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January 22
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By Marshall Norman McCarthy


Just have a good day. He dragged the razor across his cheek, wincing as it tore instead of cut. Just have a good day. Were his eyes always this sunken; were the bags beneath them always so dark? Just have a good day. How was his wife still able to look at him with that old spark, the one that hadn't guttered out over the years?

'Just have a good day,' he repeated his mantra to his reflection, putting down the razor and checking his work. Free of stubble, yet his face seemed haggard, worn; another day's journey towards the end.

All his life he'd been told that men age gracefully, that they get better, more handsome with age. Thinking on that as he scrutinized the ever unfamiliar man in the mirror, he believed he understood now the word conceit.

'Just have a good day.' Now he was speaking to the cat, who sat on the little table near the front door watching him pull on his coat. How many times had he wished, in childish fashion, that he could switch places with the little orange beast? He'd even asked the cat to trade places with him one day, but, in classic feline fashion, he'd been answered with a nonplussed stare.

The January air bit at his face. The ice storm had passed, leaving his world sheathed in slippery reflections. At least today the car started. It groaned when he turned the engine over, sputtered for a moment and, just as a curse was set to leave his lips, his little sedan coughed out the last of its reluctance, and hummed. He cranked the heat and waited for the windshield to clear.

Just have a good day. Easier said than done. If he could just stay home and work away at his little projects, tinkering and creating, he could find that sort of satisfaction. He could, even if he managed to only take a single step towards progress, be happy.

But pulling out of the parking lot of his apartment building, happiness was eight and a half hours away.

The streets were bustling with routine traffic. He navigated his route to work in the half awake way of daily commuters. Images of accidents bubbled up in his mind. He saw himself skidding into a ditch; T-boned at an intersection; head on with an eighteen-wheeler. Those shouldn't be nice thoughts, but to him they seemed like salvation. Old fantasies, born in a darker times, now resurfacing…

Just have a good day. The mantra repeated, but it was his wife's voice speaking in his head. An end to him would be no end for her. She was a tough chick, but when they'd put those rings on each other's fingers they'd sworn to face the world together. They'd sworn to stand against the darkness, hand in hand, surviving by the strength they shared.

And so images of fatal accidents were followed by scenes of grief, by the sight of her face tear streaked, the sounds of her raw voice wailing at the injustice that all feel when someone they love is taken from them.

He may never understand that woman's love for him, for a man with artistic aspirations fumbling with the work-a-day life, but he'd hold to it like a lifeline…

* * *

'Hey, babe.' Even sitting on the couch in her pajamas, wrapped in one of those thin blankets she picked up at a bargain, his wife was stunning. It was the way her eyes lit up when he walked through the door. Every time. No matter how shitty their days went – and working retail that was often – she always had that same Everything's Right with the World expression when he got home.

'Hey, love,' he said, unable, and unwilling, to fight the grin that hitched at his mouth. 'How was your day?' He hung his coat, shuffling over to her.

'Don't even get me started.' She shook her head, lit them each a cigarette. 'Yours?' She handed him a smoke as he sat beside her.

'Doesn't matter.' He leaned into her, shoulder to shoulder.

'Bad day at work?'

He could go on about it, weaving his tale of retail hell, but looking into those big brown eyes, he knew that it would only sully this moment and, realized as he puffed on his cigarette, this moment was what he'd worked for. This moment when he could forget about his boss, his customers, and just be rejuvenated by her.

So he kissed her, deeply, instead of seeking commiseration. And when they parted, and he saw her girlish smile, he deflated, shedding off the stress. It would return with the dawn, but for now, all was right.

'Let's see what's on T.V.,' he said, putting an arm around her. They settled into each other and he decided then that, yes, he had had a good day.

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Daily Deviation

Given 2014-02-14
Just Have a Good Day by mnmccarthy manages to turn a bit of day-to-day life into a compelling and uplifting narrative. ( Suggested by OHiNeedTea and Featured by GrimFace242 )
:iconohineedtea:
Hello, you popped up in my message centre so i thought i'd leave you a critique.

I liked this piece. It's one of those stories about normal life that still manage to be compelling and interesting to read even though nothing particularly special happens. I once read that little things are just big things that are noticed (i can't remember where i read it, but i'm sure i did) and you've taken one of those small day-to-day things and turned it into a big thing. So well done.

The story is well written, although i did see a typo: "a darker times" should probably just be "darker times" and you've managed to hold tension throughout. I can see how you could've struggled to maintain the tension in a story about "normal" life, but i think the repetition of "Just have a good day" works wonders here.

Great piece, well done!
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
3 out of 3 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconbclement117:
I hate read your work on this and I find it interesting. The man in that short story sounded very stressed out that morning as well as grumpy. It reflects on everyday lives, like what happened and how they are coping. This reminds me of when I had to go to work at a grocery store years ago and I hated working there, but needed to make money while at college. I like it how you use that sentence have a good day as a way to make that man feel better and confident. I was picturing him driving in the rain knowing that he was in a bad mood and the rain showed what he was feeling. It is very interesting and this will remind me to have a good day even when I feel upset.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
2 out of 2 deviants thought this was fair.

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:iconderiveanemone:
DeriveAnemone Feb 19, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I hope your job gets better, and congratulations for the DD! Also, your wife sounds awesome. :) (Smile) 
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Feb 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! And my job is so bad, I was just in mood the day I wrote that.

And yes, my wife is pretty damned awesome :D
Reply
:iconnicotheripper24:
nicotheripper24 Feb 14, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Excellent work
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :D
Reply
:iconthe-raven-soul:
The-Raven-Soul Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Loved this! I love how the normality of this seems to show off the best in life despite its... well, normality. :heart:
I could have probably written an elaborate congratulations on the DD comment but I figured you've gotten enough of those, so I'll be short. Brilliant piece, this DD is well-deserved, and I hope to see more written works from you! :meow:
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. I don't normally write creative non-fiction, usually I write sci-fi and fantasy which allows me to write things a little more over the top, so I figured if it's non fiction than lets get as real as I can. Real life can seem mundane, but only until you sit down and explore it that you realize there's special qualities in even the most day-to-day affair.

And yes, you'll see more writing from me...maybe even more pieces like this one.

:D
Reply
:iconthe-raven-soul:
The-Raven-Soul Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I personally really wanted to get into being a professional writer, but my long works always get cut short and turn into short stories or are just not finished and my short stories end up having loose ends that I can't explain.
I kind of gave up on that dream, but seeing such lovely simple pieces like this inspires me and urges me to try again. I mean, hey, practice is supposed to help right? I've just always been scared of feedback and never really posted anything... maybe I should try.
Reply
:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I was in the same place with my writing not all that long ago. Jump into my hard drive and you'll see a bunch of half finished novels and half-cooked stories. It eventually got to a point where I just said 'fuck it' and started posting here on dA, and since then I've notice my writing improving from the feedback I've received.

I say work on some short stories before going after another longer piece, post them up, ask for feedback and work at it like that. Don't let being a professional writer be a dream...make it a goal. :D

I'll be happy to give you any feedback, if you decide to post anything. :thumbsup:
Reply
:icontruthistruth:
TruthisTruth Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Congratulations on the Daily Deviation! :clap:
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:iconmnmccarthy:
mnmccarthy Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :D
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