Creative Fiction My first real hobby
The first story I ever wrote was entitled “Little Monster’s First Sleepover.” The day after I turned it in, my teacher told me to read it in front of the class, and gave me a piece of candy for it. I took it home, beaming with pride. My mom took it from me and hung it on the fridge. I like to look back on that moment as the highlight of my writing career. I didn’t get to hang anything up on the fridge when I got to college. Still, for every three “I don’t think this character would do this”s I had one “I was so scared for the character here”. The following stories are the two best reviewed pieces I ever had. They represent me in my best state of mind about writing fiction – finding either a political issue I am passionate about (as in “Catholic School Morality”) or some phenomenon that I am fascinated with (as in the insomnia and night terrors in “The End of the Whole Mess”) and writing a story about the people that are affected by it. Writing “Catholic School Morality” was weird. It was about 4:00 AM the day before portfolios were due. I had an accounting exam at 8 that morning. I had spent the previous 6 hours racking my brain trying to come up with the perfect story when I came across an article about abortion and realized that I wanted to write something, anything, about that. 45 minutes later, I showed the story to my friend (who happened to be in the same situation I was in) and she literally began tearing up. When she finished reading she said it was like listening to an actual 16 year old girl telling the story of something that had happened to her. I turned it in the next day and the rest of the class agreed. Score. “The End of the Whole Mess” was another thing entirely. I have always been fascinated with weird sleep phenomena, particularly night terrors, which I experience pretty often. This one didn’t come out as easily as the last one because with the last one I knew exactly how I wanted to end the story. In fact, the whole thing took about a full week to get through. Not because I wasn’t into it, but because this one could have gone anywhere. This is going to sound weird but I was literally sweating when I finished the ending. In class, people told me that the end was thrilling. Good news, but I had five or six alternate ending lines up in case that didn’t happen. Recently I have been moving away from fiction, favoring more real world writing. But I took a lot out of it – namely, the ability to create a story out of a situation. To not just tell people about a thing that happened, but to give them something that they are going to want to read about. Stylistic tricks that I developed in my fiction classes have made their way into everything I’ve written since – journals, academic papers, even cover letters. People tell me they can always tell when I have written something because it just sounds like “me”. I’m ok with that.
Catholic School Morality It would have been much easier for her to regret that night if she could remember it at all. Leanne didn’t think there were drugs involved. She was sure, however, that there had been alcohol. Far too much alcohol. Her friends had probably told her not to go out by herself. She should have known she couldn’t resist temptation when she had no one to hold her back. She couldn’t even remember what he looked like anymore. It didn’t matter anyway – the fact remained that by some twisted act of fate or personal irresponsibility, she was carrying his child. Well, for now at least. She wouldn’t be for long. The waiting room of the Brenmar Medical Center was warm and inviting. Pink and yellow flowers danced against the beige walls in a smiling cabaret surely designed to comfort the people waiting for the doctor to come fix their sore throats and their headaches. Doctor I need you to suck this baby out of me, please. It’s not born yet but that’s ok, see I’m stupid and irresponsible and with the help of science, I can stop paying for my mistake. She had no headache. She had no sore throat. The flowers were not smiling for her. It was ironic that her strict Catholic upbringing had sent her to the clinic as soon as she could get there. She knew something bad had happened that night, but it wasn’t until her first missed period that she understood the depth of the incident. In her family, premarital sex was the considered sin of sins – teen pregnancy was cause for disownment. So instead she did some research and found the Brenmar Medical Center. They were discrete, the website said. Her parents would never find out. That was important. It was cheap too, considering she had no idea how much abortions usually cost. She made all the arrangements over one extra-long walk home from school. The receptionist assured her that no one would ever