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Right. It's about time I updated this thing for real. I apologise for such short posts lately; I have been quite busy. In other news, my knee is hurting like hell, lately. My own fault, I can assure you. So, don't be all concerned, I deserve the pain I get. Haven't been really writing lately, but tonight that changed while I was headed home from work. I had the beginning and ending perfectly formed in my head, and I just let my fingers fill out the middle. Odd, and slightly bittersweet. I'm not sure how much I like it, but there are portions I do like. I should quit rambling. Here's the story, hope you enjoy. As always, I love comments and criticism.

My shadow runs ahead of me. He grows into a macabre distortion of my self, before fading away, only to return directly to my rear. I stop walking at the streetlight, and glance to my left. There he stands half my height. I tip my hat to my shadow, and he returns the salutation. This is nighttime. This is walking home in the dark.

I never really liked walking home, especially after dark. Too many things flicker in the shadows; I am eternally ready for an attack. It wearies me, and gives me no time to ponder. Mulling over the day's events is an important task, one that I cannot avoid; no matter how much I dislike it. Walking at night only paints my memories with questions that I do not wish to ask. Questions of ulterior motives; questions about trust. There is also one question that remains unasked at any other time, dredged to the forefront of my consciousness only when the stars are shining.

Who am I?

I shake my head to dismiss the uncomfortable inquiry, and resume walking. My doppelganger of shadow sprints forward again, only to grow, fade, and return to my rear. Is this what life is? Blindly running forward, only to cower behind somebody when the light of authority comes too near? Why am I asking these questions? Who am I to ask?

I squelch that train of thought as quickly as I can, but the final question echoes through my head. Who, indeed, am I?

My shadow runs ahead of me, cavorting along the sidewalk. As is his lot in life, he fades and returns to me, only to repeat his exuberant dash. It is an endless cycle. I tear my gaze away from the fading shadow, and glance upwards. Dark, heavy clouds fill the sky; a bright splotch the only sign of there being anything beyond the foreboding atmosphere. It is late; there is nobody outside, on foot, or in cars. I step into the street.

I walk slowly, my shadow following, fading, wavering, and finally splitting as I stop in the very center of the street. Four lights illuminate me; four doppelgangers surround me. I am alone.

Who am I?

This time, rather than shake the thought from my mind in frustration, I welcome it into myself. I let it roam my memories; let it hear my desires. I tell it my accomplishments, and reveal unto it my shortcomings. My life plays out to the question like so many reels of film, and I watch as well, gaining insights into my personality, and learning why I do things in a certain way. I laugh as I watch my first steps taken as an infant, I cry when I watch my dog die.

I see myself as a teenager, dressed in an ill-fitting tuxedo, awkwardly asking the girl of my dreams to dance at the prom. I watch an older me, this time in a properly fitted tuxedo, kissing that same girl in a small chapel. I watch as the girl gives birth to a child, my child, in a sterile room of a hospital. I weep when the child dies three years later, from heart problems that had passed by unnoticed at birth. I see my wife in a black dress, and she closes the lid of the impossibly small casket. I hold her tight, and we cry into each other's shoulders.

I see her in a hospital bed, and she is older now. I am too, with streaks of gray at my temples, and smile lines etched into my face. There is no smile now. She is dying. I hold her hand in mine, and remain standing at her side. She tells me she loves me, and then does not speak. The machines squeal. She is gone.

She was beautiful in life, and she was beautiful in death. I tell her I love her once more, and I close the casket lid. There is a crowd of people in the room here to honor her memory, but I am alone. I keep the tears at bay, and leave the funeral home. It is night, and I am in no mood to drive. I start walking.

My shadow races towards me. He is a fifth shadow. Something has changed. There is a sound of tires on pavement, and my shadow gains speed and clarity, rushing to join me in an incredible burst of energy. He reaches me an instant later, and I am flung to the ground. I am staring at the sky, and the clouds part.

The stars are beautiful.

