Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Story A Week: Endless

Spalding lay on the bleached deck of the groaning ship and watched trees. He wasn’t sure why he was bothering. They were all the same. They’d been the same for days, like he was looking at overgrown Christmas tree farms: dark green with pointy tops. There were masses of them, covering the mountains like hairs on a giant’s arm.
As long as the trees were the same, Spalding was determined to remain despondent. Because as long as the trees were these hated evergreens, they weren’t any closer to the port in Los Angeles.

Spalding pulled the blanket he’d brought from his cabin up around his chin. It was chilly out here, even with the sun blasting down on him. Wind from the ocean swooshed over the deck, flapping the blanket. Spalding glared at the trees. He would have glared at the wind, too, if he could’ve seen it.

Rubbish. This whole trip was absolute rubbish.

Mum came out on deck. Spalding pretended not to see her, but he watched her out of the corner of his eye. She smiled at nothing, tilting her face up to the sunshine, and took a deep breath. He knew why she did; she claimed the air out here would extend her life by several years. She was wearing one of those light summery dresses she’d bought at TJ Maxx in LA before their departure. The hem flipped up in the wind, but Mum grabbed it and held it down.

She started across the deck, the pointy heels of her shoes clicking across the boards.

“Glorious!” she cried as she came along, her voice a booming contralto. “Isn’t it glorious, Spalding? Who would have thought the world could be so beautiful! It renews the soul! I don’t blame you a bit for wanting to stay out here all day, and soak in all this … this wonder!”

Spalding rolled his eyes, but privately. It wouldn’t do to have Mum notice an eye rolling. She didn’t put up with disrespect from her children. Public humiliation was her weapon of retaliation. And with five sons she had lots of experience with humiliating teenage boys.

“I hope you’re taking loads of pictures,” Mum continued. “No one back in England will believe this, will they? That you’ve been all the way to Alaska and back this summer. They’ll all be mad with jealousy.”

Spalding kept his camera near him at all times. He brought it out from under the blanket. “Right here, Mum. I’m snapping shots constantly, whenever something interesting comes up.”

“Good, good,” Mum said, patting his shoulder. “That’s good, Spalding.” She smiled down on him like he was an obedient dog. “The buffet starts again in an hour. You’ll come in tonight, won’t you?”

The deck chair creaked as Spalding shifted. “Don’t know. Don’t know if I want to miss any of … this.” He gestured his arm in a wide circle, taking in the endless expanse of mountains, trees and water.

Actually, what he was sure he could miss was another evening at the buffet with his step-father – the man who remained at table for the entire six hours, eating plate after plate of food until the servers looked at them all with a disdain that made Spalding’s acne-prone skin crawl with embarrassment.

“Ahh, my boy,” Mum said. “You truly are my own child. You’re the only one I have who appreciates beauty like I do. You’re the only one who can feel it in his pores as I do—”


Spalding cringed. His step-father had arrived at the far side of the deck. When Spalding looked at him, he always saw the same features: the squinted pig-eyes, the belly pouring over the edge of his belt like too much froth in a cup of beer, the miniature feet in black trainers. Why his mother had chosen this man to be her third husband was still a gross and detestable mystery to Spalding. The only reason he could conjure up was the cruises. His step-father had an affinity for them. Buffets and karaoke were the passions of his existence, so it made sense that he enjoyed a good cruise.

And Mum, well, she’d always wanted to see the world….

“Oh, dear,” Mum said under her breath. “There’s Terrence. I’m not sure why he’s awake already. It would be lovely to have you with us at the buffet, darling.”

“Yes, Mum,” Spalding muttered.

Mum leaned down and kissed the top of his head and clicked away. He watched her take Terrence by the arm and lead him back inside. Spalding leaned back in the deck chair and let his eyes wander again over the hazy expanse of endless trees.

Thanks to MaDonna for the inspiration for this story, with her words hazy, cruise and mountains. If you'd like to provide inspiration for a future story, click here and leave your three words in the comments.  


  1. Great story, Amy! I love the English twist on it. :)

  2. I liked the sullen teenager, though I'm hoping Dax doesn't feel that way about me when he's older.

    I gave you an award, if you want it.

  3. Another one of your stories that went somewhere I wasn't expecting. I wish we could have seen Terrence eat:)


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