I Love You All Stop

The Word: Film

Pam crawled around on the carpet, searching for a one inch section of super 8 film lost in the shag. Crawling and crying. All the money she had in the world, ten thousand dollars, had paid for her admission to film school. “Do something you really want,” her grandmother had said. And she’d wanted to make films.

Growing up, she and her friends haunted the revival houses –the Bijou and the Vagabond, the Fox Venice. Now she’d spent ten thousand dollars, and garnered a place in the directors program at the most prestigious film school in America. How excited they all were, how envious. She couldn’t tell them how much she hated it.

In the first semester, they had to make five super 8 films. Most of her fellow students had already made twice that number, while she had never held a movie camera in her hands. What had she been thinking? All that talk, thousands of hours logged in dark art houses, but she had never once tried to make a film. And then her grandmother had given her this gift.

But it was no dream come true. It was Hatif in the equipment cage refusing to give decent equipment to girls. Argumentative crews and volunteer actors who walked off the set in mid-shoot. There was too much equipment, the hours were brutal, and the money poured out like blood from an arterial wound. While her fellow students screened bright, stylish films ready for festival airing, her own murky offerings were voted ‘intriguing’ at best, and more often ‘obscure’, and the splices came apart as they were being screened.

She woke each day exhausted, still in her clothes, and wept as she brushed her teeth, preparing for another 18 hour day. Her boyfriend moved out. “This is so fucked, Pammy. You’re losing it.,” How could Billy understand? He was a bass player in a punk band who worked as a substitute teacher. He had as much ambition as a pot of geraniums. He was a Lily of the Field, he didn’t toil, neither did he spin. Where Pam graduated summa cum laude from Berkeley and had never quit anything in her life.

Do something you really want…

Where was that goddamned clip? She’d just had it! She knew she had it somewhere.

How could she hate this so much, when people would kill for the chance to be in her shoes?

She gave up hunting, pressed her face into the dirty shag. This was only the first semester. She should just kill herself, She should have taken the ten grand and gone to England. She had an aunt there, her mother’s cousin Vi.

Aunt Vi, the family scandal for canceling her wedding back in the ‘Fifties.

“We’d all had our dresses made,” her grandmother said, sitting with Pam at her dressing table, Pam trying on her perfume, wearing her clip on pearl earrings. “People flying in, the Bel Air hotel booked, announcement in the Times. A very big deal. Three days before, she decided she didn’t want to go through with it. Eighteen years old. That girl had some kind of nerve. Three hundred guests. People were furious.”

She opened a small drawer under the mirror, pulled out a yellow paper, and unfolded it gently, handed it to her. Pam handled it gingerly, the telegram was soft, the creases fragile from being read and reread. Not marrying stop terrible mistake stop forgive me stop I love you all stop. “Some kind of nerve.” She sighed and refolded it, slipped it back in the drawer.

That was how you did it. Just like that.

(c) Janet Fitch 2010. All rights reserved.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: BOOK

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6 Responses to “I Love You All Stop”

  1. mamashell Says:

    Love this one. A nice reminder.

  2. alisa wood Says:

    Love this story: The decision, the responsibility, the agony One often needs to face when committing to participate in the creative process. The willingness to accept the outcome whatever it is and then let it go.
    p.s. “as ambitious as a pot of geraniums,” clever funny!

  3. (Love this blog. Thought I would give one a shot…)

    Butter Face

    She could feel the ripple of each tiny bone in her back as she slid down into the rear of the chair. It made a squeaking noise from the sweat on her shoulders touching the plastic. Just another normal blistering day of misery in Tucson, she thought. The air wrapped her in its thick blanket of perspiration, and her light green sundress turned a dark olive color and completely see-through. As she flipped the pages of her paperback library book, her fingers left a grimy film of sweat on the corner of each sheet. Maybe the next person to borrow the book would wonder who left those marks, as she often wondered about coffee cup stains or whether or not a red dot was jam or blood.

    She looked up toward the wannabe-rocker barista who was still staring unashamedly at her nipples, and yelled, “Turn the misters on!” He replied that they were broken. Of course they were. An older man reading outside diagonally from where she sat looked up from his book and smiled. They were very likely the only three people to brave the 130 degree weather that day.

    Even still, she needed to be outside. All of the other Arizonans were at the mall or the movies, wearing sweaters in obscenely low air-conditioning. Just the thought of it made her claustrophobic. The café she chose to go to was perfect—small and bare. Her aviators slid down her nose as she leaned forward and proceeded to steal some ice cubes from her latte to rub on the back of her neck. When the cubes had melted into a puddle that was indistinguishable from her own sweat, she leaned back and went back to reading.

    Yes, she thought, this is what it is like to be unemployed. Restful. Just that morning, she had been “let go” along with half of the company. Honestly, it was for the best. What was her job title again? At 32, she was still an assistant’s assistant. She had been prepared for it and had even packed up her stuff in a box under her desk ahead of time and planned the speech she would say before leaving. When the time came, and Mr. Talston told her the “unfortunate news,” she went off on a tirade outing everyone who had ever blown-and-sucked their way to the top. It was not a very eloquent speech, but she felt better having said it. She had never felt better than when she walked out of that boardroom.

