Remember When Nothing Happened?


All done for the day.

It’s been a helluva week, so I’m sorry that I haven’t had time to respond to your thoughtful and thorough replies to my question last week.  I did read every one and will get back to you soon.  I was pleasantly surprised by a sudden request for 6 new English courses, three of which I started, but which are also in the process of serious restructuring to make them more relevant to the current blah, blah, blah, a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter to any readers of this blog.

Suffice it to say, I’m suddenly very busy.  So busy that I’m not even going to edit out that adverb.

On top of these new courses, I’m getting ready for Story a Day in September.  I won’t be trying to write a new story every day this time, but rather rewriting some and starting a few.  Here’s one that I’m rather fond of, even if it’s not really about anything and I crap all over the show-don’t-tell “rule”.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I love my deformed babies, too.

My musical offering this week is the New Order classic “Ceremony,” since the line “Avenues all lined with trees” was the catalyst for this story.  I had to laugh when a critiquer told me that olive trees grow in groves, not along the side of roads.  I guess that person has never been to Davis, California.

So enjoy.  I’ll be back next week to discuss who controls–or should control–the direction that art takes.

Adding It Up

They turned onto an avenue lined with olive trees, and Darla asked him, “How did they figure out olives?”

Moy came out of his driving trance.  “What’s that, honey?”

“Well, you know they have to soak them in lye or something, then water, then vinegar.  It’s a long process.  They’re too bitter to eat off the tree.  So how did they figure that out?  Why bother?”

“How would I know?”  He added a laugh so she wouldn’t know he was annoyed.  She was always looking to him for answers.

She reached over and stroked his hair. “You’re smart.  You read.”

He shook his head away.  She knew he hated having his head stroked.  Thought it was something you only do to animals.

“We can look it up later.  I’m sure Wikipedia will have a reasonable lie about it.”

He slowed the car down to 50 on the avenue to enjoy the shade of the olive trees.  They had been in the direct sun on the freeway for an hour, with no real scenery and it was a nice change.  They had made good time, so a few extra minutes wouldn’t matter.

He added, “Everybody is smart about something.”

She thought he was smarter, better in many ways.  She loved him more than he loved her, they both knew, although they would never talk about it.  He assumed this was always the case.  One person gave 120 percent to make up for the 80 of the other.  It was close enough to make it work.

The first fling had been two years into their marriage.  He was surprised how easy it was.  So many friends had been caught by making stupid mistakes, things that seemed so obvious to him.  Always take them to a motel, never to her house, certainly not to yours.  Always carry your own soap, the same brand that you use at home; she’ll smell the motel soap.  Do it in the middle of the day, never at the end, or you’ll be suspiciously clean.  Never see the same woman more than three times, five max, or they start to get attached.  And use a condom.  How could men not know this?

The only mistake he had made at the beginning was being overly attentive to Darla after the first time.  He had bought her flowers “just because I love you” and she had joked that he must have something to feel guilty about.  He took her into his arms and reassured her.  “I just don’t want us to lose the romance.  I never want the honeymoon to end.”  She accepted this answer, but he saved the flowers for anniversaries and Valentines after that.

He never understood why he did it.  He always chose women who looked a lot like Darla:  dark hair, plain features.  Small breasts, because more than a handful is wasted, as Dad used to say.  He did the same things in bed with them.  Darla wasn’t prudish, neither did he have any kinks.  And it didn’t affect their sex life.  He was still attracted to her, even after 22 years.

They came to the end of the avenue, and he turned right, toward a town he could see in the distance.

She tensed up, as she always did when she was confused, and grabbed her knees.  “Moy, where are we going?  Isn’t it to the left?” She reached into the door pocket for the map.

He shifted into third and touched her arm.  “We have time.  I’m hungry.  How about a quick Italian meal?  Now I’ve got a hankering for olives.”  He flashed an exaggerated toothy smile at her.

She relaxed.  “That sounds good.  I’m feeling a little peckish myself.”

He looked in his rearview at the olive lined avenue becoming smaller in the distance.  “They saw animals eating them and figured they were edible.”


“The olives.  People saw animals eating them, decided they must be edible and found a way to make them edible for humans.”

“I thought you said you didn’t know.”

“It makes sense, I guess.  But we can look it up later.”

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7 Responses to Remember When Nothing Happened?

  1. Jim says:

    My humble observation. The story makes the husband a figure to sympathize with when it’s the wife who is getting the raw deal. Left me feeling uneasy, almost as if he’d cheated on me. Or as if the author had cheated me somehow. That’s a lot of response to evoke in such a short tale. Good job!

    • Thanks, Jim. That’s what I’ve always liked about this little story. He’s very matter of fact about it, like “it’s bad, but oh well.” I’ve known people like that.

  2. Jim says:

    Trees grow where ever the fuck you plant them. GROW UP!

    Anyway, nice story. Much like the woman in your story, I always wonder about weird shit like that too. Who the hell, for instance, figured out to make coffee? Who looked at coffee beans and thought “You know, I bet if I grind this shit up, real fine like, and strained water through it, it would be a great way to start my day.”?
    Or tortillas. Who sat there and said to themselves “You know, I bet if pounded this wheat into a pulp onto a rock, I could make quesadillas”?
    I have many questions. Thanks for the New Order!

    • The original tortillas are made of corn. Since corn is not easy to digest or get nutrients from, it has to be treated first, by soaking in slaked lime or wood ash. That just ups the WTF factor for me. How did they come to that conclusion? Wouldn’t it have been easier to, you know, not use corn?

      And yeah, trees grow where you plant them. Goes back to last week’s discussion: just trust me on this one, k? In this place, there are olive trees on the side of the road.

  3. ED Martin says:

    I liked your characterization in this. I disagree that “it’s not really about anything” – it’s about a guy annoyed by his wife, still in love with her, thinking maybe he should feel guilty about cheating on her while unsure why he does it other than “everyone else does” – but I do think it needs a stronger, more apparent plot.

    • Thanks. I guess that’s what I meant. It seems more a sketch than a real story, although I will admit to being rather fond of it.

      These snippets fo writing that I post are like a band’s b-sides. Not bad, but you can see why they didn’t make the album. I hope they find a home someday.

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