The Last Page

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The rocking chair sits still and empty.  I lean against the doorframe and promise myself I’ll give it a fresh coat of paint one of these days.  I make this promise every evening, just as darkness descends over another day.

When the first star appears, that’s my cue to go back inside. As summer wears on it takes longer and longer for that star to appear. I let the screen door slam behind me and I listen for the two usual taps against the jamb. The rocker remains alone and the paint will peel for at least another promise.

The house is quiet save the snores of Moose. The old black lab sleeps on his side in the middle of the living room floor and chases rabbits in his dreams.  I turn on one lamp and leave the rest of the house dark.  It’s just me tonight, just like always. Aside from polite hellos and thank you’s I haven’t spoken with another human being in as many months as I have fingers and toes.

Cicadas buzz through closed windows, their calls so constant it’s as if their mates never answer. I pick up my book and notice there are only a few pages before the story is over. I mark the last page with a bookmark so I know when to stop.  The final pages are always where the characters either solve their problems or are dealt a final blow. Life seldom comes together in such a predictable manner, so I plan on leaving the fictional Miss Hatty Jenson dangling without an answer.

What was it my mother once said?  I tap my chin and think back to my eight-year-old self.  The little boy across the street had just kicked me in the shins and spit in my hair before he dashed away laughing. I limped home with tears in my eyes and bloodstains on my socks.  As I bawled in my mother’s arms, I kept asking her if he would be punished for what he’d done.  It only seemed fair that he should pay for being so mean.  Between her gentle cooing she whispered,  “Fate decides what will be and what will not somewhere between always and never.” Her answer seemed like a crock back then and life has proven to me more than once that the answer is never. The little boy is a bitter man and the little girl still cries.

Miss Jenson has just found out her betrothed is only marrying her for her money and she is heartbroken.  There are worse things, but judging from how little of her story remains she will never have to experience them.  I pause as Moose rolls on his back.  He’s a faithful old friend who has filled the void, but not all holes can be filled.  The house is still empty and the rocker remains unpainted.  This isn’t how I imagined things to go.  I don’t need a prince or even a happy ending . . . just a little certainty would be nice.

Never. When did fate get so vindictive?

My bright red bookmark is one page away.  This is where I read slower and more carefully so as not to overstep my boundary.  Miss Jenson now realizes her best friend’s infatuation with her fiancé as the cause for false rumors. She immediately recognizes the folly in doubting his love and sets off to catch him before he departs for far away shores . . . but, I will never know how it ends and Miss Jenson will forever be on the cusp of her conclusion.  I close the book and place it on my bookshelf next to all the rest.  Hundreds of books clutter rows of shelves, each with a bookmark holding the last page.

* * *

c.b.w. 2011

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Note: This story was inspired by a previous post, Wonder Lines.  Inspiration really does arrive in the most unexpected places, even somewhere as strange as a random set of self-generated questions.

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c.b. 2012

35 thoughts on “The Last Page

  1. I love it. But there’s so much more I want to know, such as what happens to Miss Jenson in the book being read. But more important, why doesn’t she finish reading her books?

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    • I wondered if the lack of ending in her book would make anyone curious! I made up the whole thing, so of course I know the ending, but I’ll never tell.

      As for the main character, she doesn’t finish her books as a means of control. Nothing else in her life has gone “as it should” and she feels helpless. She does the same thing to the characters in her books as a sort of payback and as a mechanism to feel control over something no matter how small.

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  2. Rebekah

    I really enjoy your writings. One wonders if the character choose the solitude or if it chose her. Many books are indeed very predictable … perhaps she liked to dream up her own endings?!

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    • Perhaps she does. 🙂 I like to think her endings depend greatly on her mood.

      The concept of choice always plays a big role in my writing and I’m thrilled you picked up on it in this piece. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

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  3. Oh my goodness, I loved this. So genuine and poetic, even. So truthful. I love the imagery that you have used, it’s very soothing. As for her not to finish the endings of the books…that would drive me mad, though I understand why one would leave the last page. Sometimes, it’s all too neat, and others, it does not do the book justice.
    Great work, it’s gorgeous. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much! 🙂 You’ve said way too many kind things . . . but I’m grateful for every last word. I don’t write wild and crazy stuff because I prefer more subtle interpretations of life. I’m always looking to shine light on even the smallest pieces of truth. I’m so glad you saw that, which gives me so much encouragement to keep writing.

      Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

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      • Pfft, I’m only saying what I think. 🙂 I love reading your work for that reason – it’s subtle, but it has such a calming and truthful air to it that makes it so enjoyable to read. So thank you for writing it, from one ‘writer’ to another.

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  4. Thanks for sharing! I so enjoy your stories. I wonder, the red bookmark stopping the character from reading the final page, are they hoping to stop what seemed to have happened to the person who used to sit in the rocking chair? Stopping their own emotion-grief, sadness, hopelessness, overwhelm? If they can keep the story from ending by reading the final page, what else are they hoping to stop from ending? Curious.

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    • I love that you focused on the color of the bookmark. I specifically picked that color for a number of reasons, which makes your interpretation is very intriguing to me! 🙂

      As always, the story is meant to be ambiguous so each reader can decide for themselves what her motivation is and why she behaves the way she does. I know what my reasons are and I did drop a few hints, but she is open enough for multiple interpretations. 🙂

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  5. Gee, everyone’s comments seem so informed and educated. Here I was still thinkin’ about the old rocking chair left unpainted. I was thinking this; Some things in life is like an old rocker. It’s comfortable and broken in. It rocks worry and anxiety away. While a paint job might make it look pretty, it will never add an ounce more to the comfort it gives when you plop down on it, close your eyes and start the rocking motion when you lean back on it. Let it be, it’s fine left unpainted.

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  6. Nice depth to this, lots in little as they say, I love the idea of all those unfinished but marked books. You can imagine a visitor picking out a few and wondering.

    Lots of images and ideas,

    Jim

    Like

    • Thank you! 🙂 Those images woke me up from a rare sleep, so I’m thrilled to hear it was worth flicking the light on to scribble them in my journal.

      I think about that imaginary bookshelf, too. I want one just like it, but I’d read every last page. 🙂

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    • Yay! This is what a writer always wants to hear. I know her entire story, but I’m hesitant to release any of it. I like readers to decide for themselves who she is and why she behaves in such a strange way. 🙂

      So glad you enjoyed it!

      Like

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