Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are escape, hum and vibrant.


The kernel for his escape began as she raked her hand across his three-day stubble, fingers shrunken and cold like parchment, in the wake of her struggle to lean her lips near to his ear and whispered, “Let me go.”
He ran his palms across his jeans, the ones he’d purchased for this getaway at a thrift store, and worried. Gaining enough trajectory for this, he’d downsized quickly, selling off possessions that included both their high-priced vehicles, a reminder of a different time, a different life.
He would slink into the expanse clean with the clothes on his back, driving a pickup he’d purchased with cash from a farmer who had placed a sign in the cab, hand-painted with a spray can, announcing it was low on miles and “ran good.”
But in getting the truck ready for the journey, he’d haphazardly gotten battery acid on the denim and in the wake, blossoms opened, exposing his flesh.
He rubbed at the holes, felt the soft cotton where the acid had devoured, and fretted. There wasn’t the energy to shop again, that would interrupt his flight, maybe even signal an abrupt abort. No.
He pulled his fingers away from the holes, closed his eyes, turned the key that caused the truck to sputter to life.
She had passed from him on a Tuesday and he had missed it. She slipped silently away while he slept in her hospital bed, his muscle tone, his healthy pink skin engulfing her decline from beauty to skin-wrapped skeleton.
He woke startled, felt with his frame for any signs of life and finding none, softly wept in her ear, filling the canal (he still felt guilt about that), until the charge nurse put her hand on his shoulder and said, “It’s time, honey, let go of her, let God have her.”
The service was private, held at the graveside, avoiding both awkward explanations and open caskets.
The sell-off was immediate, calculated. Money transfers to a holding company where he could gain access, shopping, thrust building.
He retired via email, from an account he would never check again.
Sitting on the truck’s bench seat was a pristine Rand-McNally atlas and an 1888 Morgan silver dollar, a gift from her during a trip to San Francisco when he still cared about obtaining things.
Lady Liberty faced him and lay slightly west of Ohio.
Heads meant west, so he nudged the truck into the flow of traffic, avoided the Interstate and instead rumbled toward the Pacific on a two-lane blacktop into darkness and a sea of stars, the first echo of pinks and oranges making an appearance in his rear-view mirror.
He remembered the day clearly. She’d gone for a run, but cut it short when a stitch developed in her side and would not be subdued. The pain escalated, until she called their doctor and begged an audience.
The cancer was advanced, aggressive. It was eating her in such a way that there was nothing to do but go home, open a bottle of wine and cry into each-other’s shoulders, until she suggested they go to bed and make love like they used to, unbridled, loud, carnal.
He protested, worried that he’d hurt her somehow, but she stripped in front of him, deliberate, bending this way and that, her body still full and supple.
They had stayed naked and in bed the next day and deep into the next night. They laughed at the stains made on the expensive cotton sheets, touched, laughed, cried.
Thirty-six days later, she felt his warmth one last time, let out a sigh, left him.
He closed his eyes for a time to savor her memory, then snapped them open to scan the open prairie. The windows were open and the cab was filled with moist, vibrant smells of earth, the sweetness of the emerging green fields.
He came to a rise and watched as a figure began to emerge as he closed the distance in the truck. She was altogether familiar, all the curves in the correct places, but younger. He slowed when she put out a thumb on her extended arm, walking casually in brown cowboy boots, the hem of lemon-colored sundress sashaying as she followed the fog line.
He passed her and in the rear-view, he watched as she lowered her arm, turn completely around on one heel in a little dance move and bowed toward him, the gesture playful, defiant.
He braked hard, sent gravel flying. The truck sat angled, clumsy, half on the shoulder, the ass-end in the roadway. She picked up her pace, reached the passenger door and smiled.
“I appreciate the sudden impulse to stop,” she said, laughing. “Where you headed?”
“West,” he said, weaker than he intended, his saliva suddenly depleted.
“Wow, works for me.”
She slid into the cab, careful not to damage the atlas, spied the coin with a crinkle in the corners of her eyes and smiled again.
“Road trip without a predetermined destination, some sort of quest or are you just running from the law?”
“A combination of the first two,” he said, gripping the wheel much too hard.
He angled back onto the roadway, the cab bouncing as the wheels gained purchase on the blacktop and thanked her for joining him. She laid a hand on his arm, warm and electric, and laughed.
“You have no idea,” she said.
And without aid of the radio, she began to hum a tune that caused his breath to stick in his chest.
Her song, the one she hummed while reading food labels at the grocery, the tune she murmured while she shaved her legs.
He looked at her, tears welling in his eyes, causing the landscape to blur into muted tones.
Another jolt as she touched his arm again.
“Just drive,” she whispered. “West suits us, I think.”


Jen said...

