“I remember he said something about that,” Simon said smiling, pulling out a mangled toothpick from between his teeth. “How it’s better to be ruler of the losers than a slave to winners.” He pushed his hair out of his face, combing through the tangles with nail bitten fingers as he watched Delilah picking at the skin beneath her cuticles.
“It’s just embarrassing, is all,” Delilah replied. She took the cigarette from Simon, carefully rolling it across the pads of her thumb and index finger. The embers burned off layers of paper, crawling towards her, the charcoal remains chipping off and floating onto the pavement with the wind. “It’s like, I don’t even want to be here anyway,” she continued. She pressed the filter to her lips and inhaled until her mouth ballooned with smoke. She slid her tongue against the roof of her mouth and frowned, opening her mouth into an O, letting the smoke slide out in front of her.
This is something I’ve been slowly working on since New Years. I’m attempting to write in Updike’s style, drawing inspiration in particular from The Happiest I’ve Been (which is a great short story if you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it, the last line is one of my favorites: And there was knowing that twice since midnight a person had trusted me enough to fall asleep beside me). I still need to work out some kinks in it, but this is a first draft of sorts:
I came for Ingrid carrying an unopened bottle of champagne, warmed from sitting in the passenger’s seat for a breezy forty-five-minute drive. I parked the car against the curb in front of her house and got out and looked up towards the sky, my hand shading my eyes, and I squinted up at the trees lithe with the wear of the cold that had knocked them sideways in the last storm. With care, I tucked the bottle in the folds of my coat and walked up to her door. When I knocked, Ingrid swung open the door wearing only a t-shirt and underwear and her hair was crowded in a tightened knot on top of her head. Something told me she had been waiting in the front room.
“Something’s wrong,” he whispered, laying the bird down on the table. It slid out of his palms, its head bending backwards so the nape of its neck nearly touched the mantle beneath. The wings were fashioned like a cocoon, tucking the body away, the white feathers neither ruffled nor out of place as Wynn let it roll onto the counter. Audrey leaned forward over her homework and touched the bird anxiously, her index finger just barely pressing against its mangled right leg.