Crossroads

Stewart sat at the head of his long gravel drive way with the car idling. He didn’t need to go home; he was a human being with free will, wasn’t he? He could take a right turn and leave the consequences behind. Or, he could turn all the way around and go back the way he’d come. If he went forward, he would have to face the music. He chewed his thumb nail.

37 responses to “Crossroads

  1. Gullible sat in her truck at the end of her long gravel driveway. She knew what was going to happen in the next few minutes, not because she was psychic (or even psycho), but because there had been those phone calls. The last call, just a couple minutes before, spurred her into action. She grabbed the necessary equipment, got into her truck, and waited at the highway.

    When she deemed the time was right, she got out, grabbed a pole from the back seat, and stood in front of the truck where she unfurled the American flag from its pole. She waited, wondering if she had time to go back home. If she did, she might miss the whole thing.

    Then she saw a vehicle with a large front window coming over the rise a quarter mile away. Now it WAS too late, now it would go down however it would go down. She waved the flag at the large coach that was slowly approaching.

    Then, the unexpected happened. The coach stopped and around its rear came a face she recognized but had never seen before except on the internet.

    “Gully?” said the lady.

    “Shaddy?” said Gully.

    And then they hugged.

    And so Gully and Shaddy finally met face to face after years of being online friends, years since they first met in BWW 9/20/06. Shaddy reboarded the coach to continue her journey to Denali National Park.

    And Gully kicked herself all day for forgetting to take the camera she’d left on the counter so she wouldn’t forget it, and then didn’t have time to go back and get it.

    Oh, well, Shaddy and her hubby took lots of photos.

    PS: True story. It happened Sunday, June 8, 2014 Thanks, Ann.

    • Absolutely unbelievable! So recent too. I fantasize about things like this myself. Perhaps we should schedule a reunion somewhere: Pago Pago? Off the coast of Australia? Oklahoma? Moose Junction? The wilds of Indiana, or even in the Adirondacks in upstate NY. I hear Racine, WI is nice too. This warms my heart. Thanks for the note! Has it really been eight years?

    • awesome!

    • Gully, great story and a great way to meet a friend for the first time.
      My regards to you and Shaddy

    • When the bus driver pulled off the highway, I was totally blown away. I was hoping she’d honk as we passed by but never imagined she would actually stop although I’d explained to her that we were friends who had never actually met. I came to the front of the bus as we approached you with your flag. I wanted you to be able to see me as well as me seeing you.

      When the bus stopped and we approached each other, it was totally amazing. I’m so glad you came up with the cool idea of waving your flag when we passed the end of your driveway. I had no idea as we planned our trip that you lived on the highway we would be taking from Seward to Denali National Park.

      Everything we’d planned went like clockwork and our hugs were frosting on the cake.

      Lots of folks on the bus enjoyed watching us from the windows.

      Life throws us unexpected surprises and that was surely a big one!!!

      • Cheryl, what a beautiful moment when you met Gullie forf the first time and in such spectacular circumstance. A moment to remember forever

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        It was incredibly cool! What a joy when the bus driver pulled off the road for us!! God bless her!!!

  2. PPS: Gully doesn’t chew her nails….

  3. thornyrosedechile

    Stewart sat at the head of his long gravel drive way with the car idling. He didn’t need to go home; he was a human being with free will, wasn’t he? He could take a right turn and leave the consequences behind. Or, he could turn all the way around and go back the way he’d come. If he went forward, he would have to face the music. He chewed his thumb nail.

    I am such a wuss. That’s what Shirley would say. “Stewart, you are a wuss, the biggest wuss I’ve ever seen.”

    My house is up ahead on the rise in front of me, just a hundred yards down the curving gravel drive. Is today the day that I go home and tell Shirley the truth?

    My left thumb is throbbing. Since I’ve bitten that nail down to the quick, I switch hands.

    How can I tell Shirley that I was laid off almost a month ago? That now I get up every morning, shower, shave, and pretend to go to work so she won’t worry or, worse, pity me. I can hear her now. “A man without a job is like a man without a…”

    Can I explain to her that, for weeks, I’ve been driving to the county seat a couple of towns over to fill out unemployment forms, go to interviews, and take a bunch of career placement tests as if I were 18 years old?

    “Just give it a little time, sir. Something will come along,” they tell me. How long am I supposed to wait while our savings sifts away?

    If I’m not at the courthouse, I’m driving around aimlessly or sitting in the coffee shop that’s on the pretty, green town square. The kids play in the square after school. When they come bouncing in all full of pent-up energy, I am jealous. The last of my energy faded hours ago. Their arrival is my cue to leave, to drive back home where there’s a hot meal and a warm body waiting for me.

    Not yet, I decide. It’s too early to face Shirley today. I put the truck in reverse, and slowly start backing out of the driveway. Before I’m in the clear and on the highway, our red Chevy pulls in behind me.

