It’s time for another fiction post. My latest assignment was to write a scene with two characters who are in some kind of conflict with each other. Here you go. Feedback appreciated!
Janet answered the door wearing pajamas and a grimace, the TV remote in hand. “Hello, Neil,” she muttered through an unconvincing smile. “What can I do for you?”
Neil held Sandy’s leash in one hand and a plastic bag full of her droppings in the other. As usual, he seemed unsure, as though worried that the space he occupied was reserved for someone else. In pressed khakis and a short-sleeve dress shirt, he looked to Janet as though his mother still dressed him. To quell the pang of guilt following this thought, she pushed her smile a bit nearer to her ears.
“Hi, Janet. How are you?”
I’m in my pajamas, tired as hell, grateful that the doorbell didn’t wake the baby, and counting the seconds until you leave. “Fine, thanks. Greg’s out of town, and luckily I got the baby to sleep before midnight for a change, so I was just about to settle into a bowl of ice cream and my couch,” she said. Please take the hint.
“Sounds great. Sandy and I were out for a walk and thought we’d visit.” Big smile.
“It’s a nice night for a walk,” Janet said, rubbing her puffy eyes and shifting her weight from one slippered foot to the other.
“Yeah,” Neil said, still smiling his dopey smile.
He obviously wanted to come in, but entertaining anyone, let alone Neil, was the last thing Janet wanted right now. After the briefest internal battle in history, the magnetic pull of her couch overpowered her sense of social obligation. Committed to getting rid of him, Janet replied to his hopeful smile with silence and another half-hearted smile.
“Ok, well you have a good night then,” Neil said.
Janet smiled wide, a genuine one this time. “Thanks, Neil. You too,” she said, closing the door and locking it.
While Janet sank into her couch, Neil continued his search for company. His well-kept shoes cleared the cracks in the sidewalk, even though his mother’s back was well beyond threat of injury.
Before she passed, his mother had made Neil promise to make some friends, and he knew that she was right. Living alone in his mother’s house—his house, now—was a lonely business. Everyone in the neighborhood was polite, but that was as far as things went. As he walked now, he puzzled over what he ought to do differently. He was as friendly as he knew how to be, but no one appeared interested. It seemed a lost cause.
That thought stopped him short on the sidewalk. Ma would have scolded him for brooding. God helps those who help themselves, she’d have said.
Looking up, Neil noticed lights in the living room window at Megan and Bill’s house. Maybe they would welcome a visit. Maybe little Anna would like to pet Sandy. “Come on, girl. Put on your happy face.”
With each step up their front walk, he felt a bit better. Reaching for the doorbell, he was almost certain that this time would be different.