Short Stories

Time (short story told from two perspectives)

I have never done a dp challenge but I’m going to give it a go. This is a story told from two pints of view.

First point-of-view

Time

Time is odd, always present. The ticking of my wristwatch tells me it is passing but looking at time would be looking at nothing. I’ve seen time-lapse videos that show the stars moving in the heavens and the sun arriving and leaving, but I have never seen a minute.

I’m sitting in the café we used to frequent, the one next to the gas station, the one you would complain was too quiet. Even now it is quiet, just the waitress standing next to the coffee machine looking into her phone. It’s the old-fashioned feel I love about this gas station. I always imagine a guy in 1950’s slacks, white shirt and waistcoat reaching for the pump.

“What’s he look like?” you’d ask.

“Dashing and handsome,” I replied.

“Really, so nothing like you then…” And you would giggle behind a long-fingered hand, nails in sharp red to match your jacket.

I’d look peeved, and in truth I was. This banter was just between us but sometime it hurt. And instantly my imaginary man would become six inches shorter with an aggressively receding hairline, in other words my father.

“Don’t take on so,” you’d say and I’d smile, but I knew it never reached my eyes. They say that if you tell someone something over and over again eventually it becomes a truth. It did with me. Although I don’t wear the waistcoat I am a far cry from the young twenty-something you knew. And I do look like my father, but that is just appearance.

This café is also like a step back in time, with fifties style table top and stools. The pumps outside are still shiny and red with white round tops. Only the waitress and I have lost our shine. She looks tired and bored. She reminds me of you the last time I saw you. It was here, at this table. You sat opposite me and told me of your fears.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” But as you said it you didn’t meet my eyes. You looked everywhere but at me. I knew then that it was my fault.

“But…”

“No, Sam, I have to leave.”

I sat there and waited for you to explain. But you didn’t. I still don’t know why you left, I always put the seat down and I never hit you. Maybe I was a little distant, but I’m just not good with emotion.

Well, happy anniversary. Every year I come back and every year you surprise me by not walking through the door and sitting opposite me, turning your deep brown eyes to mine and smiling. “I made a mistake,” you say in my mind and I smile and take hold of your hands.

“Will you take me back?” you ask tentatively and I squeeze your hands in reassurance.

“No,” I say. “I have a wife and three children.”

Then I get up and walk out. They say that revenge is best served cold and I have mine on ice so that the day you walk through that door I can leave you, my first love, my 1950’s bride.

*       *      *       *       *

2nd point-of-view

Time

The waitress looked up as an older man came into the cafe. Behind her the cook glanced up and gave a sad smile.

“What?” Melissa asked.

“See to the customer,” he snapped.

Melissa loved working in the cafe, although after the night she just had she could have done with a late start. She had tried to swap with Claire but she was having none of it. No one wanted the early morning shift. It was early, and it also got deadly dull after the breakfast rush. Melissa had another hour before the end of her shift and it couldn’t come sooner. At least her head had stopped throbbing, but she could do with some shut-eye before she went out again.

Melissa smiled at the man sitting at one of the tables, his eyes glued to the door.

“What can I get you?”

The man switched his gaze to her. “Mug of coffee and apple pie.” He didn’t look at the menu which Melissa found odd. She was sure she had not seen him before, yet he was ordering like a regular. She was about to open her mouth to ask about ice cream when the man shook his head. “Neither.”

Melissa gave a small puzzled grin and went back to the counter. “He wants apple pie,” she told Doyle. He nodded and got to work while she made the coffee.

Taking the coffee and pie she set it in front of the man. “Waiting for someone?”

The man didn’t look away from the door. “Yes.”

For a moment Melissa waited but the man said nothing more and sipped his coffee. From the hatch behind the counter Doyle waved her over.

“So what’s his story?” she whispered.

“How long you been here?”

“6 months.”

“Then this is the first time you’ve seen heart-break,” Doyle whispered.

“Heart-break?”

“Every year he comes and sits. He will be here an hour and then leave.”

“Okay,” Melissa said. “Why?”

“Eight years ago that is what I asked the cook. I was in training. And he said that ten years before he,” Doyle gestured to the man, “had a fight with his girl. She got up and walked out. Turns out she finished it with him.”

“So every year he comes here?”

“Yes, the odd thing is that he sometimes comes with his wife and kids,” Doyle said.

“He still comes despite being married?”

“Yep, every year, on this day, for an hour.”

Melissa turned back to the man and watched as he continued to sit. The hour ticked by, the time tracked by shadows and the minute hand. When the hour was up he stood. As he came up to pay and Melissa gave him a sympathetic smile. “They didn’t turn up?”

The man glanced at her, taking in her tired face and messy hair. “No.” he didn’t smile.

Behind her Melissa heard Claire arrive. She turned and watched as Claire walked up. Then she turned back to the man. He was gone as if he had never been there. The money was in a neat pile on the counter. There was no tip.

“Who was that?” Claire asked.

“No one,” Melissa said.

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22 thoughts on “Time (short story told from two perspectives)

  1. I like the multiple perspectives. It is heartbreaking and leaves room for deeper thinking. I have some questions though. Why did you choose to put his perspective first? Why didn’t he leave a tip? Why did he slip out?

    1. The story shows how two people can be in the same story but the narrative can have different meanings. For the man, he wants revenge from the woman who left him, but for the waitress, he is the story. The man doesn’t acknowledge the waitress, and leaves no tip, because his story is about the woman who left him. But there’s only the ‘now’ for her story, which is the man. The man slipped out because he was thinking of another time and place and the present had little meaning for him.

      His story went first simply because it was his story that I thought of first. Her story came after. She was a character I wanted to write about because she was so different.

      Hope that answers your question and isn’t too garbled. 🙂

  2. With your permission, I would like to swap the stories and share with my eighth graders as we discuss perspective. I like them to hear the waitress’s perspective, then hear the old man’s. But as the author, I’ll share it in whichever format you prefer.

    1. Hi Edgar – by all means you can use the stories to teach from. Can I ask where you are based? I like to keep track of where the story goes. Thank you. Kate

  3. This is great! I’d also like to use it to talk to my students about Point of View. I teach 9th grade in Oklahoma City. Would you say the second perspective is written in 3rd person limited where only Melissa’s thoughts are seen? Thanks!

    1. By all means you can use the piece, no problem at all. And yes, 3rd person does limit the feelings that the reader is being shown. My writing the first section in first person I allowed the reader access to the character’s mind; thoughts and feelings. But in the second the reader has to make up their own mind as to the feelings as I have taken an omnipresent and distant point of view.

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