You can’t travel far enough to stop writing.



Why write?

I’m at the beach.

Why write?

Sand and surf and seashells at my feet.

Warm breeze in my face.

Sundown lying like a splintered gold blade upon the ocean.

Why write?

I didn’t intend to.

Then we met her walking barefoot in the sand.

She wasn’t young.

Or old.

She had reached that age where her beauty had not yet begun to fade, but the years had added a wrinkle or too below her eyes.

She worried about them.

No one else did.

She had come down to the beach alone.

She had traveled to Galveston alone.

She liked being alone.

Until last Monday, she had been married.

The law said she still was.

She knew she wasn’t.

Not anymore.

Divorce was not that big a deal, she said.

And it was cheap.

She hadn’t bothered with an attorney.

She simply drove down to the service station, filled up her Mini Cooper with gas, pointed it west out of Fairhope, Alabama, and drove through the darkness until the first faint streaks of morning caught her.

She slept all morning.


She preferred it that way, she said.

No one yelled at her.

No one slapped her.

No one told her how worthless she was.

No one knew she was gone.

But they would.

Would anyone care?

It was not something she worried about.

She had stood in the sanctity of her motel room, she said, looked in the mirror, and saw a new woman staring back at her.

As soon as the bruises healed, she would feel like a new woman.

“Staying long?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Know where you’re going next?” I asked.

She shrugged.

“I hear New Mexico is nice this time of year,” she said.

“It’s a long way from here,” I said.

“I don’t mind.”

“It’s a long way from anywhere.”

“Good,” she said.

“It’s hot,” I said.

“Not in the mountains.”

“You can get lost in the mountains,” I said.


She laughed.

“I like lost,” she said.

“Sooner or later, somebody will be looking for you,” I said.

“Not until they drag the river,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll spend the rest of the week looking for the body.”

“Yours?” I asked.

She arched an eyebrow.

“Or his?”

She laughed.

She didn’t say.

By morning, she was headed west.

I guess she was.

She left before daylight awoke.

So I’m on vacation.

Why write?

I can’t help it.

I found a story.

People can hide.

Stories don’t, and they are more plentiful on the beach than seashells.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Life is not complicated for a writer these days. Just sit on a street corner – or a patch of sand – and, sooner or later, a good story will pass by. You just keep talking to people until you find one.

    • I need to know more after this sketch: who was she? Where did she come from? How did things get that bad in her marriage? Did she leave him breathing? What kind of a soul was she, and when did she change?

      It is never enough for me. I want the whole story – I want to know the soul of the character/person. What they think, how they justify themselves, what values they’d pass on to their children.

      I’m obsessive that way. I guess most people aren’t.

      I think I may be a writer partly because my mother did the same thing to me: she’d tell me the story – but not the why. Because she didn’t know – so I had to learn to find a satisfying reason in there somewhere. For me.

      • Caleb Pirtle

        What I wrote, Alicia, is all I know. Linda and I were sitting on the beach. She walked by, and we struck up a conversations. Small talk. Everyone wants to talk about himself or herself, but she chose to keep her secrets to herself. Ten minutes, and she was gone. I thought we would see her again. We didn’t. She was gone. My point was you can stop anyone and, if you are interested in what he or she has to say, you’ll hear a story. Stories are everywhere.

        • Then make it up.

          As a reader, I DEMAND closure. I’m not good with unfinished stories.

          • Caleb Pirtle

            I believe all good stories end with: I wonder what happened next? I read Shane and rest my case.

  • Darlene Jones

    Love this!

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Stories will find you if you don’t run too far or too fast.

  • Bert Carson

    I met her a couple of days after you saw her. She was at a convenience store, just off Interstate 10 in El Paso. She’d just gassed up the Cooper but that didn’t help the grime of two days of hard travel. The beatings were barely visible on her face and almost gone from her eyes. When I asked where she was going, she smiled and pointed vaguely toward the north, and with a laugh in her voice, said, “Taos. I’ve been told a person can get lost there.”
    I thought about Taos for a second and said, “That’s certainly true… and you just might find yourself there…”
    A few seconds later she pulled out of the parking lot, waved, and was gone.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Nobody stays long in El Paso. I’d go to Taos, too, although i’d trade my Mini Cooper for a Jeep.

      • Bert Carson

        I got to Angel Fire, just outside Taos, on May 1st, in one of the heaviest snowfalls I’ve ever encountered. Might have been a sign because no one was there but me, the curator, and Dr. Westfall, who built the memorial for his son. I made two great friends and got a very special tour. The snow was all but gone when I pulled away from that magic place.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          There is no place quite like New Mexico. It has a magic and mysticism all its own.

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