Short Story: Agua Fria

Short Story: Agua Fria

by Richard R. Barron

Click. Whir. Click. The song started again.

I was going to wear out this cassette tape.

I sat there in the cold, listening to this same song again and again. As I did, I wrote and rewrote a script for it in my head.

Script. Sure. It was a script for my lame, sophomoric story about Melissa, who I thought I’d never see again.

I had the song copied from my vinyl record album to a cassette tape. My friends and I thought it was important to do this, so our records wouldn’t wear out, and we could play the cassettes in our cars. A funny, sad trick of fate is that most of those records are at the bottom of a dump somewhere now. We also thought it was beyond important to use expensive cassette tapes.


The song was called Embers, a melodic and engaging yet entirely sappy piano piece that was probably meant to evoke harmony, peace, contemplation, blah blah, whatever.

For me, it might as well have been called “Goodbye, Melissa.” Hmm. Or maybe, “Goodbye, Melissa, you bitch.”

The script in my head was really just the end title cards of a movie about her. Roll credits.

Actually, as much as I wanted to be one, I wasn’t much of a writer. I wanted to be a writer more than I wanted to write. My freshman composition teacher once told me, “You think like a thinker, not like a writer.”

I don’t know. Maybe I killed her off at the end of the movie. Maybe she died of some kind of make-you-prettier cancer like Ali MacGraw did in Love Story.

I was having a very self-indulgent freshman year at college. I cooked up a philosophy, which I cavalierly named Omnitheistic Relativism. I thought reason was all and emotionalism was a crime. Emotionalists, I thought, were idiots.

No, I know it’s ironic. I’m getting to that.

Click. Whir. I watched the counter on the face of the cassette deck race back toward zero, and clicked “stop” just in time to play the song again.

Around me the dark cabin in northern New Mexico trembled in the winter wind. Snow fell outside, and I was happy about that, since in the morning, I was going to take my first snow skiing lesson at nearby Angel Fire Resort.

But as the notes sang to me over and over, I began to feel that something more was going on inside me. The script was writing itself deeper into my self. The “embers” were themselves the last glow of hope for a relationship I’d hoped for for years, and they were burning out.

There, in the tiny village of Agua Fria, New Mexico, with the mountains in the dark, silent snow, I decided that I would never see her again.

I closed my eyes, and tried to concentrate on a moment just six months earlier. I was visiting her at her parent’s  house in Warrensburg, Missouri. She was right there next to me, soft and pretty and pregnant.

She was so young to be pregnant, and so unhappy about it. I tired to hold her hand. I tried to be her friend. I tried to put my arms around her. All my efforts fell on deaf ears, a deaf soul, a deaf chance for love.

The smoke from the fireplace in the cabin, my only source of warmth,  was getting in my eyes, but I rewound the tape again and again. The tears were not from the smoke. The tears were from me, and from her.

LIsten to it now and write your own script…