Thursday, February 17, 2011


You pause at the subway entrance. By the blind woman. Every evening she shows up for the commuter rush, rattling her cup, hustling for coins. Tonight you press your bagged lunch, uneaten, into her hands, then pull out the crumpled twenty you found wedged in your pencil drawer. She mumbles thanks, so you stuff your hat and leather gloves and the Ray-Ban’s your ex gave you last Christmas into her waiting lap. So many riches, all at once, and for the smallest instant you wish you were her, you wish you were anyone but yourself. She leans closer, she smells of grease and raw onion and the street, and peers into the Xerox box hugged tight against the curve of your hip. When you question the veracity of her condition, she laughs, a smoke-smoothed cackle, and you think, what does it matter?

The escalator whisks you silent into the dim bowels of the station. At the bottom, the box thuds at your feet: mug, wedding photo, the 25-year pen. You think you should feel lighter, somehow unencumbered, but you don’t. The platform trembles. The cold rush of air precedes the oncoming train.


Inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: the money's gone. But also inspired by a very small story of mine published last year at nanoism. Can you find the story within the story?

Don't know about you, but there's a lot of folks rattling boxes at the subway station these days. Makes me grateful for the job I do have, even those days when it drives me barmy. Peace...


  1. I was reminded of the Nick Roeg film "Performance" with Mick jagger & Edward Fox where gradually they swap identities. I almost felt the donations of her old life things in the box was conferring such unhappy items on the blind woman, turning her at least superficially into the the former her married to the ex, but then she says 'what does it matter?" and I think she realises she won't take away the beggar's identity. Nor will she herself smell of onins.

    Nice story.

    marc nash

  2. I too thought there would be an actual change of identities, like in a continuous cycle of unhappy people. I love how you ended it differently. I've been in your MC's skin, so I related very much with her.

  3. Oh!
    So finely drawn, I can smell the woman's perfume, see her good wool coat, the shine of her hair... and how it, and the pride she had in her work, all of it for naught.
    "the 25 year pen."
    You're just awesome, you know that?

  4. Opportunities for charity can be very draining. If they aren't received with affirmation, they can be even worse. Usually, though, I've found positive outcomes are the result of your own attitude and direction. It fits with this tale.

  5. Thanks all for reading and commenting -- I am really appreciating your observations. But I think I need to rewrite, the ending is too subtle -- this is NOT a happy outcomes (after all, why should I change my modus operandi ;^) ). Oh dear... peace...

  6. Linda, this is chilling to me because in my experience if someone begins to give their personal belongings away they are not intending on living much longer. Also, the 'what does it matter to me' sentiment says a lot about your character's state of mind. I got the sense she was planning to jump in front of the train, and it was heartbreaking. That's my reading, anyway.

  7. "a smoke-smoothed cackle" That must be the absolute best description of a voice I've ever heard.

    I too am confused by the observations of this. To me, it's clearly the prelude to suicide.

    This is especially hard-hitting for me since my cousin, (who I wrote about this week, (and thank you for your kind words!)), took his own life last Friday.

    This is a favorite Linda, not because of my situation, not at all, but because of how very well you tell the story.

  8. Standing on the edge, looking out over the abyss that is the rest of your life...

    Powerful writing as always, Linda.

  9. It's always a good idea to be grateful for what we have.

    Nice piece, Linda. You captured the scene so well.


  10. What an urge, to be done with the details of your life. At the risk of taking that one step further...

    There was just enough in this piece to allow the reader fill in the rest.

    Elegantly done.

  11. Thank you all for reading. Lou and Cathy nailed my intent. I played off the nanoism micro, wondering what her last moments might have been before the train rumbled down the tunnel. Peace...

  12. Sometimes, it's hard to rise above our own grief to realize it could always be worse. I feel sorry for the MC in this story. Thanks for sharing, Linda.

  13. There is a unwritten sadness here beyond the obvious. It reminded me of this man I knew who was giving away all of his belongings. He knew he was dying, but we didn't. So whenever I read or hear about people giving away something that could be called, "riches" I think either they are going to die or about to begin a tremendous change in their lives. I like using death as a metaphor for life changes anyway.

  14. you wish you were anyone but yourself..i guess that sums it up..haunting..

  15. You don't need to rewrite, I think it's perfect. I read it the way Lou and Deanna do.

    The laughter of the "blind" woman is extremely potent here. The MC, who may be a man or a woman, is far more abject than she, at the very end of the line.

  16. Thank you all for reading. Rachel, I have a good friend who lost everything she owned in a devastating fire (this was years ago). She's traveled very light ever since, always giving belonging of hers away. She does not want to get too attached, she says.

    Stephen, yes, it is difficult to rise above our own sadness. Something I battle daily, one reason why so many of my stories have a sad edge.

    MJ, yup, sums it up.

    Mark, thank you! Sometimes I think I write too subtle. Dunno, just the way I write. Though a good friend and writer (and one of my closest readers) says I remind him of Brett Easton Ellis - ha!


  17. Do not rewrite, Linda! It's great as it is, and IMO you don't have to have a happy ending in every story. After all, stories are much like life, aren't they? ;)

  18. I found this story so sad, especially the ending when "the cold rush of air precedes the oncoming train." The signs of her suicide preceded this when she questions "Does it matter?" and the fact that she gave everything away that mattered.