Worry – Speakeasy #162 (Fiction)

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“Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes.” Alena dabbed her nose with a wadded tissue.

“You survived a traumatic event. It’s natural to fixate on a specific detail,” the therapist said.

She avoided looking into his eyes. Instead, she forced her gaze to remain within the black frame around his degree. She stared at the cursive letters of his name, Thomas L. Roberts, until they blurred into an undecipherable black smear.

“Would it help to talk about the accident?”

“Accident?” For a moment Alena looked into his eyes. “Oh.” She glanced at her hands folded in her lap, ignoring the large wheels just beyond the vinyl-covered armrests. “I guess.”

He nodded his approval as he fiddled with an apple cinnamon candle he’d lit before their session.

She returned her focus to the framed degree above his head. “I could’ve driven that road blindfolded, navigating by muscle memory. But I’d never traveled after dusk before. When I rounded a curve and saw the elk, eyes reflecting the headlight beam, I knew I didn’t have time to stop, so I swerved. Other than the slight turn of his head, made apparent by the shift of his antlers, he didn’t move. I remember bumping the guardrail at least twice and then sliding off the road where the guardrail ended. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed and a doctor telling me he couldn’t save my legs.”

“How did you react to that?”

“Are you serious?” Alena again looked at Mr. Roberts. “I was pissed. I called him horrible names. I accused him of being a liar, until I looked at the bed and saw the lump under the covers ended around what should’ve been my mid-thigh. I resented the doctor for saving me.” She caught sight of a painting to her left and turned her head to get a better look.

Mr. Roberts followed her gaze. “That’s Oswalt Krel. Said to be an ancestor of mine.”

She furrowed her brow as she studied the painting.

“It’s a replica, of course. Dürer’s work is rarely seen in private hands.”

“His eyes,” She murmured. “They hint of worry or fear, too much for a single man to bear. I know those eyes.”

Mr. Roberts waited for her to continue, but after several minutes, he asked, “Where have you seen those eyes?”

Attention still focused on the painting, she said, “My dad. He didn’t share burdens with us. He had many health issues we never knew about until after-the-fact. Whenever we’d ask him why he didn’t tell us, he’d just say, ‘I didn’t want you to worry.’ As if that explained everything.” She dabbed her face with the tissue again. “I see worry differently. I need it to feel alive. It’s like worry reminds me that I shouldn’t take this day for granted because it could be my last. If I am blessed with more time, I don’t see the worry as being in vain… it’s more like insurance.”

“Have you explained that to your dad?”

“Yeah. Soon after, he told us about a tumor that needed to be biopsied. He admitted his fears. For the first time, my brother, two sisters and I shared the burden of worry with him.” She clenched her eyes shut and took a deep breath. “But all of our worries together couldn’t save him. He died before the biopsy could be completed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Tears streaked down her cheeks. When Mr. Roberts offered a box of tissues, Alena plucked several from the opening. “I had my accident the night he died. I should’ve worried about myself, I guess. Since then, I always see Dad’s eyes in the moments after cancer won and his soul returned to God.” She blew her nose into the mass of tissues. “I saw them in the elk. I see them in that painting. Those eyes will forever be the line between what I was and what I am now.”

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt.  The challenge is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 667) (1) using “Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes.” as the first line; AND (2) include some reference to the media prompt: a painting by Albrecht Dürer,

Well, I’ve written ‘weird’ for the last two weeks, so this time, I decided to go for emotional.  (You know, just in case you think you know what to expect, I have to keep changing it up 🙂 )  This story is somewhat inspired by a conversation I had with my best friend on Saturday.  Her dad may have cancer again and isn’t a candidate for operation because of age and other health issues.  My prayers (and thoughts, obviously) are with her.

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re curious, click the badge below for complete guidelines!

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58 thoughts on “Worry – Speakeasy #162 (Fiction)

  1. Debbie May 18, 2014 / 6:47 AM

    What a well-written, yet incredibly SAD, story, Janna! To have that much misery piled upon one person all at once — well, you’ve taken to heart the advice writers are given to challenge our characters, haven’t you?!

    • jannatwrites May 18, 2014 / 2:34 PM

      Yeah, this one was a bit of a downer. I should feel awful about giving this character so many issues, Debbie 🙂

  2. jenbrunett May 18, 2014 / 7:13 AM

    Jeeze, you are a great writer!

    • jannatwrites May 18, 2014 / 2:34 PM

      Thanks, Jen. I appreciate you stopping by to read my story!

