Golden Years

What am I going to do with all that zucchini? Hank asked himself as he pulled on his garden gloves. It would be hot later, but this morning the air was cool and dew rested on the plants.

At least the weeds weren’t too bad. He pulled them as he ruminated on his predicament. Last summer, before he retired, he had found himself in the same boat. Back then he just brought the extras to work.

Done weeding, he moved on to harvesting and thought, maybe I need a different hobby. Gardening isn’t much fun without someone to share the bounty with. 

Then he remembered he did have another hobby, the book club. Just two meetings so far, but he met Delores there and she was nice.

Maybe she’d like some zucchini! He would find her number on the book club roster and give her a call. Peeling off his gloves and tossing the dirty ball on top of his harvest, he picked up the basket and headed for the house.

The phone was ringing and he hurried to catch it. “Howdy,” he said, catching his breath.

“Hank? It’s Deloris. From the book club? My garden has been blessed with zucchini this year and I’ve done up a nice basket just for you. When would be a good time for me to bring it over?”

Hank was stunned. There went his plan for all those zucchinis. Then again, chatting with Deloris wasn’t so bad. He kinda liked it, actually. Plus, she thought of him. “Why that’s mighty thoughtful of you. I’m here right now. Hows about you head on over and I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

“That sounds lovely,” said Deloris.

Hank found himself whistling as he hid his harvest in the garage and put on the coffee.

Author’s Note:

Attentive readers might recognize the bold words from last week’s story, Washed Up. These were both inspired by the same prompt. When I began this one, I was thinking of the recipe for zucchini boats but clearly that was not the story that wanted to be written.

This is the story I entered in the flash fiction contest and, although it didn’t win, I received several positive reviews on it.

Washed Up

Cool tendrils of water found their way inside Eddie’s borrowed wetsuit as he eased farther from the shore. He was surrounded by fit, athletic, people who had exercised everyday for the privilege of competing in this triathlon. Not Eddie. Eddie was here because he exercised his mouth.

He didn’t lie, exactly, but when he told his son Rob he had been on a swim team he somehow forgot to mention he was a child at the time. Eddie had not set foot in a pool for twenty years. He couldn’t remember ever swimming in a river like this one.

He had no idea little Rob had been talking him up until this past Friday. When Eddie picked him up at school, like usual, Rob waved him over to talk to his classmate and the kid’s dad. As Eddie approached, he heard Rob telling his audience, “Of course my dad can do it! I told you he was on a swim team.”

Eddie knew he was in trouble. When the kid’s dad explained that they needed a swimmer for their relay team, Eddie was put on the spot. He would sooner drown than embarrass Rob in front of his friend; there was no option but to swim.

The gun went off and the swimmers churned the water. Eddie gasped for breath, searching between windmilling arms for the nearest safety boat. Too far away! He turned toward the bank and saw it drifting slowly by. Eddie realized that he was still alive and floating downstream. He saw little Rob cheering from the bank. Eddie decided the least he could do was try. He kicked and paddled as best he could, reaching the swim exit exhausted. He tagged his teammate, then collapsed.

“How was it, dad?”

Eddie smiled wide,“I had a ball!”

Author’s Note:

This was written for a Flash Fiction contest. We had twenty four hours to write up to three hundred words in a story using the words: Ball, Boat, Cool. I actually wrote two stories for the same prompt and I submitted the other one. Stay tuned, I’ll share that one next week. They’re so different you won’t even recognize that they had the same prompt!

Cash & Carry

Shannon reached across the sprawl of groceries on the conveyor belt and picked up the checkout divider. She hated shopping. She began absentmindedly unloading the items from her cart as she silently judged the purchases of the person ahead of her in line. The conveyor stopped, momentarily catching her attention. Great. Price check. Why did she pick this line? She shoved the rest of her groceries into the space available, balancing the paper towels on top of it all.

The cashier (HELLO! My Name Is:  DEBBIE) handed back the receipt and coupons to the customer ahead just as the bagger dropped a sack of oranges, splitting the mesh. Oranges rolled everywhere. Shannon watched as cashier, customer, and bagger scrambled to collect them, everyone apologizing to everyone. The comedy show was mercifully short. Debbie turned back to her register, quickly replacing her fake smile before greeting Shannon. Meanwhile, the prior customer headed toward the produce section with the bagger to select some new oranges.

Shannon stepped forward, placing her purse on the little shelf next to the keypad. It was a fashionably over-sized purse and it barely covered up the receipt and coupons left behind. And the cash. She couldn’t count it right now, not without drawing attention to herself, but she could see there were at least three bills. That’s sixty dollars, a nice reward for putting up with the checkout drama. Her day was looking brighter. It wasn’t technically hers, of course. She should probably just hand it back to the cashier. Who knew what Debbie would do with it, though. She might just keep it herself to cover up her mistake. Nope. This was a case of finders keepers.

