REVIEW: Watching the Grass Grow by Diane Michaels
They say you shouldn’t make eye contact with a stranger on the subway in New York City. It may not be an actual violation of the subway system code of conduct, but still. Lisa and Geoff, two strangers smushed together on a crowded E train, break that code when their train unexpectedly stops. Their conversation is the perfect antidote to the boredom and frustration of the delay. And more than the broken AC is to blame for the rising heat between them. When the train moves again, Lisa wonders if they should go back to behaving like strangers. But what if their paths were meant to cross?
Tom—middle-aged, divorced, and out of work—needs to get a life. Instead, he gets a juror summons. Hardly expecting to ‘find himself’ while fulfilling his civic duty, he sets a single goal for the day: persuade the judge to exempt him from being picked for a jury.
Time had stood still in the juror lounge. It begins to spin backward when he reconnects with Susan, a fellow juror and his middle school crush. Before long, he’s back under her spell. Could a man in his current position interest her? When she swipes through a dating app in front of him, she indicates the answer is no. With nothing else to lose, Tom prepares to sacrifice the one goal he has in order to capture her attention.
Dear Ms. Michaels,
While waiting for the sequel to “Ellen the Harpist,” I saw that you had these two short stories to tide us over. I’ve said before that writing a complete story in a compact design is an art form and you nailed it with these. Riding the subway in NYC and waiting out a day of jury duty in New Jersey should always be this fun.
Don’t invade my space and never make eye contact yield to the tentative start to a dinner date when Lisa and Geoff start chatting about their lives, clothes, cell phones and fellow subway riders. I like that she’s a teacher – and loves it – while he’s not a lobotimist – I won’t give away what he really does – and not only enjoys this more than his past job but started it to make life easier for other people. Two nice people from start to finish.
Then middle aged Tom who has let others direct his life has one mission – and frankly in this situation, don’t we all? – to not get seated on a jury. Will he change his mind when he sees his middle school crush all grown up? Susan was nice then and helps Tom out in a spur-of-the-moment action which hints that she’s still a nice person and maybe as interested in re-connecting with him. The jury duty experience is nailed here and their day at the courthouse just might lead to more.
The endings here are just the start of a relationship but both stories are engaging, the set-ups are believable, there’s humor, honesty and fun. B+