True Enough Story

August 24, 2012

Hi Readers! I was intrigued by Write on Edge’s prompt this week. The theme for this week was: “Collision.” We were to write a piece, fictional or memoir, about a collision (either literal or figurative). I can’t link my submission because mine far exceeds the 400 word limit, but I couldn’t resist still doing the prompt. This collision happened a few weeks ago. I haven’t recovered from it. If you want to read some great writing, head on over to Write on Edge!



When the doorbell rings on a Friday summer afternoon, I’m tempted not to answer it. What can I say? Any time the doorbell rings during the day, I’m afraid it’s the creepy meat man, shilling his pork chops. Daytime doorbells make me suspicious. But this afternoon my husband is home, so I risk it.

I open the door and look into a face I haven’t seen in three years, but the smile and the easy way he holds himself, like his limbs are liquid, remain the same. I know this boy. Except he isn’t a boy any longer.

He’s bizarrely shirtless, and his hair sticks up in rumpled patches, as if he’s been unable to keep his fingers out of it.

“Surprise, right?” he says, beaming.

“What the Hell?” I say, shaking my head and laughing. “How did you even remember how to get here? It’s been years.” I take a closer look at him. “Dude, what’s with the ‘no shirt’ business? And tell me that is not your dog,” I say, eyeing the huge, salivating creature at his side.

“Cornelius,” he says, tying the dog to a nearby post. “Not mine. I have custody today.”

He enters the kitchen and immediately opens the cabinet where the glassware is. He helps himself to water and paws through the freezer for ice. He opens another cabinet, grabs a bowl, fills it with water and takes it out to the dog.

When he returns, I say, “R.’s not here right now–he’s at his post-op for his wisdom teeth surgery–but he’ll be home soon. He’ll be so happy to see you. How did you get here? What happened to Paris? California?”

He drains the water glass and pours another. “Long, crazy story, man. Seriously unbelievable.”

Curiosity piqued, my husband lumbers out of the study. He startles, laughs and embraces the shirtless visitor. “J.! Hey! What’s going on! How are you, man?”

“Well, actually, things suck right now. God, they so suck.” He puts his face in his hands and runs them over the planes of his nose and cheeks. “So, my mom just had a heart attack back in Cali, my aunt has colon cancer, I’m homeless, I’m broke, I don’t have a job, and some girl stole my car in Vegas.” He pauses and then laughs a little. “Well, technically I let her borrow it, but then she skipped town…drove it back to California and I have no way to get ahold of her.”

He says all of this without losing his easy way, his lopsided grin. He says all of this like it’s happened to someone else.

My husband and I exchange glances over the kitchen table, alarmed.

We open our mouths and our words crash into each other, flying helter-skelter.

“Is your mother okay? Is she still in the hospital?” “What stage cancer is it?” “Are you hungry?” “Do you need somewhere to stay?” “What are you going to do?”

My husband and I take a moment to breathe.

I get up, open the refrigerator, assemble a plate of hummus and crackers, plop it in front of J. He digs in. “This is perfect. Thanks.”

I sit back down. “So, Vegas? What were you doing in Vegas?”

“Making a lot of money in a very short time,” he drawls, grinning. “Unreal amounts of money.” Then he sobers a little. “But I blew it. I blew right through it. I screwed up. I did some really stupid things there.”

“Like the girl?” I say. “She sounds like real a keeper. Stealing your car.”

“No, no, she was good,” he says, waving a hand in dismissal. “She was cool. I liked her. We spent two whole days together, hanging out. I’m not mad at her.” He shrugs. “YOLO, you know?”


He grins at my obvious lack of cool terminology. “You only live once.”

“Ok, wait a minute. You’re ‘not mad’ at her. She stole your car! And you’re just…casual about that?” I look at him, dumbfounded. “Can you tell me why you let a girl you’ve known two days borrow your car? How did you think that was a good decision?”

He just laughs, shrugging those loose shoulders. “Hey, knowing someone two days in Vegas is like knowing them two months anywhere else.”

“You need to report your car as stolen,” my husband says. Always the voice of reason. “At least do that, if not report her outright.”

