This Show Case features eight pieces submitted in response to our twenty-ninth Writing Prompt: Center. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for the Show Case page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.
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by S.T. Ranscht
The Giant Egg
by Boris Glikman
Where exactly the giant egg was found is no longer remembered clearly.
What is certain is that an egg of such a size had never been seen before and it dwarfed the sightseers who gathered to gawk at it. The immediate instinctive reaction was to attempt to crack it open right where it lay to see what was within, but a high-pitched voice screamed out above the din of the excited crowd that something rotten, perhaps even a half-decayed gigantic monstrosity, could be inside.
It was therefore decided to drag the giant egg to a nearby beach so the sand could absorb any putrid liquids that might leak out once the shell was broken, and the ocean could then be used as a trash can to dispose of every trace of this abomination’s existence.
Engineers arrived on the scene to draw plans for the most effective way of breaking the shell. Environmentalists gathered to ensure the surrounding land would not become too contaminated, should the egg release any foulness. Scaffolding was erected all around the egg, upon which an army of labourers hammered relentlessly at the egg’s thick, concrete-like shell.
No one can recall how long it took for the workers to make even the slightest dent in the shell or how long it was before the first visible cracks started to appear on the surface of the mysterious egg. The spectacle of the egg unveiling its secret was just so overwhelming that all the other details fade into obscurity.
An awed hush swept over the crowded beach as the inner contents slowly came into view. Some could not bear the stress of the suspense and turned their backs; others even started to run away. But those who stayed to watch are unanimous in their recollections of the wonder of the moment when a golden star, bathing the surroundings in soft, warm light, drifted calmly out of the centre of the broken shell and settled cosily upon the horizon, as though it had always belonged there.
by John Correll
Jo smelled a tree on Unter Den Linden with utter disgust. Just another dachshund in a city full of sausages. He fancied better. Maybe a shaggy shepherd. But Mrs. Polansky, the wife of the American ambassador to East Germany, thought otherwise and gave her schnauzer a tug.
“You will not inspect every tree on this street, Jo.” She pulled him along and ambled towards the Brandenburg gate. A gate where the number of pedestrians diminished, and the mindfulness of the border police expanded.
Jo strained for another tree when Mr. Klomeister, a dear friend, surprised them by zipping around the corner. He sprinted like the school bell had bonged a minute before. Yet he didn’t belong in school.
He noticed them, slowed to a brisk walk, and tipped his hat.
“Good morning, Frau Polanski. Terribly sorry, but I have no time.” He raced by without a handshake or a wink. And a flustered Mrs. Polansky blinked and whipped around to give chase. Mr. Klomeister was quite nimble for a 67-year-old retired piano tuner.
“Franz, Why the rush? Slow down,” she shouted.
But he didn’t slow. Instead, he jumped sideways and barely avoided two pot-bellied gentlemen walking in the opposite direction in gray trench coats. Mrs. Polansky didn’t jump. She crashed into the hidden wall of two secret police officers instead.
Bouncing off a belly, she staggered back, and Jo’s leash wrapped around the other agent’s legs.
“Sorry, sorry,” she apologized like an electric echo.
“No problem, Frau Po…” the tangled man started, but the other man elbowed him in the ribs.
“We beg your pardon, madame. The fault is ours, isn’t that so, Kurt?” Smoke escaped the elbowing agent’s nose like a dragon deciding which damsel to devour for dinner.
“Yes, that’s right, Bert. I must apologize. I thought you were Frau Polka from the canteen.” Kurt forged a counterfeit laugh and let Jo pass.
Mrs. Polansky ignored the apology and whispered a final sorry before trotting off.
“Not yet, Kurt. Give her space.” Bert took a drag from his cigarette and touched his comrade’s shoulder. “I should report you for that stupid slip.”
“She surprised me. But what’s up with Klomeister? Why can’t he just walk?”
