Original short literary fiction, including satire, remains one of the writing genres in my literary toolkit. I do enjoy creating characters!
While these brief fictional forms are interesting in themselves, they also provide a useful basis for longer more complex stories. Each pithy piece can serve as a brief outline that one could fill out with further details that would result in a full-fledged short story.
Although each "story" is quite short, it can pack the punch of unexpected drama or hilarity. And as one composes them, one finds that even each sentence must remain fairly brief, an exercise that encourages the employment of just the right word in the right place.
Thus, the exercise of composing these brief narratives could serve as a useful practice for poets, who must ever be on the lookout to put just the right word in just with right place.
Hope you enjoy these pieces! And maybe you will like to try composing your own 5-sentence stories. It's fun! And the endeavor offers a useful exercise for writing workshops.
40 5-Sentence Stories
1 Battered and Jailed
- A battered woman, Lee Smith, gave birth to a boy.
- She dug a deep hole in the yard and buried the infant.
- Lee feared the baby would beat her too as his father had done.
- Pigs dug up the baby's body.
- Lee gladly went to prison to escape from her husband's battering.
2 Beth's Songs
- Beth's love of music motivated her to write many songs for piano and guitar.
- Beth recorded her songs on several CDs.
- Beth's brother sent two of Beth's CDs full of songs to a famous singer.
- The singer recorded two of Beth's songs.
- Beth's songwriting career was launched.
3 Lucy's Dream
- Lucy had no money to buy her dream dress displayed in Myrtle's Boutique
- Lucy decided to steal the dress.
- Myrtle caught Lucy before she could leave the store.
- Myrtle insisted Lucy work for her to earn the dress.
- Years later, Myrtle died leaving to Lucy the boutique and her dream job.
4 The Rock
- Jack carried the rock up to his room.
- Edgar walked past Jack's house.
- Jack dropped the rock on Edgar's head.
- Jack called an ambulance.
- Jack and Edgar became friends in the hospital.
5 The Blue Marble
- Jan had three marbles.
- She gave a green one to Susie.
- Elsie wanted the blue one.
- Jan gave LuAnn the blue one.
- Elsie didn't like LuAnn after that.
6 Dead Man Waiting
- Old man Foster waited by the mailbox.
- The mailman was late.
- Old man Foster grew worried for his mailman friend.
- John the mailman had hit a deer on his way to work.
- Old man Foster finally gave up, went home, and died.
- The house looks empty to Lefty and Spotty.
- Lefty runs around back leaving Spotty in front.
- Lefty lets out a yell to signal time to break in.
- Bang, the woman of the house pops Lefty.
- Bang the other woman of the house pops Spotty.
8 Yellow Bikes
- The twins rode their yellow bikes up to Diehard's Lake.
- Johnny asked Mrs Diehard about the turtle hear the lake.
- Dohnny asked Mr Diehard if he could ride his bike around the lake.
- Mr and Mrs Diehard hated kids.
- The yellow bikes were found in the lake 50 years later.
9 Edna's Last Swim
- We took our lunch buckets down to the river around noon.
- Edna said she could swim ten miles without stopping.
- Martha said she didn't believe Edna.
- Edna jumped up, pulled off her shoes, and jumped into the river.
- Six o'clock news said Edna's body was found at the river's bend.
10 Harry Got a Gun
- Harry bought a squirt gun at Janner's Dime Store.
- His mother told Harry to leave the toy home, not to take it to school.
- Harry stuck the toy in his pocket and headed off to school.
- His teacher called Harry's mother around noon.
- Harry had tried to hold up the main office using the toy gun.
11 Just Give Me My Keys
- I left my car keys in the pocket of my coat that was hanging on my chair in the library.
- The librarian asked me to help her shelf some books in the back room.
- When I went for my keys after work, they and my coast were missing.
- Janice Seams walked by wearing my coat.
- I told her she had a nice coat but I really needed my car keys.
12 Apples & Oranges & a Peach
- Lizzy brought three apples to school to share with friends..
- Peggy brought three oranges and a peach.
- Sue-Ellen wanted the peach but not the apples or oranges.
- Peggy wanted to keep the peach.
- Danny made off with all the fruit including the peach.
13 Jack Goes Hijacking
- The bus was late, over forty minutes late.
- Waiting for her brother, Andrea became worried, fearing an accident.
- Finally, an announcement came over the public address system.
- The bus has been hijacked to Miami, Florida.
- Her brother, Jack, had always wanted to go to Miami, Florida.
14 The Saga of Ruther and April
- Joe asked April to the fall dance in the small town of Zanesville.
- April wanted to go to the dance with Ruther but said yes to Joe.
- Scarlet asked Ruther to the dance but he said no.
- Joe decided he'd rather go with Pearl.
- April and Ruther married in the spring and lived happily ever after.
15 The Tea Party
- Annette planned a tea party for her friends, Gloria and Bella.
- Bella loved tea parties, but Gloria—no so much.
- The tea was brewed, the crumpets hot on the table waiting for the guests.
- Bella arrived first bringing a bouquet of dandelions.
- Gloria arrived 10 minutes later with a bee in her bonnet.
16 Just Hand Me the Beer
- Alex told Marcell that he was going to dinner with Porter.
- When Porter never showed, Alex ambled over to the pub.
- Maxine saw Porter and decided to rib him about being stood up.
- Marcell entered the pub, saw Alex, and gasped in surprise.
- Alex was cool, he just told Maxine to give him a beer.
17 Across the State Line
- Scott was jailed across the stateline for lifting a TV from Walmart.
- Ann decided to go bail him out.