“I can’t report her. All I know is her first name. I gave her all of my information but all I have for her is a phone number and it’s not getting an answer. I know she’s from California. The car is probably there.”

I bug my eyes over the table at my husband. He bugs back.


My husband can’t control himself. He has to ask. “So, how did you win all that money? Craps? Blackjack?”

I glare at him a little and roll my eyes.

“I made it; I didn’t win it. And believe me, you don’t want to know how.” He rakes a hand through his hair and puts the lid back on the hummus. “I was stupid. I did some things…just…you don’t want to know. And I have no way to get back to Cali. I need to see my mom. I need to find my car. I need to get an STD test.”

We try to digest that one.

“Do you need somewhere to stay? We have a guest room.”

He looks at the clock and shakes his head decisively. “No, I need to go; I borrowed a friend’s car to get here. He needs it back.”

Wordlessly, I go to the refrigerator and begin packing up food: bananas, peaches, hummus, yogurt, bottled water. My husband walks back to the study; I hear him pressing buttons and the click of an open safe. We give him food, 300 dollars cash, our cellphone numbers, and hugs.

Relief washing over his face, he embraces us hard. “Thank you so much, you guys. I just…I swear I’ll pay it back someday. Thank you. You guys are the best. I had no idea how I was gonna get back to Cali…”

He collects Cornelius and drives away.

My husband and I sit at the kitchen table, unable to speak. He goes to the sideboard, takes down two glasses, pours wine and returns.

We take a few good hard swigs.

“Did we just get played?” I ask my husband. “I mean, that story is crazy, and he was just so casual about it all…”

My husband shakes his head. “I don’t know. It’s just too much to take in. Do you think he is on something? I mean, what was with the no shirt? How’s he going to get to California?”

“I’m not sure he’s even going to California,” I say. “It’s like a car crash–what do you fix first? Sounds like he has a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak.”

“So to speak. Yee-ah.” My husband gives a low whistle. “But we couldn’t just not help him, right?”

“No, of course we couldn’t. That’s us. Easy marks. Suckers. Softies.”

“I know.”

I sigh. “Do you think we’ll ever hear from him again? I think he’s gone baby, gone.”

“Maybe. You might be right.”


The door opens and our 19-year old son rattles in, cheeks still puffed from surgery. He’s missed seeing his high-school friend by minutes. He looks at our faces, the mid-day wine, our bodies slouched at the kitchen table.

He tilts his head inquisitively. “Yo. What? What’s up?”

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille Brightsmith August 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

Though I am not religious I do believe this is an example of what Jesus, the real historical figure, would have done. I guess played or not, you have good karma out the ying yang. I love you!


TKW August 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm


The hardest part is, he was my favorite of R.’s high school friends. He was so sweet and good to the girls…they’d have water pistol fights in the back yard.


Abby August 24, 2012 at 9:09 am

For the freaking love of avocados you are an amazing writer. And yes, you might have been played, but c’est la vie. You go with your heart.


TKW August 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm


I do love avocados. And you.


Melissa August 24, 2012 at 9:21 am

You did what any good and able person would have done. Who knows? You may have saved him. If anything you showed him that good people do exist, maybe one day he will pay it forward.


Nikki August 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

Ugh – I *hate* endings like this. What happened to him? Where did he go? Is he okay? Who lives like that? He’s just a kid…

But that’s life, isn’t it? Often with endings that leave us hanging. Wondering. Worrying.

I’m a “fixer” by nature (not to mention a world class planner & worrier) and not being able to “fix” something makes me twitchy.

I hope it all works out for J.


TKW August 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm


I know! The ending sucks! It’s so up in the air. Alas, it was the only real way to end it, because we know nothing more…


Jody August 24, 2012 at 10:32 am

It was the right thing to do. Love you both XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOX


The Meaning of Me August 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm

You are a terrific writer – I was riveted – and clearly an even better person. Meanwhile, I had my mouth hanging open the whole time. Even if it’s half true, it’s over the top! Loved the post.


