Category: Short Stories

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #8

Welcome to the eighth edition of the mid-month short story challenge. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in last month’s prompt. In previous months, you’ve written about change, people watching, a frantic lady at the airport, and many other topics. This month, the theme of the prompt will be focusing on death and reflection. Feel free to be part of this month’s challenge, or any of the other mid-month short story challenges by responding to a prompt with your own tale.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on April 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000-2000 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Command, humbled, mental, family, chartreuse, merchant, bulbous
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content Limitations: Your choice
  • Topic: You are a dying or recently deceased person. You are confronted — either literally or metaphorically — with the ghosts of your past.

Time Crunch

This post is a response to February 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.

Shit, shit, shit. I’m going to miss my plane. Why do they have to put the gates so far apart? I only have a half hour to make it all the way across the airport to the C terminal from the far end of the A terminal. I couldn’t have done that in my youth, let alone now.

Where’s the cart man? There’s always one around except when you need him. If I could only see past the aquarium that’s ahead of me. Who puts a giant fish tank in the middle of an airport? Is it supposed to be art? That’s not where fish live. I don’t care if it’s unorthodox or it’s kitschy. It’s an eyesore.

The lady at baggage check in Denver got all upset that my checked bag was over weight by one pound. One pound! She tried to make me pay for it. I wasn’t having that, not when I can wear all my hats on my head and put my handbag in my carry on. Oh the hubris of my morning self, always thinking I can do more when I have energy.  Two in the afternoon me hates that person and wants to give morning me a piece of my mind. At least there’s only three hats this time. Last trip it was four.

I ran by a baby in a stroller, my rolling bag careening perilously close to taking out the sleeping child. That’s the life. You get to lay and sleep in public whenever you want, all while having someone take care of you and watch for your safety. I don’t miss doing taking care of my children that way, even if I do miss their childhood. Pretty soon, I’ll have them take care of me. Not because I need it — you don’t run through airports at my age because you’re frail — but because I want to see the look on my daughter-in-law’s face when she has to regularly interact with anyone she sees as old. Selfish harlot. She only married my son for his money. Joke’s on her. He’s a compulsive gambler.

Up ahead, I see a cart. The man driving the cart is waiting as a woman in this lovely flower print shirt is slowly climbing onto the back of the cart. Her cane is dangling on the edge of the handrail of the cart, mere inches from falling to the ground. Fall! Fall you wooden trinket! It’ll keep the cart man from leaving until I get up there.

The cane didn’t fall. I start waving my left arm frantically as I drag by bag with the right.

“Cart!” I yell. “Don’t go! I need a ride!”

My top hat comes flying off my head as I pass an open seating restaurant. The brim lands directly in the middle of a pregnant woman’s fruit plate, knocking her assorted berries to the floor. At this point, I have a choice to make. Do I go back for the hat and miss my cart or do I keep running forward and leave the mom-to-be with my good sun hat? While time suggests I should ignore the hat and keep going, the data behind how infrequently my family calls me would dictate that my kids can pay to rebook my flight if I miss it and they really want to see me.

I slow down and turn around, running back to grab the hat. The woman has the hat extended out to me in advance, fully seeing that I’m in a hurry to go somewhere. If she knew I was going to South Carolina, perhaps she’d be inclined to help me avoid the trip.

When I turned around, the cart had begun moving. I shouted after it, but the cart driver didn’t hear me. The lady on the back of the cart did. She turned and looked at the cart driver, then turned back to me, raised her wrinkly arm to the sky, and flipped me the bird.

I need a drink. Family can wait.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #7

Welcome to the short story challenge that you’ll have the least amount of writing time on all year. With February being the shortest month of the year, you get only 14 days to complete this prompt rather than the standard 15 or 16 days, depending on the month. Not that it’s a concern — in this month’s prompt, you’ll take the point of view of a very hurried woman and tell her story. Now rush along and write your story.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on March 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share. Thank you so much to Stephanie for her help in coming up with this prompt.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000 word limit
  • Seven words to work into your story: Dangling, aquarium, stroller, data, orthodox, handbag, berries
  • Genre: Slice of life/melodrama
  • Rating/Content Limitations: Your choice
  • Topic: You are an elderly woman who is rushing through the terminal of an airport. You are wearing three hats on your head, trying to balance them on your head as you drag a small rolling bag behind you.

Your Order Is Ready

This post is a response to January 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.

I miss it, you know? The calm, faint jazz music in the air. The antiquated computer systems set up on the far wall providing forever unused free internet. The clamor of touque-clad locals thinking it’s cold outside even when frost can’t form. It was a surreal place to be.

“Darren!” shouted the girl with deep red hair from behind counter. “Ice caramel latte with sweet cream for Darren.”

I watched as gray-haired man in a tan suit strode up to the counter and took the drink from the girl. She gave him a wide smile, though his face was angled away from me, preventing me from seeing if he’d reciprocated. Most people didn’t. I doubt he did.

Fall is a fickle time in the upper Midwest. You never know from one day to the next if you’re going to wake up to late-summer heat, bone-chilling Arctic plunges, rain that soaks through ever article of clothing, or unpredictable winds that blow umbrellas away from unsuspecting tourists. Today was one of the few lucky days before the birds flew south for the winter that nearly everyone seemed happy about the weather.

