Just an ending



I’ve been playing around with a story idea in my head.  I haven’t tried writing a short story in awhile, my ideas tend to be more suited for novels (if anything), so it’s a different way of thinking.

I don’t remember exactly when the idea started to form.  I remember thinking about the day I was cleaning up the house, the day (and even the night) before going to closing.  Standing there in an empty house, tired, amazingly tired.  Just such a long year, that was.   Glad the house was finally sold, extremely glad to be done with fixing it up and cleaning it out for the new owners.  But also something else.  Not a turning point, but an ending.  Thinking back to how I felt that day, I realized how bad we all are with endings, true endings.  Most of the time an ending is mixed in with a beginning – sell a house, move into another one, maybe a better one; graduate and move on to better things, hopefully.  But sometimes they’re just endings.  That was just an ending.   An ending I expected, but still an ending.

So I imagined a story, set within this kind of ending.  The entire story is an  ending.  Two people coming together one last time.  Not a reconciliation, not that kind of story.  Something they’ve suffered through, something (this is a key) that’s basically unacknowledged in the story.  It’s not what has happened, but the awareness of a story between them.  They were connected once very strongly.

Tell the story about both characters.  From the outside, the way a stranger would see them, the assumptions we would make.  From the inside, too.   We know how close they’ve been because they don’t need many words.  And even so, there’s this wall that separates them, and has separated them for some time.

From the outside, it looks like a tryst.  Two people meeting up at a dark place.  Looking around nervously, filled with either guilt or at least ambivalence.  I didn’t think you’d come.   A game everyone plays, I think, when you’re out somewhere and you start to people-watch: what’s their story?

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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By Tom Howard


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