Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Short Story: Part 1 of 2

This is a short story that I've been writing for my creative writing class. It came from a prompt that my professor gave us in class. Therefore, it's pretty weird and random, but I figured why not? But this isn't the whole story. I thought I'd post a little at a time because 1) it's pretty long and I know for me, if something is really long, I probably won't read it and 2) I haven't finished it yet.... oops, don't tell my professor since it's due tomorrow! :) As of right now, it's "Untitled", but enjoy and stay tuned for the rest to come. Hopefully that will be tomorrow!

I passed by him every morning on my walk to the train station. There wasn’t much need for a car in my two-square-mile town with the train tracks running right through. I knew for sure that this man didn’t have a car either, but that was probably the only trait we had in common. He was a tall beanpole of a man, black like the night when the moon is eclipsed, with white hairs marring his chin and cheeks like bristles on a kitchen scrubber. His straw hat hid his eyes, but his smile was kind, even with the missing and decaying teeth. Aside from the clothes on his back and the hat on his head, his only possessions seemed to be a scratched-up wooden stool that I always saw him sitting on with his back leaned up against the corner store, and a small pocket knife that he used to clean the few teeth he still had.

This man had lived in my town for as long as I could remember, since I was a kid even. I knew his name was Eli, but everything else I knew came from rumors. No one knew where Eli had been before he had wandered into this town many years ago.

He was a famous florist from New York City, until his shop fell on hard times and he walked all the way out here after it closed.

He was an African prince until his reign came to an end at the hand of Russian communists.

His mother used to own the corner store and he was born in the back room and never left.

But my favorite Eli story had always been the one where Eli used to work for the government as a secret agent. In my ten-year-old mind, I imagined him in a black suit with all of his teeth, carrying a gun in a hip holster with a knife concealed in his shoe. Now in my late twenties, my adult imagination struggled to see Eli as anything but homeless, and possibly slightly crazy, though I had never actually talked to him. I had a friend who spoke to Eli once. His name was Dan and he tried to give him a five-dollar bill, assuming that Eli was as destitute as he looked. But Eli cocked his head back, giving Dan a small glimpse of his elusive eyes. One looked like glass, Dan told me later. So Dan stood there, hand outstretched holding five dollars, and Eli just stared at him with a coy smile on his face, not saying anything, but just laughed quietly to himself and went back to cleaning his teeth, leaving Dan to walk away, baffled.

I had often contemplated making this exact same move, but after Dan’s experience, I kept my cash to myself. But I still couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to approach Eli, to actually have a moment to talk to him. On that day, however, it looked like I might finally get my chance.

I saw Eli’s stool in its usual spot, a monument to the mysterious man, but Eli wasn’t sitting on it. Instead, he was pacing in the dust around it, his nose as low to the ground as his rickety spine would allow. Ignoring the fact that I would probably miss my train and have to catch the next one, making me at least twenty minutes late for work, I allowed my curiosity to triumph against my better judgment and cautiously made my way towards the stooped old man. Eli had moved to peeking between the branches of the dried-up bushes next to the store when I yelled to him.

“Excuse me sir, are you okay?” If he heard me, he pretended not to, and continued digging in the bushes, though his arms were covered in scratches from the dry twigs. “Hey, are you looking for something?” I asked again. This time his head snapped back, and I felt frozen in his line of vision. It was the first time I had ever seen both of his eyes. Dan was right, I thought. The left one does look like glass. This thought only increased my discomfort as I waited for him to speak.

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