I’m halfway through Stephen King’s latest short story collection, Just After Sunset. (Not quite as good as Everything’s Eventual, but it’s worth a read.) When King writes short stories, he makes me feel lazy that I haven’t written one in awhile. So I started writing one. I’m gonna write a little a day and post as scenes are completed. Do enjoy and feel free to leave comments and suggestions. VIVA the SHORT STORY!
All the Crawling Beetles, Part 1
Despite the angry woman, I had to climb the magnolia tree.
I’d wanted to do it since “the break up,” although it’s funny—I’d never wanted to do it until then, and I’d walked by the magnolia tree every morning before work for eight months.
“Get down from there!” the angry old woman screams up at me, holding one of my discarded spike heels in her wrinkled palm.
I can hear her, but I’m up too high to care. It’s not as if she’s about to come up after me with her white hair, curved spine, and sour disposition. She’s grounded, and I’m flying.
“Hey! Come down, I said!”
I lift my leg and plant my bare foot on another rough, dry branch. I lift my hand up and take firm grasp of a thin limb to the right of my head, and I pull myself higher. The pant leg of my business suit gets caught on tree bark, but I’m considering the smell of the off-white magnolia blossom instead of tailor fees.
“Why, you crazy little bitch!” There it is—the anger and profanity I knew the grumpy grandma had been swallowing since her husband’s death a week ago.
I glance down at her, and I smile because I’m making her let go. I’m making her feel something other than the burn I noticed on the inside of her wrist—probably from the edge of a cooked casserole plate at the after-funeral party.
“I’m going to call the police!” she says, and she throws my expensive, designer shoe on the ground before stomping toward her front door.
Go ahead, call them. Just a few more rungs, and I’ll reach the top.
I hear the screen door of her house slam below me. I bend my knee and use my toes to push myself higher. I stretch toward a branch just out of reach and give a leap to get my hand in place. I’m sweating through my cotton shirt, and my red-brown hair is sticking to my forehead in the heavy South Carolina heat. Another rung higher, and I can see the Smurf-blue summer sky. I put my palm against one of the rubbery magnolia leaves, and I’m surprised to find it cool. I push my cheek against the foliage, but there is no time to cool down.
Because I’m at the top of the tree. I’m holding on to the trunk with one arm, and my other hand is stretched toward the single puff of white in the upper right-hand corner of the early morning sky. I look out and over the city block where families live and kids ride bikes, only about a half mile away from my desk and my responsibilities.
Maybe the old woman called the police; maybe she didn’t. Maybe she’s alone in her living room, crying because the house is empty—crying because her husband is dead. And here I am at the top of a magnolia tree, mid-summer, Charleston, all because of “the break up.”
Scene 1. The End. More to come. Story will be FINISHED by Saturday!