I led the last dog back to its crate. While I loved my job at the veterinary hospital today had been especially trying. We had four emergency cases in critical condition come in this afternoon so I had been going non-stop for close to six hours.
My phone rang from somewhere in the depths of my purse. I almost let it go, glad to finally leave the office, but my conscience reminded me that it could be an emergency. I flipped it open without bothering to check the caller ID.
“Hey, Kate, where are you? I’m standing out front but you didn’t answer the door.” My best friend Jen’s voice came through the speaker.
Shit. I was supposed to be going to the opera tonight with Jen. That’s what my brain had been trying repeatedly to remind me about today. I looked down at my blood stained clothes and cringed. I needed a shower and a change. It was twenty minutes home and a least twenty for the shower and wardrobe swap, then thirty or more to the event center. I was pretty sure it started at eight thirty, so I was going to be at least thirty minutes late.
“Kate? You there?”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m just leaving work.”
“Kate!” The whine in her voice came through perfectly.
“I know, I know. It’s been a crazy day. You go on, I’ll catch up. I should be less than half an hour late.”
Writing prompts: dog, opera, hospital
The couch spring pressed uncomfortably against my spine. The ancient couch may have once been a shade of blue but now it was a dingy gray. There were obvious sags where the cushions had been compressed over and over by the countless women sitting in this same office. The wall across from me had peeling paint that might have been yellow and a magazine rack barely clinging to the wall. The magazines were all at least four years old.
The telephone rang, and rang again before the receptionist finally picked it up. She, too, looked like she had been here too long and seen too much. Her drab green sweater was worn in places and ill-fitting on her plump frame. Her voice was harsh as she spoke into the receiver, a result of too many cigarettes. Though working here for as long as she had would drive anyone into vice.
The little bell above the door tinkled merrily, a stark contrast to the gloom of the rest of the office. The door swung open to admit a young woman. She was bundled against the cold, dry winter air that followed her in. She looked scared, under all of her heavy clothing, as all did when they entered for the first time.
Her eyes locked on to mine and she looked startled to see someone here that shared her fate. She smiled timidly at me. I scowled back, angry that she could still smile, even in a place like this. She dropped her eyes and her shoulders hunched under her coat. I felt a flash of vindictive glee that I had made someone else’s day just as shitty as mine. That’s right, sweetheart, life’s a bitch and so am I.
Writing prompts: winter, spring, telephone
It’s funny what people will do for a fairly insignificant amount of money. Especially when they are young and stupid. I’m recalling in particular a conversation I had with my seventeen-year-old neighbor last week. I had asked him, in passing, why there was a ramp, a kiddie pool, and a mattress in our road.
Here’s the grand plan his friend talked him into for $20. He was to ride his bike down the hill to gain enough speed to hit the ramp and go flying. Then he would ditch the bike, in mid-air, and land safely on the mattress. His momentum would then cause him to bounce back into the air and land in the kiddie pool.
I must’ve looked pretty incredulous by the time he got to the end of the story because he got a bit defensive. “This is totally going to work,” he told me seriously, as only a teenager can.
“Sure…” I replied, just barely able to keep my eyes from rolling right out of their sockets. I must say that I then failed as a so-called adult because instead of telling him the numerous ways he was going to break something–namely himself–I just smiled and wished him luck.
The little devil inside me rubbed his hands together in glee and wondered if I could take bets with the neighbors on which bones he was going to break. I was going with left arm. Maybe an ankle. Long odds on the neck, because while kids are dumb, they’re also pretty resilient. The little angel that should’ve balked was strangely silent, probably passed out just at the thought of such a stunt.
Writing prompts: road, money, conversation
The envelope was worn and yellowed with age. It was wrinkled where it had once been folded carelessly in half, though it had since been repeatedly smoothed out by gentle hands. She held it as if it was a priceless treasure–and to her it was.
This was the only letter that survived the fire, the only remnant of a young man’s love for her during a time of war. They had gotten engaged just before he was shipped off for the service to fight in a country halfway around the world. He had written her religiously and every letter had been stored carefully in a memory box; every letter except the one she held.
It was this letter, the one where he talked about their future, that she had carried with her that day. It was this letter that was the only one to survive. The firemen didn’t know what had started the house fire but by the time they arrived the house was a total loss. The memory box was destroyed and her last connection to her love was reduced to this one single letter.
So today, on the anniversary of his death, she pulled the letter out once again and read the words he wrote, about the big plans he had and the love they shared. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, but she had never stopped loving him, even when he came home in the simple pine box, put there by a stray round from what might have been a friendly gun.
Writing prompts: envelope, priceless, service
The emptiness of the night pressed close against me. My heels echoed strangely as they hit the sidewalk. I resisted the urge to glance over my shoulder, but only barely. It was exactly the kind of night that all good girls and boys should be tucked safely away into their beds. Thick, heavy clouds hung low in the sky. A dense fog had rolled in from the bay, coating everything in a layer of moisture.
I was out braving the weather instead of curled up in my living room because my house was currently under construction. However, the project was running long. To make up time the crew had decided to stay late tonight to get back on track. The incessant hammering had finally driven me out into the weather to “clear my head.”
Now that I was out here though, I was somewhat regretting my decision. It was just odd out tonight. When another set of steps began echoing along with mine, I fought the childish urge to run home to safety. A dark shape loomed out of the fog and my heart quailed in fear. I laughed in relief as the dark, scary shape turned out to be my elderly neighbor.
“Oh, dear, it’s a terrible night to be out. What are you doing?” she asked with a frown.
“My house is still being worked on. The noise was driving me batty, so I decided to go for a walk. I didn’t realize how terrible the weather was until I was already out here.”
“Well, be a dear and walk me home. I’ll make you some tea and you can keep this old woman company until your house is quiet again.”
Writing prompts: construction, sidewalk, emptiness