Rachel


The following is not my first attempt at creative writing, but it’s the only one I’d ever share with the world. I wrote it back in 2006, if I remember correctly. I had no knowledge of concepts like fridging at the time, which is what I did here, so sorry for that…

I wrote this for a creative writing class I took back at Georgia Perimeter College. It originally was gonna be a story about the myth of Robert Johnson and his pact with Satan. That wasn’t working out, so it turned into this. Kind of a sad, yet hopeful short story about a guy who lost his wife and how he was dealing with it.

I’m sure, after reading this, you’ll all understand why I decided not to get into Creative Writing. I’m really just not that good at it. Which is frustrating, because I have ideas… I just can’t get them down of paper. And this only managed to come out this way after numerous drafts and tons of feedback and constructive criticism from the teacher and the class, all of whom I have much respect for to this day.

But anyways… enjoy it or don’t. Either way… I’m putting it here. 🙂

Robby Jones sat on the stage of the Black Dog Pub, watching hands smack each other in the air.  He had been quite shocked at the turnout.  He never thought delta blues was this popular today.  But then again, Robby knew why they had come.  It wasn’t because of the delta blues, it was because of him.  When he had come back to the Pub after touring around with one of the new-age punk bands he loathed, he started having a turn-out he never had before.  This large, dank pub just barely fit all the drunkards, fools, and hopeful fangirls that wanted to see him.  People said he was the best guitarist of the day (though he was quick to disagree).  He could play it all, from Bukkah White to Audioslave, and everything in between.  When playing band songs and white-man blues, he had a backing band, and that usually included a singer, especially if he was doing Led Zeppelin, since some of those notes he just couldn’t hit.  Not that Robby liked playing with backing bands, but certain group music just sucked to him without the whole shebang.

Tonight, however, he was doing one-man stuff.  He had wanted tonight to be intimate, because he knew the crowd.  It was Thursday.  The pub’s Thursday crowd was always the intimate crowd.  While it was the largest crowd, they were the friendliest.  These were the homegrown people.  These were New England’s nice people.  These were the people New Yorker’s were ashamed of.  Robby loved these people.  They were content to sit back, drink their beer slow, and listen.  Most of the girls were beautiful, yeah, but this was the only crowd where the girls weren’t umpteen-year-olds hoping to be taken to Robby’s bed.  Robby liked this crowd because he was most like them.  In New York and those places he was always told he was too nice to be from New England.  He had to be a Southern wannabe.  And he was damn proud of it.  So for his favorite listeners, he played the most intimate form of music he knew, Delta Blues.

As they cheered for him, Robby’s mind wandered to the memory of his wife, as it always did since she had died.  During the last night he had toured with one of the punk bands (he couldn’t remember which, not that he cared), his wife, while driving to see him play a show, had been killed by a drunk driver going to see him play the same show.  Robby had felt responsible (still did even now).  His wife hadn’t wanted to come, but he had needed the support that night.  He had begged her to come.  He had been unable to go on that night after finding out.  The damn singer of the punk band had told him to get over it and get on stage.  Robby probably shouldn’t have broken the singer’s nose before the singer had gone on stage, but he deserved it, and it had made Robby feel a little better, at least for that moment.

The sudden stop of the cheering brought Robby back into reality.  He looked around at the crowd.  They were looking at him expectantly.  He had wanted to end the night there, but they obviously wanted another song.  So Robby spoke into his mike.

“I intended to finish this here, but I’ll give all of you one more, seeing as how you’ve all been so great.  So here goes one more.  A little blues song by an obscure artist about losing someone you love.”

It was a short song, but Robby sang it with all his heart.  When he finished, the crowd erupted into cheers again.  He looked at the tables closest to the stage, and noticed a couple women in front crying.  He had touched them.  He was happy.  Well, as happy as he could be.

“Good night, everyone,” Robby said into the mike.  “I have to go away for a little while, but I will definitely be back.”

As he got off the stage, his favorite waitress, Sandy, walked over with his check.  “You’re real soulful when you play, Robby.”

“Thanks, Sandy.  How’s school?”

“It’s good, thanks for askin’.”  Sandy was studying to be a nurse.  Robby envied her for having her life set in stone.

“Well, I best be goin’ Sandy.  I gotta early mornin’.”

“Catchin’ that train, after all, huh?”

“I’m drivin’.”

