Outside in autumn

Stanley Primmer stands all day as teller in the largest bank in the District of Columbia. His reliability has earned him the coveted “first window.” For ten years, he labored with precision against a backdrop of potted palms, mahogany and prints of dead pheasants.

He leans against the gas pump of the Mobil station, eight point three miles outside of Harper’s Ferry. He is weary of standing. It has been three hours since his cohorts—his cretins—should have appeared. Where are they? He is weary of the uniformed attendant’s cheerful questions, terrified at the outside chance of being recognized inside the close garage.

Sweat saturates what was left of his starched collar. He frantically goes over in his mind (nothing written down, remember?) that this is the gas station for the meeting. He can’t use the pay phone again, especially since no one is answering. He can’t leave. The October sun is moving dangerously fast. Leeway time is running out.

Idiots. Do they have any notion what he is risking? Do they appreciate that they are a part of a brilliant plan? Where are they?!

He is unaware of the tranquil rolling hills behind him. He does not smell the golden grass bordering the back lot; his eye doesn’t catch the first crimson on the maples. A rifle shot pierces the air in the distance. He hugs the gas pump and swallows back vomit and tears. Stanley Primmer has no idea this is the first day of hunting season. Stanley is an indoor man.

Gas by Edward Hopper

Gas by Edward Hopper

From John Dufresne’s Writing Exercises: Using the prompt of Edward Hopper’s painting, “Gas,” (man standing in a rural setting by a 1930’s gas pump)

A visit

Dan took the porch steps two at a time, something his joints would remind him of later. He did another spot check…extreme beach toys in an attractive bin, enough propane for the grill, latest Nickelodeon DVDs, even a vase of begrudgingly-bought fresh flowers.

He was anxious for their arrival. It was time to fill up this sagging cottage with proper activity. Dan looked forward to golfing with his son-in-law and teaching his daughter Bridge. He might even discuss his plans with the kids to sell this property.

He didn’t think of his wife much these days. But he knew, as soon as he slathered sunscreen on the translucent skin of his grandchildren, he would remember her. That no-melanin Irish skin, that incorrigible, kinky red hair (why did she refuse to cut it?!), that passion burning for everything but him.

Dan felt no guilt about not missing her. She had not once accompanied him to the Club. She poured money into this old barrier island place, which was mostly supported by sentiment anyway. She never even went to mass.

How their thirty-year old marriage survived was a divine mystery. Yet, he knew the fact that it survived meant that she did not.

From John Dufresne’s Writing Exercises: Place your first love in your current setting, house, life


Tracy turns around to fully face him.

“It is right, right?…what we’re doing?

I want you always to be able to kiss my cheek no matter where our hearts take us in the future. You know how much I loved that old Rita Coolidge song about not having to hate each other in order to go separate ways. We don’t have to leave all this just because we’re leaving all this, do we?”

Mark looked at her, not in a friendly way. He did not relish being the one to always interpret. The divorce was her idea. Why must he explain, assure, assume the weight?

He turned in silence and picked up a box labeled “Miscellaneous.”

From John Dufresne’s Writing Exercises: Set-up is Mark and Tracy, a divorcing couple, in an attic sorting through their things. (He has lightly kissed her on the cheek.)