The First 750 Words

The First 750 Blog Carnival

The Loneliness

The Loneliness by Kelly Garriott Waite


Fiction-Short Stories-Memoir and Romance

A woman wishes for the easy comforts of her youth. A man tries to heal his wife’s ravaged brain. A boy lives out his father’s dreams. The six short stories in The Loneliness explore the connections we forge, break, and inevitably long for.

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Lone-Front-06-THThe Loneliness

Evenings, they sit without speaking, listening to NPR, the backgammon board spread on the table between them. Now, Celeste pours two mugs of tea and brings them to the table. She sits across from Philip and smiles. The fire snaps. A log falls, sending sparks through the black mesh screen to the concrete floor. Philip rises and crosses to the window of the lodge. He parts the heavy curtain to stare outside at the storm.

His skin has acquired a ruddy cast. Leathery, almost. “I’m glad you brought me here,” she tells his back. She’s not really. She hates being stuck at the top of some mountain with nothing but the snow and her husband and the board games of her youth: Clue… checkers… backgammon of course.

He turns. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

She rubs her left wrist. “Very much.” Another lie.

Philip took up skiing three weeks ago, some midlife crisis, she guessed, and she humored him, knowing it could be much worse, understanding that he would eventually return to being the man she married: quiet, studious, cautious in every way.

What do you do while I’m out?” He returns to his chair.

Philip hasn’t asked her to accompany him on the slopes, and for that she is grateful. “Catch up on my reading,” she says, then blows on her tea. “Watch some movies. Stare into the fire.” God, it’s boring here.

When he’d told her about the trip, he said she didn’t need to go. He’d be happy, he’d assured her, to go alone. She studies his lips, chapped and flaking. “You need lip balm.”

He waves away her comment and arranges his men on the board.

You go first,” she says. He scoops up the dice and drops them in the shaker lined with black felt. She likes the muted sound of the dice as he shakes and spills them out.

He moves a man forward three spaces and licks his lower lip.

She laughs.

What’s funny?”

The lip balm. It made me think of my Raggedy Ann doll.” She picks up her dice and rolls. “A Christmas gift from my mother. My babysitter made it.” She splits the roll, moving one man forward two, another six. “I used to untie her apron and lift up her dress so I could see her little heart.”

Philip reaches for his dice.

The heart was chain stitched in red thread. Inside were the words I love you. I couldn’t sleep without her.”

I think you miss her.” Phillip laughs. “The way you prowl around the house, opening drawers and cabinets like you’re looking for something you’ve lost.”

It’s true. She wakes frequently, blinking wide eyes into the darkness, heart racing, breathing too fast, knowing that death will eventually come to her and feeling afraid. “Every night, I woke to the soft sounds of my parents putting the house to bed: The clink of the dishes in the sink; the dog’s final trip outside, his nails tapping on the linoleum; the checking of the doors.” Then there was the settling of the bedsprings, accompanied by her parents’ easy conversation, the television clicking on to The Tonight Show. “Do you remember those refillable lighters?”

Of course.” Philip rolls then moves a man forward five spaces.

Every Sunday, my father would clean and refill his.” She recalls the metallic sound of the lighter flipping open. His thumbing of the wheel. The smell of butane. The flame, dancing like a genie upon the blackened wick. “That was safety for me. Johnny Carson, butane, and a doll in my arms.” Her mother would laugh at something Carson said and her father would join in and, surrounded by their laughter, she allowed herself to drift back to sleep.

I smeared grape ChapStick over Raggedy Ann’s mouth. For years I fell asleep with the scent of grape in my nose.”

Celeste falls silent. She has the sense that Philip is just going through the motions. He’s tired, she reasons, from skiing all day. The radio reporter talks about cooking oil bombs, people starving for lack of fuel. She imagines the children, chewing upon uncooked grains of rice dropped from giant birds in the sky.

What happened to it?”


Your doll.”

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Kelly Garriott Waite grew up on a forty-acre farm in the midwestern United States. Much of her work revolves around farming, community, and the tragic loss of both. Since leaving Ohio, she has lived in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Ontario, Canada.

Her work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe and Mail and in the anthology Thunderbird Stories Project: Volume One.


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