Pretty Short, Trifecta Challenge

The Green Line

Your ex has a weak case. Flimsy, my lawyer says, and gives a little snorty laugh into her coffee mug. The mug advertises her services as a ‘Law Diva‘ and she sets it down on a photograph of a baby, made into a mouse pad. The bubbles on the surface of the coffee pop softly, one by one.

I can’t lose my son, I say.

Don’t worry, she says.

Her mobile phone rings. She makes an apologetic noise and swings her desk chair around to face the window. I can see the top of her head, stiff with hair spray.

Well, she says, did you take her temp? She snorts again. No, I can’t come home now. I have three more clients.

Outside the window, a crane hauls something heavy upwards.

***

Let’s take the tube to the end of the line.

His eyes widen.

Where does it stop?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

He stands in front of the colourful map, chin straining upwards, straight blonde hair falling back from his face, and chooses the line that goes furthest away.

It’s not to scale, I say. But green is his favorite color, so that’s the line we choose. I buy him a packet of crisps and a Mars Bar, because he asks.

Don’t you have to go to work?

I shake my head. He munches thoughtfully. I help him push through the turnstile.

When we get there, it’s what I expected. I think I may have been here before. We cross a car park and over a triangle of grass, dotted with broken-off saplings, each inside its own battered wire fence. On the other side there’s a brick wall. I lift him onto the top, holding him round his waist while he dangles his legs over the other side. He points at things: a church spire, a shop window, a bright red sports car.

This is the best day, he says, with a slow starting smile. Where do we go now?

[xnihilo]

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15 thoughts on “The Green Line

  1. Cobbie's World says:

    Stories that revolve around children go to core of my heart. You did a good job contrasting the impatience of the parent-lawyer with the desperation of the mother-parent in the custody case. I am assuming that she is running with the child at the end. How awful to care so much and be placed in a position to lose it all. Where will they go? Abso-freakin’-lutely!

  2. As always, absolutely amazing writing…though I assumed it was the other parent taking the child while the first parent was at the lawyer’s office. Wasn’t able to distinguish which was mom or dad (or mom and mom, dad and dad, for that matter).

    What I did discern was the anguish both of them would be feeling. The small details are so powerful. In fact, when reading about the bubbles in the mug, I could almost hear a clock ticking on that office wall. Another wow.

  3. I don’t if it’s because my mind always goes to the worst case scenario (little Polly Positive over here), but what I got from the ending is that the mother is about to take a nose dive off the brick wall with her kiddie in tow–and that ending was like a smack in the face.

    I do so love your writing, X! You’ve totally nailed that distracted, disinterested lawyer, and you keep just the right emotional distance with your subtle treatment of the mother’s distress.

    • I think that stories that don’t fill in all the blanks are far more interesting, don’t you? I recently read about the Kuleshov effect and am trying to work on giving the reader just enough but not all of the puzzle pieces.

  4. I too love your writing and I also thought it was the other parent. What I enjoyed most was the tiny little mundane details that make up a life, the shared love of the color green, potato chips and candy. This was quite full of color and weighed by resignation.

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