Friday, August 13, 2010

Given Away: Friday Fiction

The red dress club's writing challenge for this week is to craft a short piece of  fiction that focuses on dialogue. I welcome your comments--- good, bad, and ugly.

Given Away

"Dating's so damn expensive, " he said. "I mean, shit, you buy the dinner,  the drinks, and that's, like, rent right there."

I listened to his voice as it sighed through the receiver.

"You're right," I said. "It's not fair. But there's no winning, unless you want to come off like a cheap-ass. Find a rich, feminist chick who is all empowered to pay for your sorry self."

He laughed, and I heard the exhale of his cigarette, "I'm down with feminists. You know what I'm not down with? All the bullshit." He inhaled again, and I yearned for that familiar burn, the delight in the hand-to-mouth motion.

He continued, "The other day, I met up with a girl. We had coffee, laughed a lot. She seemed cool." He coughed. "I was willing to give her a chance, but you know what happened?  She texted me and said she wanted to be friends. I already have friends. I don't need another fucking friend."

I sat on my duvet, ordered online from Pottery Barn, and heard my husband give the boys a bath upstairs. "Well, Sam, what do you need?"

"I miss having a girlfriend," he replied, "I want a girl that's fun to talk to. She needs to be artistic. Funny. I wrote on OK Cupid that if she believed in creationism, that was a deal-breaker."

"Uh-huh."  I twisted my ring around my finger. "Go on,"

"She has to be a Democrat. She has to live in Portland. No long distance shit. She---"

I stopped him. "What if you find an artistic, beautiful woman who wants to do nothing more then lay in bed with you, pay her own way on dates, and create beautiful things while listening to Arcade Fire---BUT...she believes in Noah's Ark. Would that work for you?"

I was proud of myself for mentioning Arcade Fire. I hadn't actually listened to them, but I heard about them on Facebook. I figured it would be something he would appreciate.

"No," he said. "Dinosaurs did not die because they didn't fit on the ark. It's bullshit, and if she believes in it,  It's a deal-breaker."

"Look," I said, "People aren't lists. You can't rule out a person because of one thing. I mean, when I met Keith, he was into hunting. Like, he went into the woods and killed things. He listened to Howard Stern. He wore jean shorts. Jean shorts, I tell you! "

"Well, he doesn't now," my brother replied. "He's cool now. Besides, there's nothing wrong with Howard Stern. You're lucky he married somebody who doesn't like Howard Stern."

I listened to my sons giggle upstairs, and played with my response in head. As I moved the metal round phrases in the palm of my hand, I hoped for Zen clarity in my words.

"That's not my point," I said. "You can't be so picky. If you want to make a life with somebody, have children with somebody, you need to perhaps lower your standards."

He paused, shaping his own words, "You need to back up a bit. I don't want kids. I just want to have fun. Not everybody wants kids."

"I know," I said. "I wasn't trying to say that."

"I'm not done," he said. "I don't want to compromise. I would rather be alone than lose my integrity. So many people just...give themselves away." 

The silence sat upon us like a lead blanket.  I thought of my oils and pastels, stored in the basement, next to my easel. I had moved them to make room for the boys' train table last fall. That was right after Keith sold his motorcycle. 

I heard my husband drain the bathtub, and the soft thumping of the boys' feet overhead. I forced a laugh,  "I guess you better avoid trolling for hot dates at Tea Party rallies, then."

"Thanks, Sis," he said. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Hey," I said, "You'll find the right girl. She might not be who you expect, but she'll be the right girl."

"We'll see," he said. "At least it'll be summer soon and I can take her to free concerts, hiking. Shit like that."

"Exactly," I said. "Look--I gotta go---I love you."

"I love you too. Bye."

I held the warm receiver in my hand, and placed it on the dresser.

I stood up, and walked towards my family.

As I headed upstairs,  I considered the fragile alchemy of compromise and choice.

I wondered how much I had given away.


cristina said...

ooh, this is good. before you mentioned he was her brother I was so thinking that maybe she was or had been in love with him. and I really like that in the end she questioned all that she had given up! I really like that.

Nancy C said...

Now I'm wondering if it would be better if it was a broken-up couple.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's no Taco Tales, but...

I kid, I kid. This line: "I listened to his voice as it sighed through the receiver, like sooty gasps from a neglected campfire." I like it with just the sigh. Then again, I write sentences like a thrid grader, so what do I know?

But, this. This line sold me: As I headed upstairs, I considered the fragile alchemy of compromise and choice.

That one read like poetry.


I like that it's a brother/sister. I have a brother. It's real that way. She's maternal, atagonizing, patronizing, encouraging, supporting - all the wonderful things a big sister should be.

Nancy C said...

Changed it. Now I'm going to stop monkeying with it.

The Empress said...

The heaviness of that story stays with me.

I think that's a good thing for a writer. (-:

Excellent. It lingers.

Tracie said...

Very good story, Nancy. The pacing of the dialogue was just write.

Shell said...

Excellent story. Made me think.

Cheryl said...

Interesting that you chose him to be a brother and not a friend (which what I thought he was). So true about the stuff we give away (my husband's red corvette, my perky boobs) for family. It's worth it, most days. Anyway, I thought the dialogue was really, really good. And real.

Adelle said...

I'm with the lingers. I feel wistful - sorry for her in that she questions what she "gave up" but it made me think about what I've given up for the two boys down the hall. Is it worth it? I'm asking myself.

You made me think, you made me feel. Well done!

Adelle said...

BTW, your "About Me" was laugh out loud funny. I promptly became a follower...

Raquel Byrnes said...

That last line really got me. I wanted to read more. Was this the beginning of the end for her happiness?

only a movie said...

Really good! Definitely want to read more.

Kerri said...

This reads heavy, like a life lesson. Made me go "hmm" at the ending. It made me question some parts of my life.
It felt real to be examining all that came up in the conversation more so for me because it was shared with a sibling.
Very thoughtful. I really liked it.

Ash said...

LOVE that it's a brother/sister relationship! I don't think that dynamic has been explored near enough.

You pulled me right through this the whole way - excellent writing.

"He inhaled again, and I yearned for that familiar burn, the delight in the hand-to-mouth motion." Love that - speaks so much in just one sentence.

Aging Mommy said...

THIS is just brilliant. There is the dialogue through which you show us just the sort of person the brother is and then there is the underlying story of his sister, thinking through her decisions and the sacrifices she has made. You weave it all together so beautifully. You are indeed a wonderful writer and this is just a quite brilliant post. Loved it from start to finish.

The Drama Mama said...

I found it extremely interesting the way her brother seems to sum her life up in such few words, just enough to make her question it all. Excellent story!

Jessica Anne said...

I loved that this was a brother/sister relationship, and that it wasn't clear what their relationship was at the start. I agree, this lingers and hits home. A really great job.

Ms. Moon said...

Excellent! I love the story, I love the message, I love the writing. Yes.

Anonymous said...

I got chills at the end! Really enjoyed this. Well done! I feel so much like your brother felt... I close matches because they hunt, or own a Hummer... Hmm. Loved this piece!

Coby said...

I. Have. Chills. Dang, girl, you are good! I love how you paint a picture of these characters through minimal action, lots of dialogue!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I like that he was her brother and that she was giving him solid advice. The dialogue seemed very natural to me. Nice job!

Unknown Mami said...

I didn't think it was her brother in the beginning, but I like that it was.

I can't believe you called my comments ugly.

Jenny said...

Holy wow! That was amazing.

dek said...

I used to bowl with Will Butler of The Arcade Fire.