Disclaimer: I own all characters and events - other than 9/11 - in this story. I also own the plot. Please do not steal my ideas.
A/N: With the new semester and all, I got a class aptly named "creative writing." I get a full credit for one semester in the class. All we do is write new stories and poems and try out different strategies. There aren't even tests, save vocabulary. The class is really fun! Well, my teacher told us to write a 1000-1500 word story from a picture of a duck sitting in a chair in a room. This is what I came up with. I hope you like it. It's my first short story, first non-fantasy, and first somewhat historically accurate fic. Please leave some reviews!
A Short Story by Kardin
The key slipped into the lock with a soft click. It seemed to echo through the empty hallway. It was a late Friday night; classes had lasted longer than usual. Her professors were prone to giving long lectures about governmental incidents. However, today was special. The last two days had been school-free due to the events that marred that almost perfect Tuesday morning. For three days it had been complete silence amid the mental turmoil, but today everyone had a comment on the recent tragic event of September 11th, 2001. Today a girl broke down in tears, having held it all inside since the fall of the Twin Towers. It had shattered the silence, opening the college students to the consolidation of their psychology professor.
Rachel closed the door of her small apartment. The emptiness of the front room was nearly unbearable. She walked into the den and let her purse and book bag fall unhindered to the floor. The television came on and noise filled the room. The only thing on was the news and the picture of the smoke and the flames. The television went off, the void returned, and Rachel shivered. It was silent again, starting to burn at her eardrums.
It continued to burn, like the tears against her cheeks. The lights went out, and the day was done.
Saturday morning. It was as though nature was oblivious to the terrible workings of the Tuesday before. Birds sang down to Rachel while she went on her morning jog. Robins chattered at her for getting too close and bright cardinals ignored her as usual. The park was quieter, but that was expected. There were no people out today.
Rachel slowed her pace to a quick stroll. She saw a bench and with a short huff allowed herself a break, sitting on one end facing the lake that formed the center of the park. A mother duck swam with her dozen chicks near the bank. It was peaceful. Rachel realized how careless the flock seemed to be. She almost felt irritated by it.
The peace and quiet was nostalgic. The quacks of the ducks allowed her troubled mind some relaxation. Soft sounds passed by like ghosts. It made her feel sleepy. The air seemed almost pink today. It was a wonderful hiatus from the bitter blacks, browns, and superficial grays of the past week. And then, a tiny peep.
It stirred Rachel from her daze and caused her to glance around. She was alone, but there it was again, coming from below her. She looked down and saw a clump of grass and leaves move near the leg of the bench. Then it wasn't leaves at all, but a baby duck, its adult pinion feathers beginning to surface as tufts of white. It was alone and Rachel knew how it felt. The little child looked up with shiny dark eyes and peeped again. Her heart fluttering, Rachel reached down.
The key slipped in again as easily as it had a month ago, but there was no echo in the hallway. It was drowned simultaneously with the opening of the door. Classical music from a boom box burst forth from the apartment. Rachel had left it on while she went to the college. The den was not as bare as it had been: the floor was covered by brightly colored carpets and the odd white feather here and there. The television was on, but the channel was Disney. And finally, in a corner of the den was a lamp stand and a large red-plastic chair, upon which sat a pure white duck.
"Hey, Douglas," Rachel said as the duck hopped up and flapped his wings, quacking happily. She stroked his sleek head and tried to hush him. Then there was a knock on the door.
"Coming!" the girl cried with a jump. She set down her things and left Douglas to watch the television. As she opened the door she was greeted by bushy eyebrows and an angry mustache.
"Rachel," growled the landlord, peering around the young woman's thin frame as she shifted from foot to foot. "Every day you go to school and every day that radio is on the same station playing the same crap. The other tenants are complaining that it's too loud, and it's driving me insane!"
Rachel averted her eyes and murmured, "But – I'm sorry, but I didn't know there were other people who weren't working around this time. I – I checked, and –"
The mustache quivered. "Why in the world do you need that radio on? You're not home either!"
"I – I...well, I'm in such a hurry to leave sometimes –"
"Your classes start at one-thirty," he said, eyebrows forming a frown. "You're the only tenant in this apartment, right?"
The young woman remembered Douglas just as the duck let of a shrill peal. The mustache seemed to jump. "What was that?"
"Uh, the television, sir."
The eyebrows were still furrowed. "You know the rules around here, Rachel. No pets. Don't have that TV so loud, either! Scare the daylights out of someone with the stuff you watch." He sighed. "Don't let me hear anything else about you, Rachel."
She nodded quickly and listened to him leave before slowly closing the door. She walked back into the den and saw Douglas on his red chair. He looked up at her and elatedly flapped his wings at her return. She smiled back.
"Open the door, Rachel!" the landlord yelled, banging on the door. Rachel hurried to it and opened it, Douglas squawking hysterically behind her. It was too late to save the duck. The bushy eyebrows bounced in surprise and the roaring ensued, peppered with the sounds of Douglas's retaliation. Douglas hopped and flapped between Rachel and the frustrated mustache, protecting his friend from this new enemy. Finally, Rachel grabbed the duck and tried to calm him. Amidst it all she could hear the landlord scream, "Either that birdbrain goes or you go! I won't have some stinking animal in my apartment building!"
The noise continued, and then it ceased.
It was a somewhat chilly Saturday morning. The park was full of people again and the silent, nostalgic type of peace was replaced by the noisy, happy type. Birds sang, people talked, and things were normal. The year before was not fresh on their minds. It had been stored away in their memories for safe-keeping.
So it was with Rachel. She slowed her jogging down to a walk and sat on the end of the bench facing the lake. There was no peeping from beneath her seat this time. A family of ducks was all that broke the otherwise still lake surface. Rachel sighed. Even with the noise it was peaceful. Even with the past still lurking in everyone's mind, things were calm, for both the people and the animals. Life kept going, even though it had seemed to halt.
"Look, mommy!" Rachel saw a young girl standing by the shore with her mother. The girl's small hand was outstretched, pointing to the family of ducks. "Look! Isn't it pretty?"
Rachel followed her delighted gaze. In the midst of black, brown, and gray swam a form of pure white. A familiar honk bounced toward her, but the form did not move from its position with the other ducks. Rachel smiled and stood up. Then she continued on her way. Continued with life, just like Douglas.
A/N: Well, what did you think? Please send me some reviews. I would love to hear what people think of this, besides my teacher and my parents. Thank you in advance!