He’s knocking on my door. He’s holding a boatload of roses. I’m letting him inside. “I’m sorry,” he says. He takes off his shoes and tries on mine. “I have to say,” I say, “I have not seen you in years.” “Last May,” he says. “Last May?” I say. “I was your waiter,” he says. “You were my waiter?” I say. “You were spirited,” he says. “But I thought,” I say, and my thought I do not finish. A cool breeze opens my home’s windows. My wife arrives with flowers the same as the ones in the vase. Same shade, same shape. His wife knocks on the front door with more flowers. Flowers in her pockets. Flowers in her hair. Our house houses flowers it didn’t house the day before. None of us talk about how they’re struggling to breathe.

9 Comments

  1. Kara Vernor

    So good! This feels tight to me already. I love the play in it, with the language and the scenarios, but it’s not just all play, I feel a real tension between the narrator and the guy at the door. If fact, if anything I want the story to stay with them, to not widen after the breeze opens the windows (another great line, btw). I think the piece works as is, but I would be interested to see where it might go if it stayed with the two who seem like they have a real dynamic happening. Really love how inventive your stuff is.

  2. Saxon Baird

    Ah I love this little piece. I’m always impressed with pieces that are so compact but can reveal so much. On that note, I think the interaction between the person bringing flowers to the door and the one at the door really could be expanded a bit. I’m curious their history.

    Also, side note: as someone who has worked many years in the service industry, I was suddenly taken with the idea of an rendezvous between waiter and patron years later…for whatever reason. Might be something there too.

  3. Bud Smith

    Hello Ben!
    I was thinking of a thing with dialogue last night because I was trying to imagine the ways both Beckett and Stephen Dixon improved on the dialogue of Kafka. I think there’s something to the way that Dixon formats his dialogue that would be helpful to some of your writing. Have you ever looked at it before? There’s s book of his called Old Friends where he does this tactic especially well, where a conversation is happening and it is like two people playing tennis but the call and response is contained in a single punctuation or sometimes even farther than a single punctuation ….

    He’s knocking on my door. He’s holding a boatload of roses. I’m letting him inside. “I’m sorry,” he says and takes off his shoes and tries on mine. “I have to say,” I say, “I have not seen you in years,” and he says, “Last May.” “Last May?” I say and he says, “I was your waiter.” “You were my waiter?” I say and responds, “You were spirited.” “But I thought,” I say, and my thought I do not finish. A cool breeze opens my home’s windows. My wife arrives with flowers the same as the ones in the vase. Same shade, same shape. His wife knocks on the front door with more flowers. Flowers in her pockets. Flowers in her hair. Our house houses flowers it didn’t house the day before. None of us talk about how they’re struggling to breathe.

    I think it’s fun to do things like that and can go deeper into what a conversation can be … but yes, if you are interested in learning more about that approach, check out Old Friends. Or if you wait long enough I’m sure I’ll eventually write a lecture about the structure of Kafka and Beckett and Dixon and how the men morph that form and change what a paragraph does and what a page looks like and what dialogue on the page looks like to each.

  4. Bud Smith

    and of course, the commas are all moot inside the quotation marks but still hold power outside them. Anytime we can get rid of little squiggly marks on the page that does freshen things up

    He’s knocking on my door and holding a boatload of roses. I let him inside. “I’m sorry” he says and takes off his shoes and tries on mine. “I have to say” I say, “I have not seen you in years” and he says, “Last May.” “Last May?” I say and he says, “I was your waiter.” “You were my waiter?” I say and responds, “You were spirited.” “But I thought” I say, and my thought I do not finish. A cool breeze opens my home’s windows. My wife arrives with flowers the same as the ones in the vase. Same shade, same shape. His wife knocks on the front door with more flowers. Flowers in her pockets. Flowers in her hair. Our house houses flowers it didn’t house the day before. None of us talk about how they’re struggling to breathe.

  5. Jack O'Connell

    Sick! Reading you I really hear the words and feel them in my mouth and feel them moving into each other. I’d love to tell you never to think about anything and just follow those sounds and shapes in your writing. When you go there it feels like a labyrinth. I think what Bud says about how dialogue looks is really interesting and could be really cool to investigate.

  6. Teresa Plana

    I really like this, especially how you mix the familiar (the first few lines, I thought those guys were actually friends. He tries on his shoes! I love it) with a huge sense of tension. I really like the length as is. I do want to know a bit more about what’s going on between them -could you maybe add a bit of detail, perhaps through the title?

  7. Rachel Pollon Williams

    Ooh, love it. So much feeling and complication in this piece. Is it about calling forth your hearts’ desire? About suffocating on the feeling of yearning? The flowers! I want more.

  8. Bill Merklee

    I am loving your work. Perfectly happy to get lost in the imagery and rhythms. It feels like you’re riffing on “too much of a good thing,” on people who think you should always be happy and always positive and the house should be filled with roses and yeah, we can’t breathe. I don’t know what I would add or change.

  9. Jesse Wilson

    I like how the lack of line breaks says “this is a SHORT story” but I would prefer line breaks, because I’m reading it on a computer. If I’m reading something on a computer, the more line breaks the better. The title is maybe my favorite short (!) story title of all time. I was all the way in after that. “He’s holding a boatload” was confusing to me visually.

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