This was one of the first writing exercises I did in Andre Dubus III’s Creative Writing class this past semester. I’m actually really proud of this little piece – it was the first time in years that I felt a surge of inspired creativity flow through me, different from the feeling you get from interviewing a band and writing a really great article. This was something I completely created out of nowhere, and it felt powerful putting it onto the page.
By Jillian Locke
Autumn had always been her favorite season. There was something about the cool, crisp smell of the air, like all the heaviness and impurities of the hot season had been purified, somehow filtrated through the changing leaves. It brought her peace. Alice always thought that if she could find some magical Halloween land, she would move there in a heart beat.
The red paint on the park bench was chipping, and she absent-mindedly picked at the loose pieces as she contemplated what she was going to say. This moment had been a long time coming, and for a good reason. She still didn’t know if she wanted to speak to him. She was always looking for signs, trying to tap into the part of herself that she knew was still good rather than bitter. Alice stilled herself, listening to the soft language the leaves whispered as a gentle breeze rustled their stems, hoping they had some sort of wisdom to impart on her, today of all days.
There was a fried dough cart parked on the outskirts of the park, about 50 feet from where she sat. The aroma wafted over, intertwined with the screams of playing children, the scent shaking her focus. It reminded her of childhood trips to the beach, the carnival, eating the doughy heart-stopper with him and remembering, even then, how much anger and distrust she felt.
A ray of light broke through the overcast sky, and she looked towards the road, blinded. Black orbs rimmed in red clouded her vision. She let them; she didn’t know if she was ready to see him coming. But his footfalls over the dried leaves gave him away, and the orbs faded sooner than she would have liked. He wore that concentrated, tormented look that she loathed so much; the same look that mirrored her own. He took his place on the opposite side of the beach, coughed his guttural, Marlboro Reds-addled cough, and shot her an expectant look.
“Well, hello stranger,” her father said.
Now Alice knew what the leaves were trying to gently communicate to her, the answer to the question she had asked but had already known. This was a bad idea.