March 04, 2009

OUTAGES by Elsie Montgomery

Sandy’s computer screen went black, instantly. No flicker to warn her. She swore under her breath and glanced at the electric clock. It was off too, its face read 1:02. She turned off the power to her surge protector, got up, dumped her cold coffee and tried not to let the enormity of this raise her blood pressure.

“Arden Hills is a new subdivision. The power never goes off in the new areas,” said the cheerful voice at the power company. “Let me check for you.”

Sandy stared out the window listening to “hold” music that sounded piped from a funeral home and wondering if Jeff would get over his anger. She was almost able to laugh at his jealousy. Whatever gave him the idea she had time to entertain men during the day? Perhaps she was lonely — but men? Not this time. She learned her lesson. Patrick was from another era, another phase of life. She had outgrown her need to be romantically involved, to be the center of a man’s attention. Writing romance novels channeled her energies into sometime more productive — and profitable.

“I am sorry. You are right. The power is off in Arden Hills. Apparently someone hit a power pole out in that area. We apologize for the inconvenience and expect to have service restored as soon as possible.”

Inconvenience? It seemed like just another weird event added to an increasing and almost mysterious force trying to prevent her from getting any work done. I am glad the backup program on my word processor is set to save every two minutes. I didn’t lose much this time. Not like last month when the dog pulled the plug. Jeff didn’t believe me that time either. He thinks my work is held up because there is someone here all day.

She poured herself a glass of juice. I would never get into another one of those Patrick things. He hurt my marriage and nearly destroyed me. And I thought he was just what I needed. The worst of it is trying to recover . . . never mind Jeff acting more weird every day. The next thing he will be doing is phoning from work on the hour, every hour.

Sandy laughed again. If Jeff wasn’t such a tightwad, he would. His office was just out of their telephone area. Each call would cost about a dollar, maybe more. She knew his thriftiness overruled hiring a private detective.

She walked through the house to the front living room and looked out the window. Funny, that dark green Buick is just like the one Patrick used to drive. She watched it for a few minutes then saw two people with briefcases emerge from her neighbor’s house across the street and get into the Buick. They looked like morticians or maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses. Well, at least Patrick wasn’t into either of those pursuits, and thankfully, neither is Jeff. In spite of his raging jealousy, he is sensible and definitely not a religious fanatic.

In a few minutes, the power came on. Sandy sat down at her keyboard. She thought about Jeff. He wasn’t religious but he was becoming obnoxious with his suspicions. I can’t help it if the power goes off or the dog likes power cords. I can’t do anything about hard drive failure and my mother calling every two days. My, that woman likes to talk. Not that I am any different. I have to admit that I spend more time on the phone with Gail and Louella than I should. I guess I am the reason the story is not finished. She opened her notebook and tried to pick up where her computer blanked out.

Jeff watched the tow truck hoist his car and pull away. The power pole was down but not completely sheared. He wondered how he only managed to scratch the back of his hand when his car would likely be a write-off.

That was not the worst of it. How would he explain to Sandy what he was doing out here in the mid-afternoon when he was supposed to be working? How could he tell her he had come to check on her every day this week and now thought his fears were confirmed? How could he let her know that he ran into a power pole while talking on his cell phone to a friend in Motor Vehicles, tell her that he knew a Reverend Paul Moses was the registered owner of the car that was parked in front of his house, every day, for several weeks? How could he tell her he was melting down with fear and rage every time he saw a green Buick? Did she already know?

Worse yet, he found himself talking to himself, now, aloud, on the sidewalk. How can I admit to her that I my attitude pressured her into this? I know I cause her writer’s block; I know that. But now I’ve caused even worse, another green Buick and one more jerk, religious or not, whose name begins with P. This is all my fault.

He felt dizzy. He began walking, wondering which way was home. Would Sandy say come in, or would the green Buick still be outside? Would she forgive him? Would she understand? Or would she laugh in his face and leave him for Paul? Will I ever get this husband thing right? And why do I feel so odd? And why is the sun setting so early in the day?
Sorry to leave you hanging, but short story is sometimes about making readers think, and loose ends often have that effect! Elsie


  1. Hi Elsie, you left so many unanswered questions I had to return and read it again tonight. I do hope this will be continued next time! Grrrrr....
    P. Mytroen

  2. Oh no...don't leave us hanging like that, Elsie. Great cliff hanger and super story line. I got a really good sense of character. Convincing and gripping. Great job!

  3. I just finished reading Lisa Sampson's book "Straight Up" and am convinced that I cannot write fiction! She is amazing. If you can attend Spring WorDshop to experience her you will not be disappointed.

  4. Urg--I want more!!! :) You write awesome fiction, so don't give up! What's the rest of the story?


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