- Sue told Ann to let him rot in jail.
- On the way home, Scott lifts a coffee maker from a diner.
- Both Annie and Scott are arrested just across the state line.
18 The People's Pub
- Dana waited for her cousin to bring the lawn mower.
- She waited and waited, wondering where he was.
- Finally, she called Al's house.
- Al's wife, Nudge, said Al had left five hours ago.
- Al sat drowning his sorrows at the People's Pub.
- Elsie had nightmares about her kids drowning her in the bathtub.
- She told Andy about her terrible dreams.
- Andy said he thought that could happen, knowing her kids..
- Elsie needed to stop her kids from killing her.
- Elsie told the cops she thought she shot four burglars, breaking in.
20 Blissful Ignorance
- Bruce told Amanda to stop writing about him on Facebook.
- Amanda wrote even more furiously.
- Bruce blocked Amanda, who then wrote even more furiously.
- Now Bruce could not see what Amanda was writing.
- Bruce always believed ignorance is bliss.
21 Here's My Point
- Wren fell hard for Garth, a student in her creative writing workshop.
- They began to meet and celebrate their passion.
- Wren reminded budding psychologist Garth of his own mother.
- Garth suggested Wren wanted to bed her own son, as he did his mother.
- Wren slapped Garth's smug face before stabbing him with a ballpoint.
22 That Sinking Feeling
- The water looked so inviting so Jake jumped in.
- Lisa was walking by the lake with her newborn infant.
- Jake saw Lisa and beckoned her to join him.
- Lisa propped the baby up on some rocks and jumped in.
- Lisa couldn't swim, so Jake had a baby to raise.
23 Love Story: Gia and Tilly
- Gia and Tilly became lovers.
- Gia told Tilly she was not really a lesbian.
- Tilly just poo-pooed that notion.
- Gia stressed out looking for a way to make Tilly believe her.
- Then Tilly was killed and Gia didn't have to look for a way.
24 The Sleeping Vandal
- The stop sign near Clay's home had been vandalized many times.
- Clay decided to find out who was doing the vandalizing.
- He set up a camera to capture the culprits.
- After 3 weeks, Clay retrieved his camera.
- Shocked, Clay learned he had started sleepwalking again.
25 From Selma to Selma
- Curt worked for Lu's grandfather in a deli in Selma, Indiana.
- Lu thought Curt was dreamy.
- Curt asked Lu to be his steady girl.
- Grandfather thought Curt was a bozo and fired him.
- Lu and Curt got married and moved to Selma, Alabama.
26 Getting a Little Forgetful
- The unsigned card arrived two days after Syd's birthday.
- It was a lovely, personal card.
- But it gave no indication which person had sent it.
- Syd asked relatives and friends about the card.
- Four weeks later, Syd's mother remembered sending the card.
27 Picnic in the Country
- I'll bring the lemonade and Jane can bring the cake.
- Where should we have it this year?
- Same as last year, at Nora's country house.
- But Nora sold that house.
- Yes, but I bought it!
28 Ice Chunks in the Poems
- Holly wanted so much to become a famous poet.
- At college she became friends with Matt and Dee.
- Dee was jealous that Matt liked Holly's poems too much.
- Holly had no interest in Matt, Dee, or their poems.
- After graduation, Dee left Matt for a novelist.
29 The Raising Pane
- Nannette did not understand English well.
- She hired Dave to help her with her English lessons.
- Dave asked Nan for a raise to keep tutoring her.
- Nan put up the window.
- Dave jumped out and never returned.
30 You Don't Know Me, But . . .
- Josie baked six pies for the reunion banquet.
- Albert brought his fiddle to play for dancing.
- Susette danced and ate pie and talked to everyone.
- Arnie finally admitted he did not know Susette.
- Susette finally admitted she was a reunion crasher.
31 See You in the Movies
- Duke wanted to play football on his birthday.
- Ellen wanted Duke to go to a movie with her.
- Ellen told Duke he could play football after the movie.
- Duke told Ellen they could see the move after football.
- They decided to go see a movie about football.
32 Can You Hear Me Now?
- Juice played piano for her church choir.
- Evan wanted her to play the organ instead of piano.
- Juice practiced the organ but didn't enjoy it as much.
- Juice had Tom move the organ to the basement.
- Evan insisted Juice play the organ anyway.
33 A Little Thirsty
- Ava finished her prayers and scrambled into bed.
- Dane drank a large glass of water before bed.
- Ava had a nightmare and yelled out for Dane.
- Dane came running with a bucket of water.
- Ava said her prayers again while Dane drank the water.
34 Arrested Ancestry
- Lady Wickshire sipped her tea, waiting for another fake niece to visit.
- The Lady had learned how to handle those fake relatives, however.
- Lady's butler ushered the girl into the lady's parlor.
- The niece bubbled with excitement to meet her aunt.
- The girl did not expect the sheriff to be waiting for her.
35 The Wedding Hammer
- Dolly baked a cake, big and pink, for Alice's wedding.
- Alice wanted a coconut cake though.
- Dolly became angry and smashed the cake with a hammer.
- Alice said she was glad to have the big, pink cake hammered.
- Dolly then baked a coconut cake with a hammer in it.
36 Betsy Made Me Do It
- Dina stole $10 from her mom's bag and bought Betsy, an $8 doll.
- Dina's mom went to pay for a $5 jug of milk but had no cash.
- Dina watched as her mom wrote a check for the milk.
- Mom then noticed that Dina's face had turned beet red.
- Dina tells her mom that Betsy made her do it.
