Thursday, March 17, 2011

I saw the woman outside one of the hospitals

In the days immediately after the plague the buses were running again, though there were few passengers. During long stretches of the day, a coach would be occupied by the driver alone, guiding rows of empty seats through the rainy avenues. The smell of burning was still in the air. Everything smelled like fire: our hair, our clothes, our shelters, even the food we ate. It would take a whole winter of rain to wash all that burning from the air, to clean the soot from the faces of the buildings and citizens left behind. We didn't mind the charred air; it masked other, worse smells we wanted to forget. The buses were part of a general plan to return life to its normal state as soon as possible. Vast numbers of citizens and large swaths of the city had been reduced to cinders but public transportation was up and running. Schools, hospitals, churches and liquor stores were open and I made pilgrimages to all of them in their turn. We all did. What else were we going to do?

I saw the woman outside one of the hospitals, where she stood on the sidewalk opposite the main doors. People broken and breaking, mending and fading, living and dying all streamed past while she held herself immobile. Her hands and face were pale, almost the yellow of fresh butter, startling against a black wool coat.


  1. Wow. Just. Wow. That is some powerful writing.

    Judy (South Africa)

  2. The yellow of fresh butter? Wow, I like that almost as much as the faces line. I'm really enjoying this, Scott!

  3. Judy, thanks!

    Michelle, I'm trying to make the images as specific and fresh as I can in this, as visual as possible, too. It's an interesting project. I hope I keep going with it.

  4. I like your iambic pentameter. Very fluid, very melodius in all the death and destruction.

    Interesting concept you have going. How long is this going to be -- or are you just going to keep writing until you stop?

  5. Anne, it's too easy to fall into using the same rhythm and length for each sentence (especially when writing just three sentences a day) and it veers toward some kind of structured poem, which ain't what I'm after.

    I don't know what I'm after. I don't know how long this will be. Some day (probably sooner rather than later) I'll look at this and decide I've had enough and I'll type "and they all lived happily ever after." Mighty Reader tells me she expects me to give this a proper development and ending. She's tired of me starting things and leaving characters standing in the street with unfinished business.

  6. On the pentameter -- I meant the broken and breaking, mending and fading, living and dying.

    It has a flow to it that rises and falls. Very soothing.

    Lady Reader probably has the right idea. I could see this being a very interesting short story.