Summertime in a College Town

At first, it seems like laughter, rising from the street below, trickling through his window like wind chimes, free and reckless.

But then, he is standing, despite pending deadlines, and crossing the room, almost against his will. Peering down.  Beckoned.

And they are everywhere: like modern-day Sirens, singing for his eyes, a harmony of summer dresses and bare shoulders and long, tan legs, and toes painted brightly.

He nods to his weakness; they are not satisfied.

Now he crosses the room again, forgotten all previous tasks, no match for what calls from beneath.  He descends as though summoned.

Outside, he can breathe their song, too, taste their melody of fruit-sweet perfume and sun-warmed, just-washed hair.  He feels the air change as they pass.  He holds his breath.

And they smile at him.  Seem to smile at him, in his nice suit and crisp shirt and pastel tie.  Maybe they are smiling at everyone.  Every man.  Or maybe they are just smiling to themselves, smiling at this strange summer world where they hold their fledgling non-innocence, in one hand like a secret, in the other like a bludgeon…

Enough.  Back to work.  No good can come from this sitting here.  This smiling.  This holding of breath.

The festivities extend past evening’s shadow.  The revelers laugh gaily, joke loudly, the night itself more intoxicating than anything they are drinking.  He hears other music.  Pictures dancing.

It is late now.  Dark now.  Even though it is summer, it is late now.  Dark now.

No more work tonight.

Heading for his car, they spill, still, into the evening, these night sprites, midnight fairies, eyes aglow.  He has no mast, no soul.  He is never more than one “hey, can I buy you a drink?”, one “excuse me, would you like to dance?” away from disaster.

They call to him, call to him, call to him…

He hurries home.  Kisses sleeping babies.  Slips chastely into bed, and whispers: “I am clean, I am clean.”

36 thoughts on “Summertime in a College Town

  1. Yikes! Especially imagining him rushing home and saying that.

    The descriptions are so vivid and rather threatening. A terrific interpretation of the challenge. I may not sleep as a result … =)

    • Thank you, Karen. I had fun writing this one. I don’t know where the darkness came from; I am usually much lighter.

      (In my mind, he was whispering the last part, if he was actually articulating it at all. Maybe he was just thinking it in his mind. Like a silent mantra).

      In my experience, there is good not sleeping and bad not sleeping. I hope you were alluding to the former.

  2. I really liked all the ways in which you described temptation. It is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Favorite line: “…in one hand like a secret, in the other like a bludgeon…” Excellent fiction writing — an area where I need more practice.

    • Thank you very much, Sandra. You are too, too kind. Fiction is fun, but I think we all write from what we know. For me, the best writing has real human elements, fiction or non-. That is what I am trying to learn how to do (with varying degrees of success).

      I enjoyed your post about television bleeping. So many shows (especially “reality” TV), it’s like a bleep every 30 seconds. It’s not like anyone doesn’t know what they are really saying.

  3. You get a sense of being caught up, some frustration as he shakes his head to clear things up in his mind. I spend a lot of time on a college campus so I can visualize this. “He is never more than one…..away from disaster”…that’s some inner strength and smart decision. Leaves me wanting to hear what this dude does next ’cause he’s tempted.

    • I’m glad you saw it that way. There is definitely struggle at play, and I had hoped to convey that.

      Maybe I can incorporate “this dude” into future entries.

  4. What an excellent and well-written story! I love that your take, your focus, on the subject is so different from mine – or any other’s. That is what I love about challenges such as this one. They can evoke such interesting thoughts, each one, of course, unique.

    Thank you so much for visiting my site and commenting! You have an abundance of comments here – I envy you that (not really – you deserve them!). Again, you have done a very good job!

    • Oh, thanks so much. I love the widely different perspectives represented in these challenges as well. You never know what’s in someone’s head.

      Sure thing, re: visiting your site. I was truly impressed, and will be back, for sure.

      In fairness, I posted my entry a lot earlier than you did, and so have had much more opportunity to accumulate comments (and, if you will notice, over half my “comments” are actually comments to comments, written by yours truly, so those don’t really count). You will get your due. Your poem was awesome!

  5. My favorite line was “Enough. Back to work. No good can come from this sitting here. This smiling. This holding of breath.”

    At that point in the story it seems like he is so repressed, like he’s protecting himself from vitality and love.

    But at the end, when the whole thing gets flipped over, it becomes obvious that what he has done is truly heroic. That he has sacrificed much but abnegated nothing. Keep coming home, Daddy. Kiss those babies. Keep that one question between you and the bar.

  6. Thanks for linking up, Dunce. As the others have said, this is a very realistic story, well written and well told. You capture his struggle very well, but I fear for him. I think he has been strong tonight, but I think that the disaster he alludes to in the middle may only be a matter of time. I hope I’m wrong…

    See you for the weekend challenge we hope.

    • I fear for him too, sometimes. To me the character seems like one experienced with both temptation and the resistance of that temptation. But you do have to wonder if it’s only a matter of time. We are all only human…

      Thanks for your comments, and the challenges. You probably will see me for the weekend challenge; I can’t seem to help myself.

  7. This was a gripping story. I almost jumped to the end because I could I could not handle the suspense. And boy! I was glad the story was resolved the way it did.

    Beautifully written. And the repetition of words was very effective 🙂

    • Oh, thank you so much. I had a lot of fun with this one, and am overwhelmed by everyone’s excitement and encouragement. I like the repeated words technique too (obviously). Not always effective, but when done right, it can be powerful.

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