This short story focuses on a character named Beck, whom I've written a little about in previous entries. I've punched out a few snippets of his story, which I keep thinking is worthy of something novel-length. Oh well... maybe I'll get to it one of these days, after I've cleaned the other writing projects off of my plate.
Title: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Word Count/Warnings: 575 words, rated PG-13 for some crude inner monologue.
Author: Graham Smith
Tansley screams in my ear. I simply pat her back and stroll through the shack once again. “Come on,” I whisper for the seventeenth time. “Just stop crying. Stop crying. Everything is okay. Please stop crying.”
The six-month-old doesn’t understand what I’m saying. That, or she can understand me, and simply doesn’t give a shit about me or my needs. I know it’s the first one, that’s there’s no real way she can understand me. But, in my delirious state of sleep deprivation, I get a little laugh out of the first thought.
“You can’t understand a word I’m saying,” I coo softly, covering my little shack in five steps again. I happen to glance at the clock radio by the table on my pass, and notice it's three-twenty-five in the morning. I have to be at work in three hours and thirty-five minutes.
In my most sickeningly sweet voice, I say, “If I ever see your mom again, I’m going to beat her in the head with a wrench. Yes, I am. Yes, I am.”
Of course, I will never do that. I am not a violent person, by any stretch of the imagination. But, after her short-lived, despondent attempt at motherhood, Amanda disappeared from our apartment months ago. Unable to raise the baby by myself, I left Tansly with my parents and drove west, finally stopping at a little town in New Mexico, deep in the Mojave desert.
I’m not sure how Amanda found me. But she did, two days ago, and she brought Tansly. After one night together, one night where she waved our old relationship in my face, reminded me of what we could have had together, she disappeared. Again.
And she left the baby with me. Again.
I can’t be late for work again. It’s the only thing keeping gas in my car. The only thing keeping food in my stomach. The only thing keeping me in the pathetic little shack in the middle of the desert.
I have to be at work in three hours and thrity minutes.
Tansly screams louder, for some unknown reason.
“Just shut up and go to sleep,” I whisper soothingly, trying to bounce her a little in my arms. It simply elicits more screams.
I am so sleepy that I can barely stand, but somehow I get the front door open and step outside into the cool evening. Nothing stays hot for long in Mojave nights, so I cuddle the baby a little closer to me in the chilly air. She’s wrapped in a blanket; there’s no way she should be able to feel anything beyond its warm embrace. Still, she manages to find something to scream about.
Tansly’s not hungry. She ate three hours ago, when she first woke up. Her diaper isn’t dirty. She’s just crying the “Screw you, I’m a baby!” screams of an unhappy toddler.
I want to call my mom and ask what to do. But it’s the middle of the night. Not to mention that she’s an hour ahead of me, back in Wisconsin. It’s even closer to morning, for her, although she’s probably been in deep, deep sleep for hours now.
I have to be at work in three hours and twenty-five minutes.
“It’s just a phase, it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase,” I tell myself as I tread, dream-like, semi-conscious, in circles under the clear, black sky of the Mojave.