My friend Lance over at My Blog Can Beat up Your Blog has a weekly feature called 100 Word Song. We’re given a song and are challenged to come up with a story inspired by it that is only one-hundred words long. Last week’s song was the gorgeous ballad by John Hiatt called “Have a Little Faith in Me”. As I was listening to the song, I immediately thought about Henry reaching out to Karen after her mother’s drunken anniversary scene that I posted last week. I started typing and in a very short time I was over 700 words. It was clear that I didn’t meet the 100 word limit, but I really liked the story. So I give you a 100 Word Story…times ten.
Have a Little Faith
“Goodnight Mum,” Karen whispered as she pulled the blankets up over Peggy’s unconscious body.
Weary from her day at work and worn out from her mother’s drunken stagger down memory lane, Karen cleaned up the kitchen. She washed the glasses and picked up the whiskey bottle. It was almost empty. She nearly threw it away but it seemed like a waste. For a moment she thought about pouring it for herself, but Peggy’s ragged snore from the other room convinced her to just put it away.
She desperately wanted to get into bed but she knew the smell of bacon and French fries would be on the sheets in the morning if she did. She climbed into a bath as hot as she could stand with a new romance novel. It was a splurge that she couldn’t afford so she only let herself read two chapters at a time.
When her allotted words were read and she was pruny from the bath, she dried off thinking about the hero of the novel. He was handsome and wealthy but untrustworthy and irresistible—like Henry. That wasn’t fair, she chided herself. He had done nothing to be thought of as untrustworthy. His words echoed in her mind, “You judging my parents without knowing them is no different than my fraternity brothers thinking a woman is easy just because she’s a waitress.”
He was right of course. Karen wondered what he would have thought of her mother’s performance tonight. She would love to talk to him—or anyone about it. But she wore the shame of her parent’s parting like a hair shirt. It had already scratched her raw growing up. She had no desire to show off her scars.
She couldn’t sleep. It was hot and still. The open windows didn’t let anything in besides the sound of crickets and the distant noise of a freight train. She thought about allowing herself one more chapter of her novel but knew she’d never stop at one. The softest glow of sunrise began to appear in her bedroom window.
“Close enough to morning,” she said. She pulled on clothes and left a note on the kitchen table that read, “Gone for a walk.”
“Not that you’ll be awake before I get back,” she said.
She tied on her white canvas tennis shoes and headed out the door. It was cooler outside—a little. Karen headed toward the city park. When she was a child, Karen snuck there when her parents fought. Late at night she would swing and count the stars and pretend the world was perfect. Once in a while they would notice she was missing and find her on the playground. More often, would come home after the flames of their whiskey soaked anger died out and climb into her bed.
It was almost daylight when she reached the park. She found her favorite red swing. She pumped her legs so the swing went as high as it could go and then jumped off—flying for a moment before landing. A part of her wanted to keep swinging, but it would be light soon and she didn’t want to be seen acting like a child.
Karen continued to meander through the park, when she heard a thunder of footsteps behind her. She stepped to the side of the path as a group of runners from the University came jogging along. She saw Henry in the middle of the pack. She thought for a moment about hiding in the bushes but realized how foolish that was. He caught her eye as they passed. He smiled and waved. Curiosity was etched on his face but he kept pace with his team.
She felt the blush rise in her cheeks and continued walking slowly through the park when the team had gone by. He must think I’m nuts out walking at the crack of dawn, she thought. But he had smiled at her. He most definitely smiled.
At the end of the loop she started walking back towards her house. She heard someone calling for her.
Henry, apart from the team was running back toward her. His face was red and his shirt was soaked with sweat.
“Henry,” she said. “Why did you come back?”
“The team was almost done and you had this look on your face. I don’t know. Is something wrong?”
She just shook her head. How could he possibly understand?
“It’s nothing Henry. I just couldn’t sleep, so when the sun came up I went for a walk.”
“Why couldn’t you sleep?”
“I just had something on my mind. It’s really nothing Henry.”
“Can you sit for a minute?” he asked gesturing to a bench.
Karen nodded and sat down. She was beginning to wish he hadn’t seen her in the park.
“Look, I don’t know why you’re out walking at this time of day and maybe it’s none of my business. But you really look like you needed someone to talk to. I know you think our worlds are so different, but everyone has problems whether they’re rich or poor. Everyone has secrets. You can trust me with yours.”
Karen took Henry’s hand. She noticed it was softer than her own. Maybe he was tougher inside than she realized.
“I don’t know. I don’t like to talk about my family. What if you think differently about me once you hear?”
“If I think any less of you because of anything you have to tell me, you’re better off without me. Have a little faith in me.”
She took a deep breath and began to tell him the stories. Stories that shamed her, stories that saddened her, stories that had created her.
If you'd like to read more of Karen's story, click here.