The Driver

I have decided to post the story I submitted for the final exercise on the SWF course.  The submitted version was slightly shorter to conform to the 1000 word limit, but in this version I have added back in a couple of bits.  The reviews I got on the course were rather brief, so please do give me your feedback, good or bad! Also, especially if you found any aspects of the story confusing as one previous reviewer did.  The story derived from the exercise where we had to think about character stereotypes, but hopefully my characters have some depth! Many thanks, Rebecca

The Driver

Gary lay on his back, gazing up at the textured bedroom ceiling as the early morning light shone through the thin bedroom curtains. He could hear the birds singing in the beech tree through the bedroom window.  A bumbling bee blundered against the curtain before finding it’s way back out again. The warm presence of his sleeping wife next to him breathing softly was comforting. He enjoyed savouring these brief moments of stillness before the day proper began. As was his habit, he waited for the alarm on his phone, knowing without looking that it was nearly time to get up.

Gary dressed quickly and in silence, putting on the clothes he had laid out on his chair the night before; his comfortable baggy jeans and leather belt, faded blue polo shirt and hi-vis vest. He puffed a little putting on his socks, he knew he should really lose a bit of weight but it didn’t really bother him enough to do anything about it.  In the bathroom he splashed some cool water on to his face and glanced at his reflection.  Downstairs he checked the contents of his bag, adding several items from the fridge.  He preferred not to have breakfast before leaving for a day on the road.  Gary made up a large flask of coffee and a strong cup of tea for Lisa.  He crept back into the bedroom and placed it beside her on the bedside table.  Even though she would probably not drink any of it, he liked to do this one small thing for her before he left.  She didn’t like him to leave without saying goodbye so he woke her gently, shaking her shoulder.

‘Lisa, Lisa love. I’m off now. I’ll see you this evening. I’ll put the bins out. There’s a tea there for you, don’t let it go cold.’ Lisa groaned slightly and turned over to face him, her long dark hair stuck to her cheek, her eyes squinting up at him trying not to let in too much light. Usually she went straight back to sleep unless there was something she particularly wanted to tell him.  Gary didn’t like to hang around in the mornings; he liked to get off promptly.  He was already halfway out of the door and his mind was moving on to thinking about his route and where he would stop for his break.

‘What time is it? What time will you be back?’

‘I’m going to work.  I’ll be back this evening.  I’ll call you when I know what time.’

‘Okay. Well it would be nice to have dinner together, I feel like I haven’t really seen you for ages. Shall I do lasagne? Or is there anything you’d prefer?’

‘That sounds nice love, but I can’t promise what time I’ll be back, you know what its like.  If I get delayed at the drop-off who knows.  Are you not going out with Stacy after work?’

‘No, not tonight. Give me a ring later will you, let me know either way?’ Lisa looked up at him pleadingly, her moist dark eyes fixed on to his. She seemed more keen than usual to talk and Gary began to feel slightly irritated. He turned to leave, feeling uncomfortable under her gaze.

‘Yeah sure. Okay,’ he managed, before hastily leaving the room.

‘Bye love,’ he shouted from the landing.

Alone in bed Lisa sat up and reached for the box of tissues on the bedside table. How could she tell him? What on earth was she going to do? He was so clearly not interested. She allowed the tears to well up and roll down her cheeks, splashing on to the duvet cover.

As he headed out of the front door, Gary couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.  He was quite happy when Lisa went out for the evening.  He enjoyed having the time to himself, to watch what he wanted, eat on the sofa, and generally take it easy.  Perhaps that’s why he also loved driving so much, that time he had to himself with his own thoughts in his own space, no manager watching his every move.  Some drivers found this part of the job difficult, the loneliness, lack of contact with their families and difficulty maintaining any kind of relationship.  Some found companionship amongst the other drivers, but Gary preferred to maintain what he felt was a professional distance, rarely taking part in the general banter in the staff rooms at the distribution centres.

