The Red Sweater: Writing 101

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

“Charles, what’s wrong?”

I can hear the words, but I can’t pinpoint the source. If I keep crying, if I don’t look up from the ground, I don’t have to answer.

“Charles? Charles, do you want to sit down?”

She guides me over to a bench. The bench is wet from this morning’s rain. I wish I wasn’t sitting down. Why am I sitting down?

“Charles, what is it? What’s happened?”

I don’t know how long we sit. She’s still holding my hand when I start speaking.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“Do what? Charles, what are you talking about?”

“I thought we could work this out, but we can’t.”

“What can’t we work out? Charles?”

“I know you don’t want kids. I know. But I do. And-”

“Stop. Just stop. Look, yesterday you said you were fine with this. You said you were okay. You can’t just change your mind and expect me to-”

“I’m not changing my mind. I think I’ve felt like this for a long time. I guess I thought you’d change your mind. But you didn’t, and here we are.”

She stares at me.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t say something yesterday. I don’t think I realised how much I want children.”

“So . . . so you tell me that it’s fine, that we’re fine, and then you wait until we’re talking a walk to drop this bomb on me?”

“It’s just…I…when I saw that baby sweater, I thought…I thought…”

“You thought that a stupid little sweater was worth throwing away the best part of your life?”

I want to tell her that she was never the best part of my life.

“Look, you’re clearly just going through something all right? Let’s just go home, make dinner, you’ll be back to normal tomorrow.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been “normal” with her. I’ve never been myself. I think it took something as small and innocuous as a red sweater to make me see that.

“Back to normal? I’m ‘back to normal’ now. I want children. You don’t. This isn’t going to work out.”

I wish we weren’t talking about this here. The old woman on the bench is staring at us.

Even though I know what I have to say, it’s still hard to say it.

“Maybe you should go home. I’ll get a hotel for tonight, and I’ll pick up my things tomorrow.”

She shakes her head.

“No, no, you don’t need to do that. I’ll go to a hotel. I’ll give you some space, and we can talk about this in a few days.”

Why doesn’t she realise it’s over? I’m worried that the only thing I can do is walk away and I promised myself I’d never do that.

“We’re not talking about this in a few days. We’re talking about this now. This isn’t working. I’m going to get up, walk to main street, and get a cab. I’m going to check in to a hotel, where I’ll spend the night. I’m going to take a cab back to your place tomorrow, and pick up my things.”

“No, no, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re going to come home with me and-”

“Dearie.”

Who said that?

“Dearie, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but this young man is has been trying to tell you that your relationship has come to an end. Please don’t make this more difficult for him than you already have.”

I feel the car keys hit me.

“I’ll go to the hotel tonight, but you better be gone by tomorrow morning.”

“I really am sorry about this. I’m so sorry-”

Before I can finish speaking, she’s gone.

I turn to the old woman.

“Thank you. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“Don’t apologise, young man. When I was young, I had to break it off with a fellow for the same reason.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. I felt terrible about it, but I knew I was doing the right thing. And now it’s sixty years later and I have six children, fifteen grand-children, and thirty-five great-grandchildren. Things have a way of working out.”

“Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“If you want to thank me, take this sweater. I was knitting it for my great-grandson, but now that I look at it, I think it may be too small.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”

“Yes, I do. It’s better that it goes to you than gets thrown away. Keep it and one day give it your son. I know things will work out for you.”

This is my first attempt at writing fiction since I was in high school, so I’d love to hear what you think!

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