29 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - Following Her Gut

Desiree looked up from her magazine article, over her coffee cup, and out the window to the street. Nothing looked different.

But something felt off.

Without turning her head, she glanced to her right and left. There didn't seem to be any change in the cafe's patronage. The same old guy in the corner to her left, and a younger guy - grad student, maybe? - tapping away at a laptop two seats to her right, oblivious to his surroundings.

But something felt off.

She took a sip of coffee and moved as if trying to pop her back over the chair she was seated in. As she twisted, she looked around. Barista leaning back, scrolling on a phone. Barista cleaning the cappuccino machine. (What were those things called?)

She could see the backsides of a few people in line by the restroom in the rear. That was new. No one fixing drinks, no tables looked occupied, but a line for the restroom? As she turned back around, the door opened and a new patron entered, crossing straight back to the restroom line.

Desiree pulled out a compact from her satchel and feigned powdering her nose while she watched this newcomer nod and exchange words with a couple of the others in line. This cafe had a gender neutral bathroom, so it was no surprise to see the mix of people back there, and Desiree had to acknowledge that although not her practice, chatting with strangers in line was not uncommon. 

The compact now rested by her coffee cup and she continued her reading. Moments later a man in a cable-knit vest over his buttoned shirt and bow tie entered. College professor, Desiree thought as he crossed the corner of her vision.

At last, coffee shop noises. Maybe that's what distracted her before: it was too quiet.

"Hey, professor! The usual?" she heard a barista ask, and smiled to know her assumption was right about the man.

"Thanks, Troy. How long until you'll call me Jay?"

The barista laughed. "Probably at least until graduation."

The drink didn't take long to make, and she heard Professor Jay thank the barista. Her peripheral vision expected him any second, but then she heard murmurings from the bathroom hall. She flipped open her compact as it sat on the table in front of her, and witnessed this new person shaking hands with several people as he moved, unquestioned, to the front of the line, opened the door to the gender neutral bathroom, and held it open for the small crowd to enter before him.

What on earth? She had a split second to make a decision. Thrusting her magazine and compact into her satchel, Desiree took one last gulp of coffee and moved to the back hallway just in time to smile at Professor Jay, whose eyes registered confusion above his noncommittal smile before he allowed her to enter  and closed the door behind them.


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

24 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - Deception

Vendella placed her bag gently on the table by the door. She didn't want to disturb Alicia. More like, she didn't want to answer Alicia's questions. Turning back to the door, she pushed it closed, turning the handle to avoid the click as the latch caught.

A big exhale and she moved to cross the short entry in the dark. As she moved, her hip touched the chain strap of her bag where it was resting over the edge of the hall table and the chain started trailing down to the floor, finally pulling the small gold pocketbook down on top of the piled up chain in a rattling, jingly noise followed by a thump. 

"Is that you, V?" Alicia's voice called from the kitchen.

Vendella sighed. Caught to be questioned. She moved to the kitchen doorway and leaned in the arch. "Yep. Back. I tried not to disturb you, but - you're still up?" Avoid questions by becoming the questioner. 

"Yeah, prepping for tomorrow. You remember I'm having Carey and Micah over for dinner?" Carey was the boyfriend, Micah his young son. It was all Alicia had talked about for a week.

"Of course. I thought you'd be getting beauty rest or something." Vendella grinned at her roommate. Alicia was beautiful and knew it. The joke fell flat. Alicia glared and attended to the pyrex bowl on the counter.

"Twenty-four hour marinade. I should've set it up hours ago. So annoying." Alicia was not only beautiful but a perfectionist. Vendella decided to take advantage of her current kitchen obsession and head toward bed.

"Ah. I'll leave you to it. Good night."

She was at the bathroom door when Alicia emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "You didn't go by his house again, did you?" The dratted question. V closed her eyes, her hand on the bathroom doorknob. Not tonight.

Angling her face back toward Alicia she said, "What if I did?"

"He's married! You have to get over him." It was the same old argument. As soon as V had learned of her recent boyfriend's wife and family, she had broken up with him. That didn't mean she was over him. "Did he let you in? Did you talk to him?"

Always with the interrogation! "Alicia! I dumped him! That was weeks ago, and you know it. If I want to see how he's doing, what is it to you?"

"But -"

Vendella opened the bathroom door and closed it on the rest of Alicia's "but". She had no right to talk. She had the perfect relationship. The least she could have done is acknowledge that by going out on dates with available men, V was trying. If the guy was a dud and she wanted to go remember what she'd lost, it was her own business, wasn't it?

