Short Stories

Holding Her Sign, a Vingette

Out on the median today, two blocks from my house, there was someone pan handling, which is an uncommon sight around here. Just over a year in this neighborhood and I know: the big road north of my apartment is the dividing line where the “bad neighborhood” starts. It was on this road that a dentist’s office receptionist told me, through a locked glass door, that the tanning salon next door had been robbed three times in a year. The office was closed and she would not let me in, even after it became obvious that I was not the tanning salon serial robber that haunted her nightmares.

Further north there is a homeless couple I see all the time, the woman uncannily fat and in a wheelchair that has an umbrella duct taped to it, tied with rope to a child’s little red wagon, all of which is steered by a gaunt, short man. The look as though they’ve been homeless for years.

This woman was new to this life. Wearing a pink hooded sweatshirt and jeans, with her brown hair worn down, she has yet to be marked with all the telltale signs of homelessness. When I pass her on the road I realize that I can’t tell if she’s a woman or a teenaged girl. Seeing a teenager begging for change less than a mile away from a High School would be too much for me somehow. No teenager I know would do anything if her parents asked her to, so if she is a girl, I’m assuming that she’s also alone, and I begin to worry more. I’m hoping for some clue written on the piece of cardboard that she’s holding, but I pass her too quickly; unable to read her sign I keep driving.

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The Grocery Store

Inspired in part by Daily Post and their “Moment of Clarity” prompt from 12/27/13. It’s a bit first-draft-y but I wanted to get something published today.

During the day the grocery is an assortment of too thin older women with smeared eyeliner, young women with the broken look that settles into the features of every new mother, and lost elderly men. I float between them like a ghost, past the perfectly coiffed old lady with dazzling red lipstick who always elicits a smile, around toddlers squirming out of a car-shaped cart, and between teenaged boys stocking shelves directly in front of something I need to buy. I almost walk into all of them, every time; I’m so busy watching them that I can’t see them.

Once in a while there is someone who seems awake roaming the aisles. Today a teenager slinks past, just a boy, with a pushed up nose and soft cheeks that make him look like a piglet. His hair falls around his shoulders in greasy, brown ringlets, sitting on the shoulders of an oversize camouflage jacket. He’s wearing jeans and combat boots, and he isn’t carrying a basket.

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Meeting Ethel

As I attempt to meet my 2014 resolution of writing (more/at all) I’ve turned to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge for help. Last week’s was Collecting Detail and I’ve decided to drag an old piece out of the draft file to help jump start my goal. Cheers!

I am following signs through a winding series of corridors that point to the “Women’s Cafeteria.” Outside, in a valley between hospital buildings, everything exposed is still wet from the torrential rain that has just subsided. After finding the room my orders were to “get your grandmother coffee” and a passing nurse, when asked, instructs me to “turn right and follow the signs.” I’m told that the coffee is free, but it couldn’t possibly matter, I wouldn’t dare to return without it, regardless of the price. The idea of a “Women’s Cafeteria” has me thinking about some strange world wherein men and women are formally separated, as through the days of the parlor and drawing room had never passed, but instead evolved into female-only eating rooms in hospitals.

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