Friday, December 19, 2008

The Transformation of Any Man

(Search Engine Fiction prompt his week was verglass- here's my stab at it)

She looked out the window and gasped at the beauty. The world had turned silver overnight. The bare branches of trees hung heavy with ice as if encased in crystal. Light twittered off in all directions. The newly fallen snow, crusted over with ice, reflected the iron grey sky back. She might have stayed at the window all day, but he pushed his head around hers to have a look.

“Verglas,” he said and she wished so badly he hadn’t. She wanted him not to be who he was. In her head, he was someone very unlike himself. Someone who didn’t use words like verglas. Someone with more meat and less bones. Someone secretive, and maybe a bit dangerous.
Falling back on the bed, she waited for the inevitable.

“It’s the word for the ice that forms on the branches and the walkways after an ice storm.” Mr. Walking Dictionary. She restrained herself from throttling him. Why couldn’t he just fucking say sidewalk- why walkways? Why?

"That’s interesting," she said, though she didn’t mean it. What she wanted to say was can you get dressed and get out of my apartment, but she knew she wouldn’t. Any man is better than no man, her mother’s words rang in her head. She was an expert on any man. She’d been testing any man for years. Testing and testing, but no results were forthcoming, at least not positive results. She was teetering on the brink. She was about to tip the other direction. She was about to go with no man. (She thinks she can hear her mother’s heavy sigh hundreds of kilometres away)

“So I guess we’re stuck in for awhile,” he said sitting up, revealing his hairless, muscle-less chest. She thought of long ago Antonio. Though he too was an any man, his broad, hairy chest kept him a notch above the others. A shiver went down her spine looking at the bony, bald expanse before her. She suppressed a ‘YUCK’ which sat bitterly in her throat.

Picking up his t-shirt from the floor, she threw it at him. “You better put this on. It’s cold.” Though it wasn’t really.

“I’ve only got bread and coffee. Good enough?” Not waiting for his answer, she headed to the kitchen, anything to be away from him. “How quickly do you think they’ll get the salt trucks out?” She needed him gone. A quickie in the darkness of night was one thing. A conversation in the unflinching morning light was another.

“I would anticipate they’d start with the major byways first, leaving secondary roads, such as the type you are located on until afternoon.”

She scowled into the fridge. Until afternoon? In this tiny studio apartment? She put the coffee and bread on a tray and carried it with heavy feet to her bed.

He slurped the coffee and chewed the bread with his mouth open. The list against him had fallen over to page two.

"So I understand you write?” he asked his mouth still full of food. My God-was he raised by wolves? she wondered.

“Yeah … I write.”

“I’m so impressed by people who can write. I’m sure you’re excellent at it.”

She gave him a look from the corner of her eye. What was he up to now? Was this some kind of trick? “I’m okay….I’ve had a few things published.”

“Published? Wow! I’m truly impressed.” He did look impressed. One thing he wasn’t was an actor. He was who he was. Transparent as glass.

“I had a short story published in The New Yorker.” She said it softly into her coffee. She didn’t tell people that. There was a holy circle of silence around the entire event; her acceptance, the magazine with her story in. These were private, sacred things. Why was she telling him?

He set the coffee on the table and jumped to his feet. He wore only the T-shirt, his too long, too thin legs going on for ages underneath, but she didn’t notice. “Could I read it?” he said in a low voice, pregnant with want.

A man interested in what she cared about? Interested in her writing?

She dug her copy of The New Yorker out from the box of her most important stuff. She wasn’t sure what was happening. Any man was changing.

Time slipped by and the salt trucks had passed and the sun had burned most of the verglas off the trees where it dripped, dripped onto the ground. She was unaware, but any man had slipped, without notice, into the notch for the man; a surprise for all in attendance, a surprise waiting out in their future yet to be discovered.


Anonymous said...

I really like the way you've formed the awkwardness of the situation, building on it from the appearance of the original prompt.
I'd be interested to see you take the story further.

AM-C said...

Lauri, I just remembered that I never did tell you that Bruce did contact me to say they have decided to forward that story for the prize. Fingers crossed that I will be favoured for a shortlist.

Anonymous said...

sounds like her acceptance of him might just make her happy, I do like that she was irritated at first, some people just sort of grow on you without you being aware of it

Pirate Princess said...

Hmmm... I think he quickly figured out he hot button - her pride. Very astute of him. ;)

Lauri said...

Ayo- Congrats! I'll be crossing my fingers for you. I have nothing at the Caine this year. I'm waiting for SA/PEN.

Lissa- I sort of thought of it the backwards way. Normally you meet someone and everything is lovely and the little irritating things creep in after. I thought what would happen the other way?

Vic- I'll let you know if this story grows longer legs.

Texasblu- That is interesting. I thought of him as far too obtuse for that, but that is definitely another angle.

Thanks for your insights guys.

Anonymous said...

I adore how your stories are so character driven. When I begin to read one of your stories I find myself immediately in the moment you describe. This is one of your great strengths as a writer. It is a joy to read your work!

Lauri said...

Selma I love books with strong characters too so that's what I attempt to write interesting characters . As always thanks for your ego building words.

Anonymous said...

oh Lauri, I just love this! I love the evolution of the narrator, love how you show growth without it being a school lesson - love the many faces of relationships, and our preconceptions going into them that you show here. Love the writing - the 'any man' persona is a very powerful in this - wonderful !

Lauri said...

Wow thanks, Kayt. Your comments have got me taking a second look at the story. Perhaps I'll spruce it up a bit and send it out to 'submissions land'.