    In the truck’s rear view mirror, I can see Shirley pantomiming behind the wheel of the Chevy. Her shoulders rise and she lifts a hand palm up. All I can hear is her furious honking, but her lips are moving and I know she’s yelling, “What are you doing?”

    She maneuvers a bit and then scoots around me, gesturing for me to follow. I briefly consider slamming the pickup into reverse and peeling out. I could probably make it to Memphis before nightfall.

    But instead, The Wuss puts it in drive and shadows Shirley up the long and winding road to the house he can’t afford much longer.

    • Thornyrose, a solid story, so true and actual.,

    • Hi Rose – still getting caught up while adding more logs to my many fires. As I read your story I was struck with what I found to be a similarity of your “voice” to mine. I don’t find that often. (I say that hoping that doesn’t make you cringe, huddled in some dark corner!)

      I noticed one grammer thing, in the para:

      “Can I explain to her that, for weeks, I’ve been driving to the county seat a couple of towns over to fill out unemployment forms, go to interviews, and take a bunch of career placement tests as if I were 18 years old?”

      perhaps it should be driving, going and taking?

      All said, good writing. Jeff

    • Thornyrose – This is very good story telling. I’m curious about Shirley’s reaction to seeing Stewart in the driveway. She must have known his situation already. Or….did she?

      Well done.

    • Sorry I’m so late in getting here. That crossroads was very tough for Stewart as he lives out a reality that is all too common these days. Sad ending, but oh so true.

    • I posted a comment a couple weeks ago but it apparently has been held in moderation. I do nothing in moderation 🙂 so trying again

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Hi Rose – still getting caught up while adding more logs to my many fires. As I read your story I was struck with what I found to be a similarity of your “voice” to mine. I don’t find that often. (I say that hoping that doesn’t make you cringe, huddled in some dark corner!)

      I noticed one grammer thing, in the para:

      “Can I explain to her that, for weeks, I’ve been driving to the county seat a couple of towns over to fill out unemployment forms, go to interviews, and take a bunch of career placement tests as if I were 18 years old?”

      perhaps it should be driving, going and taking?

      All said, good writing. Jeff

      • thornyrosedechile

        Sorry it’s taken me awhile to respond. I’ve been away from this site for a bit. I agree with you, Jeff. Gerunds, it should be.

        I’m flattered rather than offended by your comparison. Thanks for your comments and the grammar tip.

  4. Lots of wonderful drama and character in this short piece. Well done.

    • Galelike thanks for your instructions ref. how to get my story on the 100wordstory photo prompt. It took some time to get in but everything is OK now.

  5. The Drive (in 100 words)

    He looked down the driveway, toward his wife and home, and thought of her. That welcoming smile. The encouraging words always offered in his frequent moments of despair. With her he didn’t have to pretend to be someone he wasn’t or apologize for who he was. His cuticles burned from chewing his nails. His breath hung in his chest as if wrapped in wire. He smelled his own perspiration and punched the car’s AC. Hands slick with sweat gripped the wheel. He turned the wheel to the right and drove toward that welcoming smile as his wife paced the floor.

  6. Granddaughter is here for a weak, taking her back tomorrow. I have been thus occupied and unable to comment. Not ignoring your posts here, just having too much fun otherwise.

    • week not weak

    • Jeff, funny coincidence. Your granddaughter came to visit you last week and mine is coming from N.Y.today to visit us ’til Sunday.
      Thank you for your help. I finally was able to post my story in photo-prompt.

  7. 100-WordStories has a new photo prompt. Anyone is welcome to write and post. Lando, how about giving it a try?

    Jeff

    http://www.100wordstory.org/photo-prompt/

    • Jeff, thanks for encouraging me to write on the 100 words “Society”
      In fact, I wrote a story about the photo prompt. The problem is that I can’t find out as yet how to post it. I subscribed and I was accepted but I don’t see where to write and submit. Any suggestion?

      • Lando, re Photoprompt: if u scroll down to the bottom of all the current posts under the picture, you see a box to enter your name, etc and a place to post your entry. ( I usually cut and paste my story from a word file on my computer. ). Hope this helps

      • Hi Lando, follow what Gale wrote. And sometimes it takes a day for new poster’s material to actually post. Jeff

  8. A quarter mile up the main road from the driveway stood the trusted way-marker of my youth, the ancient billboard. Its message, now barely legible behind yards of tangled kudzu, had no-doubt produced a small monthly stipend for some long forgotten crofter who allowed it to grace the unplowable land between his field and the roadway.

    Beneath the giant edifice, which was supported by two electric poles, one in apparent use, the other dangling its wires as fishing line in a sea of weeds, were the crooked remains of three long-extinguished lamps. Impulsively, I reached towards the dash and turned the switch. The twin pools of light on the road ahead turned yellow and dried away in the night.

    Calmed, but unsatisfied, I did the same with the ignition. Instantly, the two ton behemoth ceased its bark and made no sound other than cracking gravel beneath the tires as it coasted to a stop alongside the road, exactly at the intersection of the driveway.

