Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 13th, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Julie on her blog, The Surrendered Scribe. Be sure to visit Mr. Linky for loads of terrific Friday Fiction.

This week’s submission is a character sketch I wrote a couple of years ago. While I didn’t want anything more from it than just to explore Josh’s past a bit, it turned out to be a short scene that really just seemed to click.

The Sound of Her Voice
A character sketch by Rick Higginson

“Do you miss your house on the mainland, Josh?”

He rested on his back, staring up towards the ceiling in the dark room, with Marta’s head pillowed on his chest. “There are a few features it had that I miss, but the house itself? I think of it as Cynthia’s house, and what good memories I have of living there are tarnished by what she turned out to be. It’s kind of hard to get too nostalgic about a place you shared with someone who wanted to kill you. I miss the home I grew up in far more than the place I shared with her.”

“What do you miss about where you grew up?”

He thought a moment, smiling in the darkness. “It’s the memories I miss, and it was the memories that made me sell it after my dad died.”

“Tell me one,” she said. “Tell me something about that house that you really miss.”

“Is there a point to this prodding through my past?”

She rubbed her fingers through the fine hair on his belly. “We’re trying to make a home here, aren’t we? None of us has much concept of what that is like for normal people, and I want to know what kinds of things stuck with you.”

“My favorite memory doesn’t sound like much; promise you won’t laugh?”

“No, but you’ll tell me anyway, won’t you?”

“Can I hold out for some nice persuasion?”

“I suppose you could, but you never hold out for long, so you might as well just go ahead.”

He caressed her bare shoulder with his fingertips. “I miss the library in my parents’ old house,” he said.

“You had a library?”

“That’s what Mom and Dad called it. It was just a modest sized room with a fireplace on one wall, a few old comfortable chairs, and all the bookshelves Dad could squeeze in without getting too close to the hearth. There was no television, or stereo, or videogames allowed in the library. It was just for books and reading.”

“Mmm,” she said. “That sounds nice.”

“My favorite memories are of winter nights we’d spend in there. Dad would build a fire, and all three of us would sit and read. Mom really pushed me when it came to reading; she said it was not just important to be able to read for comprehension, but also to be able to enunciate well when reading aloud.”

“She sounds like she was a wise woman. I wish I could have met her.”

He laughed. “That would have been an interesting meeting, but yeah; I wish you could have met both my parents.” He kissed the top of her head. “Mom had an incredible reading voice. I remember some nights when Dad would put his book down, close his eyes, and say, ‘what are you reading, Esther?’ Mom would just start reading aloud wherever she was in her book, whether she was in the middle of a chapter or a paragraph. She’d start at the beginning of the next sentence and read to him.”

“I think that would be confusing.”

“Sometimes, but it didn’t matter. Mom put so much into her reading that we enjoyed listening to her even if we didn’t have a clue what was going on. Dad told me years later that he was never interested in the story she was reading; he was just interested in the sound of her voice.”

“Was that why you liked listening to her?”

“For me, it was her voices. Mom would try and give each character its own sound, and it could get really funny sometimes depending on what kind of book she was reading.”

She was quiet for a minute. “I don’t understand something, though; your memories sound so wonderful, and yet you said they were why you sold your parents’ house after your dad died. Why not keep it if you remember things so fondly?”

“I couldn’t live with the ghosts.”

“Ghosts? The house was haunted?”

“In a way,” he said. “After Mom died, I would find Dad sitting in the library all alone with his eyes closed, and one night I asked him what he was doing. He said he was listening to the sound of her voice. He said if he listened real close, he could still hear her reading in the echoes of the room.” He shifted positions and rubbed his nose with the back of one arm. “Dad was sitting in that chair the night the cancer finally got so bad that I had to call an ambulance. He didn’t want to go, though; I think he wanted to just remain in that chair the rest of his life.” He took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. “He died at the hospital two days later. I continued to stay at the house, but there were too many times I thought I heard one of my parents say something, or I thought I would see them somewhere. There was never anything there; it was just the memories bringing back something that had been said or done years before, and my mind would fill in the blank by thinking one of them was in the room.”

“So that made you decide to sell the house?”

“That was part of it, but the decision was really made when I woke up for the third day in a row in the library, after having fallen asleep the night before sitting in there and hoping to hear the echoes my dad said he could hear. I realized that morning that fond memories were nice, but if I wasn’t careful I was going to do just as my dad did and end up wasting what was left of my life sitting in that room.”

“Do you think we’ll have a room like that someday?”

He smiled as he considered the question. “We already do,” he said. “This plain little room where we lie beside each other and talk and dream and share whatever is on our minds; these are the moments we’re going to look back on with such fondness someday.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and kissed the top of her head again. “Your turn; I’ve told you something that I remember from my youth. Tell me one of your favorite memories.”

She kissed the skin of his chest. “I remember the first time I was outside and saw a sailboat going by in the distance,” she said.

He closed his eyes as she recalled the memory, not caring whether the details remained consistent or disjointed. With a satisfied sigh, he listened to the sound of her voice.


Julie Arduini said...

Okay, I'm pretty new to plotting and the novel but I am amazed at how you effortlessly made a character sketch into a real scene. My small attempts are outline way and interviews with the character via a letter style, but I never wrote out a scene. This is terrific stuff!

Teresa Lee Rainey . . . said...

This absolutely 'clicked' for me. What a beautiful scene. You made Josh's past into intimate pillow talk. A perfect love story for the day before Valentine's Day. Thanks.

Patty Wysong said...

I could see and feel this, Rick. What beautiful memories...what a beautiful sketch!!

Dee Yoder said...

Aha! So they DO get married! (They do, don't they?!) I'm nearly to the end of Cardan's Pod, Rick, and I can't wait for the next one. Is it ready yet?

Sara Harricharan said...

Here I go saying "Wow" again. This is an amazing character sketch, it seemed so effortless here, I can practically hear it 'clicking together' myself. I loved the very last few paragraphs though, that certainly spoke volumes about Josh. Great job.

Shelley Ledfors said...

Guests are gone and I finally have time to read Friday Fiction. This is wonderful. It really draws me in to the story and characters. Great job.