Sunday, January 23, 2011

Short Story

Thanks to Amanda, I found out about the Three Minute Story contest at NPR. Deadline for submissions was tonight, and Friday I submitted my story. According to the rules, the story had to be no more than 600 words and had to include a joke and crying. They're looking for stories that grapple with human emotion. This story has emotion, but I'm not that great at grappling.

Here it is. It's called Sugar Pie.

“A guy walks into a bar ...”

“Not now,” Jane said. “I’m not really in the mood for jokes.”

“I was just trying to distract you.” Aaron couldn’t figure out what else to do. Or say. “I’m sure Sugar Pie will come home when she gets hungry. She’s only been gone for an hour.”

“Sugar Pie is an indoor cat, Aaron. Indoor! She doesn’t have the skills to be outside. She’s a prime target for predators.” 

“Yeah, but we’re in suburbia. There’s nothing here that will hurt her.” He paused. “Except the coyotes.” Jane gasped, her eyes wide with fear. A single tear slid down her cheek. “But they’re nocturnal,” he recovered. “They only come out at night.” 

“You don’t think a coyote will get Sugar Pie, do you?” Jane took a few, short, exaggerated breaths and blinked as her eyes pooled with more tears. “Why did I open the back door in the first place?”

“Well, you did burn the pizza. There was a lot of smoke.” Jane let out a short sob. “The noise from the smoke detector probably scared her.” 

This was not helping. He should stop talking.

“She’s got a collar on, right? Maybe someone will call,” he reached out to pat Jane on the knee and she swatted him away with her wet, teary hand. He quietly wiped his arm off on the side of his jeans.

“I took it off when I gave her a bath!” She moaned as she stood up, went to the back door, opened it and cried, “Sugar Pie!” over and over, sobbing unabashedly between each call. Finally, she shut the door and walked over to the kitchen sink and let her tears fall onto the blackened, petrified pizza she’d tried to stuff down the drain earlier. Aaron came and stood by her side, but not too close.

“Why don’t we make some signs? I can help you put them up,” he suggested wondering what the boyfriend protocol was in this situation. How long did he have to stay?

“You think that will work?” She sniffed, then ripped a paper towel off the roll and blew her nose with a loud honk. This was her thing--the honking nose blow. He’d thought it was cute when they first started dating. 
“Absolutely. Those signs work all the time. I’ll even put up the reward. What do you think? Twenty-five bucks?” Aaron reached around the back of his pants for his wallet.

“Twenty-five?” she said, her voice full of awe.

“Well, I was thinking twenty at first, but I know how much Sugar Pie means to you.” Finally, he’d said the right thing. It felt good. He pulled the bills from his wallet and set them on the counter, pushing them towards Jane.

“I don’t think you do,” she said.

Later, as he sat on the steps of the front porch, picking burnt pieces of cheese and pepperoni out of his hair, he reflected on the last hour. Where had he gone wrong? A rustling in the bushes made him turn with a start, just in time to see Sugar Pie strutting out from between the leaves.

“Hey cat,” he said, stroking her fur. “Someone’s pretty worried about you.” He looked at the doorbell, then at his car, parked on the street. Then back at the doorbell. The cat sniffed and the crusty bits of pizza before choosing a brown bit of cheese and crunching into it. 
Well, he thought, it is about dinner time. He walked down the front path to his car, got in and drove away.


Natalie said...

What fun! Hope you win. Do you not like cats? :)

Afton said...

I enjoy cats. But I'm not a fan of having animals in my house. I don't mind animals in anyone else's house. I just feel like 3 boys is animal enough. And I've also reached my life time quota of cleaning up poop. I guess you could say I'm not interested in caring for animals, but I'm happy to cuddle and pet other people's.

a said...

I love how you start off in the middle of the happening. We are just thrust in as observers. I love how you chose losing a pet as most people can relate to losing something, and the fact that you added in the whole boyfriend/girlfriend awkwardness only makes it greater!
So, did he take the cat with him? Or leave it be?
When do you hear how you did?