She hadn't even gotten her eye makeup off before the soft tap on the door came. "V? I just worry about this obsession." There was nothing to say to that. "It's not healthy." Of course not. V knew that, but what could she do? "I hope your date tonight was at least okay." A minute later, the sound of Alicia's bedroom door closing came through to the bathroom. 

Vendella sat on the closed lid of the toilet and felt miserable for herself. It wasn't the first time, and she knew it wouldn't be the last. Alicia could never find out that some of the random dates she'd been on lately were still with Mr. Married.


Every Friday - or a day or 2 later, as you see - I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

16 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - Facial Hair

What was it with men's facial hair these days? Clara was distracted by the wiry scraggle growing out of her date's chin. Grow a beard or don't. This wasn't a beard, or even a goatee, but it was too big to be a soul patch. (stupid name for facial hair anyway, in Clara's opinion.) She couldn't decide whether she wanted to touch it or shave it off.

Uh-oh. He'd stopped talking. Had he asked a question? She caught his eyes and smiled inanely, waiting for him to speak again.



"Well? I told you my story, what's new with you?" Toby had grown up down the street from Clara, but his family moved away during high school. When her mom learned he'd be back in town, she had immediately called Clara and told her he'd be calling.

"Mom! You gave him my number?"

"Of course not. I gave his mother your number. She gave it to him. Just, be open. That's all I ask. He's an old friend. The least you can do is buy him lunch." Her mom was always trying to set her up with any single man she met. Lunch wasn't just lunch. Clara was wary.

So here she was. On a lunch-date with someone she hadn't seen in a decade. He cleaned up well, that was nice to see. Except for that weird facial hair thing. And lunch was going well. Clara had found him easy to listen to when she paid attention. But what had he just said about his business?

Answering his question, she said, "Oh, I'm good, I'm good. Retail, you know?" She ran a local gift shop in town."Went to college, got a business degree, and when Jan was getting ready to close The Whole Package, I swooped in and took it over."

"No way! Please tell me you kept the name," he said, and somewhere a light twinkled through a few reddish hairs among the brown on his chin.

"Um..." Eyes up. "No. I didn't want my lovely boutique to be mistaken for a gay bar!" They laughed, but Clara suddenly felt guilty about saying that. Was he gay? Had she just insulted him? She quickly explained, "I mean, just because that would be a lot of phone calls to field and redirect. Besides, a 'package' is something that lands on your doorstep. But 'The Perfect Gift' is what everyone wants to buy for their loved ones." Moment saved?

The conversation rolled on, and at the end of lunch, when Clara reached for the check, Toby beat her to it. "No way! On me." He winked. "I'm returning to show everyone how well I'm doing with my fancy city life. It wouldn't do for me to let you pay for me." Then Clara remembered. He had become a slouch in high school, always out for fun. They had played together as little kids, but rarely connected during the first two years of high school, before their move.

She let him pay. As they left, he asked, "Can I call you again later? I'm hanging with the guys tonight, but I'd love to take you out for dinner sometime. Like a real date."

Clara was caught off-guard. A real date? She supposed lunch catching up with a childhood playmate didn't count. Staring at his chin hair again, she nodded. "Sure." She couldn't think of anything cute or witty to add, so she smiled and drew her eyes up to his.

"Great. See you soon!" and he gave a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and got into his car as she walked down the street, musing about the state of men's facial hair these days. If he actually called her, maybe she'd be bold enough to ask what was happening on his chin.


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

08 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - Two Drinks

With no notice, rain started pounding on the roof of the bar, and the wind blew fat drops against the windows looking out to the street. Clara heard the noise and drained her glass with a sigh. She'd been hoping to escape as soon as she finished her drink, but she wasn't going out into that! The banter between the two other women at the table waned slightly so she smiled at Tracy and pointed to her glass. "Another?"

"What? You don't have to..." Tracy had suggested she and Clara meet for a drink that evening, but when Tracy's BFF Midge arrived Clara learned that it was Tracy's birthday and others would be arriving as the evening went on.

She turned to the bartender and held up her glass and two fingers. Clara wasn't made of money, but she could buy a birthday drink or two for a friend at happy hour prices. One more, for the rain. Then she'd make excuses and leave before it got too crazy. She was the third wheel and hated it. Oops - another friend joined their table - make that "fourth" wheel. Soon to be fifth, no doubt.

Clara didn't like social gatherings and felt deceived to learn that that was what was happening. "I think you're doing the right thing," she chimed in as Midge discussed a personal problem. Clara was doing well to participate in the conversation at all. These two had a conversational short hand that left little room for input, but occasionally a look came her way and Clara knew that to remain a silent observer would be even more awkward. So every now and then she gave a sentence or two to the tabletop chatter.