know unless she wanted them to. That was the most important factor in her decision making process – the fact that she would never have to tell anyone. As she waited in the sickening off-white reception area, she regretted more than anything that she had never been able to tell anyone. She had many close friends, to be sure. A few that she could even call her “best friends.” But these were Catholic school best friends. The ones who rebelled against the system by rolling their skirts 3 inches above the knee. The ones who still thought that the best place to spend a Friday night was at an all girls slumber party. The ones she should have been with on that night, instead of that random guy she had met at the mall the week before. She was trying hard to not let the incident affect her on an emotional level anymore. Too many sleepless nights had already been spent in terror following that terrible experiment after which blue became her least favorite color. No use crying over spilled milk. She almost laughed at the innuendo of the phrase. Where was that damn doctor? How long had she been waiting? She remembered the day Susan Richards got expelled. Susan Richards. She got an abortion. That’s why she got expelled. She had tried to keep it quiet, but Erin Rhodes’ mother was a pro-life champion and had seen her walking out of the Ridgeville Clinic during a rally. She told the school board, who attempted to keep the reason for the expulsion a secret, but Susan’s
parents took legal action against the school, claiming that such a personal matter as that was no grounds for an expulsion. The court deemed that as a private school, they could make their own decisions about who they allowed in. She was not. Worse, now everyone knew. But soon enough, people stopped talking about Susan. Stopped caring about her. Stopped thinking about her. By now it was generally believed that Susan Richards had committed suicide. Leanne did not want to wind up like Susan Richards. She crossed her legs and looked around the room for a distraction. There was a boy coming out of an examination room. He was young, no more than four. He had obviously been crying. She noticed the bright green bandage on his arm and tried to remember how shots felt back when she was a little kid. A wave of nostalgia crashed over her as she thought about how shots used to be the worst thing in the world – worse than spinach, the dark, and the news all rolled into one. He walked with his mother over to the receptionist’s desk, and she watched as his mother was handed a bill and the boy was handed a red lollipop. His face brightened instantly and soon he was smiling again, the white paper stick swinging around between his upturned lips. She rubbed her not yet enlarged stomach and walked toward the desk. Maybe a lollipop would make her feel better too. She sat back down and unwrapped the Root Beer lollipop. For some reason she had started thinking about how she felt the day her little brother came home for the first time. She was only 8 years old at the time, but she vividly remembered how helpless he looked, and how she had vowed even at such a young age to protect him from whatever ills the world might possess. She did her best to keep him happy, and she knew he looked up to her even more than he did to their parents. She wondered what he would think if he saw her here. She wondered if he would even understand. Of course he would. Probably not right away, but he would. And it would be enough to destroy everything between them, everything she had worked so hard to build. She turned around to look at the street. No pro-life rally. No Mrs. Rhodes. Maybe she would be safe. The person growing inside of you is not your little brother. You are not responsible for it. Mrs. Collins, her religion teacher, would have killed her for saying that. For Mrs. Collins, and just about every other teacher at the Academy of the Holy Cross, human life began at conception. Leanne didn’t believe that two cells could make a human life. So why should 4? Or 8? Right now there was no person inside of her. Just some gross, space-alien looking mistake. She had been on the pro-life side during their last religion class debate. She had won it too. Well, her side. Funny how that worked out. Mrs. Collins was just a teacher. One of those fat teachers, too, with warts on her neck and a geographic tongue. Mrs. Collins had no idea what it was like to need an abortion. No idea what it was like to wake up one morning with a baby in your stomach and no idea how it got there. No idea how badly it needed to come out. Now. She wondered what the other people waiting would think of her if they knew what she was actually waiting for. If they knew that she had skipped school on a Tuesday not for a fever, not for a physical. If they knew that the girl sitting in the corner by herself, adjusting her green and red plaid uniform skirt, was getting ready to perform what she was told was the greatest sin imaginable – taking the life of a child who had not experienced life yet. She wasn’t quite sure how she was going to get out of this skip without a detention. Maybe her secret stash of fake nurses notes Wow, are you really worried about getting detention right now? She looked
