Catcher in the. . . Sigh.

Submitted into Contest #188 in response to: Write a story that starts with the line “So, what’s the catch?”... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Romance

“So, what’s the catch?”

“No catch, man, it’s just like I told ya.”

“Really? When it’s too good to be true, well, you know, it usually is.”

“I’m being straight with ya, man. This ain’t like that Nigerian Prince scam ya get in your fax machine. No, no. This is one hundred percent, full disclosure, top notch, no bullshit stuff

I’m talkin’ ‘bout here.”

“Okay, so let me ask. Why me? How’d you land on my sorry ass, huh? What, am I on the cover of Gullible Magazine this month?”  

“C’mon, nothing like that, I’m just trying to do you a solid, that’s all. It’s all above board, nothing sketchy. Honestly, hand to God, it’s for real. So am I.” 

Harry pushed the stool back from his makeshift desk, reread the last bit of dialogue and stood, stretching his tall frame side to side until he felt a few cracks and pops in his aging back. After hunching over his computer for over an hour it was good to bend and move. Not bad, not bad, but I don’t know where I’m going with this idea, he thought, scratching his bristly white scalp with chewed fingernails. I’m just letting it flow, stream of consciousness style. Frequently it worked for him and sometimes he didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was going to write about, but after sitting down at the screen, it just came. Often, he would reread what he had just typed and would marvel at where it had come from. It just seems to write itself, he thought. 

He found it helpful to begin with the word “So” and go from there. This way, he wasn’t looking at a completely blank page. That can be intimidating. All his blog posts began that way: So. . . .  And so far it seemed to be working for him. 

He began his blog about two years ago, after finding himself unemployed, grief stricken and frightful of venturing out into a Covid infected world. It helped fill his day. It helped distract him from his heartache. He would blog about the injustices in the world, about the political and social outrages he saw and read about, and about personal things as well, anecdotes and events he had experienced. It felt good to get them down on paper, well, not paper exactly, he thought, but in writing nonetheless and it was cathartic. Like letters home from a war front or a secret diary hidden by a child, he would record and recount the stories of his life. Of her life. Of theirs.  

His blog entries gave way to more fully realized stories, not necessarily about himself. He began to enter writing contests where the idea was to write a story based on a selection of prompts offered up by the website. Just as the “so” of his beginnings acted to jumpstart his creative juices, so did these prompts, leading him to areas he would not otherwise have gone and he was on a roll lately, producing more completed work in the past few months than he had. . . well, ever.  

So, what to do with this newest challenge? So, what’s the catch? The “catch” being the crux of this new contest. To start a story with that phrase and explore the possibilities. He didn’t want it to be some Twilight Zone variant, although he did love that old show with its twist endings, but rather wanted something more. . . heartfelt. Not sure. I’ll stop thinking about it and let my subconscious work on it, he thought, and lay down on the leather couch for a nap, chiding himself that it was some kind of research.  

As he slept the dreams came, as they always did. His wife. Her face, her laugh, her final breaths. They were the kind of dreams that he both wanted and dreaded. Sad and heart wrenching to relive moments of their lives together, but also happy for the chance to do so. To see her in his mind, hold her there, trace the curve of her face with his sleeping fingers. Breathe her in. He would have breathed for her if he could at the end, but the virus would have none of it. It was her ventilator that kissed her then, filling her lungs with the dispassionate air of a machine. In the end her metallic lover couldn’t save her and the lungs that had once sighed whispers into his ears, just stopped, like a faulty bellows unable to rekindle an ember.  

He awoke, momentarily unsure of where he was. A blurry image coming into focus, lines sharpening at the edges. Easing himself off the sofa, he stretched again, bent to touch his toes and then the ceiling. It was dark out now. How long had he slept? The glow of his computer, screensaver sliding random pictures from his photo library, lit the kitchen countertop. At the moment it was a wedding picture, where she had smacked his nose with icing after cutting their cake. That spontaneous moment always made him smile, as he remembered rubbing noses with her and listening to her giggle. He could hear it now, through the cloud of his grogginess.

Rachel would have been so proud of him, he thought, for the work he was producing. All those years he talked about it, but aside from the occasional anniversary poem, there was nothing.  Now, he wrote consistently both on his blog and on that writing site for fiction. His blog had over two thousand followers and his fiction was beginning to gain a bit of attention, despite having never won a contest, it still garnered many likes and positive comments. He appreciated the ego salve it provided.  

Harry removed two shiny cold triangles of foil wrapped pizza from the fridge, placed them in the toaster oven, and poured himself a glass of white wine from an open bottle. He would continue with his story after dinner but for now he raised his wine glass, silently toasting Rachel.  

So, was this the bargain? Was this the catch? Did she have to die in order for him to begin writing in earnest. Did the torment, does the torment still, unlock an inner cell of emotion and creativity, allowing him to vent his pent up feelings. No answer. He looked back at the first few lines of dialogue he had attempted to address this latest challenge with and realized that it wasn’t leading to any sort of “catch,” it was only a placeholder waiting for the true story to emerge. That story, the one where he “catches” her attention and they create a life together, where she herself was the “catch” of a lifetime, is the one worth telling.  

March 08, 2023 18:53

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Éan Bird
17:47 Apr 05, 2023

Beautiful and poignant. This piece resonated with me: grief as the impetus of writing. I found inspiration throughout the entire piece, but especially with "begin with the word “So” and go from there. This way, he wasn’t looking at a completely blank page." Thank you for sharing.


Andrew Fruchtman
20:34 Apr 05, 2023

Thank you so much Ean for reading and taking the time to comment. I love to hear feedback, it helps to hopefully improve. 📝👍


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Karen McDermott
13:18 Mar 11, 2023

Really good meta take on the prompt with moments of beauty. Deffo tugged on my heartstrings.


Andrew Fruchtman
13:33 Mar 11, 2023

Thank you so much Karen. MY heart loves your comments.


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