Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#WEP Road Less Traveled - Flight

This post is my entry for the April WEP Challenge: Road Less Traveled.
Please give a full review - pull apart sentences if necessary. Also, I realized I may not have quite lived up to the challenge because I never mentioned "road" or "traveling." So, again, full review, please.

Samantha had spent the last week in suspension, waiting for doctors and nurses to give her some kind of real information instead of vague hints and reassurances. Her laptop, journal, and book had gone untouched in her bag. She had eaten hospital oatmeal in the cafeteria with little sugar, and had . . . enjoyed it?

She really couldn’t remember the taste, but the warmth had been soothing. The cup of tomato basil soup she had eaten with oyster crackers had been slightly more memorable with a strong taste of basil, and the crackers becoming mushy lumps at the bottom of the bowl before she had finished it. Across from her at that meal, her father had poked at his salad with rheumatoid fingers crooked around his fork, and his mouth making a moue of distaste at the ranch dressing. He had assumed it was a Caesar dressing.

She remembered those things, and the feel of the smooth table under her fingers, along with the way she had set their table with precision, napkins and utensils to the sides, and cups arranged at easy hand-reach level for sipping their tea. She had made sure the table was clean, but still spread a napkin under their dishes. When she thought of that, she realized it was something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager, since before Joey, who ate with speed and efficiency, consuming just enough calories and no more and doing so quickly that he often ate before she finished her “fussy” pre-meal rituals.

She liked her rituals. They brought comfort. So, as she sat in one more waiting room chair, this time in the law office, she carefully placed her purse to her right, leaned against her leg, with her hands resting across the top of it. She crossed her legs properly at the ankles, and tried to make something out of the geometric patterns on the rug. They were too tangled to be pathways, except where they were cut short against the window wall.

Samantha felt drawn to the blue sky beyond the glimmering cityscape. But she could not think of that now, in this solemn moment. She studied the carpet again until her lawyer’s secretary said her name.
In the board room, she had to face Joey.

He tried to make his face into a mask of platitude, but his ever-present wry smirk ruined it. “I hope you’re all right, Sam. I mean, your mother.”

Samantha ignored him and sat down next to her lawyer. “My mother’s death changes nothing in his proceeding.”

“I only meant that . . .”

Joey’s lawyer put a hand on his arm. “Mr. Hutchins. I think we should proceed.”

“I thought we were getting an amicable divorce, Sam,” Joey said.

Samantha gave him her best level stare.

The proceedings continued, and she studied the smoothness of the heavy, legal papers under her hands as she signed them, and made sure they were carefully tucked to satisfying neatness when she was finished. Joey said a few more things, but she paid less attention to the sound of his voice than the buzzing of a trapped fly on the window sill.

When she turned to leave, her lawyer put her hand out, “If you need anything?”

She shook her head and left the office.

She could see Joey holding the door to the elevator for her.

She shook her head and opened the door to the stairwell.

The carpet ended abruptly for blue-gray concrete, and the stairs were painted in a garish emergency yellow.

She took off her heels and let her feet soak in the coolness from the concrete. She climbed steadily with her shoes and purse pinned to her by her right hand. At the top of the stairs, just four flights up, she opened the door to the roof.

The blue sky horizon above the skyline beckoned her.

Samantha thought of her father’s favorite saying. “It’s always a good day to fly.” She imagined him in his plane, soaring over the fields of their small town. She held out her arms and then took off her suit jacket so she could feel the cool prickle of the breeze on her arms. She breathed in deep, breathed out slowly, then put her hands on the ledge.

Below her, people bustled like ants in a packed maze of streets. She didn’t want to rejoin them. She wanted to fly. The urge was so strong, she almost pulled herself up onto the ledge, but she stopped herself, keeping her bare feet planted on the building’s roof. She didn’t need to jump to fly.

The tiny air field in her old home town had a private pilot school. She had enough saved for that. Her dad had offered to have her stay with him. A year ago, she would have scoffed at any middle-aged woman moving back in with her father, but now? She knew it was the right choice at this moment. She could go home, learn how to fly, and live her remaining life with joy and peace.


Yolanda Renée said...

This definitely fit the prompt, Tyrean. She was on a journey to her new life. But on that roof I was fearful, still, she chose life. How wonderful to become a pilot. Thanks for participating in the WEP challenge. Excellent piece!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thanks, Yolanda! I was trying to show how close she was to the edge, but I'm not sure I managed to ground her in what helped her choose life.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I read your response to Yolanda about did you ground her enough in the choice to pick life. I hadn't really thought of it until I read your comment, but you r gut may be onto something. There may not be a balance between the beginning and the end. The beginning is a slower, with more heart and internals than the ending. Maybe, while she is on the ledge she could remember those arthritic hands and imagine him getting the call his daughter was dead..maybe the ex doesn't care, but he's one guy who never appreciated her anyhow. Unlike her father, who always taught her to believe and to never give up.

There, I tore it up, as you requested :)

Deborah Drucker said...

