Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Writings # 43 - A Night Out On The Town

Welcome to my weekly "Wednesday Writing" post. These weekly exercises serve as motivation to ensure that I spend at least 30-60 minutes each week doing some creative writing. In the ideal week, I will write every day. But at the very least, I will do at least one writing segment which I will share here on my blog.

These are very quick 'free write' sessions without editing, planning, etc.

I invite and love feedback - criticism, praise, whatever.  Just let me know what you think.

I do this equally for myself and to share.


A Night Out On The Town

Stepping into the night, Jeremy burst into a fit of coughs. The air was so cold, it burned his skin and set his lungs on fire. He pulled his coat tight around him and breathed into his hands, puffing methodically in an effort to create warmth. The taxi whisked away leaving a cloud of exhaust that seemed to hang frozen in the air in front of him.

Jeremy took a step forward and glanced up the street. Another pair of taxis rounded the corner and started towards him but were stopped at a red light at the end of the block. He glanced from side to side and saw three other men and one woman standing on the sidewalk alternating glances between the appoaching taxis and the other people on the walk.

In an instant, Jeremy decided he was NOT in the mood to share a cab with strangers and stepped closer to the curb. He held out his hand and immediately the exposed skin tingled sharply against the cold night air.

As the cars approached he felt someone else close at his side. Jeremy forced himself to ignore the presence, to stay focused on the approaching taxi. But then the person tapped Jeremy on the shoulder.

"Excuse me."

Jeremy continued to stare up the street. The fingers tapped his shoulder again.

"Excuse me. Which way are you headed?"

Repressing a sigh, or at least doing what he could to make it sound non-confrontational, Jeremy glanced over his shoulder. For as weak as the voice had been, Jeremy was shocked at the harsh appearance of the man's face.

His silvery white eyebrows were bushy and full and nearly met in the middle. His nose was a long, bulbous lump protruding from his face with some kind of scar clawing its way up the left side. Below the lumpy nose grew a haggard black mustache, uneven and long, framing the upper lip of a mouth that seemed two sizes too small for the face. From there, the head disappeared into a scarf and the hood of the winter coat.

Jeremy glanced back up to the expectant eyes of his interrogator. The eyes were dim and sunk into his face like valleys surrounding the rounded mountain range between them. His left eye, on the same side as the scar, was a pale blue, almost white, and stared slightly to the left just over Jeremy's shoulder while the other eye, a more natural, albeit still lighter, blue focussed normally on Jeremy.

"In the cab? I was wondering where you're going? I thought maybe we could share a ride."

Jeremy realized he was staring and turned back to look at the taxi which was now nearly at the curb. The man's face hung in front of Jeremy's vision in the small puffs of frozen air that he breathed out with each breath. A chill ran up Jeremy's spine at the prospect of sharing a ride with that man.

"It would just be me and my granddaughter. She's only ten and is really very well behaved. She's waiting just inside. This cold air isn't good for her asthma, you know."

Jeremy watched as the pair of cabs pulled up to the curb. The one in front stopped right next to his outstretched arm. The second car pulled up right behind the first. The other pair of men each fought one another trying to open the door gracefully for the woman between them. She giggled and stumbled off the curb, practically falling into the waiting cab. The nearest man nearly fell over himself trying to catch her. As he helped push her back fully upright, she yelped, glared at him and slapped him so hard he twisted around and found himself staring directly at Jeremy. In the instant he was staring at him, Jeremy thought the man gave a smirk and a wink before turning back to the woman who was now stomping away from the taxi.

"We won't be any trouble. I promise you. Please. If it was only me, I wouldn't pressure you like this. But she's only ten years old. And it's so late. And so cold."

Jeremy realized he was holding open the door. He looked back over his shoulder and stared into the good eye of the man. With a resigned sigh, he muttered his frozen response to the air.

"Fine. Go get the girl. I'll hold the cab for you."

A raggedy slit of a smile erupted under the unkempt mustache and the man turned and hobbled into the theater. As he did, Jeremy noticed for the first time the unwieldy cane and the large winter boots the man wore. He again started to dread having to squeeze beside the man, even if just for a few blocks.