with terror at every person who left an examination room. Who was leaving the room she was going to occupy? When were they going to call “Leanne Marsh?” She very nearly choked on her now bare and soggy lollipop stick. She was quite certain that, had she been standing up, she would have fainted. Instead she stood up carefully, hoping no one could see her skinny 16 year-old knees knocking together as she followed the fat young nurse in the blue, duck-print scrubs into examination room 4. “The doctor will be with you shortly.” The door closed, and for a brief moment she was sure that she had been left alone with the bears on purpose. It was a few breathless moments before she remembered that the bears, much like the smiling flowers, were painted on the walls, and were not going to hurt her. She wondered where that baby-sucker machine was. Thinking about it that way was no longer such a joke now that she was separated from freedom by not one, but two doors. This time she threw up in the trashcan, but still fought hard to keep from tears. She was 16 years old. She was not getting a shot. She was having a grown-up procedure. Someone passing too quickly outside made the door shake a little bit in the frame. She threw up again. Suddenly she began to wonder what things would be like after it was all over. Susan Richards committed suicide. Would she commit suicide if she were expelled? She wouldn’t be expelled – no one was ever going to find out about this. Maybe it wasn’t the expulsion then. Maybe it was the abortion. The murder. No. No no no no. Not murder. Please. Not murder. She could hear voices outside now. Dr. Stevens. Who was that? Was that her doctor? He couldn’t be. He wasn’t. Thank God. But then who was that? Outside, now, a new voice. Female voice. Sounded familiar. Susan? That’s impossible. You’re dead. Mrs. Rhodes? How did you get here? No, not you either. Mrs. Collins, I’m sorry, let me explain, please, I’m so sorry. “Leanne, my name is Dr. Lawrence. Sorry to keep you waiting. Are you ready?” Leanne collapsed into Dr. Lawrence’s arms in a fit of sobs, nearly knocking her over in the process. She thought of her parents, her Catholic school “best friends.” Rolled up skirts and slumber parties. She thought of her brother, of innocence, of helplessness. She thought about aliens and about God and about skipping school. She thought about what she was going to tell her parents when they found out she was going to be giving up a baby for adoption.
The End of the Whole Mess There were always the dreams. The dreams never used to concern me. They started off simple enough – normal dreams about falling or being chased or being trapped. I grew used to them after a while. Eventually the dreams evolved into night terrors. I got used to those too. The insomnia came shortly after. It was worse in the beginning. The first sleepless night came bundled with the first night terror. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. The voices, the pressure, the cold – not pain. Not fear. Curiosity at first. Then acceptance. Then boredom. Some say night terrors are the most frightening experiences of their lives. They might be for some. Not for me. Dreams are supposed to happen at night. Mine used to. Those were fine. But that didn’t last long. As soon as I stopped sleeping, the dreams stopped discriminating between night and day. My name is Adrian Rivas. People are starting to tell me I’m crazy. And I’m starting to agree. 4:28 AM. Celine fell asleep hours ago, and out of respect for her I’m leaving the TV off. My gaze falls alternately between her gentle face and the harsh red numbers of the digital clock by my bedside. I wonder what she would do if I woke her up to tell her that four times two is eight. Luckily for her the clock turns to 4:29 before I get the chance to find out. Celine and I met our junior year in college. That was a few months after the night terrors began. Before the waking dreams. I wanted to tell her about them but they stopped as soon as we started dating. I went a good three months sleeping every time I wanted to. I thought she could fix me. I had my first night terror on the day of our first fight. They got back to normal after that. At first she didn’t think it was real. She researched it and told me that people who have night terrors scream and flail