The Funeral (New Story/Writing Exercise)

It’s been a while since I wrote fiction, but luckily Chuck Wendig over at TerribleMinds.com is great at kicking your ass for that.

I thought his weekly flash fiction challenge would be a good running start at getting back into the writing habit. This week’s challenge is to use all ten of the following words: funeral, captivate, deceit, brimstone, canyon, balloon, clay, disfigured, willow, and atomic. It’s a challenge I’m happy to say I failed – I couldn’t figure out a way to work ‘atomic’ in here, and rather than try to shoehorn it in, I just left it out. Editing is all about cutting out the unnecessary words, right?

Anyway, here’s what I came up with. It was fun. Lyrics from ‘The Funeral‘ by Band of Horses, from their 2006 album Everything All the Time. It just happened to be on my playlist at the right time to catch me as I started writing this.

‘The Funeral’

“The Funeral” was playing on the car stereo, and John was singing the lyrics low under his breath, if only to fill the awkward silence.

I’m coming up only, to hold you under.

“Is that for me?” asked Willow. She reached under the car seat for the bottle of Bartle & James.

“Is what for you?” asked John. He watched her struggle with the bottle for a moment, then reached across and took it from her.

“That song,” said Willow. She tapped the car stereo where the song title was scrolling across the LED screen.

John opened the bottle, took a drink, passed it back across the front seat to Willow.

“It’s just a song,” he said.

The headlights shone against the guardrail. John turned them off, and suddenly he could see beyond it  to where the fast fading the daylight outlined the lip of the far side of the ravine.

“How far is it to the bottom of this canyon?” asked Willow.

“Maybe 50, 60 feet,” said John. “Probably not deep enough to call it a canyon.”

“Deep enough to kill me if I fell into it?”

“Yeah, probably deep enough for that,” said John. Willow opened the car door and climbed out, staggered a little as she shut the door and the ground rolled under her feet. John hadn’t realized how drunk she was. She climbed over the guardrail in front of the car and disappeared from view.

John opened his door and got out. “Willow!” he yelled, and heard it echo back at him from across the ravine, bouncing back from where the light was almost gone.

He found her sitting on a boulder right at the edge of the ravine.

“I bet it wouldn’t kill me,” she said. “I bet if I jumped over the edge I would float down as gently as a balloon, land down there on my toes like a cat.

“Don’t try it,” said John. Willow turned to him quickly. Even in the dark her eyes still had the power to captivate him.

Coming up only to show you’re wrong.

“Would you follow me down if I did?” she asked.

John looked out across the ravine, at the rocks in shadow below, the clay dust on her scuffed boots, the smell of sand and scrub brush in the summer heat, smells that might as well be fire and brimstone and stale perfume.

At every occasion I’ll be ready for the funeral.

“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t.” He climbed down off the rock.

“Do you want a ride back to town?” he asked. She didn’t answer him. He walked back up the slope towards the car, climbed the guardrail. He turned back to where she was still sitting on the rock. After a few moments she climbed down and came back up the slope towards him. He turned back to the car, opened the door, sat down in the driver’s seat.

At every occasion, oh I’m ready for the funeral.

“Maybe there’s a faster way down,” she said.

“Get in the car, Willow,” said John. “I’m not waiting for you anymore.” He started the car.

“Fuck you!” Willow suddenly screamed. She was outlined in the headlights, not backlit anymore, pale and white and still beautiful and John jumped as she hurled the plastic bottle of Bartle & James at his car. It hit the hood and liquid sprayed all over the window, distorting John’s view of her in the headlights, turning her face into a disfigured impression of itself. She climbed back over the guardrail again, and with the glare of the headlights John couldn’t see her anymore, could only the see the outline of the wine cooler on the window and the hood of the car, sticking to the glass between them in the shape of his own deceit.

At every occasion, once more, it’s called the funeral

At every occasion, oh, I’m ready for the funeral

*

© Copyright Keith Collier 2013

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