Posts Tagged ‘J.R. Hershberger’

Sisters
by J.R. Hershberger

Laughing, we jostle into Katja’s living room with our shopping bags.
She drops hers. She is not laughing anymore.
I turn to see what she does – two embracing figures. One is Katja’s husband. The other is a woman I do not recognize.
Katja shoves past me, back out the door.
I follow her.
She runs up the street to the park on the corner.
“Katja,” I call. She does not slow down.
She turns onto the park’s running trail. I fall further behind but am confident I will catch up. She has always been the faster of us, but I have always had more endurance.
It’s been years since either of us has done running of any significance. She tires after less than half a mile and collapses on the grass next to the trail.
When I reach her, she is hugging her knees and sobbing.
“This sucks,” she says.
“It does,” I say, “but you can’t run away from it.”
“Didn’t I just, though,” she says, laughing through hitched breaths.
I laugh, too. “I mean, I guess you can. You did. But, you’re going to have to go back. Deal with stuff.”
She rocks back and forth on her bottom. Watching her, I’m reminded of a game we’d played as kids.
“Remember, ‘Rotten Tomato’?” I ask her, joining her in the grass and hugging my own knees. I push myself backward and attempt to use momentum to right myself without letting go of my knees. I flop onto my side.
“Oh, yeah,” Katja says, then tries herself, rocking backward and then straining to come back to sitting position. She fails; her hands slip and she releases her knees.
We each try again, hugging our knees and rocking backward.
Attempts once again unsuccessful, we lay sideways in the grass.
A teen-aged couple appears on the trail. They stop, staring at us.
We stare back.
I ask, “wanna play ‘rotten tomato’?”
They do not answer as they continue past, wearing worried expressions.
When they disappear around the corner, Katja and I laugh.
We laugh until there are no tears left for crying.
Then, I walk her home.

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Happy Tuesday writers! Here is the unfashionably late Round 129 winners post. Many thanks to the patient writers who submitted last week and also to judge Ewan Smith. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

The photo from Ashwin Rao this week shouted the word “Relationship”. Nine AHers responded with cracking stories.

A Certain Tomorrow
This is a story of waiting and, as such, not a great deal happens. But the author skilfully builds up the feel of impending fate. There is a wonderful sense of Laura having become disconnected from her body which is now little more than a physical shell. Soon, she will be disconnected from Jeff entirely but for the moment the two of them just hold on, waiting for the Certain Tomorrow. Very moving.

The Broken Spoons
I love the wheels within wheels aspect of this with a real image being fictionalised both externally and internally by the story. (Does that make sense? Well I know what I mean…) Great natural dialogue and there really should be a band called The Broken Spoons. I just wonder if that’s a reference to the couple spooning in the picture…hmm…

The Quarrel
A violent relationship under stress; always an opportunity for sparks – and anything else at hand – to fly. By starting the story in the middle of a furious argument, the author hooks the reader straight off. I did like the idea of Mike lying awake half the night worrying where Jessie was when she was asleep on the sofa in the next room all along. Lots of swirling emotions there.

Holding The World In Your Arms
The story of an abused narrator whose personality has been systematically ground up and destroyed. “…with every explosion a little more of me turned to ash, my soul as empty as any Pompeian plaster cast.” Driven by the wish for revenge, or perhaps simply the need to end the fear, she poisons the abuser and finds her own resolution in death. Although set in modern times, there is a mythical quality to this story that is deeply satisfying.

Loving Whole
I like the sense in this story of the fragility of life. A sliver of inattention, a moment of carelessness and the world becomes engulfed by grief. The image of the girl found dead with the phone still in her hand, message showing, is a strong one. There is a lot packed into the story and it has a great structure with the brief final sentence taking the reader right back to the start. A good read.

If The Bar Burns Down, The Rain Gonna Cry All Night
A really entertaining spoof biography of everyone’s favourite child star, Piril “Dame Judy” Quench. The humour is perfectly judged throughout so that I felt, somewhere at the back of my mind, that I really did remember a TV series called Knackers Yard. (Oh – and I’m going to steal “implausibly lovely” to use in my CV.)

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Profile Pix by David Shakes
A lovely story. From the off, the simple descriptions are very evocative, giving an immediate sense of place. The lack of emotion and intensity in the narration only magnifies the unfolding horror. The structure of the story is so elegant; I love the single short sentences between the paragraphs like a solemn drumbeat of commentary. And the clarity throughout – gorgeous.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: As The Sun Goes Down by A.J. Walker

Now this is funny! There’s the first narrator having his perfect romantic moment by the lake – well, apart from the mosquitoes, the winos and the screaming children. Then the second narrator with two mozzies up her nose feeling as unromantic as it’s possible to be. Brilliant. The contrast between their physical closeness and their mental distance gives the story such energy. It made me laugh at 6.53 on a Monday morning – there ain’t no greater praise than that.

and our Round 129 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

J.R. Hershberger

with

“Sisters”

Two sisters; one betrayed, the other aching with her pain. Unable to face the grief of the present, they retreat into the past and into a childhood game they once shared. Time passes and only when they are ready do they return to reality. I love the way that this is a story about something mentioned in passing at the start and then barely referred to again. It’s as if we readers, like the sisters, can’t face the agony of the betrayal; we’d rather think about playing Rotten Tomatoes instead. The more I read this, the more it grew on me. A super piece of writing.

Congratulations, J.R.! Your story will be featured as one of tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickies! Stay tuned for the Round 130 winner’s post which will be along shortly for this week’s Twofer Tuesday!