For the past month – all of November – I participated in NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 50,000 words in a single month. This challenge pretty well took up all of my time and energy, and now that it’s finished, and I have a very rough first draft of a novel, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with myself. I could have continued writing, but I really did need a break, not only to put paperwork and house in order, but to refill my creative well. I read a couple of novels, watched a couple of movies, and participated in a writing group via Skype, to which I provided the flash fiction piece below. I noticed that one of my writing buddies, Alex Brantham, posted a nice little flash piece right after he finished NaNoWriMo, too. He’s a British guy, with a droll sense of humor. You can read his story here.
Now, here’s Painting Class. Please tell me what you think of it.
George was certain his wife was having an affair. She had a certain glow about her that spoke of only one thing: sex. And it certainly wasn’t sex with him. After fourteen years, their romantic life consisted of a quick kiss in the morning, another right before bed, and dutiful intercourse the last Friday of every month.
She’d been radiant ever since she’d taken that painting workshop in the summer, or had it been writing? She was always going to something; he couldn’t keep track. He was pretty sure she took the writing class last fall, then quilt-making during the spring, and finally painting, because she’d had paint in her hair half the summer. She must have hooked up with another painting student, but he hadn’t asked her about it, of course he hadn’t. What if she told the truth? Would that end their marriage?
And what if she lied? He didn’t want to see the quick shift of her eyes to the right the way they always did when she tried to pretend she hadn’t cheated on her diet, or spent too much money on shoes.
Instead, he snuck a look at her computer any time she left it on. He figured out her password and read her email. He peeked at her cell phone. Once he even called a number that appeared frequently, but it turned out to be her friend Caroline. He tried to listen in on her conversations, sure Caroline was acting as go-between, but never heard anything suspicious.
All of his spying turned up nothing. He’d never realized what a master she was at deceit.
Finally, he could stand it no more. He took a vacation day without telling her. He pretended to head to work, but instead went to the coffee shop. He waited, watching the first snow of the winter dust the trees, until he knew she had left for her job at the bank, then returned home and began searching the house. If she was cheating on him, he would surely find some trace of it.
He rifled her stack of purses and went through her pockets, but he didn’t find anything suspicious. As far as he could tell, she hadn’t bought any new clothes in a long time, at least none that he could find. Perhaps she kept them all at her lover’s home. He turned green at the thought of her in a sexy negligee, a gift from this unknown painter.
One more pass through the house, he thought, and he would give up. He started in their bedroom, checked the kitchen, and went into the room she used for all of her projects. Her easel sat in the corner, covered with dust. There was nothing in the sewing box, or hidden under her stash of old buttons. Then he turned and saw it: a shoe box tucked far back on the top of the bookshelf. He brought the step-stool, and carefully lifted it down.
Inside, packed tightly together, was a stack of index cards and miscellaneous bits of paper. His feeling of triumph was accompanied by a sinking sensation in his stomach. He hauled his find to his office.
For over an hour, he sat at his desk, unsure whether or not he dared read the love notes. But he had to, didn’t he? He owed himself that much. Finally, he poured himself a drink from the bottle of scotch he hid in his safe and rarely touched. After gulping half the glass, he returned to his desk with the bottle to carefully examine each slip. When he finished, he sat back, puzzled. Every single note was in his wife’s handwriting. He lined them up across his desk in the order he’d taken them out of the box and read them. The third one said: ack hubbie and Car for faith in me, lib for research. The rest formed a coherent thread.
He smacked his forehead. His wife was planning a novel! Was that why she seemed so happy? Could something creative, having nothing to do with sex, cause her skin to look ten years younger?
Carefully putting the box back together and returning it to its hiding place, he wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed, but at least he knew one thing: this evening, he would ask her why she was so happy. Perhaps she would confess to the novel and his agony could end.
- NaNoWriMo: How it began, and how I’m done for this year. (minasalcove.wordpress.com)
- 5 Lessons learned from Completing NaNoWriMo (stacyclaflin.com)
- Day 30: And Then NaNoWriMo Was Over. (30daysofmy30s.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo – I Did It! (worldadventurers.wordpress.com)