Cheyenne Yasuda. A dancer with feathered costumes and twinkling sequins in her eyes. She was a former ballerina whose blistered feet couldn’t fit into pointe shoes. Her reputation spread through the lips of her neighbors and was for the way her O’s were stretched long and echoed in the back of her throat when she talked.
Her name was musical and belonged under a spotlight or carved into a plaque. That’s what her family believed, anyways. But her name actually meant “one who speaks incoherently,” which was also true. There was no rhythm or rhyme to the tone of her cracked voice and how it flew up and down the ladder all the time. She was only a dancer, not a singer.
Cheyenne’s family nurtured a garden of green-tipped succulents. They called them names that started with P or M, and made sure they fit when the breeze tickled the trees.
Every day, Cheyenne jumped on the trampoline in her backyard. She’d pump her legs until the springs stole her breath and the helicopter seeds spun gold into the chilly air. She was the girl who still lived with her parents at age 27.
Cheyenne was a child at heart but had met a man. His name was Tomas and he had big hands like the sun. He was a farmer with rusted metal wheelbarrows and cows that pierced silence. At first Cheyenne thought he was a crazy man who lived on a farm with no running water, but after a while she got to know him. They were married, then, living separate, and planned to have a child. Perhaps that’s when she would move out of her parents’ house.
Cheyenne had a big imagination.
Bill Waterson. A traveler of the world who collected stamps and postcards with bridges or long-nosed ladies. He knew the housewives liked to fantasize that he got around in a white and pink-striped hot air balloon that tripped across the clouds.
But he didn’t, and he didn’t have many friends who would listen to his stories. They usually came rolling off the tip of his tongue, half-baked thoughts and words that settled into your ears. Bill was the kind of man who had a large voice and ideas that never left the notepad in his zippered pocket.
To be honest, his family did not know where he was. They called him, once a year, on his birthday. Sometimes he didn’t pick up with mud painted under his eyes or his fists winking like car blinkers on the tray table in the airplane. (This might be reasonable evidence for the case of the hot air balloon fantasies.)
Bill had a reputation, of sorts. It was carried from doorstep to doorstep of his neighbors. He was the man who hung pretty, intricately woven bracelets on your doorknob in the middle of the night with a note that read, Africa. He never stayed long but he had acquaintances everywhere he went. He ran away at age 15 and never came back. He had no regrets.
Alas, there was no love interest for Bill. He kept his eyes on the pavement and continued walking. He was lonely.
Bill did not believe in the word “lost.”
These two people, connected by nothing but scribbles on the backs of envelopes and satellites that orbit and trace circles of white into the stars, were friends. They knew everything about each other and yet Cheyenne didn’t call on Bill’s birthday. Time skipped by like the clicking numbers on a calculator, straightforward and logical.
But, Bill didn’t seem to understand. He couldn’t make sense of why Cheyenne lived with her parents in a three-bedroom house near the highway. Or why she still danced despite the fact that people snickered at her accent and the way her fingers dipped through the holes in her jeans.
Cheyenne didn’t give it much thought, but she did wonder why Bill was always escaping from the people who loved him and why if they were ever in the same city, Bill would lift away on his hot air balloon the next day without sending a message.
Sometimes, though, they talked on the phone. One blistering Friday morning, Cheyenne was perched in a booth at her local cafe, stirring milk into a latte she wasn’t going to drink. She watched the milk swirl into provocative shapes, like the tiny limbs of children and messy hearts.
Bill, on the other side of the world, was in an airport in Beijing. His suitcase trailed behind him as he walked, the broken wheel skidding and screeching as it bounced around on its hinge. There were white patterns built across the ceiling and chairs that plant crooks in your spine.
Cheyenne is the one who called.
“Hello? This is Bill Waterson speaking.”
“Bill. Only a little voice in my ear.”
“Who is this?”
“Pretending is a waste of time, Bill. Don’t you dare hang up.”
“ . . . Yasuda. It’s been a minute.”
“More than a minute, Bill. A year and two-hundred seventy-eight days.”
“You missed me that much? We’re barely friends and you counted.”
“I . . . live a boring life. Haven’t seen Tomas in a month.”
“Your big farmer?”
“What’s he doing nowadays?”
“Don’t know. Haven’t seen him . . . What’s that noise in the background, Bill?”
“I’m at an airport.”
“I don’t know—”
“It’s in China.”
“—why you’re always running away from your problems.”
“I do not.”
“And the people who love you.”
“Like you and farmer-man. Why haven’t you called him? Why haven’t you moved in?”
“I . . .”
“Why haven’t you had a child yet?”
“ . . . I found out about my second miscarriage a few days ago.”
“My child, in my stomach, it—”
“I—I know. What does Tomas think?”
“I haven’t told him.”
