Part of my new writing practice is lots of researching, writing exercises and entering writing contests. Contests are a great way to have your work critiqued by folks who actually know what they’re talking about (exciting to me, as I feel I’m quite the opposite).
I’ll share any submissions I make here on the blog. You can read them and move on or, if you have the time and inclination, you can offer up a critique of your own. I’d love to read it!
Today, I’m sharing a submission I’m working on where the only requirement for entry is that the piece is fiction, between 250 – 750 words. That’s a short story!
Hope you like it.
Today Was Different
You hate running late. Hate it. You pass by every day around the same time, walking briskly with a steely look of determination on your face. Most days you have headphones on too; it’s not clear if it’s because you’re actually listening to something or it’s just to discourage people from talking to you. Not that it matters; the result is the same.
Often, you’re on your cell phone making plans for the day. “Let’s go grab a bite to eat, ok?” “I’ll go over it when I’m in the office.” “Call me back after work and we’ll decide.”
If it’s earlier than normal, you’ll have your coffee from the shop around the corner. Always the same size. Never if it’s raining though; on those days, your hands are full carrying your portfolio bag and umbrella.
You’re so focused. Not everyone is as focused as you. A lot of people walk with someone; they’re talking about last night’s game or what happened yesterday in the office. The best ones are couples, there’s all kinds of them. There are the lovey-dovey ones that look like they’ve been an item for just a few days. You know the ones. You look at them in restaurants, letting your gaze rest on them for just a moment too long as they catch you staring. And then there are the ones that you know are couples because you see them together all the time but they never say a word to one another. Those ones are tough to watch.
Yup, you’re way more focused than any of those folks. Like a lone wolf, on your way to do whatever it is that you do.
Today was different though. You came by way later than normal and you weren’t dressed in your usual corporate armour. And you walked differently. You sauntered. It was like you were looking at the streets you’ve seen every single day for years but for the first time. You walked like you didn’t have a care in the world. No headphones. Not even those mirrored sunglasses you usually wear even when it isn’t all that sunny.
You’ve got your coffee in your hand even though it’s late and as you walk past, you stop for a moment. Your shoulders rise and fall with the breath you’ve filled your lungs with and then let go slowly, calmly.
Turning around, you look at me, “How are you doing?”
Your attention surprises me and I speak for the first time today. “I’m ok. You’re different today”
“I am,” you respond. After a pause, thinking about my comment, “you noticed? I didn’t think you paid so much attention.”
“I see a lot.”
You nod your response, imagining the truth behind my answer. “I quit my job yesterday.”
“Should I be congratulating you?” I hope that doesn’t upset you, I didn’t mean that in a derogatory way. You just never know.
You just smiled and nodded again. “How long have you been here?”
It’s not often people speak to me, let alone ask me anything so I give the only answer I can think of, “longer than I ever imagined.” You just look at me. You don’t nod or smile or say anything but you also don’t look at me with the judgement I’m so used to seeing. “I was fired a year ago, fell behind on my rent and just couldn’t catch up. I’ve been bouncing from shelter to shelter while I try to find work but it’s tough.”
Bending down, you pick up my blanket and change cup, smile at me and motion to the coffee shop. “Let’s go grab a bite to eat, ok? It’s on me.”