Works in progress

The writer

Caro Miller didn’t want anyone to question her mental health, which her mother would, if she learned her independent, successful daughter had spent the last two years with an anti-establishment, passive-aggressive creative writer, a never-published author whose piles of drivel crowded shelves, drawers and several boxes. He printed everything out, but never threw anything away.

Did she keep him around because she was afraid of being lonely, of not being loved? This thing with Wick Parker was not love. A man who loved a woman didn’t use her, tell her lies. Didn’t bring “assistants” in to type his precious works in progress. “Word processors,” Wick said. “Frees up my thinking, makes my writing more spontaneous.”

Caro had believed him, until now.

What got her attention was the skimpy panties she found under the sofa. Wick’s bizarre explanation? “Caro, love, I had to run out to the store. Maybe something weird happened when I was out.”

“Like what, Wick, some stranger came in and banged your assistant while you were gone?”

The expression of hurt on his face almost got to her. “Don’t you trust me?”

His cajoling whine was too much. Suddenly she was so angry she could hardly speak. How in hell had she allowed a culture of deceit to thrive in her home? The bitter taste of regret sickened her.

Wick, clueless as usual, went down to the pool.

Caro pulled a drawer out of the dresser. She staggered under its weight as she headed to the balcony overlooking the pool, four stories below. Wick was flirting with some girl. A light wind sent the papers she tossed over the side into a swirling spiral. The pages wafted down like leaves, falling off trees. Caro went back to get another drawer, this one full of Wick’s clothes.

This is a writing exercise from Crafty Writer in which you create a 16-line poem and a 300-word short story about something unusual seen or heard during the course of a day using 20 words based on what you heard or saw. A friend said he’d come across a link where you could see photos of people shopping in Walmart stores. It was a test of my mettle to get through the assignment (you can read the poem here). What do you think? The 20 words are: bizzare, expression, weird, mental, health, taste, mind, creative, speak, aggressive, passive, man, woman, attention, lonely, afraid, anti-establishment, angry, clueless and culture.

The Eggplant and Superman

Ms. EggplantShelby thought she was oh so original. Why would anyone else in her right mind show up at a Halloween costume party dressed as an eggplant? Yet, there she stood, long of leg, slender of arm, wearing an exact, exact duplicate of Shelby’s costume. In her mind, the second Shelby saw the other purple veggie, she dubbed the dubious duplicate Evil Eggplant.

One of Evil’s delicate hands held a glass of red wine, which she sipped through a straw while she stroked the arm of the man in front of her with the other. The costume was not designed for food consumption, as Shelby had learned when she tried to eat a chip with guacamole shortly after her arrival. And now, looking about as ridiculous as Shelby felt, there was her twin having a high old time with – unless she was very much mistaken – Shelby’s objective for the evening.

Jared Fields. Her boss in the workplace, the man of her dreams in her night time fantasies. He was dressed as Superman and had the pecs, abs and overall physique to carry it off. No padding on that bod! The fake black-rimmed retro glasses did nothing to conceal his square-jawed good looks. Clark Kent didn’t hold a candle to Jared Fields.

Evil Eggplant had him laughing at something she’d said. Shelby edged closer, hoping to be inconspicuous in the crowd of witches, goblins, ghouls, the undead, superheroes, jack-o-lanterns and miscellaneous other identifiable and unidentifiable Halloween freaks and geeks.

Jared the amateur gardener seemed quite taken with Evil Eggplant, which – of course – had been Shelby’s plan all along. Not for Evil to have him enthralled stealing Shelby’s thunder, but for Shelby’s quirky costume to captivate him with curiosity if nothing else, which she hoped would lead to something else.

With no other plan surfacing in her mind she stepped up beside Evil and accidentally bumped her wide bottom half. The result was Evil grabbing for any stabilizing body or object to keep from falling over. Superman reached for Evil just as Shelby stepped in front of him giving the appearance she was trying to help, and she was, really. Kind of. More or less. Of course she was limited in her ability to assist, given she had the same limitations that afflicted Evil, bottom heavy weight distribution and four-inch lime green high heels.

Damn! Her doppelganger had copied every aspect of her costume right down to heels, matching tights and the glittered stem sitting atop her “head” like a couture hat.

The hat now lay on the floor flattened and skewered by a buxom witch wearing ruby slippers with hooker heels.

Two ghouls and Green Lantern helped Evil up and retrieved the hat. Evil batted it away and turned on Shelby.

“You bitch! You did that on purpose!”

“Did what on purpose?” Shelby asked calmly. Inside a fuse had ignited.

“Bumped me! You did it on purpose!”

“I most certainly did not. I tried to keep you from falling down.” Calm. Calm. Calm.

“Ha! AND you stole my costume idea.”

Shelby fumed but kept her mouth shut. She now knew the identity of the real thief in the room and the knowledge pierced her heart. Caroline Hopper. Her workplace rival and after work best friend. She should have known. They relentlessly competed for everything on the job: promotions, projects, perks, benefits, raises. Was it any surprise her friend would compete for the big prize?

