A Man, A Can, A Plan

Myra’s lips pursed and her forehead wrinkled as she watched Ryan kneel and pry the lid off the Behr can with his house key. She wondered what had possessed him to suddenly paint the ceiling. It’s not like those old water stains had appeared yesterday.

“Honey? Don’t you want to cover up the desk first? I think they make big plastic sheets for that.”

“Myra, can’t you just let a man work in peace? I painted houses back in college. I know what I’m doing. Only amateurs use drop cloths.”

“It’s just that – ,” His stern look caused her to stop short of saying that it had been many years since college. It had been just as many since her computer had been new, but it was all she had and she didn’t want paint all over it. Unwilling to watch, Myra turned on her heel and left him to his work.

Ryan thought she’d never leave. As he set about covering the old water spots, he was surprised to find himself perspiring. This was harder than he remembered.

Now it was time for the tricky part. He needed to get some paint on that damned old computer of Myra’s. She complained about it every single day, but she was too frugal to replace anything that still worked. He took a deep breath and held it as he reminded himself; this was all part of my plan. With a quick flick of the wrist, the job was done. Now Myra could get herself a fancy new computer and there would be no more complaining. He smiled to himself while he cleaned up, anticipating the blissful silence.

“I TOLD you to cover it up!” Myra appeared in the doorway, livid.

Ryan, horrified, realized he’d never hear the end of this.

Author’s Note:

This piece was an entry for a Flash Fiction contest. The prompt was “This was all part of my plan.”

I was in the middle of a painting project when I wrote it – could you tell? It’s funny how much real life works its way into these little fiction stories.

Dog Days

If only she were a little bit taller all her problems would be solved. Lisa made one last attempt to touch the ground, straightening her leg and pointing her toes as much as she could without falling off. It was no use. She was too little to get the swing going by herself.

She was suffering through another long, boring, summer day with nothing to do. She sat under the big oak tree on the rope swing that wasn’t swinging and sulked.

She couldn’t play with the neighbors because they were on vacation. Mom wouldn’t let her ride her bike because of the road work. Her big brother was away at summer camp. Her mom was busy. Even her dog Rascal wouldn’t play with her. All he wanted to do was lay in the shade. Nobody cared about Lisa. Her life couldn’t get any worse.

Suddenly she let out a yelp as she reflexively bent to slap at her calf. Gravity took over and the next thing Lisa knew, she was on the ground with an itchy mosquito bite. Her face grew hot as she struggled against tears. Summer is stupid!

Just then the screen door creaked and Lisa looked up to see her mom holding a plate of snickerdoodle cookies in one hand and in the other a pitcher of lemonade.

“Lisa!” She called. “Come in and wash up. I’ve made us a snack.”

Tears forgotten, they sat on the shady porch enjoying the treats and sharing stories about American Girl dolls.

“Let’s clean up these dishes and then I’ll push you on the swing.”

“You’re the best, mom!” Lisa was done feeling sorry for herself. How could she have thought nobody cared?

She guessed summer wasn’t so awful after all.

Author’s Note:

This little story was created for a flash fiction contest using the words tree, road, and bite. I immediately pictured a wooden swing under a big oak tree. The story developed from there. This is a new perspective for me, writing about a frustrated small child. I did default to a happily ever after ending, though. It’s hard not to when writing about kids.

Born for This

I. Am. A. WritingMACHINE!,” thought Clyde to himself as he sat in his cubicle tippity-tapping on his laptop.

The creativity was flowing through his fingers right onto the screen. He was in the ZONE! This was the best article he had ever written and he couldn’t wait for Sharon to see it. She had been reluctant, at first, to give him this assignment. She said she wasn’t sure he was ready for this project, based on his prior work. Fortunately, she came around because Little Miss Sharon was about to eat those words. This is what he was born to do and she was about to find out how lucky she was to have him on staff.

Almost done, just a quick spell check, refresh the word count, double space, and done! Others in the office popped their heads up and looked toward Clyde when he loudly exclaimed, “BAM!” as he clicked the print button.

Removing the papers from the printer with a flourish, he practically skipped down the aisle to Sharon’s office, beaming the whole way. He let himself in without knocking and misinterpreted the surprise on Sharon’s face, assuming it was due to his speedy writing.

“Knowing how important this is, I figured you wouldn’t want to wait. I just finished it. The paper’s probably still warm!” With that he plopped himself down in the guest chair. Still grinning, he offered her the pages.

Turning her attention to Clyde, Sharon took a breath to speak but then let out a big sigh instead. She picked up her red pen and began to read. Moments later, she set down the pen, collected her thoughts, then looked up.

“Clyde, I appreciate your efforts here, but it’s clear to me that your work is not right for this publication.”

Author’s Note:

This was such a fun story to write! I created it for a flash fiction contest and as soon as I saw the prompt (machine, red, writing) I knew what direction I was going to take with the story. That said, there are a few problems with it. Most glaring is that no one in the business would be using paper anymore. Nor would the editor need a pen. Clyde would simply hit the send button and Sharon would edit it electronically. That particular reality didn’t fit with the story, though, so let’s just pretend this happened a decade or so ago, shall we?

I’m particularly happy with how Clyde turned out. I feel like a whole lot of character was packed into this tiny story. Everyone knows someone like Clyde.

It’s a Sign

Like many Americans, hubs and I made the pilgrimage to the holy zone of solar eclipse totality, neatly bisecting our country on August 21st, 2017. Newscasters had assured us during the weeks leading up to this that traffic would be a snarled mess. Drive times were expected to triple. A week’s worth of provisions was highly recommended.

Hubs was really looking forward to the trip. I was along for the ride. Pups was just happy to be there.

We headed out on Saturday morning, intending to travel three quarters of the way to our chosen destination and crash at a friend’s place. We would tackle the last part of the journey, sans dog, in the wee hours of E-Day. Hubs had wisely decided not to share with me exactly which wee hour we would be departing. That information was classified as Need to Know only. We both understood it was for the best.

Less than an hour into our three hour journey, I saw a freeway sign declaring,

ECLIPSE AUG 21
TRAFFIC TO OR
EXPECT DELAYS

So far we had been spared any unusually heavy traffic, but I knew that our miles were numbered. So did hubs. I wanted to get a photo of this sign to put in my “Eclipse Album,” which would take up precious space on my Google drive and never be viewed again. I was too slow, though. The sign passed before I could even open the camera app. No worries. It was a long drive; I knew there would be more opportunities.

I was right, there were more opportunities, at least four, maybe five. Each time either I saw it too late, or I didn’t have my phone (which is my camera) at hand, or I couldn’t get the app to cooperate in time, or there was a truck between me and the sign at the crucial moment.

Eventually, the signs changed to:

ECLIPSE AUG 21
EXPECT
HEAVY TRAFFIC

Around the same time, I began to realize that this casual snapshot had turned into an obsession, not just for me. As we neared our exit, we approached a perfectly placed sign, directly over the center lane. As luck would have it, traffic began to thicken at the same time, creating the ideal situation to grab a perfect photo. I could have gotten it, too, if I hadn’t put away my phone. I just missed it.

I didn’t even have to ask. Hubs offered to get back on the freeway in the opposite direction and come around again so I could get a second chance at it. I accepted that offer. For the next several minutes, my phone never left my hand. The camera app was open and I snapped a random photo every few seconds to make sure it didn’t get bored and go to sleep on me.

We circled around and approached the sign, both of us on high alert. Traffic wasn’t thick enough yet for us to stop, but I had plenty of time to line up the shot as we rolled slowly under it. I snapped several just to be safe. Mission accomplished, we continued on to our destination, satisfied that we had finally captured that pesky sign.

That evening, I scrolled through the photos to choose the best one, but they were all about the same. Glaring orange fragments of letters were scattered across a black background. Some shots showed most of a word, with the rest scrambled. Others were just digital chaos.

I took it as a sign.