37 From Sole to Crown
- Tom bought a new pair of boots and set them by the backdoor.
- Janie walked in eating a chocolate ice cream cone.
- Mom yells out, telling Janie not to be eating before dinner.
- Janie drops the cone into one of Tom's new boots.
- Tom pours the melted ice cream on Janie's head.
38 Quiet after the Storm
- Jeff flew into a rage finding his paper clips scattered on the floor.
- Suze screamed at Jeff to shut up and just pick up the damn clips.
- Jeff flew into another rage at Suze's command.
- Suze whispered in Jeff's ear a string of commands.
- Jeff stormed out never to be seen again while Suze enjoyed the quiet.
39 She Said, He Said, Etc.
- She said she had the measles.
- He said he did not believe her.
- She kissed him on the forehead.
- He said that was yucky.
- She said he was right.
40 Carla Vesuvius
- Carla worked hard to become a femme fatale.
- She exercised to enlarge her breasts and shrink her waist.
- Then Carla discovered her inner Carl.
- As she became he, Carl disdained Carla's former obsessions.
- In his nightmares, Carl still wonders if someday Carla will erupt again.
Original Short Story: "The Thin Woman"
Lenore’s most dreaded chore was picking up pop bottles. She had to tote a heavy pop crate while collecting the pop bottles from around the ponds. She trembled in fear while negotiating the sloping side of the ponds because she could not swim . . .
Lenore's Dreaded Chore
Lenore Ellen Thompson spent her childhood at end of a long dirt road, where her family owned and operated pay fishing lakes—Thompson’s Ponds, later renamed Heavenly Lakes. The fellows who came fishing would get mighty thirsty, so the Thompson's sold soda pop and other snacks in their concession stand that they nicknamed "The Shanty."
Back then in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the pop was sold in 12 ounce returnable bottles, but the fishers would not bring back their bottles to "The Shanty," instead they simply threw them on the ground around the ponds, and Lenore would have to go out and gather them up, so they could return them to the Pop Man, who came every Saturday to deliver fresh bottles of pop from his big pop truck.
To gather up the pop bottles, Lenore would carry a pop crate that held about 20 or so bottles. She was always fearful when negotiating the sloping side of the ponds because she could not swim, and her inability to swim accounted for the reason that she feared picking up bottles on the sloping sides of the lakes.
Sometimes she would pick them up around the level sides and just not bother with the sloping side, but when she did that, her father would tell her she was lazy for not finishing her task, so to avoid being upbraided by her father, she determined to finish her task regardless of her safety.
After a weekend of fairly heavy business, the Monday, June 17, 1957, at approximately 9 a.m., Lenore was hauling the pop crate along the sloping side of the Big Pond, as the family referred to the bigger pond back then; the other one was the Little Pond, naturally.
It had rained the night before and the ground was slippery with mud. There was only one person fishing in the lake, a very thin woman who was casting her line out and reeling in and casting out and reeling in, more as if she were practicing than fishing.
As Lenore stepped down and reached out to retrieve a bottle from near the edge of the water, she slipped and went tumbling into the water. The pop crate tumbled in after her hitting her on the leg. She panicked, she could not feel the bottom of the lake under her feet, so she panicked some more.
Suddenly, her lungs felt as though they were going to burst. All at once, she realized that she was breathing under water, and she was shocked! She wondered how she would tell her mom and dad that she could breath under water.
A Bizarre Thing Happened
But then a most bizarre thing happened. She lunged up out of the water, hovered over it, and then looked around for what to do next. She saw the woman, who was sitting in an odd position, cross-legged, on the hard ground, not moving, just staring off into space. It seemed that Lenore saw the woman open her brain and ask Lenore to enter it.
She did what the thin woman requested, and then after what must have been only seconds, Lenore realized that she no longer had the body of an eleven-year-old, but that of a woman who must have been in her thirties.
Lenore got up and walked into a clump of trees up the sloping side of the pond. She sat down to decide what to do. She closed her eyes and began to pray. Although she had never really prayed before, she couldn’t think of anything else to do, so she prayed for God or Someone or Something to tell her what to do. She knew she could not live as this woman—Lenore was still eleven-year-old. What could she do?
Lenore was guided to think hard about what she used to look like, and so she did that thinking for several minutes as hard as she could. Slowly, she could feel her body changing. She looked down at the hands; they were her hands.
The legs were her legs, and the arms her arms. She wondered if the face was her face, so she went down to the water's edge and looked in and saw that, indeed, it was the face of eleven-year-old Lenore Ellen Thompson. And she saw something that stunned her more than she had ever been stunned before: she saw her former body in the water.
She was starting to panic again—this time not because of not being able to swim, because she knew that if she fell into the water now, she would be able to swim.
What if They Find the Body?
Lenore tried to figure what she would do when people find that body. Everybody knows that she is not twins. She searched for a long tree branch and shoved the body deeper into the water.
Luckily, it finally disappeared so no one could see it from the bank, and she reasoned that because she was very much alive, no one would ever bother to look.
Lenore sat for a few moments trying to calm herself and figure what to do next.
She had been gone for what seemed a long time, and she knew her mother would begin to worry if she didn't get back to the house soon. Then it hit her that she had that woman's clothes on. They were so tight that she could barely breathe.
The woman, whose body she now inhabited, had been a very thin woman, and Lenore was a rather chubby girl. And she realized that her mother would know that those clothes were not Lenore's shorts and top. She had to get into the house without her mother seeing her and get some of her own clothes.
So she sneaked up the hillside and waited until her mother came outside. Fortunately, her mother came out and went to the garden to pull weeds. Lenore ran as fast as she could, bounded into the house, changed her clothes, bundled up the thin woman's clothes and then started to panic again.