He had always been a person who thrived in his own company. As a child his father had died suddenly when he was young and he had no real memory of him. Mum had always worked long hours to make end’s meet, leaving Gary and his younger sister alone for long periods of time.  As a result he had become self-sufficient and independent from a young age.  Inevitably, this sometimes caused friction between Lisa and himself as she naturally seemed to enjoy the company of others more than he did.  It was always Lisa who made the effort to keep in touch with most of their friends, her friends really.  He was grateful to Lisa for this, but sometimes he admitted he found it a strain.  He was really quite happy with their life together just the two of them.  He enjoyed the simplicity of only really having to think about himself, and being looked after by a wife who he genuinely cared about.  Why did she want to change things by bringing someone else into the picture?  He knew he had said that he might like to have a family one day, he just hadn’t thought about that day finally coming.  It had always seemed to him like a far off event in the future that there was no point thinking about too much in the here and now, much like buying a bungalow or taking an interest in gardening.  Things he might do one day, but not now.  He pretended that he hadn’t noticed the baby magazines, the catalogues of baby equipment, and her enthusiasm for redecorating their house.  He avoided the awkward conversations. He hoped that if he did this for long enough, that things would eventually just go back to normal.  By the time he arrived at the depot, all thoughts about Lisa had left his mind.

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6 thoughts on “The Driver

  1. Hi Rebecca, meant to comment on this ages ago, so sorry for the long delay.

    I really like the essence of what you have written. I think Gary is quite a strong character – it is easy to picture him; not just his appearance, but his thoughts and attitudes as well. I like the fact that you built the story up from his eagerness to get to work, through liking the solitude of his job and then ending with his discomfort at the idea of a child. It works really well – when you tell us about him not wanting a child, it really fits into what we know of his character.

    I wasn’t really sure about the end paragraph either – if it was meant as the lead in to the next part of the story, then maybe it works, but as a shorter piece, it just seems to come out of the blue a bit, and didn’t really fit with the rest of the story.

    I do think you could really pare back your writing to make it a lot snappier. Look for places where you have told us things unnecessarily, e.g.

    “He could hear the birds in the beech tree in the garden through the bedroom window.” ‘In the garden’ isn’t needed here.

    “He waited for the alarm on his phone, knowing without looking that it was nearly time to get up. As was his habit, he always woke before his alarm.” I think you only need one or the other here. You could just say “Out of habit, he woke before his alarm.”

    “Boiling the kettle in the kitchen he made up a large flask of coffee and a strong cup of tea for Lisa.” You don’t really need to tell the reader he boiled the kettle to make coffee.

    I know they are only small things, but they add up to slow your writing down a bit. Let the reader fill in the gaps! Make them work!

    Hope that helps x

    Like

  2. Ceri, thanks so much for taking the time to write a detailed reply, it really is so helpful. You are right, writing concisely has never been a strong point and is something I need to work on, it was probably even worse before the last edit! In other areas of my life I often have to write very detailed letters which maybe influences my need to give all the details too much.
    I’m going to make some of the changes you suggest but not sure how to change the final paragraph yet. The other person who reviewed was confused as she thought Lisa was having an affair, but I meant that part to be slightly misleading.
    Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just realised what you mean about the last paragraph, I think I thought you meant the penultimate one. The last paragraph arose after the SWF exercise in which the stereotypical character does something perhaps surprising but I agree, it probably isn’t helpful in the context of this story so might be better without.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Men are so different to women in that way, putting things behind them and just working on the now. I love how you brought this out in the characters Rebecca 🙂

    Like

  5. Hi Rebecca. I see you’ve got some good feedback on this story already but I will add my thoughts in case they are of use! The characters are easy to relate to and you did a good job with the dialogue – it sounded like a natural conversation between a couple which is a real positive.

    I would echo the advice you’ve already received to look at where you can pare back your writing just to sharpen it up a little. There are quite a lot of adverbs in there (quickly, silently, brightly, softly, briefly) which might be a good place to start.

    It may also be worth trying to simplify speech verbs – it’s a personal preference of mine but I try for he said / she said as far as possible. I note you’ve added croaked / managed / shouted to your dialogue – nothing wrong with this but I prefer leaving the reader to decide on what voice or tone is being used based on the strength of the dialogue and the situation. No hard and fast rules just something to think about!

    Thank you for following my blog – I hope you’ll enjoy my stories and my other nonsense and I will look forward to reading more from you. Cheers, Nik

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback Nik, I will have another look at this with those points in mind. It’s really so helpful to get feedback from people who seem to know what they are talking about or at least have been doing this longer than I have!
      I will enjoy looking further at your blog, not sure now how I stumbled across it, thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

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