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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: The Steel Inside My Pillow
By Emily Gibson


Surfacing to the street from a thirty two hour hospital shift usually means my eyes blink mole-like, adjusting to searing daylight after being too long in windowless halls. This particular day is different. As the doors open, I am immersed in a subdued somber Seattle afternoon, with horizontal rain soaking my scrubs.

Finally remembering where I had parked my car in pre-dawn dark the day before, I start the ignition, putting the windshield wipers on full speed. I merge onto the freeway, pinching myself to stay awake long enough to reach my apartment and my down pillow.

The freeway is a flowing river of steel: a current of head and tail lights. Semitrucks toss up tsunami waves cleared briefly by my wipers frantically whacking back and forth.

Ahead in the lane to my right, a car looks oddly familiar and I blink to be sure, trying to see the license plate. I switch lanes to get behind, confirming it is indeed my Dadís new Buick, oddly 100 miles from home in the middle of the week. Smiling to myself but too weary to be truly appreciative, I realize he and Mom were likely heading directly to my apartment, and have probably planned to surprise me by taking me out for dinner. It is a nice thought, but they will simply have to understand my falling asleep in my soup.

In a small burst of energy, I decide to surprise them first, switching lanes to their left and accelerating up alongside. As our cars travel side by side, I glance over to my right to see if I can catch my Dadís eye through streaming side windows. He is looking away to the right at that moment, obviously in conversation. It is then I realize something is amiss. When my Dad looks back at the road, he is smiling broadly in a way I have never seen before. There are arms wrapped around his neck and shoulder, and a womanís auburn head snuggled into his chest.

My motherís hair is mousy gray.

My initial confusion turns instantly to fury, my mind now a storm of rage. Despite the rivers of rain obscuring their view, I desperately want them to see me. I think about honking, I think about pulling in front of them so my Dad would know I have seen and I know. I think about ramming them with my car so that weíd perish, unrecognizable, in an explosive rain-soaked mangle.

At that moment, my father glances over at me and our eyes meet in startled acknowledgement. His face is a mask of betrayal, bewilderment and then shock. She straightens up, probably feeling his body tense, follows his gaze and looks at me quizzically. So I wound her with my glare, hating her in an instant.

I leave them behind, speeding beyond, splashing them with my wake. Every breath burns my lungs and pierces my heart. I can not distinguish whether the rivers obscuring my view are from my eyes or my windshield.

When I walk into my apartment, the phone is ringing. I steel myself to answer, my hand poised over the receiver, my face reduced to a trickle. Instead, I turn away from the storm, throwing myself on my bed. Burying my wet face in my absorbent pillow, I pray for resilient sleep, without noticing the sharp edges buried deep within the down.

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This article has been read 593 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane05/02/09
Powerful writing that conveys the intensity of emotion. I like the way that you set your story in the forced isolation of a car ride through a storm, an excellent backdrop to what's building up on the inside.
Myrna Noyes05/03/09
Your description of freeway travel on a rainy Seattle afternoon is totally authentic!! I liked these lines especially: "The freeway is a flowing river of steel: a current of head and tail lights. Semitrucks toss up tsunami waves cleared briefly by my wipers frantically whacking back and forth."

When your MC first saw her dad with the auburn-haired woman in his truck, I was hoping her mom had just dyed her hair or something!

I like the "steel inside my pillow" way of blending hard and soft!
Mona Purvis05/04/09
The pain we hold onto. So many things that are steel in our pillow. The longer I live, the more I appreciate a good night's sleep.
Betty Castleberry05/04/09
You captured your MC's emotions very well. What a shock it must have been to actually witness this, but you made it real.
Karlene Jacobsen05/04/09
You did a wonderful job with something so close to you. I know those deep hurts can be tough to share.

I liked your imagery in it all. Very vivid. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 05/04/09
Superb imagery in your title and in the last paragraph! This is excellent.
Sonya Leigh05/04/09
Wow. You are my neighbor this week...

As for your writing, it is perfect...amazing, really. The heartfelt honesty pierces me, which has come at a great cost to you in this instance. Thank you for writing it.
Shelley Ledfors 05/04/09
This is amazing writing. Your descriptions are vivid and the title / ending are perfect for the subject. Knowing from your hint that this piece has a basis in fact makes it all the more poignant. It must have been very difficult to write. Thanks for sharing it.
Chely Roach05/04/09
Icredible imagery here...and I loved the title. Fantastic writing...
Eliza Evans 05/04/09
I'm very sorry for your pain.

I think you did an excellent job. The whole scene in the car felt real and sharp.

Blessings to you, friend.
Kristen Hester05/04/09
Wonderful writing. The imagery throughout is very powerful. I was a little confused with the last line, but I'm pretty dense. EXCELLENT! (And so sorry you had to experience this!)
Seema Bagai 05/04/09
Emily, this must have been difficult to write. Thank you for sharing your pain in this well-written piece.
Connie Dixon05/04/09
You really made this story come to life. I could see your Dad through foggy, rain soaked windows...and I hoped you wouldn't crash on the freeway.

Amazing writing - sorry it had to be true.