What could she do with those clothes? Her mother would know that these were not hers. She looked out the window and saw that her mother had moved to the very far end of the garden, and thus could not see Lenore if she went outside. Lenore thought at first that she could burn the clothes in a trash barrel drum that they were using to burn trash. But then she would have to account to for the fire.
The trash barrel was just a few yards away from their outdoor john, (they still had no indoor plumbing back then), and she got the idea to just toss them in the john, and that's what she did. It didn't occur to her that anyone would look down into the excrement hard enough to recognize a pair of shorts and a blouse.
But later that night, her father started complaining about the fishermen using their private toilet. He said somebody had put some clothes down in it. That's all though. He and Lenore's mother just thought that some fisherman had tossed those clothes down there. Luck was on Lenore's side again.
Who Was That Woman?
Things settled down for Lenore Ellen Thompson over the next few days, months, years—at times, she wondered if that body would ever be discovered. But what bothered her most was, who was that woman who gave up her body for Lenore?
Every time Lenore would hear of a woman missing, she wondered if it were that thin woman until she'd find out some fact that made it impossible; for example, a woman in Eaton, Ohio, went missing, but they found her body later in Dayton in a hotel room, where she had committed suicide. Over the years, this fear finally faded.
After earning her culinary certificate in Cooking Arts at the Culinary Institute in Rhode Island, Lenore married the chef Christopher Evanston, and they worked together in vegetarian restaurants in Chicago, Miami, and finally Encinitas, where they settled down to raise their two sons, Eliot and William.
In her early thirties, Lenore encountered the teachings of Vedanta from which she learned some astounding concepts which gave her great comfort—like reincarnation and karma and how each human being is responsible for his/her own salvation.
According to those teachings, if we have led a life that has caused us great pain, we can change it, and follow a pathway that leads us to happiness in the future, and the heart of these teaching is meditation, which calms the body and mind, allowing the soul to find itself.
Discovering that each human body has a soul was a defining moment in the life of Lenore Ellen Thompson because she could now understand that it was her soul that left that body that day and entered the body of the thin woman.
Who was the thin woman? Lenore still did not know, but she thought that the woman was just an astral being used by the Divine Creator to allow Lenore to continue to live out her life and to give her an experience base that would allow her to identify with the teachings of Vedanta—no one else in her family ever had such an experience base.
No one ever turned up missing who fit the thin woman's description. And no one had bought a ticket to fish that morning that Lenore drowned while picking up pop bottles. No one saw the thin woman except Lenore.
Vedanta explains that vagrant souls exist and try to enter bodies of people who allow their minds to remain blank. At some point during Lenore's death state, she became something like a vagrant soul, and the thin woman was waiting for her to take over her body. Lenore comforted herself knowing that the thin woman invited her to do that; Lenore did not merely abscond with the woman's physical encasement.
Lenore didn't even know how she did it. It was as if forces were moving her and connecting her without much of her awareness. Lenore was guided to place her attention between her eyes and let the forces do the rest.
Vedanta also explains that intense prayer can change the physical body. And at the time of her death and entry into that woman's body, Lenore prayed with an intensity that she had never before or after experienced.
The Thin Woman Revisits
Despite her bizarre drowning death and rebirth, Lenore lived a fairly ordinary life. She was content in her marriage, motherhood, and loved working with her husband cooking in vegetarian restaurants. Both sons entered monastic life in the ashrams of Paramahansa Yogananda, and Lenore whole-heartedly approved of her sons' life choices.
Lenore's soul left its body with finality June 17, 2057, at 9:00 a.m.—exactly one hundred years after the bizarre drowning. Both sons were at her side as she slipped out of her physical encasement. Her belovèd husband had passed only days before.
As she was entering the astral realm, Lenore was permitted a brief visitation with her belovèd husband and with several friends from her meditation group. Then she saw a brilliant light that slowly formed itself into the image of the thin woman, who had offered Lenore her body that day by the Big Pond. The thin woman then welcomed Lenore's soul to the astral world, where she continues on her journey back to the Infinite.
Original Short Story: "Robby by the River"
Marietta Grace Spauling’s mother was the world to her. She told her mother everything she did, everything she thought, and everything she felt. Her mother was sometimes helpful, sometimes not so much.
Marietta Marries Cloyd
Marietta, after a childhood of questioning herself and everything she did because her father and sister always did so, married a man, Cloyd Parkins, from the neighborhood who turned out be a wife-beater and bully.
Sister Lolly had drooled over the handsomeness of the Cloyd and had encouraged Marietta to marry him. So Marietta married him three days after she graduated from college with her teaching major in German and Spanish.
But about a month after the marriage, Marietta started showing up at her parent’s home with bruises on her arms and face. To her sister and father, Marietta complained that she had become so clumsy, falling down the steps to the apartment, and bumping in to doors.
To her mother, Marietta confided that Cloyd was the reason for the bruises. Her mother’s advice was always “grin and bear it, but don’t let him kill you.”
Teaching and Nazism
After fall arrived, Marietta started a new position as a teacher at the high school in a small town, about 30 miles south of the town where she lived. On the one hand, Marietta was happy to be married.
She loved Cloyd despite his unusual outbursts of anger, and she felt buoyed up by the fact that she was "Mrs. Parkins” and not “Miss Spauling.”
But as time wore on, Marietta became less enthralled with being Mrs. Parkins, and more discontent with bruises both physical and mental.
