One Word

By Bob Lackey

He enjoyed the view of the frozen pond from his boarding house room, but not this evening. His skin was growing numb and the blood vessel pounded where the pistol barrel pressed firmly against his temple. He held his breath, waiting for the blackness. A young girl skated on the pond below, flying in the waning light. She circled toward him. He could see her face, nestled in silver fur, even at this distance, rosy cheeked in the bitter cold and full of life.

Fifteen? Still full of expectations. Not yet dulled by the wrinkles of disappointment.

She swirled, raising her arms swan like over her head, and as the window glass fogged over with his breath, she slipped and fell.

“Oh! Be careful!”

She slid past his view and no longer existed. With trembling hand, he lowered the gun and sank onto the window seat.

I will do this later. Maybe a note after all?

He searched among scattered loose papers for a blank sheet, but could only find one holding a single line. Dipping his pen into the ink well, there among the previously written words was the one he had come to hate.

“You again!”

It wasn’t really one of his words; he could not even remember where he had gotten the damned thing, but it had infested several of his recent pieces; all of which were rejected.

“Out with you!”

He crossed out the words. Then, he carefully set each nugget into new sentences that would enable tomorrow’s readers to understand his sadness, his own disappointments. When he had completed the note, he retrieved the pistol, stepped to the window and placed the barrel to his temple.

Did I edit it well enough? What if – Oh surely NOT!

Again, he lowered the pistol, and frantically returned to pick up the page, mumbling to himself as he read.

“Damn it!”

It was there.

He plopped down in the chair and lit a candle against the night. Raising his pen, he stared long and silently at the word.

What else? What would be better?

His pen hovered up and down with each trial, his hand lower each time. Exhausted, dozing over his page, he suddenly jerked upright in the chair.


The word came. He quickly rewrote the entire sentence.

“Yes, by God! That’s it!”

He snatched up his last rejected piece, searched for the ugly word and replaced it.

“Yes! Much better!”

Outside, a morning snowfall settled on the city.

I’m taking this back!

He stuffed the pages back into the envelope and grabbed his coat and hat, then danced down to the front stoop, passing his landlady.

“The power of one word…” was all she heard him say.

“What?” she called out, but he was lost in the snowfall. She turned to her son and pointed after her boarder with a jerk of her chin.

“Wha’d he say?”

The boy let the shovel slip down into the fresh snow.

Sounded like he said, ‘Nevermore’.”

Concocting his first short story at age four, telling his parent’s neighbors he rode a white horse through the night killing alligators, Bob Lackey cannot stop the stories. He lives with his patient wife and a tolerant son in Murrells Inlet, SC, letting the voices run free.

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