Friday Fictioneers: Moving down river

A weekly photo prompt challenge from Rochelle that I’m excited to delve into. My first attempt at Friday Fictioneers. Check it out too, so you can take a shot at it. And see if you too can keep it under 100 words.

Last night the kids took to dumping an old shopping cart into the muck.

Ever since the power plant up river had built a dam, Laketown had dried up.

With no river lifeline, the jobs had set sail along with the fish.

Even the schools were dwindling. Most of the time my two didn’t go, and I didn’t see much point in sending them.

We’d be shoving off too, and soon. Before I spent my last twenty on a forty. The RV was on empty. And so was I. Not sure which one I wanted to fill up more.

 

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A toast to St. Valentine

The whiskey burned as it hit the back of my throat, nearly forcing me to choke. 

My coughing was relentless then next 20 minutes. But I managed to inhale a few more swigs between hacks.

Valentine’s Day again. Calling it a holiday was offensive, not only to atheists but to everyone. It wasn’t a holiday. Nobody got paid to enjoy the day off from work. Not even those psycho postal employees.

I thoroughly agreed with the realists who called it Hallmark Day — just another way for the greeting card companies to turn a profit between Christmas and Mother’s Day. It was a long stretch and they probably needed a boost, I was willing to grant them that. But at whose expense.

Mine. I mean, lots of people’s. And I wasn’t talking about the cash. I had enough to go out and buy a five dollar cardboard cutout. Even had twenty bucks lying around to buy a rose and maybe some candy. 

But that wasn’t what was costing me.

(Another swig)

Twenty-one of these damned February fourteen days and still nothing to like about it. Not once had I ever been with someone on that most sacred of days for lovers. Or so I’d been told it was sacred for lovers. Ha! I wouldn’t know. Nor would I allow myself even the slightest taste of hope that I would ever know. There were only about fifty more of them in my lifetime before I could happily ignore them. Of course, by then I’d be dead and probably wouldn’t be doing much ignoring of anything.

(Another swig) That one went down just fine.

The entire marketing was laughable really. Why did anyone need a day to honor the person they were already doting on? It was like the right to acknowledge you didn’t care about that person the day before or the day after. Just as long as you paid attention on that specific day — this year a Friday, making it suck all the more because the bars and restaurants would be packed with couples pretending they truly loved one another. Heck, maybe they did. But if that were the case, they didn’t need to go out and flaunt it in front of me … uh, the rest of us. 

(Another swig) 

I looked at my bottle. About a fourth of the way gone. I was feeling good too. The bars were beckoning. Stevie and I had already vowed to meet up in a bit to make fun of the cuddlers. 

(Another swig)

Even more depressing, Valentine’s Day or not, I hardly had any prospects. I’d dated plenty, been serious once. But right now, the cupboard was bare. 

In the middle of my next swig a face popped up in my mind. Darla. The girl from psychology class. We’d talked a few times and she’d asked for my number. Said maybe we could get together to study. 

Then my phone rang. No ID on the screen. It was local. She was local. My heart rate kicked into full gear.

I took a swig. Clicked the send button.

“Hello?”

“Yo, where are you?”

It was Stevie. “You still coming?”

“Whose number is this?” I asked.

“I’m at a pay phone at the bar,” he said. “I left my mobile at home. Wanted to let you know in case you were trying to reach me. Dude, you gotta hurry up. There are some total saps here. We’re going to have a great time laughing at these losers.”

“Sorry, I lost track of time,” I said. “Be there in a few.”

I hung up. Felt my heart rate slow.

I raised the bottle in silent salute to St. Valentine, whoever the hell he was. Time to head to the bar and enjoy the rest of the holiday.

Weekly Writing Challenge: My Funny Valentine?

The right place to write (a short short story)

Writing in the study never worked for Peter.

The author who had had a best seller every year for the past decade couldn’t make it happen.

His study contained a desktop computer, a desk made of oak and at last count 3,439 books — all but a handful fiction.

Guests and acquaintances loved seeing Peter’s study. The marble inlaid between the shelves of oak that matched the desk made for endless conversation.

Peter loved it too. It might have been his favorite room in the 10,500-square-foot mansion. But only to read or diddle around on the Internet.

For writing, he would’ve picked the bathroom ahead of the study. Though he never had.

He’d tried numerous times over the last six years, since moving into the place. But every time he sat in front of the computer his mind went blank. He didn’t know the reason. Maybe it was because he’d never had a study before this place. He’d always just sat down where his fancy took him and started working on his laptop. He’d tried that too once, took the laptop in the study with him and spun his chair away from the desktop. No luck there either.

A new novel had sprung to his mind on his walk this morning. It would be another best seller, he thought to himself, not that that mattered to him. He already had enough money to last him through his kids’ kids. The writing was the fun part for him. It always had been. He’d adored the challenge of getting to a finish line when he’d started there. He’d reveled in the plot when it started in the middle. But he preferred solving the puzzle when his idea started at the beginning of a book — as the one this morning had. He never knew where those stories would lead him, and as usual, he was eager to find out.

And he was determined to solve the latest puzzle in the comfort of his study.

He had the first few pages already drafted in his head when he opened the French doors to his oak-scented room. Had them nearly word for word when he sat down and pushed the power button to his computer. Felt them tingling in his fingertips as the word-processing document sprung to life.

He set his fingers to the middle row of keys and watched the cursor. It blinked at him, like an eager puppy awaiting a command. Soon, the cursor was mocking him. Here I am. Now I’m gone. Here I am. Now, gone. Here. Gone. Here. Gone.

He started to sweat. Felt the beads ooze through his skin, build until a few trickled down his temple. He had no idea what he was going to write. Didn’t know what the cursor wanted him to do. Didn’t know what he was supposed to do.

He took a deep breath. Held it. Exhaled. Then stood up and walked out. He closed the French doors behind him. Grabbed his laptop off the kitchen counter and walked into the bathroom. He sat down on the tile floor, between the toilet and the sink.

He began to type.