TKW August 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm


I have a feeling we’ll never know…


Katybeth August 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm

J will be back, he treated your house like “home” and I suspect he left a piece of his heart with you. He felt welcome, cared for, accepted and loved. You and your dear husband may be have been played, but J came back because he needed more from you than just cash.


jacquie August 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

who knows if you were played or not. but does it matter? you did what was true to you and your heart and it was kind and generous thing to do. as others have said one never knows what acts – big or small – make a difference in another beings life. take care, be well and be at peace with what you did.


Arnebya August 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

This ending would have “what if” owning me forever and ever amen. Of course you had to help him; hold on to your ability to do what you could. Also, damn.


Jamie August 24, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Even if he “played” you in some sense of the word, the fact that he felt comfortable enough to come into your home after a 3 year absence says something! Loved the interactions between you and your hubs in this story. Damn, you can write!


idiosyncratic eye August 25, 2012 at 4:18 am

Craaaazy! I hope you didn’t get played. I hope he’s back in California with his mumma. :)


ayala August 25, 2012 at 4:28 am

I love this. You wrote this beautifully. I would have done the same and helped him. :)


Phoo-d August 25, 2012 at 5:41 am

I suppose you will always wonder how much of the story was true, what happened to him, and if you got played. However it will be much easier to sleep at night wondering those things rather than wondering if you should have helped and didn’t…

Also, I think life has given you a pretty good B.S. radar detector. Having hubs there and on the same page only confirms that you both did a very good thing indeed. Your writing as always, leaves me feeling like I was there (and wishing I could help too!).


pamela August 25, 2012 at 6:57 pm

You are SOOOO talented!!!!


The curious Cat August 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Oh! Just getting so into this story and then…we don’t know the ending…if you find out, will you let us know?! Crazy! xxx


Heather August 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

This blew me out of the water. I thought for a long time about how I would handle this and I couldn’t come up with anything different than what you did. How do you turn your back on someone who has been such a big part of your family? If you got played then you got played. At least you aren’t left wondering “what if?”. And maybe, just maybe, you saved his life… Hugs to you.


Jenna August 27, 2012 at 8:22 am

To echo the sentiment in some of these comments, there’s no way to know if you got played . . . and no point thinking too much about it (we’ve been in similar situations and cooking my noodle over it always seems to hurt and not help). Your friend called on you and you were generous–you did the right thing, though you may never know the prologue or epilogue to his story.
As usual, beautifully written!


suzicate August 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

Whether you were played or not, I’d like to think I would have helped just in case it was legit! And there was a time…the kid across the street, well the mom died and the dad was in the hospital dying and the brothers lived elsewhere…felt sorry for the teenager so I gave him a grocery card (so he’d use it for the right reason) for a large sum of money and he went to the store and bought lots of beer and junk food and threw a party that night…still, I don’t regret it; he probably really needed to vent and unwind as he was going through hell.


Kate August 27, 2012 at 11:44 am

I’ve been thinking about this story, and thinking and thinking. Lots of collisions going on there.

First, you did the right thing, especially feeding the kid. And how could you let him go without the means to travel? I don’t think I could.

Then again, a dear friend of my sister’s went through a series of terrible years, borrowing from everyone. ‘Borrowing’ and repaying with more drama then I can share. It was ugly. And everyone had to say it was enough.

But one time, one time is never wrong.


TKW September 6, 2012 at 8:39 am


Thank you for the kind words. We haven’t heard from him.


Jennifer August 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I think this is a perfect description of the impetuous of youth. I hope he finds a good place to land.


Mr TKW August 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

You captured that encounter perfectly! I felt like such a moron after asking him how he “won” his money in Vegas.


TKW August 28, 2012 at 4:19 am

Hey baby, you didn’t know!!


jessica August 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm

There never seems to be time these days to read blogs, let alone write for my own…but always after reading your words I want to sit down and write write write.
You have such a gift!


Faemom August 29, 2012 at 12:51 am

Oh, wow.


Cathy August 29, 2012 at 10:48 am

Great writing as usual! Honestly – no matter what the real deal is – I hope some day my sons’ friends think enough of me that they could swing by unannounced and help themselves to what they need; know that they have someone to turn to in a time of need (no matter the cause); and not feel judged. Well done – writing and life.


Tiffany August 30, 2012 at 6:18 am

You are such a kind and generous person. I really like to believe that he wasn’t playing you.


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