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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)

TITLE: The World Came Calling


Fog and ethereal gloom escorted us along the interstate, the night having stolen something that had been fresh and lovely. There weren’t many vehicles on either of the two lanes, but I managed to run up on the few there were, flashing my brights, willing them to move.

My tailgating made Reina nervous. I knew it and didn’t much care. I wanted, though, to drown out her clucks and gasps. I tried humming—something that irritated her, but no music came. “If you’d been ready at seven, I wouldn’t need to drive like a maniac.” More accusations between us.

In the glow of the console, I saw the corner of Reina’s mouth recoil into its worn groove. People often remarked how we resembled one another. Thirty-five years of marriage will do that to you, we’d laugh. But it wasn’t funny, and I didn’t take it as a compliment.

“You’re not scaring me,” said Reina. “You want to kill us, go ahead. Me and God are like this.” She crossed her middle finger over her index finger. I could never win with her. She was an indomitable wall that stretched with no end as it was continually being added to.

The drizzle, which had been steady for several hours, became heavier now. It didn’t hit our windshield as much as it beaded up from the glass itself. “Speed up the wipers,” said Reina, just as a semi-truck flew past on the right, spraying accumulated water from dips on the pavement. She brought the white linen album up against her body.

“It wasn’t for my sake.” I said. “Why couldn’t you be on time for Claudia?”

“Why did you tell me to be ready an hour before I needed to be?”

“Like I can tell you anything.”

“The exit’s close—try not to blow by it.”

“Do you have one—just one—single ounce of respect for me?” I made my tone as caustic as possible, but it was a pathetic question, and I wished I hadn’t asked it.

“I have as much respect for you, as you have love for me.”

“Meaning what?”

She switched on the overhead light, and turned to the second page of our wedding album, silk papers rustled. Our daughter had asked us to bring it to her engagement dinner. What a joke. That our marriage could be an inspiration to anyone.

Reina tapped her rounded fingernail on the page. “Right here in our vows, you promised to love me like Christ loved the Church.” She held it on end for me to see. Up ahead, red lights splintered dimly in the filmy mist. A memory surfaced. Her hopeful face through the sheer netting of tulle as we read in Ephesians together.

“Turn off that light—I can’t see,” I said.

“Then slow down.”

Love and respect. Reading Ephesians five had been my idea. Back when she allowed me ideas. Before we’d become competitors.

Reina held the page with the photo of our hands resting upon the open Bible. Smooth hands, gleaming rings. The promises beneath penned with a flourish.

We began as one with God.

But the world pressed in. Relentlessly. If only we could have put our marriage on a Do Not Call list.

“Close it,” I said. “Let’s concentrate on the road.”

“I know; it’s painful.” She brought the album back down to her lap. “We deserved better.”

“We got out of this marriage exactly what we put into it, Reina. Garbage in-garbage out.”

I should have loved her more.

A white SUV—completely stopped—appeared suddenly within the veil. I pumped the brakes and jagged the wheel left, but it wasn’t enough. I could never do enough. We hydroplaned off the road and flipped into the culvert dividing the interstate.

The sound of the rain, gentle.

The overhead light, steady.

We hung there, suspended.

Oh, dear God,” moaned Reina, “Oh, dear God—Lance?”

“I’m here.” The sound of my own voice felt suctioned directly into my ear, making for a hollow, tinny echo. “Are you okay?” Lord, please let her be okay.

“I think so.”

“Hold on—I’ll help you out.” I flattened one hand on the headliner and unclasped the seatbelt with the other. By the time I got around to her side, she was crouched beside the car, hair beginning to drip.

She handed me our album. She’d been trying to protect it.

I cradled it under my sport coat, close to my chest, surprised by the warmth I found there.

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This article has been read 824 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Loren T. Lowery05/07/09
The emotions expressed on both sides of the car are so touchingly and achingly real. The setting of the piece within a late, speeding car on a stormy night was a perfect backdrop for the unfolding story.

Both sides playing offense then defense against the other – until that shocking moment when they find themselves hurling toward a stopped object in front of them. Although it was not until after the crash; but it none-the-less changed everything, petty differences, and insurmountable mountains suddenly non existent. Great writing and the title is the kind that leads one to look just a bit deeper while reading.
Mona Purvis05/07/09
Dynamic and raw. You know a story is well-written when you ache as you experience it. This one does that to me. Christian marriages ought to be so much more successful...but, they fail as well.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/09/09
Your characterizations are really strong here as we identify with both desires to be respected and loved. I think that's necessary in every marriage. Your ending shows there is hope. This is a story I'll keep thinking about. Good writing, for sure.
Folakemi Emem-Akpan05/11/09
Why must we sometimes wait for that jolt to realize that we love and cherish our spouses? Stories like this encourage us to use every married day wisely. Thank you for sharing.
Sonya Leigh05/12/09
There is an intensity to this argument--one of many they've had, obviously--but the love they have for each other surfaces immediately.

It's a great reminder for us to demonstrate in word and deed, those we hold dear in our hearts. May we all resist the devil in our marriages. His sole purpose for us is to kill and destroy healthy relationships.

All this is conveyed in your expert writing and made so real to the reader. Great job.

Sharon Kane05/12/09
Spot on writing on a crumbling marriage. I love the idea of putting a 'Do not call' sign up! Unfortunately though, it's not the way it works is it? Well told
Carole Robishaw 05/12/09
This exposes some raw, but truthful sore we'd rather hide behind. Letting the world come into the marriage and closing out what's really important.
Lollie Hofer05/12/09
This is more real than you can even begin to imagine. But in a crisis the love always finds its way to the surface. My husband and I have been married for 33 years...what gets me is that, after all these years of marriage when we do have a spat, we can even finish each others arguments. Thanks for sharing such an emotional story.
Gregory Kane05/13/09
Superb writing and a great message. I particularly liked your use of italics to emphasise the depth of feeling in the confrontational dialogue
Bryan Ridenour05/13/09
Powerful...moving...and all too real. Very well written.
Beth LaBuff 05/14/09
I like you title "The World Came Calling" in relation to this, "If only we could have put our marriage on a Do Not Call list." This is excellent (the setting, the characters, the dialog, everything)!