California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2015 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
Third Place Winner
MARRIED TO A DREAM
By Lou Munro Foley
I looked back at the farm as I pulled onto the main road. Dad was in the barn, so he wouldn’t have heard me rev up Jimmy’s truck.
The morning sun was painting the Indiana fields gold—a sight I’d seen often in my 18 years.
“Dream a big dream every day, Susie.” I could still hear Mrs. McGregor’s husky voice.
Andrea Paton said that Mrs. McGregor smoked. And that she was divorced. I didn’t care. She was my favorite teacher. When they closed our two-room school and bused everyone into town, she moved away.
“She’s gone to Chicago,” Andrea Paton said. “Husband-hunting, probably.”
Andrea Paton is a colossal pain. “Maybe she’s chasing a dream,” I muttered.
That’s what I’m doing. Chasing a dream. The drama program at Northwestern. I decided just two nights ago. A car whizzed by heading toward the farm. I yanked Jimmy’s dirty Cubs cap down in case they were relatives showing up early for my wedding.
I have enough money to stay at the YWCA, until I figure out about college. When four of us went to Chicago for the regional drama contest, we stayed at the Y. Mrs. McGregor said it was cheap and safe.
I won first place in my category—reciting The Highwayman. Mom and Dad couldn’t come because it was harvest time. Just as well. Mom would have been okay, but Dad doesn’t have much truck with…respect for…whatever… the theatre.
“I’m proud that you won, honey, but remember, play-acting is not real work,” he said, giving me a hug.
People have been sending money as wedding presents, but we don’t need much. Charlie’s parents gave us some used furniture, and Mom made my wedding dress. I looked at it again this morning. Reached in and touched it. Simple white silk. Cool and smooth. Beautiful. I snatched my hand away and shut the closet door. My stomach felt empty.
I tossed some jeans into my backpack, and…well, here I am…heading for the railway station.
Jimmy and I used to ride bikes to the little school—and we’d stop at the crossing and wave at the passengers. Jimmy told me they were going to Chicago. If he had said they were going to China, I would have believed him. But he was right. They were going to Chicago. And now, so am I.
Charlie’s feelings will get all pushed out of shape, but he’ll get over it. Probably with the help of Andrea Paton.
I have feelings, too. I just can’t be married to a farm the rest of my life.
Mom seems happy as a farm wife, but I wonder. One day she showed me a picture of Bill Blass in an old issue of Vogue, and said he was from Indiana. I asked her if she regretted leaving art school to get married. Did she ever dream about showing her designs in New York? She smiled. “Sure. Everybody has dreams, but I fell in love with your dad.”
Some nights, she sits at the kitchen table, sketching. She’s saving her egg money for a new sewing machine. “Making your dress was a labor of love, Susie,” she said.
So I’ll be hurting her, too, by leaving. I’m sorry, Mom.
The truck crunched on the gravel by the station. Nobody was on the platform, which means I won’t have to answer embarrassing questions about why I’m going to Chicago the day before my wedding.
I tucked the ignition key under the floor mat, and gave Jimmy’s hat a pat as I laid it on the seat. Jimmy could get the truck later. He’d figure out where it was when I turned up missing.
The train horn squealed. My nose hairs quivered…diesel fumes. The wooden platform rumbled as the engine approached, then screeched to a stop. I climbed into the nearest car and collapsed on a double seat.
My stomach gurgled. No breakfast. I opened the backpack to get my sandwich.
A brown envelope lay on top. I took a deep breath and opened it. The contents slid into my lap.
A brochure about Northwestern.
And an address for Mrs. McGregor.
Dream big, Mom wrote, I love you.
P.S. Anne Baxter is from Indiana, too.
Attached to the note was a check. I know it was her egg money. Her sewing machine fund was financing my dream.
I leaned back and watched the golden fields of Indiana roll by.
A tear rolled down my cheek.
Time to dream.