By the time she'd finished her second drink, the rain had eased up enough that she could escape. "I'm going to head home. Early morning tomorrow, you know. Happy birthday again Tracy!" she gave the birthday girl and hug and smiled around at the growing group of friends Clara didn't know well or at all.

Walking home, Clara assessed the evening. She avoided social situations like poison, and always checked her emotional state afterward. In younger years she'd honed a conversational skill to protect her privacy: Talk about mundane elements of life and no one asked deeper questions. As she grew older and bolder to say no, she could select her social engagements with care. One-on-one or a very small group of like-minded individuals was no problem. But large gatherings, groups of strangers, overlapping conversations, like the situation she just left? No. Uh-uh. Not comfortable.

Clara was getting better at feeling okay after being tricked into being social. Tonight, instead of being upset at the sneaky "let's have a drink together" with no indication that it was an event; instead of beating herself up over stupid things she might have said; instead of overstaying and feeling worse later; Clara felt proud of herself. 

She may have said stupid things, but no one would have noticed since she was just the extra. Anything she said was just to confirm that Tracy and Midge were lovely people for including this outsider in their event. They didn't know how much she hated it. She played her part in the conversation well enough that they shouldn't even guess she felt like a third wheel. 

Clara smiled to think of this new weapon in her "defensive conversation" arsenal: Participate just enough so that you don't seem like a third wheel. That was good. Overall, a successful social occasion. Of course, she'd never say "yes" to Tracy again, but that was Clara's business.


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

02 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - The Journey

The young man in his neatly pressed naval uniform looked around in confusion. He had arrived in an underground cavern, after wandering aimlessly for what had seemed like hours. 

The cavern had an unseen source of light, which was how he came to be there. In the dark tunnel of a cave he'd discovered, he felt his way along paths until a glow appeared down one direction of a crossroads. It was a no-brainer: You're in the dark, you head toward the light.

When the tunnel opened up into the vast space he was in, he first looked around for the source of the light, but couldn't even see a place where the glow seemed brightest. He was standing at an abrupt drop-off into a small lake that entered the cavern through a tunnel at one end and exited at another. The water reflected green into the air, but it wasn't the source of the light.

It was as if the light came through the walls of the cave itself. Not the ceiling; that was dark. It was also annoyingly low - not low enough to touch, but the size of the space was absurdly pancake-shaped without a cathedral dome rising above it.

He paced along the edge of the lake, then sat cross-legged and bent forward to touch the water - hoping it was simply water. 

As his finger touched the water, a shallow boat appeared from the tunnel at the head of the lake, with an oarsman steering it directly toward him. The sailor rose and stood at parade rest in anticipation.

"Welcome, traveler!" said the oarsmen when he pulled alongside the sharp edge of the lake. "Join me!"

The sailor blinked a few times in confusion. The skeptic inside wanted to decline the invitation, to stay put at the side of the lake. He wasn't usually wary, but didn't know where he was, or who this strange person was, and had no reason to get into the boat.

Except for curiosity. Curiosity won and he stepped down into the boat.

The oarsman rowed away from the shore and into the tunnel at the other end, where the walls were all aglow as in the cavern. Soon, the generic green glow of the walls turned into pictures, moving scenes occurring down the length of this tunnel: A young child being chased by a large goose on an old farm. A ring of siblings unwrapping gifts in front of a brightly colorful Christmas tree. A mother waving good-bye to her kids as they walked to school.

"Wait, that's me!" said the sailor, riding in the back of the boat and watching the scenes like movies on the walls. The oarsman nodded and rowed on.

Further down the tunnel the sailor cheered, "That was me playing football in high school!" The oarsman remained silent, rowing, rowing,  on and on.

"There I am checking in at the naval base... getting my uniform..." The movies continued well-past the young man's naval career.

"Wait, what's this? I don't remember..." his voice faded as pictures of a large family surrounding him flashed on the screen quickly, each picture showing him greyer or slower, or more stooped. "Why are they going so fast?"

"You said you don't remember."

He watched the movie playing out, trying to think. "I want to remember."

"Your time is gone. If you don't remember, that's okay. It all happened, and you were a part of it."

"But if I don't remember..."

"Remembrance doesn't change reality," said the oarsman as they neared the end of the tunnel, where a new lake spread out. He pulled the small boat up on the opposite side from where the sailor had joined him in the smaller first lake. "Your time there is gone. You've crossed the river. Welcome."

Without being instructed, the young man got out of the boat and watched the oarsman row away. A cloaked individual approached him. "Follow me to sign in."

He didn't know what journey lay ahead of him, but had no choice but to follow.


Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.