Mad Money

November 2, 2015

I have pretty much gotten stuck on the characters I created for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge. As it turns out, science fiction isn't my thing after all, and I was eliminated after the second of four challenges.


I am not, however, finished with Anna and Troy. The 2015 RRofihe Trophy No-Fee Short Story Contest caught my eye, and I decided to take Anna and Troy on another journey. Below is an excerpt from their next story, "Mad Money."




The bus ride from Sun Studio had begun that Saturday with a donut in one hand and the cheapest and most basic coffee Starbucks offered in the other. When Anna treated herself, she did it right. She was far from highfalutin, but that Starbucks cup with her name scrawled across the front made her feel a little more important than usual on this day she had declared “Anna Does Memphis Day.” She had immediately regretted the way it sounded in her head, and was twenty-nine kinds of relieved she hadn’t said it aloud to the lady beside her who already sat with her purse clutched to her chest and her feet crossed neatly at the ankles. No, Anna would keep that little bit of information to herself. No need in offending her seatmate. She had chuckled a little though at the thought and felt her own head shake a bit as she glimpsed the worn spot on the toe of the sneakers she had picked up for running but had, in actuality, just bought for standing. These sneakers were the Starbucks coffee cups of her shoe shelf. “Anna Does Memphis,” indeed. She almost snorted out some donut.


The ride to Graceland, not particularly fraught with danger, unless you count the three near misses with the lane-hopping Memphis drivers and the man peddling roses who tried to board their tour bus at a stop sign, was just thrilling enough for Anna. By the time they arrived at the gates and began to unload, she had reached her limit with the dynamic duo bickering behind her over the use of their mother’s greasy iPad. Most people don’t know this unless they work in the public, but there is a pretty specific number of times one is able to listen to a parent threaten to do terrible things on the count of three and then never actually say “three” before they snap. That number is eleven, and the time span is 20 minutes. Anna’s backseat neighbor was at ten. She had counted. When the door squeaked open, Anna was the first to stand.


Mumbling to herself, and brushing donut remnants from the front of her faded Bon Jovi shirt (wearing an Elvis shirt would have been too touristy), she slid into the aisle behind a couple with butt bags and folded maps in hand. They, Anna could tell without even seeing them from the front, were wearing Elvis shirts. Making her way slowly toward the front of the bus, Anna’s eye caught a glimpse of something else. Her eyes rolled, and she did a little huff. A flattened, dime-sized mass of dough was stuck just below the collar of her shirt. Anna was no stranger to food items softened by body heat melding to her clothing. She had once discovered three Junior Mints adhered to her top beneath her armpit after watching a particularly riveting sequel of a horror movie. She often wondered if her normal body temperature was higher than that of the standard middle-aged woman. About three more sticky extractions of foodstuffs from fabric and she would be making herself a little appointment to find out.


She felt something beyond her usual shame, though. As Anna’s fingers poised to thump the doughy bit back toward her vacant seat and away from the frumpy lady ahead of her, she figured out what it was. She saw two icy blue eyes crinkled in what had to be a smile peering at her from the vast rearview mirror. The driver had seen her. He had seen her big ol’ donut brooch. She had some options. One was to flick it as planned. One was to pick it off delicately and search for her used napkin to wrap it in, and the last was to leave it right where it was. Lord knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Since her fingers were already in prime thumping position, Anna went with her original plan. Her eyes locked on his, she gave it one hard flick and heard the dull thud as it bounced off the window where she had shared a view with the ankle lady only moments before.


Rather than lowering her eyes, Anna simply held his gaze and eased closer to the map-yielding couple who were now both arguing over whether the Jungle Room would turn out to be all it was cracked up to be. The bus’s driver was the first to break the gaze. He turned away from Anna’s now awkward stare to help an elderly gentleman with “Vietnam Veteran” embroidered across his black cap negotiate the steps and onto the pavement below. The redness in Anna’s neck had just begun to subside as she neared the steps. She couldn’t stop thinking about how perfectly ridiculous she must have looked and how completely nasty she felt. Who does that? Who flicks donut chunks? Anna did…and often.

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