I'm a reading FOOL, so with all this literary experience under my belt :) I have to say this (not because you're related, just because it needs to be said): you are a DAMN GOOD WRITER.

The next thing will sound cheesy, but you SERIOUSLY paint a picture with words. Lots of people try, some are bestowed the title of "author" by virtue of penning lame stories about vampires :), but very few can actually WRITE.

I didn't expect the hitchhiker to be so eloquent...for some reason I figured she'd speak more colloquially. But I think that makes her all the more mysterious in addition to her other quirks. All that in, what, 1000 words?


gautami tripathy said...

Tapestry of words. Always a pleasure to read your posts.

silent alphabets

anthonynorth said...

A story to truly take you away into your words.

Daily Panic said...

i really liked this, and i like it that she joined him. I have to think it is his state of mind that makes her present and know that when love is so deep that it lingers after loss in whatever form we materialize it. for some a scent, others a memory, and some go completely into that place that no one else sees, but is still so real. great story.

Sherri B. said...

Vivid and riveting, as always!

Dee Martin said...

omg Thom. You made me cry in my dinner plate! Romance, Death, just a touch of fantasy. If a vacation does this for you? Wow.

Andy Sewina said...

Phew, I can't see the keyboard, for tears. Brill! She really came back to life for me!!

Thomma Lyn said...

Okay, Thom, I'm crying into my pizza. "Brilliant" simply doesn't do this story justice. Your luminous writing ability and storytelling skills continue to amaze me.

Tammy Brierly said...

It's great to be back (winter FB procrastination) and witing again. You are an excellent word weaver. This was a tad too close to home as I sobbed on my keyboard. :)

Sorry I used vibrate instead of vibrant. Must be

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

I love this...just a great short story with the ending we all needed. Thank you.


Unknown said...

For god sakes Thom, write a book already. It just leaves me wanting more.

quin browne said...

Nice and tight. The only issue I have it the last line... he needs to go East.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

What fun to get such a lovely, hopeful story this week! Words seem to love you, no matter what you do.

Stacy said...

Amazing story! I think you had me wrapped from the first line. I enjoy how he's experiencing a great loss...yet somehow there's freedom as well, the possibility of a new beginning. I also like how the hitchhiker hummed the same tune.

Amity said...

Am done reading, then would have to read it again! I am so engrossed! My heartbeat became erratic, wheww...what a story Thom!

Keep sharing...:)

Seems the guy enjoyed the ride with a ghost? Or are they on their way to destruction so that finally they can be together on that same plane?

April said...

I agree with Peaceful Pandemonium, where's your novel? You are not just a good writer, you are great. Your attention to detail is perfect.

Fiona Glass said...

Wow. Just wow. This drew me in so deep I completely forgot to look for the 'three words'. I'm sure they were in there, but who cares when a story stirs the reader so powerfully? Poignant and beautiful.

Jay R. Thurston said...

Wasn't the same last week without a Thom fix. Glad to see a story from you again. All the praise above I agree with tenfold. You capture emotion very well, and description even better.

one more believer said...

a love that never dies...sigh....a story within a story...sigh... a well-kept pace keeping us involved till the touch and tune..sigh... vacation did you well thommyg... keep em coming...

J.C. Montgomery said...

I grew up in San Francisco, and in the Sunday paper there was the pink section. The movie ratings had a little man in a theater seat who depicted how good or bad the movie was.

After reading this, I am picturing that same icon, him dancing in his chair clapping - which meant a sure fire, can't miss, must see, great movie.

Except this time he is cheering for your writing.


Tumblewords: said...

My favorite!

Laura Eno said...

Excellent! I love the weave of backstory within the present and the story itself is full of emotion.

Thomas R said...

Another home run. Favorite word - purchase.

Angela Daniels said...

Great story! The passage describing their last days together and her death were very moving.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Love this Thom. The whole story was so easy to see. I especially like the image of the girl in cowboy boots and sundress - one would think that "common", but you renewed it with your description.
Fantastic read!

Marisa Birns said...

A picture, that's what this is. A picture drawn with words.

Loved it.

Valerie said...

Got tears in my eyes here. Lovely story.

MinnesotaScottson said...

The outpouring of responses here tells you Thom that you are doing great writing. Keep it coming. I agree, a fine novel can't be far behind.

Joanie Rich said...

Beautiful! I felt so connected to him and their love felt so real to me. Please keep writing! This is great stuff.

John Wiswell said...

That is one way to cope. Run west.

Vivekanand M said...

This is so lush and evocative.

Donald Conrad said...

There's a lot of paint richly textured on this canvas.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is just so very beautiful, in every single way.

Magnificent writing.

Tony Noland said...

This was marvelous!

Anonymous said...

That was engrossing....And has a very real feeling to it.
C u around on 3WW.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Lovely story.