Float On


The turkey on wheat sandwich was stale. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and he hadn’t eaten all day. The hollowness in his stomach wasn’t hunger. He rose from the courthouse cafeteria table, straightened his dark blue suit, and tossed the sandwich in the garbage can. He ignored his vibrating cell phone, walked in the hallway, up a flight of stairs, and slung his arms over a second floor railing. He watched from the atrium as men and women entered and exited courtrooms. Their expressions ranged from furious to forlorn. He wondered if Disneyland was “the happiest place on Earth” could the County Courthouse be the saddest?

A small, dark-skinned, liver spotted hand appeared next to his arms on the rail. He looked up slowly and saw the pleasant, round face of an elderly woman wearing a bright blue dress. She held a book against her chest. She smiled and looked at the sun showing overhead. He spoke, only to be polite.

“It’s ironic that the ceiling in this place is glass. It allows a bright summer sun to radiate over all this despair.”

She picked up her free hand and placed it on his left arm. Her grasp was warm and comforting.

“Young man, you’re looking at that sun all wrong. That’s hope. It’s a new beginning. That sun is showing you that everything will be just fine.”

He was raised to respect his elders. Yet, he thought the old woman was crazy. For six hours he sat in one of those courtrooms and heard how bad of a husband, father, and man he had been. As soon as he felt like answering his phone, his lawyer would have him sign some paperwork making him divorced and a single parent. He laughed sarcastically and tried to turn away. She firmed her grip on his arm.

“Sweetie, you just went through darkness. That sun is your dawn. You just have to see it the right way. Here, you need this more than I do.”

She gently placed the book against his stomach and walked off. He turned the book over and saw the title; “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen. It was dog eared to page that contained a quote “A perfectly tuned conversation is a vision of sanity….”

His phone vibrated. It was his lawyer. He answered.

“Hey man, we’re almost done. We’re still crossing T’s and dotting I’s on the settlement language. It won’t be more than an hour.”

He looked at the book, read the quote again, stared at the sun and responded.

“I’ll meet you at your office tomorrow. I’ll sign whatever you think is best. I have a book to read and a life to improve.”

He hung up the phone, walked down the stairs, through the exit and into the shine.

*********blogger’s note*******

This is my response to AD LaBonte’s Indie Ink Challenge:  “A perfectly tuned conversation is a vision of sanity.” – Deborah Tannen. You can find AD here: http://3to9travels.wordpress.com/ and the good folks at Indie Ink here: http://www.indieink.org/

This is a fictionalized version of something that happened to me almost five years ago, next week. I’ll let you figure out what’s real and what’s not.

Today is my middle daughter, Lyla Katherine aka “Bug” ‘s 8th birthday. I would be remiss if  the blog didn’t mention it. I used to be able to hold her in one hand while I made breakfast in the other. Now, she can karate kick my hand off.

Today’s song is real. It’s real to the time and it’s real good. It’s from the rock band Modest Mouse. They wrote it during a difficult time in the band’s existence when they thought about breaking up. It’s a positive song to listen when you think things are at their worst and can’t get any better. Here’s Float On.

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20 responses to “Float On

  1. I really love the heartfelt tone of this. I felt like that walking into the courthouse, but I literally skipped out of there when he finally signed the papers. He drug it out as long as possible and added a lot of insult to injury so when it was finally, really, truly done, I saw the sunshine in a whole new way.

    • Yeah, this was tough to write. I don’t want to give anything away, but there wasn’t a book in my hand or a skip in my step when I walked out of said courthouse. wait…i just gave something away.

  2. huh, Deborah Tannen? interesting. I feel like it was several lifetimes ago that I read that book. and yeah, the county courthouse has gotta be one of the saddest.
    happy birthday to Bug! my oldest is turning eight in a few weeks. ack!

  3. When things are written from our experiences, especially the bad ones, they always come out shining. In some ways that makes the pain endured worth it. In this case? It created a masterpiece.

    I definitely felt the emotions, the sense of despair. Then I felt the positivity of the old lady float over me, and knew when that phone rang, he was going to feel better. What a great take on the prompt!

  4. Well, now I am wondering what’s fiction and what isn’t. Somehow I see the understanding woman as fiction, because in real dark times, that kind of comfort rarely appears, but maybe that’s just the cynic talking. I can’t see you as the bad guy husband/father either Lance, but what is truer: truth, or perception?

  5. This was a very hopeful piece. I like that he accepts the sun and the old woman’s wisdom when he could so easily have been carried away with the depression of the place and his new circumstances.

    Interesting to think maybe we all need to remember to carry that wise old lady around in us when all the bad sneaks up to bite us.

  6. Good message, and good attitude from the little old lady :) We should all try to see the sun in that perspective.

    Small critique: I found the opening paragraph was a bit telling, no showing. It felt very humdrum, didn’t grab me. I don’t think you need to describe each step he takes, each place he moves to. Cut it by half and the story would be stronger…

    just my opinion of course, feel free to disregard :)

    • i don’t disagree. I was tryng to show his low point, his dullness in the moment, his despair. Dude was in rut of ruts. I value your opinion over most so thank you.

  7. Nice writing. I’m going to guess the fictional part was everything after the old lady gripped your arm, because in real life, you instinctively flipped her to her back, climbed up on the railing, and pulled a Superfly Snooka from the ropes. Right? Am I right or am I right?

  8. Wow! I love the build-up, the tension, the movement. It was very seamless- i like how much I learnt from the character, right down to the turkey sandwich…and above all, I love the old woman.
    My old woman is the park.
    I’m gunna say this even though it’s cliche…hope Lyla had fun!!!

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  10. Hi from Indie Ink! It’s funny how so often in life, the right quote comes at the right time. This was a great story woven around a brilliant line. Nice job!

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