Special note: This very dark and edgy short story was originally written to support training of law enforcement and intelligence investigators and analysts; however, it is equally applicable to writers who desire a better understanding of how their writing is interpreted by their readers. By the choice of specific words and flow of action, the story illustrates how a reader’s subconscious perception, the prejudicial acceptance/non-acceptance of events, can be manipulated. For the lesson presentation that dissects and explains the story concept read Personal Interaction and Perception, posted under Painting With Words.
The Great Depression
Martha had moved across the city; took the bus to work wearing a blouse so pretty.
Martha rode the number 27 bus every day; worked in an office. Sat at a desk, old wooden thing; been there since the Great Depression. Martha always wondered why they referred to it as the ‘Great’ Depression. What was so great about it? Her mom was born during it; maybe that qualified as ‘great.’ Saw a movie once about some family that left their farm in “Hok-la-ho-ma,” or some ‘ho.’ Martha always laughed at her ‘ho’ puns. She secretly liked to call the woman who sat across from her on the number 27 bus a ‘ho from Idaho.’ Martha wondered if ho’s did come from Ida, “where ever the ho, that is.” She laughed as she rode the number 27 bus this first Tuesday in November. She never made it to work.
At two minutes before seven, just as the number 27 bus pulled away from the stop at Bramberg and Clark, just as Martha laughed at her ho joke, a man with sad eyes stood up and shot her. Point blank. He was from Texas, just south of ‘nowhere’ West Texas. Used an old 45 cal. auto once owned by his father. Martha had never seen the man. He had seen Martha, or, at least, a woman that looked like her. Saw her in a newspaper ad for something; the something was not important. The face in the ad was.
He had been living in a one room walk-up on West 41st; rented it from a retired house painter. On the first Monday in November, the man, sitting in his single chair, opened his newspaper and saw the advertisement. After remaining motionless and staring at the face for three hours his trance was broken by the retired house painter’s fist banging on the front door. The man looked at the door, banging, looked at the picture, back at the door. He made his decision. Pulling the gun out from under the chair cushion, he walked to the door, opened it, and shot the retired house painter. Point blank. The blood splattered on the walls of the hallway.
Not stopping to grab a coat, the man stepped over the dead retired house painter and walked down the hall, descended the steps, and out the entrance door to the street. He walked until boarding the number 27 bus the next morning; the first Tuesday in November.
Martha was late as usual and never noticed the man as she hurried to sit down. He noticed her. He saw the way she wore her hair, her choice of blouse, jacket, her eyes. Martha never noticed him; never looked his way.
She just looked like the woman in the ad. The man was beyond depression, bordering on suicidal. And when the depression became too great to fight, he stood up and shot Martha.
With the great depression over, the man sat back down and looked out the window.
(The Great Depression, is a work of fiction, copyright 2007 by Steven S. Walsky, all rights reserved.)