinning hair that had lost most of its fire and dulled into a pale orange.  His face looked scruffy.  No point in shaving.  He stepped out into the living room and she looked up from the sofa, staring at him with the angry calm of a pit bull on valium.

                “Guess it’s time,” he said, an invisible fist wrapped around his heart.  She nodded and got up.

You could at least say something.

                He followed her out and squeezed into the front seat of her tiny, silver sedan.  The sun stabbed his eyes, so he put on his Costas.  He looked out at the seafoam green bungalow they had shared.

                “The grass needs mowed.  You need to ---.”

                “I know.  I’ll take care of it.” 

                 A rainbow of southern colors spun by as they headed down the street: tropical blues, soft greens, peachy, sunset oranges and even dewy lipped pinks.

                “Boy, Smitty needs to repaint,” he said.

                “Mm hmmm.” 

                He felt the car accelerate as she pulled out of the subdivision.

                “Take the long way would you?  Down Barker.  We’ve got time.”  He saw the muscles in her neck flex and pulse, but the car maneuvered towards Barker and he relaxed a little.

                The engine hummed a tune as the inter-coastal came into view.  How many hours had he spent out there fishing?  How much time had he wasted?  Didn’t matter now.

                He watched the lines of the coast curve like a lover’s body until it disappeared.  He kept thinking about the cab.  Why hadn’t he just gotten into the damn cab?  It hit his mind in regular fits: the lights of the cop cars, his buddy bloody on the sidewalk and the dingy, puke yellow cab the owner had called for him.  If only. 

                His heart dove when she pulled into the parking lot and eased the car against the front curb.

                “You’re coming in with me?”

                “I can’t.  I just…can’t.” 

                “Will I see you when I get out?”

                “We talked about this,” she whispered.

                “That’s it then?”

                She shut her eyes and nodded.

                “Twenty-three years and you can’t even walk in with me?”

                “Please, don’t.”

                “You’re a bitch,” he said getting out.  “A first-class bitch.”  He slammed the door with a trembling hand.  Her car lurched away like a Silver King Fish breaking the line.  He stood on the curb and watched until the sedan blended into the pavement.  Stupid!  Why did he end it like that?   

                He teetered towards the angry, grey building and took big gulping breathes.  The hearing was quick, just as his attorney had said it would be.   A tall man with acne scars led him to the jail.  His personal belongings were catalogued and placed in a manila envelope, his clothes stripped, and a stiff orange jumpsuit issued along with an inmate number.  His cell sat on the second floor, tucked in a corner. 

It was more a compartment than a room, like a bank vault with a tiny window.  On the right side was a bunk bed and a toilet on the left.  No roommate.  Thank God.

                “In you go,” said the guard.  “Keep your hands behind your back.”  He glanced at the guard, who elbowed him forward.

“You heard me,” the guard snapped, as he stumbled inside.  His arms jerked apart when the cuffs sprung open and the metal door clinked behind him.  He sat on the bottom bunk and fought the urge to vomit.   Losing the fight, he lurched towards the toilet.   The dry heaving ceased, when he heard a voice coming down the hall.  It was melodious with a hint of reggae in it.  He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and looked up to see a short, black man.  His hair was braided and full of beads. Grey strands danced through each one.  He looked like a witch doctor in a happy, yellow t-shirt.

                “We have a new one I see,” he said.  “Do you believe in God, man?”

                He blinked.  Did he hear that right?

                “Who are you?” He asked.

                “I’m Pastor Morgan,” the man said, snapping on the last syllable with a Jamaican rhythm.

                “What do you want?”  He jerked himself up off the floor and returned, wobbly, to the bottom bunk.  Pastor Morgan looked at the guard, who took out the key to open the door.  Pastor Morgan walked over and stood in front of him, his portly middle protruding out of the bottom of his shirt.

                “It’s not what I want,” he said, clicking.  “It’s what he wants.”  The Pastor pointed a small, fat finger up at the ceiling.

                “I doubt he wants anything from me.  I let him down,” he said, his chest starting to burn.

                “God loves us all.  He loves every last man in this building.  We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.”

                “Oh yeah, what have you done?”

                The Pastor rubbed a fat finger along his shiny, black chin and stepped closer.   He smelled like bacon and something mysterious.

“I let down my child, failed him I did,” he said.  A pained expression washed over his chubby cheeks.

                “I’ve let down a lot of people.”  His ears began ringing.  He laid back on the bunk and shivered.

                “I visited my son here for the first time three years ago.  He was just down that hall.  I should have told him that it was okay, that God washes away all of our sins,” the pastor said, closing his hand into a fist.  “But I was stubborn and I told him that I was ashamed.  Told him he had disgraced my house and made a mockery of me.”

                “Lots of father’s say things like that.  Mine said it plenty,” he said choking a little.  He cleared his throat.

                “My son killed himself the next day.  Far as I know, he never accepted…,” he paused a moment and looked away, shaking his head.   “I am a Pastor and I couldn’t save my own son.”  The beads swayed and clicked in chorus.

                He looked up at the tiny pastor.  His shirt, so brightly hued, it hurt to look at it.

                “I’m sorry,” he muttered looking away from the stinging yellow. 

                “Do you believe in God?”

                “I don’t know.  I want to.”

                “That is all you need.”  The Pastor kneeled down beside the bed and grabbed his hand.  He felt the palm meet his with sweaty confidence.

                “Pray this prayer with me.”

                “Pray, right now?”

                “You got something better to do?” 

                He shrugged and looked around, his own palm starting to sweat in the grasp of the tiny hand.

                “Dear God.”

“Dear God,” he repeated. 

“I ask you to come into my life,” the Pastor said, looking upwards like an ethereal being hovered there.

“I ask you to come into my life.”

“And to be my Lord and Savior,” the Pastor said.

His shoulders curled inward.

“And to be my….,” he whispered.  His chest heaved into a sob, soft at first and then breaking into a rolling tide.  He could taste the salt in his mouth as he struggled to breathe.  A sharp pain lapped across his chest and it tightened in misery.

                “I want,” he cried, clenching the hand still in his grasp. 

                “You can do it.”

                “I want you to be my Lord and Savior,” he said, in a rush.

                “You did it man.  You are saved.  See how easy.” 

                A warm rush swirled down.  It started with the top of his head and swam into his ears, throat, stomach, down to the end of his toes.  His muscles all relaxed.  He likened the sensation to floating in the warm water of the gulf, but as soon as it came it fled, thrust out by another sharp pain.

“Oh God, it hurts.”

                “I know son, but God has the power to make it right.”

                “No.  I mean, it really hurts.  Something’s wrong.”  He looked up at the Pastor again and pulled the little hand towards him.  The Pastor’s shirt began to blur into a sunrise.  It struck him as familiar, like an old friend you bump into on the street.  It shone with brilliance, an almost blinding sunshine yellow, fading into pale banana cream.  It swirled around him, becoming more pure with each rotation until it morphed into soft marshmallow white.  Then it glistened and gleamed the whitest white he’d ever seen.

               

               

1 comment:

  1. Wow!Great story, Amber!
    Good luck with your submission.

    Janine

    ReplyDelete