A Serious Talk

Sometimes, when I haven't written any fiction for a period of time, I find it useful to simply sketch out a scene. It's usually a snippet of dialogue; sometimes it's a brief description or a fragment of a dream. It's usually short--a couple paragraphs or so.

I've been meaning to put words to a scene I saw last week while jogging on Atlantic Beach. There was a couple having what looked like a very important (but sorrowful) conversation...

He studied her. She was a pretty woman at the cusp of a major change—a tidal shift in her way that would signal the start of a different life for them together. She walked ahead of him on the beach, slowing her gait so he could keep up in the chair.

When they had reached the place where the beach gave rise to sheer rock cliffs and they could go no further, she sat on a stone and patiently waited for him to catch up. The day was cool, the salt air whipping off the ocean to sting rose blooms from her cheeks.

They sat in companionable silence for a time before he spoke; in his mind, he’d practiced the speech until the words were as natural and vivid to him as his condition.

Six years. He had practiced the speech for six years.

“It’s not something I ever intended to have happen,” he said. Internally, he congratulated himself for the steady tone of his voice. “It’s certainly not a thing I’d ever wished to know about. I would have been happier not knowing.”

She turned to face him, the cliff casting half her face in shadow. His wife—her two faces.

“I know,” she replied. “It was an accident, and...”

“I don’t mean that,” he said. “I'm not talking about what happened to me. I'm talking about something that happened to you. And I want you to know that I wasn't trying to be sneaky. The first time it happened, I was just trying to surprise you. You’d left your purse behind, and I didn’t want you to be embarrassed at the check-out line. You didn’t see me, even though I was there. I watched you cross the lobby.”

“The lobby?”

“The first time, it was the Marriot on Wilshire. You’ve been there a lot in the last few years. Thirty-two times, if my math’s right.”

Realization. Keen, sudden realization. Her features crumpled inward, her jaw trembled; she snatched a quick breath.


He turned his wheelchair to face the ocean. The tide was coming in, pushing swaths of foam by incremental lengths with each new wave.

“It’s okay,” he said, his voice low. “I’ve made my peace with it. With all of it. And I love you. I always have.”

She was weeping, the fading sunlight glittering in her tears like shattered glass on the pavement.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

He worked the chair. It was part of him, that chair; six years had seen to that. He went to her, touched her arm.

“I know," he said. "It was an accident,” he said.

He felt wetness on his cheeks and it was all very unexpected when she reached forward and pulled his head to her chest...

There. Now back to my regularly scheduled naval gazing (meaning the sci-fi story I'm working on for 2010)...

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