I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I had to write a story, 1000 words or less, that was in the Romance genre, took place (mostly) on a tennis court, and a neck brace had to appear. This is my submission for round 1.A-Tennis-Courtship
This was the last assignment of the writing class I had taken. It was based off the Finn McCool’s writing contest of 2013. The piece had to contain every word in a given list. This is the story:
“You don’t want to go in there” warned the stranger on the other side of the street. “It is a real tourist trap”. David shrugged his shoulders at Mary and replied to her“It looks harmless enough”. Mary nodded her head in agreement. The door was ornately decorated. It looked as if it would whisk you away into another dimension. David grabbed the golden doorknob and twisted it with fake apprehension, hoping that the stranger would see it. “Are you ready to be trapped?” David asked as he pulled the door open.
He was surprised at the size of the room. He didn’t think it would be this large on the inside. “SLÀINTE!” shouted a crowd in the corner as they clanged their glasses of beer together. The group of men tussled the hair of the ginger looking one. Perhaps he was getting married. Hallways and staircases littered the exterior of the room in every direction. The couple sat down at the bar. The bartender walked by and quickly handed the pair a laminated drink menu. Mary pointed at the menu at the Bloody Mary and smiled. David ordered one for her and a rum and coke for himself. The bartender gave them both generous pours. David returned the favor with a generous tip. David noticed a woman sitting at the end of the bar playing one of those quarter quiz games. She looked as if she had been there for days. But maybe she had just had a long day herself.
Mary finished her drink and excused herself to go to the bathroom. She disappeared into the crowd as David ordered another drink. One drink became two, and then three. Several more people entered the bar. More cheers came from the Irish lads. He didn’t really know if they were Irish or not, but he and Mary loved to make up stories about the people they saw around them. “Where is she?” he muttered to himself. As his buzz turned into a haze his concern grew for her. He took for granted how easy they communicated now. She wouldn’t have much luck with strangers. He left his bar stool and approached the lads. “Have any of you see my girlfriend?”.
The ginger responded “Sure, she is fit!”.
“Yes, I am well aware” David responded, assuming fit meant something other than in shape. He assumed it was good. “She wandered off, did you see where she went?”. The group stared at each other for a moment and shook their heads no. Carrying his drink he ventured down the hallway he assumed she had walked down. He saw no bathroom, just another bar. “If only she had taken some breadcrumbs, she wouldn’t have gotten lost” he thought. The group in this bar looked stranger that the first, and a little more drunk as well. He opened up his wallet and approached the bartender. He showed her a picture of Mary and asked “have you seen anyone looking like this?”
She responded “Sure honey, I see people looking like that all the time. I am sure if you wait you could find one just like her”. Frustration welled up in him like a geyser. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw her climbing the left stairway and turning a corner. He felt like a salmon swimming upstream as he tried to make his way past the people on the stairway. “MARY!” he shouted in vain. As he reached the top he looked down the hallway. He couldn’t see anyone, just a few closed doors. He opened one of them and walked through the door. He couldn’t believe what he saw. It was yet another bar.
He passed several more halls, and bars, and stairways. Each time he found people stranger than the last. The situation left him discombobulated. Perhaps it was a bad idea to have left his initial seat. He doubted that he could find his way back through this maze. He needed to find her. As he opened another door he found a bar with dance music. Strobe lights flashed and the drunk people waved back and forth in a rhythmic trace, much like seaweed reacting to the ebb and flow of a current. He hopped up and down trying to catch a glimpse of her in the crowd. She did love to dance.
A drunk girl, no older than 21, approached him and asked “why are you hopping”.
He responded, “I am trying to see someone”.
“Shucks” she said. “I was hoping you were a frog. I need to find my prince. Maybe if I kiss you that will turn you into a frog?”. She grabbed him and drunkenly leaned in for a kiss.
He pushed her away and shouted “MARY!”. One by one, each dancer shouted Mary to the beat. “What a bunch of weirdos” he thought. Maybe they would be useful. If all of them started screaming, Mary she would find the room. He waived his arms up and down to try and get them to shout louder. “MARY MARY” came from the crowd.
The music suddenly stopped. The DJ shouted some profanities at him that would make a sailor blush and stormed off. With the music gone, the crowd dissipated quickly. The room emptied and a familiar figure sat at the bar sipping on a long island iced tea. It was Mary. She looked more lost than he. He grabbed her trembling hand and said “this was a bad idea”. They opened the door on the other side of the room and saw the ginger husband to be. He quickly made his way to first door. A picture of the stranger across the street was posted on the inside of the door. “I told you so” read the caption. As the door opened it was not a street he saw yet another bar, with a maze of halls and stairs. The tourist trap had claimed another two victims.