"Hey. You comin' or what?"

"Yeah. Just a minute. The old man's getting his grand daughter."

"Well tell him to hurry up or I'm gonna start the meter anyway."

Jeremy slammed the door shut and stepped to the front of the taxi to lean against the hood. The warmth of the running car felt good against his near frozen legs. He watched the old man inside the lobby glancing from side to side and calling out. From where Jeremy reclined, he couldn't see any girl younger than her early 20s. The driver honked and Jeremy just reached around and waved at the windshield but kept his butt firmly planted on the side of the car. This ride was getting worse and worse. Not only would he be squished alongside a half crippled old man and his snot nosed grandkid, but he'd have to deal with a cranky driver.

As the warmth grew in his backside, he began to consider walking. As if to reiterate his options, an icy wind blew down the street and bit harshly into his exposed cheeks. He turned up his collar and breathed into his hands again then rubbed them against his exposed face.

He craned his neck to try and see into the lobby of the theater. Through the main windows and doors he could no longer see the old man. Ignoring the second honk from the driver, Jeremy glanced at his watch and decided to give the man just two more minutes.

As he turned to tell the driver of the new plan, he noticed a woman running towards him. The same woman he'd seen slap a man a moment ago. The man stood next to the second cab with the door open and his arms out in a pleading gesture. The woman tripped along in her high heels, her feet skidding and slipping slightly on the cold sidewalk, her deep burgandy coat half open and flapping as she hopped towards him.

Her face was smooth and creamy but was traced with shiny streaks from her soft brown eyes down her cheeks to her chin. Each of her perfectly rounded eyes was smattered at the edges with patches of makeup. A small smudge of lipstick, burgundy to match her coat, hung at the right corner of her quivering lips. Her shimmering face was perfectly framed by curly brown hair that had lost its bounce hours ago and was starting to friz as it trailed off beyond her shoulders.

"Please. Can I share your cab? I don't even care where you're going. Please. I can't let him take me home."

Her voice was as blotchy as her makeup, a patchwork set of sounds that were as painfully beautiful and sad as she was. Jeremy reached for the door handle, suddenly feeling better about the ride home. Consoling a distraught beautiful woman sounded like a much better way to spend thirty blocks than to be crunched alongside a crothety older man and his overtired granddaughter.

Jeremy looked over the woman's shoulder at the man standing by the taxi staring back at her. He was tall, well dressed and well groomed. His cheek was red from where she'd slapped him but otherwise he was fairly good looking, not that Jeremy thought much about how other men looked. As Jeremy watched, the man leaned down into the car and said something to the driver, likely convincing him to wait a little longer. The conversation looked to get a little heated and the man started fumbling in his pockets, likely looking for his wallet to give the driver something to make him wait a little longer.

Jeremy looked back at the woman next to him. She gave a little half smile and sniffled. She was about to say something more but then the man at the other taxi started shouting.

"Hey! Don't let her leave. Stop her!"

Jeremy glanced up and saw the man lean down to say something else to the driver then stood and started running towards Jeremy and the woman. Instinctively, Jeremy stepped around the woman and placed himself between her and the charging man. Then he shifted his stance and waited for the approaching man. When he was only a yard or two away, Jeremy shifted again and swung out his arms in a whirlwind of motion. His fist connected with the man's face and sent him reeling back towards the theater entrance. He spun around and fell to his knees, coughing and groaning softly.

Jeremy quickly stepped back to the cab and put his fingers on the door handle. As he pulled open the door he heard a clattering of footsteps on the sidewalk. He looked up and saw a small girl in a full length pink coat rushing towards the cab. Shining blond ringlets bounced around her smiling little face. Jeremy heard her giggle as she lept from the curb into the taxi, slid across the seat and pressed her nose and fingers against the window on the other side to stare out into the night. A few steps behind her, the old man hobbled along, smiling and waving gently at Jeremy.

