Author short story: Anxiety
It's We're Writing Wednesday - Short Story Edition!
This merry month of May, the prompt is anxiety. It always seems like May gets people in a rush with the oncoming summer break, travel plans, and the oncoming heat.
Today, we are sharing a little treat from Australian author David O'Sullivan. David's debut novel, The Bomber, releases on 6-24 and is currently up for presale where ever you prefer to buy your books! You can also watch David read the first chapter of his book on Youtube by following the link bit.ly/bomberyoutube.
Rick came home three weeks ago from the hospital. He did not look different but people were saying he was different. I saw him the first time standing outside what used to be the bowling alley but while he was away they had gutted the building and reopened it as the town’s unemployment office.
“Hey Rick,” I said.
“What happened to the bowling alley?”
“They closed it down, it’s the unemployment office now.”
Rick was silent and watched the people coming and going.
“They didn’t look like bowlers,” he said finally. “Is there anywhere to bowl now?”
“Yeah they opened a smaller one near the cinema.”
“It wont be the same.”
“No it’s not.”
I wanted to ask him about hospital and what happened to him. Someone said he had received electric shocks, I had thought they stopped giving electric shocks to patients decades ago. Rick had a look in his eyes that was too much white and not enough eye.
“There’s a book sale over in Marion Hall, do you want to come and have a look at the books?” I asked.
“No, I don’t feel well, I’m going home.”
Rick turned and walked away, then he stopped and turned back to me as if he felt he had been to abrupt. “If you want to see a movie sometime or maybe a go for a bike ride let me know.”
“OK,” I called and he waved and kept walking away.
I walked past his house a few days later and he was eating lunch on his front porch. I stopped at the fence and looked at him, he was eating cereal and toast.
“Can I come in?”
“Yeah come in.”
I opened his little gate which I could have easily stepped over and walked up the cracked path to his front steps and sat next to him.
“How’d the book sale go?”
“Good, I bought some history books, some art books.”
“History is my favorite,” he said. “Did you get anything on world war two?”
“That’s what I read mostly.”
I nodded and watched as he broke his toast up and flung it onto the front lawn.
“The doctors say I have bi-polar but I think they’re all fools.”
“I know a guy who has bi-polar, he doesn’t have to work, he gets a pension.”
“My mom is on me to get a job,” he growled. “What does she know about it? She wants me to work at her friends cafe, all I’d have to do is make coffee and sandwiches she says. I don’t want to do that.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Nothing,” he looked at me and then laughed, “I don’t want to do anything. My dad wants me to be a school teacher like he is.”
“Could do worse?”
“I’m seeing Mary tonight,” I changed the subject.
“Oh?” he said.
“We’re going to see a movie.”
“Something she picked, an Italian movie, La Honcie Konchie or something.”
“No, what’s it called?”
“Amanti City? Something like that.”
“Gli amanti nel citta?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“I want to see that. It’s on tonight?”
I hesitated, it sounded like he wanted to come along.
“Yeah it’s on, I think it’s all sold out though,” I lied.
He took a drink of orange juice and looked out on the road. It was a wide road lined with Plane Trees. Leaves fell and covered the sidewalk.
“The birds usually come down this time of the day and eat the bread,” he said. “I don’t know what’s stopped them today.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and slouched down in his chair. “Why aren’t you at work?”
“I’m taking a break from work at the moment, I’m trying to write a novel.”
“Oh yeah,” he said and looked at me like I was joking. “All the novels these days are crap. You know what’s the worst? Historical novels,” he said without waiting for my answer. “These so called writers take a real historical event and put some fake as crap romance in it. Such and such in King Henry the thirds court or Major Simon Pissbody solving crimes between trench hopping in world war one. It’s all sickening.”
I said nothing, I looked out hoping the birds would come.
“You know what you should write,” he continued. “Something like that fantasy stuff that they make the TV shows about. The dragons and stuff that sells. You want to write something that sells.”
“That’s a good idea,” I joked.
“You’re wasting your time anyway,” he mumbled. “Ten million books come out everyday.”
I picked Mary up at seven-thirty. I opened the car door for her and we drove down to the cinema. The car park was full so we parked in a side alley. We crossed the street, passing couples and groups laughing and heading along to see the movies. The trees rustled in the light sweet wind and large yellow lights picked out the falling leaves. Above us the fat, happy moon climbed into the darkening sky. The cinema stood proudly in its majestic beauty. Great round columns held the roof, which rose into the sky. I slipped a hand around Mary’s waist and I marveled at how soft and nice she felt. Holding her body through her soft dress was like gripping heaven.
I stopped a moment.
“What’s wrong?” Mary asked, laughing slightly in happiness.
“Nothing.” We walked on.
Rick was standing by the front doors.
We passed near him and Mary saw him.
“Hi Rick,” she said.
“Hi Mary, it’s good to see you. Hi Nate.”
“Hi Rick,” I said. “You decided to come and see the movie then?”
“Yeah I thought I would since you mentioned it,” he looked at Mary. “He practically begged me to come along.”
Mary looked at me, I shook my head.
“Yeah, he told me how good the movie is and I shouldn’t miss it. I can speak Italian you know?”
“I did not know.”
“Well, I can tell you all that is going on and everything.”
“There’ll be subtitles I think,” Mary said.
“Yeah but they never get those things right, they always miss the La Marge, the substance of it, y’know?”
“Yeah I suppose.”
“It’s good I saw you guys.”
“Are you waiting for anyone?” I asked.
He shot me an ugly look as if I were making fun of him. “No, I was waiting for you guys.”
“Well come on,” Mary smiled and patted him on the arm.
We bought our tickets and sat down inside, the chairs were old and comfortable but always felt dirty, like they were hugging you but had the smell of the thousands of people who had sat in them, reminding me of old prostitutes. Rick sat on the other side of Mary.
I reached out and touched Mary’s hand and she turned and I saw the flash of her eyes and teeth, her beauty outlined in the glow of an advertisement on the screen.
The movie started and a man walked up a cobblestone street with a hand full of stones, throwing them at timber shutters searching for a woman, he kept getting the wrong address and people would abuse him as he went along. It was all subtitled and easy to understand but Rick was agitated. He kept rocking in his chair and looking about. He would lean across and whisper something to Mary. The smile left her face and he was annoying her, but he kept leaning in and whispering to her. I grew annoyed and wondered what he was saying. I assumed he was translating the language but I wasn’t sure because he did not seem to even be concentrating on the film.
Then Rick leaned across and grabbed Mary’s face and tried to kiss her. She was shocked and stiffened and he pawed at her, thrusting his face into hers and moving his whole body across the arm rest. I leaped up and pushed him off her and he fell down the front of the chairs in between the legs of the people beside him.
“Let’s go,” Mary said and she left. I looked down at Rick and he did not even seem to be trying to get up. I turned and followed Mary out.
“He’s crazy!” she said to me when I caught up to her in the lobby, “take me home.”
I drove slowly through the streets and she was silent beside me.
“What did he keep whispering to you in the cinema?” I asked as the cool night breeze came in the window and glanced off my face and I could feel I was red hot.
“He kept saying I remind him of the sister, his dear sister who cared for him in the hospital. I think he meant his nurse.”
“The guy’s crazy,” I said and drove in the night.
The roads were quiet and I stopped outside her house.
“Did he hurt you?”
“He grabbed the side of neck.”
I looked and there were red marks.
“I’m sorry that happened,” I apologized.
“Yeah,” she said and climbed out of the car.
I watched her as she ran through the front door of her house. She was gone before I had a chance to get out. I sat for a moment and watched the house, then drove away. We were no longer seeing each other come the winter.