I can see her smile.
  • wow. thats yeah thats it.
  • Okay, I read this two hours ago but now I've stopped crying and can comment. What an amazing story. I was really sucked in by the shadow imagery then wham! "the rest of the story". Wow.
  • This is THE MOST

    honest and REAL (and thereby POWERFUL) piece I have read of yours. INCREDIBLY WELL DONE! F------ AWESOME and it also made me cry. It hit home so powerfully.
    My God, Nick, you are growing as a writer right before my eyes. And again, the difference is the honesty, uncloaked and unafraid. THIS is the stuff of REALLY GOOD WRITING. You are getting a handle on it. You are writing about what you DON'T know about what you DO know, if that makes any sense.
    Reading this piece, I would urge you strongly to try and get this piece published somewhere. Maybe I could help with that, too. I think it is flawless (just one sentence might be a little clunky) "My life is plays out to the question like so many reels of film, and I watch as well, gaining insights into my personality, and learning why I do things in a certain way." Maybe could read, " My life plays out the question.....etc. etc."
    I now wish I had been more present in your life before you were grown, but maybe, too, all good things in time.....
    Thank you for sharing this story, I see you as a fellow of YADDO or The McDowell colony, right up there with the BEST.
    encouragingly yours,
    -mysterious relative
    p.s. I really like the shadows concept, as it relates to the walk home, as it relates to the idea of "who AM I?" and as a vehicle for illumination. VERY powerful! to put it in your own words, "Holy ZOMBIE JESUS!"
    • Re: This is THE MOST

      Yeah, what she said! I was just too rattled at the time (yes, by the story alone) to be able to find all those incredible words. Again, I love how you played with the shadows and the light to draw in the reader and show what a multifaceted person we are reading about.
    • Re: This is THE MOST

      Who or what is/are YADDO and the McDowell colony?

      Also, thank you for the critiqueing(sp?) suggestions, they are always a big help. You have no idea how big of a smile your comments always put on my face.
      • Re: This is THE MOST

        Also, I fixed the error you were talking about. On a related note, I hate Microsoft Word. But, that's what I get for using it as an automated proofreader.
      • Awwwwww....You are very welcome, dude!

        YADDO and McDowell are probably the two most established and revered artist colonies. McDowell will have it's centennial in 2007, I think? Writers' retreats. They help emerging and established writers and artists by offering them FREE residencies where they are completely taken care of (fed, housed, given a studio, etc.) and where they can connect with other people also working on a project. It is a place where you can go for a month or 6 weeks or so to really get down to the brass tacks and spend ALL your day working on your project w/o distractions like job, phone, someone elses needs, etc.,etc. At McDowell, everyone always raves about the delicious, lovingly made lunch basket that is left at the door of your studio every day. Really. They TOTALLY take care of you, then leave you ALONE so you can work. You have to apply to these places, not all are free, some are better than others and the two I mentioned are the most prestigious. (Just Google Writer's Retreats/Artist Colonies for a list) I currently have a friend at the McDowell Colony (it's in New Hampshire) where she is finishing a screenplay for a documentary on the late Jane Bowles (wife of the writer Paul Bowles). She called me from her cell to tell me that she had met and had been talking with Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones) who is also there right now trying to finish up her new book.
        If you want to learn more, just Google, dude!
        Anyway, I think I am applying to McDowell for next fall/winter so that I can finish my own book. I may not get in since I have nada on my resume as a writer but I remain undaunted. As it is, I have an almost idyllic situation where I currently live (perfect writers retreat!) yet it is good to not always create in a vacuum, you know? At places like that you connect with others who are also doing (through open studio, readings, dinners up at the big house). I feel so isloated up here in Podunk, Az. sometimes. The quality of work coming out of this place is nothing more than tourist crap, even though there are a few locals who call themselves writers/artists.
        OMG- I posted something on what I thought was yr site last night but it was NOT. It was someone with the extra "i" in the last name, the one in Austin! I feel so embarrassed and confused!
        It is below the dawn here, and the sun is oozing across the horizon like an egg broken into a pan ready to fry. I don't know if I ever mentioned this to you before, but if you ever wanted to come out for a week or two to just WRITE, you are more than welcome.
        Hope u had a nice Halloween-keep up the good stuff, and I'll try to do the same.
      • Awwwwww....You are very welcome, dude!

        p.s. Do you have a title for this piece?
        • Re: Awwwwww....You are very welcome, dude!

          Not really... it doesn't seem to be the sort of piece that warrants a title.
          • doesn't need a title?

            I would respectfully disagree.
            I noticed you decided to use When God Throws Stones as a chapter name. I'm flattered.
            I also think you should use most of if not the entirety of the post from day one NoWriMo FOR your NoWriMo- if not first chapter, then somewhere else. I LIKE it!
            Keep it up, you- I KNOW you got it in you.
            -mystery relative or is it Relative Mystery? hmmmm
  • I can only think of one word to say at the moment.

    DUDE. -stares in awe-

    Fucking rocks. No caffiene and my fingers won't work properly. Damn good, Ed. Lurve yah!

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