Happy almost Fourth of July! Fireworks, barbecue, family and friends… all in celebration of the birth of a nation!
I thought I’d share a writing piece based on the concept of something strange happening. Something that by all accounts shouldn’t be possible. This piece was a writing assignment I completed in graduate school, and it was challenging for me, because I’m so used to writing fantasy and futuristic science fiction. I couldn’t just jump into automatically suspending my disbelief. It’s a short piece, and I hope you enjoy the characterization.
At nine AM, Lena Delani sauntered past my cubicle. Her four-inch fireball red heels clip-clopped against the cream linoleum, while her multi-colored python satchel bag swished against her side. She entered Mr. Durham’s office. The glass door sealed shut silently behind her. He was on the phone, his back to the wall of glass separating him from the multitude of cubicles making up the refurbished warehouse turned office space.
Lena flung her bag onto the high-backed button tufted chair in the corner of the room and pounced on Mr. Durham’s back. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she kissed him. Her lips left a smear of red on his cheek.
Mr. Durham started, but when he saw it was Lena, he dropped the phone, twisted around, and grabbed her fully in his arms. He swung her around in a circle. Her heels cracked against the dark cherry desk. A chip of wood flew through the air, smacked into the wall of glass, and then thwacked onto the floor. Mr. Durham’s striped shirt slipped free of his belt and a thin layer of pudge wobbled.
“You’re staring again,” my coworker Annette said. Her head appeared over the lip of her cubicle. Bits of frizzy hair stuck up in all directions. The bun she’d tied her hair into had failed.
A sliver of blueberry was lodged between her two front teeth.
“No, I’m not.” I jabbed the keys on my keyboard. There was nothing on my computer screen, but the clacking of my fingers against the keys continued.
“He’s not going to leave her. Look at her.”
Annette continued, “She’s got those legs and that hair and that skirt. And those boobs.”
My arm itched. My fingers slammed into the keys. Mr. Durham cared about more than looks. His first wife had been short and fat. His second wife had freckles, like me.
Lena was a break from his previous marriages. She was twenty-one, a model, if you called posing in a clothing catalog and a tattoo removal commercial modeling, and wore skirts that showed off her butt cheeks. Her butt cheeks didn’t sway as she walked. Nothing but her hips and hair swayed.
“Did you hear about that crazy story on the radio?” Annette asked.
I stopped typing. Lena’s fingernails were manicured. Her toenails were too, except they were painted either red or pink or sparkly. Mine were bare and one of them was breaking. If Lena were rated, she’d be a dime. A perfect ten. Me? I hit the delete button on my keyboard.
At Helly Marketing there was no need to be a dime. Forty some cubicles and a few floor-to-ceiling windows that showcased the employee parking lot, arriving at work in the dark, leaving work in the dark, people dressed more for comfort than looks.
And then Lena Delani strode in and morphed us all into pale, wrinkled wraiths.
“The radio? Mary, are you listening?”
Lena laughed, high-pitched and loud. Any louder and the wall of glass would rattle.
“What about the radio?” I asked.
“Some guy said he saw this homeless man float away.” Annette shoved her arm toward the ceiling. “One minute he was standing and the next he rose off the ground and into the air.”
“Lucky? He floated away, and more his head caved in on one side.”
I tapped the Rosie the Riveter Bobblehead on my desk. Rosie squeaked as her head wobbled. “The story’s a hoax. The radio was trying to drum up ratings for their show. You know how it is.”
Annette worked for Helly Marketing for two years before I was hired. When I came in for the interview, Mr. Durham had been there. He wore a dark blue suit and shiny black dress shoes. No pudge, but that was seven years ago. I was still in the same cubicle as when I was hired.
Annette dropped her arm to her cubicle wall. “Maybe, but another radio show I listened to talked about a woman who witnessed two kids up and float away.”
If Lena floated away, her legs wouldn’t be wrapped around Mr. Durham’s waist. Her fingers wouldn’t be clawing at his hair. Her skirt wouldn’t be riding up. If she flew off into the sky, her hair would knot. She’d lose her four-inch heels. Her legs wouldn’t be so great then.
“I did some surfing and found more stories, all over the world. It’s not just people. Bits of ocean and fish. Trees. No one is paying attention, but something’s going on.”
I flicked Rosie harder. She toppled over. Her head clanked against my desk. “People don’t float away.”
Lena’s legs tightened around Mr. Durham’s waist. A stack of papers clattered to the floor. The glass orb Mr. Durham’s daughter made for him, when her sixth grade class went on a field trip to a glassblowing factory last year, teetered on the corner of his desk.
“I’m telling you, there’s something wrong with gravity.”
–The assignment wasn’t to write an entire story, but maybe one day I’ll use this within a larger context…or perhaps it’ll remain as it was originally intended: a writing exercise.
Have a wonderful holiday tomorrow!
(Photo courtesy of Guillaume Delebarre.)