Friday, May 16, 2008

New Fiction Friday

It's a new old project. Something that started itself unexpectedly while I was at the Kenyon Review Workshop last summer. That means it's almost been a year! Maybe revisitng this project means I should make it my June project. This June I will be going for another 50,000 words on just one project.

Set in suburban Detroit, present day. This scene begins the first chapter.

“My John wouldn’t have done that.”

It was a phrase she had grown up with. Grown used to. Grown to expect. To anticipate like a switch. Every time she’d done anything wrong, every time she’d gotten caught in a failed but inventive scheme she’d heard it roll off her step-father’s lips. “My John wouldn’t have done that.” For the past eighteen years she’d been forced into a comparison with a man she’d only seen once and had never really met.

And now, what did her step-father want? He wanted her, her specifically, to call John and bring him home. That’s why she was sitting on the side of her bed dialing the numbers yet again to reach a man who hadn’t lived in the same state as his father for the past twenty years. Hadn’t even lived in the same country for as long as Rebecca could remember. She’d tried to reach him from her step-father’s house twice that morning with no luck. Or maybe more luck than she knew. Frank wouldn’t let her just leave a message. She needed to talk to him, have an actual interactive conversation. So she’d gotten cruel. She knew it wasn’t even 6:00 AM in France and, frankly, she didn’t care. She was the one making a phone call across an ocean at forty dollars an hour.

A woman’s soft, sleepy “Allo?” came across the line followed by what she assumed was pissed off French. She stared at her nails grimacing at the thought that she’d have to get them filled soon.

She wondered briefly if it really was pissed off French or if all French just sounded pissed off.

“John Ramsey,” she said into the receiver not even attempting to speak the same language. It would have been a pointless attempt anyway, she’d forgotten all those basic phone conversation skills Madame Cardner had attempted to drill into her in high school.

No, that was a lie. She could have said “please” to this pissed off French woman that she’d woken up at the crack of dawn. But why would she want to do that? This woman was sleeping with the favorite child, she didn’t need Rebecca’s love.

She listened to shuffling noises through the receiver and more sleepy French in the background. She didn’t attempt to follow the conversation. A man’s voice came on the line.


Damn the French and their allo’s.

“Is this John Ramsey?”

A silence followed without any further French. A gruff “Yeah” followed eventually.

Yeah? At least now she was more inclined to believe this was a guy
who’d grown up in California. “My name is Rebecca Stiehl. I’m calling about Frank Ramsey.”

A delay followed, whether caused by distance or sleep she didn’t know.


“Your father.” This idiot was who she’d been compared to all her life?

“Yeah, Frank. What’s the old bastard up to now?”

She drew in a deep breath. “He’s dying.”

Nothing. No words, no sound, just the crackling of the line costing her a small fortune.

“They’ve given him a couple of weeks, maybe less. He wants you to come home.”

“Oh, God. He...what?” Waking up quickly was obviously not this man’s forte.

“He’s dying.”

“I caught that part, sugar.” His voice pulled the last word out with a drawl she could have sworn was southern. She got angry fast. Angrier. She was not going to be demeaned by a man who
couldn’t figure out where the hell his accent was from.

“Then what do you need clarification on, sir?” It was her fallback voice. Her bestyour pissing me off but I’m in customer service voice.

“Why the hell he wants me home.”

“You’re his son.”

“And why does he want me home?”

Because you’re the perfect one, she thought. “I don’t know why, I didn’t ask why, I was just given this number and told to call. Once you make arrangements to come to back to Detroit let me know and I’ll see that someone picks you up from the airport. Let me give you my number.” She waited for him to find pen and paper, murmuring in French to what she assumed was the woman on his side of the phone. She watched the hands of her beside clock ticking off the dollars.

He finally told her to go ahead and she recited the numbers. He repeated them back to her. “And you’re…?”

She told him her name again.

“Yes, but who are you? How do you know Frank?”

She closed her eyes and wished she didn’t. Wished she didn’t know his son. Wished she didn’t have to do any of this.

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