Saturday, May 14, 2011

Journey - passage of time...

Mother Mayhem asked, with a grin, if I was sure this could still be considered a short story. 
I have to admit - that it probably can not. I intended for it to be three parts...
and while it's still in three parts-- they're just really long. Breaking it up into easily edible blog postings probably makes it seem really longer than it is.

According to an article at
  • A novel is anything over 50,000 words
  • A novella is between 20,000 and 50,000 words
  • A short story has a word count of under 20,000 words
I'm probably pushing close to 20,00. I haven't done the math, yet, because I'm writing it in chapters. I have to admit, I didn't expect this story to keep going.  ^_^ But I'm glad it did. I've enjoyed the heck out of it.

On to the story continued from here and started all the way back here... Hope you like it. Verbal montages are not as easy to write as I thought they'd be.


    DJ found a brown paper sack on the front porch of the house the next morning. Inside he found several paper backs, gum, M&M’s and a bottle of soda. One bottle. During his seemingly endless flight, DJ found two phone cards inside the paperbacks and a hastily written note on the inside cover of one of the books.

    “Ok - so I took the bottle of soda. You’d have had two but it was a really long stake out. We bagged the bad guys though. So I guess it was worth the price of admission. They were selling stolen computers. So I guess the world is safer now. At least from buying stolen computers. That would have been interesting. The budget conscious house wife buying the computer for her family. The family gathers around. They turn it on to discover it came pre-loaded with porn. Wonder how customer service would have handled that one. ~ Meg. PS - I did have to file the paper work. Knew I would. Be Safe.

    Once he rejoined his company on the sand in Iraq, DJ didn’t have time to analyze anything that had happened in the states. All things considered, it was probably a good thing that he couldn’t dwell on plans that had suddenly gone askew. He focused on the job at hand and the weeks passed quickly.

    His first box from his mother included a news clipping with Meg in the background of the picture. His mother had circled her face, just in case DJ might have missed it. The officers in the picture were unnamed as evidence was placed inside a van. Apparently, the stolen computers Meg had alluded to in her note were part of a bigger identity theft operation. Thousands of dollars and reams of personal information had been stolen from businesses and homes over the city. Eating a cookie his mother had made and mailed, DJ studied the picture. Meg was standing behind her partner, a man who appeared to be pushing forty. He looked much like Meg’s brothers and he wondered if Meg had partnered up with another relative. As far as he could recall, her entire family was made up of police officers. She looked good and he could appreciate the smirk on her face. A job well done was worth smirking about.

    The box from Meg came a week and a half later. Her box was more fun and filled to the brim with books, gum and candy. And sidewalk chalk. DJ got a laugh out of that. He’d put it to use or give it to the first group of kids he came across. Tucked in the corner were small things like fingernail clippers and a tube of sunscreen for his lips. Her letter told him of that both her her brother’s wives were expecting babies now. Since they were due within days of each other, it was a race to the finish. But what did everyone expect? Meg put to him. Michael and Matthew had been racing since they could both walk?

    If DJ could have put a pin in a time line, he would have made certain that exact moment in time was noted above all. Something changed in his thoughts. Just a small shift in perception. Jessica’s letters had never made him laugh and his letters to Meg, even though she always sent long newsy letters, had been short. This time, when he wrote back, DJ told Meg of the long waits and the bursts of action. Both could be intense. DJ talked of the moodiness of the weather. He wrote with absolute certainty that there would be dust storms in hell. He didn’t know how exactly that would happen, just that it would. Maybe tiny particulates of damnation and brimstone flying around? DJ told her the thing he craved most was an American Hamburger with pickles. Sitting in the shade of a make-shift canopy, DJ found words flowing until it was time to finish the mission. He closed, telling her that he enjoyed her letter, as always. Then he did something he’d never done before. He asked for a picture.

    It took a month and a week to arrive but Meg’s next box didn’t include just one picture. It included an entire book’s worth of pictures. She’d taken pictures of her car in the sun and in the rain. “See how the rain looks like sapphires?” There was a picture of new boots, the price tag still attached the the laces.

    She sent a picture of her gun showed all the pieces apart for cleaning. On the back she’d written, “Should there be an extra piece left over?” There was a picture of her toes, the nails glinting pink and a toe ring circled the second toe of her right foot. DJ was intrigued. There was a picture of water flowing from a faucet. “Indoor plumbing is a modern convenience that is not overrated.”

    There was a picture of his parents, her niece. Her apartment door. A box of crayons and then a picture of a doodle where Meg had drawn a happy face and the word, “Hey.” Laughing, DJ looked at each picture in turn. He saw the park from their neighborhood. The swing. A rose. A cloud. A bumblebee and then a fly swatter. The combination made him laugh.

