Say Goodbye

Monache tanks

“You can’t come back here.” She stopped him on the road where he was creeping along in his old blue truck, and told him to roll down his window so he would hear exactly what she was saying. “You’re not welcome here. You need to turn your truck around and head the other way.”

“Why? You said the door was always open. What did that mean? I took it to mean I could come back. So I’m back.” He did the half shrug and the little smile that she remembered from when he sat in front of her in civics class. Then he rolled up the window and inched the truck forward. She knew enough to step back. If she stood in his way, he’d pile right through her. That’s how it worked.

He pulled up next to the old gas tanks, got out, slammed the screeching truck door shut. “I’ll just fill up and then I’ll go. It’ll be fine, honey. I won’t do anything bad. You can trust me.”

“Those tanks haven’t been filled in five years. I don’t mess with that anymore. I just go into town to get gas. Things aren’t the same as they were. That’s what I said. You just can’t come back here thinking they are.”

“Yeah, well, whatever you did to make do can end now. I’m back. I’ll take care of it.” He leaned up against the truck, folded his arms, grinned a little nice grin. “It’s gonna be good having me back, you wait and see. It’ll be fine. Don’t you worry.”

“It’s not like it was when you left. Everything’s different now. It’s like that guy said, “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Things are different now. There’s no place for you.” She stood in front of the tanks as if protecting them, her feet planted and her arms crossed, shielding her rusty turf.

“I’m not the same person you left. Somehow, I don’t know how, she left at the same time you did. She was weak and stupid and cried all the time. That’s not me. This is me. This is my road. These are my tanks, whether they’ve got gas in them or not. It’s done. And you’ve got to go. Now.”

“It’s ok. I’ll go.” He pulled open the screeching driver’s side door and slid in behind the wheel. “I know it’s hard getting used to me being back. I’ll give you some time, come back in a few days. You’ll warm up. You always do.”

He drove slow so she could watch every revolution of the wheels. He looked straight in the rear view mirror, pulled his fingers through his hair and waved, that same civics class smile on his face.

She waved back.

Written in response to a prompt from Write on Edge to use the quote “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” L.P. Hartley, The Go-
Between (1953).

20 Comments on “Say Goodbye

  1. Well played. As it stands, it’s a nice scene. But depending on your writing goals, if/when you revisit this piece, you’ll want to examine that opening paragraph. It reads a little awkwardly, especially that second sentence. Breaking it up and rearranging might help it flow a little more naturally. Also, the dialogue has some repetition to it. I suggest trimming that down and introducing other themes that will ground the characters in the moment. Mention the heat from the engine, or the exhaust where there’s potential to set the brittle grass on fire. That’d be a good way to have the setting support the emotions. That her heart is dead and brittle but there’s the potential to get swept up in a wildfire.
    Like I said though, the scene stands well enough without it, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on revisiting. Excellent response to the prompt!

    • I wrote this just as a response to the WoE prompt but your suggestions make me want to go back and make it a better piece. I especially like the notion of tying in something in the scene that is hard/brittle/hot. Thank you!

  2. I was impressed by your excellent dialogue. You made it flow so smoothly. I noticed you avoided using words, like “he/she said.” That’s a skill I have to work on because I can really see in your writing how much easier the dialogue flowed without those words. Thanks:~)

    I also like the use of the gas tanks in the story. I thought it interesting you never named your characters, but because of the way you wrote them, it didn’t matter to me! Very clever. I thought the wave at the end was also well done in that in demonstrated the mixed feelings, which you touched on just a wee bit it the opening paragraph. My sense is this is a first love…and they are always the hardest ones to let go of:~)

  3. Great story. I just hope that that returned wave doesn’t mean a chink in her armour. Seems like she’ll need a solid shield for her rusty turf if she wants to keep remembering the difference between that boy from civics class and that man in the old pickup.

  4. Like this girl-she knows how to handle her past:-)Great characterization and smoothly told,loved it Jan:-)

  5. Fascinating study into the human psyche. I’m wondering who really needs who in this relationship, and I’m thinking it’s the one with the confident facade. Still, I wonder if she’s weakening as he expected. She waved back. Excellent writing!

  6. You created an intriguing relationship here, and it makes me want to know more about their past and future.

  7. I liked how you demonstrated her strength in her stance and then her wavering at the end with her wave. You also packed a lot of history into these few words…I hope they have a good future together.

  8. I think I agree with Angela that I’d like to see more inner dialogue from her, which is a great tool for showing more of their history and her characterization.

    Small piece of con crit about punctuation in dialogue. When a character is quoting someone else, use ‘ ‘ instead of a second set of quotation marks. “It’s not like it was when you left. Everything’s different now. It’s like that guy said, ‘the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ Things are different now. There’s no place for you.”

    • I always wondered how to handle that. Thanks!

      I guess I didn’t know any more about their history until she surprised me by waving at him at the end. 🙂

  9. Excellent! Capturing the change in her with descriptions of her stance, words, and reflections is super. Love that she waved back. That is perfect!!! Unfortunately, we are so afraid to walk away from relationships that are not good for us. As strong as she has become, she waves. Leaves us wanting to know more. Will she stand her ground or will he break her down? Great short short fiction.

    • Thank you! And you know – I don’t know what she will do. It never occurred to me that she would wave until she did. It’s an adventure writing something fictional – the characters really do have a mind of their own, I guess.

  10. The premise here is very good, including how well he knows her and how she broke down with a wave at the end, leaving open the possibility that she will, in fact, cave the way he expects. I’d like to see a bit more inner dialogue for her, maybe clip her words to him a little more.

    • So that means saying less out loud and having more going on in her head. That makes sense. It seemed a little bit of a stretch for her to say that quote out loud like anyone walking down the street would recognize it. Thanks for this — making me thing about the next gambit.

  11. Good for her- that was excellently told. The past is a different country and the people are different people, and this showed that wonderfully.

  12. Sometimes the best thing is to let the past go. It can be a hard lesson to learn. I like the strong character that you’ve created in this woman.
    It took me more than 20 years to finally let someone from my past go completely. I kept letting him back in, even though he was the worst thing in the world for me. It was like with your character–after a couple days of crying jags, I felt stronger and like I’d left that needy young man that I’d been behind at last.
    I feel that a good story makes people think, and yours made me think. Brava!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: