Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Silence in the Storm"

By P.M. Woods

There was laughter and the creaking of chairs, and there were silences too, but there were always silences. She was used to the silences.

She was comfortable with the silences. But the laughter? Had she imagined the laughter?

The living room was in almost complete darkness. She had lit two candles earlier in the evening. The wind was blowing, but it didn’t seem it was blowing strong enough to make the rockers on the porch move back and forth. When was the last time she heard laughter? Real laughter? When was the last time she found something funny enough to laugh?

It began to rain and soon it began to rain hard, so hard it began to beat against the windows. It was a storm, a summer storm.

Since she had never experienced a summer storm like this before she was a bit unsure what to do. Should she fill up the bathtub with water? Should she get more candles out just in case the power went out? Should she bring the lawn chairs in?

In the end she did nothing. She decided to wait because, if she was to be honest with herself and what time better to be honest with herself than now in a summer storm, that is what she had been doing all summer—waiting, waiting to see what would happen next, waiting to see what she would decide to do, waiting to see if anything else would happen, if anything would change.

She had become passive, like those women she didn’t want to be.

“No, “ she said out loud to break the silence. “This isn’t the way I thought I would be,” she said. And it wasn’t. This wasn’t the way she thought she would be at all.

When the phone rang breaking the silence she jumped. “Hello?” she said quietly.

“Hey,” he said. “I was just calling to see how you were holding up over there.” It was him, the man from the canoe.

Her heart began to beat. “I’m doing okay,” she paused. “What about you?”

“I’m doing okay,” he said. “This is supposed to be quite a storm and I was checking that you were okay.”

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Good,” he said.

She waited for him to say something else and when he didn’t she said, “How is everything going?”

“Okay,” he said. “Actually fine, everything is going fine. I haven’t been around for a while because I had to take care of a few things.” He paused. “That is why I haven’t been by.”

“Oh,” she said. What should she say? Should she acknowledge that she noticed he hadn’t been around? Should she ask what he had to take care of?

“I haven’t been out on the lake lately,” he said, “because I’ve been away.”

“Away?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Away to take care of a few things.”

“Oh,” she said. She waited for him to continue and when he didn’t she said, “I haven’t really been out much myself. I really haven’t been out rowing.”

“Oh no,” he said. “How come?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve just stopped.”


“Stopped, I guess. I don’t know why,” she fell silent. The silence felt good and she wished he would hang up so she wouldn’t any longer have to break the silence of her house with her voice.

“You shouldn’t stop,” he said. “You should keep rowing. It’s good for you.”

If he hadn’t said, “it’s good for you” she may have wanted to keep talking. Although she didn’t want to talk to him, talking to him in some way felt good. His voice made her heart beat faster, his voice made her sit up straighter in her chair, his voice made her get outside of her own head. But telling her what is good for her. . . . She wanted to hang up.

“I should go,” she said.



“Do you have a date?”

“A date?’

“A hot date?” he laughed. When she didn’t respond he said, “I’m just kidding you know.”

“Oh,” she said.

“I was really just calling to see if you were alright. If you needed anything.”

“I think I’m fine,” she said.

“Okay,” he said. “Call me if you need me.”

What would she need him for? Wasn’t this the whole point, to get away from people she believed she needed? Wasn’t the point to not need anyone ever again?

A loud crack lit up the room and made her jump.

Then the power went out.

Writer P.M. "Peg" Woods, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her first novel, "Spinning Will," was published by Swank Books. "Silence in the Storm" is part of her second novel, which is in progress and has the working title, "Backstory." Woods lives with her husband, Ray Cusson, and their two dogs, in Shutesbury, Massachusetts.

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