Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

SEPTEMBER 1, 2011 11:06AM

A Stillness to this Place

Rate: 18 Flag

(This is a short story I wrote for last week on the topic of "life changing decisions.")


This town is so empty. Even the breeze feels empty. A dead, lukewarm breeze.


Walking down the bleak, sun bleached streets, I wonder if there’s any life here at all. A few people peek through windows, then quickly draw their curtains.


Why did I come here? Because I had to, I remind myself. This place might ring hollow right now, but eventually I’ll fit in. 


The town I left held very little opportunity for me. My husband was a cold man, barely there. I could punch a hole through him. He resented like hell when I hugged him. Sometimes I feared he would hit me after an embrace. But desperate for closeness, I couldn’t help but try.


My friends were store-bought. They kept me company, nodded when I spoke, but never really heard me. Whenever I would get upset or angry, their faces would instantly become flat and emotionless, as if I pulled a plug out of their backs. They could only handle me in neutral.


My home was a house with things in it - that's all. There was a cheap little hanging in the kitchen that read “Home” and for years, I fantasized about smashing it into bits. The day I left, I pulverized it, then walked out, never to return.


When I first arrived here, I knew I’d have to pay a price for leaving the way I did. I didn’t go outside much, just slept. Or something like sleep. Now I feel awake again. Yes, this new place feels foreign, but soon it will be filled with love and community. It has to be.


I arrive at a small corner store and slip inside. It looks as if it came right out of the 50’s, dusty, filled with sunlight. An old bespeckled man stands behind the counter, wearing a faint smile and an weathered flannel shirt. He seems wary of me, like the others.


“How can I help you?”


“I just moved here. I guess I’ll need some supplies.”


“You don’t need anything right now. Just go home. Relax.”


“May I look around anyway?”


“Sure, sure,” he says, though I can tell he’d rather me leave.


The cans in this store have no labels. Neither do the boxes. There are burlap bags lining the perimeter of the store but I can’t tell what’s in them. It’s as if the store is posing to be a store. Like a movie set.


As I leave, the bell on the door jingles. The sound rings down the empty street and develops a strange life of its own, bouncing off the treetops, reaching toward the clouds. It’s an enchanting, hypnotic sound that reminds me I’ve done the right thing. Because magic only happens when you've done the right thing. 


When I enter my house, I'm reminded of its utter emptiness. There is no bristling husband, no cardboard friends, no meaningless decor. Just fresh, new emptiness. It overwhelms me.


What am I supposed to do next? If I’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to go back now. No, this is right. I’d rather have nothing than what I had before. Empty is better than emptiness. No one is better than loneliness. Lack of appetite is better than constant craving.


I sit in the middle of the living room, on an old wooden floor, bathed in sunlight. I try to cry but no tears come. It’s as if my emotions have dried up. I’m empty now too. And it feels good.


The sunlight on me becomes warmer and, just like that bell at the corner store, comes to life. It begins playing with me. When I smile, it grows and swirls and encircles me. Suddenly I feel less alone here. I may never fill this place with furniture. The sunlight might be enough.


Suddenly, I hear an old piano begin to play. It’s coming from my empty kitchen. The light lifts me up a foot above the ground and carries me down the long, dark hallway. I begin to laugh from the glory of it all. My laughter becomes little stars falling from my mouth. I can’t believe what I’m seeing! I try to catch them but they slip through my hands and spill across the floor.


As I land in the kitchen, I spot an unplugged radio playing the piano music. Perhaps my home is haunted…good! Ghosts will watch over me when I sleep, if I sleep. They’ll fly up and down the staircase and play in the yard. They’ll greet me at the door when I come home. We will speak a secret language that only ghosts know.


The radio plays louder and the music begins to touch me, like a man I've known forever. I sway back and forth, imagining my dance partner, full of grace, full of love. He’ll come to me eventually, I’m sure. After I’m forgiven. For what I did.


When I decided to buy the gun, I felt focused for the first time in my life. My existence had become weighted by crippling indecision and for once, I felt confident, strong. For months, I trained at a gun range, without anyone knowing. With every shot fired out of its shiny silver barrel, I felt a surge of power enter my body. My aim was sharp. My mission, clear.


My gun was my ticket to freedom and there was no reason to grieve and every reason to celebrate. When I walked into the woods behind our house my final morning, I felt like an explorer in the wild, an astronaut on a mission. Not a woman killing herself. My note simply read, “I'm ready to move on.”


Yes, my new house is empty. And they haven’t welcomed me yet. But they have to accept me eventually. And then I’ll be home. Because magic only happens when you’re home.




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Stars and pistols.
I detect theta waves and near sleep.
Am I right?
Alsoknownas, yes, sounds about right. This piece reminds me of your fiction piece not so long ago. I hope I didn't accidentally plagiarize! Maybe its the subtle influence we all have upon one another here. Which makes OS so great, on occasion.
You can check in, but you can never leave.
The consistency of the quality of your work amazes me. Loved it.
Like any good story with a surprising ending, there were "clues" sprinkled throughout, and only on looking back do you see them.

Really nice.
Intervals of change mysteriously applied to life. Beginnings and endings.
Damn . . . for such a "short" piece, it really packs a punch. I found myself coming back to this paragraph:

The radio plays louder and the music begins to touch me, like a man I've known forever. I sway back and forth, imagining my dance partner, full of grace, full of love. He’ll come to me eventually, I’m sure. After I’m forgiven. For what I did.

Lump in my throat for the sheer smoothness and grace of this piece. It is beautiful and free in so many unexpected ways.
Really excellent stuff --
This was like a little poem movie, something I could see. Floating a foot above the floor with a mouthful of stars, and the store selling things with no labels, things a speckly man says you don't need–those are my two favorites.
Wonderful the way ominousness starts small and builds to a crescendo.
I read every word, I usually speed read, but from the beginning I was compelled.
By the third paragraph, I felt it should have opened with Rod Serling.

Even in comments, the desire to be correct in spelling and grammer were necessary out of respect to a truly great master of word.

Great story, beautifully told portrayal of emptiness (the bad and good kind). So you go shooting? My husband and I belong to a pistol range as well. Best, Erica