“I’ve got to go, Bill.”
“Why haven’t you told Tomas?”
“He wouldn’t care. He’s a farmer. His crop comes before me and our children.”
“Oh. But you should still tell him.”
“ . . . Why haven’t you told your parents where you are?”
“Um, because they don’t need to know. I ran away when I was a teen.”
“I know, Bill, but they’re probably worried about you. Don’t you remember all those happy times when it rained helicopter seeds in my backyard? Our parents would drink ice tea and talk about our futures—of course, until you ran away.”
“And Tomas is probably worried about you.”
“My parents have talked to your parents and asked me about you. Enough is enough. I’m going to call your parents.”
“Beijing, China, right?”
“I’m calling Tomas.”
“You don’t have his number.”
“I’ll find it somehow. The signs in this airport are very confusing. I’ll find it later.”
“Alright, fine. My latte is getting cold.”
“This was a waste of time.”
“It’s not like you’re the one calling. Until two-hundred and seventy-eight days from now.”
“Goodbye, Bill. I wish you happiness.”
“ . . . I do remember those helicopter seeds.”
“We used to laugh into the air. I remember thinking that those seeds were free in a way that I wasn’t. So I left.”
“To become the seeds?”
“I guess. Goodbye, Cheyenne.”
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Honestly, I wasn't going to post again. And I was very hesitant to post this. It's a weird format and I dislike it. A little unedited. Thanks for reading.
First of all, this story is not at all bad. This story is actually very good, and you should realize that :) I love reading stories that have different formats and styles, so I was immediately hooked into reading this one. I'm not really one to give really long critique comments because I don't see myself as that good of a writer yet, but I really wanted more! A little more backstory, a little more plot...but it is a very nice concept! I hardly make sequels/prequels, but I would gladly read it if you did. The names of the characters and th...
Thanks! The contest ended yesterday so I cannot edit, but I’ll keep your critique in mind for next time. :)
I've been looking forward to this since I read the first paragraph and liked the story. I love the names and the conversation and the way you display their brokenness. I hate this sentence: "Sometimes he didn’t pick up with mud painted under his eyes or his fists winking like car blinkers on the tray table in the airplane." It has a weird and beautiful image but it doesn't make SENSE much less fit the tone of the rest. I love everything else though. That phone conversation...👌
Thank you! I’ll try to edit if I still can...
Hi Scout, sorry it’s taken me a while to get here! I see from your comment that you’re not a fan of this one. It’s very different to the other ones I’ve read of yours, that’s for sure. I think, for me, it felt unfinished. I do love a good plotless story so you’ll get no critique from me there. You’ve built beautiful characters with interesting and rich backgrounds and perspectives - it’s definitely the strength of this piece. The connection of the two is where you lost me a bit, though. My first question is about how they know each other a...
Totally okay! You must be busy. I was mostly writing this one for myself in the beginning, but it seemed to match a prompt so I took a risk. The connection. I was struggling in that area when writing, too. I assumed Bill and Cheyenne were childhood friends--and I think I'm going to stick with it. I'm going to bring up the helicopter seeds in the end and maybe shift the title too. They'll remember their happiness back then in their conversation. Cheyenne was meant to be from a fairy tale and I'm so glad it worked. Bill was a tough charact...
I have been completely snowed under! I’m a teacher so am trying to juggle remote learning with a toddler and judging on here - I seem to have less and less time every week! Hence why I’ve been so sporadic with posting my own stories recently. I just never have time to sit down and write anymore. I’ll let you know if I ever get chance to do a new one though! Always happy to give feedback - which one do you want me to look at? If it’s a past one, I’ll try to do general feedback as you obv won’t be able to action anything. Will go have a lo...
A teacher? Nice. What ages do you teach? Remote learning is hard—I’ve heard about it from my family. I don’t want to make you busier so I’ll just let you know if I write any that require fabulous amounts of critique. My other one from this week was Polka Dot.
Have just looked - I like the ending a lot more now and their connection is much stronger. The start of their conversation now doesn’t fit with their shared past. If it were me (and it isn’t), I’d start with Cheyenne saying something weird and floaty that confuses him ‘I don’t know who you are’ makes more sense when she’s said something off the wall and would fit with her character. She can then clarify her name and then the rest slots into place. I also would have him say something less straightforward in his final sentence. Something like:...
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m pretty busy right now but I will edit these things later. ;) Your two cents make perfect sense.
Okay... I edited. But I don't want to make you tired of my words so you don't have to read again if you don't want to. :)
Never tired of your words and flattered that you’ve taken my suggestions on board! The problem with getting so much feedback esp from one person is that sometimes it can stop feeling like your story so I hope it still feels like your story to you. I like the changes - especially the beginning to their conversation - and feel like it has a more rounded ending now. For me, it reads really well now. I hope I haven’t stuck my nose in too much!
