When I was digging through old folders looking for Snackademics the other day, I came across many more fiction pieces I'd written in pursuit of a college degree. Most of them are quite short, so I will share a few of my favorites. This one is called "The Tale's End", and while it is not autobiographical, it does feature my apartment on S. Division across from Elbel Field, and a rain storm which really did happen.
Ting. Yelling and cheering. "Safe!" Ting. More yelling and cheering. Clara sat reading on the couch in her apartment living room. With the slider door wide open, she let in the cool, summer breeze and the sounds of the intramural softball game from the field across the street. Everything seemed right - everything was at peace. There was no homework to occupy her time, last week's blazing heat wave had subsided to tolerable 70s, and a good day at work had brought her back home again free to enjoy the setting sun and a good book.
Clara liked to read by the fading daylight until she could no longer see the words on the page and she had to turn on a lamp. Sometimes after dark she would sit on the balcony in the night air and read under the porch light, or prop herself up in bed and read until she fell asleep and dropped her book. But always, always she would read. If she wasn't reading that summer, then she was working, showering, or asleep and dreaming about the stories she read.
Clara read fiction. Short stories, long stories, kids' stories, old stories. She liked to be an observer in the lives of the characters. She liked the vicarious relationship she had with books. If she was reading, then she didn't have to be interesting in her own life. Clara was shy, though she was not unhappy. The thing was, Clara had liked a boy once, last fall, and she had found herself thinking about him all the time. But she had a lot of schoolwork during that time, and often discovered that she had trouble thinking about anything for very long because she only wanted to think about the boy. Now, this was bad, not only because Clara didn't have time enough to do her schoolwork and think about him, but she certainly didn't have time to read on top of all that. And Clara loved to read.
Months passed, school passed, and the boy remained; he didn't leave her mind and he didn't enter her life. This distressed Clara. It was like a story with no end - and Clara couldn't stand to not finish reading a story, even a boring one. So she gave him up. Life's real stories never tied themselves up in neat little packages with happy endings, or endings at all, so she decided to go back to her books. And it was summer now and she could devote all of her free time to reading.
As Clara turned the page, she noticed the sky had become very dark, though it was only 6:30. Clouds formed across the horizon and foretold of rain. One drop after another fell to the earth and the wind rushed faster through the trees. Clara could see the softball teams disbanding and heading for their cars as a long, loud, low rumble sounded from the impending storm.
Clara put down her book and went out onto the balcony. The third floor balcony umbrella-ed her on the second floor as she stood gazing toward the heavens. She saw the flickers of lightning illuminate first one side of the sky and then the other as if they were two factions engaged in civil war. And what a violent struggle it was, as the wind slashed harder and harder through the leaves and caused the trees to bend and shiver. Even the third floor balcony could no longer protect Clara from the barrage of water now pouring down her face and drenching her clothes. The rain fell so fast and hard that the dirt patch that used to be the softball field flooded and became part of a small current following gravity down the street. Right battled left across the sky then receded past the horizon. The volleys of rain sputtered and ceased, and the wind blew away, herding the storm perpetually on.
But who had won the conflict, was it north or south, east or west? The struggle had passed before the winner had been determined. Had peace been reached? But peace without a winner, without an end?
The softball teams emerged again from their cars, and pointed at their field, still flooding down the street. One of them turned up a football, so they tossed their mitts aside and organized a muddy football match-up. Cheering and laughing ensued as mud-covered cavorting replaced tinging bats and base running.
Clara remained drenched and wondering on her balcony overlooking the muddy field. Who had won the game before the sky's civil war? And what of this new game, had the sides even remained the same? She retreated back inside, but did not pick up her book again. Instead she took out some paper and wrote: "Life's stories have no end except for when it is really over, and there is no life left to know it. One tale pours into the next and we never will find out what happens - only one page at a time."
Clara tacked the scrap of paper to the wall beside the door and went out to play football.
I also found the penultimate draft of this piece in the folder when I was picking this out. I had ended it a sentence earlier, but my teacher had written "Clara needs to get out more" on the bottom, so I must have tacked the last sentence on to appease him. That's probably not what he meant, but I think it's funny.