around in bed. Explaining sleep paralysis to her was weird. For some reason I remember her big psychology textbook digging into my chest as I hugged her that time. It took a lot more for me to tell her that I wasn’t sure how far things would go – to tell her that it might come to a point where I might be dangerous. That happens to some people. I don’t know how bad these things get. I don’t know if it’s avoidable. I could tell she was confused. But she doesn’t have to understand. She just has to know. Christ, I don’t even understand it. 4:36. I’m bored. I wonder who’s around at Stan’s. Stan’s is a coffee shop a few blocks from my apartment. It’s a nice enough place for a late-night drink. I’ve gotten to like the way the fluorescent lights turn what I’m assuming are white tiles blue. I don’t know what the place looks like during the day. The walk to Stan’s is quick, but it gets me some fresh air and some good time to relax and stretch my legs. Even if all it really does is get me thinking about her. I hate having to leave her. Suddenly I find myself on my knees on the sidewalk and now I think I’m grabbing my head Jesus Christ what if he does come back memories I thought I’d repressed seem like only yesterday I can see the knife feel the tearing see the blood I think I’m
Wait. What knife? No…no I’m wrong. What the hell was I thinking? Maria is the only waitress that works at Stan’s this late at night. She is also the only other living being I have ever seen in the shop. I feel bad for her. I feel like I am her only customer, and all I ever order is coffee. But I like her. She always brings the whole pot of coffee to the table when I sit down. She knows I could drink the whole thing if I wanted to, but she usually does not offer me the opportunity – instead, she sits down with me and we talk until her shift ends at 6. I wonder if she is allowed to drink as much coffee as she does when I come in. I wonder how all that coffee affects her when she gets home. She is raising her seven-yearold son by herself. Her father has been dead for a long time now. Her mother is dying too. She is the only one of her six siblings – 4 boys and 2 girls – to have moved out of their family’s native Bolivia. Life in Bolivia sounds perfect. I wonder what is so much better about working in a coffee shop in the States. Maria has been trying to teach me some Spanish. Yo me llamo Adrian. A mi me gusta dormir. No puedo dormir nada. I like the way she says “d’s.” It sounds like “th.” She wants to take me to Bolivia the next time she goes back. I’m sure she has no papers. I’m sure she knows that she is never going back. Maria is the only person I feel comfortable explaining my dreams to. I tell Celine about all of them, mainly because I feel like I have to. She tries to help me figure them out, too, which I appreciate immensely. But it’s nice to have someone who doesn’t try to understand. To have someone who just listens. I tell her all about the walk over, the knife, the pain. I tell her all about how badly I wished I could defend myself. I tell her about how there was no one there. I don’t tell her how it felt to realize I was alone on the street. I can’t bring myself to. Celine is awake when I get home. She knows exactly where I’ve been. I know she knows why I go there every night, but I don’t think she really understands. That’s ok. My eyes are bloodshot when I walk in the door. She looks genuinely worried when she hugs me. I close my eyes and despite the half pot of coffee flowing through my veins I almost fall asleep on her shoulder. She doesn’t know about Maria. She doesn’t need to. There is nothing to know. She is heading off to work already. I have to get going too. I don’t need anymore coffee. Not yet. It’s no surprise when my boss tells me I have a week to get my productivity up before I am “let go.” He tells me with an inhuman lack of concern that I look tired. As he leaves I fantasize about chopping his body up into 50 pieces and mailing one piece to every state. I don’t think I should do that. I need my job. Instead I turn back to the computer and fire up Microsoft Access. I’m not sure if any of the other database technicians knew what they were doing either. All I know is that I have about 3000 more names and addresses to add or remove today. I know someone is happy about our ever-expanding customer base. I am not. I’m really not sure why I chose to become a database manager. I’m really not sure why anyone would choose to become a database manager. It pays rent. That’s all I care about. It pays more than Celine’s job, but for now neither of us can afford to live on just one income. I wish I could do better for her. She deserves it. As soon as work is over I head over to the flower shop. Celine never acts worried when I leave the house in the middle of the night, but I can only imagine that nights like some of mine make her wonder. I’ve talked to her about it many times. I know she loves me, and she knows I
