Note: The prompt is: What do you keep writing in that notebook? from the Tumblr writing blog writeworld.
I was writing this to Melanie Martinez’s cover of “Toxic.” Totally inspired the feel of this one, on top of the desire to view a writer that isn’t the stereotypical boozed up, suicidal, write by typewriter kind of person.
Every day on her way home from closing the store, Ashley saw a boy standing behind the bus stop. He never looked up from the notebook he scribbled, and his hands never stopped moving in erratic, almost nonsensical motions.
Sometimes others would notice, glance back from time to time so that the whites of their eyes made their unease clear. But Ashley decided that he was as normal as everything else was, which meant he wasn’t normal at all. She enjoyed thinking she could see the world for what it was. It made it easier to tune out and scroll through her texts.
That was the routine. Spot him, rationalize him, ignore him. Even though she could never remember what he looked like, or why she couldn’t remember it. I mean, it wasn’t like he wore a hoodie. His face was just bland.
Ashley was now married. Her two hellish children were grown and making little families of their own. The gray hairs took over the others a long time ago. And still she scrolled down her feed. The bus stop was cleaner now, the bus itself energy efficient. The younger generations all looked perfect in a cosmetic sense. But their eyes were duller than hers.
Her chest hurt. She grimaced.
“You said you’d talk to me one day,” a child’s voice said behind her. The boy with the notebook.
She didn’t turn around. “Have you come to take me?”
He giggled. The scratching of his pencil clawed through her ears, louder than ever before. “You figured it out. Sorta.”
“You’re an angel? A demon? Some greater being that makes this world turn.”
“Nope, no, and yes.” His smile was unnerving.
Then she asked the question she’d meant to ask over and over for the last three decades. “What are you writing?”
“Could you leave the heart attack out?”
He shook his head. “All things end. And I have other stories to tend to. You’re just a side character in the show.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Does that upset you? That you’re nothing?”
“To who? To you?” She laughed, but it was more of a pained wheeze. “I had a good job, decent kids I know would never do anything I’d be ashamed of, and a husband that was a good man, bless his soul.”
She shrugged, or tried to. It was getting harder to breathe. “If that makes me a side character, well, you can say I’m happy for it. I lived a good life.”
“Not an important one though.”
“To you. But thanks, for not screwing me over.”
The boy wrote the last sentence, and she breathed no more. Her son’s story, meanwhile, was at the heart of a complex weave the likes of which thrilled the boy to no end.
It was a masterpiece.
The man at the keyboard typed the last words, watched the Ashley’s son save the city at the cost of his own life, and find himself musing on how right she was. Her son never did anything she’d be disappointed in. In fact, she’d be proud.
The son had been the intent all along, and yet the man found himself looking back on that imagined moment, when he thought of his character and self interacting, and found himself craving the life she’d lived more and more. So he wrote his story down. Over and over, until he could say he lived a good life.