Martin David gives no quarter: our second finalist

Back when our love was still hot

These are the consequences if you ever put your marriage on a back burner

  Literati!
“Two paths, diverging in the woods, but I have promises to break, and miles to go before I wake, and miles to go before I wake.” Such is my frosty memory of the poem Martin David references in this tale, or maybe I’m just a little hoarse. (does that sound queer?).  This one’s fun!  Please feel free to leave comments, but remember that voting for your favorite won’t take place till all stories have been posted.  Finalists were notified they have until 6pm Moscow time to submit their entries; so far three have complied. That’s more than a quarter.  Here is

 

The Message

By Martin A. David

I don’t consider myself thin-skinned, but I just don’t like insults. It’s not that I foam at the mouth and move into a pseudo-kung fu stance when someone disses me. What does happen is that a little dial inside of me moves toward the “fight” side of the fight-or-flight scale. I seldom act on this impulse. The last time was years ago, in a bar, when some guy ranted at me for a full minute, and then threw a punch. I sidestepped the fist, kicked his shin, blinded him for a minute by splashing my beer in his face, and then got out of there as fast as I could. But I digress.

The latest perceived insult came not from a bar drunk, but from an old lady. I mean very, very, very old. It happened while I was walking in the woods. When I’m dealing with writer’s block or a plot twist that simply won’t un-knot itself in my head, wandering in the woods usually helps. On this particular day, my favorite forest seemed strange and unfamiliar. I couldn’t pinpoint the change, but I felt it. Paths I’d walked so many times before were no longer visible. New paths appeared. I followed Robert Frost’s lead and took one of them.

I was less than fifteen minutes into my meditative meanderings when I saw her. She sat on a large, flat rock. She neither smiled nor frowned. Everything about her seemed matter-of-fact, as if running into crones sitting cross-legged in the woods were an everyday affair. She was holding a document of some kind in her scrawny hands. Her scraggly, white hair moved gently in the breeze.

“So you’ve finally come,” she said. “Now go to hell.”

“What?”

My insult detector was beeping, but there was no fight here. The insult giver looked at least a hundred years old, but I still didn’t appreciate her words.

“I’ll show you the way,” she continued. “I’ve been waiting for you to come.”

Now the needle on the fight-or-flight meter began to bend in the fly away direction. This was weird. She was weird. I started to turn, but her eyes held me in place.

“What do you want from me?” My voice squeaked as it hadn’t done since puberty.

“I need a favor. I need someone to go to hell and deliver something for me. It’s a short trip and you can get out easily because you don’t belong there….yet. I’d go myself, but it’s dangerous for me. I was married to that bastard and our divorce was not what you call ‘amicable’. He’s still pissed at me.”

“You were married to the devil?”

“Yes,” she said, waving the paper in my face, “and I need you to give him this message from me.”

That was it. I was out of there. I spun around and set a personal speed record up the path. As I ran, I heard her voice behind me.

“Wait, sonny, come back. I’ll give you a quarter.”

***

Ahhhh!  The honeymoon!  Mia Copa

17 comments

  1. Michael Stang says:

    Martin, I gotta tell ya, your first entry into the contest, the back and forth of the same coin was testy (for me). No lights showed up on the radar. But this little number exposes a writer who is dedicated to his craft, and honest enough to show imagination most other writers would be want to try.
    A terrific story, one that muscles-up a talented writer. Do it again and again.
    Best of luck in the final.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    Martin, I gotta tell ya, your first entry into the contest the back and forth of the same coin was testy (for me). No lights showed up on the radar. But this little number exposes a writer who is dedicated to his craft, and honest enough to show imagination most other writers would be want to try.
    A terrific story, one that muscles-up a talented writer. Do it again and again.
    Best of luck in the final.

  3. Michael Stang says:

    Martin, I gotta tell ya, your first entry into the contest the back and forth of the same coin was testy (for me). No lights showed up on the radar. But this little number exposes a writer who is dedicated to his craft, and honest enough to show imagination most other writers would be want to try.
    A terrific story, one that muscles up. Do it again and again.
    Best of luck in the final.

  4. Jon Tobias says:

    A stranger certainly came to town in this one. I like that the narrator describes himself as a writer, so that his encounter with the old lady could be interpreted as imaginary. The meta irony of this piece is great. The narrator is literally running away from one of his characters. Really funny. What I want to know now is what the ex-wife of the devil could possibly need to say to him.

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    For a minute there I thought I was writing this for this is what I do when I hit that block. So you had me walking with you. This does flow rather well for you have captured the reader on your journey. Of course one had to have an old crone show up. Perfect. I like the last line but it jarred me a bit. This tells me that maybe a bit of a change to it. However not enough to stop me from liking this a lot.

  6. Martin A. David says:

    Thanks all (for Stang: Thanks all Thanks all Thanks all). It’s been too long since I’ve been in a writers’ group and I am falling in love with this one.

  7. David jenkins says:

    Being an old one myself I really, really, really (X3)enjoyed this story. There’s something ringing too true in this story. I ran like hell from that quarter too.

  8. This is a fun thread to follow, following a quirky as in fun! entry. (Hey, even the “chief” in the towers said this one’s fun.) It’s mighty fine when the comments create another story :).

  9. Wendy Joseph
    Wendy Joseph says:

    Martin, you really need to let, at least, us in-the-know-witeratti know what the message was. I get not telling us as a device to make the reader fill in the blanks, so here’s mine: “You’re still in hell, buster, and I’m not going. So there.”

  10. Amanda Byzak says:

    This made me laugh out load so that I woke my sleeping toddler next to me! And the comments kept me going. Good writing doesn’t always have to have a bunch of pretty words woven together just so. Sometimes it is just about telling a good story and capturing the reader. You just did that! Good job!

  11. Kyle Katz says:

    I”m only gonna say this once. This was simply fabulous. (more of a fashion term, I know). What I treasure most about being a reader is the writers ability to make me feel ‘I wrote this one.’ I’m sitting on the inside of your eyeballs riding into your forest of imagination as if I were directing where I wanted this story to travel Maybe I should deam you the melinium falcon of the writing world. May the force be with you on this contest. (Yeah…I know I’m pretty corny.) But this was fabulous, fabulous.

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