    The next part of what happened that morning was what she didn’t particularly want to remember. Walking up the cracked steps of her front lawn, putting the key in the door, jiggling it until it opened. Dropping her box on the ground. Sliding her feet out of her ugly, scuffed up high heels. Wiggling her toes; feeling the freedom. Calling out, “Thomas, Thomas,” and walking into his study where a woman’s voice was crying out quietly, as if in response to her, “Tommy, Tommy.” Finding him indeed sitting at his desk, but with Theresa, their neighbor of whom “Tommy” had called “a butter-face,” on top of him.

    Yes, he was working on his novel while she worked as an assistant’s assistant to pay their bills. She woke up at 5 a.m. every morning to go for a run so that her husband might find her attractive again. She came home and made coffee before the hour-long commute to a job where she was expected to fix the toilet, iron people’s clothes, do paperwork, answer phones, and put jam on Mr. Talston’s toast for him as he watched. She then would go home to make dinner for Thomas, allowing him to talk all night about his genius novel about a racehorse named Drake, or his ‘newest idea’ about a farmer named Charlie.

    Did he ever ask her what she wanted to do with her life? Did he care that she wanted to start her own photography business? He used to love that she was creative, that she had huge, outrageous goals to travel the world and take pictures. After her husband babbled about Drake and Charlie for hours, she would go into the bathroom and cry. Later in the evening, after trying unsuccessfully to talk her husband into making a baby, or at least making her come, she would get a measly four hours of sleep and do it all again.

    A small, low voice suddenly muttered next to her, “Dude, that’s rough.” Wannabe rocker barista was standing next to her with a bottle of water and another iced latte. She suddenly realized she was yelling all of this out loud, crying and bathed in sweat. She had told this entire story to the old man sitting diagonally from her at the café; the poor man who was just trying to sit alone in this God-forsaken heat to have a latte and read his book.

    The barista had heard her too, and was taking this opportunity to stand above her, staring down the front of her dress. The old man offered her a small half smile and said he was very sorry and had bought her the latte that rocker-boy was holding. She began considering which one of them she would sleep with and decided that either one would be fine. After having a three- minute ride in the back of the café closet with rocker boy, he gave her a serious look and said, “At least you don’t have a butter face.”

  4. Loraine Shields Says:

    I am catching up with your blog, since I have returned and it is like the soft rain today and I need it so. Really inspires me to read to write to live. Thank you for generously sharing your instigating talent, devotion, hard work and “trade secrets.”

  5. Ello. I must say, I’m glad that you referred me to your blog. This writing exercise you have for yourself is very enthralling. I’m finding myself wanting to try it out for myself; see what it does for my voice. I particularly enjoyed this story. Many people don’t realize the struggles with enduring the creative process. Not only in your stories but also in your beautifully written novels, have you given such an articulate and genuine voice to the craft of being an artist.

  6. stephen Says:

    The Word of the Day: Perfect
    Cecilia is striding through a clothes store, a modest place–not as cheap as JC Penny’s yet not as prim as Barney’s–in search of a proper funeral garment. She has plenty of clothes at home in her closet, and she’s almost certain she’ll eventually just wear something from that selection, but she needs the distraction, an errand or chore to keep her busy for a few hours.
    Although stylish, Cecilia has never been an obsessive shopper, the only things she shops for on a regular basis are groceries and fine wine. There has never been the constant need to buy new clothing because her figure has been in the same slender state since Michael was born. She’s always been the same dress size, as well.
    Eventually, Cecilia finds something: the price tag titles it as a dress but from the fabric it seems more like a long sweater. Flushing it against her body, she sees the hemline would come to the knee, decent attire for the event. But there’s something about it, under the fine black cashmere, beneath the good stitching, there’s something that says, if on her body, that she’s an aging woman trying to look younger than her years, which is the last thing she’d ever want to express. Oh, to hell with it! She is Cecilia Byrne, not that it has any importance but she’s a person, a woman living her life while others decide not too. She will wear what she likes no matter who says what about it. Yes, she’ll wear black stockings as well and heels, regardless of her height. She’ll put her silver-colored hair in a French twist and will look just as she always does for any engagement: perfect. She might even wear a little make-up, even if she doesn’t wear often, who cares? She put on that lipstick that’s the same shade of coral as her lips, merely to add an affect on them and a hint of mascara to thicken and darken her already thick, dark eyelashes and then a dash of rose blush on her already healthily flushed cheeks. She’ll look brilliant, finer than she ever did on any other occasion. What a thrill! To behave so strangely, to take action in a moment. But why stop here?
    Cecilia races to the checkout counter were a young woman stands in front of the cash register. The woman is no more than twenty, almost her son’s age. “All done here?”
    “Yes, I am,” Cecilia responds, flashing her beautiful smile.
    “Did you find everything okay?”
    “Yes, I did. Thank you,” Cecilia then feels the downward spiral, after so much activity, she’s losing her courage, her energy.
    “Ma’am?” The woman asks.
    “Yes?” Cecilia responds.
    “That will be fifty nine dollars and eighty cents. Did you want to pay cash or credit with that?”
    Cecilia feels it disappear, she’s lost, and she no more has the charisma to go on. “Actually, I’ve changed my mind. I deeply apologize.”
    “No problem, ma’am. Did you want to look at anything else? I can help if you need it,”
    “No, no that’s kind of you. But, I jus realized this isn’t what I want. Have a good day,”
    “You too, ma’am,” And the young woman leaves to hang the discarded dress back on the rack.
    Cecilia leaves, embarrassed, and walks back to her car. In the driver’s seat, she unleashes a mob of sobs from throat, not entirely sure what she’s crying about.

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