The variety of clothing in line at the register amused me greatly. At the end of the line, a short, bulky man in his later years wore khaki pants and a white button up shirt. He carried a book and a newspaper under his left arm, clearly set on using the coffee shop as a place to read. Why even bother dressing up? Behind him, a woman and her daughter wore matching outfits — a t-shirt about a 5k run that had taken place earlier in the day and a pair of black sweatpants with white lines running vertically up the side. Next in line, a woman with impatient eyes pulled a lint roller out of her purse, carefully removing every stray pet hair from dark blue top. She scoffed every time she rolled over a hair, only to have to go back to the same spot and try again. Finally, a young man in a dirty sweatshirt and stained blue jeans nervously fumbled with his hard hat, trying to find a way to balance it in his right hand while playing a game on his cell phone with his left.

I love visiting coffee shops. Aside from fulfilling me primal desire for caffeine, they allow me to watch as little moments within the stories of so many lives that take place independently of one another become ever so briefly intertwined.

“Arnold!” the girl with the deep red hair yelled out. “Black coffee with room for Arnold.”

The elderly man in dress clothes moved slowly toward the counter, grabbing his coffee once he arrived. The girl behind the counter gave that same wide smile I’d watched her give so many times before. The elderly man thanked her and made his way back to his paper and novel.

I missed that coffee shop in Arizona with the jazz, the computers, and the people who didn’t understand the cold. The drinks weren’t markedly better than they were here. Sure, I liked the weather here than there, but I could get authentic baklava with my iced coffee there. There’s nothing quite like eating a Greek pastry with Colombian coffee while sitting on the patio and listening to American jazz music as the smells of the Mexican restaurant next door waft past your nostrils.

There was a sense of community there, even if it was largely an unspoken one. On more than one occasion, I left my computer alone at my table while I ran off to the restroom. I knew no one would touch it while I was gone. That type of action wouldn’t have fit into the coffee shop’s community.

“I’ve got a french vanilla cappuccino for Karen and a strawberry Italian soda for Kat,” said the deep red-haired girl from behind the counter. She didn’t have to shout this time, as the mother and her daughter were waiting there for the drinks to finish. The child in particular was excitedly impatient for them to get done. The girl behind the counter added a friendly wave to the little girl to her smile, causing the child to chuckle.

The deep red haired girl behind the counter was particularly fascinating to me, as she was the lone like — aside from coffee, that is — that tied the two places together. The name on her name tag was Izzie, at least it is here. That said, when I first met her ten years ago in that coffee shop in Arizona, she introduced herself to me as Becky.

Izzie, or Becky as she was then, got in line behind me as I was waiting to order my coffee. Our meet cute, as Izzie insisted on calling it, involved Izzie not watching where she was going as I turned around from the counter. She ran into me hard, knocking the lid off of my coffee and spilling it down the front of her mint green and white polkadot dress. I apologized profusely for my own inability to keep the coffee in the cup, but she was too busy laughing at my failure to get a reasonable amount of napkins out of the holder to give to her to notice.

“Chai tea latte with skim milk and a shot of hazelnut for Miriel!” Izzie shouted to the woman still struggling with her lint roller. The woman tossed her lint roller into the trash, grabbed her coffee and stormed out the door.

I offered to take Izzie out to dinner to apologize for ruining her dress. She accepted, only to wear the exact same dress to dinner, just to prove it wasn’t ruined. She surprised me midway through dinner by kissing me on the cheek as she came back from the restroom, then surprised me further by taking me back to her immaculately cleaned apartment later that night. That kind of flattery got her everywhere. For as well as our first few dates went, the magic fizzled out quickly. Izzie and I broke up less than three months later.

Shortly after we split, I got a promotion at my job that relocated me to Fargo, North Dakota. I jumped on the offer and moved away, ultimately kickstarting my career. I only have to go into the office one day a week, meaning every other day, I can work from home — or as I prefer to do, work from the coffee shop. The last ten years have treated me quite well.

I wish I would say the same for Izzie. I ran into her in Fargo for the first time just over six years ago, with her behind the counter of a local coffee shop in Fargo, just as she is today. We recognized each other immediately, though she didn’t speak to me. As I was waiting for my order, Izzie told me to meet her outside as soon as I got my drink.

I got into her small sedan with pitch black tinted windows and listened to how Izzie’s life had gone south over the past three years. A later boyfriend of hers was a major drug dealer in the area, not to mention he had a nasty habit of killing anyone who crossed him. When Izzie agreed to flip on him in court in exchange for going into a witness protection program, she jumped at the chance. It meant not being Becky anymore — not going to a college where she had great friends and good grades, not living minutes from her family, not being who she once was, not dying her hair away from the deep red natural color she hated. But it meant she got to feel safe.

Every day during the week except Tuesdays, I sit in the coffee shop and do my work. I watch the people coming in and out. I’ve begun to recognize their faces, their habits, and their drink orders. I’ve learned to watch for that wide smile of Izzie’s to know everything was okay with the person she was helping. If something did go awry, I’d be there to help her.

“Decaf cafe latte for Aurelius!” Izzie shouted.

She handed the coffee to the man with the hard hat. He held his phone in his lips, placed his hard hat back on his head, then grabbed his phone and coffee and left. With no one in line, she shouted over to me.

“You need any more coffee?”

“No thanks,” I yelled back. “You guys going to start carrying baklava?”

Izzie laughed as she wiped off the counter with a wet rag.

“I’ll have to ask the manager.”

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #6

After a month off for the holidays, the mid-month short story challenge is back. If you’re new to the challenge, the rules are simple. Follow the prompt/guidelines below and write a story based off of that prompt. If you’re posting the story on a blog or a publicly shared document, try to have the post up by the deadline so that I can share it. If you’re finding this after the fact, share your post whenever (and let me know so I can link back to the post).

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on February 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: 1500 word limit
  • Seven words to work into your story: Sweatpants, immaculate, bird, independently, toque, flattery, polkadot
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content Limitations: Your choice
  • Topic: Write about people watching in a public place

Good luck and happy writing.