Kurt, once a fit Olympic long jump hopeful, had overindulged in the state prescribed pharmaceuticals. The drugs resulted in early-onset arthritis. A dream-ending condition. And his new superior, Major Gehorsam, assigned him to Mrs. Polansky because he deemed her a sluggish old lady of low priority. On paper, she promised to be a perfect match for two lackluster, overweight, has-been old spies. But the major was wrong.
Bert and Kurt started to give chase when Mr. Klomeister and Mrs. Polansky disappeared around a building.
But, a minute later, Franz stopped. The glowing red lamp-man forced him to. He stood obediently on the curb, waited, and marveled at the empty street. Mrs. Polansky joined him, and Jo sat beside her, his tongue hanging down like a grounded fighter pilot’s scarf.
Mrs. Polansky looked back and forth between the old man and the traffic light. “Franz, there’s no traffic. Let’s cross.”
“It is forbidden to walk on the red.” Franz checked both ways.
“But we are stopped by a red light resembling Jesus on the cross wearing a World War I British helmet. It just doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s scientifically superior at stopping people.” Franz crossed his arms and tapped his fingers.
“That’s not science, Franz. That’s people.”
Lamp-man switched to a green goose-step, and the old man, woman, and dog sprinted off.
Not so close behind, Bert and Kurt rounded the corner and rushed after them, but lamp-man turned red again.
Bert stepped back onto the curb. “These stupid lights know you’re coming.” He sighed and let his cigarette relax. “They’re headed for the city center. We’ll catch them there.”
Sweat dripped off Kurt’s forehead like a sponge demanding a squeeze. “I’ve been thinking, Bert. It’s not actually the center. More west of center. I mean for the east. Very westish, not at all centerish. If you know what I mean.” He extracted a stained handkerchief from his coat.
“Are you disparaging the socialist worker’s paradise?” his comrade asked.
“Oh no, never. It’s just sort of, perhaps a little — funny.” Lamp-man swapped crucifixion for a Prussian march, and the men proceeded.
“Kurt, we are the State Security Police, the Stasi. We don’t have a sense of humor.” Bert sucked his cigarette like drinking ice cream through a straw.
“I wasn’t laughing. Were you laughing, Bert?” Kurt wiped his brow.
Bert coughed a thick cloak of smoke and refused to answer.
A hundred yards ahead, Jo fretted over all the missed scents. Dachshunds, pinschers, poodles, boxers, rottweilers, Spitzes, and Pomeranians flooded passed without a whiff of sense. The stories whizzed too fast for him to make heads or tails of them. But Mrs. Polansky remained tight on Franz’s tail.
“Where’re we going?” she asked.
“The Zentrum. You mean downtown, city center?”
“Yes, that’s where it is.” He waved ahead.
“What?” She only saw a repeating row of gray bullet-scarred buildings.
“The Centrum,” he persisted.
“Mr. Klomeister, you’re not making any sense.”
“Frau Polanski, I have it on good authority from my cousin whose son attends the same Gymnasium as the son of Dr. Ecker, the urologist, who heard from a patient, a policewoman – sorry, I forgot her name – but she spoke to a baker who happens to play canasta with the janitor at — and get this — the Centrum.”
“And the point is?”
“A shipment will arrive…” Franz glanced at his watch. “Right now.”
“Something that hasn’t been in any store for over a month.”
“No. I can get that on the black market anytime. Cheap. The Russians bathe in it.”
“I’m talking about a necessity, like air.”
“No. Toilet paper.”
“What?” Mrs. Polanski almost tripped over herself.
“The most sought-after treasure in the German Democratic Republic.”
“Did you say, toilet paper?”
Mr. Klomeister nodded and pointed. “Right now, in the brand-new department store. The Centrum.”
Across the expanse of Alexanderplatz, a giant box pretended to be a building. A massive blue C followed by the word “Centrum” hung over its doors.
“But Franz, I could have brought paper from the west.”
“That wouldn’t do. My landlady would demand some, my sister would steal the rest, and I would end up with nothing. Besides, I’m used to the rough recycled stuff.”
“Recycled?” People pushed against her as they entered the store.
