Endings are tough, aren’t they? So, as I (sadly) tie a bow around my completed “Thanksmas” holiday with family, I present here the ending to my short story, “Sleeping Naked.”
Yep, the final snippet. Nope, still no nudity.
For those who missed it, the first two snippets of this short story, which appeared in Carve Magazine years ago, are here:
And so, for the conclusion to “Sleeping Naked”:
When we last met these characters, the mother–you, in this second-person point of view–has come home to discover that her pre-teen daughter, Cheryl, is missing. Hardly mother of the year, you consider the steps you should take to locate her. You consider what relative might be feeding Cheryl her dinner. You canvas the house again and again.
You are a young mother–still attractive, even sexy. Your daughter can be difficult and makes you feel older than you want to. A night without your daughter is a luxury you feel–after a drink or two–that you almost deserve. Just one night to yourself, you think with relish, as you sink into the middle of your bed and fall asleep…naked.
What kind of woman are you? What if she never comes back?
Around five o’clock, you awake to an upset stomach, make your way to the bathroom and throw up.
Over thirty hours. Gone. You crash on the couch and then drag yourself down the hall. You’re still nauseous.
You stand in the hallway, in your nightie, facing the closed door to Cheryl’s room, like some kind of gatekeeper.
You pace back and forth in front of the door until you hear a rustling sound in the room. Then there’s a slice of light, from the lamp she’s turned on, seeping under the door, and you crouch down on the floor to bathe in it. Then the slice of light is gone, and you bury your mouth and nose into the carpet, and you cry without making a sound.
You sleep for an hour or so, until you’re woken by the sound of Cheryl vomiting into her metal trashcan next to her bed. You wait there, outside, until the springs in her mattress stop squeaking. From your crouching position, you try the doorknob. It’s not locked. You remember your deal, but you break your end. She’ll owe you a tantrum the next time you have a man over. The door squeaks when you open it, and you move to her bedside and grab the trashcan, which you empty in the bathroom and set in the kitchen sink to be cleaned tomorrow. You go back to her room, step inside and close the door. You pull back the comforter on her bed. She’s sleeping in her clothes, dirtied from the bushes under her window. You crawl in next to her. She stirs, but doesn’t wake.
Writers and readers, how do you feel about an unreliable narrator, an unlikable main character? Does the second-person point of view soften the mother’s character at all? Can you understand her…just a little bit?
What are you reading and writing right now? How much like you are the characters you create?