The Struggle: Award-Winning Short Fiction from KCAD Student Brittney Turner
Guest blogger, Photography major, and Writing Center consultant Brittney Turner shares “The Struggle,” a piece of short fiction written for Professor Adam Schuitema’s Fiction Workshop course that recently took first place in the the Short Fiction category of Ferris State University’s PRISM Writing Contest.
By Brittney Turner
The broomstick handle punches across the telephone, knocking it off of the receiver. The dial tone sounds, and the top of the phone hits the kitchen floor. Darren tries to take the broomstick from Mike, but Mike pins him against the counter top, spilling over both cups of coffee on the granite, letting the drinks run under the microwave. Darren shoves Mike and he hits hard against one of the table chairs, the one that Darren’s daughter usually sits at to do her algebra homework. While Mike is down, Darren runs upstairs, getting the mud from his tan work boots all over the plushy blue steps. Mike throws the broomstick on the couch where the sun is resting in the next room. He chases Darren, slipping once on the fourth step getting Darren’s mud on the palm of his hand. He doesn’t even wipe it off on the leg of his jeans, already having dried dirt on them.
Darren makes it to his and Janet’s room, closing and locking the door behind him. Mike sees and pounds on the door.
“Does Janet know?” Mike yells and grunts. Grits his teeth. Curls his fists and kicks the door with his own tan work boots. Out of breath, Darren sees the pulsing of his bedroom door and he knows it won’t hold for too much longer.
“I’m sorry, Mike,” Darren says through the door. “We were going to break it off, but—.” He clenches his hair, his fingertips briefly touching the skin in front of his receding hairline, and he paces between the bed and the full-length mirror across the room. The one that Janet spends too much time at and Darren not enough. His fingers go from his hair to in between his teeth to scratching the back of his neck. Darren sees the window. It’s only the second floor, he tells himself.
The door stops pulsing and Mike is silent. Darren hears the creak of the top step; it always creaked whenever any one went down the stairs, never up the stairs. He thinks Mike has left but he waits in the room for a few more minutes just to be sure. Darren approaches the door, slowly, quietly and puts his ear to it. He hears the drawers in the kitchen opening and closing. One drawer is kept open and rummaged through. Thinking it’s the junk drawer, Darren takes his ear off of the door and considers for a moment what Mike could have grabbed. It’s silent. Darren slowly starts putting his ear back on the door.
THWACK. Mike thrashes a hammer against the bedroom door and puts a dent in it. Darren’s hit by a sliver of wood and falls backwards on the floor, rubbing his cheek from the pain of the hammer pounding against the door. He rushes to his feet and goes to the window, opens it and looks back at the door. There’s a hole in it already, not quite, but almost big enough for Mike’s hand to reach in and unlock the door. Darren turns back around and straddles the pane of the window, uncomfortably, but he manages to get the tip of his foot on the roof over the Florida room. He makes it all the way off the window and almost loses his balance on the slope of the roof. Darren notices that his daughter’s room window is also over the roof of the Florida room and wonders if she’s ever been up here for one reason or the other. He steadies himself down the gradual slope and makes it to the edge of the roof. He’s sweating. He looks down and sees the bushes that he just trimmed over the weekend and the flowers that Janet spends hours pruning. Looking behind him, Darren sees Mike already straddling the window, uncomfortably.
Darren looks back down at the bushes, contemplates, and jumps. Tumbles and rolls, hits the horizontal sprinkler system, the one that moves back and forth. Darren gets up and sees Mike already at the edge of the Florida room not thinking about how far down he has to jump. He just leaps. Darren hurries towards Mike’s white Dakota pick-up parked in the driveway. Darren has a set of Mike’s keys in his pocket and reaches for them. Darren has so many keys on his keychain: the front door, the van, the Chevy. Keys to his toolbox, his work locker, even keys to Mike’s place and Mike’s Dakota. He finds the right one, gets in and starts her up. Mike’s close, he almost reaches the truck. Darren skids out of the drive, swipes Mike on the side and he falls back on one of the solar lamps that lines the driveway, breaks it’s stake and knocks the solar paneled top into a patch of the flowery edge lining the walkway to the front door. Chrysanthemums. Mike’s wife has a bouquet of those exact flowers in a vase on their dining room table. Her favorite.