Anu Garg pins down the plight of every writer when he introduces this week’s theme on Wordsmith.org:
Illustrating the importance of using the right word, Mark Twain once said, ‘The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning-bug & the lightning.’
This week’s dose of words relate more in wrongly assumed meanings at first glance. Still, the quote from Mark Twain is a great reminder that every word counts in a story, especially in a flash fiction piece.
psychopomp. noun. A guide of souls, one who escorts soul of a newly-deceased to the afterlife.
I never would have guessed that meaning.
The Mets Fan
Natalie looked down at the face of her iPhone just in time to see the reception bars collapse.
“Excellent.” She hit the send button with her middle finger several times anyway in hopes that her assistant, Rick, would still get her text.
STUK N TRAFFK. PLZ STALL MTG. U R MY HERO 🙂
Natalie was on her way to meet a client, a new client, and she hated showing up late. She’d been inching along 8th Avenue for fifteen minutes in a sea of cars, when she finally saw a break at the next intersection. She figured if she turned right and bombed down Arcadia – which always seemed open to traffic – to 12th Avenue, she could circle back towards the business district and her office. She had whipped her steering wheel to the right, punched the gas, and looked down to finish typing her text.
That’s when the bars fell and her reception dropped.
She sighed and looked up to see a trash can on her hood and the reflection of her right turn signal blinking back at her from the Starbucks window. Starbucks was two doors down from the corner, and it was empty. No one inside. No one waiting at the door. No one parked at the curb. In fact, hers was the only car in the street now — in the middle of the street.
She gripped the wheel and peered around the trash can. “What the hell.”
She heard a knock on her driver’s side window.
She noticed the Mets hat first and then saw his face. He nodded slightly and motioned for Natalie to roll down her window. She cracked it an inch.
“Would you like to step out of your car, Miss?”
He looked harmless, though a little weathered. But something about him was familiar. When he spoke, her shoulders relaxed. She rolled the window down another six inches.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
He smiled, stepped back, and pulled open her door. Natalie brushed off her skirt and swung her legs around. She climbed out of the car and into complete silence — no sounds of construction, no sirens, not even a horn to be heard. Downtown was never this quiet.
“Follow me,” he said.
She surprised herself by taking his hand.
They walked down Arcadia Lane for miles, past the bookstore and the Italian restaurant that serves the best gnocci in the county. Past the laundromat at the edge of town. She’d only been to that laundromat once, when her washer broke down. And, it was depressing: a real wasteland of lost socks and worn dryer sheets.
Natalie’s eyes followed her hand to the stranger’s, on up to his shoulder, and to his face. She studied his profile.
“You have questions,” he said, without looking at her.
“Yeah,” she said, but suddenly she couldn’t think of what she wanted to ask.
“You seem nice,” she said, finally.
“Yes. A lot of people tell me that.”
They were quiet for a long time, until she realized that somewhere along the way she had lost her shoes and her phone.
“I don’t need shoes?” she asked him.
He looked at her and smiled. “No.”
Natalie turned towards the road, which rose up and opened out into the sunset.
“This isn’t at all what I expected,” she said.
“It never is.”
He squeezed her hand and she closed her eyes.