Short Story ROUGH DRAFT: The Ride

This a rough draft of a short story I wrote last night. It needs a lot of work, but the main ideas are in there somewhere:

The Ride

“Stop looking at your phone! You’re gonna kill us! Just tell me which song you wanna listen to and I’ll put it on, got it?” Corey educated.

“I don’t know which song I want to hear, dear. That’s why I’m looking! Besides, it’s Sunday morning; it’s dead out here—not a car in sight. I know how to drive”, was Shawn’s retort. Being spoken to like the whole world needed explaining was one of Shawn’s biggest pet peeves. Maybe it was the Doctoral degree, or the recent “Service Provider of the Year” award. Maybe it was a childhood riddled with criticisms and critiques, but Shawn simply could not stand being talked to like a child. No. Simply will not stand it! “Just put on something fun. I’m sick of all this boring, depressing shit. Put on something loud and fun. Something to wake me up.”

Corey wasn’t much of a music fan, more of an artist, a crafter, a maker of things. Choosing the right song was always a game of Russian Roulette—Shawn was extraordinarily picky about music, so Corey just put it on shuffle and ducked.

Shawn: “The La Bamba soundtrack?! Really?! You think that’s what I want to hear right            now?! What is wrong with you?

Corey: “I put it on Shuffle, Asshole! Just pull over. I’ll drive and you can put on whichever song you want, got it! It doesn’t matter to me.”

Shawn turned the stereo off and shoved the phone violently into the glove box, so Corey wouldn’t touch it—more as a dramatic gesture than any real concern. The rain made the road a bit slick so this gesture nearly cost them their lives as the wheel jerked right and the car hopped with a little swerve. This alarmed Corey because it was practically a near-death-experience and alarmed Shawn because it might justify Corey’s previous concern.

Shawn, coiled like a snake, looked at Corey, waiting for the I-told-you-so, but a straight face and forward-facing glare through the windshield was the move of the moment. After a beat…another beat. Semi-apologetically, Shawn bantered, “So what’s the deal with the mortgage? Are we gonna get it or not? We already fixed up the garage and remodeled the bathroom. What do those blood-sucking goons down at the bank want anyway? I can’t wait to move and get out of this awful town—move to Miami. Sit in the sun. Forget about this whole damn place.”

Corey: “Oh my god. Just shut up for one second, please. We’re not moving to Miami. We haven’t even sold the house yet. It’s not even on the market yet! You always do this. You’re always in the clouds; that’s why I had to support you when you wanted to go back to school for Philosophy—as if that’s realistic. How much were you imagining you’d make as a professional Philosopher, Shawn? 30$ an hour? 40? You know, I’m sick of always being the level headed one. I’m sick of babysitting you. I’m sick of paying the bills while you sit around and dream all day. Can you please, just drive? I need to relax for just one second. Got it?”

Shawn: “At least I am still dreaming. You act like you’re already dead. Well, you’re            not. We’ve been through so much, you know. We’ve been through bankruptcy.”

Corey: “Thanks to someone’s need to pursue a doctorate in philosophy”

Shawn: “We’ve been through cancer.”

Corey: “Oh please, you were barely around. I went through cancer. You went through Tinder.”

Shawn: “Oh God! Do we really have to go through this again?! I thought we were past this. I told you. I was depressed. Lonely. Scared. Weak. I was desperate to do anything…have any conversation that wasn’t about cancer. It wasn’t easy for me either you know.”

Corey: “Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t know my cancer was so hard on you? I’ll try to get a different life-threatening illness next time. I think you can still fuck me if I get Diabetes—though I might gain weight. What do you think? Deal breaker? Yes? No?

Shawn: “Look, I said I was sorry. What else can I do? I don’t have a time machine, you know.”

Corey: “Actually, I don’t think you ever did apologize for real. You’ve made excuses. You’ve talked about apologizing. But I don’t think you’ve even ever said a simple fucking ‘I’m sorry’. Do you realize how unbelievably infuriating that is. Just stop talking to me. I’m done having this conversation. Got it?!”

Shawn: “Fine. You brought it up. All I was saying is that we can do anything. We’ve always been able to bounce back. No matter what. I’m not saying it’s gonna be            easy. It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna take a while. But once we get out of here and leave all this shit behind, put it in the past, we can start fresh. Anywhere we want. Start over ”

Corey: “We can’t just start over. God! You’re so fucking delusional! AHHHG! {punching the dashboard loudly} Do you really think we can just ‘start over’            {mockingly}”

Shawn: “ Look. I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. I’m just saying that we can get through this together. Believe me. It’s hard for me to get up in the morning too. My heart is broken too. No one is more angry…and sad that Jesse’s gone…”

Corey: “ And whose fault is that?”

Shawn: “What?! What did you just say?

Corey: “You heard me.”

Shawn: “What?! Are you trying to say that it’s my fault our son is dead?!”

Corey: “That’s exactly what I’m saying!”

Shawn: “How dare you?! You evil little… no one loved Jesse more than me. No one! Not you. Not god. No One! I haven’t slept in days! I haven’t eaten once or taken a solid shit. I am devastated! I can’t believed you’d have the gall to…you know what? Actually, I can. I can definitely believe you would say some malignant shit like that. You’re so caustic and vindictive…and you wonder why I was cheating…”

Corey: “Oh, is that why you were a cheating coward? Is that also why you had drunk all night at the party? Because you were so depressed to be married to me? {in a child’s voice} you poor widdle babyyyy. Is that why you couldn’t stop drinking and drove home drunk and killed Jesse?! No! It’s because you’re a goddamned alcoholic. You’re a piece of shit alcoholic that killed my only child, and now, for the rest of my life, Christmas will be the anniversary of Jesse’s death instead of a happy time to look forward to, like it is for everyone else. I probably won’t even be able to enjoy a glass of wine anymore for fear of turning out like you. So just shut up and drive! Got it?!”

