I’ve never tried this before, so bear with me. I have started to follow an interesting writer’s blog, called “Today’s Author”, which is designed to help wannabe writers like me. This blogger puts up writing prompts, people write to the prompt, then we share comments and observations about each other’s work.
Sort of an online writer’s group, without the coffee! So here goes. The first line of the piece is the prompt. Gulp.
He was stopped at a red light when the old woman opened the passenger door and got into the car.
He was just taking a sip of his coffee when the door opened and she settled into the seat beside him. He choked on the hot liquid, blinking his eyes in surprise.
“Good morning”, she said briskly, settling her bulky red purse at her feet and carefully pulling off her pink mittens.
He was a polite young man. His mom had raised him well.
“Good morning”, he replied.
“Green light, dear.” The woman nodded toward the light. “Let’s go.” She snapped her seatbelt closed and smoothed her wool skirt.
Obediently, he put the old car in gear and rolled into the intersection. He wondered for a moment if he was dreaming, if maybe his late night bad habits were catching up with him. Maybe this was a vodka induced nightmare. He looked quickly to his right.
She was real. Her hair was wispy and thin, curling a bit under her felt hat. The wrinkled skin of her neck was mottled and pale. Although the garish colors of her outfit could be blamed on a bad dream, he knew he wasn’t imaginative enough to have added in those little details.
His head throbbed as he pulled the Focus into the flow of traffic. They drove in silence for a minute or two, his body automatically going through the motions of driving, his mind sluggishly searching for an explanation.
“Um….”, he began, knowing that he should be asking some questions. “I……” his voice trailed off, and he cleared his throat. The old woman looked at him expectantly. He tried again, “Can I help you with something?”
She laughed, a surprisingly robust sound from such a frail form. “Yes, dear, you can! You can give me a ride.”
She seemed to think that was enough, settling into her seat and looking with interest at the passing scenery.
“Yeah, but…a ride where?” He realized that his voice sounded thin, even a little whiny. He smiled awkwardly to cover his bad manners.
“A ride on this road, honey.” She patted his knee lightly. “You’re doing fine.”
He took another gulp of his coffee, and rubbed the back of his neck to ease the stiffness.
“So.” He tried to sound firm, assured. Or at least to sound like an adult, dammit. “So…my name is Jake.”
The woman looked at him in surprise, tilting her head forward so that she was peering over her plastic framed glasses. Her eyes were large and moist, a very dark brown. They looked at him sharply, her white eyebrows raised like inverted Vs.
“Of course your name is Jake”, she said calmly. “I’ve been watching you for ages. I know all about you.”
Watching him? She’d been watching him for ages? What the hell did that mean? Was he in the company of the world’s oldest psycho killer?
The caffeine must have finally begun to kick in, because now Jake was getting annoyed.
“And who might you be?” he asked his passenger.
“I’m Sophie!” she smiled. “I’m an old friend of your Grandma. We go way back!” She waved a hand in the air. “Old, old friends.”
Jake let this revelation sink in. His Grandma? She had to mean his Grandma Annie, his Father’s Mom. He had never met his Mother’s mother, who had lived and died in the old country.
If she was a friend of Grandma Annie, it was news to him. First of all, he couldn’t remember ever hearing the name Sophie. Second, his Grandmother had died almost twenty years ago, when he was just a kid. This didn’t make sense.
Sophie turned toward him now, her dark eyes shining with pleasure. He came to another red light, and slowed with the traffic. For the first time since the strange encounter had begun, he had an opportunity to really look at his odd companion.
She looked like a character straight out of a children’s book. Her skin was very pale, but he could see spots of bright fuschia high on each cheekbone, the color matched by the crooked paint on her lips. She wore a lime green scarf over a bright blue coat. The pink mittens in her lap contrasted sharply with the scarlet of her wool skirt. Her felt hat was a glaring neon yellow. It hurt his eyes just to look at her. He glanced away, searching the cloudy morning for something more restful. More real.
“So, listen,” Sophie began, reaching out and taking his hand in hers. “I have a message for you.” Her hand was warm, and strong, the thin bones substantial and firm. This was no dream. Reluctantly, Jake turned back to look at her.
“Your Grandma wanted me to tell you something.” Jake breathed in a smell of powder, familiar and comforting. “Jake, life is short and its speeding on by.” Her dark eyes held his as she leaned toward him. “Every day is a new beginning. Your Grandma says you’re wasting time. Don’t be such a wimp. She says you should go for it.” With a satisfied nod of her head, Sophie sat back, releasing his hand.
The light turned green, and Jake automatically moved forward. He was almost at work. Time was running out on this surreal conversation.
“I don’t get it. What kind of message is that?”
“Think about it, hon! Its pretty clear.”
“No, it isn’t!” Jake felt his heart pounding as his frustration rose. “I’m not a wimp. What does that even mean?” And why am I listening to a crazy cartoon lady at 8 in the morning, anyway?
“Take it easy, dear. I didn’t mean to upset you.” As Jake pulled the car into the lot, parking it in its usual spot, the old lady reached for her purse, dropping her fuzzy mittens inside. She gestured toward the glittering windows of the office building. “She means all this, Jake. She means that you should decide if this is what you really want from life.”
Jake looked up, taking in the rows and rows of identical windows, knowing that behind each one there were rows and rows of identical cubicles, housing rows and rows of identical worker bees. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of both hands.
There was silence in the car now, but even with his eyes closed, Jake knew that Sophie was still there. He could smell her powder, hear her steady breathing. He didn’t understand anything about this morning. He only knew that the woman beside him was as real as he was, and that she was offering him a gift. He just had to figure out how to unwrap it.
Finally, he sighed and raised his head. They looked at each other for a moment, the sad young man and his colorful angel.
Jake reached for his briefcase, and Sophie reached for the door handle.
“Thanks for the ride, honey.” She said with a smile, climbing awkwardly out of the car. “Oh, and one more thing.” She leaned in a final time, her yellow hat flattened by the doorframe. “Your Grandma says to get off the sauce.”
With a cheery wave, she walked briskly away, leaving Jake with his mouth open.
Now please go back to Today’s Author, and read what others have written!