I thought I would post this short story I entered in a writing contest today. What do you think?
By Ann Frances Jerzowski
The day did not start well. I looked down at the coffee stain drying on the side of my right pant leg. On my way to school and I’m going to walk in with a huge coffee stain on pale pink jeans. How embarrassing.
I got out of the car and grabbed my book carrier on wheels. Carrying schoolbooks, a laptop, and a purse were a little much for a sixty-year-old university student. Rolling along up to the door another student took pity on me and held the door open. Probably saw the coffee stain. I gave her my best smile, walked in, and tripped on the rubber mat in the foyer. Maybe I should go home and crawl back into bed.
Entered the classroom and quickly sat down at my desk. I opened up my laptop and made ready for the three-hour lesson. It was difficult to concentrate because I was thinking about the part-time job interview I was supposed to go to right after class. Perhaps I should leave class early, go home to change, then go to the interview? I decided to stay in class and explain away the coffee stain at the interview. Impress the interviewer with my take-charge, nothing-bothers-me, go-with-the-flow attitude.
Surprisingly the interviewer was impressed. I was to start Monday. Clerical work, twenty hours a week. I was a little nervous, though, because schoolwork filled most hours of my day. Instead I thought fondly of my niece and the movie/lunch date we had set for tomorrow, Saturday afternoon. Schoolwork would wait for Sunday.
Sheila, my twenty-year-old niece, was in her third year at the university she attended. I was in my fourth year and we always compared notes. We chattered happily while waiting in line for our movie tickets, lunch to follow. I was fishing around in my purse for my wallet. Panic. My wallet was missing. Was today going to be as bad as yesterday? The coffee-stain-and-trip day lingered in my subconscious mind as my conscious mind busied itself with where my wallet may be. Sheila paid.
I let Sheila know my wallet was sitting on my kitchen counter in the very spot where I normally drop my purse as I walk in the door from the garage. Promised I’d pay next time. Grabbed the wallet and took off for the grocery store.
Pulling away from the grocery store parking lot my “check tires” light came on the dash. Fortunately a tire shop sat at the edge of the lot. Unfortunately for me, the tire store had just closed for the night. Three phone calls and a friend’s help finally got me back on the road.
I thought about just going to bed and covering my head up with the blanket. Convinced myself to read a homework assignment first for about thirty minutes, then succumbed to my pillow and blanket. Perhaps Sunday would be better.
Looking at my tire as I opened my garage door, all seemed fine. I tried singing to myself in the car on the way to the tire shop. They opened at noon Sunday. I explained I’d used a can of the fix-a-tire stuff before I let the tire attendant pull off my errant tire. Back at home I studied.
Monday came and school went without much of a hitch.
Walking into the part-time job location I noticed a young woman with a bright green sweater sitting in the waiting area. We nodded at one another and someone came to get her while I waited my turn. Mike, the interviewer, pulled me into his office. Before he closed the door to his office I caught a flash of bright green and the back of two heads studying something on a desk. I started to get a bad feeling.
“How are you doing today, Lisa?” Mike asked as he started to shuffle some papers on his desk. I noticed he was not looking at me directly.
“It’s ‘Linda,’ my name is Linda.” I wanted to add, “You just met me Friday, don’t you remember?”
I closed the door to the part-time opportunity I thought I was starting that day and walked down the steps to my car. Apparently the young woman in the green sweater was the niece of Mike’s partner, Jim. Jim and Mike were the business owners. Green sweater needed a part-time job and Jim did not consult Mike before he hired her. Nor did Mike tell Jim about me. A sorry, so sorry, mix up with me caught holding the bag, the quite empty bag, at the end of the story.
I was mad–not angry–mad. I threw open the door on the passenger side of my car, tossed my purse on the front seat, slammed the door, and a huge gush of surprised air flew from my lips. I had slammed the door on my thumb, and in the surprise and pain, dropped my car keys on the ground. Everything seemed to turn to slow motion mode. The car door was locked. My thumb was stuck. I had to crouch to pick up my keys with my one good hand. Thank God I was able to reach them. Another agonizing thirty seconds or so trying to maneuver the key fob into position to pop open the locked door, then, finally, freedom. My thumb hurt like a son-of-a-something. Knowing my face was now completely beet red, trying not to glance toward the windows of the office building I had just exited, I drove away as fast as I could looking for the nearest “Urgent Care” sign.
The next morning my thumb was still pounding while I readied for school. I had not finished my homework the night before finding the wrap around my aching thumb cumbersome and annoying. My Tuesday class started at one p.m. I stopped for a burger on the way to school. Just pulling away from the drive-thru window I saw the car in front of me slam on his brakes and blow the horn. A flash of red with a gold tail ran out from in front of the car. I pulled over and jumped out of my car still holding my paper bag with the burger in it. I could see the small dog, running freely through the parked cars heading straight for the busy street. Another person was trying to maneuver him back toward the relative safety of the parking lot. The dog’s coat was a brilliant shade of reddish/brown and his tail was tipped in golden beige. I called the first dog name that came to mind for a redheaded dog, as loudly as I could, “Sparky, come!”
He turned, I crinkled my sack of burger, he ran right to me. The other person who stopped to help followed. Neither one of us knew the dog. I took him to a vet to see if he had an i.d. chip in his shoulder. No school today.
The dog I was calling Sparky was probably a mix of some kind. No collar, no leash. He loved my burger and seemed to love me even more. He wouldn’t stop licking me with his smelly dog breath and wagged his tail with his whole little body. I started hoping his owners had not installed the i.d. chip.
But they did. I found out the owners had been looking for him for two days and their only son was frantic over his lost dog. I waited at the vet’s office while the boy’s father walked in and was led to an inner office to discuss the dog’s apparent good luck because little Sparky, as he was known to me, was not injured. Mom and young son soon followed, the boy crying so hard he could barely walk. After all was settled the family wanted to meet me, the savior of their little dog, whose real name was “Stinky.” I now thought of him as Stinky-Sparky. DeShawn, the little boy with drying tearstains on his angelic face, kept holding and hugging his little dog. Stinky, DeShawn, and I posed for a “happy reunion” photo. Mom and dad thanked me profusely and sent the photo from their phone to my phone. DeShawn took his eyes off Stinky for a total of 3 seconds and flashed me the biggest smile before they walked out of my life.
For a few moments I had forgotten about my thumb, the two days of homework I needed to complete, and the job I never started. Back home I received a voicemail from the vet about dogs they knew who needed fostering and adopting. I looked at my photo of Stinky-Sparky, DeShawn, and me, all smiles. I allowed myself to remember the strong thump, thump, thump of Stinky’s tail as it wagged against my arm while we posed for our photo. I felt contentment wash over me. I turned to my homework.
And so it goes.