    Through her pictures, he saw his front porch swing and two bottles of soda. Then the rain pouring over the eaves of his front porch. All combined to make DJ remember homesickness. There was a picture of the clock on her dashboard. DJ could only assume that she’d taken the picture while she was working. There was another picture of a crime scene, taken at a distance. The officers stood in a huddle, arms pointing in one direction. He could not make out faces but could tell from their poses that they were in serious discussion. The strobe of the lights on the emergency vehicles was captured in another picture.

    A crack in the sidewalk. DJ stared at the picture for a long moment, looking for a hidden meaning. He found none. So either it was hidden really well or there simply wasn't one. He had to admit, there weren't that many cracks in the sidewalk where he was walking lately.

    A quarter, heads up, lay next to a small, blue flower. Meg had written, “Finders Keepers” on the back of that picture. Then there was a picture of her and her brothers. All three of them in plain t-shirts. Black, White and Green. Each with their badges on chains around their necks. Meg stood tucked in the middle because of her shorter height.

    Finally, the very last picture was a picture of Meg.

    It was from her birthday, the cake was lit with two candles on one side and five on the other. Twenty-five. In the picture she was laughing at something that had been said to her. It was a perfect picture. Her hair fell down around her shoulders, the gold strands catching the candle light. The beginnings of laugh lines around her eyes and the green danced in the picture. This was the friend he remembered.
    He had been, DJ realized, so incredibly wrong. It had only taken months to realize it. He still remembered those things he’d said the night he’d been drunk. He couldn’t ignore the blind eye he had turned toward Jessica’s manipulations. She truly had robbed him of his friend. A lifetime might not make up for the errors.

    As time passed and letters were exchanged, slowly their words changed. DJ found he could talk to Meg about life as he knew and not have to sugar coat anything. His mother continued to send news clippings if there were any to be clipped. They were few and far between and not all of them contained pictures. DJ didn’t mind. It was a glimpse into the world that he didn’t always have access to see from his location. Wounds were discussed with humor easily found in letters as Meg and DJ both received them in the line of duty.

    Bullets were bullets, Meg wrote, whether they were in the guns of insurgents or gang members. She’d written about the scare when her brother, Michael, had been critically wounded by a drug addict jonesing for his next fix.

    DJ was in a hospital bed with a concussion and a leg wound that had required twenty-seven stitches when Meg made the rank of Detective.

    When he was released to active duty, DJ walked from the hospital right into a transfer to a new outfit. A special ops unit that could make use of his particular set of sharpshooting skills. While he trained with his new unit, Meg went undercover. The only news he received from home for many months was from his mother. Letters he sent home seemed boring. The only thing DJ could truly, freely talk about was the weather. There were only so many ways to say ‘hot’ and ‘dry’. Even though it was definitely not boring, it was particularly dry year for DJ. He went too many months without hearing from home and he had nothing to encourage them with.

    When his team took a working vacation to Germany, DJ took a moment to shop, sending a necklace to Meg.

    Still months passed without hearing from Meg. His mother didn’t send any new clippings of Meg, there was nothing to send, she told him. “Norma tells me she is doing well.”

    When a Christmas box finally arrived on New Year’s eve from Meg, DJ was hesitant to open it. His fear, and that’s what it was even if he denied it, was that he’d open the box to find that she’d married someone else. Someone like Dale Winkler.

    The box contained books, sunscreen, drink mixes and candy. A small wrapped box, strapped with green and red ribbon was opened to reveal a carrying case holding several game chips for his hand held game unit and four new-to-video DVD's. “Something to fight the boredom. Merry Christmas.” The letter was shorter than normal. She had a new niece and a nephew. They were born on the very same day. A hectic day for the Addison family and the labor/delivery floor in the hospital. “It’s a toss-up about who won the race. Matthew’s son, forever called “The Nephew”, was a few days early. Michael is claiming a cheat and that his daughter, Niece #2 is the rightful winner. Both wives already have plans to travel somewhere that’s -away- without husbands or babies - so actually, I’m guessing they’re the true winners.”

    Reading the letter twice, DJ decided something was wrong. It was time to call. Past time but hopefully not too late.

Continued here

© 2011, Amelia Antwiler/Comfy Denim


Mother Mayhem said...

Once again, I am on the edge of my seat! This time, I'm sweating! LOL

Christa said...

I just re-read this from the original posting, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

At this point, I think you should make it 20,001 words just so you can call it a novella. :) Not that I'm advocating for wordiness. I can only imagine the extents of your imagination.

ComfyDenim said...

And Novella is so much more fun to say...