Exercising the craft—March 9, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: The face on the news: Gwen always liked to go for long walks on the trail behind her house every Sunday morning. Most of the time she would pass one or two people and they would nod a greeting or exchange a brief sentence or two about the weather. Overall they never made an impression on her and vice versa. That was until the first Monday in August when after a long day of typing catalog descriptions she looked up from her supper to the nightly news and saw the face of a man she passed the day before. She turned up the volume in time to hear…


“…when his wife arrived in town and visited the local police department with a picture of her husband. One of the police officers recognized Willis in the photo as his tennis partner at the YMCA.”

The camera showed a wide shot of the police department and a woman in an orange-pink dress with little flowers walked out of the main door. Gwen’s heart began to beat faster.

Oh my god, that’s Sandy. What is she—

She watched the cousin she hadn’t seen in five years cross to the parking lot when the scene changed, and a few still shots of the man, Willis, appeared.

“Willis allegedly doesn’t remember his wife and has gone to a therapist to seek help. The therapist’s office has issued a statement.”

The scene changed to an indoor press conference where a short man in turtle-shell glasses frowned at a piece of paper on the podium in front of him before looking at the reporters seated in front of him.

“I will, uh…be issuing a short statement, and, uh, not take any questions. Given the evidence that Ms. Willis has brought with her, there is reason to believe that her claims have some foundation. Dr. Stella is offering the possibility of a fugue state of mind for Mr. Willis. A fugue state of mind occurs when a person experiences some traumatic event and the mind goes through temporary memory loss. It is possible Mr. Willis went through something dynamic and that that dynamic event caused him to lose his memory, which caused him to travel here to Birmingham from Roanoke, Virginia.”

Roanoke? Gwen thought. How did Sandy end up in Roanoke? And what brought her husband here to Alabama?

“Mr. Willis requests that the media give him privacy during this difficult time. He has also requested that no one bother Ms. Willis.”

The short man pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, folded the paper, and walked away from the podium. The scene changed again to a live scene where a reporter stood in front of the police department.

“This case has mystified all those involved, especially George Willis. What remains now is to find out what brought Willis here, how Sandra Willis followed him here, and where they will go from here. Gina?”

The in-studio anchor accepted the verbal toss from the reporter and announced a commercial break. Gwen sat back in her chair behind the TV table, not seeing the ads. She knew that if anyone could help Sandy at this time, she could.

But will she even listen to me? After that fight she and Aunt Sarah had…

Despite her best efforts to stay in touch, Sandy had buffeted all of Gwen’s attempts. Aunt Sarah hadn’t wasted any words in saying how she felt about Sandy running off with a man no one had ever met. And now here she was on Gwen’s television.

What had happened?

Gwen pushed her dinner away and grabbed her purse. She would do whatever it took to help her cousin…even if Sandy didn’t want help. And considering the level of humiliation that Sandy had suffered—and that Gwen and the rest of the family had witnessed—chances were Sandy wouldn’t want any help.

But Gwen wouldn’t give her that option.

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