Cloyd would accuse Marietta of being a member of a gang that was robbing local businesses and leaving Swastika signs on windows. Marietta taught the German language, and Cloyd thought all Germans were Nazis.
Robby by the River
As part of Marietta’s duties as teacher, she had to take tickets at the football games for the school. She thought it was a waste of a teacher’s time, but she wanted to comply with all expectations for employment at the school.
One night after taking those tickets, Marietta was walking to her car, when a student from her German 1 class approached her. It was Ricky Evans; he told her that his brother, Robby was in trouble and needed someone to help him.
Marietta followed Ricky to river where Robby was sitting with a revolver in his hand. On seeing Ricky and Mrs. Parkins, Robby screamed, “Leave me alone. Go away!” Marietta was terrified; she approached Robby carefully and touched his shoulder.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“What do you care?” snapped Robby.
“I do care! I care so much!" said Marietta. “I care for Ricky. He loves you. Don’t you know what would happen to him if you do this?”
“What do you mean?” Robby asked.
“It would destroy his life! Do you want to do that to your brother?” replied Marietta.
“What about my life? I have no life. Cassie hate me, I hate me, everybody hates me,” said Robby.
“Nobody hates you, Robby!” said Marietta. From this point on she was winging it, she would say anything, do anything to keep this young boy from putting a bullet in his brain.
Marietta sat down beside Robby and began to spill out all the bad things that had happened to her in her life. As she did it, she drew closer and closer to Robby as she spoke.
She held his hand, she moved the gun away from him. She motioned for Ricky to take the gun and leave.
She spoke softly and lovingly to Robby, who sobbed that his girlfriend had dumped him, said he was not yet the man she could love, and doubted that he ever would be. Robby said this rejection had shown him that he should die, he could not live knowing that the most perfect girl in town had dumped him.
After listening patiently to these plaintiff sobs, Marietta felt the need to show this young boy that he was lovable and desirable and that he had to go on living. Caught up in the rush of caring that quickly turned to passion, Marietta and Robby began to engage in sexual passion with a vengeance.
He, perhaps, to show Cassie that he was desirable, and the same for Marietta whom Cloyd had long abandoned for many others.
Replaced Then Rehired
Marietta finished the school year with two major events: she found out she was pregnant and that her contract with the school system would not be renewed. The son of the principal of the high school had just graduated and so the school board decided to give Marietta's job to the son.
Four years later, Marietta, with her daughter in tow, finds herself teaching again at that same school from which she had been dismissed.
In the process of divorcing Cloyd and with her daughter safely attending day care, Marietta would sometimes leisurely shop at the local supermarket before making the 30 mile trip home.
One such day, Marietta needed some bread and eggs and wanted to check the prices of broccoli and onions that had seemed to be skyrocketing at the Kroger in her town. Pushing her cart through the narrow aisles of the store, she nearly collided with a stock boy. Offering her apologies, and moving on, she hears, “Mrs. Parkins? Is that you?”
Turning around, she sees a handsome young lad, and not recognizing him at
first, she stares and responds, “ Yes, I’m Marietta Parkins. I don’t think I know you.”
“I'm Rob Evans. I was never your student but my brother Ricky was. Several years ago. Do you remember him?”
“Oh, yes! I do remember. And I remember you.” Suddenly the whole river scene came rushing back to her as she looked at this young man’s face closely. “How are you?”
“I'm doing ok,” he moved closer to Marietta, and they began to speak in hushed tones. “I've thought about that night at the river every day since it happened. Why did you quit teaching here? Was it because of me?”
“No. I had planned to stay here but they decided to let me go. Said I didn’t keep proper discipline in my classes. Other teachers told me that it was because they wanted to give my position to Principal Jackson's son and that they in general feared people who lived in a city bigger then this.
There was nothing I could do. They didn't have laws against nepotism back then. Anyway, I’m back. I got my MA and I told them I felt more mature now and also I would be moving here after my divorce?”
“Wow, you’re getting divorce?” replied Robby.
“Yes, I’ve given this marriage way more time than it deserves,” said Marietta. “MaryAnn and I will be moving to town next month.”
“MaryAnn?” asked Robby.
“Yes, my daughter—probably the only good thing to come out my marriage,” said Marietta.
“Well, I’d like to meet her, if you don’t mind,” said Robby.
“That would be great. As soon as we’re settled, maybe we can arrange it,” said Marietta.
Saying good-bye to Robby, Marietta purchased her bread, eggs, compared the broccoli and onion prices and headed home.
On the way home, Marietta kept picturing Robby Evans’ face. Is that the same young man with whom she engaged in heated love-making all those years ago? Then it occurred to her—the thought that she had pushed out of her mind so many times: his eyes and MaryAnn’s eye are identical.
Oh, they are blue, and Cloyd’s eye are blue, but they weren’t the same blue as Cloyd’s; they are the same blue as Robby’s. Cloyd’s are a turquoise, smooth blue. Robby’s and MaryAnn's both had a squiggly design in them and were a dark-sky blue.
Could MaryAnn be the daughter of Robby and not Cloyd? Marietta always knew that this was a possibility. After her birth, Cloyd seemed indifferent to MaryAnn telling Marietta, “You'll have to raise her. I don’t know shit about raising girls!”
These silly thoughts had become part of Marietta’s life. She would dismiss them and venture on. But now she was actually divorcing Cloyd, who had lost his job, and moved in with his parents.
Marietta knew she had to divorce the whole family and somehow get MaryAnn away from them. Cloyd had remarked to his gaggle of brothers that he would like to poke that little MaryAnn with his man-thing. Marietta had overheard that conversation and recoiled in disgust as the brothers responded, “Yeah, man, I can see that!”
