800 WORD STORY ~ RUNAWAY DREAMS

Next  month, we’ll vary the sequence but for now  the collaborative stories created by author Eden Baylee and myself continue. If you’re new to the concept, you’ll find its background and an introduction here.

Without any specific pre-planning (as usual) this month’s story took unexpected turns and is different from those that preceded it. We hope you find it interesting.

Prompt: “If you don’t take chances,” said the man in striped pyjamas, “you might as well not be alive.”
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Eden
Parts 2 and 4: Bill

***

Runaway Dreams

The last time I saw Robbie was 1998. It seems like much longer than twenty-two years ago, but that’s how time warps while on the run. He was the love of my life, at least for the short life I’d led up to that point. If I’d stayed in that small town, I might have met others who rivalled him for my heart. There’s no way of knowing for sure and no point in asking “what if” questions anymore. In effect, he’s gone.

Finding someone now would be difficult, almost impossible given I’m never in one place for too long. A couple of years ago, a group of circus performers stayed in the same boarding house with me for a week. It was the last time I slept with a man. He was the least attractive of the bunch, but his quirky personality drew me to him.

“If you don’t take chances,” said the man in striped pyjamas, “you might as well not be alive.”

Not exactly a great come-on line, but it did the trick for me.

In between philosophical discussions, we had sex every night until it was time for me to go.

+++

Perhaps in keeping with his clunky philosophy and his bizarre attire, the sex was pedestrian. Even, in a way, sexless. But the alternative was booze, and, needing to stay alert for any signal that it was, yet again, time to move on, I couldn’t risk that particular release. Getting caught was one of the chances I wasn’t prepared to take.

I didn’t tell him I was leaving and, to be honest, it’s never occurred to me to wonder how he reacted to it. Robbie still smiles through some of my dreams, but until now I’ve  never given poor Stripey, as I called him, a second thought.

And yet it was the so-called crime which brought us together. His act, which involved fire-eating, had gone wrong one night and, after a visit to emergency at the hospital, he’d got back late. I was the only one there and he told me everything, even showed me the burns to his chest. The costume he’d been wearing made them look like a tiger’s stripes. I sympathized. We began swapping stories, and he said what I’d done was excusable because it was what he’d call ‘justifiable revenge’. We had a tentative hug and that’s how the sex started.

+++

My mind isn’t right these days. Why else would I be thinking of Robbie and Stripey? This job isn’t working out, too much starchy fast food and sugar. I need to find a healthier place if I’m going to be paid only in food and tips.

A ruddy-faced, large woman waves to me from the corner of the room. “Miss, can I order? I’ve been waiting for ten minutes already.”

I wipe my hands down the front of my apron and make my way to her table. “Sorry. I didn’t see you come in.”

“Hard to miss me, isn’t it?” She smiles and shows off rotten teeth.

“I … I—”

“Oh don’t worry.” She hands me the menu. “Just give me the breakfast special, double helping of homefries and a chocolate milkshake.”

“Yes, Ma’am, and sorry again.”

“Be good if I could get the shake now.”

“Of course.” I dash off to ring in the order, but a man at the bar catches my eye. I don’t recall him sitting on the stool earlier. His face is partially obscured by a scarf, and he has his head down. I figure I might as well get his order before I forget.

+++

Big mistake. I sidle up to him, reach to tap him on the shoulder but change my mind and just give a little cough. He raises his head. The scarf falls away and the near empty diner is split with a scream. The big woman is standing, staring at us.

“Robbie?” she yells, half-accusation, half-question.

The man jumps to his feet, his scarf slips from his shoulders. I pick it up and try to hand it to him. But he’s already at the woman’s table and the two of them are held together in a tight embrace. Shocked though I am, I’m still moved by the tenderness in the way they look at and hold one another, but the sound of a car door closing outside gets my attention. I sigh and shake my head. It’s Mr Wilson again, still wearing that sports jacket that looks like a pyjama top, and his friend, Sergeant something-or-other. It’s not fair. I suppose I’ll have to go back with them again.

Unless…

I look at the embracing couple again and call out “Robbie”.

The man looks across at me.

“How about sex?”

“No, thanks.”

He looks genuinely sorry.

“I will,” says the woman.

***

As usual, we’d love to hear your feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

800-WORD STORY ~ FRIENDS

Friends is the latest in the 800-word story series. You’ll find the first one here and the second one here.

I can’t speak for Eden, but I’m fairly confident that, like me, she finds that our collaboration continues to help us learn more about both our own writing and writing generally. This month it was my turn to write the opening and, having to include the seemingly unpromising prompt of ‘She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car’, I really had no idea where to start, so, not even trying to guess where it would take us, I decided that the sentence suggested something about luck and took it from there. In fact, as you’ll see, the subject became something else altogether.

