And a good time was Thad by all…Thadeus Koerner enters our contest

(payday at A Word with You Press) Literati! Good evening from the towers that are A Word with You Press  in downtown Moscow.For those of you following the countdown, this is story 14 of the 24 I promised to post since Thanksgiving.  Pleased to say that this story comes from someone who has not been here …

(payday at A Word with You Press)

Literati!

Good evening from the towers that are A Word with You Press  in downtown Moscow.For those of you following the countdown, this is story 14 of the 24 I promised to post since Thanksgiving.  Pleased to say that this story comes from someone who has not been here before, so let me introduce and welcome Thadeus Koerner. His entry seems like a snippet from two people with a very long and sullied (love that word!) relationship.  Look for more postings tomorrow evening about this time.  PLEASE leave comments and pass the word along on FB to come check us out.  All our stories will be posted by this weekend, and our six finalists selected who will then write to the prompt “…but by then, it was too late.”

TIME TO REFRAIN

by Thadeus Koerner

Muted piano jazz drizzled from speakers high above the table. The waitress slowly lifted three glasses from her tray and arranged them in an arc in front of David. When she was done she stepped back and said, “Will there be anything else, sir?”

David exhaled, smiled, and let his eyes take a long picture of her: thick blond hair, dazzling white teeth and long, well-tanned legs. He squinted at her name tag. “Yes, two things, Joni. I’m expecting a friend. A little shorter than you, lots of real curly hair, big sunglasses, at least one paisley scarf, maybe a loud, floppy hat. If you see her, can you send her this way?”

“Sure. And the other thing?”

David faked a stern frown and said, “I’m not really old enough for you to call me ‘sir.’”

“Yes, ma’am,” she chirped and walked off.

He watched until she disappeared behind a potted bush then reached two fingers into a tall glass of ice cubes. He lifted out three of them, one at a time, and dropped each into a thick-bottomed tumbler. He wiped his cold wet fingers on the burgundy linen napkin before carefully lifting the double shot glass and pouring half its load of bourbon over the cubes.

David was sipping his drink and tracing the grain pattern in the oak tabletop with a finger when he heard Carole’s warm voice behind him.

“Here you are, just where that cute little waitress said you’d be.”

David turned and pushed away from the table but Carole was around to the other side and dropping into her chair before he could get his legs under himself.

He sat back down. “You’re looking wonderful, Carole.”

“Thank you, David. You haven’t lost any of your charm, have you?”

“I hope not.”

“It might not work on me anymore but-”

Joni quickly approached the table.

David said, “She’ll have a gin and tonic, two limes –“

“No, no, no, iced tea will be fine.”

“Long Island style?” David asked.

Carole looked up at Joni and said, “Just a regular iced tea, please.”

“Sweetened?”

“A couple of blue packets on the side, if you would.”

Joni said, “Okay,” and turned away.

Carole removed a large red beret and shook out her wild mane of  bronze hair. She pushed her sunglasses up over her forehead to clamp the hair off her face.

David added more ice cubes to his tumbler and poured another shot over them.

“Rough night last night?” he asked her.

“No. Do I look run-over?”

“Oh, no, you look great. It’s just that –”

“You mean, why aren’t I drinking?”

“Yeah, that’s not like you.”

“Just not drinking today, David.”

“Okay. I’m glad you showed up anyway.”

“Did I ever stand you up?’

David winced as he brought the glass to his lips and took a sip. He looked through her and asked, “Is that what this is about?”

“An old friend leaves a voicemail inviting me to meet him in the middle of the day so I show up. I got over the stand-ups a long time ago.”

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t have to be sure. I’m all right with my life.” She stares into his eyes and sees the darkened skin drooping beneath them, a puffiness to the cheeks she didn’t remember. “It’s been a lot of months, David. Is everything all right? Why did you want to see me?”

“I’m not sure. There was something in the air this morning or maybe it’s something that I dreamed last night. You know, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.”

“A new season?” she asked, tilting her head.

“If you want to see it that way.”

“It seems you always saw things that way. A season for this, a season for that but mostly it was either time to reel me in or time to send me away.”

“So maybe we’re at the start of a new season. Whadya say?”

“Things have changed, David. I can’t pretend they haven’t.”

“Changed how?”

“I swore I wouldn’t get into this conversation-“

“We’re having it, Carole.”

“We are.” Carole planted her fingertips deep her temples, looked down at the table and drew two deep breaths then raised her head to look into his eyes. “It was easier then, David. You were light and breezy. I knew instinctively what to say or do. It just flowed for a while.”

“What happened?”

“A colder season. Nothing I did made you happy anymore. I felt lost and foolish around you.”

“You’re doing pretty well now.”

“I’m not trying to make you happy now. I’m just being myself.”

“Let’s give it another season, Carole-“

“No, David-“

“I can change. I swear it’s not too late.”

Suddenly Joni was at the table. She placed her round tray on the table between them and lifted the tall glass of tea up and set it down with three blue packets of artificial sweetener in front of Carole. “Would you kids like to look at a menu? We have some really great appetizers.”

Carole turned her head and closed her eyes.

“I can come back in a few,” said Joni.

Carole studied David as he looked into the shallow pool of watery bourbon in his glass. He looked to be considering another; he coughed before he could speak. Carole felt the familiar pull of reading his thoughts, then turned toward Joni and softly said, “I think we’ll just finish these.”