  3. nrhatch May 18, 2014 / 9:22 AM

    Well that was depressing. Maybe next week you could aim for a happier ending . . . for the Pollyannas in the crowd. 😎

    Good details and use of the prompt.

    • jannatwrites May 18, 2014 / 2:35 PM

      Haha, maybe I oughta do that and reallythrow everyone for a loop 🙂 I went from two weeks of weird to emotional… baby steps, Nancy… baby steps!

  4. pattisj May 18, 2014 / 7:11 PM

    Wishing the best for your friend and her family. You are so good at showing, not telling.

  5. Eric Alagan May 18, 2014 / 9:18 PM

    Worry, like everything else is good in moderation. Beyond a certain intensity – it clouds thought, sight and judgement, I reckon.

    Another well told story.

    • jannatwrites May 19, 2014 / 8:53 AM

      I’ve been clouded by worry and it’s not easy to think straight, Eric. Thanks for adding your insights 🙂

  6. Leigh W. Smith May 19, 2014 / 7:13 AM

    Haunting story. I love how the eyes link important circulating themes (Dr. T.J. Eckleburg-esque if I may say so–and the elk and eyes parts also reminded me of the poem “The Heaven of Animals” by Dickey as well as another about a pregnant deer that I can’t remember the title of). Despite the thick emotional content, this story moves me along quickly and powerfully. Bravo for realism! Oh, and, Janna, when I click on the Speakeasy icon, I get a 404 (page not found) error.

    • jannatwrites May 19, 2014 / 8:57 AM

      You are so well-read, Leigh. I haven’t even heard of the authors/works you mentioned (and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to recall the names!) Very impressive 🙂

      I’m glad the story moved well for you. It’s kind of depressing, yes, but a ‘happy’ ending just didn’t seem to fit for this one. Thanks for the heads up about the badge link… I checked and it’s linking to the page that goes up when they open the page to link our stories. I changed it to go the ‘badge announcement page’ and will switch it to the new page when it’s up later tonight!

  7. diannegray May 19, 2014 / 1:14 PM

    What a sad story, Janna. Beautifully written (but now I’m sure I’ll see those eyes all day!) 😉

    • jannatwrites May 19, 2014 / 9:10 PM

      Hehe, sorry about the eyes, Dianne! Thanks for stopping by the read it.

  8. Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) May 19, 2014 / 6:14 PM

    I love how you crafted this story to include the prompts given. You really are a brilliant and talented writer! ♥

    • jannatwrites May 19, 2014 / 9:10 PM

      I appreciate the compliment, Kathy – I’m glad you enjoyed the story 🙂

  9. James Bulls May 20, 2014 / 6:52 AM

    It’s said that no matter what the author intended, the reader will perceive the creative work in his or her own way. For me, this flash fiction read like a meditation on grief. I think it must have resonated with a lot of us because who can say they don’t know somebody taken by cancer? My father, for example, has been fighting skin cancer for a few years. He’s still with us, but it’s always a strong connection when you read something in a story straight out of your own life.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 7:56 PM

      I’m glad you found something in this you could relate to emotionally (although I’m sorry your father is battling skin cancer. Cancer in any form is scary.) I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts, James!

  10. Silverleaf May 20, 2014 / 10:50 AM

    I wasn’t sure how the elk, the dad, the painting and the accident were all connected but the last line brought it all together. Reading this has left me pensive and contemplative. Very touching.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 7:59 PM

      Thanks for reading, Silverleaf. I’m happy to find that it did come together in the end. Thanks so much for reading!

  11. tinkerbelle96 May 20, 2014 / 1:10 PM

    That’s terribly sad,to lose someone the way your protagonist did… it must be awful. Touching and as usual, well written.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:00 PM

      I appreciate you taking time to read it, Tinkerbelle. It would be painful to experience what she has.

  12. Imelda May 20, 2014 / 1:26 PM

    Another well-written story from you. 🙂
    This is a sad tale but I am glad that she managed to put her pain into words. Sometimes, naming the cause of pain helps in healing.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:01 PM

      I agree, Imelda. It may just be what she needs to piece together a new life. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:02 PM

      Thanks, Susan! I’m glad you stopped by to read the story 🙂

  13. tnkerr May 20, 2014 / 4:38 PM

    You crafted this story perfectly, tragic and burdensome for Alena. But I see some hope for her as her understanding grows her healing begins. I don’t think it was all dark. Well done.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:03 PM

      Thanks, Tnkerr. I like how you were able to see some hope rather than the dismal situation we see on the surface. Thanks so much for reading!

