I gave my students an…

I gave my students an assignment on Tuesday -- well, not an assignment, but I talked about this exercise -- write a story purely in dialogue, no tags or description at all. It's pretty much the way you'd write it for a play, but of course, you don't have physical cues to help you remember who is whom. It's a tough challenge, but kind of fun, and I ended up writing a story that way myself the next day. I'm not certain now whether I want to work on it further, and if so, whether I should keep it in this form, or reshape it into a more traditional story. I'm workshopping it on Sunday, but I thought maybe I'd just ask you guys too -- it's short enough that I can just post it in this entry, and I'm not so worried about protecting first publication rights on it.

Mostly, I'm just happy to be writing easily again.

Happy is way too mild a word.

Coffee Date

"Well. This is awkward."

"God, yes. I'm glad you were the one to say it first!"

"Only appropriate, after all. You said you tried texting him?"

"About half an hour ago, when I got here. No response."

"And he's not answering my calls now. Maybe he's caught in traffic. He doesn't like to use the phone while he drives."


"Well, I suppose this would count as an exceptional circumstance. It's odd that he didn't pick up."

"Maybe he was in an accident. He's lying by the side of the road, right now, his head bleeding all over the pavement. And while the paramedics try to hold him down and sew him up, he's struggling to sit up, insisting that they find his iPhone, because he has a very important appointment that he has to be at right now!"

"That's not really funny."

"Aw, c'mon. It was a little funny. Wasn't it?"

"Well. I suppose. But only because of the iPhone."

"And because you know that this meeting is actually in his calendar."

"Oh, of course. 11:00, review documents. 12:00, presentation to big boss. 1 p.m. -- well, I'm not sure how he'd list this meeting, but I'm sure it's in there."

"Maybe we should start without him?"

"I suppose so. He's probably just caught in traffic."

"I'm sorry about the accident comment. I didn't mean it seriously."

"Oh, I know. I shouldn't have responsed like that. I'm just a little stressed today."

"Oh god, me too. That's why I got here half an hour early. I wanted to see what you looked like, in person, before you saw me. And I didn't want to be late, and have you get a bad first impression of me. Usually I'm late to everything. And not just five or ten minutes late -- somehow it's always half an hour or forty-five minutes late, late enough that whatever it was you were trying to do -- eat lunch, see a movie -- "

" -- have sex?"

"Ummyes, have sex. Late enough that whatever you were hoping to do is seriously compromised."

"That must drive him crazy."

"He hasn't really complained yet, but he gets this look -- "

"Still, he's putting up with it. That must mean he thinks you're worth it."

"Well, at least so far. It's all very new right now. It's easy to forgive character flaws when you're still in the first few weeks. Still in the throes of new love -- or new lust, or something. I don't know what to call it."



"New relationship energy. That big burst of energy and excitement that you get at the start of a new relationship, when everything's fresh and possible, and your partner is still remembering to brush their teeth before you meet; he's even trying to avoid farting in front of you. NRE makes you dizzy. And eventually it fades, and that's when you figure out whether you actually want to keep seeing this person."

"Right. I guess we don't know that yet. God, it must be nice to be past all that early stuff; you two seem so stable. I can't believe you've been seeing him for seven years. You must feel so secure."

"Oh, very stable, very secure. Until a beautiful young woman comes into his life and brings back the fireworks."

"I don't -- are you upset that he's seeing me?"

"No, no. Upset -- upset isn't the right word. It's not like he's going to stop seeing me just because he's started seeing you. And I'm happy for him, really I am. You should hear the way he talks about you; he's positively giddy. He's had a rough time the past few years; it's nice to hear him so happy again."

"But -- "

"It's a little unsettling, that's all. You're almost a decade younger than me, after all. And a lot thinner."

"But you're so beautiful and sexy"

"Thank you. That's sweet of you to say."

"It's true, I swear!"

"You don't need to keep saying it, dear."

"Umm -- does that mean that we're all right? I know he was worried. That's why we're here, isn't it? To meet -- see if we approve of each other. Or really, if you approve of me, I think. Are we okay? Are you okay with me, in his life?"

"I think we'll be fine. As long as you don't disrupt the schedule -- "

"I won't, I promise. You have every weekday lunchtime, and Saturday afternoon."

"Yes. That's really all I can get away; I'm supposed to be taking a pilates class on Saturday afternoons."

"Oh, that's a good one. It is a little like pilates."

"Not very much. Although pilates does explain the sweatiness. In any case, you can have as much of the rest of the time as you want. In fact, I really only have time to see him a few weekday lunches, so if you want to just call me on Mondays, I can probably tell you which lunches I'll want that week."

"Oh, that's really nice of you. Thanks!"

"My pleasure. Or his, I suppose."

"Ummyes. Hopefully. Listen, it was really nice meeting you, and you're really even prettier than your photos."

"That's sweet of you to say."

"Maybe we can get together again sometime?"

"That would be nice -- if only life weren't so busy. You know how it is, juggling everything. I really have to get going now -- I need to get home and start dinner for the kids. They'll be home from school by now, and if I'm not back by 5:30, they'll start wondering where I am."

"Oh, me too! And I forgot to get groceries -- god, dinner's going to be so late tonight"

"You really need to manage your time better, or this is never going to work out for you."

"I know, I know -- that's what he keeps telling me too."

"Well, good luck with it. It really was very nice to meet you."

"Thanks! You too! Bye!"



4 thoughts on “I gave my students an…”

  1. Firstly, your skill at writing dialog makes the sense of the story come through. Secondly, the gradual reveal of who these two are and who “he” is really held my interest. Fred Brown used to excel at short-shorts but the field seems to no longer reward them. Maybe you could revive it?

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Thanks, Gerry! That was the intent, although I think I need to clarify a little — neither of the workshoppers quite *got* what exactly I meant to be going on. I’d be very curious what you (or others) thought the situation actually was?

  3. I assumed the guy had been caught having an affair and was meeting with his wife and his lover, until somewhere around the “have sex” line or a little later, when I realized what was really going on. In retrospect, knowing who wrote it, I should’ve figured it out sooner. 🙂

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    See, and I’m still not sure how you’re reading it, Jed, because as far as I can tell, there are at least two, if not three, readings that are supported by the text as it stands. 🙂 Admittedly, I wouldn’t have thought of all of them myself, but based on my workshop folks’ reactions…

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