Short stories


The rope was slung over Alan’s shoulder. We thought the rope was connected to Alan’s coat. When Alan and his wife left, we talked about the rope. There was a lot of confusion.  Those still believing in the jacket theory mocked Alan for his silliness. What an outré coat! The mocking transitioned to Alan’s bald spot, the fact that he ran two miles every night after work and still possessed a pot belly, that he could not hold his liquor, that he was the first to leave a party. The joking and the mirth turned onto Alan’s wife, Jenny. How could Jenny allow Alan to carry around that old piece of smelly rope? It was all too much!

Alan was very pleased with himself, chewing absentmindedly on a twine that was loose. The rope was still slung over the shoulder. It could have been a child chewing on a fingernail or a child blowing a spit bubble or a child picking its nose. This chewing of the loose twine produced many varying grimaces and nods and shrugs but after a while these manifestations dissipated and boredom set in. Alan had used his rope for the benefit of a neighbor. Her car had broken down. Alan attached the rope to the car and then his own car and pulled the woman to the nearest garage. After he had finished telling us all about the endeavor, he had gone into each infinitesimal detail, he had even chastised the woman for not using her indicators rightly, and finally he had refused payment for his help, he stopped chewing on the loose twine and held up the rope as though the rope was a champion or a winner of something.

We did not want to discuss the rope, but it could not be helped. Alan had finally achieved something worth talking about. Alan and Jenny had been house hunting in the country. They were planning to buy a farm. They had gone up to the farm to inspect it, Terry and June had gone along for the ride, they were not close to Alan and Jenny, but they could never say no to a day out away from the city. The party of four had stopped off at a neighboring farm to buy strawberries. While they were gorging themselves on strawberries, they heard a commotion. A little boy had fallen down a disused well. Alan used his rope and saved the little boy.

Alan and Jenny decided not to buy the farm; they instead bought a bigger house closer to downtown. For weeks, the talk was all about the rope and the little boy. Everybody wanted to feel the rope. It was no longer an incongruity, no longer superfluous, or ostentatious. The questions of why Alan had a piece of rope slung over his shoulder no longer rose to the surface. The perplexity was burnt away. With this new understanding, the jokes were no longer funny concerning Alan and Jenny. Allan’s bad teeth were ignored, and Jenny’s prognathous chin was no longer so prominent.

Sleep evaded me. I tossed and turned. After my husband’s complaining, I left the bed and the bedroom. I poured myself a glass of milk and opened a book but reading about a man hungry and wandering the streets aimlessly exacerbated the feeling of restlessness that had stirred sleep away. I opened the newspaper randomly and started to read. I took the newspaper into the kitchen. I found scissors and cut out Alan’s obituary. With a magnet, I placed it on the fridge door.

Annette Doorly

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