This is my latest piece for The Red Dress Club. The prompt is as follows:
Your assignment this week was to write a piece – 750 words maximum – that brought us to a particular room important in your life. We want to feel like we’re there with you.
It was close to 2 AM when he pulled into his driveway. Though the lights were off the interior of the house was illuminated with memories of what once was. Alone in the dark he walked the halls and listened for the voice that he knew wasnâ€™t there any longer.
He walked over to the kitchen and dropped his keys on the island. In the past the counter would have been spotless, wiped down and devoid of dishes, food or bottles, but not now.
This time the sink was filled with empty bottles. A half finished bottle of Scotch lay next to the sink. Â The silent sentinel bore witness to the grief of a man who couldnâ€™t figure out how to extract the pieces of shrapnel that had exploded around his heart.
Treading softly around the island and its blue pearl granite counters he took the bottle in one hand and with the other touched the dimmer switch and shed a minimal amount of light upon the room.
Moments later he sat down at an Oak table and stared at the three empty chairs where others had once sat. A bowl full of mail lay in the middle of the table. The pile of bills and junk mail was growing steadily day by day.
He took a long swig of the Scotch and looked down at the handwritten note in front of him.
â€œSo I kissed you one last time. One final kiss so that weâ€™d never forget. One kiss so that if we ever lost our way we could use it to find our way back.â€
It was painful to read those words and remember what once was.
Echoes of laughter and love wandered through like the ghost of Christmas past. The sounds of children playing with their mother made an appearance. Except in this case he always saw her as the girl she once was and the woman she became. He didnâ€™t have to close his eyes to see the smile that she reserved for him or to remember how many other ways the kitchen could be used.
A soft hum emanated from the stainless steel refrigerator and reminded him to grab the remote for the stereo. Two clicks later music wafted through the night air. Softly he sang along with Johnny:
â€œI Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down, Down, Down
And The Flames Went Higher
And It Burns, Burns, Burns
The Ring Of Fire
The Ring Of Fireâ€
He closed his eyes again and remembered telling June a story and wondering if she was paying attention to him. So he had walked across the room to the walk-in pantry and discovered her still dressed in work attire but bent over in a way that was anything but business like.
She jumped when he grabbed her hips and in the process sent everything on the third shelf flying. He silently turned on the light, closed the door and began picking things up off of the floor. When he turned around he found her face inches from his accompanied by a look that suggested he was going to enjoy the moment or potentially live to regret it.
Smiling he looked at her and remarked that he couldnâ€™t imagine living with an ordinary kitchen that didnâ€™t come with a walk in pantry and cook. He supposed that her lips upon his was her way of telling him to be quiet.
The problem with the kitchen was that there wasnâ€™t anything about it that didnâ€™t shout her name. Her absence was palpable and the silence deafening.
A giant wave of pain hit him and he closed his eyes again wondering why heartbreak made his legs hurt so badly. He brought the bottle back to his lips and took a big mouthful of Scotch.
To his right there was a built in wine cooler that sat just below a cabinet filled with hard liquor. Just then another wave of pain hit him and he thought that he could hear someone calling his name. It didnâ€™t make sense to him nor did the rumbling noise that was progressively growing louder.
Suddenly a bright light made him squint and a manâ€™s voice told him to relax. The rumbling noise continued and he remembered there had been an earthquake. He wasnâ€™t sure how long he had been trapped in the rubble or why his legs felt like they were on fire.
So he closed his eyes and remembered their kitchen.
Jack March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Thanks. I had a lot of fun with this.
Ratz March 2, 2011 at 2:46 am
WOW. I enjoyed the turn of events… the ending was lovely and I enjoyed the whole piece because of its articulation…
Leigh Ann March 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm
This flowed so well, back and forth from present to past. And the abrupt ending definitely worked. Well done!
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:47 pm
I was a little nervous about the ending being too abrupt, but I am glad to hear you think that it worked.
Amy Hillis March 1, 2011 at 7:58 pm
WOW! Loved it – I agree – so much to love and the earthquake – brilliant! I think this is the best piece I’ve read with this prompt.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm
I wanted something to be in there, some sort of challenge. The quake seemed to do that.
Tracy March 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm
Wow. I really wish there were more of this to keep reading.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm
I have been thinking of expanding upon this.
Jennifer March 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm
What I loved most about this, and there was a lot to love, was how the song was not only a metaphor for his emotional state, but also physically came true for him. As a scotch drinker I have to say I was wincing at the drinking straight from the bottle (brown liquor hangovers are the worst) and then was actually relieved that what happened to him wasn’t caused directly from his drinking.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm
Well, I really do like Scotch and I have had my share. I don’t like any hangovers and have had a few that were really painful.
Cheryl March 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm
Wow, this was cool! Love the take on the prompt. And the twist at the end.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm
These prompts have been all sorts of fun.
Jessica March 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm
Wow, goosebumps, recreated so well, I was there with you. Chilling, this really happened? I am in awe.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm
I have been through a number of large earthquakes and evacuated from a forest fire- but fortunately nothing so dramatic as this.
Renee March 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Oh. This good. A different take on the prompt.
The ending was a surprise.
Jack March 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm
Thanks. It was fun to write.