Tuesday, 29 September 2009


This week’s sentence was taken from Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’.

It was:
“Tell me what you do all day,” he said, crossing his arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat forward to screen the sun-dazzle.


Central Park in the early 1960s; no mimes, no joggers, no Goddamned cellphones.
Sunny lunchtime in May.
Light so bright it bleached the sky. So fast it slammed into the lake and exploded on impact.
A million sparkling shards, flickering ricochets burning blind-spots, searing the retinas of anyone foolish enough to look.

Down by the lake: two guys in ties.
One lay back on the grass and breathed deep.

“Tell me what you do all day,” he said, crossing his arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat forward to screen the sun-dazzle.

His companion sat looking the other way, watching office girls in summer frocks flounce through their lunch-break.
Greene peered up at him from under the brim of his fedora.

"I mean other than look at girls."

Matching grins.

"I'm a commercial artist."

"No shit?" he paused, "Notwithstanding that, my question remains."

Gray laughed.

"Notwithstanding? You're kidding! Who says notwithstanding these days?"

"I do. Notwithstanding that, what do you do all day, Mister Commercial Artist?"

"I paint those." he pointed his chin at the groups of girls. "I sit all day at a drawing board and make young housewives' dreams come true."

"Son, you know jack shit about housewives' dreams."

A guilty chuckle.

"Yeah, I know. But somebody's gotta make 'em yearn for that crap."

Greene raised his head.

"Dishwashers? Rotisseries? Laundromats? Who needs a dishwasher? That's what the housewife is for. What's she gonna do after dinner? Come and yak at her husband? Leave the poor guy alone, sweetie. Wash the Goddamned dishes."

Gray shook his head, laughing softly.

"You trying to put me out of a job? The world's changing. Housewives apparently have 'leisure time' now."

"You're scaring me, kid. Cut it out."

Gray's blue eyes met Greene's brown. He smiled.

"So what do you do all day, Mister Mysterious?"

"I'm not a cop, if that's what you're worried about."

Gray looked away, relief falling off him like sweat.

"I'm pleased to hear it. Notwithstanding that, my question remains."

Greene couldn't help but laugh.

"You've got a cheek, kid. I like that."

The younger man grinned at him, raising an eyebrow coquettishly.

"Notwithstanding that …"

"You really wanna know what I do? I hang around the park cruising for queers. What do you think?"

"Well I was kinda wondering."

"I'm a writer."

Gray nodded and shifted towards him, his fingers playing with the grass.

"So, Mister Writer man. I don't see you as a crusading journalist, rousting guys like me for the gutter press. What sort of things do you write?"

"I write short stories."

Gray looked a little disappointed.

"No Great American Novel, then?"

"Not yet. Just little slices of New York life."

Gray gazed at him for a long time.

"So what am I? Research?"

"No, son; you're just a figment of my imagination."

Greene got up and stretched. Alone but for the office girls he tipped his hat to them and strolled off through the trees, disappearing into the dappled shade.


Todd said...

I finally figured out where you hide your stories. It took me a minute; I kept looking at the assignment and thinking out loud, "Where the heck does he keep his writings? Oh yeah ... READ ME... click."


Nice stuff dive!

Vanda said...

Oooh, nice, I like it!

By the way, have you seen Mad Men? It's about Madison Avenue advertising peeps in the 60's. Great show.

I love this description:

"Light so bright it bleached the sky. So fast it slammed into the lake and exploded on impact."

dive said...

Hee hee, Todd. Thank you. Yes, the 500 Words stories were kind of getting all muddled up with other stuff on the main blog so I shifted them over here out of the way.

Vanda: You're too kind.
I spend a lot of time laying on the grass by the lake in St.James's Park so I know that kind of light all too well.

And well done for spotting the Mad Men link; when I was about halfway through writing this I realised at least one of the guys was gay and I thought of Sal, so I made him a commercial artist.
Katie pointed me in the direction of Mad Men (I don't watch TV) and I've got the first two series on DVD which I watch on my Mac.
That's why I had to skip your Mad Men post a little while back in case there were spoilers. Hee hee.

Scout said...

Look at you starting your own 500 Words blog!

I like this story—Central Park in May is probably a lovely place, but it seems I'm only in NY in the heat of the summer.

Notwithstanding that, I can see someone with an active imagination sprawled out in the grass and having a private conversation with his own thoughts.

dive said...

Robyn: It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.
Glad you like the little story. Maybe one day I'll actually get to see Central Park for real.

MmeBenaut said...

I'm with Vanda on the best line in the story ... fascinating one this time, Dive. Sorry it's taken me a while to get around to reading.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Dive I have to tell you, this is one of my favorites so far. The language is just so real and fun, the descriptions crisp....it's very different from your other pieces but I almost can't pinpoint why (other than the fact no one is about to be shot, of course). The trick ending is fab, but I guess it's just the image of these two you create that I really love. And the dialog...I'm right there with them.

dive said...

Mme: Don't worry about time! Hee hee. These stories - not just mine - are for dipping in to whenever you are in the mood for a coffee break diversion.

Katherine: You make me go all "gee shucks", but thank you so much.