Carole’s beret was tight over her hair and she was wrapping a scarf around her coat collar as Joni stepped from the ladies room. The women exchanged nervous smiles. Carole reached out and grasped Joni’s slender arm and squeezed it lightly. “He’s probably ready to order another. After this one, start making them weaker, okay? If he does get too lit, get him in a cab, all right? He’ll argue but he’ll accept it. Good luck.”

22 comments

  1. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    We don’t know the minute details of their past, but all we need to know is that she knows him too well, despite the fact he doesn’t know her anymore. We can imagine she has a new lover, kids, a better job, a new place to live, etc., but no matter what in her life has changed, there’s a feeling that she seems better off without him. Yet when she talks to him, there’s a feeling as if she’s stepping into an old pair of slippers, tucked away under the bed, gathering dust bunnies. May well be all he’s really doing anyhow. Lovely work here <3

  2. elizabeth sloan says:

    This scene and conversation ring very true! Nice subtle ending that lets us know Carole does still care for David…or maybe she’s just a compassionate person. Doesn’t matter which, these are real people and the scene is vivid. Nice work. Maybe the beginning of a longer piece?

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    Here is a professional writer’s story, smooth as top shelf bourbon in that deus’s corner. You should hire this story teller Thorn to help you with the contest.

  4. Eli Fang says:

    Great work on the dialogue. Lots of unstated emotion and keys to the relationships drift through the dialogue. You’re telling a much more complex story and making the reader imagine it through subtle hints.

  5. Miryam says:

    Welcome! What a beautifully written scene. Your choice of words really expressed the depth of what was, & what remained.

  6. Mac Eagan says:

    Thad, welcome to our playground. One of the first things I want to say is, “Thank you for the third-person narrative!” It is still my favorite way to be told a story in print – and is getting so hard to find these days.
    Fantastic job on this one. What everyone else has already said is true; the dialogue is not encumbered by ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ but moves along at a nice clip. Three characters can get tricky without some identifiers and you skillfully used them only where needed.
    The history between David and Carole comes through clearly, even without the details. You tell us what we need to know and tell more story with the judicious use of fewer words.
    There was one slip up I saw – what narrative you have is all past tense except when Carole tells David she is ‘all right with her life.’ At that point it switches to present tense, but then switches back when the narrative picks up again later. Not to be critical but this “contest site” is also a cleverly disguised workshop and words offered in assistance will be seen from time to time.
    I am not going to take the time to go back to Thorn’s countdown list and see if you have other stories waiting to meet us; I am just going to hope that you do.
    And I am looking forward to whatever you may offer us in the future.

    • trk803 says:

      After scrutinizing your observation about tense-jumping in the course of a good night’s sleep, I think I have to quibble with you and, in the spirit of workshopping, invite others to join the discussion. Yes, especially in third-person narrator pov, consistency of tense by the narrator is crucial to minimizing confusion for the reader. Conversation by characters in a past tense narrative is not, in my humble opinion, subject to that restriction.
      Couldn’t Tom say to Dick, “I grew up in Arkansas, now live in New York, and will spend two months next summer in Europe.”?
      Or couldn’t Harry tell Tom, “I was in Fresno for eight days last month.” and couldn’t Tom reply, “I’ve never been to Fresno but my company is sending me there next week. Can you recommend a good Italian restaurant?”
      One inconsistency I fretted over was slipping out of third-person observer for most of the piece and using third-person omniscient by having the narrator tell the reader how Carole feels at a point late in the action.
      I’m curious to hear more feedback (with my eyes) from any and all who wish to express it and thanks again to the entire AWWYP community for welcoming me into the opportunity to share, grow and learn.

      • Mac Eagan says:

        I absolutely agree with you that switching tense in dialogue should not be restricted. One of the keys to writing effective dialogue is to include the “mistakes” that occur in natural speech. In narration I try not to include contractions but my dialogue may be full of them since that is how people speak in real life.
        The inconsistency of tense that I was referring to was not in dialogue, though – it was in the narrative. After Carole tells David she “got over the stand-ups” and he asks “Are you sure?” she answers him. When the narrative resumes, it says “She stares into his eyes and sees the darkened circles…” Present tense. (In reading my comment I see that I was not clear in where the tense change occurred – my apologies). Please note that this is the only “correction” I found for your story. This may be your first visit to this site, but you would never convince me this is your first foray into writing; what you have is just too good.
        I have since gone back to Thorn’s countdown list and, odd as it may sound, I am looking forward to this contest wrapping up and the next one starting so that I can read more of what you have to offer.

        • trk803 says:

          Thanks for clarifying. I stand corrected. One reason I haven’t participated in AWWYP contests or submitted work anywhere in a long time is that I get tired of dealing with the same piece and the rewriting process. I didn’t catch that oversight you found because I’d gotten to the “sick of this” stage with the story.
          Yes, I have taken about a half-dozen writing classes and read steadily over the years and can be seduced back into the process at times. Thanks for the encouragement. I hope to participate more in this site and perhaps others assuming that the golf swing continues to elude, decline and torment.

  7. Diane Cresswell says:

    Wonderfully well written story that flows like a melting ice cube. Makes me wonder what their background is. Welcome – stick around – you have great style.

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