Jeremy looked up to the woman standing beside him. Her concern and anxiety radiated from her tear filled eyes. Jeremy's own face filled with incredulity and confusion as he tried to determine exactly what was happening. He noticed the woman's mouth move and heard sounds but he wasn't sure what she'd said. He nodded absently and she threw her arms around him and pressed her lips hard against his cheek.

Her lips were warm and wet against his frozen skin. The contrast stung, but also sent a shudder of warmth pulsing through his body. He heard a jingling sound near his ear, something between a laugh and a cry. Then the woman pulled away and stared at Jeremy, her face so close he could feel her warm breath mingling with his own as it froze in small clouds between them.

"You truly are my saving angel tonight. Thank you. Thank you."

She gave him another soft hug and then slid into the taxi alongside the girl. Jeremy looked into the car and watched as the woman gently patted the girl's back and smiled then complimented the girl on her hair and her coat. A moment later they started giggling like old friends.

Looking back to the sidewalk, Jeremy watched as the old man finally reached him. The old man planted a frail hand on Jeremy's shoulder and gave a toothy smile.

"I thank you my boy. Thank you for waiting on us."

The man started to stoop to get in the car then halted and looked back to Jeremy.

"Did you want to sit by your lady friend? I can sit up front and let you too love birds cuddle."

"Oh, we're not..."

The woman started to answer but was interrupted by the gruff shout from the driver.

"Ain't nobody sittin' up front but me. And y'all ain't gonna be sittin' anywheres unless y'all get in an' we get goin'. So either you get in and tell me where to drop ya. Or I'm gonna leave ya here and go find me a fare what's actually lookin' for a ride."

The old man gave Jeremy a concerned look then looked into the car. His granddaughter smiled back at him and bounced softly on the seat. When the old man looked back, Jeremy just nodded and stepped away from the car.

He watched in cold resignation as the man climbed into the taxi. Jeremy watched the man mumble something to the woman and she leaned against him, wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned down on his shoulder.

Jeremy felt his icy cold blood start to burn as the taxi pulled away from the cab and drove away. He turned to walk back into the theater and suddenly saw a fist plunging forward and slamming into his face. Before he understood what was happening, Jeremy stumbled back and fell to the ground. The frozen sidewalk slammed hard against his back, butt and legs.

Looking up into the crystal clear black and starry sky, Jeremy tried to figure out what had happened. Then a face leaned over him and stared down. It was the man who'd argued with the woman at the cab.

"Think you're some kind of Casanova or something? Saving the damsel in distress? Well, in case you didn't notice, she was the one who slapped me. Just before she stole my wallet."

Jeremy felt a lunging pain in his side as the man kicked him.

"And you just smile and nod and let her wander away free as a bird. You deserve more than I have time to give you. Karma will give you the rest later."

Another shot of pain exploded into Jeremy's right side. He rolled over and clutched his midsection. The icy air burned down his throat and exploded into coughs that set his body convulsing and pain radiating from where he'd been punched and kicked. He twisted onto his side and watched as the man casually walked to the waiting taxi and climbed inside.

Jeremy continued coughing for nearly a full minute. Then he laid himself flat on his back and stared up into the night. The theater marquee had been turned off, letting him see the crystal clear blackness above him and the amazing brightness of the stars. He tried to focus on the stars, to pick out constellations. But his mind wouldn't focus.

A minute later, he realized his back was numb. He rolled onto his knees and pushed himself to his feet. He glanced at the mostly darkened theater and looked at the oversized poster advertising the evening's production.

"When you made me promise to come to the theater, is this what you had in mind?"

He shook his head grimly, remembering the promise he'd made to Ann. A promise he'd thought foolish and silly and hadn't intended to keep. Now, part of him wished he hadn't kept it.

But as he turned back to the empty sidewalk and started walking up the road, he realized that the larger part of him was glad that he had kept the promise.

And he began to whistle as he walked away.

1 comment:

Oddyoddyo13 said...

That was a strange series of events. I loved the diversity of the characters. :)