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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

TITLE: The Man Behind the Glass
By Ryan Tribble


I waited expectantly for your call. When I laid my head on the pillow, my eyes were fixed upon the phone. More than a ghost haunting my dreams you consumed my thoughts. I tried to call, but the line was busy. Now it is severed.

I canít wait to show you this day, for it is special. The oaks are ornamented with gold. The poplars are naked and ready for sleep. Our path is strewn with their garments. The breeze is seasoned with the cinnamon scent of the bear-clover. My heart races. The leaves proclaim your coming with crunching. My hands are outstretched awaiting your embrace. Alas! It is only a memory.

I can see you now, sitting and watching Shark. I cherish the memories of watching with you. I still watch as he vainly swims in circles. He rises to the surface, and nibbles your food, thankless. He is your smile, and doesnít know it. Safe in your home and depending only upon your love. Yet he dreams of a bigger pond. Poor Shark. So unhappy in his ignorance.

Did you ever see Shark swim furiously against the glass? He desires freedom to swim without bounds. Has he considered the dry floor outside the bowl, or even the bigger fish? You spared Shark the choice. I didnít.

How long will you sit there cold, and decaying? The stale water is dark with algae. White fuzz clings to the body stinking on the surface. Opened beside the withered rose is your fish food -- empty. A cobweb stretches across her bed layered with dust. Soiled dishes drip from the sink. The coffee is burning.

The phone rings, faintly. The dying coal brightens with the breeze, then fades slowly, burning inward. There! Do you hear? Answer it. How will you find it buried beneath these boxes? Have you forgotten the purpose of a drawer? Put your clothes away.

The answering machine is playing. A tear twists its way down your unshaven cheek. Itís her voice. Your heart beats, and aches with memory -- good. It's not too late. Keep crying. I know the feeling.

Careful! Her picture falls and glass shatters across the floor. Frail as she is beautiful. Her breasts slowly rises as she stares into your eyes, then fall never to rise again. Now she lives, and you are dying. When will you learn to listen? The glass cannot be repaired. You clutch it to your bosom, but the pieces cut away at your heart. Let it go.

Have you been to the mirror lately? Itís curiously polished and your face is not. Wax stains the marble countertop where a candle burns. An incense of old urine weights the air. As you gaze into your own eyes, ask yourself, ďwhom do I love?Ē

Listen! The call is fainter, and will not come again.



The man stirs in his sleep. The goldfish cruises the perimeter of his bowl, watching.



I canít figure it out. Up here he is long and twisted, like a smear of paint. A little lower and he is wadded into a sleeping ball. From every angle of this bowl his shape shifts. What does he really look like?


I wonder what happened to her. Together they were obsessed! I never had any privacy because they were always watching. When she left she must have taken the food. Now he doesnít feed me as often. There must be a way out of this bowl. Iíll try searching the other corner.


Heís awake -- food. He places his hand over his head and groans. The food is outside useless. Why does he leave it there to taunt me? As he stands he stumbles over the cups littering the floor. Hey! Come back! Iíll starve at this rate. He could at least open the window.

Heís back -- now to capture his attention. He opens the windows, but thatís not helping my stomach. He walks toward me. The water ripples with food. I cautiously rise. The food cloud parts as his finger breaks the surface. I smell, bump, and see it doesnít shift. This is truly him.



I awake with a gasp. I can barely see as I stumble to the kitchen and turn off the gas. I fall to the floor and tremble with tears.

ďIt hurts! Oh God it hurts! Forgive me! Iím listening but it is too late for her.Ē

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Member Comments
Member Date
Scott Sheets07/26/08
Very interesting story with quite a surprising ending. I realize you were trying to create a disoriented feel with your POV, however I found it almost too disorienting. I had to read it several times and still struggled with the various POV's scattered throughout.
Gladys Bloom07/26/08
Interesting piece and very poetic. I was a little lost in the beginning though. After reading it a couple times, I think I understand it. The first perspective must be God looking in on a man. The second is the fish looking out at the man. The fish is symbolic of the man through the whole story. I think the key to understanding it is that you have the whole focus anchored on the man from two perspectives. Am I right? Work on being clear and your writing will be more potent.
Patty Wysong07/29/08
The intensity came through loud and clear, even if the meaning didn't. It's hard to capture intensity and word count is limiting.
Mary Hackett07/30/08
I have to agree with the others. This is good writing--very intense and descriptive without superfluous words. But I just cannot decipher the meaning here. I understand the fish's perspective, but aside from that I was getting vague ideas that some woman had died (was murdered? Was it an attempted suicide pact??). The man's perspective, or God's perspective, was not clear to me. It's a very intriguing read though!