Home » Creative writing » One Drop in the Sea of Love

One Drop in the Sea of Love

While trying to get back to my writing, I came across this contest at MashStories.com. The prize is $100 (oh how I can use that!) and the rules are few — mainly a 500 word limit, and the use of this quarter’s words within the story: converter, mug, happiness. 

I’ve been a no-show here for quite some time, but if any of the friends I miss so much come across this, and could spare a few minutes to give impressions on what I’ve come up with, I’d be very grateful. Any thoughts at all would help me decide if this is too little, too much or just plain boring. Or if I should choose a new subject and just start over, which has been a prominent theme in my life for quite a while now.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. My love to you all.

One Drop in the Sea of Love

Ivy stood in the farthest corner of the garage from Abner. He was underneath the car removing its catalytic converter, flouting the law, thumbing his nose at the EPA, risking a fine.

“Half the scientists say one thing. Half say something else.” He said that to her with a straight face. “Liberals pretending the world’s dying… If it’s that bad– time to give up anyway. I’m gonna drive a car that works the way its supposed to.” She thought he was behaving like an ass and almost said so, but that felt like giving up on him. She wasn’t ready.

Ivy had emailed links about global warming gleaned from university websites, offered evidence on how the world’s skewed environment already affected their own area, even pleaded for their baby’s lungs to make it more personal, but mountains of misinformation were standing between truth and Abner’s heart. He’d always been strong. Now he’d crossed over to hard, battered by the gulf between their hand-to-mouth reality and the lost luster of his dreams for success. He wasn’t talking things through with her anymore or finding comfort in his family. She sensed herself simmering in the distance between them, too tender and unsteady, as if the best part of her had broken and was setting wrong.

She listened to him under the car, willing away science with a hammer to make himself feel superior, or remind himself of his strength. She braced herself, suppressing her ache, stitching her family together for the moment until she could decide if their happiness was going to be out of the question.

That evening, she made soup. He lingered in the garage, then paced the front porch, hands deep in his pockets, face contorting, head tossing now and then for punctuation as if arguing with himself or working out a problem. Ivy kept a wide berth until dinner was ready.

They sat at the kitchen table. In his high chair, baby Carl nibbled crackers and slurped cooled noodles and carrots Ivy proffered on his little spoon between sips of juice from his mug with the no-spill lid. Abner went on about the merits of movies on television later. When he paused, Ivy realized she’d stopped listening.

After Carl slurped another spoonful of noodles, her eyes met Abner’s, whose gaze fell over his soup bowl. A low, wet, sound clenched in his throat.

She was so used to arguing and contradiction that she stared in silence, anticipating the phantom guilt that often followed.

He sucked air into his lungs, hard, as if pulling something back inside. “I said, I can watch that Hugh Jackman thing. The one you’d like, without blades in his knuckles.”

Ivy reached for him, curling her fingers around his, and said, “Okay.”

After dinner and the cleaning up, they put Carl into his playpen with the fluffy blanket and his purple bear. The baby yawned as his parents settled together onto the sofa to watch a romance unfold.

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15 thoughts on “One Drop in the Sea of Love

  1. Wow. How did you do that in 500 words? I mean, I know that’s five times as many as I’ve seen you use to create excellent stories, but still. So much here! I’m also thinking when the next NYC Midnight flash fiction or short story challenge comes along, you should totally sign up! Nice to be back on your blog!

  2. Hi Ré, so much encapsulated here. You really can create a tension between two individuals and an overall scenario. Enjoyed it. One thing, though…..paragraph 3 ….. “mountains of information WERE standing …..” Good luck. Nice to have you back.

    • Thanks, Al. ❤ I'm glad you enjoyed this. The more I re-read it and tweaked it, the more afraid I was that it was mundane. And the more I was missing things like you caught! Thanks for lending me your sharp eyes.

  3. I really like “as if the best part of her had broken and was setting wrong.” And yes, echoing Stacie’s and Alan’s comments, there’s so much history you’ve managed to fit into this short piece! And I like that there’s resolution within it, and yet still lots of uncertainty about how things will go for this family ultimately.

    Nitpicks:
    “crossed over to hard” should be “too”, and in the paragraph after that, “willing away” appears twice.

    As far as Ivy emailing things to Abner and pleading for Carl’s health, is she wishing they could move away — and Abner refuses to listen? And when she’s delaying deciding whether happiness is now out of the question, is that her wondering whether she should give up, leave, etc? I feel dense asking these clarification questions but I think in 500 words it’s good to be, not necessarily everything cut-and-dried, but very definite about what directions the undercurrents are heading.

    Well done. ❤

    • Lisa, thank you! Your nitpicks aren’t nitpicky; the first goes to clarity and the second was a choice I made that I was afraid didn’t really work. I changed those on this post already, but I got caught in a flurry of ideas for fixes regarding your questions and changed some things in the Docs file. I’m going to email that to you in a bit. If the new version addresses your questions in a good way, I’ll put that version up here.

      I’ve known for a while that I tend to assume too much while writing, and often I give way too few details with way too many words. Then I swing wildly from the one extreme to the other when I try to address it. Whether I can win this contest or not, I’m seeing that this is work I need to do with all my stories, not just limited word ones. I’m just glad that I feel up to it now. Thank you so much for helping me. ❤

  4. Your follow list must still work because you showed up. I went looking for you a few times but saw the dates on your entries. I hope you are well.

    You are a really good writer. That short work put a lump in my throat. Obvious Abner wants to show her he cares. I just wish the climate thing didn’t have to be in there, but that is me and has nothing to do with how well it is written. Nice to see your words again.

    • Thank you so much for looking for me here. That warms my heart. I’m glad I wrote these characters well enough to put that lump in your throat. (I made myself cry a bit while writing the first draft.)

      The only possible plots my little brain could think of at first that could include the word ‘converter’ were either sci fi or fantasy ones, and I didn’t feel up to those genres right now. So I looked up ‘catalytic converter’ a phrase I knew but didn’t understand. That led me here. Thanks for reading it.

  5. Now I feel bad! I’d been waiting or your return, praying that you’re okay, then just like that, I missed this one and the next, though I caught the one where I already left a reply, nonetheless…

    I like this one. For 500 words, you’ve conveyed, rather well, the tenuous nature of a strain between Ivy and Abner. I end up empathizing with both of them: with Abner, because he is all too aware of the difficulty of their circumstances; and with Ivy, because she really doesn’t want to hurt him, but has some obvious resentment.

    Two small items:

    I know what “berth” means, but I don’t understand how it is being used in this sentence.

    Should be mountains of information stood.

    You’re amazing! I’m overjoyed to see you.

    • Thanks for reading it Ms. Empress. Your impressions proved quite valuable to me in trying to make this piece communicate the way I wanted it to. I was up late last night rewriting, editing, finding space to clarify (hopefully) one bit after another. I haven’t changed it here because I need to let it ‘rest’ before I can read it again, with eyes struggling to forget what I meant and read what I actually wrote.

      As for “a wide berth”, it’s an old phrase. I think it means giving a thing or a person the space to move freely and not crash into something else or (as a person) feel hemmed in. Here, I used it as shorthand to convey the most I could with the least amount of words.

      Thanks again for reading!

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