Thursday, January 31, 2008

27 Woodland Lane

I have not written a short story since freshman year in college, you know, back in the stone-age. I have no idea what I am doing but here goes. We were given some guidelines, which I will post at the end of the story. Please feel free to give any suggestions, thoughts etc. here or at my blog nyc/caribbeanragazza

27 Woodland Lane

He didn’t like it at all. Not one bit. Bob Waters stood in the backyard and wondered what had happened to his house. The glass walls exposed everything.

Bob lingered for a moment watching as Susan ran around the kitchen. He was fond of Susan. She had that same kind of sneak-up-on-you-type beauty as his wife Rose. Bob walked around to the front of the house. The boxy, sleek structure looked out of place among the towering oak and maple trees in the historic section of Greenwich Connecticut. What distressed him even more were his poor rose bushes. They looked horrible. The petals were the color of a polluted river. Susan had been distracted lately with the remodeling but he couldn’t cut her any more slack. The roses were dying. He had to do something.

Susan tried again to snap her barrette shut.
“Mommy said a bad word,” her five-year-old daughter Grace yelled as if no one had heard the first time.
“Don’t worry about Mommy. It’s time for you to go to bed.”
“I want to stay up until dad gets home. Can you read another story?”
“No, it’s past 8:30. Let’s go”
“Noooo, I want to stay up!”
“Grace. I am not telling you again.”
“Look you made Mom mad. You’re a pain,” Jack, age six, said to his sister.
“No, you are a pain!”
“Grace use your inside voice and get upstairs.”
“Yeah Grace,” Jack added.
“You too Jack. Let’s go.”

Finally the kids were down. Susan brought a ’97 Barolo up from the cellar, poured herself a glass and opened the Sunday New York Times. She was getting to it on Thursday, which was a record of sorts. The house was quiet. There was only the soft hum of the refrigerator. Her husband felt for the price they paid for the six-bedroom house it should be completely silent but Susan liked the company.

She was reading the business section, which featured a story about one of her former Wall Street colleagues when her husband, Peter rushed in. In his early 40s, Peter still had the build and good looks of a Division I athlete.

“Hey honey,” Peter said as he gave Susan a quick peck.
“Hey yourself. There’s dinner in the fridge.”
“I already ate in the city.
“Your assistant neglected to mention that this afternoon when she called to go over the guest list for the housewarming. The list is too long.”
“No it’s not,” Peter said gently, waving off the subject. “You won’t believe what Casey did today during a conference all.”

As Peter went on about his day, Susan thought about her typical schedule.
Get kids ready for school.
Drop kids off at school.
Volunteer at school for three hours.
Drop off donated items at Greenwich Junior League thrift shop.
Pick up Peter’s dry cleaning.
Return home. Reheat for lunch dinner from last night that Peter did not eat.
Let Rosalie in. Tell her not to worry about cleaning Peter’s bathroom. She did that yesterday after Grace threw up in there.
Go to supermarket for groceries.
Pick up kids from school.
Drop kids at their play dates.
Update RSVP list for housewarming.
Check email. Delete spam.
Pay Rosalie.
Pick up kids from respective play dates.
Cook dinner.
Try to eat dinner.
Get kids ready for bed.
Sit here and listen to husband talk about bumping into all our friends in the city.

“Are you listening to me?” Peter asked.
“No, I’m not.”
“You are so funny.”
“No, I’m not.”
“The landscaper is coming tomorrow. He’s going to deal with the rose bushes once and for all.”
“Oh. I forgot to prune them.”
“We’re getting rid of them. They don’t fit the house.”
“We can’t. Mr. Waters planted them. I promised his kids we wouldn’t dig them up.”
“You were okay with tearing down old man’s house, but you want to leave his flowers?”

Bob wondered whom Peter was calling an old man? He was a spry 66 when a heart attack killed him. He had walked into the kitchen and had been eavesdropping on their conversation since Peter had come home.

“I think the bushes are beautiful,” said Susan. “It’s sweet he planted them for his wife.”
“Yes, yes it’s very romantic,” said Peter. “But let’s be practical.”
“Oh, you mean like this house?” Susan shot back. “The roses stay.”
“The landscaping has to be finished before the party. Susan, we have to get rid of those nasty rose bushes.”

Bob couldn’t take it anymore. He had planted those bushes after his wife’s accident. He promised her once he retired they would travel and he’d spend more time with the family. She died two weeks after he took the commuter train into the city for the last time. Those bushes were his life the twelve months before his heart attack and he wasn't going to let Peter disparage them. Couldn’t Peter see? Bob used to be like him.

Bob pushed a glass off the counter and it shattered sending shards racing across the tile floor and startling Peter nearly out of his skin.

“I guess Mrs. Waters doesn’t like my idea,” Peter said trying to pretend he wasn’t freaked out.
“Mrs. Waters is not a ghost in this house.” Susan smiled and gave her husband a kiss.
“Ask the landscaper to help you nurse the rose bushes back to health. I’m going upstairs to change. Save me some of that wine.”

Susan picked up a broom and swept up the glass.
“Thanks Mr. Waters.”
“You’re welcome,” Bob said. He knew Susan couldn’t hear him. He ran out to tell the roses the great news.

I drew Soccer Mom in Denial's idea.
A. A ghost visiting his former house. A living couple is gently aruging over how to decorate the house.
B. The ghost lived in the house most of his life, raised his family there and lived alone in it after his beloved wife Rose died. He tended rose bushes in her memory. One partner of the couple wants to make changes now the other isn't in a hurry. The rose bushes haven't been tended to in a while.
C. The ghost overhears someone say "those nasty rose bushes" have to be removed.


Jenn in Holland said...

Wow. So well told. I love the ideas and the way you developed them into a really lovely tale. And I am really glad that the roses stay!

Anonymous said...

ooooh... I LOVE this piece! It has such a great sense of humanity to it.

Thalia's Child said...

Absolutely lovely! Susan is a good lady

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Oh, NYC, I loved this! For a group whose members keep saying they don't know what they're doing, there are some really great pieces here. Bob and Susan are just great, and I have this sense that Bob is going to turn Peter around. Gorgeous writing!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thank you everyone! Your comments made my day.

anno said...

"Nasty rosebushes"!?! I'd say Bob showed admirable restraint in not throwing the glass at Peter! I love the tone and pace of this story, and I'm amazed at how much you were able to develop the characters in such a limited space. Wonderful story!

gibber said...

This is a great story. It makes me a bit sad!

Luisa Perkins said...

Beautifully done! I can see the scenes perfectly.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

anno - ha. I think Bob felt sorry for Peter. thanks for the compliment. Trying to tell a story in this medium was challenging but fun.

gibber - aww, thanks.

luisa - thank you.

Wholly Burble said...

This story was very touching. And it was just wonderful that she knew it was MR. Waters, not his wife, who influenced Peter to keep the roses--great little tidbit there!

My I could just read on, you've got a fascinating premise going, and quite a friendship developing between Bob and Susan--together they just might get Peter to see the light.

capitolady said...

wow, kinda chilling at the end! I like it!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thank you Wholly and Capitolady!