Thursday, February 11, 2010


Freewriting exercise today. I've been so distracted, shoveled so much snow. But I knew I needed to get back to it. The most direct route for me often is a freewriting exercise, stream-of-conscious, unedited, fiction.

Prompt from John Cheever, “An Educated American Woman” from The Stories of John Cheever, p. 528

“She wandered downstairs and stood in the kitchen doorway, watching him at his work.”

She awoke in the pre-dawn, in the midst of a howling blizzard. She awoke weeping. A dream had shaken her. James was there again in the dream, like he was so often in her dreams—sometimes a real presence with whom she interacted; at other times merely in the background, an implied presence. In the dream she and James were traveling on a highway. James was driving and she was sitting beside him like she did when they were young. She noticed a speeding car behind them, driven by a man whom she could barely see. The man was driving a clunky beige, beat-up sedan, like the Ford Galaxy she and James had when they were first married. The driver lost control and car careened off the highway to the right onto an area where there were mounds of clay-colored dirt and construction equipment. The car rolled over, then it flipped end-over-end. She could see the windows smash and a door flew off. Then the car teetered over a cliff and fell out of sight into a deep ravine, a raging river at the bottom. James drove as she described with horror what she saw. And when the speeding car fell out of sight, off the cliff, James pulled over to the side of the road and cried. That was when she woke from the dream, crying with him, crying for the mess their lives had become. It broke her heart to consider what the dream meant. And she didn’t want that image of James to be what she remembered of him. She wanted another image to replace the one of James crying by the side of the road. She willed herself into another dream, more awake than asleep, a kind of guided image. It was the middle of the night in the winter of 1976. James was downstairs at the kitchen table, working on an essay for a literary journal. She was heavy with child and anxious about the snowstorm that was raging outside, but she knew that he would protect her in the storm. She felt safe knowing that he loved her and that their child would soon be born. She wandered downstairs and stood in the kitchen doorway, watching him work.

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