“That’s right, you finally got you’re car workin’.”

“Yeah.  Well, have a great night, Sandy.”

“You, too.”

Robby started to pass Sandy, but she grabbed his arm.  “You gonna be all right, man?”

“I’ll be fine, Sandy.”

“Robby… call me, okay?  Talk to me.  Let me help if I can.”

“Sure,” said Robby.  He would, just not as soon as she’d like.

Robby clasped her hand, and then moved towards the door of the Pub.  He passed Debra on the way out, and waved.  She and a few others waved back.  He headed towards the door, where he said goodbye to the head bouncer, J.Z.  He was a tall, scruffy man, and very strong.  Robby was ashamed to admit he was rather scared of the guy, so he kept on his good side.

Robby walked out into the street, passing other customers on their way in.  He waved to John “Jagged” Mayall, John’s girlfriend Sarah, and Nigel Leons, three British people who were always good for a laugh, or, in John’s case, a bar-fight, before finally getting in his car and leaving the Pub behind.  He watched it disappear in the distance through his rearview mirror.  He was going back to the cottage in Cape Cod.  The place was his solitude.  He could think freely there.

Before he looked back at the road, Robby studied his face in the rearview mirror.  He had shaved this morning, but his facial hair grew quick.  Too quick.  If he let it go three more days he would have a full beard and mustache again.  He contemplated for a moment, and decided he’d let it grow, but he’d keep it trimmed.  He didn’t like looking wild.  But his eyes didn’t help that.  He hated his eyes.  Sandy always found them captivating.  They were hazel, but there was a fire there.  A wild fire, too.  That’s what he hated.  He always looked hungry for something.  He always thought his wild eyes made him a look like a killer, which, as far as Robby was concerned, was true.  He should have never insisted his wife come.  He may as well have killed her.

Robby pulled into a gas station to get some gas and a couple cans of Amp.  He had a five-hour drive ahead of him, so he needed to be alert.  He pulled in, turned off his car, got out, and, ignoring the smell of gasoline, walked into the station.  He grabbed his Amp, went to cashier, and paid with cash.  He decided to use his card to get the gas.  He walked out to pump, put in his car, chose unledded, and began to fill up his tank.  As it filled, Robby looked out at the street.  It was dark, but there were lots of lights.  Hundreds of cars passed.  Robby watched as he saw one familiar car drive by in slow motion.

It was him and his wife.  She was laughing.  He was telling her a joke.  It was a parrot joke.  She had loved parrot jokes.  They were her favorite because they were the funniest.  And Robby had agreed with that.  He loved parrot jokes, too.

The sound of the gas pump stopping brought him back to reality.  The car he saw he and his wife in passed by, the couple he didn’t recognize laughing over something he didn’t know.  He had the machine print his receipt, closed up the gas tank, got in his car, and drove off.  He opened a can of Amp, put Led Zeppelin II in the CD player, and let himself drive.  The five hours went by instantly, and he was at his cottage.

He had not gotten one of those secluded, in-the-middle-of-nowhere cottages.  His wife had seen a for-sale add for a sort of double-cottage on Sweetbriar Drive in Chatham.  The larger of the two was called the Mariner, and the smaller was called the Surfer.  They were connected by a nice patio.  He had told her no, but he bought the cottage as an Anniversary gift.  She never knew it, though, because she had died the night before their anniversary, when he meant to take her there as a surprise.  He had still gone, and had put a picture of his wife in the family room of the Mariner.

“Here you are, sweetie,” he had said.  “I got it after all.  I hope you’re happy with it.  I hope you like it.”  Then he had cried. For hours.

Robby got out of his car and picked up his guitar from the back seat.  At that moment he saw Kathy, a selfish, funny, typical 16-year-old girl roller-blading towards him.

“Hey, picker!”

“Hello, Kathy.”

“How many times do I have to tell you?  It’s Kay.”

“And how many times to I have to tell you?  It’s not picker.”

“Why am I supposed to care?”

“Oh, that’s right.  I forgot.  You’re 16.  It’s all about you.  How long you been here?

“Since summer started.”

“It’s over soon, though.”