    It was just past sundown and the white mist that seems to only know the periods between night and day was already coalescing in the low spots that dotted the fields on each side of the long driveway. I found this strangely comforting and decided to take a seat on the hood of the silent car. It was early fall and the air held the faint smell of a distant wood fire that had no-doubt been built against the chill that made the heat from the engine welcome.

    At the end of the driveway, some three-hundred yards distant, was the shrouded outline of the old farmhouse. Its white clapboards, gray, and green trim, black in the dwindling reflections of the passing day.

    A single yellow beacon, no more than a forty Watt porch light, suggested the possibility of life. In fact, I imagined that the light, as it had all those summers when I was a child, was Hyperion to the multitude of insects that orbited in its glow searching for whatever blessings porch lamps can bestow upon the insignificant.

    Above it all was the scattered salt of the Milky Way. For a moment I studied it. I chose to dismiss the obvious, such as the ridiculous images of warriors and kitchen utensils, that, for most, comprise the entirety of the night sky.

    In the dry autumn air it was possible to see that the psychic symbols were made of even smaller elements, and that those elements, too, were built up of others. It represented a continuous progression that existed beyond the pitiful logic of any imaginable vanishing point.

    Yet, what of these stars? In the cellars of abandoned factories, the empty coal bunkers, and the piers along the wharf where shirtless men gather sharing in the stench of poverty and incredible wealth, the stars bring no dog, make no bet, and still, always win.

    For whatever reason, as if epiphany requires reason, I became immediately certain of the vastness of everything. Each point was, at the very least, a place, and as such had all of the attendant attributes of places. I understood the bulb, and the insects, and the driveway, and billboard, and most of all, the reason I had stopped at the side of the road.

    I wanted to attach some meaningful phrase or quotation, perhaps from the Bible or some lauded work of fiction or science to my discovery, but I couldn’t think of any. Only one word came to mind. A word that seemed simultaneously perfect and totally inadequate.

    “Puny’

    In context, everything I knew, everything I feared, and everything I had become, was puny.

    As the steel beneath me grew cold, I hopped down and took a look once more at the tiny yellow lamp some three-hundred yards away.

    And I….

    • Gary – this is the best I have read of yours to date. The words did an excellent job of taking me there and participating in the emotion. Two critical comments (you know I hate adverbs) “instinctively” – that was like driving down a rustic road then hitting a pot-hole. And I think it better without the last line ending …

      Really really nice writing.

      • garytreible

        Thanks Jeff! I should have run the adverb down while the headlights were out. I think it was actually “Impulsively,” but it’s sometimes hard to make them out in the dark.

      • Gary: apparently I was more traumatized than I realized.

    • Gary, that is so deep…i couldn’t pull away, but kept going back and reading your words, over and over. Very good piece.

  9. A blog for anyone interested in short ficiton:

    http://jeffswitt.wordpress.com/about/

  10. Stewart sat at the head of his long gravel drive way with the car idling. He didn’t need to go home; he was a human being with free will, wasn’t he? He could take a right turn and leave the consequences behind. Or, he could turn all the way around and go back the way he’d come. If he went forward, he would have to face the music. He chewed his thumb nail.

    Facing the music was not something that came easily for him. Stew had always been a good boy and done exactly what was expected of him. At least that’s what his parents had been led to believe. How am I going to handle this, he wondered? Ben has always been able to get by with anything just by using his asthma as an excuse. Can I get by doing the same thing? After all, I’m an asthmatic, too.

    Using his key to let himself into the house, he quietly headed for the stairs. He was sure his parents had both left for work by this time.

    “Stewart, what are you doing home,” shouted his mother from her bedroom door when she saw him climbing the stairs. “You were in Tucson last night when I called you.”

    “Oh, hi Mom,” said Stew. “I thought you’d be at work by now.”

    “No, I decided to go in late this morning, and I’m glad I did,” she said. “I want to know why you’re here.”

    “Mom, I just couldn’t take the weather. My asthma started acting up as soon as I got in bed last night, and it was much worse this morning. Finishing college isn’t important enough to me if I have to be sick all the time. I want to stay home and continue to work at the store with you and Dad. You got by just fine without college.”

    I agree that I did fine without college, thought Mom. I don’t suppose I should encourage Stew to drop out, but it would be nice to have his help at the store again. Maybe I can convince his father that he really was sick.

    “I don’t know how your father is going to feel about this, Stew,” Mom said. “You know how important your college education is to him. I’ll talk to him about it tonight and then we’ll have to make a decision about this.”

    I wonder if it’s that girl he’s been seeing, Mom thought to herself. He promised me he wouldn’t see her anymore when I threatened to disown him if he didn’t. I really must talk to my friends and ask them to help me find a nice Jewish girl for Stew.

    I hope she doesn’t guess the real reason I’m back, Stew thought to himself.

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