Prompt: ‘She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car’
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden

* * *

 Friends

 

Petey and Joe had been friends since Primary School and, even back then, it was Petey who had the girls and Joe who wondered why he didn’t. Neither was funny-looking, but Petey had the chat. He even used it to try to shift some of the girls’ attention to Joe. It sort of worked a bit but, in the end, it was always Petey they wanted to be with.

Up until they were both fifteen, it was OK, but when kissing and the other hormone stuff kicked in, Joe’s frustrations and envy began to show more openly and they spent less time in each other’s company. In one way that was good, because with Petey out of the picture, Joe got more female attention, but each missed the other and the rare times they were out together, they talked mainly about the pre-girl bits of the good old days.

One Saturday evening, though, the girl thing did come up.

“It’s just luck,” said Petey.

“Yeah, but it’s all one way,” said Joe. “Luck’s supposed to even out.”

Petey couldn’t argue with that and anyway, he was meeting Sally at ten, and so it was nearly time for him to go.

+++

Joe had no interest in meeting Sally, but Petey insisted. The boys left the pub and walked toward where Petey had parked his car.

“Come on, you’ll like her. Besides, I’ll give you a ride home after I pick her up. You’re on the way.”

“Oh, where are you going?” Joe tilted his head in his friend’s direction.

“Umm … well …”

An uncomfortable silence filled the air. “Is it a secret?” Joe said.

Petey blew out a loud breath as if exhausted. “Of course not, don’t be daft. Sally wants me to see something at Colemans, that’s all.”

Joe screwed up his face. “You mean Colemans, the jewellery store? That Colemans?”

Petey nodded. “That’s the one.”

“It’s late, the store’s closed, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is, but she wants to show me something in the display window, been bugging me about it for weeks.” He raked his fingers across his hair. “I’ve put her off, but I can’t any longer. I’ve been meaning to tell you, but …”

Joe stopped mid stride. “Tell me what?”

Petey turned to him just as they arrived at his 1980 beat-up Ford Mustang. With a sheepish look, he said, “Sally and I are getting married.”

+++

The silence as they drove was awkward, menacing. At Sally’s house, Joe, looking straight ahead, asked, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Marriage. Why?”

“Dunno,” said Petey. “Love, I s’pose”.

“Yeah, right,” said Joe.

Sally was waiting for them. Joe moved from the front seat to the back. She took his place and kissed Petey, who jerked his head towards the back seat, said, “This is Joe” and drove off again. There was tension between them, an edge, and the silence stretched. At last, Joe’s voice, its pitch higher, came from the back seat.

“Better than your last… fiancée.”

The final word was a sneer. The silence returned, then Joe again.

“Daisy, was it? Debbie?… No wonder they put her away… Bloody liar… Just a slag… Said she found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car… a Rolex on a basin in the bathroom… that credit card on the pavement… Yeah, right.”

Silence again.

“Bloody chancer … She was anybody’s you know. All over Bennie every Friday night… it was his watch she nicked…”

Sally looked at Petey, who shrugged his shoulders.

There was the echo of a laugh and the silence fell again. Sally turned her head. Joe was crying.

+++

Before the car came to a full stop, Joe opened the door.

“Hey!” Petey looked in the rearview mirror.

“Let me out!”

“What the—?” Petey hit the brake; the car lurched forward. Joe lost his balance and fell into his seat. The door slammed shut.

Petey immediately turned to Sally. “You okay? You hurt?”

“I’m fine … fine.” Sally smoothed down the front of her dress. “You weren’t going fast.”

“You sure?”

“Yes,” she said, breathless.

Joe ran out of the car. Petey put the car in park and ran after him. Moments later, he grabbed Joe by the arm, swung him around, and punched him in the face.

Joe fell, blood flowing from his nose.

Petey stood over his friend, hands on hips. He appeared ready to kick Joe when Sally ran up behind him. “No!” she yelled. “He’s bleeding.”

“I don’t care! You shouldn’t be here. Get back in the car.”

Sally ignored him, knelt in front of Joe and handed him a tissue.

Joe wiped his nose. “I love Petey.”

“I know,” she said, in a voice filled with compassion. She took his bloodied hand and pulled it to her belly. “Maybe you can love Little Petey too.”

* * *

As usual, comments, critical or otherwise, are welcome.

 

800-WORD STORY ~ MARGARET’S LAST TERM

Here’s the second in a series of 800 word collaborative stories from Eden Baylee and myself. If it’s your first visit, you’ll find an explanation of the whole idea here as well as further examples of the form on both our blogs.