Shawn wouldn’t say another word for fear of loosing control and erupting into a burst of violence. Of course the thought had come to mind, but still, it’s not something a decent human being says out loud. Surely, Jesus wouldn’t have accused anyone of killing his or her only child—not if it was clearly an accident. The cemetery where the whole Franklin family was buried was out of town in a distant suburb, so the excruciating drive was longer than normal—longer than it should be. The next many minutes were pure silence. Jesse’s coffin lay with a heavy silence in the back of the hearse. Eventually, Shawn spoke, “Thanks for doing this with me. I think this is how Jesse would have wanted it—us, together, holding the ceremony, without strangers or ‘Professionals’.”

Corey: “It’s weird, Shawn. You think I want to be seen parading through town in a hearse, with Jesse, dead in the back. It’s creepy.”

Shawn: “I just want us all to be together, for as long as possible. I don’t want to waste whatever precious minutes together we may have left.”

Corey: “We’re not together. Jesse’s dead. See? You are always so delusional. I just want to get this over with and go home. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m too young. Jesse’s too young. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? Oh my god, this is a nightmare…”

Shawn: “I told you; We can leave all this in the past and move to Miami or somewhere nice and we can start all over.”

Cory: “All Over?! I’m 46! I’m too old to just start over. What do you think I want to have more kids and walk them to their first day of school, have great big birthday parties and go to graduation ceremonies and we can name one Suzy and little Ned, oh, he’ll be the first with blonde hair, and his dimples are so cute I can just pinch them now. No! I had a family. I lost. It’s over.”

Shawn: “It’s not over. You still have a family. You still have me. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this.”

“Don’t tell me not to worry!!!” Corey reached across the console, grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it hard pulling the car off the road, over the sidewalk and onto a lawn, headed toward a house. Shawn jerked back to the left trying to avoid the two girls in bright pink raincoats walking up the driveway, while slamming on the brakes as hard and fast as possible. Grass flew and flipped up in the air—the rained mud was splashing all around as the car slid to a halt just in time. The little anonymous girls screamed and ran into the garage. “Don’t tell ME not to worry! I fucking hate you! ArrGGHHHH!” screamed Corey. They both got out of the car and stood in the street.

Shawn: “What the hell was that!? You psycho. You could have killed us, or worse, those little girls.”

Corey: “Oh, look who’s so concerned about car accidents all of a sudden! A little late, Shawn!”

Shawn: “Car accident?! That was more like a car-on-purpose, you maniac! What the hell were you thinking?!”

Corey: “I’m thinking I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be in the same car as you; I can’t be in the same life.”

Shawn: “So killing us is the answer? Look…Corey…look…we need each other’s love and support now, more than ever.”

Corey: “Not me. I’m done. I can’t handle this anymore. I can’t handle…you. I don’t ever want to see you again or hear your voice again or deal with anymore of your goddamned bullshit.”

Shawn: “ Good, because neither do I!… But let’s just get through the funeral. Let’s just make it through today and take it from there.”

Corey: “No. I can’t. I want a divorce. I can’t bear this anymore, all this pretending like everything is all right or that it’s going to be. Every time I look in your face I Jesse, but not the way I want to, I don’t see happy Jesse, smiling, laughing, falling asleep quietly. I see my baby, in pieces, bleeding from everywhere. I see my baby on a table, motionless, because I had to identify the body while you slept off the alcohol in your comfy hospital bed. I can’t see you one more time, or I might kill you! I might kill myself—at least then I’d never have to feel like this anymore. Like I spent 46 years building a giant skyscraper, slaving over attention to every detail, lugging brick after brick to build something I could stand on and be safe and be happy, only to have 46 years of steel and cement crash down on me all at once. I don’t even know what life is anymore. I don’t know what I’m gonna do or where I’m gonna go or what I want. But it’s not you. This is too much. Got it. Take Jesse to the funeral. I’ll pack my bags while you’re there and be gone before you get home.”

Shawn: “You’re not going to the funeral?! How can you…”

Corey: “I’ll go to the cemetery later, when you’re gone. I’ll say goodbye to Jesse alone.”

Shawn: “I can’t believe you’re just gonna abandon us. How selfish. You can’t even go to your own…”

Corey: “ I’m not abandoning Jesse, Shawn. I’m abandoning you.” Corey walked up to the car, opened the rear door and put her hand on the coffin, whispering what may have been a prayer.

Shawn: “You’re not serious? Don’t throw a tantrum. This is ridiculous. Now lets get back in the car and get going before the rain picks up again.”

Corey didn’t respond or even look in Shawn’s direction, just walked across the street and lumbered down the alley, second-rain falling down as the train shook the tracks on their wooden stilts. Shawn had no choice but to get back in the hearse and drive toward the cemetery. The woman who’s lawn Jesse was parked on came out to ask what the hell was going on, but when she saw the hearse and heard the heartbreaking argument, she saw what it was. She went inside, maybe to dry the little girls in bright pink coats. Shawn, as much in shock as angry or sad, drove slowly, barely idling, hypnotized in the driver’s seat. With the cemetery in the rearview mirror, Shawn reached back with a touching hand and sang a song she didn’t know the words to, day-dreaming or sleep walking or maybe just staring down a grey road converging at a distance with the horizon—no place to go.


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