Franz cursed, “Damn, the toilet paper’s on the second floor.” He led the way to the escalator, where they waited in line to go up. “The border police confiscate all the bibles, decadent magazines, and books from naive western smugglers. Then they ship them off to the mill.”
“For toilet paper?” Mrs. Polansky shook her head, and Franz nodded.
They reached the second floor, and the crowd carried them along. Someone up ahead shouted, “Sold out,” and the horde vanished like the morning mist on a sunny day.
Within minutes, Franz and Mrs. Polansky stood almost alone in front of the empty toilet paper stand. Franz cried without noticing the two men on the opposite side of the rack. A few yards away, Kurt waved, and Bert held up a single battered roll like Putin on parade.
Then a store attendant appeared with an “Out of stock” sign. Jo barked, “hello,” and she stared at the strangers in disbelief.
“What are you standing there for? Are you all stupid? There’s a delivery in ten minutes at the convenience store on Friedrichstrasse.”
The Centrum was East Germany’s premier department store; unfortunately, I can only find a German Wikipedia reference: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrum_Warenhaus But it does have a photo of the Alexanderplatz store.
The Cat and the … *Sigh*
No fiddle here. Ain’t there yet. Maybe next week.
by Mimi Speike
Sly threads his way through kitchen, pantry, and scullery. Beyond those utilitarian spaces lie richly paneled corridors leading to grand reception rooms. He advances cautiously. The staff would seize him if they could, and eject him into the yard, latching the mud room door, eliminating the obvious point of entry.
Barn Elms was for centuries the residence of the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Francis Walsingham1 took possession of the estate in 1579. The main structure is a house on a grand scale. The first floor is comprised of a large central hall and four intimate parlors, a dining room, a game room, a library, and an office, one of several in the complex.
The style is rich but not ostentatious, with intricate wainscoting of the finest workmanship. Historic touches abound. Tonight, the house has been thrown open to guests, who are encouraged to wander, marveling at the magnificent detailing, and interacting, perhaps casually, perhaps not.
This crowd is not your cream of society, although that sort is present as well. Actors are here in numbers, at Walsingham’s urging. He is an enthusiastic patron of the arts, and the driving force behind the Queen’s Men, a troupe of players but lately assembled from top talent of several foremost companies. His ‘evenings’ are the place to see and be seen, to network, as we say.
A string and wind ensemble stationed on a mezzanine provides music for dancing, and an accompaniment to antics presented on a small stage directly below them. This is not a stuffy event. Virtuosos of several stripes have their moment in the sun, but novelty acts are also part of the fun.
Sly wanders packed rooms looking for John Dee, not sure what will ensue once he finds him. Dee will not be pleased to see him. Can O-ek2 bully the man into allowing him a turn on what is apparently a valuable violin, no poor man’s fiddle, such as he handled during his tenure as assistant to a street corner busker years earlier?
He discovers the dining room. An extravagantly furnished buffet is closely monitored by a wait staff; he will not be allowed to help himself. He looks around, spots Dee seated at a table, in conversation with, by the looks of him, a fine, prosperous fellow, sharply dressed in silk and velvet, not a frayed cuff or worn elbow to ruin the effect. (The same cannot be said for Dee.)
Excellent! The cat popping up here, Dee won’t explode as he might, were they unobserved.
Sly trots over to the table, nods cordially, and receives an ice-cold acknowledgement.
Dee’s dinner companion is hailed by an acquaintance just come through the door. He turns to respond to the greeting. Sly jumps onto a chair and whispers, “How’s about you get me a nice mess of that beef?”
Dee takes a slice of sirloin off his plate and sets it on the floor. The cat jumps down, goes at it. The men resume their conversation. He’s not seen the face. But that voice! He knows that voice! Or is his ear playing tricks on him? This is too bizarre to contemplate.
He gulps down his stingy meal, emerges from under the tablecloth, looks up. He mounts the chair, then the table, and settles himself nose to nose with a man who might be a twin of a former associate.
“Who’s this?” asks … well, we don’t know what he calls himself these days. In The Rogue at Sea, he went under the name Hernando Del Gado. “Does this creature belong to Sir Francis? I suppose so. He acts as if he owns the place.”
