As promised, here’s my short story* from my senior year literary magazine (the one I placed in the centerfold). I fought the urge to edit, so instead I’ll share my thoughts at the end.
The Mail Room
The man furtively glanced over his shoulder. A woman was walking through the door to the opposite corner of the room. Although he normally kept to himself, he could not keep from gazing at the woman.
There was something unique about her. She was nicely dressed, a traditional business suit, with her hair in a bun. There was nothing spectacular about her, but the man could not tear his eyes away. As she set her briefcase down by her side, her eyes caught his and he quickly looked away. Embarrassment overwhelmed him; he normally didn’t associate with many people.
He turned back to sorting the mail. The many different names and places usually preoccupied him throughout the day, but the woman seemed to have some sort of magnetism about her. He turned his attention to her once again and saw her walking to a postal box. He noticed the curve in her waist as she reached up to retrieve her mail, and the muscle tone in her calf as she stood on tip-toes.
After closing the box, the woman picked up her briefcase and headed towards the package department. Walking up to the counter, she handed the receptionist a slip of paper, and once again set down her briefcase. Almost as if she could feel the man staring at her, she turned her head and gave him a little smile.
Envelopes scattered across the floor as the man tried desperately to keep them from slipping through his fingers. He hadn’t expected her to give him any attention and was flustered beyond belief.
Another smile escaped her lips as she witnesses his clumsiness, and she looked away so as not to embarrass him further. The man began to resort the mail, forcing himself to keep his eyes on his work. But the woman spoke and his attention was drawn to her once again. Her voice was clear and smooth as she thanked the receptionist, and the man completely forgot his work. Something about the woman would not let go of him, and he watched her, dumbfounded.
Leaning to pick up her briefcase, the woman glanced at the man. This time he did not look away but, instead, gave a meek smile. As she returned the gesture, a tendril of hair escaped the bun, and draped casually against her cheek. Reaching to place it behind her ear, two letters fell from her grasp, sliding across the floor to his feet.
Startled, he picked them up and glanced at the name. She approached him, holding out her hand.
“Thanks,” she said, taking the letters from him.
The man blushed as her hand brushed his, and he mumbled, “You’re welcome.”
She smiled once again, then turned to leave. As he watched her walk out the door, he marveled at the lock of hair tickling her earlobe. Giving a small sigh, he returned to sorting the mail.
Whew! I feel like I should have made this a drinking game–take a drink every time I abused an adverb/repeated words/or latched onto passive voice like it was the last Hershey’s kiss on the planet.
I will say I can already see my voice here, which I suppose supports the theory that your true voice is already inside you. At least in my case.
Bravo, 18-year old Melanie, for working in a semi-colon! But don’t be afraid on the em-dash. The em-dash is your friend.
Also noted, my fondness for the word “leaning” (or leaned). It only appears here once, but one of my betas kindly pointed out that it’s in my current wip almost 90 (NINETY!) times. That’s a lot of people with poor posture.
Let’s not overlook the commas. THOSE were the hardest not to edit. I mean, really, how would you all even know? Right? But I said I wouldn’t change it, and I didn’t. Hmm, I wonder, really, if I can get more commas in this paragraph.
And last but not least, I must applaud my love of vague characters. I have a thing with not naming my characters in short stories, and while I was a little surprised to see this started almost twenty years ago, it does make me happy that I’ve stayed true to my form. Whether or not that’s a GOOD form is up for debate.
Anything you care to add? If you’re a writer, have you read old work and seen hints of your furture self?
*I believe this story was written as a prompt in Mr. Shapiro’s English comp class. He had a poster of Albert Einstein on his wall–one where he’s looking over his shoulder at something in the distance–and Shap told us to write a story about it. Voila!