“Yeah, soon.  Then back off to stupid school.  Hey, see you around.  I got somewhere to go.”  Kathy bladed on past him.  Robby smiled, shook his head, and walked on.  From the cottage behind him, called The Tower by it’s owners, The Henderson’s, who were renting the Tower, called his name and waved.  He waved back, but sped up just a little.  He didn’t want to talk to them.  They were newlyweds.  Last time they were here on their honey-moon.  They must have really loved it, because they were back.  They were happy.  They were together.  And he doubted tragedy would strike them, such good, honest, upstanding people.  Robby hated them.

Robby walked quickly up to the Mariner.  It wasn’t that big, but it was peaceful.  The patio in front was a light blue color with white rails.  Both of the cottages were white, with the exception of the outside of the living room area of the Mariner, which was just its natural, wooden color.  He walked onto the patio and into the mariner, walking right in to the kitchen.  He cooked and ate here, and the main bathroom was in here as well.  There were two bedrooms on his right.  He preferred the one towards the back of the cottage, because it got darker at night in there.

Robby brought his guitar to the front bedroom, where he kept his summer clothes and belongings, and many music books, when his cell phone vibrated.  He answered it without bothering to see who it was.

“Hello?”

“Robby?  Hi.  It’s Sandy.”

“Did I leave something at the pub?”

“Of course not.  You never do.”

“Then why…”

“I can’t call just to say hi?”

“Of course… I mean… you know… I…”

“That‘s okay.  Are you at your cottage?”

“Yeah.”

“And you get service out there?”

“I have Cingular.  You know, more bars, more places?”

“Raising the bar.  Guess you would get service in Chatham with them.  So, how are you feeling?”

“Well, besides how I felt at the Pub?”

Sandy laughed.  “Yes.”

“You know.  It’s been a long day, and a long tour.  I’m–”

“Tired, I figured.”

“Yeah.”

“You looked it.  You sound it, now.  You gonna get some sleep?”

“No.  I can’t.”

“How come?”

“Oh, you know… I just… I can’t get over it.”

He heard Sandy sigh.  “So you blame yourself?”

“I had insisted she come.  She didn’t want to.”

“And you knew she would get hit how?’

“I don’t understand.”

“Come on.  Of course you do.  It’s simple.  You needed her there.  You wanted her there.  You couldn’t have known she’d be hit.  And neither could she.”

“Maybe she should have refused.”

“Now you’re blamin’ her?

“No!  Of course not!  It wasn’t her fault.”

“And it wasn’t yours, either.”

“Sandy–“

“Do you know who’s fault it was, Robby?  It was the drunk driver’s.  I mean, he tried to run, Robby, remember?  Isn’t that what your letter said?”

“Yeah…”

“Blame him.  Okay?  Blame him.  And let the law take care of him.”

“I shouldn’t have–“

“Stop it.  It wasn’t your fault.  It will never be your fault.  And I’m pretty sure your wife would be angry with you for moping around blaming yourself.”

“How would you know?  My wife is dead.  Gonna be kinda hard to know she’d feel.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“Then quit tryin’ to me how my dead wife would feel!”

Robby hung up the phone.

“She was crazy if she thought she could presume what my wife would feel,” Robby thought to himself.  “Damn Sandy.  Always makin’ damn presumptions.  How could she even think to know what my dead wife would feel?”

Robby decided Sandy was right about one thing, though.  He needed sleep.  Robby walked into the back room, and laid down on the bed.  He decided he needed to call Sandy back and apologize, but it could wait for the next day.  He stayed awake for a couple hours, counting the tiles in the ceiling, until he finally fell asleep.

 

Robby spent most of the next morning on the couch in the family room with the TV on.  The picture of his wife was on top of the TV.  He did everything he could to keep from looking at it.  He continually flipped through the channels looking for something, until he heard some background music playing on an old episode of “Walker: Texas Ranger.”  Walker was looking at the picture of a woman, and there was some slow, sad music playing in the background.  He listened for a minute before turning off the TV, getting up, and going in through the kitchen to the front bedroom to get his guitar.  He then brought it back into the family room.  He sat in a chair just in front of the now blank TV, and looked at the picture of his wife.  He started to play.  He wasn’t sure why what he heard had made him want to do this, but it did, so he played, to his wife.

Like the music on the show, what Robby played was slow and sad.  As he played, he thought about his wife.  He thought about how she laughed, and how it was so infectious.  She could light up a room with her laugh.  He thought about her soft, soothing voice, and about all the times her voice had enticed him to bed.  He thought about how she used to just sit in his lap when he was upset, sad, or angry, and just her warmth, her weight, would make him feel better.

