Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sneeze

At around 9:00 o’clock in the morning I was sitting in my car, on Park Avenue across from the Amtrak parking lot listening to B.B. King sing a duet with Roger Daltrey, the vocalist of The Who.

Between the prestigious college campus and the Morse Museum, Park Avenue was lined with shops and cafes on one side of the street. Across from the upscale boutiques and eateries was the park itself. Large oak trees shaded several blocks of open space. There were benches under some of the trees. The grass of the park was freshly mowed and the bushes of bright red pentas were in full bloom.

I watched as people made use of the parallel parking skills they learned in high school. They maneuvered their cars between the evenly spaced white lines, which became more difficult as the parking spots filled up. In this situation, the compulsion to arrive early paid off. Hungry parking meters lined the sidewalk waiting to eat coins. Those feeding them were literally buying time.

“One hour parking between 9 AM and 6 PM.” Red words painted on white signs.

I heard the clicking of heels and looked in my rearview mirror. The woman carried a large, scarlet leather satchel which matched her pumps. Her heart shaped face was framed with black hair that curved in toward her chin, accentuating perfectly painted red lips. Shoulders back, head erect, she was rushing down the sidewalk as if it were a fashion runway.

Instinct told me that she was late to work. Distracted, she didn’t notice my car or hear the music emanating from it.

She was almost even with my window when she stopped suddenly and sneezed. Then again. And again. She had tried to stifle the first sneeze but the second and third one could not be held back.

“God bless you,” I said, through the open window of my car.

She turned and stared at me silently for a moment. The impression was that of a manikin that had become human against her will.

“Thank you,” she said. In one fluid motion she leaned her head down pushing her hand into her red bag and pulling out a tissue just before another sneeze contorted her face. I watched to see how such a carefully put-together woman could blow her nose without messing her makeup. She dabbed at her nose with the tissue trying not to smudge the outline of lipstick. I looked away.

When I looked back, she had turned and was crossing the railroad tracks. She approached the Amtrak station’s ticket window and, once again, reached into her satchel retrieving a wallet. A transaction took place.

Within minutes I heard the horn and then the clacking of the train as it slowed to a full stop in front of the small station. The woman turned away from the building. She walked stiffly to the second car of the train and boarded.

A man had stepped off the train carrying a guitar case. Moments later, he saw my car, crossed the tracks, leaned into the window and kissed me.

“I’ve missed you,” he said. We kissed again.

“Get in,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

18 comments:

Tomara Armstrong said...

It's funny how time is drawn out when we have to wait...especially to see that loved one we have been missing.

I am happy to see you again this week, Susan :-)
~2

SJC said...

I found the words of this to be very visual, almost as if I were sitting in the seat next to you as you described how the events unfold.

Susan Cross said...

Thank you, SJC. I'm working on showing, not telling. Glad to see that this one worked.

PJ said...

I can definitely see the focus on showing and not telling for this vignette. The start is slow - maybe the beginning descriptions could be reduced and/or interspersed with the action that begins in the 5th paragraph. It's a nice idea for a piece, though, and I especially like your description of the sneezer - i can picture her!

dan powell said...

Love the drawn out moment of the sneeze. The woman staring silently, surprised that someone was watching was a nice touch. Definitely a lot of good 'show' in here.

Susan Cross said...

Thanks for the suggestion PJ. You're probably right about the beginning. OrI even could have ended with another song playing as he got into the car to tie it up.

Susan Cross said...

Funny, Dan, when I started out I had no idea the woman was going to sneeze. Our characters are full of surprises, aren't they? Really, I saw her taking a very different direction.

Michael Solender said...

The impression was that of a manikin that had become human against her will.

this line is hilarious and so viivid. great slice of life this!

Jai Joshi said...

People spotting is the funniest thing! I love sitting in train stations and observing people. You never know who you're going to see.

Jai

John Wiswell said...

So the immortals sneeze, too.

hojpoj said...

This was great. I am an avid people-watcher, and got drawn into the piece easily, observing right alongside the main character.

Susan Cross said...

Can you picture a model walking down a runway trying to stifle a sneeze wearing 5" heels?

Netta said...

A great visual piece. The descriptions were so vivid it put the reader right in the scene.

Susan Cross said...

Thanks, Netta. And thanks for stopping by to read.

J. M. Strother said...

Really vivid writing, Susan. Sorry I'm so late. I could have sworn I'd already been by, but somehow I missed you. Thanks for posting.
~jon

Jeanette Cheezum said...

I was there. You painted quite a visual. Nice way to end your story.

Jeanette Cheezum said...

Susan, I was there, you painted quite the visual. Nice way to end the story/excerpt.

Susan Cross said...

Thanks Jeanette. I enjoyed seeing this in my mind as I was writing it. Just a moment in time. I am a people watcher. Show me a person and I'll write a story.