In the writing class I took with Stephen Rea we had several assignments meant to help assist us with our writing goals. So I created the “class assignments” sub-category under writing. One of the assignments was a story, no more than 1000 words, about a woman in a park who notices a man on a bench. This is the story I wrote, slightly edited taking into consideration the comments received in class.
Sarah noticed the handsome man sitting on the bench in the middle of the park. She had often come here to exercise and had never noticed him before. He was older than what she typically went for but he was definitely attractive. He had an antique briefcase sitting next to him, which seemed kind of odd. Nowadays people typically carried laptop bags with them. She purposefully jogged by him and smiled. He responded only with a nod and scribbled something down on a small pad. For some reason the pad looked a little too thin for its size. She didn’t know why that stood out, but it just did. It was frustrating to her that she couldn’t get more than that out of him. She knew that while she wasn’t the most attractive gal in the world that typically a smile from her would earn more than just a simple nod. She completed another circle around the park and sat down on the bench across from the stranger. She opened her water bottle and took a slow sip, peeking at him as she drank. As she slowly twisted the cap back on the bottle she locked eyes with him again and smiled a hello. His response was a simple hi while he continued scribbling in his notebook.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you putting down in your little book?”.
“Nothing of consequence, at least not yet” he responded. This man had become a puzzle now and she felt challenged to solve him. She changed benches and sat down on the other end of his bench. He closed his notebook as she joined him.
“Has anyone ever told you that you are a bit strange?”.
He responded “Why yes actually, sometimes my mannerisms can seem a bit odd. But then again a lot of the mannerisms of ‘normal’ people seem odd to me”.
She laughed “I have actually feel the same way. Most of my friends don’t approach strange men in parks”.
“Likely a wise choice, you never know who you might meet. Would you like to see what is in my notebook”.
This was going to be easier than she thought. “Would I?Absolutely!”.He reopened it to the first page and there was a beautiful stipple drawing of a dog. “Tell me about the dog” she said.
“Well, he was my old family dog. I drew it mostly from memory, he has long passed away”.
“That is so sad, I am a dog person too. I love my beagle.”
The next page had another stipple drawing of a flower, and then a bird. He said “I like to draw things of beauty, and you can find beauty almost everywhere”. He turned to the last page and it was clear that it was a drawing of her. Her face flushed as she pushed the piece of hair not in a ponytail back behind her ear.
“Oh come on, I am just a sweaty girl running in a park. Beauty?”.
“Absolutely” he responded. “Unfortunately with you running around I can only draw a little bit at a time. If you would come back to my studio I could finish it”. She didn’t know why she agreed, but she did. She couldn’t figure out if it had just been so long since she had been with a man that she was just throwing caution to the wind or if she was just that stupid. But she found herself following him back to his studio apartment in the city.
He opened the door for her and let her in. As he closed the door she half expected him to just push her on his bed and ravish her, not that she would have minded, it had been far too long. Surprisingly enough, he told her to sit on the couch and brought her a glass of red wine. It was a good flavor, not too strong but not too sweet. It seemed to complement him perfectly. He set down in the armchair across from her and resumed making tiny little dots in his pad. He would get up occasionally to refresh her glass. The wine, just like the man, was growing on her.
He completed the drawing and grabbed her another glass of wine along with one for himself. “A toast, to my new work of art”. They clanged glasses as he revealed it to her. She was amazed at the detail that stippling could bring out. “I love it” she told him. He told her that it wasn’t quite ready yet. There just needed to be one final piece of the puzzle. She knew that this would be the moment that he would make his move. But instead she started feeling extra groggy. As she fell he caught her and guided her back to the couch. “Almost complete indeed” he stated with a wry smile.
A week later the man took his briefcase to a small cafe. He sat with his back next to the wall and entered the combination. He pulled out the small notebook, one piece of paper thinner. He had carefully removed the bits of paper that came with tearing the old page out. That page remained where his new piece of art was. Before he closed the briefcase he took a smell of the new lock of hair adorning the inside of the case. He set the case to the side of his chair. A waitress walked up and he ordered a cup of coffee while jotting a few dots down in his notebook. The waitress smiled at him and asked what he was putting in his notebook. “ He replied, “Nothing of consequence, at least not yet”.