I leaned back in my chair, unable to continue for the moment. The sound of my own typing was getting to me, I decided, and I pushed back to stretch and grab a glass of water from the kitchen. The glass was cool to the touch, and the water did nothing to change that. I poured straight from the sink tap and sipped a little while leaning against the kitchen counter. Gazing across the island, I could see the many story collections and novels I’d had published, all aligned neatly on the second shelf in order of publication date.
Stepping over the pile of dirty laundry on the floor, I thought again how I should really wash those sometime, but I dismissed the thought shortly after. Moving over to the book case, I ran my hand over the dusty spines of the books I’d filled with page after page of horror, blood, and tragedy. None of my stories ever started out well, and they almost never ended well, either. After each publication, I put a novel or collection on the shelf and rarely looked at it again.
Why was this story giving me so much trouble? It was just as dark as the rest, and I’d justified its imagery and twisted nature by telling myself that at least I wasn’t doing the things I wrote about, but only writing about them. There was something missing, though; I just couldn’t yet put my finger on what.
I set the glass down for a moment when I heard a dull thump from the floor below. Frowning, I absently wiped the dust from the second shelf and moved to the top of the stairs, where the pile of dirty laundry sat mouldering. I leaned over the steps and held tightly to the railing, willing myself not to fall down the stairs. What a disaster that would be.
“Hey!” I called down to the floor below. “Hey! Everything okay down there?”
I heard another thump and some shuffling, and then it was quiet again. I stood still at the top of the steps for a moment, trying to decide if I should go down to investigate or not.
“Jamie!” I called, finally heading down the steps. “That better not be you down there messing around!”
When I reached the first floor, I groaned when I saw Jamie lugging something heavy wrapped in tarp across the concrete floor. “Seriously?” I asked, coming forward despite myself to help him. I heaved the bundle up on one end and he heaved it up on the other, and we carried it through the first floor of the house to the backyard.
When we finally dumped the bundle on the wet ground, Jamie said, “Thanks. I was having trouble getting it over the thresholds.”
I eyed the bundle, nudging it with one foot. “And what’s so special about this one that you had to bring it through the house in the first place?”
Jamie pouted, looking contrite. “I’m not finished with it yet.”
I frowned. “What did I say about bringing your projects home?”
“I know, I know; I just—”
“Telling me about your work isn’t the same thing as bringing your work home with you, you know. I know you love what you do, but honestly—”
“This one’s different!” he sputtered, his voice rising a little.
“Just like all the ‘different’ ones before?” I snapped back. “I have an entire shelf of your work upstairs; do you still really think I need firsthand experience to get the right feel?”
“It’s different when you do the work yourself.”
I rubbed my face with the palm of my hand. We’d had this argument multiple times, and Jamie had always prevailed thus far. He was right; it was a lot easier to write the stories when I did the work myself.
It was Jamie’s passion, of course, and my passion was writing about it, but he had convinced me over the course of several years that I could do similar work, too, and it would be just as compelling for the readers afterward.
I stepped forward over the bundle between us. “I love you, you know?”
His mouth quirked into a half grin. “I know,” he said. He kissed me lightly on the lips, and I moved to one side.
“All right,” I said, glancing around us as though we still lived in an area where neighbors could peek over our fence and see what we were doing. That hadn’t been true for at least a couple years. Out here in the country, there was no one to see anyone else. “Show me what you’ve brought me.”
He kneeled down and began unwrapping the tarp. In my mind, the rest of the story I’d been writing began to come into focus.
This post is part of Flash Fiction February.