|Barren (standard:drama, 4767 words)|
|Author: stevet||Added: Feb 09 2001||Views/Reads: 2358/1349||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A desperate, depressed man sees a skillfully-worded ad in a university newspaper from a couple looking to adopt a child. He decides to respond to the ad himself.|
Barren a short story approx. 4800 words Bud Lite on draft. Rolling Rock. Bud Lite on draft. Rolling Rock. Blah blah. "Goodbye, Norma Jean..." Happy hour at a crowded campus tavern: winking lights, raucous music and the sour smell of stale beer. The tumult did nothing to dispel Norman Blystone's sense of remoteness. The tavern might as well have been deserted. Norman was not drunk-he had nursed a single beer for the better part of an hour as he read through the Campus News. His state of mind, however, resembled an early stage of drunkenness: as if he were standing off to one side watching and listening to himself, but without much interest. The words on the printed pages and their meanings reached him only after traveling a great distance, as if he were reading through the wrong end of a telescope. On page three of the News was a photo of June Allyson wearing flimsy pajamas in an ad for disposable incontinence pants. Now there's a candidate for Homecoming Queen, Norman thought, the queen of continuing ed! Funny. Not funny enough to penetrate Norman's despondency. Or help him forget Sheila. Sheila. Three months ago, she had returned his engagement ring and left the city. A remarkable likeness of her, wearing the same tight stonewashed jeans and long-sleeved, red silk blouse Sheila had been wearing when he last saw her, materialized on the stool next to his. Her gorgeous smile shone as she offered him a sip of her fuzzy navel, her favorite drink. Then the likeness faded away. A moan escaped Norman's open mouth. Alone again, with a beer gone flat as his life. Sheila hadn't wanted to say so, but she knew a loser when she saw one. Bud Lite. Rolling Rock. "...like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to..." Norman inadvertently dipped his elbow in a puddle of beer. He groused at his soggy shirt sleeve. All day the remoteness had been with him; there was nothing new about that. It had been stalking him since Christmas. Nobody knew about it; he hadn't told anyone. Even if he'd wanted to, he didn't know if he could describe what the remoteness was, only that it existed, separating him from ordinary life, and that it had been gaining strength and drawing nearer daily. Last Christmas his parents had been involved in an auto accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, orphaning him; it was then that the remoteness had begun skulking along behind him. He both dreaded and anticipated it. He was agitated, wired, keyed up. Exhaustion eroded his face and had given him a perpetual squint. Norman--a linguist, an instructor in the University's Department of Linguistics--was obsessed with the word orphan. Few words held such a classically renowned position, possessing a literature of its own-he was thinking of Dickens, of course-or bore such an unparalleled burden of pain. Orphan: being an orphan, bereaved of parents. Usually, a child whose mother and father are dead. "Usually," Norman conceded, talking to himself, steeped in his own bereavement, "but not exclusively. No, not exclusively." A screaming headline topped the sports page: VARSITY HOOPSTERS NABBED FOR DRUGS Beneath was a photo of the two African-American perpetrators. Norman imagined he saw himself with them in the photo: not as young or gangling as they, his pallid skin a sickly contrast to theirs, but frighteningly aware, as they were, that the freight train of his future had been derailed. He threw the News on the bar. Earlier that day, Professor Chiselle had broken the news that Norman had been denied tenure. The Chair of Linguistics was not known to be a vindictive man, but he was convinced that his department was no place for a forty-year-old instructor who wandered around like a lost waif, and he was looking forward to purging his department of one. Normal could still see Chiselle at his desk, making washing movements with his hands. Suddenly a bold, capitalized word on the back page-BARREN-grabbed him by Click here to read the rest of this story (468 more lines)
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