The Mistake

Posted on October 27, 2010


Meta: Day 2 and still having trouble getting over 300 words in about an hour. This time, though, the hour was really 10 minute blocks stolen while cooking dinner. I used my usual uninterrupted writing time to attend a writer’s network meetup, hoping to find some other masochists who are planning to do NaNoWriMo. The short free write below is an attempt to capture the anxiety that grows after making a mistake.

* * * * * *

She knew immediately that she made a mistake. The moment she stepped out into the empty street, everything felt wrong. The stillness of the air. The quiet. The heavy heat that wouldn’t break. But the door had locked behind her, so she had no other choice left but to begin the walk home.

She walked briskly, eyes darting to survey her surroundings. Nothing. She wondered when her instincts had become unreliable, the inner compass that guided her safely gone askew. She passed the pub, now closed, no evidence of the raucous that had occurred just an hour before. The salon with its empty chairs eerily lit all in a row. She approached the intersection of Walker and Main. Another decision: stick to the main roads, or take the shortcut on the backroads?

Her stomach sank at the corner. She went up Walker and wondered if wrong decisions were exponential. The convenience store was open. She saw the lone clerk before he saw her. She caught his eye just as she passed, and she said a quiet goodbye to civilization without looking back.

The tree marked the alley, the hidden path behind all the Victorian houses that hid their unsightly secrets. She pushed through the smell of garbage like a cloud of smoke as she took a right at the tree. A bottle smashed before a bolt of black crossed at her feet. A cat. She gasped for breath, and then exhaled slowly to control her pounding heart. She took a step, then another, then picked up her pace. She was close now.

She began to relax. Her decision was almost redeemed; soon she would walk into her house and lock the door behind her. Five houses to go. Three houses to go. A figure ahead. She strained to see what it was. A shadow in a hooded sweatshirt. Her whole body tensed, her fists clenched. Two houses to go. He was three houses away. She planned her reaction. Knee to the groin. Elbow to the throat. She reached the gate to her backyard, and fumbled with the latch. Just then, he passed. A drunk teen staggering home.

Posted in: writing prompts