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The Last Word



(This prompt is a large room with floor to ceiling glass, in the middle of
which is a small room accessible only by a stair.)

Miss Emily has been up in her room all day. Alone in her writing room. With a world of things to do and places to visit and people to see, she has chosen to stay up there, alone and apart from life.

Mrs. McFadden has started the fire and set the table for dinner. Miss Emily will come down and eat alone as usual. There may be a phone call but she will choose not to answer it. There may be an invitation in the mail, but she will not read it. She will eat sparingly, "Hardly enough to keep a bird alive," as Mrs. Mcfadden would say. Then, she will rise from the table and walk to the tall windows. She will stare out at the leaf covered lawn and into the distant trees.

Mrs. McFadden will ask, "Will that be all, Miss Emily?"

She will turn from the window, and with the saddest of smiles, say, "That's all, Mrs. McFadden. It was delicious." She will walk to the foot of the stair and say, "I'm going upstairs now. I'll ring if I need you."

Mrs. McFadden will watch her until she sees the light of the writing lamp flicker on, then she will clear the table. She will say to herself, (as she has said a thousand times before) "Poor woman. Such a waste." She knows Miss Emily writes up there, but to write all day, every day -- what can there be to write about? She sees nothing of life, what can she have to write about?

She will clear the table and carry the dishes to the kitchen and put them in the sink with her own. After washing the dishes there will be nothing more to do until morning. She will sit there and think of her own past life -- of her children, now grown and gone away -- and her husband, dead now these seventeen years. She might think to herself, if I were a writer what things I would have to say. The ups and downs -- so many good times .... times to remember.

On this particular night the call bell rang and Mrs. Mcfadden, lost in thought, suddenly realized that Miss Emily wanted her. She hurried to the living room and climbed the stair to the door of Miss Emily's writing room and knocked before entering.

"You rang, Miss Emily."

"These notebooks. I want them burned, Mrs. McFadden -- all of them." There were notebooks everywhere, on the bed, on her writing desk, even a pile of them by the door. "I'll help you down with them, Mrs. McFadden, then we'll burn them in the fireplace - one by one, until the last book is burned."

The two women sat by the fire stirring the ashes. Mrs. McFadden would look at Miss Emily from time to time and shake her head. When she could stand it no longer, she finally spoke up ... "Miss Emily, pardon a stupid old woman asking, but you have been writing in your room for years. For all the years I have been here; and now you burn it up, every bit. I don't understand ...."

"I don't know, Mrs. McFadden," she said, stirring the ashes once more. "It was not written to be read. It was a way of remembering and living it over again. Very few of us ever get to live it over again."

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