There was no prior discussion of plot, characters, situation or anything. The story’s starting point was a prompt; it had to include the two sentences ‘Margaret had this habit of spitting. It began to get on my nerves.’ It was chosen randomly by Eden’s husband John. For us, as with all the others we’ve written together, it was fun and satisfying. We hope you like it.

* * *

Prompt: Margaret had this habit of spitting. It began to get on my nerves.
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Eden
Parts 2 and 4: Bill

* * *

Margaret’s Last Term

Margaret had this habit of spitting whenever she ate cheese. It began to get on my nerves. Even the tiniest morsel subjected me to her disgusting routine.

Before I knew she was lactose intolerant, it alarmed me whenever she started coughing. Her coughs were violent, as if she were choking. Not only did they shake her three-hundred pound body, they shook the table as well. I used to rush to her side and give her sharp blows to the back, or prise open her mouth to ensure she hadn’t swallowed her false teeth, or force her to drink water. Now, I did none of that. I just ignored her.

Eventually the coughing stopped, but it didn’t end there. The finale occurred when she was able to catch her breath again. That’s when she sucked air through her mouth louder than my vacuum cleaner to spit a thick, yellow glob of phlegm onto her plate.

And though she was sitting less than eight feet away from me, she’d yell when she spoke.

“Banana!” she called me.

“You know my name’s not Banana. It’s Amy,” I said.

“Whatever, help me up!”

Not only was Margaret revolting, she was racist as well.

+++

Yep. Hard to believe, I know. The sort of thing a hack would invent for one of those old-fashioned ‘penny dreadful’ stories – a character whose outward habits matched exactly her inner lack of morals.

Of course, I knew none of this when she answered my ad for a flatmate. We made all the arrangements by text, and we were both so desperate – me to get help with the rent, her because she’d been looking for a room for ages – that we didn’t get into full details, didn’t even meet before the contract was signed.

So when she first arrived and I opened the door it was a major shock for both of us. On the step there was this huge lump of a woman, looking years older than I expected, but the expression on her face made it pretty clear that I must have been as much of a shock to her.

She recovered pretty quickly, withdrawing her outstretched hand and closing her gaping mouth into a hasty, totally false smile. Being Chinese, I was used to it, of course. White and black ethnic clashes get all the headlines, but yellow’s well and truly in the mix, too. Hence, banana.

+++

“She’s a racist, Amy. You didn’t come to this country for that.”

“I know.” I sighed and sipped tea from my styrofoam cup. “I thought people were supposed to be more civilized in this part of the world.”

Jeanie and I sat on a bench outside the Pharmaceutical Sciences Building. We had a twenty-minute break before our favourite class. The Pharmacy program was dominated by Asian students, many of them international. Like me, Jeanie came from southern China. We immediately connected after I overheard her speaking on her cell in a regional dialect from Guangzhou.

It was poor timing, unfortunately.

Had I met Jeanie just a month earlier, we could’ve easily become flatmates.

Instead, she moved into a house with three other girls much farther from campus than she’d like, and I was stuck with Margaret.

Jeanie put her hand on my arm and turned to face me. “You say she’s allergic to milk products?”

“It would seem so. She gets deathly sick.”

“And she’s overweight?”

I raised a brow. “Grossly, what are you getting at?”

A slow smile stretched across Jeanie’s face. “Just thinking, that’s all.” She stood up. “We better go or we’ll be late for class.”

+++

As usual, the class was absorbing. Dr Ross is a great teacher – never rushes things, always happy to answer even the dumbest questions. Everybody likes her. But, for a change, my mind wandered occasionally – not through any failings on her part but because of Jeanie’s weird mood. After the lecture, she stayed behind but I got my things together and waited for her at the top of the steps that led down into the park. It was lovely walking home through the trees, and Jeanie’s bus stop was at the end of my street so she usually came with me.

She appeared at last, hurrying and a bit flustered.

“Sorted,” she said, with a smile.

“What?” I said.

“Next term’s living arrangements.”

She hitched her bag higher on her back and started down the steps. I had to hurry to catch up with her.

“What living arrangements?” I asked.

“Ours. Me sharing your flat,” she said.

“But…”

I got no further. She put her finger to my lips and said, “I’ve just signed us both up for Ross’s course next term.”

My expression must have shown my puzzlement because she smiled and said, “It’s ‘Atmospheric Particulate Matter and Pulmonary Toxicity’.”

* * *

We hope you enjoyed it. All comments are welcome. Come back for more in the coming months.