Involuntary Diet

First of all, thanks for the kind wishes. It’s nice to know so many people care!

I’m back at work today physically, if not mentally. I was able to eat a little bit yesterday, which is good. I managed to weigh myself last night and I’ve lost around seven pounds, although I would not recommend this diet to anybody.

I had mentioned here a few times the writing contest hosted by my local newspaper. Well, entries were due yesterday. I had about 500 of the 700 words written, so I decided to finish my entry even though I felt less than sharp. I think I got my story idea down here, but I’m sure it could have been improved with a second draft. Oh well. I promised I would post it, so here it is. First, though, read Part 1 provided by the newspaper. This is my take on the second part (please don’t think less of me for the shoddy effort):

Ann looked once in the direction of the voice, glanced at the contents of her coffee mug, and looked back again, wondering if the waitress had poured into her cup something a tad bit stronger than Folgers. The face staring back at her belonged to her childhood friend and closest neighbor from the time she and her parents had lived in the aging two story house near the Granary in Lemont. Seated beside her was her friend’s father, who seemed at the time and looked absolutely ancient now.

“It’s been a while Sarah,” replied Ann, taking a deep breath as she joined them at their booth. It had been thirty years, in fact.

“It’s great to see you Ann,” said Sarah Waters. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been fine,” said Ann. “And you?” Ann refrained from discussing the challenges she was facing in her life, burdening an old acquaintance with her problems. She was her mother’s daughter after all.

Sarah had no such qualms. She talked about her various health issues, dished on all the dirt she could muster from all of their classmates, and Sarah also went into great detail about her love life.

The old man said nothing. He simply sat with his hands folded on the table, smiling. Occasionally, he would shuffle the faded manila folders, so thick with papers it seemed they would burst, underneath his soft, wrinkled hands, never once losing eye contact with the person speaking, nor losing his smile. Ann had fond, if vague, memories of the man, but what struck her most about him was that it seemed like he wanted to tell her something, only he was waiting for the right moment.

After some time, with Ann barely able to add as much as a “uh huh” to the conversation, Sarah stood up to leave the table. “If you’ll excuse me,” she said, “but I have to use the rest room. Keep an eye on him for me, please?”

As she walked away, Ann noticed Sarah glance mournfully at her father.

“She thinks I can’t talk, you know,” said the old man, once he was sure his daughter was out of the room.

“What?” said Ann, her jaw nearly scraping the table.

“I haven’t said a word to her in years,” replied the old man. “It’s much quieter this way. Besides, they all though I was senile, getting a bit crazy. Took me to so many doctors. In the end it was just easier to give them what they were looking for.”

“But what about..”

“It’s not important,” said Mr. Waters, waving his hand. Suddenly, he didn’t seem so old. “I’m so close I can feel it, you know. So close.”

“Close to what?” said Ann, hoping Sarah would return soon. At least with Sarah, Ann knew what was being discussed. Mister Waters seemed to be talking in some code only he knew and about some subject he thought common knowledge.

Mr. Waters slid a weathered manila folder across the table and said, “You really don’t remember, do you?”

Ann wanted to yell “Remember what!” but instead opened the folder, flipping through its contents. Inside there were blurry photographs of an animal of some sort, never fully in frame, old newspaper clipping, and several hand drawn maps. Ann closed the folder and slid it back across the table. “The Nittany Lion is real?” she said. “I thought it was just a guy in a costume that ran around during football games.”

Mr. Waters laughed. “He’s real and we’re gonna find him. Don’t you remember helping me search for him when you were a little girl?”

Before Ann could answer, Sarah returned. “Well, we should be going,” Sarah said. “Good luck with your car.”

“Thanks,” said Ann, unsure what her next move was going to be.

Sarah and her father picked up their check and left the table. Ann noticed a small piece of paper that they had left behind.

Written on the paper was a phone number and a note that read, “I need your help.” Ann folded the note, put it in her pocket, and sighed.

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8 thoughts on “Involuntary Diet

  1. I’m glad you are starting to feel better.

    From the first part, the paper supplied, I was surprised by the notion of escape, being attached to going back to her childhood home to help parents in need. Personally I would find no freedom in that. Helping to take care of my grandparents was the hardest thing I have ever done.

    I wondered where one could go with such a set-up, what could be done in that space of words to bring something to the story? I wasn’t really looking forward to taking care of those parents, and the notion of an old boyfriend calling out to her right then seemed too…too..something, this, what you did here, I hadn’t expected. A call to some sort of (to my mind) kooky adventure. I like this, unexpected. The question lingers, does she just ignore this and go on, or does she embrace an odd quest, that wasn’t even in her mind yesterday? I think the guy may be a little bit nutty, I think wandering around with him on this search would be a strange way for her to spend her time. But looking at the road behind her, and the road ahead of her, I want her to take this side journey. Whether the search turns out to be exciting, or boring, I feel there would be some good in the embrace of the quest, in her saying yes to it, and just seeing what happens.

    My point here is this. You had me thinking and asking myself those questions, and wandering how she will answer them and what then will happen to her. Good job. 🙂

  2. Thanks Taffiny for taking the time to read my entry and post those comments. I appreciate it. What you said is what I was going for. I know the writing could have been cleaner, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Also, I tried to take the story in this direction to make it a bit more interesting for the same reasons you described.

  3. This is really good. The first part, from the newspaper, didn’t really interest me at all, but your piece made me want to keep reading. Good job! Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  4. I’m with Rob. Yours is better than the newspaper’s.
    For me, it took some time to figure out who the slip of paper came from (I guess it came from the old man, not from that school-relationship), but I guess I was just tired.
    I’d like to read it further on…

  5. Thanks Rob. I’m glad you liked it. I hope my submission gets picked so the story continues.

    SzélsőFa – thank you! there were definitely things I could’ve explained better in a second draft, as you say.

  6. I’m really enjoying this piece! I want to read more! The whole idea of the old man who stopped talking to his daughter who can’t stop talking really grabbed my attention and fascinated me. Great idea. I really hope you get picked cause I want to know what happens next.

  7. Thanks Ello. I hope I get picked as well. I’ll probably know today or tonight if I get picked. One thing holding me back may be that the story really isn’t their “style”. We’ll see.

    I’m glad you liked the old man bit. I thought it was funny. 🙂

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