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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)

TITLE: The Forgotten Sweater
By Sue Dent
11/16/06


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They’d met at an office party. His mind lingered on her as he drove home from work in the dark. He’d missed seeing the sunset, the painted sky had long ago melted into the bay. He probably wouldn’t see the sunrise either since he had to be at work early.

Marcy, he thought. She’d be waiting for him when he got home. He’d text messaged her to tell her he’d be late.

Another red light! The Jag in front of him actually stopped this time. He cursed. Slammed on the brakes. The sudden jolt sent his briefcase sliding off the seat. Solidly, it connected with the plastic drink holder. Cold coffee spilled onto his pants. His seats!

He cursed again, wiped feverishly with a sweater he’d found. Stopped for a second when he realized it was Casey’s. She must’ve left it when he went to visit last week. Oh, well. He could send it to the cleaners later. The light changed. The Jag sat. He slammed his hand down hard on the horn. The Jag moved on.

He threw the sweater onto the spotless floorboard with no more thought given to it than to the one who it belonged to.

Marcy, he thought again. Fifteen more minutes and she’d be waiting.

He was going to ask her to marry him tonight. Had the ring in his briefcase. A cool $3000! She’d appreciate it.

Things would be different this time around.

His cell phone vibrated. Traffic had thinned out. There were still five lanes, but no longer the insipidly slow crawl. He braved fishing the phone out of a pocket. It was his ex.

“Yes,” came his agitated greeting. Then in response to some trivial reply, “I went to visit her last week! It’s your turn.”

His blood pressure was rising. “I know I’m her parent but so are you. If you had quit working to take care of her, maybe we wouldn’t be having this debate.”

His concentration broken, he nearly ran up on another vehicle. He swerved hard to the left to avoid hitting it and almost hit someone else. The briefcase went sliding again. He ended the call as abruptly as he’d started it.

Not even the thought of being with Marcy could calm him now. He chose instead to fume about his ex.

She was the one who wanted children. He just went along with the idea to keep her happy. To this day, he didn’t know what went wrong. Yet with two successful parents, their daughter still managed to get in trouble. First drugs, then the boys. They finally just sent her off to a boarding school.
The road narrowed. Streetlights marked an entrance.

Suburbia waited.

He managed to get the house in the settlement. His ex didn’t want it. He pulled up into the circular drive now and stepped out.

He left the forgotten sweater on the floorboard, grabbed his briefcase and climbed the perfectly scored steps eager to see Marcy.

She greeted him just inside the large entry hall with what she claimed to be wonderful news.

He had wonderful news too but decided to put it on hold to hear hers.

Her enthusiasm was contagious. He smiled back. Held her at arms length.

“What is it?” he asked. “What has you beaming?”

“Well, I have to tell you fast,” she said, no longer hid the fact that her briefcase was beside her. “Henry just called and needs me to come look over a proposal with him. But anyway, I took a pregnancy test during lunch today and it came out positive. Isn’t that wonderful? We’re going to be parents!”

She grabbed her coat off a hook, draped it over her arm and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ve got to run though but I left some take-out for you in the microwave. Don’t wait up. I’ll be late.”

She stopped in the doorway. “Oh, I’m sorry. You said you had some news too.”

A flippant wave of the hand, a beautifully feigned smile. “Nothing that could beat that.”

After she left he went back out to his car, dismal. Drove to the nearest cleaners and dropped off the forgotten sweater.


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This article has been read 734 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter11/24/06
Yeah, I like it. Clever use of the sweater to represent its forgotten owner. What a creep! My fingers are itching to give him a slap. I especially liked the way you used brief punchy sentences to add impact. 'Suburbia waited.' Good stuff.
terri tiffany11/24/06
I loved the pace- it fit perfectly. Loved the irony of his life - happens to too many. Good detail - especially the sunset line. You did great with showing his emotions through actions. Nice:)
Tara Huff11/25/06
Very good. I loved the irony of it all!Trying to escape and not changing behavior lands us right back in our thoughtless situation. Thank you for a good read!
william price11/25/06
Very amusing. Smartly written with a slight edge to it. I liked the use of the sweater. I just hope it wasn't a wool sweater (inside joke).
william price11/25/06
One more thing. I even like the fact it was cold, old, forgotten, unfinished coffee that stained the sweater.
william price11/25/06
And how the sweater was used to clean up his mess, his anger, etc.
Excellent imagary.
Joanne Sher 11/26/06
Definitely wonderful imagery here. This story was excellently put together and presented. Great stuff!
Stephen Paynter11/28/06
Hi Sue ... and yes, (just like last week!) ... hinting has already started.

I really liked this. It is well written. I particularly liked the believability of the main character. The unrelenting honesty of your depiction of him makes this quite a dark piece ... but that is no bad thing, given what you are communicating!!

I struggled a little with the sweater arc ... I assume it was the daughter's?

As much as I admire the writing in this (and I really do!), if I was to be brutally honest ... and I think we both want comments like that, so that we can understand how to improve so we can place more often ... I would say that this piece lacks that special something that really grips the reader, and makes them care about the main character ... or even his girlfriend.

God bless,
Steve
Sue Dent11/28/06
Hey Mr. Stephen! Then you would have loved my first version which had too many words so I had to cut down. It brought a little more closure. But then, after I cut the words, I actually liked the story better because it shows how desensitized some have become to what family and kids are. As usual though, I LOVE your comments!!!
Marty Wellington 11/28/06
Hey Sue, Great story. While I loved how the sweater tied it all together, it wasn't until the very end that I figured out Casey was his daughter. In the first reading, I was assuming it was another girlfriend, wife, etc. Might have been useful to add "his daughter" to clarify. Just a thought. Otherwise, very well crafted and thought provoking about how disposable kids are in our disposable society. Excellent.
Jan Ackerson 11/28/06
You did an awesome job with this despicable character!
Dennis Fletcher11/29/06
Such a good story showing such a lost soul. You almost want to feel sorry for him. Well done.
Donna Haug11/29/06
I sure didn't feel sorry for him. In Portuguese we say, "Bem feito!" (well done on him) He deserved it!
Betty Castleberry11/29/06
Great story telling. I like your fine tuned main character. Where is this guy, anyway? I've got something I want to say to him.
Debbie Sickler11/29/06
I have to agree about there being some confusion about the daughter. You start out by saying that 'they met at an office party' and he's thinking about her. Marcy would be waiting and he had a girl's sweater with an unimportant owner. I think that all combined to give the impression we were reading about a womanizer.

Once I figured that out though, I loved the irony of his situation and enjoyed the story. Having an ex myself who never wanted kids and used to fit his son's visits in around important things like doing laundry, I could totally relate to his "it's your turn to get stuck with her" attitude.
Sara Harricharan 11/29/06
This was great, I loved the use of the sweater and the way you portrayed the character. Good job!
Donna Emery11/29/06
You described this difficult character very clearly. I hope he does better with his second child, but one can only hope. Very well written. I enjoyed reading this very much. Thanks for sharing this.
Ruth Neilson11/29/06
oh the irony. It took me two reads to catch everything though. But I enjoyed it.
Shari Armstrong 11/29/06
Some people never learn....