Stairway to offramp twenty-seven.

Avatar Author: Reverend Speed Do you like... Spies? Mad science? Awful puns? Vampires? Silly metal froth? Read Bio

The French have a phrase for it, and it’s this: l’esprit d’escalier, the spirit of the stair. Well, Joan is on the freeway when it hits her – I should’ve told the little cow at check-in that I’d find seventy dollars for one kilogram of baggage when THAT LITTLE BITCH grew a HEART!


…Instead, tears, shame and incoherence – and blank helplessness as she heard her flight depart, still waiting for the check-in manager. After that, Joan just wanted to get out of there.

She takes an off-ramp at random, parks on a side street and rests her forehead on the steering wheel of her pickup. Her tickets are gone. Her rent deposit is gone, spent buying her tickets.

Christmas is coming, and the father of their festive season. If Joan has to explain about the house to them, if she must spend another happy holiday in the chaos they bring, with their ‘friends’— Her door pushes open and she walks, for air, but then keeps walking into the dark.

It is a race. To find something good, before they find her.

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Comments (14 so far!)

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  1. Avatar Reverend Speed

    I suuuuwear that I didn’t intend writing this as a sequel to one of my own stories ( when I started, but I got to the third paragraph, started thinking about airport check-ins and suddenly it’s back to Christmas. Two linked stories for two different challenges – is this legal? Is there precedent? What branch of law would this fall under?

  2. Avatar thelostgirl

    I had to read this a couple of times but I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. At least I think I do.

    I like the fragmentedness (is that a word?) of this piece though, as nagi has already mentioned, the tense shift threw me a little as well.

    I love the closing lines ‘to find something good before they find her’. It sounds pretty ominous. In fact the whole story has a sort of ominous tone running throughout.

  3. Avatar Reverend Speed

    That’s kind of both of you, much obliged. Honestly, I think I’d give this a three myself. I walked the tightrope of complexity over clarity, slipped and fell off one or two steps in.
    Good points re antecedent, tense shift. Will treat text for clarity.
    The ‘they’ refers to Christmas and her Father – the situation has driven Joan to such desperation that she’s given up her home, gone on the lam and thinks of her family as ‘them’. Or something. You know as much as I.

    [EDITS made. Should that be ‘fragmentation’?]

  4. Avatar scratch'n'scrawl

    When I started reading it I was entranced by mainly the first line. As I read on I grew a little frustrated because I found it very difficult to follow (though I do think I got the gyst of it by the end). Maybe making the reader think is an indication of good writing, as it shouldn’t be easy lest it be boring, but I may have preferred it a little more obvious.

    That said, the writing style and content is very well constructed. I cannot rate you totally bad, as it simply isn’t.

  5. Avatar Reverend Speed

    Yeah. The fact that it’s the sequel to a MORE confusing story doesn’t help. =) Any thoughts you folks have on making things easier to follow would be much appreciated.

  6. Avatar kaellinn18

    As for this being related to another story, I have no problem with it, since it’s not linked via the site. You’re clear.

    I have to say that the first time I read this, I was pretty lost at the beginning. Like the others, I enjoyed the first line, but I was confused by the rest of the paragraph. I think it could be made more clear by writing everything post-hypen as internal monologue, which could be denoted by italics:

    I should have told the little cow at the check-in that I would find seventy dollars for one kilogram of baggage when she grew a HEART, the little BITCH!

    Also, it doesn’t make sense to me that she would abandon the car for no reason at the end.

    Otherwise, the story conveys a good sense of urgency and tension, and I find myself curious as to what happened and why they are after her.

  7. Avatar Reverend Speed

    You’re darn skippy. Great note on the inner monologue, changes made. Re. abandoning the car, I think Joan’s kinda close to a psychotic break. It’s about not being a home for Christmas and now that her original plans for skipping the country are in the trash, she’s desperately striking out on her own – irrational as her means of doing so might be.

    As to ‘Them’, in my mind they’re Christmas and Father Christmas, the worst possible Daughter and ex-Husband combo you can imagine, or so Joan thinks.

    Will keep in mind internal monologue in future as a tool, though I should be able to keep things clear without those kinda crutches…
    Thanks. =)

  8. Avatar Abby (LoA)

    I’m confuzzled!

  9. Avatar Abby (LoA)

    I think the language is good, the plot is good, the speech is good.

    I don’t know why I’m lost.

    I like it in the present tense because you can’t be sure what’s going to happen next.

    Your comments have explained most that I didn’t understand but it’s lacking a certain thereaderisstupid – be kind to them.

    Remember that we can’t tell what’s going on in your head when you write a story unless you write it in.

  10. Avatar Reverend Speed

    …or as they say in the movie business, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”

    Or maybe that’s the play business. =)

    Again, your points are well taken. I think, sadly, I’m going have to keep annoying my fellow ficleteers until I find some kinda happy medium between deliberate, useful obfuscation and just plain incoherence.

    …Apologies in advance. =)

  11. Avatar Cid

    I really enjoyed the kind of helplessness that she was feeling when everything fell apart. I liked the story, but I had to read it a few times to get it. The comments here have definitely helped too. Pretty good, just a wee bit vague. Good stuff though!

  12. Avatar Mostly Harmless

    Evidently the other comments have helped you clear this up, as I found it a really good read – you didn’t use the complexity just for the sake of it, it’s effective – the character’s situation is complex, and the writing style is like a way into her head… Very clever! MH :)

  13. Avatar quipsofthequill

    Alright, I obviously am very confused, but heck. I like it anyways. It’s like when you read a poem that makes no sense, because that’s the fun.
    … Not that this makes no sense, but ya know. I really do like the last sentence, it’s very intriguing.
    I like the French in the beginning, it gives it a nice touch…
    Aha, yes I can conclude with the ‘friends’ thing. I relate.
    I second Cid’s liking for the helplessness, it’s very real.
    I like it overall. Good work.

  14. Avatar Wanda McGritty

    “Her door pushes open and she walks, for air, but then keeps walking into the dark.”

    There’s a tremendous sense of release in that sentence after some serious build up of pressure and good, quality angst about a crap situation that I like a lot.

    The tenses are a little wonky, particularly in the beginning. And I think the punctuation might be a little off what you’re going for here:

    “…Instead, tears, shame and incoherence – and blank helplessness as she…”

    It’s an alright Ficly, for sure, and it made me feel something on especially at that key sentence, so thank you, I enjoyed it!