Friday, May 13, 2011

Short Story: "A Penny for His Thoughts"

Mocha Java Swirl Espresso

by CJ Heck

Libby sat scowling into her medium extra sugar, extra cream, Mocha Java Swirl Espresso.

The small round table wobbled with an audible racket as she shifted the hot paper cup from her left hand to her right, and then back again.

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a folded piece of cardboard to shove under that stupid table leg for stability -- and some blessed silence! She thought to herself, her attitude nearly as steaming as the coffee was.

Libby had to admit, she had never been any good at reading Richard's silences. She tried to remember how long it had been since she and Richard had talked to each other about anything, other than when the dry cleaning should be picked up, or whether the trash cans had been put out by the curb on Tuesday mornings. 

She sighed. Sometimes, what's not said says way more than what is.  She almost didn’t want to know what was behind the silence.

There was a time when she would have just asked, "Hun, what's wrong? Is there something we need to talk about?" But not anymore. The silence had gone on too long now. Besides, there were times when she did politely ask, "Something bothering you, Richard?"

But he always answered the same way, "Nothing, Elizabeth.  Nothing at all."

Maybe she should just leave well-enough alone. Truth was, she was afraid to ask him the exact words, "What is wrong?" now. They weren't married, only living together, and had been for five years. Whatever was wrong would probably hurt and not be something she wanted to hear. Then again, she thought, maybe it's something I need to hear.

Libby's imagination was turning somersaults as she tried to imagine how the conversation might go:

First, I would smile and ask, "Richard? How about a penny for your thoughts?"

He would then say, "Elizabeth? Let's not play games. Would you like to tell me where you're going with this?"

Then, I would say, "Well, you walk around in silence these days, Richard. You never talk to me anymore. Tell me what's going on in your mind ... and in your life, while you're at it."

Then Richard would get haughty. "Elizabeth, you're being ridiculous. Let's stop all of this foolishness, shall we?  You must have things to do.  What time is dinner?"

Then, naturally, I would try again, "Talk to me, Richard ... you know, a penny for your thoughts. Would five or six cents get me the truth and maybe spare my feelings? Richard, come on, play along. How about two nickels then, that's ten cents? Would that sweeten the pot? Or maybe three dimes for two or three honest thoughts -- tell me what you are thinking right now, this very minute."

Of course, Richard doesn't like it when I use sarcasm, so he would probably get angry at this point, Libby thought. "Oh for God's sake, Elizabeth, stop it! I don't know what's gotten into you today! That is enough!  You don't want to push me! You may not like what I'll say. Do not push me with this game of yours, Elizabeth."

If that is truly what he would say, I still wouldn't be able to stop myself, "Okay, Richard, two quarters then. I DO want to know. Will that buy me your thoughts? Wait, I’ll even up it to a dollar for one clear, loving thought. That’s all I want … it’s all I need, but it has to be the truth, Richard. I need to know the truth. What is going on in that head of yours? Do you still love me, Richard?"

Libby slammed back to reality when the hot, medium, extra sugar, extra cream, Mocha Java Swirl Espresso suddenly belched all over her hands, the wobbly, noisy table, her lap, and the floor. She hadn't even realized she was doing it, but during the brief interlude into her imagination, she had squeezed her paper cup hard out of rage and pent up frustration.

As Libby helped the waitress clean up the mess, she couldn't help thinking, "I would never tell him this now, but he could have had me and everything I own forever if, just once, he had talked to me, lovingly talked to me ...

(from the book, "Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul", by CJ Heck)

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"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

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