Debbie had an endless supply of inane observations to make about the weather, traffic, Shannon’s choice of yogurt, and everything else. Shannon wasn’t interested in conversation. She was thinking about how to get the cash from under her purse to inside it without being obvious. All she needed was a moment when Debbie was turned away, then she could slide it out and tuck it inside. So far that hadn’t happened. Debbie just kept babbling as she scanned and bagged. The original bagger had apparently gotten lost in the produce section, never to return.

Only a few items remained on the conveyor belt and Shannon felt a little anxious. Her eyes nervously darted from the conveyor belt to the candy rack, then over to the service desk, and the front door. The open front door. It was open because the previous customer had just passed through it and she was striding briskly back to this register. Shannon was out of time. She would need to make her move or lose out.

Fortunately for Shannon, Debbie turned to follow her gaze toward the agitated woman approaching. Finally, she was facing the other direction! With one hand resting innocently on top of her purse, the other slid beneath and extracted the bills and paperwork. She would sort through it later. For now, she swiftly slid it up the side of her purse toward the opening, the money shielded on one side by her large purse and on the other side by her body.

She wasn’t quite swift enough, though. The previous customer had arrived and everyone was facing Shannon again. The customer complained that she didn’t get her cash back, Debbie assured her that she had given it to her, and neither had a receipt to prove that it even existed. What a cluster. Shannon realized that this was going to work out for her after all.

Suddenly a clear, young voice silenced the argument. It came from Shannon’s right, just behind the handle of her shopping cart. Sweet, innocent, and helpful, Shannon’s daughter pointed straight at the prize as she gleefully announced, “Mommy found your money!”

Author’s Note:

This was written for a contest with the following prompt:

“The battle between good and evil is endlessly fascinating because we are participants every day.” – Stephen King

I decided on my approach shortly after reading the prompt, but did not start writing it until late in the day. Then I was invited out to dinner and I chose that over submitting the story. The next morning I finished the story anyway because it was fun. Then I double checked the contest rules, did the time zone conversion, and realized I still had an hour left to submit it!

A few hours later I collected my first writing contest win!

Beach

Sandra idly fingered the whistle on a string around her neck. She drew in a big breath, then let out a long slow sigh as she scanned the swim area one last time. Deserted. She grabbed her beach bag and climbed down from the elevated lifeguard’s chair for the last time. After today, she would be “Sandy Lifeguard” no more. She ducked into an empty swim shack and peeled off the tacky suit. Won’t be needing this anymore, she thought, as she left it crumpled on the wooden floor.

As a kid, she loved the water, earning ribbons at swim team competitions. That’s where she met her best friend Esther. The two of them were the strongest swimmers on the team. All these years later they were still best friends. Now that she had her diploma, Esther was going to get her a job at her family’s car lot. She could get a real paycheck and quit wasting her summers babysitting on the beach.

Feeling very adult, she checked the mailbox as she passed by. Inside, she found a plain white envelope with just one word on it: Sandra. How fun! It was like an out of season valentine. She knew it was from her boyfriend as soon as she saw the handwriting. Suddenly feeling more like a giddy schoolgirl and less like an adult, she skipped into the house, flopped on her bed, and ripped it open.

“Please understand. Esther and I are in love. We both care about you and never wanted to hurt you. We are on our way to Las Vegas to get married. I’ll always remember you.” Tears fell as she left the letter on the bed and made her way back to the beach. She was going to need that swimsuit again after all.

Author’s Note:

This was written for a flash fiction contest, using a prompt. I branched out a little from my usual style, adding romance and an unhappy ending. It ended up at exactly three hundred words and I think it tells a pretty complete story for such a small piece.

Party

“Ow! Watch it!” Whispered Kurt as he struggled to keep his right shoe on.

“Sorry. I can’t see anything.” Jake apologized, after stepping on Kurt’s heel. Thirty seconds earlier he had nearly gone face first after stubbing his fat skater shoes on a root. They had been wandering in the woods for an hour, having lost the trail immediately after sunset.

“You said you knew where it was,” accused Jake.

“I did! I do. I just didn’t expect it to be so dark. My brother said it was just off the fire road. We need to get back to that.”

“Shhh… listen! Is that music?”

“I hear it! We’re close now. Follow me and keep quiet!” Thank God, Kurt thought. He was getting worried they’d never find the party. The moment he overheard his older brother talking about it with his friends, he started scheming. He and Jake were the only two kids in the whole sixth grade that had never been to real party. His plan was to sneak in through the woods and quietly blend in with the crowd. He saw lights up ahead and knew this was about to be the best night of his young life.

Twenty paces later, Kurt came to an abrupt stop as the woods ended at the edge of a stream. On the other side, in a small clearing, he saw a campfire with two dozen high-schoolers milling around, holding beers. His brother was standing really close to a pretty girl. It looked like they were about to kiss. Gross.

Jake stared at the trail, trying not to trip. He ran into Kurt, and they both tumbled into the stream with a big splash.

Fifteen minutes later, driving the wet boys home, Kurt’s brother thought “This is the worst party ever!”

Author’s Note:

This is a flash piece I wrote for the prompt: This is the worst party ever!

I’ve yet to win, but I’m having a lot of fun with these flash pieces so expect to see more in the future.