Radio Boston and The Drum, Boston’s Audio Literary Magazine, have teamed up to ask you to write about your favorite neighborhoods in a project called ZIP-Code Stories. We are happy to announce this round’s ZIP-Code Stories winner is Daniel Roberts.
Roberts is originally from Wayland, Mass. and now lives in New York. His ZIP-Code story is centered in Sandwich on Cape Cod — a town Roberts says he's always enjoyed the name of.
"My family has a house on the Cape, we've had one ever since I was born. It's funny, I only notice now that I don't even name the town in the text of the story. But the title is important," Roberts said. "Sandwich to me has the perfect 'Capey' town name — just sort of sounds like what you picture when you picture Cape Cod. I feel like all the rest of the towns should have similar charming, funny, quirky names."
Roberts, a financial journalist, says the crossover from non-fiction to fiction wasn't nearly as difficult as the word limit.
"The challenge here wasn't writing fiction but writing a good story in 500 words. That was really difficult," Roberts said. "It's very, very short. You don't want to set yourself up for failure by creating something that's just too complex."
Henriette Lazaridis Power, editor of The Drum and co-creator of ZIP-Code Stories chose this story because it did so much with so little.
"He does a very good job of presenting a complete story in just the 500 words," Power said. "The characters are developed, their relationship is developed."
- Daniel Roberts, author of “Sandwich”
- Henriette Lazaridis Power, editor of The Drum and co-creator of ZIP-Code Stories
- Submit your story: We're switching things up this time around. You are welcome to focus your story on any ZIP code but we want you to stick to a theme: "Expect the unexpected." Your fiction or non-fiction must be 500 words or less. The deadline is May 15 at 10pm EST. For rules, see our submission FAQ.
- Listen: Check out the previous winners of ZIP-Code Stories.
"Sandwich" by Daniel Roberts
"Do you sometimes feel awkward in public? Are you uncomfortable in social situations? Zenophil restores this imbalance, shifting—"
Oh my god, I need this. Write this down, Jan. She ignored him. Had he even said that out loud, or just thought it? He couldn’t be sure. And now—wait, Zenofant? Zelly-jell? The commercial had ended. Damn. And she just kept knitting away. Every night, the same hour of busy hands before bed.
They had come here for him to get past these concerns. Friday, after work, he had arrived home, taken three white bowls from the cabinet, inspected each, and into the cleanest one had poured his cereal. Honey Nut Cheerios in the evening felt like such a treat. “Got to eat healthy for the heart murmur!” That one he had said out loud, though he hadn’t meant to.
“You don’t have a heart murmur, Gene. You’re perfectly fine.”
Janice. She was standing in the doorway. “You’re a beacon of health,” she added, in that dripping tone. “This bitching and moaning about illnesses you don’t have—it’s done.”
“Jan, we’ve gone over this. I am indeed quite sick. And I know because—“
“I’ve got it,” she said. “Let’s spirit you off to the Cape house!” There was a faux cheerfulness to the suggestion.
Such a sudden trip would be unlike him, but he couldn’t come up with an excuse.
So that was how it had happened, mere hours ago, but it felt now like days. It had taken Eugene forty minutes into the ride, shooting down 128 to Route 3, to come to grips with the spontaneity. And for his fingers to stop twitching.
When they crossed the Sagamore Bridge, she had turned the oldies station off. “I owe you an apology,” she said. “I was mean before. But Gene, this is serious. Something in you changed, months ago now, and I want us to fix it, but… it’s seeming doubtful.”
He knew what she was saying. And he hadn’t responded, and she hadn’t said anything further. And now here they were in bed. But it was true; being at the cottage was relaxing. It was also true he hadn’t made love to her in a year. He’d try tomorrow.
In the morning, he woke up, downed a handful of pills at the bathroom sink, and shuffled to the closet for pants. Jan’s side was empty, everything of hers gone. He hustled downstairs. Their car was gone, too, and he knew why.
Eugene went out to the shed and found his old bicycle. Somehow the tires weren’t flat. He hopped on and began riding, thinking he’d head all the way to Provincetown. At some point, he switched over to 6A so he could travel along the water. He was still in his underwear. And he had left the front door of the house open, unlocked. Eugene felt that if he could just keep riding, and if the water could never end, everything might just start to feel wonderful again.
This segment aired on April 12, 2012.