My Creative Writing class exercise this week was to select a book from the selection available and then choose one sentence and use that as the beginning of a piece of writing.
The books had been chosen simply based on their bright and colourful covers. If one of the books was something we had previously read then we were to avoid it. I was immediately drawn to the spine of the bottom book in a small stack. It was bright red and orange and vibrant. Dragging it from the pile I saw it was “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri. Neither an author or book I had heard of previously. On opening the pages, I was taken with the following sentence and decided to use that as my writing prompt. “He came from a Quaker family in Wisconsin.”
However, once I had scrawled that into my notebook, I soon realised that I know nowt about Quakers and, despite my affection for most things American, not much more about Wisconsin. So, I flicked through the pages and went for a new sentence. I named one of my characters as a nod towards the surname of the books’ author and another after a character in the latest Stephen King novel.
I hope you enjoy the following. All comments welcomed. But nice ones will be loved!
As they crossed the Howrah Bridge the light was still grey. A fine mist fell from clouds that hung low in the early morning sky. Dampness settled lightly upon and around them.
Larry paused. He drew his gloved hand across his face, wiping the moisture away. It streaked silver across the dark wool, leaving a trail like snot in its wake. He shrugged the pack off his back and let it fall. It hit the wooden deck of the bridge with a heavy thud. Ahead of Larry, his companion turned as the sound echoed dully across the river. Larry watched as the mist gathered steam like around his brother.
“S’up?” Came the question, tired and weary from across the divide between them. Surely no more than ten yards separated the siblings as they stood on the old iron and wood bridge. A mere ten yards that could easily be swollen up inside of a few steps if either brother had so wanted. But, the truth was, neither wanted it. The distance between them had grown so vast since their journey began.
No. Thought Larry. This distance hasn’t grown between us. It was always there. Vast and wide. And ever deep. Too wide and too painful to span. Larry knew they had never been close. Or, maybe, they had been once when very young. But that had been before Evie and the accident, Nothing had been the same between Larry and his brother since Evie. Evie had been the tipping point.
Larry watched as his brother reached into a pocket. The light of the day was still weak and visibility was poor but Larry didn’t need to see to know what his brother was reaching for. He knew his brother well. His brother raised a hand to his mouth and pulled a cigarette from the packet with his teeth. Then the flare and hiss as a match struck. Smoke dragged between them as his brother tossed the packet of cigarettes towards Larry. It tumbled through the mist, its red and white body twisting in the silver gloom – red, white, red, white, red – to land at Larry’s feet.
“Well? S’up?” The same question repeated across the void.
Larry regarded the box, took in its bright colours, the side was torn from where, earlier, his brother had hastily opened it. His eyes moved to the backpack at this feet. Water had settled on its surface, gathering in pools in the depressions in the fabric to flow and disappear between the folds and creases.
He knew then. Perhaps, Larry thought, I’ve always known it would come to this. At some point, it had to. He found himself surprised that it hadn’t come sooner.
Why now? He wondered. Why, so many years since Evie, is it now? Why today? Why suspended above the Hooghly River on the fuckin’ Howrah Bridge?
He looked across at his brother. It was like looking into a mirror. A mirror mottled and cracked with age, the image distorted by the rain. He saw himself, or an approximation of himself, looking back at him. Larry answered. One word. Just the one word. Both brothers knew the import of those two short syllables.
Larry’s voice cracked as spoke before he turned back the way he had come.