“He’s my animal,” growls Dee, “carried here by accident. The sweetheart tails me around as a puppy dog would do. Excuse me while I return him to my coach, where he will spend the remainder of the evening, if he knows what’s good for him. Señor! Meet me in the red room in half an hour. I feel lucky.”
“You, lucky? That’ll be the day. The mathematical genius wants to try his newest strategy, on me!” hoots Del Gado. “Doctor, you’re a glutton for punishment! I’ll take your money, sir, any time, and willingly.” Chuckles ripple through the room. Dee’s passion for, and ineptitude at, cards are well known.
* * *
They’re out a side door, into the yard. Dee clutches the protesting cat firmly in his arms.
“I know that one!” shrieks Sly. “That’s Hernando Del Gado. I sailed with him on the Santa Clara. Last time I laid eyes on him, he was knocked out cold on the sand outside La Rochelle, in France.”
“His name is Diego de la Hoya. I’ve known him for years.”
“You sure about that?”
“Certainly, I’m sure. I was the one put him in touch with Sir Francis. I fished him out of Bridewell on the advice of one placed there to scout talent. He’s a slick’s slick. He speaks several languages, has extensive contacts in the foreign community. He’s tops with ciphers, the stand-out student of the mischief in Seething Lane.3 He’s one of our most valuable operatives.”
“I assist Sir Francis in a number of ways.”
“Del Gado or de la Hoya, I know the creep. He’s a piece of garbage.”
“Of course, he’s a piece of garbage. He wouldn’t be half so useful to us if he weren’t.”
“He’ll turn on you.”
“I think not. We compensate him handsomely.”
“You disappoint me, Doctor. You’re known as a cunning man,4 yet you’re hook and sinker for a snake of snakes. And for Kelley. Or at least for his bullshit. That dick-head communicates with His Honor, Uriel the Magnificent? C’mon!”
“You talk to me. No huge difference.”
“I’m not Uriel. You think you rate a top hoo-hah to advise you? You think a damn lot of yourself, my friend. You were at the center of the academical universe once. You taught at the University of Paris! Now you record Kelley’s gibberish, and pretend to understand it.”
They’ve reached the stables. Dee seats himself on a bench and settles the cat beside him. They sit, lost in thought.
Sly softens his remarks. “Sorry, I’m being harsh. But you need a good slap in the face to wake you up. And I’m in a rotten mood, frankly. This lunatic,” he bats himself on the noggin, “is mad to work your fiddle.”
“A cat playing a fiddle. How does that go? Insane!”
“These sensitives can be damn delusional. You know it yourself, or ought to. Look, all he wants is to crank out a tune or two. Is that too much to ask? I told ya, we gotta coddle him some. He’s not going to damage your instrunent. I’ll see to it.”
Sly, as himself, emits a series of disgruntled sounds. As O-ek, he screams, “Shut up you! Just shut up!” He implores, “Doctor! Give way here, like I did on the mint jelly. Get the brat off my back, please. My final word on the subject: I can’t help you if you can’t help me.”
It looks like this relationship, that will endure for quite some time, is going to be a rocky one.
* * *
- Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, the man known as her ‘Spymaster’.
- See my last Showcase entry: ‘Questions Answered. Problems Solved.’
- Walsingham had turned his London residence into a spy school. He lived at Barn Elms, five miles outside London.
- One of mystical powers. (A caster of spells, a healer, a seer, etc.)
by John Correll
She bit him, kicked his dog, and almost killed a dead man. But Mike loved her. He collapsed in his car seat, exhausted, and imagined the center of the universe, the deadman, and himself waiting in the ER and laughing over a silly mistake. Or maybe he’d wake up.
Nope. He started the car and kept his other hand pressed against the bleeding gash on the side of his neck. Her bite.
The night before, Dave, his friend, Mr. I-work-for-the-government, asked for one last favor. Nothing special; no guns, no knives. And a bonus. He could keep his distance. Easy.
