Of A Summer’s Evening

A man is walking down the sidewalk. It is wide. It is just after sunset.

A woman is walking down the sidewalk. Not toward the man, at least not in an intentional sense; she is walking forward, toward the distant curb, in the opposite direction of the man, who after all is minding his own business, just walking, is all.

It has been determined, by then nearly certainly, that they will pass by their respective right shoulders. To make another choice would require such an effort, on someone’s part, so that Fate might be invoked; Fate, with all her anthropomorphic exculpatory bullshit.

The woman, despite all proper avoidance of eye contact, feels just a single hair brush her cheek, and in sweeping it back ineffectively to her ponytail, she has forgotten the pen, cheap and meaningless and most recently useful in signing off one need or another, she can’t really remember. She walks on.

The man bends, recovers, and proffers. “You’ve dropped your pen,” he says.

She appreciates his contraction, turning back half way, but the curb beckons. “That’s all right,” she allows, and continues on her way.

At home, he does not let go of the pen. He pulls a single sheet from the printer: pristine, regimented, eight-and-one-half by eleven. He opens the drawer, and takes the scissors in hand.


About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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7 Responses to Of A Summer’s Evening

  1. jayne ayres says:

    Two people write. One of whom is totally anonymous about some subject matter that those who know her, would be embarrassed about because, although she is outspoken, she never reveals these words that are the red irredescent candy coating of her heart. The other writer is an actual writer, trained, thoughtful, strategic and intellectually clever. She has read his words, asked questions as to his methods and now wonders, “What in the hell does this new post mean? Is this guy going to literally cut the pen out of his hands because he has OCD and since she couldn’t take the pen, he can’t release it so somehow it makes perfect sense? Is the 8 and one half by eleven sheet too big for his ideas and therefore must be made smaller ?”

    • ernestwhile says:

      Aw, I like your candy coating, too.

      You’re on the right track with the paper. There were two changes I made after the first draft that maybe I shouldn’t have made. Here’s the first version:

      “At home, he puts the pen on the mantel. He pulls a single sheet from the printer: pristine, regimented, eight-and-one-half by eleven, exactly like all the others. He opens the drawer, and takes the scissors in hand.”

      • jayne ayres says:

        That had more premonition and uneasy power…even though I (untrained and all – NOT your target audience) still have no clue what his problem is but it’s ok because I see a progression of actions. I feel more of a Hitchcock fear of what’s coming next with this version. I’m uneasy but still curious. You’re sweet to explain – thanks. I didn’t understand what I was missing. I still don’t but it works for me. J

  2. ernestwhile says:

    Yeah, I thought the first version made him sound a little too much like a serial killer. A token, put into a place of significance; the sense of repetition in the paper; the weaponizing of the scissors. Instead, I had him keep hold of the pen to show he is planning to write; the scissors are only to shape the paper into something more unique and special.

    I had been working on a longer story about the small connections we make every day with other people, and how those exchanges affect the flow of life. Then I saw this exchange happen as I walked home. Most often we just keep plunging ahead and don’t imagine how much influence we have over others’ experiences. So a woman who drops a pen might be in such a rush that she doesn’t want to take the time to recover it; a man who picks it up might be so smitten by her appearance that he wants to write a letter he’ll never send and make it in the shape of a heart.

    On the other hand, he could be like, “hey, free pen!” and she could be so smitten with him that she got overwhelmingly nervous when he spoke, and maybe she ran home to write a blog or a Craigslist Missed Connection.

    (And I have no target audience, except those who want to read… thankfully that’s you!)

  3. wendystrohm says:

    Well, little lady, you dropped your pen
    I’ll use to write something I’ll never send
    I’ve some fine paper here – it ain’t no crepe
    And I’ve cut it to size and in a special shape.
    Maybe you forgot me or maybe not
    I’ll never know – you were gone like a shot,
    Maybe you think I’m some kind of creep
    Well, I just don’t care and your pen I’ll keep!

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