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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)

TITLE: Black-eyed Susans
By Karen Deikun


While they packed, James had been methodical, selecting what to take and what to leave. He hurried through the procedure with energy while Ruby half-heartedly tossed clothes into a suitcase. She felt helpless against his onslaught of cheerful good humor and bright optimism. It washed over her like an inexorable tide, leaving her exhausted and floundering.

He bundled her into the car, commenting on the beauty of the weather. She looked back at the sunlight dappling the roof of the house, spilling over onto the black-eyed Susans that stood cheerfully behind the low white fence. They waved softly in the morning breeze as if saying goodbye. She loved her flowers. She hoped someone would water them.

As the miles sped by, James kept up a running dialogue. It wasn’t necessary for her to say anything. He was giving his opinions on everything and would be satisfied with a murmur here and there, believing that what he said was what she thought, too. Couldn’t he see that she sat next to him in tightlipped anger, holding on to her temper with rigid control? Couldn’t he tell that she didn’t want to go? Not for the first time, she wondered how they could think so differently after all these years.

“You’ll like this place. I’ve seen it and it’s really beautiful. The room has a view of lawn out the back and there are Irises along the back hedge.”

Ruby just grunted in reply. Irises! She didn’t like them. She liked yellow flowers – bright happy faces with fuzzy black centers – just like she had at home. He’d helped her dig in the fresh fall dirt and move some of them further along the fence when they’d gotten too crowded in the front. Didn’t he remember anything? Maybe he was getting old and having memory lapses. It happened. She leaned back in the big Buick, refusing to enjoy the comfort of the leather seats. She stared at the passing landscape without seeing any of it.

The hours in the car seemed to go on forever as James extolled the beauties and amenities that she would find at the end of their journey. He rattled on about the food, the décor, the people – her ears were tired of listening to it. She hated meeting new people. She liked her solitude and gossiping with Minna from Moscow who lived next door. She did not like crowds and luxury rooms with private baths. And who would feed her cat, she’d like to know? He wasn’t bringing that up, was he? She’d asked him about in over and over and his reply was always the same: “Don’t worry about it.” But she did worry. Who would worry if she didn’t? The poor cat depended on her.

She wished he would be quiet. What did she care if the room had TV and 105 channels? Did she watch TV? She wanted to spend the summer in her garden, in the fresh air. She wished the trip was over and she didn’t have to sit next to him while the big car purred along the smooth highway taking her further and further away. Why couldn’t she magically turn the car around and make him drive back the way they’d come? Why couldn’t she direct her own life? Why did he always have to push her and push her?

As they pulled up he helped her out of the car. What an act! Did he suppose anyone was watching? He put his arm under her elbow – a gesture she particularly hated – and steered her to the door. The double glass doors parted smoothly as they went inside. The lobby with its soft, piped in music lay before them. The carpet beneath her feet was soft and green. She hated it instantly. James continued steering her to the reception desk. The bright-faced young woman was smiling a ridiculous smile.

“Mrs. Holman! Welcome To Birch Manor! Let me show you your room.” And with that, Ruby’s old life was over as her son James walked away, leaving her in the nursing home without a backward glance.

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This article has been read 1266 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Crista Darr07/25/05
I feel like I've been punched in the gut. How tragic! Exceptionally written.
Lynda Lee Schab 07/25/05
Bravo! This was exceptionally written with a wonderful twist. I love surprises and this one delivered, hands down.
I have to say, though, how sad I feel for Ruby, who is obviously a bitter old woman. On the other hand, I was shamefully delighted when I realized where they were. A swift kick in the pants will likely do her some good. LOL)
Blessings, Lynda
Phyllis Inniss07/25/05
Lovely twist to your story. It was beautifully written and kept my interest throughout. How heartless James seemed, but perhaps he couldn't bear to see how miserable his mother was looking.
Helga Doermer07/25/05
I imagine many a child who has had to place a parent in a nursing home, and a parent who had to leave a place they loved, could relate to your story.
Karen Ward07/26/05
That was fabulous, I had an inkling of the ending early on, but then dismissed my thoughts in the middle, too engrossed to speculate! Well written!
Nina Phillips07/26/05
I think Ruby knew all along where they were going, and that is why she was bitter. But that is my speculation. I think the story was great, still hanging wondering if Ruby will adjust or rust. God bless ya, littlelight
Theresa Kissinger07/27/05
Now that's a well written story; when everyone is still speculating after the piece is finished.
Beth Muehlhausen07/27/05
Wow! I didn't see this ending coming at all! Call me naive or gullible (b/c I usually am), but I just didn't expect the punchline. I'd say this is a powerful piece - really got me thinking about my own mother's first trip to the nursing home....sniffle.
janet rubin07/28/05
Perfect! This was an article I had to finish. I couldn't just skim it. Riveting! Left me sad.
c clemons07/28/05
I read your article because the title caught my eye. I just planted black-eyed susans this year in my garden. The ending was not what I expected at all, I thought the title would be tie the story up at the end. I agree with most of the others didn't see that one coming. The story is good because all to often that is exactly what happens with our elderly.
Kyle Chezum07/28/05
Wow! This was perfectly executed. Good job!
Maxx .07/30/05
This sounds like a top 8 to me. Excellent writing.
Val Clark08/01/05
Yes, very engaging story with, for me, an unexpected twist at the end. Wondered tho, with James being so sociable and chatty as they drove, how he could walk away without a backward glance - or, as the story is from her point of view - is that how she chooses to remember their parting? Really well done if your intention was the latter.
Suzanne R08/01/05
So sad ... and so well written. Congratulations!
Deborah Porter 08/02/05
Karen, congratulations on your 3rd place wins in both the Editors' Choice and Level 3 Champion Challenge. Very well deserved. I must admit that I did have an inkling where you were going with it, but oh my ... that ending ripped my heart out all the same. Excellent piece of writing and a worthy winner! Love Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Joanne Malley08/06/05
Just reading through some winning entries. Yours was well-crafted, very well thought, out and a joy to read, despite the sad ending. :( Well done. Joanne
Deborah Porter 11/03/05
Hi Karen. I'm just preparing the new FaithWriters' Anthology and need a short (two to three sentences) bio piece to include in a new section for the book - "Meet Our Authors." The bio notes need to be written in the third person. Could you please send it to me, urgently, via a Private Message? Thanks so much. Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)