The Conversation

She hadn’t forgotten the relief scrawled all over James’s face when she picked him up in Myrtle Beach. He held her so tight she thought she’d break. She could feel him shudder as he choked back sobs. When she pulled away, his eyes welled up and tears ran down his face. Β She watched him lean over to get his bag, saw the nape of his neck that was replicated in her kids, felt a treacherous tug on her heart. His eyes had filled anew as he turned toward her. “James, what’s wrong?” He stopped. He looked down at her, his brows knit in consternation, “I was afraid I’d never see you again.” She reached for him and held him close.

They started a conversation.
She asked “Why?” Why was he mad at her all the time? Why didn’t he trust her?
He wasn’t mad. He didn’t know what to do. He’d always known who she was. When he came back from Vietnam, she was still there, the same as she was when he’d left. She was committed to her religion, when he was only going through the motions of habit, avoiding the conflict of examining where god went when you were so scared you shit yourself, when families were being blown to bits for reasons nobody knew. She hadn’t pestered him about it, she didn’t ask any questions. He felt that she understood who he was inside.
“I wanted to know. I wanted to know what happened. I didn’t ask you because it wasn’t my business. I thought the church was your reason for living. Then why did you get so mad when I cut my hair?”
“It was beautiful and soft and it smelled good. I liked to touch it before I went to sleep because it meant you were right there, with me. Every day, as soon as I got done work, I went home to get the kids to come see you at the market because I couldn’t wait for you to come home. When you cut it, I thought that was the beginning of the end. You were changing.Β I thought you didn’t love me.”

He said a lot more; private things she hadn’t expected, things he thought she just knew. They’d stayed through the weekend before they drove back home. They’d made it through the intervening years, trudging through some and sailing through others. They had ugly words and sweet words, more words than she’d imagined. In the end, whether she’d chosen her destiny, or they had created it, didn’t matter at all.

About elroyjones

Married, no children, responsibly self-directed, living happily.
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75 Responses to The Conversation

  1. hanslr says:

    I tried to search previous comments but I couldn’t find any. So I have to ask. Is the Cora/James story your own work of fiction? If so, you are an enormously talented writer. And here I only thought you were clever and funny and smart. You need an agent. You need to get published.
    I expect that your answer will be that you are enjoying things just the way they are.

    • elroyjones says:

      Yes, Cora and James are my work of fiction based on an actual event. A young working mother left her family without explanation. She came back in a month or so. Back then, the adult/child worlds were strictly segregated so I was not privy to the reasons for her flight. It is something that has stayed with me for decades.

      I love to write. I don’t much care whether it’s business writing or for my own amusement. I love to do it. I don’t get too caught up in the process because the story is all that matters to me.

      I am a short story writer. I’ve had one piece published, which I would never have known about, since my address was lost at submission, if I hadn’t flipped through the journal at a news stand one day. Getting published is a LOT of work. I don’t have the time to devote to it right now. I have stacks of rejection notices, including a lovely handwritten rejection note from an inordinately kind soul at The New Yorker.

      Thanks very much for your enthusiastic response.

      Have you sold the house yet?

  2. I like that you write about religion even though you have mixed feelings about it. It makes it seem more real that you aren’t just putting your views down. Does that make sense?

  3. Is this the end????????????

  4. Fantastic! I hated to see it end, and I don’t even resent your teasing us with tiny installments. Keep them coming.

  5. John says:

    Well done! (applause!)

  6. trailerdreamer says:

    What a great short story! I stumbled upon this on Freshly Pressed and I am simultaneously happy and mad that I did. You see, it was so good that now I have to go back through and read all the previous entries, and I am sure something else I am supposed to be doing will get neglected! Thanks for the great writing!

  7. Congratulations on being Fresh Pressed. Well done!

  8. sheila says:

    great and intimate story. i just started blogging and stories from great writers like yourself makes me realize i have to keep going and i look forward to getting fresh pressed.

  9. segmation says:

    I am glad that in the end it didn’t matter at all as live is too short to let things bother you, right?

  10. Wonderful writing! I’m trying to improve my own, any advice?

    • elroyjones says:

      I read what I’ve written aloud and edit everything that is unnecessary to the story. The most important part of writing, for me, is the connection I have to the material. No connection, no story.
      Your blog title is compelling and the content is interesting.

  11. omreddy says:

    Superb post, awesome writing.

  12. aravinddeepak says:

    This is great! πŸ™‚
    Hope you like something I’ve written:

  13. I really enjoyed this post. Such easily to read writing, but very deep as well. That is quite a talent to have. Thanks for sharing this, it deserved to be Pressed! Keep it coming, you’ll no doubt draw some hungry readers through this.

  14. eunoic says:

    Great read…so happy to have clicked on this when I saw it on Freshly Pressed.

  15. maesprose says:

    I just finished and really enjoyed it…. I like your writing and your observations. That goes for this story and all of the other stories I read of yours in the last 24 hours.

  16. Ned's Blog says:

    I was SOOO dang excited to see you on Freshly Pressed! Well deserved and overdue. As usual, a beautiful piece which couldn’t β€” nor should have β€” escaped notice. Congrats to you πŸ™‚

  17. so touching and true and rare…even though it is fiction….people rarely speak up whats bothering them…
    lovely read…am glad i came across this…thanks to freshly pressed…best wishes and congratulations!!

  18. How pleasant to find you in Freshly Pressed. A compressed, succinct, well-written piece.

  19. shahnilpa says:

    I saw this on freshly pressed and i must say it is refreshing! Got me thinking- do we choose our destiny? or do we create it….? x

  20. Jean Alphin says:

    Very nice story. I enjoyed it.

  21. Hey freshly pressed πŸ™‚
    Loved this story EJ – didn’t ask if it was fictional or based on fact but read the first comment.. feels like some of my writing so I guess I knew the answer!

  22. Jessica says:

    The detail about recognizing the nape of the neck from her children is lovely.

  23. Doug says:

    Your a rock star Leroy…and I missed the concert. Bic lighter clicking..

  24. I cheated, read most of this at one sitting. It’s very good.

    So many things give the story its temperament. “She did not regret.” — “a confirmation of her existence” — “took good care of her little stash” — “She was embarrassed to admit she envied their freedom.”

    I think the real beauty of it lies in the freckles. πŸ™‚

  25. Excellent series; it really did feel like there was no other choice but to shock him to his senses! The matter-of-fact appraisal of her choices and feelings took nothing away from its emotion; most definitely not gratuitous.
    As an aside……have you found jesus yet?

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