Six Hundred and Seventy One Miles

June 29, 2010
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“I’m not asking for much.”

A tear leaks from the corner of Mother’s eye. I avoid her gaze and stare at her wallet on the table instead. It is red with silver zippers, red like hugs and smiles, silver like laughter. I’d picked it out for her birthday three years ago.

“Why can’t you help me?”

“I... lost track of the time.” It is a sorry excuse, and I know it.

The phone rings. My eyes flicker to its flashing screen; Mother’s stay trained on my face, pleading.

“Charlie?” she says. The phone beeps as the loud speaker is turned on.

From six hundred and seventy one miles away, my father’s voice crackles into the room, tinny, unclear, down to business. “April, do you have the Triple A renewal code on you? The account is under your name and I can’t access it.”

“Yes,” my mother whispers. She fumbles with the red, the silver. It falls open, displaying long receipts and smooth credit cards: American Express, platinum, BUSINESS in all capital letters.

“April?” Father falters. He is always good at sensing these things. He is also good at turning away and pretending not to see at all. “Is everything... okay?”

“Yes,” Mother says again, but her voice is rising, rising from a whisper to a scream. “Yes, everything is fine like it always is, okay? Everything is fine like it has been for the past three years. The car is broken, your sister refuses to help me, but I was able to walk by myself. But I come home and...”

She stops. Her eyes snap at me. The refrigerator hums loudly next to her.

“It’s 10 o’ clock. Giselle has not eaten dinner yet.” My mother has not included herself in the sentence.

The lights are too bright. My eyes are glued to the purse. There is a tear in the red, a dent in the tarnished silver. Three years ago, it had been brand new.

“I thought...” Mother starts again, “I thought, even if there was no one else I could rely on... If only Giselle...” She breaks off. “I’m so alone.” Her voice breaks on the last word.

The refrigerator groans and quiets.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. Why don’t you eat first? Both of you.”

As always, my father guesses. He knows, but he doesn’t do anything, can’t do anything, not from so far away.

The phone is disconnected, just a simple touch of the button, and the silence stretches on for six hundred and seventy one miles.

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This article has 20 comments. Post your own now!

CloudWanderer said...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm
Ahhh your style is very refreshing. I like the vagueness, although I'm pretty descriptive in my own writing. Your writing is so deep--right on, man  ;)
lusis replied...
Jul. 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Lol, I've been experimenting so sometimes people tell me I'm too vague, and other times they tell me I describe so much the meaning is lost >>

Still trying to find that balance, but being deep is a good thing! Thanks.

AidanR. said...
Jul. 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm

This was fantastic. I can't find anything wrong with it.  Like a lot of stories on TeenInk, however, it feels like it really should go on.  This should be exposition, but this couple of paragraphs is like the tip of an iceberg - an actual short story.

I would like to see where this goes, at least.

lusis replied...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm
I guess it does have potential to go further... but when I wrote it I didn't intend it to. It's an interesting thought though. I might try something longer in the future. Thanks! 
sleeplessdreamer said...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm
Disagree with others that there could have been more description. Maybe it's just me, but I like when the stories are vague and unclear because you can feel your own personal stories within them without all the forced background facts in the way of your imagination. I love the focal point of the purse, kind of the anchor to the story. Really captured the emotions. I love your writing. It's so refreshing.
lusis replied...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Oh I'm so glad to hear that. I guess it's just a matter of opinion then :I

I really like stories like that too. I used to think I put in too much detail, so I wanted to change it up a little. I'm still experimenting though, haha.

_Elsy_ said...
Jul. 16, 2010 at 9:26 am
that is amazing, can't believe the father left though. My only suggestion is to add more description about what is happening around charlie and his mother.
lusis replied...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm
Okay, more description. I'll keep that in mind :)
KK2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Very interesting. I still have a lot of questions though, like what did father guess? what happened 3 years ago? why is everything falling apart?

But besides that, good job! beautiful writing. Question: how does red resemble hugs and smiles? and silver laughter? I understand the symbolism and all, but I don't get how they resemble that. 

I think it MIGHT have worked better if you said the purse was from a happy time three years ago or something around those lines? Idk, but ... (more »)

lusis replied...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I've been trying to experiment with different writing styles, more vague and runny sentences, but I guess I left things a little too vague aha. Three years ago, the father left. The mother is running the family by herself and has to balance everything, hence the American Express cards with BUSINESS in capital letters. She just can't take it anymore.

Hugs and smiles I threw in on a whim. I was trying to go for an abstract sort of feel since hugs and smiles and laughter don't have c... (more »)

PorcelainShadow said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm
Left me breathless. honestly. i remember this happening to my mother... six hundred and seventy one miles can be heartbreaking. in this case, it is truly.. ..astonishing.
lusis replied...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

Yeah, things can be tough. This story was somewhat based on true occurences so I'm glad I could convey the feeling properly.

A_Dreamer said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm
I liked it, but I don't really get why she's moody at the moment. The mother says everything going wrong in her life, but what happened three years ago? Good job though, I loved the mom's personality. :)
lusis replied...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm
Three years ago, the father left the family. I guess I didn't explain that clearly enough, so thanks for pointing it out :)
AidanR. replied...
Jul. 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm
why is he calling?  why did he leave?  is this a job, the military, a divorce?
lusis replied...
Jul. 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm

He's calling because the car is broken.

His reason for leaving I never stated explicitly because I wanted it to be open for interpretation. It could be any or all. If you want to know what I had in mind though, it was because of a job out of state.

AidanR. replied...
Jul. 20, 2010 at 7:30 am
Ok, cool, I like that it's left open like that, but I was jus curious what you were thinking when you wrote it
Whylime replied...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm
i liked it. but i had to read it twice to understand. the writing style suited you but was a little too vague which caused me to be confused.. but i also read way too fast so that may be the reason why.. (: oops.. keep writing in italics on accident.. oh well.
iDogrocker replied...
Jul. 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm
You really have a way with language. It enhances your stories and makes them interesting. Keep up the good work :)
lusis replied...
Jul. 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm
Ah yeah, I've been getting a lot of that. I was experimenting, but I guess it was a bit too vague. Thanks for pointing that out :)
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