The Beginning of the End

Coniston Water, Lake District, England © Google Maps

“But we always go to the lake,” I said, and it was true—we always had…at least every year since Ellie was two.

Carly lit a cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke that hung over our table like a smog. “It’s the only week this workshop is offered. I’m doing this, John.”

My eyes traced the soiled streak on the tablecloth where my plate had been. I looked back at Carly. She was staring far across the restaurant, to some unknowable place.

“But we’ll lose our spot,” I said. “They have a waiting list for our rental, you know. And what will the kids do anyway—with you off in the States at some ‘writer’s’ workshop?”

“Well I guess you’ll figure it out, won’t you?”

I bit the inside of my lip. First the resurrection of her long-gone smoking habit, and now this. Something was up with Carly.

149 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.




  1. Oh, that is very, very good. John is drawing inferences from all the little signs, and you keep him just one step ahead of the reader all the way. Classy writing, Karen. Reckon you must have been on one of those – what d’you call ’em? – writers’ workshops!

    1. I try to go to one every summer, which is not to say this story is autobiographical. But I think I’ve heard this story at them from time to time!

  2. She was going for that sexy Norman Mailer instructor who writes women so well, maybe? Well done. Nobody understands the muse!

    1. I’m not sure what Carly’s up to but I think I ran into her at the reading over the weekend. 😉

  3. Is this really the beginning of the end, or just John’s resentment at his partner going her own way? You write the dialogue so well, make their relationship so believable, his thoughts so real. Sad, but hopefully, he’s wrong

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. I hope there is hope for them yet!

      1. If a tiny flame still burns … My pleasure 🙂

  4. I knew it. She’s having an affair.

    You can still smoke in restaurants?

    1. I feel this in their home…

      1. Ha, I think I was thinking restaurant but it must be 2007! It’s the sort of thing that happens when you’ve got ten minutes to write it and no time to edit.

  5. This was brilliant, Karen. I totally feel Carly. Time to do stuff for herself. Of course, that doesn’t bode well for their relationship…
    She has outgrown him.

    1. Thanks for reading Dale, glad you liked it!

  6. Looks like Carly needs a change, and she’s off to go find herself. Lots of folks have done it. I feel for John though. Her words and tone are a bit alarming. Great tension, Karen!

  7. Classic family duties vs work, and how it is perceived to be the woman’s problemwhen the two happen to conflict. This would-be writer will have none of that course. Shes taking his guilt trip “like a man.” Much enjoyed.

    1. I am so delighted with your comment. I read it several times, just to savor it!

  8. Uh-oh, not a writers workshop! Or maybe I should instead ask her for tips, as I’m clearly going to the wrong writers conferences. 😉

    I loved the feel of this, the emotions, and the subtle hints — right up to the last line. If you don’t mind the feedback, I didn’t think it was necessary. You’d already done an excellent job showing us that something was up with Carly, so telling us on top of it felt like overkill, and less polished than the rest. Just my two cents: you raise your own bar pretty high.

    1. Thanks for your kind words and for your feedback too. You make a good point. Glad it worked for you.

  9. Fantastic dialogue. The tension was right there. And the smoking part. That was spot on.

    1. 🙂 Thanks Lish!

  10. She sounds like a selfish lady, a wannabe writer, she will go far, from all I have observed of writerly types. Selfishness, cough, muse, is an absolute essential if a writer wants… needs… to be successful (however you measure that changeable quality) . I like the darker side of your writing here, Karen, that play on those more negative emotions.

  11. peterkirsch

    Yeah. It’s over. She’s moved on.
    Good riddance, IMO.

    Nicely done.

  12. Nicely written. Leaves you wondering if Carly & her other half’s relationship can survive.

  13. Oooh, what’s going on? This drew me in immediately!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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