Today is Thursday, which means I’d normally be writing a flash piece for The Parking Lot Confessional’s 500 Club. But I’m trying to make progress on another project, so I’m just going to post the last 500 words I wrote instead. Cheating? Maybe. Sorry.
Here’s the excerpt. My MC has just entered a dollar store.
I push the door open and a bell clangs against the glass. A clerk looks up from his register and I nod at him before scuffling past to the canned food items, the bins of hair gels and brushes, the school supplies. Then I find the socks.
Three pairs for a buck. I’m so happy you’d think I’d just been given a free roundtrip ticket to wherever it is I’m going.
I squeeze the package. They feel thick. If they’re not, I can double up.
As I head toward the register, I pass the food items again. Beans. Beets. Carrots with cauliflower. Hungry Man stew. I grab two cans and balance them in one hand.
The clerk eyes me and continues chatting with the woman ahead of me in line. Their words are slow as paint drying. “They’re saying rain all weekend, but I don’t know. All I see is blue sky.”
“Those weather men never know what they’re talking about.”
“Got that right.”
“Well, I should get my meander on.”
“Don’t forget your change, Ms. D.”
I clear my throat. “Excuse me.”
They both turn and look at me. Their faces are completely blank.
I cringe and then clear my throat again. “Uh, where’s the best place to eat around here?”
The two of them exchange looks and say almost in unison, “The Pantry.” Their voices are as bland as their faces.
“Definitely,” the clerk says, nodding at Ms. D.
“Is it near here?”
Mrs. D’s smile is like a wire stretched across her face. “Everything’s near here. Just go out this way, turn right and it’s after the next stoplight. Can’t miss it.”
She stares at me for a moment. Her eyes remind me of a dead fish. Then she turns to the clerk. “I’ll see you later, Daniel.”
The bell clangs her out the door.
I set my socks and stew on the belt and they wobble down to the clerk. He picks up the items one by one and passes them across the scanner. The register beeps and I watch the total.
“That’ll be three twenty-five,” he says. I give him the ten from my pocket.
“Where are you visiting from?” he asks, his hands scooping out coins from the register, his voice as flat as the road I just walked.
“Summerton.” My answer surprises me. I haven’t told anyone where I’m from yet. Not specifically.
“Nope. Just passing through.”
He puts my items in a plastic bag. “Where are you going?”
Has he blinked once since we’ve been talking? “Just…seeing places,” I say.
He rips the receipt from the register and reaches out to give me the change. He holds the money there in his hand above mine, and looks at me with those fish eyes. “Well, be careful. Lots of weirdos out there.”