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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: Eleanor
By Ivy Strader


The old record hiccupped, then scratched, then groaningly began to pour out music. From the first “Ahhh,” Eleanor was already not listening; she’d heard it so many times it didn’t mean anything anymore.

She moved away from the record player and sat in a creaky, high-backed chair, glancing out the window at the street. It was twilight and there was only one woman walking past, one hand shoved deep in her pocket and the other holding a cellphone, which her eyes were resolutely glued to. A couple of cars zoomed by, but otherwise the street was deserted.

Without thinking, Eleanor joined in with the chorus of the song, barely singing above a whisper although the tiny apartment was otherwise empty. The only other life that entered this room was her mother every Saturday night for dinner, without fail, every week, since she’d moved in straight out of college three years ago.

Eleanor still couldn’t believe she was only 25. A quarter of a century old. Assuming she stayed in good health, she had fifty or sixty more years to go, whiling away her time alone in this tiny apartment. She felt like she was trapped in a life she never asked for, imprisoned in this body against her will.

The record finished with a final wailing of strings. Eleanor let out a whoosh of breath (she hadn’t noticed she was holding it) and went to start it again. As it began (“Ahhh”), she remembered the many times her mother had played this song for her when she was a kid. Mom played it on CD, of course, because she hadn’t found Grandma’s old record player yet. It was her housewarming present to Eleanor and she’d used it nearly every day since then.

Yesterday when her mother came over she noticed the record in the player. “You’re not still listening to that, are you?” she’d asked peevishly. “Come on, sweetheart. Just because you share a name doesn’t mean you’re the same as her. Liven up! You need to join a club or something! Get out! Meet people! You don’t want to end up just like her, do you? If I die before you, nobody’s coming to your funeral, and you know it!”

Eleanor had responded with a cold stare and a change of subject. But it still hurt, because she knew her mother was right. If she died today, would anyone miss her?

With a sudden, heart-rending cry, she burst into tears, burying her face in her hands and letting her body be wracked by sobs. The record crooned softly in the background. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

“I don’t belong anywhere,” she said into her tear-soaked hands. “I have no friends. I’m trapped in my own head.” And muttering crazily to myself, she added silently. Sitting up, she wiped her tears as well as she could with her sleeve and took stock of her situation.

“Where do I come from, and where do I belong?” she mused. She glanced over at the corner of the room where her abandoned knitting bag lay. She hadn’t picked it up for a year at least, although it had been her favorite thing to do all through college. She pondered for a minute. She picked her laptop up off the ground, her heart pounding as she typed in the address of the website her mother had suggested to her, then typed “knitting” in the search bar.

“City Knitters. Come join us. Newcomers welcome. Meeting in an hour?” she said aloud. “I can do that. Let’s go, Eleanor!” She was terrified and exhilarated at the same time. She put her laptop down on the ground, jumped out of her chair, and flipped the record over. Yellow Submarine was going to have to do. She danced crazily through the first chorus, laughing all the way, and dropping breathlessly in the middle of the carpet, she giggled helplessly. It looked like she was finally going to break free.

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This article has been read 370 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Curtis04/15/11
This is a beautiful story. I would like to have read more, such as why did she feel so trapped? I'm so pleased she was able to see the light out of her dark world at the end. Well done.
diana kay04/16/11
very interesting and evocative. Eleanor seemed to be an old person in lots of the description the old record, the knitting, the isolation and it was interesting and telling that she was only 25. I was curious too she seemed perhaps not to be in good health for some reason and the feeling of being "stuck" came over powerfully but you left the reader curious.... perhaps this is a good thing because it added to the interest. If this was an extract from a novel I sure would buy the book!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/18/11
I enjoyed watching the transformation of this poor lonely soul. It is so easy to get wrapped up in one's self. I could relate to Eleanor while she was listening to Lonely people. When you quote a song or someone make sure you cite where it is from. Again you pulled me in from beginning to end.
Kathleen Langridge04/23/11
I was pleased that Eleanor made the decision to break out of her doldrums but it seemed too much too soon after the build up. I too, liked the mystery of her character and similarity to her namesake. Has potential.
Seema Bagai 04/23/11
I hope the MC has the courage to break out of her loneliness. This is a well-written piece. I could relate to Eleanor's thoughts and feelings of loneliness. Good work.