“One hour tops,” Dave said. “Find out who she meets in the park this evening. That’s all. Walk Sam. You do that anyway.”
“Why don’t you just say her name, Dave?” he asked.
“Come on. I introduced you two. Remember?”
Remember? He’d never forget the first time he kissed her. She tasted of rum and coke and tongue-pressing passion. And this evening, his desire returned, but the redness stopped him. She studied his face, smiled, and licked the blood from her mouth. And, he couldn’t believe it, he still wanted to kiss, but…
She rested her arms on his shoulders. “I like you.” Her weight shifted, and she held tight against him. Her blood-covered face smeared his cheek, and his dog growled behind them. More than anything in the world, she trusted him. She couldn’t recall why, but she suspected he shouldn’t be there.
“Stop it, Sam,” he commanded. Sam’s growl grew into an uncertain whine. “Tracy, you’re drunk. You’re in shock. And, this blood. Is it — yours?”
“Nooo. I’m the center of the universe, and you’re nice. What’s your name?” She rested her head on his shoulder like the night they first met. She wanted to remember what he had told her. Nothing, only darkness. He pressed against her and closed his eyes as her blood-moistened mouth massaged his shoulder. All Wrong.
She desired, with the gentlest touch, to tear his heart out. To cherish and not eat. Not like the man in the alley. The lifeless lump in the dark. That was Dave’s question. Now meaningless.
“It’s me. Mike. Remember?” Her mouth pressed deep against his neck. Ever so nice. Even more painful.
In confusion, he held her until she jerked, and Sam yelped. Her teeth rammed deep into his neck, and she latched on until he shoved her off. They both screamed as she pounded his chest.
“That beast bit me.” She swirled around, kicking Sam. And Sam retreated with a beaten squeal into the park.
Mike grabbed his burning wet neck. “Tracy, what happened? Why? No. I’m sorry. Sam’s never bitten, anyone. Ever. Maybe it’s the blood. I don’t know. Sam!”
She leaned over. Rubbed her leg and cursed at the ground. He had saved her. But not this time. She’d save him.
And like before, he reached for her. “You need to sit down. Please, Tracy, listen to me.”
“No.” She shook her head, rejecting his weakness. Scorning words with action. Both her hands swung in a locked, bowling ball-sized fist that cracked against his lower jaw. A punch far worse than her bite. Her stinging ejection sent him flying like mishandled airport luggage. And when he returned to earth, his head thumped. Hard.
The next thing he knew, Sam licked his forehead, and the bite on his neck throbbed. He sat up to smell the blood on his fingers and wondered why she meant so much.
She was gone. But the mysterious lump in the dark remained.
Mike grabbed Sam’s leash and staggered towards the dark because Dave demanded it. With his phone light, he stood over a body on its back. Then Dave rang, and Mike turned away to answer.
“Go away. I need to go to the ER. I need to do my lesson plan. And — you said, one hour.”
“Calm down, Mike. Did she meet someone? ER?” Dave asked. Mike faced the body.
“My head hurts. She bit me, and Sam bit her, and this doesn’t make any sense. And I want to go home.” The deadman’s shirt was yanked up, exposing a massive cut below his ribs. Part of his intestines dangled out like a string of half-eaten blood sausages.
“She didn’t meet anyone?” Dave continued. Mike nudged the deadman’s foot with his own.
“What? Who? Turn on your camera.” Mike complied, and Sam sniffed the man’s feet. Sam knew dead, and this wasn’t it.
“Leave it, Sam. Jesus, Dave. What is this?”
“Let me see his face.” Mike moved. “That’s him. Did anyone see you? Or her?” Dave recognized the error and horror. “Listen. Leave him. Go home, now.” But Mike didn’t listen.
Sam growled, and the body groaned with a twitching arm.
“Sheazzes, he’s alive.” Mike pocketed the phone and kneeled to feel the deadman’s neck for a pulse. Nothing. Sam barked right as the deadman’s fingers seized Mike’s wrist like a lobster’s claw. Mike pulled away, but the grip tightened as the deadman sat up like Dracula from his coffin.
