The Rest of the Short Story

“Over the turned way down sounds of the Supremes’ Baby Love coming from the tiny AM radio on the bookshelf, she heard the car’s gravel crunch. Were there two voices or just one?”

Yesterday, I wrote these 33 words in response to a Trifecta Writing Challenge.

The Trifecta 33-word challenges are great because they force a writer to set a scene and tell a story as economically as possible. Because I tend toward brevity anyway, I love these challenges. The Trifecta crowd is a tough one, though, peopled with writers who specialize in the sinister and the fantastic. Most of them also write fiction which I almost never do. I write memoir or, as it’s called now, creative nonfiction.

So when my piece went up on the Trifecta site, I got several comments. All of them picked up on the not knowing whether there were two voices or one as a threatening thing. Reading it, I could see what those readers saw, hear what they heard. Someone hiding, maybe? Waiting for the car’s return? Afraid about there possibly being two people instead of just one?

I will say this. The scene, as I recall it (and lived it) was scary but not sinister.

I was waiting for my parents. I was hoping that I would hear both their voices as they came in the house. If I heard them both, it meant my mother wasn’t staying overnight in the hospital. It meant I could turn off the Supremes and go to sleep.

Earlier in the evening after the fire engine pulled up on the lawn with it lights flashing and the EMTs had tried to get my mother to breathe into a paper bag and finally gave her oxygen and put her in an ambulance, after they roared off and my father followed them, and the house went completely silent, I would go in my parents’ bedroom and turn down the bed, make sure the sheets were perfectly folded and the bedside lamp, the one that cast the softest light and which now sits on my own dresser, turned on low and welcoming so that everything would be perfect for my mother coming home even if it wasn’t when she had to leave and then I would go in my room, shut the door, turn off the light, and turn on my AM radio and I’d listen to Motown, the voice of Detroit, the comfort of my little life, until I heard the car in the driveway. Again, like last time.

That’s what my little 33-word piece was about. It was about being scared, but not in the way people think. In a worse way.

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