Inadequacy

The yellow cab was gliding over the street, wheels screeching, locked in a moment that extended between the before (when everything was in its place and understood) and the after (which is unwanted, painful; a time when everything is misplaced).

Sophia was still running towards her children. She couldn’t run fast enough — there was not enough time left to her. The words she shouted were trapped on her tongue and her lips, in her mouth and her throat: “Stand up! Stand up!” They could not be spoken fast enough, loud enough; her feet were clumsy, felt entombed in rubber; they managed a few steps (too slow, too slow) but then the moment was past.

Becky was pulling at Gabriel to help him to his feet, but a twelve year old is only so strong and a fourteen year old that much heavier. The car was almost on them. Even if she’d had her adult strength, what could she have done? Gabriel will ask her this again and again, and mean it as a reassurance.

Becky won’t always understand it that way.

In the distance, beneath the screeching and hooting, someone was shouting, “Stand—” And in that moment (which was between the before and the after) Becky knew that she was neither strong nor quick enough.

But she was holding her brother. And the car was gliding, beautiful, a gull on the breeze.

6 thoughts on “Inadequacy”

  1. I wouldn’t say I liked the story but I liked the way it was written. I could picture the scene in my mind in detail.

    I did wonder, though, why they were playing in the street.

  2. Oh, you write beautifully and I am loving the way this epic is developing. Tiny vignettes all over time/space, and the picture is slowly emerging. It’s really wonderful.

    This is a story about Becky and Gabriel when they were children. They are playing in the street and an out-of-control taxi is about to crash into them, presumably scarring Gabriel for life and cleaving a rift between the siblings that will never be fixed.

    The writing is wonderful. That last, slow-motion sentence is a gift, so visually stunning and communicative. The subtle play with tense (the before was and the after is), the bracketed thoughts, the subtle setup of the brother/sister relationship forever, it’s brilliant.

    My only possible crit is “they managed a few steps (too slow, too slow) but then the moment was past” feels like it’s not quite as economical as the rest of the story – the phrase does not move the story forward as powerfully as every single other word in it.

    Thank you, this is most excellent.

  3. I think the idea is very interesting and the execution elegant. I enjoyed the constant references to time and distance joining and uniting the tiny moment of action from every angle.

    Thought that the ending was fantastic – very open-ended and provoking.

    Loved the sentence ‘Becky won’t always understand it that way.’ which rocks on the maximum-communication-in-fewest-words scale.

    ‘her feet were clumsy, felt entombed in rubber’ felt a little weak to me – somehow this doesn’t have the stuck in syrupy-time feeling of the rest of the writing – clumsiness needs time to happen for me.

    I didn’t make the connection to the other stories immediately (but it isn’t required or obvious): pre-teen hit by a yellow cab to transport you to a different world – it’s been made to work before :).

    Good writing – more provoking than fun.

  4. I thought this was very powerful. I especially liked the opening paragraph, which creates a frozen moment in time, and the way we then delve into that moment in the rest of the story.

    The constant harbingers of doom peppering the text increase the tension slowly and wonderfully, and I love that you never completely define exactly what happens in the accident. You realise what is going to happen from the first paragraph, and that is confirmed again and again. But it doesn’t feel repetitive because you explore the nuances so well.

    I also really like the brief look into the future with, as elementalsystems says, so much meaning in it. And the peace of the last paragraph is beautiful against the tragedy.

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