Since I’ve been struggling to fully delve into writing a new novel, here is my back-up plan: a short story.
In fact, based on the advice of an author I love (Maggie Stiefvater), I’d set out to write one short story a week about three weeks ago. That hasn’t happened. However, yesterday, after taking my dog for a walk on the beach, and after my daughter’s work ended over an hour late, I forced myself to write: my goal was to scratch out a short story on paper, no matter how terrible it was. And I had a half hour to do it.
Here below is the unedited, unfiltered, and scratched-out fruit of my endeavor (and I’m certain there are numerous typos and redundancies to prove it). Please don’t judge or read too much into these words. They make a miserable little draft at nothing, but are helping me get over my last story and learn about story.
Trust me, I wish it were cooler too.
The short story…
An older lady, maybe in her sixties or so, walked out of her back lanai doors and on to the beach. It was still early, and the beach seemed deserted. The air was still cool, and she expected the sun to rise shortly.
The woman wandered along the beach some ways, trying to decide where to watch the sunrise from. But the wind picked up, blowing her hair all around and wiping sand into her face. She tightened her sweatshirt closer to herself, then tucked her hair in, too, because it kept on landing in her eyes. She continued onward, hoping to find some nook or dune from which to watch the morning come, but nowhere seemed to do the trick.
And the sky opened up, not with the sun rays of a new day, but rather with a torrent of pounding rain. It came down with such strength, the woman was almost blinded. The situation was miserable; her clothes, drenched and sandy; her whole being, cold. And maybe the sun was rising and maybe it wasn’t. It was too hard to even tell.
The woman started home, still clutching her sweatshirt. Her pants sticking to her, her skin feeling raw. And, despite the fact that she’d walked the beach that way before, she stumbled over a log laying across the sand. She fell face flat into the damp grainy miserable beach.
She pushed herself up and tried to wipe herself down, but it was useless; everything stuck to her. She sat on the log and attempted to compose herself.
“Mom,” she heard a voice behind her. It was her daughter, and she was holding a mug. It was hard for the woman to look at her daughter because she was angry with her.
“I’m still very upset with you,” she told her.
“I know, mom. I know you’re upset.” The daughter handed her a mug. It was a cup of warm cider.
Despite her anger and sandy hands, the woman took the mug. The warmth immediately ran through her fingers and the tension in her body decreased. She took a salty sip of the apple cider and it was like it helped her to see better.
Her daughter eased down next to her, and they gazed at the ocean.
“I’m mad at you, too, mom,” the daughter said.
The woman swallowed another sip of the cider and stayed quiet.
“Come on. Let’s get out of the rain,” the daughter said.
The woman handed the mug to her daughter. “You go.”
By the creased expression on her face, the daughter was either confused or frustrated. But instead of speaking, she took the cup and walked away.
The older woman looked out at the sea again. Grey, cold, endless. She looked up and down the beach. Grey, cold, endless.
She couldn’t help but think of the warm cider and her daughter. She considered the journey from the log to the house. Her daughter was barely visible now through the rain; the air seemed so thick, there must have come fog.
She had to get up. She wanted to be mad. She had a right to be mad, in many ways, but she didn’t want to be alone and cold and miserable.
She pushed herself off the log and, one misery-saturated step at a time, trudged through the rain and sand. And through the fog, there came a shadowy figure. As it came closer, she knew it was her daughter, still coming for her, covered in rain.
“I’m sorry about all this,” the woman said. “I really just wanted to watch the sunrise and try to gain a better perspective.”
“Maybe, let’s try again tomorrow,” the daughter said.
“There’s no need,” the mom answered. “You were today’s sunrise for me, and that’s better than any other I could have seen.”
The two women, drenched and covered in sand, cider splashing everywhere too, walked arm and arm back to the house.