More recommendations for short reading, as you escape your house/office for a mug of joe on the porch–a kindku, a short story by Charlie Fish, and a short story by me.
Kindku Brain Break
From this post by Word Craft〜Prose & Poetry, I learned what a kindku is and then wrote one. This was a brain break for me. I chose a page from a book I had just finished reading, Love and Summer by William Trevor, and did my best with following the rules. The kindku has seven lines, 43 syllables, and a positive tone.
Garden tools rust on the lawn. The blackened doorbell, stranger things are known, sounds. We’re restless on razor’s edge for the door’s op’ning. Casually sentimental, you greet us. From page 52 of Love and Summer by William Trevor
Short stories are good back porch reading. Since I am playing with words this week, I thought “Death by Scrabble” by Charlie Fish fit the theme and the heat of these dog days. Having once been an avid scrabble player, I did find this story amusing.
The second short story, also set in the dog days of August, is called “Red, Luck, and Blue”. I used two prompts from the Reedsy Prompts Contest: 1) Write a story about another day in a heatwave; 2) Write a story about someone’s popsicle melting. After some consideration, I did not enter the contest, mainly because I don’t like following contest rules.
Red, Luck, and Blue
Some people are lucky. That’s what Karen’s new friend, Bridget, said to Susan as they stood together on Karen’s lawn. Susan looked around at the place Karen had bought six months ago after her divorce. It came with a burbling brook, a spacious green yard, an outdoor patio, and plenty of space for a garden.
Already a small crowd was gathering on the deck. Balloons and streamers, still up from the Fourth of July, adorned the porch railing and framed the guests in that space.
Half a dozen children were escaping the heat. Shoes off, they splashed in the gurgling water.
The day was blistering. Susan had her hair clipped up, but no breeze cooled the sweat trickling from her hairline down her neck, down her spine, and down the backs of her legs. She wondered how Bridget could eat that chicken wing. Of the entire grand spread of food, watermelon was the only thing she had tasted.
“How so?” Susan asked.
“Well, first she wins that money, and then she buys this place,” Bridget spelled out.
“You have to play to win,” Susan said. Karen had done just that to the tune of being thousands in debt before she hit the big one.
Susan smiled at the image in front of her. A small girl, wading in the brook, held tight to a red, white, and blue popsicle, which was melting down her hand. An older girl, her cousin, told her to switch and wash the sticky hand in the stream. The younger had none of it. She seemed to think she would lose the her treat if she let go.
Sixty yards across the grass, a silver car pulled into Karen’s driveway. Recognizing it, Susan made an excuse and eased away. She tried to appear relaxed as she headed towards the back of the garage. Once there, she loitered, pretending to admire Karen’s flower bed. The garage blocked her view of the driveway; soon, however, the car’s owner came into view on the deck.
Susan slid around the corner of the garage. Although Susan had not meant to do it, she was avoiding Karen’s ex-husband, Len. When she reached the driveway, all was clear. Len had left the deck.
From the driveway, Susan could hear Len’s voice. It grated on her nerves. She wondered how to say goodbye to Karen and not run into Len. Maybe she could hang out in the house until Karen came inside.
As she crossed the driveway past Len’s car, Susan noticed a package sitting on the passenger seat. She glanced again toward the party. Some guests were sheltering under the deck awning; others were supervising children or enjoying the water themselves. Len was down at the brook.
Susan tried Len’s passenger door. It opened. As though by reflex, she snagged the box and shut the car door. She pulled her keys from her dress pocket, unlocked her trunk, and seconds later, secured the package under a blanket. Her heart pounding, she entered through the front of the house to the kitchen.
Karen was rooting through a drawer. She pulled out scissors.
“What are the scissors for?” Susan asked.
“I’m going to cut down the streamers,” Karen said.
“There’s Labor Day,” Susan answered.
“I’m not having a party then.”
Susan recognized Len’s influence. He liked to pick at Karen for every little thing. Upon arrival, could he be normal and compliment some detail, the food, the flower beds? Who but Len cared about tatty streamers?
Susan knew not to argue. “I’m going to take off,” she said.
“I have a project I’d like to finish today.” It wasn’t a lie. Her project was the theft of Len’s package.
Driving home, Susan reflected a tiny bit upon her motives. She was mostly an honest person. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had stolen something. Did curiosity explain why she had checked Len’s car door? Possibly. Was thrill-seeking the reason why she had stashed the package in her trunk?
Her husband was on his way out when she returned home. He had new friends now that he was done with Len. What had started as Len burning bridges to his childhood friends would probably end with the loss of Susan’s thirty-year-old friendship with Karen. Most people, when they get divorced, separate everything about their lives. Karen kept letting Len come around.
Susan changed out of her dress into shorts, a t-shirt, and her garden shoes. The garments stuck to her moist skin. She gathered her gloves, a rag, and a shovel and headed to the woodpile in the back yard. After removing part of the stack, she dug a hole, about a foot square, where the wood had been.
That accomplished, Susan retrieved the package from her car. It weighed about three pounds. Shaking it, she heard muffled clinking. The box was not taped for mailing as she had first thought. It had been opened and taped again. There were no identifying markings.
The package did not fit entirely in the hole. Susan dug out a few more shovelfuls. The second time the fit allowed for more room around the package. She tossed dirt onto it and smoothed the ground level. After she had stacked the wood back over the spot, she wiped off the shovel with the rag.
Though she knew she was behaving like a criminal, Susan included the dirty rag with another bunch and washed them. After a shower, she opened a beer and watched one of her shows.
The next morning Karen called. The party was great until the end, she said. Len discovered a package missing from his front seat and blamed Karen. She and Len had gotten into a heated argument. Karen had threatened to call the cops if Len didn’t leave.
“What was that about?” her husband asked.
“Same story,” Susan said.
As she peeled potatoes for salad, Susan observed the small wildlife in her tiny yard–squirrels, a cardinal, a tiger swallowtail. She let her eyes rest upon the woodpile and imagined what might be buried under it. She hoped whatever was in that box was irreplaceable
Enjoy your weekend! Stay cool, and say no to Scrabble.