Play With The Prose 7, Challenge 4: Sama Smith

If you recall, two PwtP’s ago, I lost to Sama Smith in the finals. She wrote A LOT about families being torn apart. So this week we had to write about the moment a family is being torn apart.

John had just finished packing the Chevette. The diaper-brown color was an eyesore and the engine produced a tinny sound, but it got thirty-five miles per gallon on the freeway, saving at least ten dollars in gas for their trip to northern Minnesota.

“Johnny!” Virginia’s voice sounded more shrill than usual. “That was Patricia on the phone. Ben is in the hospital.”

“Who’s that?” He checked to make sure the car top carrier was secure.

“Ben, your grandson?”

“Oh. That’s too bad.” He looked at his wife grimly. “You know, we better get going or we won’t hit Pine River before sundown.”

“Okay,” Virginia deferred. Twenty miles out of Waterloo she continued the conversation. “I guess he burned his feet really bad. Patty said he’s going to have skin grafts and probably be in the hospital for a couple of weeks.”

“Oh?” replied John. “Oh, hey, check this out.” They were caught in a mild traffic jam just outside of Charles City. “My new watch tells the barometric pressure and has a flashlight built in. See?”

Virginia smiled at him. “That’s nice.”

The drive to the Twin Cities was uneventful and they made it to Minneapolis by midday. They hit a McDonald’s in Bloomington and enjoyed a crossword puzzle together. This was already proving to be a fine vacation. He had recently retired so they planned to spend two months up at the lake this year.

“Oh, look at the time,” John said, showing off his watch again. “It’s darn near quarter of one. We won’t get there by five at this rate.”

A half hour later they exited the interstate onto Highway 10. Construction was making things slow through Mounds View. “You know, Johnny,” Virginia said cautiously. “We’ll be driving right by Mercy Hospital soon.”


“That’s where Ben is staying.”

John rubbed his neck and grunted. “You said he’s going to be okay, right?”

“Uh, yeah. I think so.”

John turned the radio to WCCO. The Twins game was just starting. He didn’t get to hear too many games down in Iowa. He was excited to follow this new kid they had, Kent Hrbek. The guy had hit another home run yesterday. He thought of sharing this news with Virginia, but she was staring out the window. Better leave her to her thoughts, he decided.

K: I suppose this is a true story. The names definitely feel Minnesotan (I can find every single one of them in my in-laws’ family), which lends credence to that idea. Ambiguity about how the breakdown really begins can be good, and I like the subtler emotional distance created by this piece. Though, once again, the dialogue eschews reality. “Oh, look at the time”? Come on, now. BRONZE

CW: John sounds like the quintessential emotionally repressed old man. Eventually that behavior will drive people away. This feels real. And sad for Virginia. – GOLD

I can actually see my grandfather saying “Oh, look at the time?” but point taken. For those whom it isn’t obvious, I’m Ben.

My good scores jumped me all the way up to third place, but there’s a long way to go.

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