Of course not! You helped me out so much. I honestly can't wait to return the favor...
Hi Laura--just posted one for this contest's prompts. It could definitely use some help, if you have the time this week. :)
Your lyrical writing style jumped out at me from the list of stories. I think you're great, and I thank you for writing this way. Reading writing like yours opens up a whole new world of imagery for me. I get a mental exercise from it you could say lol. It reminds me that metaphors and smiles are great tools at expressing complicated imagery and messages. It paints just the most beautiful pictures.
Wow, thank you so much, V. You're so kind. Maybe I could stop by one of yours? Which one do you recommend? Or is current so I can hopefully supply some helpful critique?
Thank you for suggesting it! I'd appreciate that. I just posted a story (titled "Keterina") that could use some critiquing.
Great! I’ll stop by as soon as I can.
This was gorgeous, thank you for sharing it with us!
I like this. You need to start liking your stories more. Really. I mean it. Your characters are always so colorful and unique. I loved Bill especially, and Cheyenne's name is beautiful. "Bill wouldn’t send a message and lift away on his hot air balloon the next day." I think you could reword this as "Bill would lift away on his hot air balloon the next day without sending a message", or something like that. Although I'm not quite sure if that's what you meant. Anyway, really enjoyed this. Keep writing :)
Thank you so much, Mia!
scout, this met up with the prompt well. like laura had said, your imagery and description on their life is on point! though, i'd like a bit more backstory on how bill and cheyenne met. the answer to that in the story is quite vague; i am a bit confused on that part. it's clear that they are childhood friends, yes, but a little more information on them would be nice! aside from critique, this was a simple, pleasant story. definitely a new favorite read. :)
Thank you so much. Hmm... I originally didn’t include their connection and so I edited. But now it’s still not clear enough. What do you want to see? Their parents know each other and they were childhood friends, so they wouldn’t have “met” anywhere. They remember bouncing on Cheyenne’s trampoline so that implies that they did hang out together. I don’t understand what’s foggy here. Do you mind explaining?
the only thing i'm most perplexed about was their backstory with each other, maybe insert a day of them meeting each other for the first time as children? i think it would confirm to few readers a sneak peek into their childhood and how they fully got introduced, rather than Cheyenne just including the memory of the two of them on the trampoline in the conversation. also, i checked through the story a second time; i didn't see any sort of information involving their parents knowing each other. nonetheless, it's still your story, you can cho...
Okay. I added some lines. Only like two, though. “My parents have talked to your parents and asked me about you. Enough is enough. I’m going to call your parents.” “ I know, Bill, but they’re probably worried about you. Don’t you remember all those happy times when it rained helicopter seeds in my backyard? Our parents would drink ice tea and talk about our futures—of course, until you ran away.” “We used to laugh into the air. I ran away from you and my parents and love because I wanted more. I was . . . lost, in the formal sense of the ...
that's amazing! thank you for taking my suggestion into consideration. :)
This is a slightly variant style, true, but I suppose the prompts are useful that way — they bring out diverse facets of an author's style. While I may not be able to offer any useful critiques, I did find the story quite amusing. Two friends, one with an air of nonchalance, and the other with a slightly insecure yet bold personality, intertwined by a trail of helicopter seeds and bouncy trampolines. It definitely has the interesting element to it. I did have a question, though. Cheyenne is someone portrayed quite vividly and the reader can ...
Thank you! I meant for Bill to be hazy, but I’m assuming it’s a little too hazy. I’ll add why he ran away so hopefully that will help the story. :)
Of course! I gave the story a re-read, and this ending works much better!
My kids love the trampoline and the helicopter seeds always delight them, that detail in the story stuck with me. You do have such a way with the details many would never think of!
Thank you. When I was younger I used to love trampolines and those trees. I'd try to catch the seeds. :)
I start every comment with your name, so I thought I'd change it up this time. :)) I absolutely adored everything about this, I genuinely loved Bill, and the descriptions were perfect as usual. Reminds me of the book I'm reading, which is absolutely phenomenal. This story has become my favorite of yours. Can't believe something could top Apartment 17A, but apparently something has! Great work.
Thank you so much!
Feels like a kaleidoscope where imagination and the imagined interact to make dazzling colors. The end felt a bit wavering, but then maybe that was intended, I'm not sure. Your pacing is enviable, and the conversation reminded me of the Absurd theatre stuff, Beckett, Ionesco and the like.
Thank you for your kind words.
I loved it. It made me feel I was in another world. Keep up the great work! 🙃
hi! idk if you even remember me, it's been a WHILE since we talked, but i was wondering if you have any tips for not going over the 3000 word limit. And cutting stuff out? It would be greatly appreciated, I'm really struggling here :)