Values storying is...

...passing down values from one generation to the next through the stories we tell and re-tell

Short Fiction: Not Going Anywhere

Most of what I have written in this space over the last few months has been associated with Coach Dave: Season One. Now that the book is published and available for readers, I want to share some other writing that I have been doing over the last couple of months.

Today’s post is a piece of fiction I wrote as part of the Pinch Journal’s fiction workshop associated with the University of Memphis’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program. These were the guidelines:

  • Topic with which all writers were unfamiliar
  • Perspective of a character from a different gender
  • Focus on literary elements of plot, character, and dialogue
  • Hit and run scenario at the beginning of the story

With that as the backdrop, enjoy “Not Going Anywhere.” Let me know what you think.

Not Going Anywhere

Not Going Anywhere

“Hit and run at Windsor and 32nd, injuries probable, suspect fleeing the scene. Need backup now!” she screamed at the dispatcher, immediately identifying her words—more precisely, the shrill tone of them–as fodder for every cop at the Third Precinct, male or female.

She quickly approached the gnarled mess of the ’03 Taurus wagon, its parts strewn throughout the intersection. The lone figure in the car was a grandmotherly-type whose breathing was already shallow as the officer approached. The sports car that had blown through the intersection going at least 80 miles per hour sat facing her from the Kroger parking lot, its engine smoking and its driver stumbling away.

“Ma’am, this is Officer Keathley, can you hear me?!?” she asked, her voice rising to that hated pitch, that “Squeaky Keathley” tone that she would never overcome in Granite City. She wanted to strangle the smart-aleck fellow rookie who had pinned the nickname on her during roll call of their first day years ago. It didn’t even rhyme, for crying out loud. He had been rebuked that day, but the damage had been done. No matter how professionally and efficiently she did her job now–and she had done her job professionally and efficiently–she would never have the respect of the other officers. She would never make detective.

“I-I-I’m hurt really bad,” the driver interrupted her thoughts in a shallow, halting voice. “Please don’t leave me, Officer.”

Not Going Anywhere“I’m right here with you, ma’am; I’m not going anywhere,” Keathley answered, as every instinct within her wanted to race after the punk now rounding the corner toward the back of the grocery store. She pursued this career to bring bad guys to justice, not to play first responder to little old ladies who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She wanted–she needed–this collar if for no other reason that to prove her worth to herself.

“I’m right here with you, ma’am; I’m not going anywhere,” Keathley answered, as every instinct within her wanted to race after the punk now rounding the corner toward the back of the grocery store.

Sirens blared in the distance. Still three or four minutes away, she thought. She considered leaving the old lady for the EMT’s. She felt so helpless, not even able to call in the tag number of the vehicle sports car. Probably stolen, anyway, she thought. Left to care for the old lady, she called upon her first responder training to keep the victim calm, to keep her talking, to assess her injuries without attempting to move her.

“Ma’am, can you tell me what happened? Did you see the car that hit you?”

The questions were really pointless for information, Keathley thought. After all, she had seen the incident almost from beginning to end. This old lady probably never saw it coming.

“Where were you coming from ma’am? Where were you headed?”

Growing increasingly frustrated as the sirens neared, Keathley stuck to her training and kept the old lady talking. She wasn’t particularly paying attention to the responses, just keeping her somewhat alert. She was going on and on about her son’s divorce and subsequent suicide years before. She had raised her grandson since he was six years old—or was it eight? Keathley didn’t really care about his drug problems or why she was trying to find him today or something or other about the neighbor two doors down…

“Keathley!”

Great, she thought, Carter. Of all the cops who could have backed her on this case, it had to be him. The author of Squeaky Keathley himself. His last week on patrol before beginning his new job as detective. Why couldn’t she have just avoided him for one more week?

“Keathley, come on, which way did the driver go?!?”

She pointed listlessly toward the back of the grocery story. Carter sped off, leaving room for the ambulance to pull in beside her.

“Ma’am, this if Officer Keathley. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still with you. Hold on, ma’am; help is here.” She leaned in close as the old lady was trying to tell her something.

“Remember what I told you. Remember…” she whispered.

The EMT’s took charge of the situation while Keathley took a seat on the curb and waited for her boss to arrive. He would have questions, and she would have to stick around to give him answers. He’ll get here in time to see Carter play the hero, she thought, sinking into herself.

“Keathley! Keathley, snap out of it!” Sergeant Anderson crashed into her thoughts. She looked up to see the EMT’s huddled with her boss. And Carter.

“We’ve lost her,” she heard one of the paramedics say. “You did everything you could, Keathley.”

Carter groused, “We lost the other driver. While Keathley was here babysitting the old lady, he went over the back wall and disappeared. Ran the plates. Reported stolen an hour ago.”

Keathley stammered, “Grandson…neighbor’s car…last straw…not going anywhere.”

© 2015 Al Ainsworth

 


 

photo 1 credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32029534@N00/19083338472″>a difficult job, show respect san francisco (2013)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo 2 credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124442807@N01/220540020″>IMG_1243.JPG</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

 

 

 

 

About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

2 Replies

  1. Hi Al,
    I found it difficult to like Officer Keathley, though I could easily hear her speaking voice in my head. Like Lena Lemont in Singing in the Rain…
    Here’s my take on this short short:

    POV:
    very obviously, one point of view, we were clearly in Keathley’s head. I found her distraction and detachment for the dying grandmother unnerving and jarring, but possibly accurate for someone who sees death daily.
    Dialog:
    Irritating. I wanted to know what the grandmother said, you wouldn’t communicate it. Last words are vital, but you denied them, like a wasted breath. I wondered whether the punk was her grandson, on drugs and crashed into her, stealing the sports car to make money for his drug habit.
    Plot:
    Good action, though again frustrating, as you said, at multiple levels Officer Keathley was ‘Not Going Anywhere’. We were stuck on the scene, stuck with her in a dead end job, and probably, by the final line, stuck with her remorse and frustration at not remembering ANYTHING the old lady said.

    The final sentence, however, seemed disconnected, as I would have expected her thoughts trying to dredge anything the woman had said that would have pertained to the case. At this point it was vehicular homicide with hints it might have been murder or even suicide. Having her parrot snippets was a bit jarring.

    So from a literary work I’d say it was decent, but I didn’t enjoy it, and probably wasn’t supposed to…

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Chris. As a writer who likes to create clearly likable or unlikable characters, this was quite a challenge for me. You are correct in that you probably should not have enjoyed Keathley’s character; after all, she didn’t. If you want to like her, the beauty of a personal reading experience allows you to assume outcomes that are not expressly written into the story–that her parroted snippets were the first steps in bringing the truth from her foggy memory and ultimately leading to a solved case, a commendation, and a promotion. 🙂

      I appreciate the discussion!

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