This story is slightly choppy and episodic in nature, however, if you have ever made a 1,200 mile trip on a Greyhound bus, you'll know that these trips feel just like that.
This story is loosely based around my own bus trip. It follows my general itinerary, my stop in Oklahoma City was the worst, and there was puke on the floor for the entire layover. One of the stops in New Mexico was really nice, although at the time I got there, the sandwich shop was closed. The station is Phoenix was downright huge. There were a lot of weirdos, and I'm sure one guy was listing his qualities in hopes that I would marry him. Another guy decided to become my best friend and he was on the same route the entire trip. (He lost interest three-quarter's way through when a prettier girl came along.)
That's where the similarities end. Ben is a dude, while I am not. I have never been engaged. And no one asked me what I was running from. Truth is stranger than fiction, unless I'm writing the story!
EDIT: Good heavens! A DD on this old thing? I thought it would get lost in the pile of old stuff and be forgotten! Thank you very much Clockchat and neurotype!
As always, the preview image is an illustration drawn by me!
Congrats on the deviation. Anyway, I must say that is not choppy, but it is not really episodic either. It is more like the flow of thoughts, skipping over less important matters, to concentrate on the more important details, even occasionally throwing out important things that more or less fit in. I did not find anything that didn't fit in.
But that's not the point, I must tell you that the title had me intrigued, even though I do not understand the meaning (if it has one).
Also I do believe the old woman is essentially only real to Benjamin, and as the story progresses, Ben's undermind starts clicking in features and key details, slowly working backwards until he meets Mae, where, as the two are so similar that it doesn't click until she voices that key piece, "love".
But it doesn't matter, it was still a lovely piece, I like it, congratulations on a good piece, I only wish I could write like that. Good luck. Have fun. Win more adoring fans.
Thank you for your kind words!
As for the title, it is the title of a Smashing Pumpkins song that started playing while I was in the writing process. I thought it sounded kind of cool and some of the elements in the song and story matched up a little, in the imagery more than the metaphors.
Well that's one way of looking at it! Technically, you can run away from anything, but it's usually not a good idea.
I'm glad you liked the story!
It's a neat story. Was the old woman Mae? And... I wonder exactly what that meant... If it was just a version of her that he had trouble recognizing, or if it was like the future coming back to haunt him or something.
I took an Amtrak trip around America several years back with my dad (mainly because I wanted to see what it was like to ride a train). It lasted eight days, but I think we made two 24 hour stops (I had fun planning it with a tight schedule). I think I might've followed a simliar route to California, but then I took a more northern route back. It was fun. Had a bit of trouble going up the California coast (the train at Santa Barbara was late because of engine trouble, and then the engine messed up and we were six and a half hours late to our stop. It was a large layover, though, so we didn't miss the next train - but we ended up canceling the hotel reservations and I had to take a short nap at the station instead). I found that I could read and write without getting sick on a train (I'd always started feeling odd when looking down, or away from the front, for more than a second or two in a car, but the trains seemed smoother than cars), and I worked on some writing while going through the mountains on the way back. But my dad ended up sick. I think it's because he was reading over my shoulder, and watching trees zoom by out the window. :P Afterward, I thought I would like to take a larger loop around the borders of the US sometime (and get the sleeper cars that time), but I haven't yet. I'd also wanted to try other types of transportation, like going somewhere by ship, plane, and bus, but I really like the train besides the non-reclining reclining seats.
I'm not actually sure who the old woman was. When I began writing the story, I knew I wanted to add a bit of a supernatural element, but I didn't know what until she showed up. After that I sort of ran with it.
An Amtrak trip sounds amazingly fun. I haven't been on a train in a very long while, and I imagine writing on one would be much easier than writing on a bus. (I did try on the bus, a different story than this one, and I couldn't read my own handwriting because of the bumping and swaying. Not a smooth ride, greyhounds.) I love traveling by plane, besides the getting through security bit. The bus was an unforgettable experience, but I'm not eager to repeat it. Never done legitimate travel by boat before, but I'd love to give it a try as well. Perhaps one day we can share travel diaries! lol
What a ride for all involved, reader included. I dig our protagonist's observant nature, focusing on things most would ignore, while adding hilarious personal commentary; quite reminiscent of Holden Caulfield. The story begins by setting the mood of Benjamin's isolated trip, and before we get kick off the conflict, we're treated to many jewels in what's a delightfully witty narration. "He could breathe, at least", followed immediately by "Thank God for small favors". The only worker in the place not giving a damn about what's stipulated in his contract. The description of an elderly lady as "just short of ancient". That jaded POV hooked me in from minute one.
