You may recognize this story as I posted a version of it a year ago. The creative writing assignment for class #6 was to write our own story. I liked this story the first time but knew it would be better once I applied some of what I learned. It could still use work, but here it is re-written and with critique results incorporated.
Larry stood outside the restaurant door his shoulders slumped. He almost didn't recognize the ashen face staring back at him in the glass door. He hitched his jeans up and tightened his belt one more notch, then ran his hand through his grey hair in a vain effort to tidy it. He tried to remember when he was a normal, happy man, what he had been like before the depression descended, before the dense grey fog had taken over his mind obliterating all recollection. Staring at his wounded reflection he examined his life to try to find the reason for his condition, hoping to find a trigger that could be reversed, but there was nothing he could pinpoint. His doctor told him that he'd get better, but it would take time. With a shallow sigh he pulled open the door and stepped inside.
"Larry, we haven't seen you for ages. I've missed your cheerful smile and all your crazy jokes, where have you been?"
"Around." was all the response he could muster.
"I'll put you in your usual seat." The waitress gave him a quick hug before leading him to his table, "Are you having the tacos?"
"Please." Larry answered back with a wan smile. His thin body collapsed into the chair and for a moment he clasped his hands in front of him and lowered his head as if in prayer, his breathing became deeper and slower as he gathered his will to continue his charade.
He took a deep breath and sat up, letting the noise and commotion wash over him like a warm wave. He felt a stirring of life, like a seed getting ready to emerge from sun warmed soil. He needed this. His meal appeared before him and with unsteady hands he ate, a cloth napkin tucked under his chin so he didn't spill onto his favourite concert t-shirt. He hadn't eaten much this past month: canned soup and saltine crackers had been his mainstay, anything else was too much effort.
He lifted his head from the last of his meal and noticed people moving to tables on the patio. Someone started singing with a karaoke machine. Larry felt his pulse quicken as the familiar sounds of the Hollie's 'Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress' caught his ear. His foot moved to the beat of the music.
They've never had music here before, thought Larry, the new owner is really changing the place.
With strains of music wafting through the restaurant, he gathered his energy and walked over to the patio door so he could see what was happening. As he stood there, a woman in a bright pink t-shirt came inside, squeezing past him on her way to the bar.
"Is this a private party?" Larry asked her. He wasn't sure why he cared, but there was something inside him looking for a life preserver.
She shook her head, smiled and invited him to join in.
He stepped through the door and felt a stirring of life in his chest. Colour flushed his face and his heart beat a little faster. Visions of singing in front of the mirror in his room as a teenager flooded his memory. Piles of albums had littered the floor, driving his mother crazy. Simon and Garfunkel's 'I am a Rock' became his anthem and he sang it until the album was worn out. He thought of his guitar sitting covered with dust in the corner of his living room and strummed his fingers as if it were in his arms.
He stood by himself against the side wall of the patio listening to the music. Slowly courage welled until, at a pause in the music, his hesitant legs carried him to the entertainers with the karaoke. He bit his lip then blurted out his request: a chance to sing. With trembling hands he took the list of songs and made his choice.
He grasped the mike with sweaty palms waiting for the first notes to play. A gentle breeze cooled his sweaty brow. Closing his eyes he started to sing,
"A winter's day
In a deep and dark
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island."
His long given up dream of being a rock star played in his head as he belted out 'I am a Rock'. For a few brief minutes he felt more alive than he had for months and the confusion in his mind lifted a bit. He stood up straight, with his shoulders back and head held high, swaying to the music. It was his saviour.
Abruptly, it seemed, the music stopped and he opened his eyes. Where he had imagined cheering crowds, sat tables of people immersed in their conversations. Barely an eye had turned his way. Deflated he handed the mike back and turned to walk away. His shoulders slumped and his legs felt like they were walking through a vat of molasses. Feelings were stuffed back into a leaden suitcase.
Suddenly exhausted, he went back through the patio door, the possibility of salvation left behind, and trudged to the door to the parking lot. His arm trembled with the effort of opening it. Just as he was about to step through a voice called out to him.
"Hey! I really liked what you sang. I love Simon and Garfunkel. I wish you'd sung more. Maybe next time." A bright smile lit the woman in pink's face and she turned away.
Heat flushed Larry's body, and he walked out the door, with a slight smile on his face and a bounce in his step - not quite as alone as he was before.