She puts the card back with its envelope and away. She has no one to buy it for anyway.
She looks down at the motherless little girl standing in her Velcro-strapped shoes, flipping open and closed a card that plays music, a song she knows she knows.
It doesn’t play for very long, not nearly long enough. All she has to go off are the few notes that make the little girl giggle, which is not much to go off at all. Little girls giggle.
She tries to remember the last time her daughter giggled, but can’t, and tries to remember the last time she herself giggled, but can’t, not even as a little girl, and she remembers she doesn’t have anyone anymore to ask if she ever giggled, and she wonders if giggles are memories never made and if this song, whatever this song is, this song she knows she’s heard but can’t remember when or why or whether she’ll ever hear it again, this song that lasts no longer than a moment, no time at all, she wonders if this song has anything to do with Mother’s Day anyway.
The day after Mother’s Day, Andrea said it seemed like I should write something sad. She just felt like it was something I needed to do. So I said fine. I don’t like writing sad because I feel like I do it too much and it’s mopey or sappy or just puddle-like. Anyway, I thought about my mom on Mother’s Day. She told me this year how hard it is for her, even though it’s been years. So I thought about that, and I wrote this. Maybe it’s too oblique to work, but I love it too much to let it go. If it doesn’t work, I’ll keep working on it.
This is something I scribbled one morning after driving before dawn, getting stuck behind a professional driver on an otherwise empty road and trying to understand why I was the one in a rush. I’ve cleaned it up a bit since that first draft, to try to tighten it. It’s still not there, but it’s closer. It could use some more description to give a better sense of place and time of day and to put the reader in the car and give a peek into the main character’s mind. I don’t think it conveys strongly enough the main character’s anxiety and how maddened they are by the nonchalant speed of the professional driver. In other words, it’s skeletal. But a good skeletal, the kind that can be built on and would hold up.
The “TCP-XXXX” decal on the back of the black SUV before him signaled this was a professional driver. Someone sent to chauffeur those well off enough to not need Uber even before Uber was ever around. He usually tried to steer clear of professional drivers. They drove for the money and too often to take care. But he had no choice here on this single-lane street away from the main road.
Anyway, what was this driver doing here before dawn driving slower than the speed limit? No way they had a passenger. Maybe they couldn’t find the pick-up spot.
Still, they didn’t seem to notice that he had nosed up behind, to nudge them along or out of the way. If they did, they didn’t seem to mind.
Eventually he let his foot off the pedals to stop from switching between gas and brake. He let the car roll as the road sloped downhill and ramped back up. The distance between him and the professional driver didn’t change. They must have let their foot off the gas too.
I scribbled this one a while back. It still needs work. The tone is inconsistent, the descriptions are a little too convoluted and overworked, there isn’t a strong enough sense of place, the transitions are inelegant, and it’s just not nearly as tight as I’d like it to be. I got too consumed with the flow of some of the lines, how they sound in my head, which make the ones that miss stand out even more as discordant. But I can work on it. There’s an idea here that I like.
He was one of the ones who woke before the sun returned. As he walked to his car, he thought he heard — were those waves?
He looked down to where the road ended into the dark expanse where the light left the sky. The whoosh was too irregular to be anything but waves.
As he looked down the road, he saw a runner. Not unusual for this time of day, especially here where every weekend was a 5k. But this runner stood out for the hobbled gait.
He got in his car and, while it warmed, wrote a text to his still sleeping girlfriend about the waves. After he put down his phone, he looked up to drive off and saw the runner pass on the sidewalk to his left.
He u-turned the car to turn left on the road behind him but remembered the runner and slowed in case he would cross. But he turned instead.
But there was another runner on the opposite corner who did not turn and did not stop but crossed into the street as though unaware of the car that, had it not stopped, would have run over this runner.
How lucky for this runner, he thought, that there were the waves, that there was the other runner, that he did not hit this runner. He wondered whether this runner knew too.