I Stuck pretty close to the Gildner model here. But it’s odd how different this story turned out. Still searching for an ending. Thanks in advance for reading. This is hot of the presses, written in 45 minutes. Busy weekend. I will read others later tonight of early tomorrow. Thanks!

When she returned from the mall, she plunged her hands into a sink of soapy water, rinsed and wiped them dry. From the pile on the kitchen floor, she dropped in her blouse, bras, skirt and panties, making the sure the water she ran was cold. Once they were clean, she threw them all into the washing machine. After that, she stayed home from work and watched “Emily in Paris” episodes over and over again.
One day her husband asked her when she planned to return to work. She didn’t answer but instead set about cleaning. She threw out all the soiled white shelf paper in the kitchen cabinets and drawers and lay down new. She emptied all the food from the refrigerator, even the produce drawers, and soaped and dried each so the entire thing was sparkling white. She scrubbed the bathroom floor with bleach, along with the bathtub, cleaning all the grey grout with a toothbrush. Next, she took all the clothes from her closet, packed them into her car and dropped them off to be given away by Good Will. The next day, at a row of small boutique shops, she purchased five work new outfits, a black date-night dress, a subzero parka and thermal pants, hat and socks, two pairs of jeans, two sweaters, and four turtlenecks. While she selected her socks and mittens, the salesman regaled her with stories of wipeouts and white outs while skiing a few hours north in the Canadian Rockies.
The next day, she got into her car, packed her subzero clothing and weekend wear, leaving her work clothes behind in her closet, the tags still on them. She drove 20 hours straight to Anchorage Alaska. There she found a B and B on the edge of a small outskirt town and stayed in a cottage with a space heater and decent food in the main dining room.
She remained inside for two weeks watching old black and white movies, except war films and westerns. Each day, she checked the internet for when the northern lights would appear. Ten days into it, it snowed six feet and the pathway to and from her cottage to the dining room, once cleared, was now bound by high walls of snow. Most nights, she couldn’t sleep and would pull on her parka and snow boots and walk along the walkway, staring at the mink black sky, the million pinpoints of light from the multitude of stars that shined there. The moon waxed and waned. Still, she rose and saw nothing.
One night she was awoken by the sound of wolves howling. It was a terrible sound. She went out into the night air and there she saw the purple and green dance across the heavens. She stared and stared in wonderment. She stared and stared, despite fatigue weighing down her eyes, her body wanting to curl up under blankets. She just couldn’t leave the light show in the sky. She dropped back on her back into the snow, felt herself sink as if in a bed of feathers, and watched the purples and greens noticing that how there wasn’t one speck of red anywhere. She lay there under the sky, watching, hearing the wolves howl as they neared, their howls closing in, breaking her silence.

12 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    Andrea, I LOVE the mystery in this from the get, her odd behavior there in the beginning when she washes her clothes and makes sure they’re clean and THEN tosses them into the washing machine. And her husband saying, hey, when are you going to go back to work and rather than answer, she cleans and the plot thickens! I love the power of “no” dialogue,” how a character saying nothing can be the loudest dialogue of all.

    The trick is to keep ticking up that oddness as the story wears on, the unexpected that shows that what she’s doing is very spur of the moment. The buying warm clothes –> going to the tundra feels rational, so maybe mix it up there to maintain that good edge you’ve got going on here.

    I love the lights and the wolves and her risking it all for a glimpse of the lights (something symbolic there). Maybe simplify that ending to raise the chill level: She lay there under the sky, hearing the wolves howl, their howls closing in.

    BOOM!

  2. Len Kuntz

    Hi Andrea.

    This was a very visual piece and you paint each detail so well–staring at the mink black sky, the million pinpoints of light…there she saw the purple and green dance across the heavens…now bound by high walls of snow.
    There’s also a great deal of intrigue. The husband appears in only one sentence, and even then, the narrator doesn’t answer his question.
    A really great study of shedding an old life and trying to create a new one by first trying to recapture a sense of wonder.

  3. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Andrea, what a gorgeous, sensory laden piece! Love the details and the impulsive road trip to Alaska (fantasy!). As Len mentions, I noticed the all so brief mention of “husband,” so spare, and yet adds volumes to her story. If this is a thread through to your previous story (Friday post), I’m not sure I would have gotten that if I had not read that other piece originally. In other words, we might need some hints of trauma (P.T.S.D. or some other ‘witness to a shooting’ memories). Maybe headlines from a newspaper stand (shooter found?) or some other way to reveal her dilemma. That is, if you want this piece to be a stand alone, and not a continuation. I also love Sarah’s suggestion about the wolves. WOWSAH!

  4. Koss Just Koss

    Andrea, this is a wonderful piece, so mysterious and captivating. I love Sarah’s suggestion about an edit to nail that already strong ending. I didn’t make the connection to the other piece but agree with Robert regarding standalone or not. Maybe there are more stories about this woman? Nice work!

  5. Anita Brienza

    I’m so proud that I got the mall story “continuance!” This story pulled me in; I rode the rhythm of the tasks she was completing (so much purpose and focus) until her departure. You have a great start here on a brilliant piece. Just one question: it seemed she was covering all her bases except leaving something, anything, for her husband – he’s mentioned but seems as easily left behind as her clothes at Goodwill. Perhaps intentional? Anyway, I love any story that makes me want to know more about moment in it, and you’ve done that here.

  6. Francine Witte

    I really love the journey you take us on with this woman. How she is deep cleaning her house and then sets out to do the same to her life. I love how she falls down in the splendor of the northern lights.

  7. Jayne Martin

    You said you were still looking for an ending, but that last paragraphs is one of the best endings I’ve ever read. The wolves closing ing. Wow!
    So much amazing imagery sending the story forward in this piece. I agree with Robert that some reference to the shooting would be helpful. I’m wondering about the ref to “Emily in Paris,” and why that particular choice. Perhaps something from the nature channel would tie in to that ending.

    Lovely work!

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