But Jared wasn’t a prize to be won. He was the love of Shelby’s life, or she wanted him to be. Yes, she had a wild and crazy crush on Jared, who wouldn’t? Just look at the man! But it was more than that. She admired his dedication on the job and how he spent his time away from work. They’d stood shoulder to shoulder at soup kitchens, spent frigid hours distributing blankets to the homeless on cold winter nights, and many a Saturday sorting through thrift shop donations culling the good stuff from the crap. Caroline had no time for such nonsense, as she put it. “Lazy bums need to get a job and stop being victims!”

And then there was the time Jared tricked her into going roller skating after volunteering with the women’s shelter and another time he’d convinced her to spend an afternoon working with him in the south side community garden, which turned out to be way more fun than she ever imagined it could be.

Shelby regretted all the times she had confided in her best friend about how much she admired Jared and wished he would think of her as more than an employee or as a good friend with off-the-job mutual interests. Of course she had shared the eggplant costume idea with Caroline.

Instead of responding to her friend’s accusation, Shelby turned and walked away. She could never compete with Caroline, who was more than a match for Jared in looks and business savvy, charm and wit, class and sophistication. Shelby was smart and creative so vying with Caroline on the job was a piece of cake, but in terms of physical attributes, Caroline was in a league of her own. Besides, “winning” wasn’t Shelby’s goal. She wanted Jared’s unconditional love, bells and whistles, hearts and flowers and happy ever after. And at least three kids. And a dog.

By the time she had said her thank yous and goodbyes to her hosts (as her mother taught her to do come what may), and had reached the elevator, she desperately wanted to rip off the stupid costume so she could dry the tears streaming down her face. The most important competition of her life and she was just walking away? But it wasn’t a competition, was it? If she had to fight for some guy, did she even want him for goodness sake!?

“Absolutely!” she said aloud. She whirled around just as the elevator arrived and walked right into Superman’s “S” and his strong open arms. He backed her into the elevator and as the doors closed, whispered, “You know, Shelby, eggplant is one of my least favorite vegetables, but I’ve always been kinda crazy about what’s inside this one.”

Image: with a bit of creative intervention

Short Fiction

Hope Springs Eternal (or) Opportunity Knocks

BoutiqueAllie Edwards went to the mall. She didn’t know why. It’s not like she had money to spend. She couldn’t even pay her rent, much less buy something she didn’t need that would, in the end, make her feel guilty as hell.

No job. No prospects. No skills.

One thing she did have in abundance, was hope. Life had been less than fair to Allie, but as her old grandma would say, “Get used to it Miss Allie, life’s not fair, so get over yourself.”

She figured that meant there was no point in having a pity party.

She couldn’t even be mad at Mr. Hernandez for firing her. Business was down, she was the last waitress to be hired and therefore the first to be fired. Plus, in all honesty, she wasn’t too good at the whole waitressing thing. People who ate in restaurants could be downright demanding and mean. And balancing trays loaded with food, and knowing who was supposed to get what? Harder than she ever imagined.

But the job had allowed her to move out of her grandma’s stuffy apartment and into a place of her own. The thought of losing that bit of independence was enough to make her sad, but what could she do but move back with Grams if she didn’t have money coming in?

The mall’s bright interior lifted her mood. The stores with cheerful window displays made her smile. The air conditioning cooled her skin. Tempted by the food court, she almost bought an ice cream cone, but didn’t.

She stood before the window display of Winsome, a shop that catered to women “of all ages,” a bit optimistic in her opinion. You could not be all things to all people, especially when it came to women’s clothes.

“They should rethink who they want to sell to,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” said an older woman who was also studying the window display.

Allie didn’t know why she spoke out loud, but that was her nature, saying what she thought, speaking when she shouldn’t.

“Sorry, I was thinking out loud. I do that sometimes.”

“Please, go on. What do you not like about the display?”

“Oh, the display is fine, it’s just that ‘women of all ages’ means any woman of any age would be interested in buying any one of those items, and,” she shrugged, “that’s flat out not the case.”

“Please, go on.”

“Well, take that cardigan for instance. The color is nice; most women look good in teal, but the style, well it screams skinny and young. The pants? Can you really see that cut on any woman under twenty-five? I don’t even know what to say about the dress. If it sags on a human female the way it sags on the mannequin, no girl I know would even want to try it on.”

“My, but you do have strong opinions.”

Allie shrugged. “Gram would agree.”

“What do you do, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Allie’s skin flushed. “Nothing right now. I was a waitress for a while, but to be honest, I wasn’t much good at it.”

“Have you ever done sales?”

Allie laughed.

“Why is that funny?”

“Gram says I’m too cheeky to work with the public.”

“Being a waitress is working with the public.”

“Yeah, and remember that part about me not being good at it.”

“How would you like to work for me?”

“Excuse me?”

The woman pulled a small poster from under her arm and showed it to Allie. It read, Help Wanted, Hiring Immediately.

“This is your store?”

The woman nodded.

Allie scrunched her face in confusion. “But I’ve never worked in, well anything like this.”

“My dear, you have shown more savvy than anyone I’ve hired in the past. Let’s call it a trial run. Ninety-day probationary period. What do you say?”

Allie started to tell her why this couldn’t possibly work, but for a change, kept her mouth shut until she built up the courage to say, “Thank you, I would like that. When do I start?”

I hope you like this bit of short fiction. There will be more :). The image is from, the story is mine.