He remembered how they had never fought a lot, but when they did, they were always quick to apologize.  He remembered how they would always get along.  They were compliments of each other, Robby and his wife.  She had been his best friend for several years before he asked her out. It took two more years before he asked her to marry him.  Then they got married and lived happily together for a year and a half.  Then she had been killed.

He had been so excited about that one night.  Granted, he had been opening for a crappy new-age punk band, but he was at his height.  And that night, an agent was at the show, looking for fresh talent.  He had wanted his wife at that show to support him, just in case the agent had wanted him.  Plus, he hadn’t seen his wife for over two weeks, and he had been looking forward to seeing her again.  When they talked on the phone, she had said that she didn’t want to go.  She had said she wasn’t feeling that great, but she would have a surprise for him when he got home.  He had insisted, telling her an agent was in the audience and he couldn’t wait any longer to see her.  So she gave in.

Robby now wished he hadn’t insisted.  He remembered being told by the police ten minutes before he was to go on that his wife had been hit by a drunk driver.  She had still been alive and kept asking for him.  He couldn’t believe it.  He was so angry by the news that, at the last minute, agent or no agent, he had refused to go on.  The lead singer of the headlining act had been rather rude.

“Dude.  Fuck your wife.  You’re being paid to go on.  Get your ass on stage and quit being a puss.  You can see her after you’ve finished.”

“My wife may be dead by the time I’m done, asshole,” Robby had responded angrily.

“Mourn after your fucking set, then.”

Robby had punched the guy in the face and broken his nose.  A couple cops went to grab him, but he got out of their way and ran out of the stadium.  He got in his car and drove to the place where the crash had occurred, less than half a mile from the stadium.  A man, the drunk driver, Robby had presumed, was in hand-cuffs, and had been trying everything to get away, to no avail.  Robby had ignored the driver and ran over to where his wife was in a stretcher.  She had still been alive, but barely.  He had started crying when he saw her.

“I’m so sorry, baby.  I’m so sorry.  I should have never asked you to come.  I love you.  I love you.  Stay with me, please?  Stay with me.”

She had opened her mouth to try and say something, but nothing came out.  She had looked awful.  She had been completely wrapped in bandages, and they were already dark red from blood.  He face was horribly bruised and cut.  And her leg, he could see by the foot, had been turned in the opposite of its normal direction.  He had begged the doctors to let him ride with her on the way to the hospital, and they agreed.  Robby and his wife had held hands on the ride, but she had died on the way there.

Now, back in the cottage, Robby’s playing on the guitar turned slower, darker, and more menacing as tears welled up in his eyes.  He looked at the photo of his wife above the cottage’s TV.  Why didn’t he kill himself the night she died?  Why did he agree, one week, later, to playing at the Black Dog for three weeks before coming to Chatham?  Why did he keep going?

In the photo, Robby’s wife was smiling.  She was happy.  She had no idea she was going to die a little under a year later.  But Robby began to realize something as he looked at her photo.  His wife had supported him through his music.  She had never wavered in her support of him or her love for him.  She was by his side as much as she could be.  And she told him to go on.

As Robby remembered that, he realized why he kept going.  He kept going for her.  It wasn’t fair to his wife that he give up.  Sandy was right.  Robby’s wife wanted him to go on.  Robby had to go on.  He had to keep going.  He had to move on.  He had to live his life, for both of them.  He had to live for the child they never had.  He had to do it all for her.  He had to go on.  That’s what would make her happy.

As Robby thought about this, his guitar-playing changed.  It became faster, more upbeat, and happier.  He stopped crying and began to smile.  He began to memorize what he was playing.  This was it.  He would write the lyrics later, if there would be any.  But this was it.  His wife was giving him what he needed.  Not the song; the hope.  The want to continue.  The need to go on.

“Thank you, my love,” said Robby to the picture of his wife as he continued to play.  “I understand.  This one is for you.  This song is you, my wife.  This song is Rachel.”

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About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men. I also play guitar and sing, and I'm an atheist and anti-theist. What now?
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One Response to Rachel

  1. It’s a sweet story, it doesn’t come across to me as “fridging” at all. Sometimes people do lose loved ones, and I saw it as a story of a man trying to cope with grief.

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