love her, but I’ve even told her that if it gets any worse, I won’t mind if she leaves. We both know this isn’t true. We also know that we may not have a choice. Passing by the flower shop sends a wave of fierce hatred up my spine because I know exactly where she goes when I go. I’ve seen her with him. Jake is his name. I saw her talking to him when I picked her up from work one day I’ll kill him I swear to God I’ll kill him but her first. Her first. “WHERE IS HE?” I shout as I throw the door to the apartment open. “Where is who?” she looks shocked. “You know exactly who I’m –“ No. No she doesn’t. There is no one else. Only a dream. It’s hard to explain my actions when I don’t even understand them. But I’ve never done anything like this before. I can see in her eyes how much I’ve hurt her. I know I can’t undo what I’ve done. I fall to the floor and she curls into my arms. Her face is buried deep in my chest, and I can almost feel her mind turning the past few minutes over as hard as she possibly can. There is no way I can apologize. I have nothing to say. All I can do is hope that she knows I didn’t mean any of what just happened. For the first time in a long time I consider getting myself looked at. I can’t ever do anything like this again. I close my eyes and rest my chin on the top of her head. I know I actually fell asleep for a minute, and I know I enjoyed it immensely. But it isn’t long before my eyes are open again, as usual. It’s pointless to even try to close them. I’m amazed she is letting me sleep with her tonight. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why she is so patient with me. I wish I could sleep like she does. I haven’t in such a long time. Instead I wake her up gently with a kiss on the forehead and carry her body up to our bed. She hugs and smiles at me as I slide into bed with her, and I can almost feel her disappointment as I slip out of her arms and make my way back to the coffee shop. It feels good to know she’s forgiven me already. I don’t deserve her. It’s cold out here. I have to get to Stan’s tonight early anyway. Maria died this morning. They didn’t say how. I told them I had to work. They told me she said I wouldn’t be here until late anyway. I told them I’d come as early as I could. This is the first time I’ve cried in years. I really feel like I’m losing my best friend. I wonder how Celine would feel if she could see me like this. “Señor Adrian, are you alright?” “Maria? They…they told me…you were…dead…” “Dead? Ay Dios no, who told you that?” “But…they…” Looking back on the day I realize that I never got a phone call like that. No one except Maria even knows I come here. I tell her I’m sorry but I need to take care of something. Really I just can’t bear to look at her. Before I leave she tells me I should see a doctor. She tells me that every time I leave. It’s her small way of trying to help. I don’t tell her that I tried that once. The doctor is too expensive. He doesn’t know anything. Maybe I should go back on those sleeping pills I used to sell to my friends in high school until I got hooked on them. Maybe I’ll go to the doctor in the morning. Nah. Too tired to go to the doctor. I don’t believe in doctors. I’ll fall asleep eventually. Celine doesn’t even hear me come in. She is shaking in bed – must be having a nightmare. I wish I could help her. I am better at nightmares than she is. I learned long ago not to wake a person from a nightmare. Instead I watch in agony as her shaking intensifies, then
finally subsides. When she is finished, I climb carefully into bed next to her and try my hardest to fall asleep. Soon after entering the bed I realize that she wasn’t having a nightmare after all. There is another man in our bed – but not a lover. The most disgusting man I have ever seen in my life. I tear him out of bed and throw him to the floor and suddenly I’m on top of him, fists flying into his jaws because I want to break him and by God he should have known but here it is I’ll make him pay I’ll make him wish he were never born I’ll make him “ADRIAN!” I freeze as soon as I hear her voice. My hands are covered in blood from her broken face. Her nose is twisted almost 90o. Her jaw might be broken. She doesn’t have any bruises yet. Tears are creating small gray-pink spirals in the small drops of blood on the floor. She looks dead. Worse. She looks like she wishes she were dead. I wish I were dead. If I were dead I could not have done this. This is not a coffee shop night. This is a take Celine to the hospital night. This is a night when I most definitely will not sleep.
Published on Apr 29, 2010