So Marietta took MaryAnn and left the marriage. Cloyd didn’t seem even to notice. Marietta got herself an apartment and started living in the real world.
This Robby Evans Thing
Marietta was shopping again after school at the grocery store where Robby worked. She sees him stocking shelves, decides to ignore him and continue shopping. After she checks out, placing her groceries in her car, she hears behind her a familiar voice, “Hello, Mrs. Parkins!”
“Oh, hello, Robby!” says Marietta.
“How's it going?” responds Robby, collecting grocery carts.
“Not bad, and you?” says Marietta.
“I love your VW square back. I have a VW too, but it’s just a Beetle,” says Robby.
“No! I had a Beetle once. For about one day! I couldn’t learn to shift gears. This monster is an automatic. I used to want to drive a Beetle so bad but couldn’t drive a stick,” says Marietta.
“Oh, wow! I love my stick. It’s not that hard. Do you still want to learn to drive a stick?” asks Robby.
“Yes, I’d love to. I’d forgotten about it, but yes, I’d really love to learn to drive a manual transmission. I’ve always felt so silly not being able to drive a stick,” says Marietta.
“I’d be happy to teach you, with my Beetle, it’s a four speed, and it’s got a great clutch—some clutches are tricky, but this one is so smooth,” says Robby.
Learning to Drive a Stick
Marietta was enthralled with the notion of learning to drive a manual transmission automobile. Her sister had been able to drive one because she had learned on her boyfriend's car, and her father had shamed Marietta relentlessly for not being able to acquire that skill.
She remembered how her father always said, “other girls can shift gears, why can’t you?” She didn’t know why, she just couldn’t and felt like a dummy because of it.
Now here was this handsome, young knight in shining armor coming to her rescue, offering to teach her to drive a stick.
The lessons on stick driving began the next weekend. On Robby’s day off, Robby and Marietta met in the parking lot of the grocery store. There was traffic but not so much as on the road and so they could practice.
Robby taught Marietta how to take off in first gear. She was amazed that it was not so difficult as she had thought. Her father had told her to push in on the gas and let off the clutch, but her effort had alway resulted in the car dying.
Robby showed her that there is a particular point at which the clutch pedal and the gas pedal meet; it’s called the friction point, and it is different for each vehicle. Once Marietta could distinguish the “friction point,” she was off and running.
But learning anything takes time, and Marietta asked Robby if he could continue the lessons to make sure she had learned correctly—after all, she had no stick shift to practice on, and he did. She invited Robby to her apartment, and they would seek out empty parking lots for Marietta to practice.
“Robby, I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you for teaching me to drive a stick,” said Marietta about two months after the lessons commenced. “I think I can do it!” Marietta said after her latest lesson.
“Well, ma’am, I'm just glad I could give you something in return for what you gave me—my life,” Robby answered.
“Oh, Robby! Do you think often of that night?” asked Marietta, and not waiting for an answer, continued, “I do and I don’t know what I feel about it. On the one hand, I’m so glad if I helped, yet I lost my job at your school. And now finding you again, I’m not sure still how I feel. Grateful, but somehow bedazzled.”
“I know! I know! It’s all so Star-Wars-like. I was supposed to marry Cassie Wilcox, according to my folks and then when she dumped me like a piece of trash, I thought my life was over. And then that night happened and I couldn’t believe a grand lady, a teacher like you could have sex with me—a fucking loser—a goddam nobody. And since then I’ve felt like I was supposed to keep on living, but until now, being with you again, I’ve had no idea why.”
A Question of Marriage
Robby and Marietta sat for a few moments taking in what they had just said. Then suddenly, Robby blurted out, “Will you marry me?”
Brought back from her reverie that had taken her somewhere far away, Marietta says, “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Will you marry me?’" Robby repeated his question.
And Marietta responds, “Oh, my, Robby, with every fiber of my being I want to say yes, yes! But please let me have a little time to think about this. We have grown so close during these driving lessons, and I feel that I know you better than I’ve ever known anyone, but to be fair to us both, I need a little time, before I answer that question.”
She took Robby’s face in her hands, looked into his eyes, and kissed him with a passion she didn’t know she had, then asked, “Just a little time, ok?”
Robby felt relief instead of disappointment because he knew Marietta was taking the question seriously.
He assured her, “Of course, take all the time you need. But let me tell you, I love you with all my heart and with all my life. You gave me my life and whatever your answer is, I’ll always love you and be grateful to you.” They kissed again and the angels sang sealing their bond.
But He's so Young!
Marietta’s reluctance to say yes to Robby meant one thing: she had get her mother’s thoughts on the subject. Marietta’s mother had met Robby a couple times. While they were practicing her driving lessons, Marietta had driven with Robby in his car to visit Marietta’s mother. They even took the mother to the mall shopping.
Marietta knew that her father and sister would never approve of her relationship with a man nearly a decade her junior, so she didn’t even consider getting their input. However, her mother was very different.
Even though her mother had recently succumbed to some of the conventional views of the father and sister, she still had moments of clarity. After all, the mother had experienced an event in her life that most people would consider loony: her father, after his death, had appeared to her and assured her that life does not end with death.
Every time her mother recounted that event, Marietta's father and sister would roll their eyes and screech out some profane laced rejoinder, but Marietta and her mother would just smile at each and other, content that there is much more to life than what two doubting Thomases can imagine.
So Marietta approached her mother with a bit of wariness: “Mommy, I have something to tell you.”
“What is it?” replied her mother.
“You remember Robby, who has been teaching me to drive a manual transition?” Marietta asked.
