Saturday, August 15, 2009

WITHOUT A SOLE - short fiction

(click on image for larger view)

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
superlative, flea market, falling leaves, disinformation, who was that masked man?, keeping kids out of trouble, I'm a believer, bonnet in the attic, staff, generation, deep in the forest, government, charming, heirlooms, flabbergasted

(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

Sarah stood by the shoe display counting the cash in her purse, hoping she would have enough to buy shoes for her daughter. Jenny’s sneakers had fallen apart. Sarah couldn’t send her to school in flip-flops. Well, Jenny could get away with wearing them for a few weeks, but as soon as the weather turned, she’d need decent shoes. Just thinking of falling leaves made Sarah anxious. How would she pay the heating bills that winter?
Sarah had lost her job, along with her health coverage, two months after her husband disappeared. She suspected he had run off with a woman he had met in rehab. Now, Sarah’s only income was an unemployment check. She wanted to sell the house, but without Ralph’s signature, she couldn’t. Without enough to pay the mortgage, heating bills might be the least of her problems. She suspected she and Jenny might soon be living in her ten-year-old car, unless she could find a boarder to share her home.
At the flea market, she had passed tables covered with heirlooms, the sellers trying to make a few dollars, flabbergasted at how little everyone was willing to pay for their family antiques, sometimes their only reminders of generations past. Sarah wondered what she might possibly sell on eBay. But then, all she could think of was her great-grandmother’s worthless dresses and dusty bonnet in the attic. And, besides, she had shut off her internet connection to save money.
In the past, Jenny could buy herself CDs and video games with her baby-sitting money, but now her earnings went toward household expenses. Well, thought Sarah, I’m a believer that work is good for keeping kids out of trouble, not that Jenny was likely to get into any.
The flea market attracted an array of strange characters. One was dressed like a clown. A very tall man, dressed like the Lone Ranger ---mask and all ---wandered up and down the aisles, carrying a saddle bag over his soldier. Occasionally he reached inside to pull out an envelope to hand to someone in the crowd, advertisements Sarah assumed.
Sarah was on the brink of despair. She never imagined her formerly-charming husband would become an alcoholic or that he would leave her. She thought her low-level government job on the custodial staff in the state office building had been secure. If it weren’t for Jenny, she might crawl deep in the forest and curl up and die there. At least her decomposing body would do some good for the plant life.
A friend had told her a man at the flea market was selling name-brand knockoffs for five dollars a pair. But that was a sorry piece of disinformation. Shoes large enough to fit anyone but a toddler cost twelve. Sarah had just under eleven dollars. She asked the man if he would take eight, leaving her enough for milk and eggs. He refused. He even refused all she had. Sarah felt as if he had punched her. Tears welled in her eyes. She slapped them away with the palm of her hand before they could run down her cheeks. She turned away from the shoe booth, bumping into the Lone Ranger.
“What’s the matter, little woman?” he asked with a Texas twang.
Sarah ignored him and hurried toward her car. He grabbed her arm. “Whoa,” he said. “I can help you.”
“No one can help me,” Sarah answered. “I’m at the lowest, sorriest, most miserable point of my life. I can’t even buy cheap shoes for my daughter for school.”
“Well, that sure is a lot of superlatives you’re using there,” the man said. “Maybe this will help,” he added, handing her an envelop from his saddle bag.
He shoved it into Sarah’s palm, but made her promise not to open it until she got home. Sarah nodded in agreement, continued to her car, and cried the whole way home. She threw the envelop on a pile of junk mail on the kitchen table.

The next day, after another unsuccessful attempt to find work, Sarah sat exhausted in front of the TV. The news announcer wrapped up the broadcast with her usual human-interest story.
“A lot of local people are asking the question, ‘Who was that masked man?’ Yesterday, at a local flea market, a man dressed as the Lone Ranger handed envelopes to total strangers. Each contained cash in amounts ranging from one to ten thousand dollars for the lucky recipients.”
Sarah jumped from her chair, ran to the kitchen and clawed at her envelope. It not only had enough money to buy Jenny new shoes, but enough to pay the mortgage, utilities, and buy groceries for three months.
When Jenny arrived home from her baby-sitting job, Sarah hugged her daughter. She flashed the biggest smile she had been able to muster in months. “We’re going to make a bank deposit at the ATM and then we’re going shopping for the coolest sneakers we can find.”

See the shoes pictured above and 80 other pair of unique shoes designed by CJ by clicking HERE.

I skipped Wordzzle last week while I attended a fantastic Mark Twain conference that included appearances by author Russell Banks and actor Hal Holbrook. Read all about it HERE.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)


Raven said...

I just loved this! Made me feel good.

So you know Mr. Linky rejected your offering which is probably why I'm first here.

Fandango said...

A story about a generous human and he doesn't even get killed. We dragons l;ike your story.

It was hard to get here because your link on the linksy isn't working.

DawnTreader said...

Good story. Wish I'd been at that flea market... :)

Argent said...

Wow! That was definitely worth the wait. Great story, really lovely pace and superb use of the given words, too.

Argent said...

PS Forgot to say, loved the shoes!

Lindy West said...

Wonderful use of the words--thank you for sharing it with us!

Richard said...

Heartwarming, topical and a great ending. Well done.