FlashFlood

writing about writing

The Two Lights Contest

Posted by Flood on April 24, 2006

My first entry to Clarity of Night's contest, was too long at 446 words:

The Widower's Light

We did all we can do. I am sorry to tell you your wife has died.

He feels like a fool in the alcove under the stairs of the funeral parlour.

He is crouched awkwardly and cannot breathe well enough for an old man with old lungs.

She had a good life. She was happy.

He hears the director bid good evening to her staff. He listens as she makes her way through the building, turning off lights and closing doors. As he prays that she does not also lock each door, the already dim lights of the corridor in which he made his hideout are turn off altogether. The only source of light now are twin lamps, set on a table opposite his alcove.

Two lights in the darkness.

I cannot leave Frances in here alone.

He hears steps falling into the corridor and toward him. He can only assume that the director will now leave through the back door at the end. Adjusting himself as softly as he can, he tries to inhale deeply to hold his breath as she walks past. His lungs betray him, yet again. He tries furiously to catch his breath and finds himself caught instead.

'Hello? Who's there?' The startled director turns his way, blocking what little light is shed by the two lamps. He waves his hand in dismissal and tries to speak that it is all right, just an old man, no harm done really. Nothing comprehensible escapes his coughing fit.

Frances has never been alone at night since we were married.

"Are you all right? Mr. Dobson! What are you doing here? Are you all right?" Mr. Dobson nods as he lurches into the corridor. Stumbling, he knocks over one of the lamps. It crashes to the floor and flickers out.

She would have lived if I didn't panic.

Struggling to gain balance he reaches out for the funeral director's shoulder. She backs away, not understanding the gesture. Mr Dobson continues to fight for large gulps of air. Panicked, he tries for the table, only to knock over the second light. As it drops to his feet, he flails to avoid it. The funeral director thinks, I should call 9-1-1. She tries to pass him to get back to her office, he trips over her and collapses onto the light.

Darkness. Sudden stillness envelopes the corridor once again. The funeral director calls his name.

'Mr. Dobson?'

You have to find a way to live without her now, Dad.

The funeral director falls to her knees to blindly feel for vital signs. Finding none, she goes back to her office to use the phone.

Editing it down to 250 words proved difficult:

The Widower's Light

I am sorry to tell you your wife has died.

In a funeral home, under some stairs, Dobson is crouched in an alcove.

She had a good life.

The funeral director is closing up. He listens as she makes her way through the building, turning off lights and closing doors. The ceiling lights of the corridor in which he hides go out. The only source of light are twin lamps, set on a table opposite his alcove.

I cannot leave Frances alone in here.

Footsteps approach. He tries to hold his breath as she walks past. His lungs betray him. He tries to catch his breath but he is caught instead.

'Hello? Who's there?' The startled director turns his way, blocking light shed by the lamps. He waves his hand dismissively. Only an old man…but nothing escapes his coughing fit.

Frances has never been alone at night since we were married.

‘Mr. Dobson! Are you-?’ Dobson lurches into the corridor. Stumbling, he knocks over one lamp. It flickers out, in shards.

She would have lived if I didn't panic.

Unstable, he reaches for the director. She backs away, confused. Dobson, still fighting for air, is panicked. Reaching for the table, the second light falls. The director tries to pass him to get to a phone. They collide; he collapses.

Darkness.

'Mr. Dobson?'

Find a way to live without her now, Dad.

The director blindly feels for vital signs. Finding none, she goes back to her office to use the phone.

I like the first much better than the second, but in either case I find this line: "Find a way to live without her now, Dad." to be trite and doesn't quite convey what I was going for.

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