“Oh, yeah. But why didn’t you get your daddy to teach you that? Or Lolly, she knows how to drive that kind of car. I never understood that but he seemed like a nice young man. Why are you asking me this?” said her mother.
“Well, Robby has asked me to marry him,” Marietta blurted out.
“What? But he’s so young! Why would you want to marry a man that young? When I looked at his face, I felt like he could be my son!”
“So? I’m your daughter! Why would I not marry someone who could be your son's age? That just means he is the right age group to satisfy your expectations! Yet, you recoil in disbelief?” said Marietta.
“Huh? Why are you thinking about getting married again? Right now, young lady, you are a divorcee. That’s pretty disgraceful in itself. You know your aunt and uncle are disinheriting you because of that. You won’t see penny from their fortune after they die. It will all go to your sister. Did you know that? And now you keep on bringing shame on yourself and this family. I don’t understand you, Marietta Grace. I don’t understand you at all. If you keep on with your wicked ways, it’s going to kill me dead . . . dead, don’t you hear me?” Marietta’s mother exclaimed.
Marietta finally understood where she stood in her family. Basically, she was shunned, a nonentity, and now she knew what she had to do.
A Life-Saving Secret
Several years after their marriage, Robby and Marietta suffered MaryAnn's being stricken with an illness that required a blood transfusion. The doctors first tested Marietta, then Cloyd, his brothers, and Cloyd’s parents. None were a match. Then Marietta suggested they test Robby’s and it was a match.
MaryAnn, who had always suspected, urged on by Marietta’s family, that her mother had abandoned her father and his family simply to take up with younger man, finally understood that Robby was both her adoptive father and her biological father—in fact her real father on all counts.
Although MaryAnn continued to bask in the glories of adolescent uncertainties and teenage self-pity, her life was spared because her mother had the temerity to confess to the adulterous tryst that resulted in MaryAnn’s birth.
Original Short Story: "Will"
This story of hope circles around a young man, caught between ugly racism and parental love.
Two Roads Diverge
At age twenty-five Will Bainbridge found himself at a fork in the road of life. His six-year marriage had ended. Dody had moved to Oregon, taking their son, Billy. After Folman's Garage closed, he lost his job.
Will's best friend, Ed Torrenz, needed him at the Sears Automotive Department in the Muncie Mall, but his parents suggested he move back home, return to college, and finish the business degree he had started seven years earlier.
The suggestion made sense, so he accepted. But he couldn't concentrate on his studies, filled with the pain of missing his son.
Will's grade-point-average fell below C for fall semester, and his father's threat to stop tuition payments jolted him from his melancholy. Without the degree, he would have to remain an auto-mechanic; he enjoyed the work as a hobby.
However, he wanted a more creative job, and he refused to work at his father's automobile dealership. He wanted to join the "real" business world, so he determined to raise his grades. At Christmas, Dody had brought Billy, for a visit, and that visit lifted his spirits.
The Spring of New Hope
Will began spring semester with new hope. In his Spanish class, he had admired a dark-haired woman who always sat in the front row. He loved the way she slid her coat over the back of the chair, how gracefully she removed her book from her book bag.
His moodiness had prevented him from speaking to her, but he decided that this term, he would get to know her.
The first day of classes Will arrived early to Spanish. There she was, already seated in the front row. Will didn't like sitting in front, but he made the sacrifice. He ambled up and slid into the seat next to her.
"Hi, I'm Will Bainbridge. You were in here last semester. Isn't your name Annabella?"
"Well, hello, Will Bainbridge. No, my name is Arabella, Arabella Johnson."
"Oh, that's prettier than Annabella. Are you a Spanish major?"
"No, I'm finishing my masters this semester in corporate tax law. Just auditing Spanish."
"So why would you audit Spanish?" Will asked.
"The company I work for has offices in South America. And I plan to do some traveling in Mexico. I was born in El Paso. My parents still live there; they work at Ft. Bliss. Both speak fluent Spanish."
"But they didn't teach you?"
"Oh, a little. But not nearly enough. And I've lived here since I was twenty, so I haven't needed it. Funny thing, it's harder than I imagined. How about you?"
"It's pretty hard for me too. I got a C last semester, but I have to do better. My parents are footing the bill for college, and so I have to pull my GPA up. I dropped down to 1.9 last semester and that can't happen again."
"Oooh, not fun. I've been lucky gradewise, so far. I got a 4.0 going. As an undergrad I maintained around a 3.8, but I'm always nervous about grades."
The professor arrived and started class.
After class Will asked Arabella to go for coffee at the Student Center. He learned that she was Irish and German on her mother's side, and her father was African American.
She was the thirty-seven-year-old mother of two teenaged boys, Jesse, sixteen and Tommy, fourteen. Her husband had been killed three years earlier in the Persian Gulf. She had worked ten years at Dayton Oil Company.
She began working there after graduating from Indiana University, but after Jesse was born she wanted to stay home with him. She had returned to work after Tommy started pre-school.
Will confided that he had not been a very good husband; he had played in a local rock band, and he spent too many evenings away from Dody and Billy. By the time the group had disbanded, Dody had given up on the marriage, and they divorced.
To Love Again
This coffee date was leading to many, and Will's admiration for Arabella deepened into love.
As Will grew close to Arabella's sons, he concentrated less on missing Billy. Tommy wanted to play the guitar, so Will taught him some chords. He helped Jesse find a car, and they rebuilt its engine.
By the end of the semester, Will's grades, as well as his spirits, were soaring. He had a B in accounting, A's in everything else. Arabella had made sure Will studied. Will had made sure he spent a lot of time with Arabella. They planned to marry as soon as Will graduated.