  14. agjorgenson May 20, 2014 / 7:45 PM

    This is a lovely story. It draws together the loss and the regret that marks all of our lives in various ways. It is interesting how being able to lament our loss with another is an act of healing. i think you catch something of that in this story…

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:04 PM

      True, we do all have some amount of regret and loss. What we do with it is what determines what we achieve in life. Thanks so much for reading, Allen!

  15. Sue May 20, 2014 / 7:53 PM

    I felt like I was in the office with them. Sad? perhaps but truth won out

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:06 PM

      There is sadness, but some liberation is acknowledging what holds her back.

  16. BCIJo (aka Joanne Edith) May 21, 2014 / 4:18 AM

    A gripping piece! And the eyes in the portrait framed your story well. I love your writing.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:06 PM

      I appreciate you reading, Joanne- I’m glad you liked the story!

  17. Suzanne May 21, 2014 / 8:31 AM

    I love the way you tied everything together in that last paragraph. Beautifully written, Janna!

  18. M. L. Sexton May 21, 2014 / 5:50 PM

    Sad story but very well written. She seems to have been through a lot but at least she’s smart enough to see a therapist to get through it. Most people wouldn’t’ve done that.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:08 PM

      I think many of us think that we can handle it on our own… but sometimes we can’t. Thanks for stopping by, M.L.!

  19. Meg May 21, 2014 / 6:08 PM

    Powerful. The last sentence is so crisp.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:08 PM

      Thanks, Meg! I appreciate you stopping by to read it 🙂

  20. Bastet May 21, 2014 / 10:55 PM

    Interesting story…like the build up and the walk through an analytical session that takes your character to the root of her fixation…good one!

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:13 PM

      Thanks, Bastet! Sometimes the little prompts to talk it out are enough to help us realize what we may not have seen before.

  21. atrm61 May 22, 2014 / 2:50 AM

    I like how you took us from one layer of her life to the other-no wonder she was seeing a therapist-poor girl! Hopefully,she will heal in more ways than one-a well written story laced with deep grief.That elk,reminded me of something else,wink,wink-your mind is definitely on that project Janna 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:28 PM

      Haha, the will of elk and my own will are often two different things 🙂 I actually borrowed the emotions from an experience I had with seeing an elk in the road. I like to think she’ll find peace in time, Atreyee!

      • atrm61 May 22, 2014 / 11:52 PM

        Ha!ha!Thank God for that ;-)Oh that must have been scary cool!Me too 🙂

  22. Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) May 22, 2014 / 9:24 AM

    Like all of your incredible stories, this was beautifully crafted. With all the burdens she had to bear, it was no wonder she was seeing a therapist and trying desperately to sort it all out.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:30 PM

      Thanks for your kind words, Kathy! I’m glad you stopped by to read the story 🙂

  23. tedstrutz May 22, 2014 / 1:25 PM

    As I read I wondered where this was going. Let’s just say, I’m impressed.

    • jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:32 PM

      Aw, thanks, Ted! I appreciate you taking time to read the story 🙂

  24. EagleAye May 22, 2014 / 4:31 PM

    I like that the eyes of her father and the eyes of the Elk form a borderline in her life. It’s poignant. A powerful story as always, Janna!

  25. jannatwrites May 22, 2014 / 8:35 PM

    The eyes do symbolize significant change in her life. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, EagleAye!

  26. Sandra May 24, 2014 / 2:58 PM

    I love how you used the power of eyes in this emotional piece. You always manage to pack so much in such a short stoy–characterization, symbolism, metaphors. You’re such a masterful writer, Janna!

    • jannatwrites May 26, 2014 / 7:17 PM

      Thanks for your compliment, Sandra! It was a sad story, but I’d hoped the emotion came through.

  27. Stephen Thom May 25, 2014 / 3:05 PM

    This was v good, v well written. Sadness&grief are always there, would not know the alternatives without them. It had some nice touches that added to the depth, helping to transport the reader ‘navigating by muscle memory’ etc. I had never thought of prompts before. They sound an interesting way of getting going. 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 26, 2014 / 7:24 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Stephen! Prompts are fun for writing short little pieces (which seems to be about all I can complete these days.) Sometimes they can result in something longer, which is great, too. There are several regular ones out there, so maybe you’ll try it sometime?

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