This is a story I just wrote, still in the editing stage, so don’t be too critical. Any comments are welcome. Enjoy!
The massive Victorian house dominated the street, shaming the cheery, friendly houses surrounding it. Little children frolicked in their sprinklers, as their parents kept a close eye on their designer clothing-clad kids. All the other houses seemed to shy away from the mansion, recoiling at the boarded up windows, the heavy chain wrapped around the doorknob, the vacant driveway. No one went there anymore.
Elliott stood on the doorstep of the house, looking up at its weathered brown, ornate siding. Some of the wood had chipped off here and there, and the dark paint was peeling. He wanted to turn and run, to hide from the reality of his life. But Elliot knew he had to go forward. He slid the rusty skeleton key into the padlock, lifted the chain from the knob, and opened the door.
Even though it was morning, Elliott felt like he was entering a haunted mansion at night. Tiny shards of light escaped from the edges of the plywood boards covering the windows, but that wasn’t enough to illuminate the front hallway. Taking out his crowbar, Elliott wrenched the board from the window, letting it clatter to the floor in a shower of golden rays.
Elliot moved forward. The floorboards creaked as he made his way into the kitchen, passing a delicate blue vase filled with dead lilies. As if he’d flipped on a television set, Elliot’s vision became obscured and he saw a new scene before him.
This story’s title is based on the Beatles song, Mother Nature’s Son. It’s a little long, but I hope you enjoy it!
Mother Nature’s Son
The wind whips at the hair of the people passing below me. I can see the smog hanging thick in the air, an ominous, dark cloud of pollution. The streets are littered with bits of paper blowing about in the wind and styrofoam coffee cups. The hustle and bustle of the city passes below me, but up on the 27th floor, in between appointments, I’m somewhere else.
Way back when the park still smelled like flowers and the sidewalks weren’t covered with crushed beer cans and glass, people used to gather on the corner of Winthrop Street and Main to hear the beggar sing. He was always singing something to himself, sitting on his cardboard box by the side of the road, tapping his ratty shoe against the pavement. I used to wonder where he came from, and how he got to that particular street corner in Chicago.
My fascination with the singing beggar began when I was about 20. Everyone knew about him, even as kids, but our parents would always avoid Winthrop street, herding their children past the miniature concert and covering their ears. But as we got older, it wasn’t uncommon to see a cloud of teenagers after school, listening to the music of the beggar, which ranged from current music to show tunes, and even included some spirituals and hymns. I never went down with the others, though. I hadn’t quite gotten up the courage to see him until I was almost like he, down on my luck and barely making a living. One day, after having been fired from my job at the Quickee Grocer’s Market, I passed Winthrop street. Why not, I said to myself, why not go and see what the fuss is all about?
Here’s an ending I wrote to James Joyce’s The Boarding House. You can read the beginning here, but the ending’s pretty easy to understand without reading the part by Joyce.
The Boarding House–Alternate Ending
Polly sat by the front window, gazing out across the wide, busy street. She could hear the carriage wheels rolling along the cobblestones, the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves, and the muffled sounds of conversation down below. The Dublin sky seemed to glare at her with steel-grey eyes, and the clouds hung low over the city, enveloping it in a swath of mist. Polly wondered how she ended up here, in the grandiose house, full of guest rooms that were always empty, tended by servants who rarely spoke. She instinctively glanced up at the gilt clock over the mantle, a parting gift from her mother.
“Nearly 6 o’clock,” She said to herself. “Bob should be home soon…” Her husband, Robert Doran, was the owner of a wine company in the Mediterranean, and had been since the previous owner died ten years ago. He would bring his work home each night, often staying at his desk, pouring over sales projections and expense reports. He usually returned to bed in the early morning, catching a few hours of rest before he left for the office.
“Mama,” A little voice called, accompanied by a tug on Polly’s skirt. “I’m hungry!” Polly looked down at Maggie, her 6-year-old daughter. Maggie’s long, fiery red hair was tangled and her pinafore was splashed with mud.
“Now, Maggie. Look at the mess you’ve gotten in!” Polly exclaimed, brushing dirt from the little girl’s cheek. “Run down to the kitchen and ask Cook to give you a scone. And tell Caroline to clean you up,” Polly paused to listen as she heard James’ clomping footsteps in the hall above her. “And, please tell your brother to stop making that racket, when Caroline’s finished!”
“Yes, mama,” Maggie said over her shoulder, skipping through the green baize door to the staff quarters. Polly sighed and walked back to the window, gazing solemnly out upon the road. She saw a red-bearded man step out of a hackney cab, tip the driver, and pull his worn leather briefcase out of the compartment. Bob was home. He walked up the steps with the gait of a man much older than his 46 years, wearily unlocked the front door, and stepped inside.
Here’s the first story I’m putting up here. Enjoy!
Morris looked at the blank canvas sitting atop his old wooden easel. He was perched on a cold metal stool in the center of his studio, a small room with grey walls and a ceiling fan that emitted a soft buzzing sound with each turn of the wide blades. The yellow light cast by the lamp at his side illuminated the empty painting, punctuating his cowardice. Come on, he told himself. Pick it up. He moved his eyes to stare at the paintbrush lying on the stand, beside a few pots of paint. The brush had finely shaped bristles and a handle that had been worn in over time to fit his hand exactly. It was veiled in a layer of dust, as was his artist’s palette. The pitcher of water Morris used for cleaning his brushes, now half-empty because of the evaporation, stood neglected beside them.
Sighing, Morris pulled off his clean smock and crossed the hall to his room. Maybe tomorrow. He dragged himself into bed, flipped off the light, and settled down, waiting for sleep to overtake him.
“Phoebe!” Morris cried, frantically. His hand reached for the heavy oak door, and he felt around for the doorknob. He gave it a twist, and felt a sharp resistance in return.
“God damnit,” He muttered. “Why did you lock the door?” Morris shouted, louder. He heard her hacking coughs, brought on by the smoke that came from the flames licking the other side of the door. She won’t have long before suffocating, Morris thought. Gasping for cool air, Morris felt a rush of pain as burning ash filled his lungs. He coughed in an attempt to expel the smoke from inside him, but to no avail. “Phoebe!” He choked one last time. As he felt himself grow woozy, he saw a flash of bright colors through the keyhole, before passing out. Morris saw the red.