It wouldn't be one of your stories should it follow an ordinary route, and the aforementioned not-so-ancient lady turns out to be more than it meets the sarcastic eye. She's one to challenge Ben's motives, seemingly out of nowhere, without motive. This scares the lad off, something his apathetic attitude wasn't prepared for, and so he retires, to "the safety of the men's bathroom". If he wasn't escaping already, he is now.
After this episode we see him enthusiastic to be in New Mexico, yet simultaneously regretful to the point of feeling physical discomfort. The natural development of his emotions, believable and accomplished in such a quick pacing, had me anchored to the screen by this point. I've mentioned the humorous touches through the narration, but let's not forget the enjoyable descriptions centering on Ben's mind: irritation registering in a small corner within. Emotion making way for hunger. Mental shrugs, of which the lad exhibits plenty through the story.
Your ability to hand out important information while pushing both the plot and the characterization forward is a treat; the lady reappears, and does so with a new look that Ben's eyes take notice of right away, but the lad refuses to accept as real...Ah, the utterly stupid grin that took command of my face when I saw The Zone referenced, good 'ole writing genius Serling included! I'm a complete sucker for that mythical series' scripts, and was going to make a direct comparison to it with this story's events moments before I spotted it.
Mae's call comes as a momentary break from the surreal, to get back into an area of his life Ben is (believes to be) in control of. Once he feels secure, Benjamin can shrug off what had him so anxious minutes earlier, with a more relaxed mindset. A cellphone to distract you from reality doesn't have eternal battery, though, and the young man's forced to get back to the here and now. Unwilling, though, and lamenting the fact, even wishing he was more of a reader, as it'd allow him yet another
Ultimately, Ben simply can't refuge from reality so long as he keeps being a part of it. He's got both the bathroom's safety, and Mae on the line, but the dame's destined to appear. The lady's true nature is marvelously revealed, not outright, but at the very end of the story, once Ben's physically back with whom, he realizes (yet tries once more to deny), has accompanied him all throughout the tale. At which point I could listen the Zone's music theme playing in my head.
This is a story that rewards rereads. Immediately after finishing it, I went back and so many aspects acquired further meaning. Take the second paragraph. Ben feels like talking with Mae, who, he knows, will be more than eager to talk back, despite the lateness of the hour. But he refuses, deciding not to keep her up, not to wake her from a dream...What a contrast with the events that unfold. Mae's voice "helps ease his frustration". The mere sound of her provides comfort, she's his preferred break from reality. "...a brood of grandchildren he had no reason to care about". This last one was funny on its own merit, but now went perfectly with Ben's ultimate detachment from family matters. "He enjoyed the steadiness of an unmoving floor". Yes, Ben does like it when things stay the same, unchallenged, offering him no unwanted surprises, no exaggerated swaying to speak of. Even if reeks of vomit, at least he's safe, right? And of course, one last realization; Mae is Ben's fianceé. The two of them will become family, the young man's effectively embracing something which he believes, he's escaping from.
Tool Time! “Ben started at her use of his name”. “I just want to go home,”.
What a story. What a blast. What a talent, Brietta!
Oh my goodness! It's been so long since anyone has given this story notice, I had almost forgotten about it!
This may have been the second easiest story I've ever written (Last Stops being the first), because very little of the background was made up. In the end, I took my two day long Greyhound trip and made it slightly more interesting, although I was merely taking a vacation trip to see a friend, nothing to do with funerals. In several places, Ben's thoughts were mirrors of my thoughts and observations. The hardest part was deciding if Mae and the crazy lady were actually the same person. At the end, I'm still not sure!