You are very good in describing the details of the scene, like her fastidiousness with the table setting. The first part, where she is waiting for the information from the doctors, is that about her mother? I almost thought it was about her at first. The last part was suspenseful as I worried she was going to jump off the roof. I am glad she decided to take up on her father's offer. I do not think you need to mention roads exactly but the story is about making choices about going one way or another and that is what the challenge is about.

Carrie Ann Golden said...

I also agree with Yolanda that this fits in quite well with the theme of the challenge. As her journey in one life ends, a new one begins. :-)

Olga Godim said...

I'm very glad she didn't jump. You showed her depression and pain so well I was preparing for the worst. But she didn't jump. She decided to fly instead, to embark on a new journey. Definitely a road less traveled. Wonderful story.

Elephant's Child said...

I loved this. And that her choice, despite temptation, was life-affirming. Two roads (at least) she faced and she chose the one with the prospect of joy.

Donna B. McNicol said...

Compelling...I sat with her as her mother died, she got divorced and she almost made a fatal mistake. Took my breath away. So happy with the ending!!!

Donna B. McNicol|Author and Traveler
A to Z Flash Fiction Stories | A to Z of Goldendoodles

Pat Hatt said...

Sure the start of a new journey indeed, even if she had to go through a lot to get there. Things we scoff at one day sure are welcome the next. Good she didn't go all jumper too.

D.G. Hudson said...

This was a story which grabs the reader by the throat, as you know something is there waiting to happen. All the detail pointed to trying to slow down time. I think you handled it well, and I also thought she was awaiting bad new about her own health, but a parent can be just as hard. A smirking ex, been there done that. A turning point in one's life is like a crossroads. We divert, for better or worse.

desk49 said...

That was not the Road
She chose to travel
But with her papers
She had to go down

Not everything in life
We chose for ourselves
Yet in the end happiness
Will come back around

I to thought it fit.

Nilanjana Bose said...


I was afraid she was going to jump, and glad she didn't. The tension and the balance are well done. I liked the details and the descriptions - the comfort of rituals, the father's hands, they peg the story. A melancholy start spiralling to scary-horrifying prospect of suicide and then twisting away into a positive, life affirming ending. Overall, a compelling read - kudos!

Personally I don't believe in narrow interpretations - certainly there's no need to include the actual phrase! I like people taking some creative liberties. The mc here comes to a 'fork' and deals with the choices presented, delivering a neat and tight flash. Excellent fit.

Best wishes,

Chemist Ken said...

Her heading to the roof made my stomach clench. I had to reread the last few lines a couple of time to make sure she didn't jump after the story ended. Well done.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Elizabeth - Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it! :)

Deborah - I purposely left that part vague, but wasn't sure it worked. So, thanks for commenting on the doctor visits part.

Carrie - Thank you!

Olga - glad you liked it!

Elephant's Child - Thank you.

Donna - wow! Thanks!

Pat - yes, perspective change us.

DG - glad it grabbed you.

desk49 - Thanks!

Nilanjana - Thank you!

Ken - Glad you liked it and thanks for the feedback about the ending! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tyrean - oh I thought she was going to jump ... especially as she spread out her arms to take her jacket ... I thought that was it ...but no - so I'm so pleased she decided another route - and was there for her father. Well done - cheers Hilary

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Tyrean,

Very intense piece. I think the subject matter was well thought out. However, I did find it a bit dragging because of all the details. And if you know my writing I LOVE details, but in this case I found it slowed the pace. One adjective seemed heavy to me... Rheumatoid fingers... I would use arthritic... for some reason it feels better to me. But that may be just me, of course. I have arthritis in my hands so I can so relate to this image. Poor man.

I liked the end. I am glad she didn't jump and taking flying lessons was certainly a much better choice.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Hilary - thanks!

Michael - thanks for the honest critique and that's good to note about the arthritic versus rheumatoid. I'm sorry for your hands ... that's tough. My dad has that (just a small bit of reality in the fiction there).
I was struggling with pacing the details, so it helps to know that my "sense" of that is right even if I didn't capture it exactly.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Tyrean. I've spent a long time with your story, considering it, since you asked for a full critique. Truthfully, I found the first half a little too slow and I had to read a few times to sort it out, so perhaps more clarity is needed. The climax is the 'will she or won't she?' at the end. I would definitely, like Elizabeth suggested, make more of this. This is where the reader is hooked. Some of the earlier descriptions could come here while she decides. Emotion. Emotion. Emotion. I think you took your readers to the edge, then cut it off too soon. This is the crucial part of the story. Go for it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughtful story for the WEP challenge.


cleemckenzie said...

Great job, Tyrean. Wonderful contribution to this WEP. Sorry it has taken me so long to stop by.

Taryn Tyler said...

Lovely. Even though you don't have a lot of time in the short story to give a lot of details about Sam I still really like the feel of her. I can completely empathize with her and feel her love for her father and mother even though you never state it explicitly. I also really love the her surprise at enjoying hospital food. That odd detail and the description of how she ritualized the food really drew me in.

The only line I got kind of confused about was this one:

“My mother’s death changes nothing in his proceeding.”

Did you mean to say "this proceeding"? or is there something I"m missing?

Jo-ke Ojo said...

Love your use of flying and the metaphors associated with it. She could fly...escape - end her life, or choose the freedom of a new beginning.