Will adored his mother and respected his father for building his successful automobile dealership. But his father behaved with extreme prejudice against racial minorities, and his mother acquiesced to the will of her husband. Will had thought about how his life would have to change when they eventually found out about his new love.
On his way in to breakfast, last day of exams, Will heard his mother speaking in anguished tones, "Jacob, don't be too hard on him. John Porter is wrong, you know it. Will would never do that."
Hearing his mother's words, he braced himself for confrontation. Entering the dining room, he glimpsed the sour look on his father's face and his mother's red eyes.
"Good morning," Will said, seating himself and pouring coffee. "One more exam, I know I'll ace it. I've pulled myself out of that hole I dug last semester."
"Will, are you dating a ni**er?"
"Dad, do you have use that word? That's the most offensive word in the English language. Nobody uses that word anymore."
"Are you walking around that campus with a little ni**er girl? That's what John Porter saw. Says you and some n**er girl were holding hands, looking all lovey-dovey. Tell me, son, is that true?" His father shouted, his face reddening.
"Dad, that woman Porter saw finishes her masters in corporate law this week. She practices law for Dayton Oil Company. She is the widow of an army major who died in the Persian Gulf. She has two fine teenaged sons. She is part African American, part white—just like us, Dad; her white blood is Irish and German."
As Will talked, he grew calm but firm, realizing that he could not continue accepting his parents' support. His father's face told him Arabella's qualities meant nothing. The only qualifier was the disqualifier, the African blood.
"Will, you know better, Honey. We raised you to know better. You can't go with a colored girl. What would our friends think? We'd go out of business if customers found out. Our business depends on customers that're friends, almost like family. And what about Grandma Mary? She has a weak heart. And Uncle Andy would just die of shock. Honey, you got to stop this, you got to."
His mother sniffled, dabbing her eyes and nose with her napkin.
"Hell, yes, he'll stop it. You'll not get another red cent from me, if you don't. You hear that, fellow. I won't be disgraced this way." Jacob stood up, threw down his napkin, and snapped, "Grace, Fred Compton's coming to dinner. Use the good china, and make sure you chill plenty red wine. You know how Fred likes red wine with his beef." He scowled at Will, shook his fist, and barked, "You better remember damned good and well, buddy. Not another red cent."
After Will's last exam, he rushed to Arabella.
"But you can't quit college. You'd be miserable going back to a job you're tired of."
"I won't give you up, Bell—not for money, not for anything. I've thought about this. I saw it coming. I'll go see Ed Torrenz about that Sears job; he'll help if he can, but if they don't need me, I'll have to look other places. I'll take out a loan to get my own place."
"Will," Arabella said, pulling him close. "I have some money. I'll help you, so you can stay in school."
"No, Bell, I can't take your money. That's sweet of you to offer." He kissed her on the forehead and then on the nose. "That's why I love you, you're so generous and sweet, but I'll work this out. I'll have to take night classes. We'll have to put off getting married for a couple years, but I can do it, Bell, if I know you are with me on this."
"Oh, Willie-Baby, don't worry about that. You know I'm with you all the way."
A Taxing Jolt
Will's ruptured relationship with his father hurt and angered him, but his mother determined not to lose her son, insisting he visit Sundays and holidays. Jacob spoke very little during these visits, except to ridicule Will for "letting a ni**er drag him down."
Will's hurt and anger turned to sympathy; he knew his parents were suffering from their bigotry. They might never understand how good Arabella was for him, how good she was, how extraordinarily good.
After Will graduated, he accepted a position as district manager with Sears. He and Arabella were married. He was no longer welcome in his parents' house. His father completely rejected his son. His mother still called him often, and they met occasionally for lunch. Each time they met, she looked increasingly gray and depressed.
She avoided mentioning Jacob, but she tried to report good things about the business, such as their doing so well that they were able to give Fred Compton a substantial raise. But Will sensed her sadness that always brought tears to his eyes as he watched her walk away.
While Will and Arabella packed for a trip to Mexico to celebrate their first anniversary, Will's mother called, agitated with grief. Jacob had just suffered a massive heart attack. Will rushed to the hospital. After the doctors finally reported that Jacob's condition had stabilized, Will insisted his mother let him drive her home.
In the car Grace broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. The IRS had audited the dealership and found taxes owed in the amount of a two-million dollars. Jacob feared losing his business.
He had trusted Fred Compton, his accountant, who had mysteriously disappeared; Bainbridge Buick and Toyota's trusted attorney, Chester Mortonson, also disappeared.
"Please . . . Mom . . . Mom . . . calm down, and tell me all you know. What about John Willson, Mortonson's partner? He ought to know about this. And Herb Marlowe? He shared an office with Compton."
"Oh, Willie, they don't know anything. They claim it's your father's fault. They say they don't have any records; that Fred must have them. They won't help. Willie, I'm losing my mind; that caused your father's heart attack, I know it did. I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do."
"Mom, you don't want to hear this, but my Arabella is a corporate tax specialist, she could get you out of this mess."
"Oh, Willie, why would she help us? She doesn't even know us."
"Well, Mom, that's not her fault. But she'd help because you need it."
"Oh, Willie, if she'd help us, your father would change his mind. You know, sometimes I don't understand why he makes such a fuss about colored people. I know I do it because he does, but I don't understand it. I'd be grateful if your Arabella could help. Do you truly think she can?"
"Yes, Mom, she can, she's good. You'll see. And Dad will see. You'll both see—just how good she is."
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes