Story-a-Day May Day 1

May 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Short Stories | Leave a comment
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Claire walked up to the window, looking around furtively. She didn’t realize that her attempts to go unnoticed were making her more conspicuous.

“What can I do for you, ma’am?” The ticket seller asked.

“What time does the next bus leave?”

Impatient, the man snapped “In 20 minutes. Can’t you read the sign?”

Unwilling to admit that no, she couldn’t, she asked for a ticket for the bus.

“That will be $72.”

She winced at the price, but pushed four twenty-dollar bills across the counter. He pushed her ticket across the counter, and said curtly “Gate B4.”

She took her ticket and moved quickly away from the window and the man’s hostile stare. Heading out the door, she turned to the right and squinted at the gate numbers posted on the lamp posts. Those were all As with numbers. Looking to the left, she found the B lamp posts, and walked to the fourth one. There were some other people milling around and sitting on the broken down bench.

“Excuse me, is this gate B4?” She asked a nice-looking older woman. The woman nodded, looking tired.

Claire sat down next to her to wait the next few minutes. She pulled the money out of her pocket and counted through it again. The twenties added up to $220 now that she had bought the bus ticket. A cell phone ran and she jumped, then remembered she had left the cell phone in the cramped apartment she had shared with Luis.

A man approached the bus, opened the gate and boarded with the key in hand. Claire watched as all the other riders held their tickets out for him to check. She hauled her backpack higher up on her shoulder and held her ticket out for his perusal. He nodded her through.

Soon the bus was pulling away from the station and Claire felt some of the tension seep from her shoulders. She watched until she saw the lights of San Fransisco fade from view, then dozed off leaning against the window. It was an uneasy sleep, punctuated with nightmares.

She jolted awake when the driver announced that they had arrived in Portland. She stumbled off the bus with the rest of the passengers and stretched the kinks out. She noticed a coffee shop nearby and made her way there.

“What can I getcha, honey?” The waitress asked after she had seated herself.

“Just a coffee, thanks.”

“You sure, sweetie? You’re looking pretty thin there.”

“No, that’s all,” Claire smiled.

As she looked away from the waitress, she caught the eye of a handsome man across the restaurant. He grinned back and her and picked up his coffee cup to walk over to her table.

“Hi, I’m Jordan. What’s your name?” He asked.

“I’m C-Caitlyn.” She stumbled over the new name she’d chosen for herself.

“Nice to meet you, Caitlyn. Are you new to our fair city?”

She nodded shyly, then excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she finished, the waitress was waiting for her outside the door.

“Honey, you stay away from that one. He used to come into the shop with a cute little girl all the time. She started showing up with bruises and then wearing sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts. We called the cops, and they stopped by to check on her, but she never did want to press charges. She’s been in and out of that apartment with him for the last 6 months.”

Claire felt tears well up in her eyes and she threw her arms around the surprised waitress. “Thank you,” she whispered in the woman’s ear.

“I’ll get that coffee to go for you,” the waitress said. “There’s a door out the back way here, too.”

“Thank you,” was all Claire could think of to say.

She waited anxiously at the end of the hallway while the woman put her coffee in a styrofoam cup for her. She slipped quietly out of the shop into the alley and away from the coffee shop.

As she looked for somewhere to ask about a shelter, she realized how lucky she was to have avoided an encounter with an abusive man while she was trying to get away from another.

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The Airport

December 15, 2009 at 11:37 am | Posted in challenge, Short Stories | 2 Comments
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This piece was written as part of the Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge. Find the other entries here.

Jim sat slumped in the hard faux leather seat. The P.A. system crackled and spat out something incomprehensible.

    “Did you hear that?” he asked the woman next to him with a tiny, trembling dog peeking over the edge of her enormous bag. She pulled out a tiny cell phone and started chatting, her conversation heavily laden with phrases like “OMG!” and “seriously?!”

    Disgusted, Jim muttered “Bitch!” under his breath and turned to his left. Maybe he’d have more luck with the man to his le4ft.

    “Did you hear that last announcement?” He asked the man, who was dressed in a suit and had a laptop open. The man started typing rapdily.

    Jim repeated himself a little louder, but received no response. Angry, he yelled at the man. “Can you fucking hear me? Are you deaf?”

    The man kept tapping away at his keyboard.
    Frustrated and appalled by the rudeness of his fellow travelers, Jim stomped up to the desk. They were paid to answer questions. They would tell him when his flight would be called.

    Unwilling to abandon his manners like the others had, Jim waited patiently in front of the desk. The attendant picked up the intercom to announce a flight. Jim checked his ticket, but it wasn’t his flight. He waited until the passengers had filed past. The attendant turned back to the computer and began tapping at it.

    All the tapping was about to drive Jim mad. He felt a slight breeze and turned to see a man in a polo shirt brush past him.

    “How much is it for me to upgrade to first class?” He asked.

    Jim tried to interrupt.

    “Excuse me! I was here first.”

    The attendant clicked the mouse twice and told him that it would be $97 for the privilege. The man pulled out his wallet and offered her his credit card. A few more clicks of the mouse, a swipe of the credit card, and new tickets were being printed out fo the antique dot matrix printer that all airports seemed to cling to despite the availability of much more modern equipment.

    The rage that had been building in Jim’s mind finally exploded.

    “I’ve been standing her for twenty minutes! All I need to know is when my flight to Chicago will take off! It’s been delayed, and I can’t understand the P.A. system! The flight isn’t showing up on any of the screens! I’ve been here forever, and I need to get to Chicago for a business meeting! Are you people blind or deaf or just idiots?” He screamed.

    Breathless, he waited for the attendant’s response. None came, and Jim felt his face turn first red, then purple.

    Another attendant walked up to the first.

    “Hey, how are you doing?” He asked, resting a hand on the woman’s arm.

    “I’m doing ok. I’m adjusting. It was hard to be at home and just have time to think about it. I would rather have been here, working. I can’t believe it happened just a week ago.”

    Jim turned away to try to calm his racing heart. He knew he needed to watch his blood pressure. The attendants’ words blurred together, but something caught his attention.

    “…Flight 2533…”

    He looked down at his ticket. That was his flight number. He turned back and focused on their conversation, moving closer.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way that explosion looked for the rest of my life,” one of the attendants commented.

    Explosion?

    “What explosion?” He asked them. Neither attendant looked at him or appeared to have heard. He jumped up and down, waved his hands in their faces and yelled as loud as he could.

    Nothing. He looked at the date on his boarding pass, then ran to the monitors. His ticket was dated a week ago. He rushed back to the counter to listen to the attendants’ conversation again. After a few minutes, he’d heard enough. He sank into a nearby seat again. His flight had been called a week ago. He’d gotten on the plane a week ago. His plane had exploded a week ago with him on it. He’d died a week ago.

    Now he would never leave the airport.

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