The Day Nine Challenge:
A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
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I’m holding her hand even though I know she would rather kill me than touch me. You know, I don’t really give a fuck what she thinks at this point. What’s important is that we play our parts. That’s all that counts right now.
I mean, wouldn’t you think we’d be used to this by now? We play a couple together all the time and it works. I glance over and catch her eye, smile. Smiling is weird. The moment I put a smile on my face, my feeling of annoyance at her fades and I imagine what it might be to be her real boyfriend or husband. I don’t know why or how that works, but I know it does. I guess that’s why they call it acting. So I’m going to keep acting like I love her and maybe I won’t want to kill her either.
So we keep on walking and now to add to the moment, I give her hand a squeeze. Just a little one, not obvious to anyone else or anything. After all, there are others in this park and if they are questioned, all I want them to be able to say is that yeah, sure, there was a couple walking along, holding hands. Yeah, they seemed pretty engrossed with each other. That’s all I want them to catch on their radar as we walk along.
What the hell?
As we keep on the path, I see a bench and an older woman sitting on it. What is she doing? We’re getting closer and I can see she’s knitting or crocheting or something – I don’t know what women do with string and needles – it’s way too complicated. I know my Nana was pretty good at knitting. That’s the one with two needles, right? Well, whatever.
At this distance, I can only see her hands moving and something that’s distinctly red in her lap, maybe a sweater or a scarf or something. I nudge her and say, “Whoa. Wonder what’s she’s knitting there,” and as we get closer, the old lady looks over at me and smiles.
I’m so surprised that it’s Nana, that I burst into tears. “Nana?” I call out, breaking the grip of the woman. “Is that you?”
I’d know that face anywhere.
Geez, once again, I have to be with this one. Would I care about this if I didn’t need the job? I guess not. As he glances over and smiles, I smile back but just to be polite. No, I don’t really like him, but it’s not that big a deal.
It’s a job. Plain and simple. I walk through the park with him, we act like we’re in love, and nobody is the wiser. Nobody even notices us. We don’t arouse any suspicion and we blend in. That’s the point of this exercise. And at the end of it, I get paid pretty well. So feel free to smile at me and give my hand a squeeze and look like you’re making small talk.
All we have to do, you see, is walk across the park and either pick up a package, or put one down. Usually we’re picking up, but sometimes we’re putting down. I think I know what’s in the package, but it really doesn’t matter. Smarter minds than mine have figured out the risks of doing this and they’re small, but that’s because we play our part well.
What I really think about as I’m strolling through this park or any of a half dozen others is the next paper I have to write for history, and picking up Max at the babysitter’s and making sure I get my mother’s day card in the mail on time. To me, being what I guess they call a mule is just the means to an end. Of course, I don’t want to get caught or anything, so I make sure I’m responsive to him. If he smiles, I smile back; if he makes small talk, I pick up the thread and go with it.
Just then I hear, “Whoa, I wonder what she’s knitting there?” which is one of those little small talk things. I glance over to where he’s nudging me, and see the old lady knitting a small red something. She looks pretty ethnic with a babushka and a bundled up coat on, concentrating on her task. I start to respond, when he breaks away, and starts walking rapidly towards the old woman:
“Nana? . . . Is that you?” he says and I see that he’s got tears in his eyes. Could this really be his grandmother?
That’s a problem if it is.
The Old Woman:
Everyday I tell myself I’m going to get out and get to the park, and feed the birds and ducks, but what with taking Natalie’s Jackie to day care and then picking him up and giving him a snack, often I’m just too pooped to do more. Getting old sucks, that’s what the kids say, and they’re right.
But today both Natalie and Jackie had colds, so they stayed home and I had all this time on my hands. The stew was in the crockpot, the laundry was folded and I’d finished the ironing. I know, I still iron my blouses and some of Natalie’s and that bum of a husband of hers, too. I do the shirts that look wrinkled to me. He’s a big jerk, but I think men should be properly dressed for the office. Wrinkles are no good.
But Jackie’s a darling now that he’s three and pretty much potty trained. Natalie’s my granddaughter actually and Jackie, or really just Jack, is her little boy. It’s hard to be a woman today. She works all day and comes home to housework and so I said, look, let me help. She was pretty sweet about it – “Oh Nana,” she said, “I don’t want you to have to work that hard – he’s a handful.” I’m not sure if she meant the kid or her bum of a husband, but I was adamant. That’s what Nanas are for I told her.
So I had a great day planned when I found out I didn’t have to fuss with the day care. And frankly, you know, I’d just as soon take care of him than walk him over and pick him up considering it’s only for four hours. I know, it’s socialization Natalie says. Fine. In my day, I took care of her and her brother and nobody worried that they’d be socialized. Once they went to school in kindergarten, they got plenty socialized.
But I’m old school – women worked all day at home and once the kids were in school, then they worked outside the home if they needed to. But the kids and the husband – they always came first, not the career.
So here I am, thinking all this stuff, and I’ve got the sweater I’m making for Jackie – or Jack. I’ve got to start calling him Jack. Every time I call him Jackie, he laughs and says to me in his little voice, “But Nana, I’m JACK!”
Nice couple walking towards me, pretty girl and the young man looks an awful lot like my Johnny. No, no, I’ve got to call him “John.” He’s another one who hated when I called him Johnny. Jack must get that from his uncle. Oh well, what are you going to do?
I miss John. He’s been gone what? Four years . . . more? I’ve probably mixed up time here, but it seems like a long time. And no cards or letters. He knows I don’t have a computer, but even so, he didn’t even send an email to his sister. Nobody knows where he’s been.
“Nana? Is that you?” he’s got tears in his eyes and . . . oh my god, it is Johnny.
“Johnny? Is that you? Oh, come here!” I cry out and start to get up from the bench.
That’s when I see Natalie and her partner, coming from behind the bushes. What’s going on?
“John Raskilnokov? You’re under arrest.” the man says, flashing a big badge.
“Don’t move!” Natalie has her gun pointed at her brother and the woman who’s now just standing there, terror on her face. “Get down! Get down!” she commands and the woman quickly sinks to her knees.
Johnny looks so confused and I am, too. He also sinks down to his knees, deciding not to run for it. Thank God. I just couldn’t bear to see him hurt.
“Natalie?” I begin, “What’s going on? . . .”
“Nana, it’s too much to go into right now. Okay? But I’ll explain what I can tonight. Mike’s got Jack with him, so we’re good for now. But this just came up.” Now she turns towards her brother and I can see how incredibly angry she is. Her gun is still pointing at him as she spits out:
“John, how could you get involved with this scum? When I heard you were one of his mules, I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t seen you in what? Four years? What the hell? Do you know how much smack is in the fucking middle school because of him? Do you??”
She’s been moving closer to Johnny, who’s looking anywhere but at his sister. I can tell he’s ashamed. Something happened to him over there, I know it. I’d never ever think he’d be mixed up with drugs.
Of course he probably didn’t know his sister was one of our city’s finest, either.
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Well, at least it isn’t a romantic story. I just had to go somewhere else with this, but sorry it took so long to get there. The same scene, three different points of view. And then a little extra, for your reading pleasure.