“Lie back, sir. Please. You’re hurt,” Mike twisted his arm free. And the man’s insides sloshed into his lap, and he puzzled over where his bits fit. Sam switched to a growl, and the man tried spitting but slobbered like a leaking car radiator. Sam backed off.
“Sir, lie down. I’m calling 911. You need an ambulance. Seriously.”
The man shoveled his bowels back into his abdomen and looked over his shoulder. Mike followed his gaze and saw it. A pistol by the wall. Before Mike could act, the man snatched it and waved the weapon like trying to shoot a fly.
“Sir, you need help. Just lie down, please. You don’t need a gun.”
The man stood with one arm holding his middle and then with feet firmly shaking on the ground, he stumbled away. Mike followed at a safe distance until the man found a car, got in, rolled down the window, and fired.
The bullet sizzled into a tree, and Mike ran.
This is supposedly the beginning of a much longer story which is stretching my writing comfort zone. So I’m curious for any feedback. Is it interesting enough to want to read on? Does the protagonist seem likable at this stage? Anything would be most helpful. And many thanks in advance just for reading…
At the Edge of Centrifugal Force
by SL Randall
As I dig further into the characters of MvA, Sophia has insisted I learn who she is. This little scene is simply to help me understand her. I must give thanks to my daughter-in-law, who understands fashion far better than I. Give me T-shirts, jeans and a pair doc martins and I’m happy. Sophia would be horrified. Thanks Rachael, for introducing me to Manolo Blahnik, he is afterall, the man who designed shoes for lizards.
The title? I just picture Sophia wrapped up so tight, that as her world crumbles, centrifugal force will pull her apart… We’ll see…
Was that a gray hair? No. wait.
Sophia turned her head. Light shimmered off her sleek black hair, creating a silvery illusion. She exhaled relief as she stepped back to review her entire outfit in the mirror.
Smugness curled her lips.
The simplicity of a black silk blouse, atop flared scarlet slacks drawn together with a bold Gucci belt would remind everyone who held the power in the room.
She smiled coldly at the mirror as she slid it aside to reveal her shoe closet, organized by brand, color and occasion. Sophia dabbled in high end shoe shopping, but her loyalty, cultivated as a child, was to designer Manolo Blahnik. His designs, functional works of art worn on her feet, she fondly called my Manolos.
Neerja Gola, her mother, had frequented Manolo’s New York shop, attracted by the affluence of the patrons, yet always remained in the background, too intimidated to interact with her peers. Young Sophia in tow, was embarrassed by her mother’s timidity. Once, when the designer was in town for a fashion show she slipped from Neerja’s side at the back of the crowd and walked straight up to the designer to introduce herself. Wooing the powerful was instinctual for Sophia. She was rewarded with her first pair of Manolos, designed specifically for her. Neerja’s fearful lecture all the way home, advised against such boldness in the future. Sophia wore the Manolos to tatters, and ignored her mother’s advice.
She selected a pair of black patent leather shoe booties. Bold, no nonsense shoes, which would echo smartly as she walked Adventravia’s corporate floors. She finished her look with gold knot earrings. A glance at her hand, she considered removing her wedding band, but decided it would telegraph her intentions. Bepé’s disappearance was known to only three people. With any luck, Bepé hadn’t realized it yet either.
One last look in the mirror. Perfect.
“Gillian!” She called for her assistant as she made her way down the wide staircase to the main floor. The foyer on her left led to the ornate entry to the house. To her right the house opened with vaulted ceilings and glass walls. Situated atop the hill, she had a one hundred and sixty degree view of the lake and forest below. Gillian was no where in sight.
“Gillian, we need to leave!” Still no response. Pursed lips, Where was she?
Sophia rarely worried about giving interviews or standing in front of a cameras. In fact, she enjoyed the attention, but today was different. Everything, from research, to money, to time was invested in today’s outcome. Careful planning. Careful steps. Sacrifice. Loose ends knotted, severed or burned. Her constant mental litany, ticked off possible problems.
A commotion off to her right, interrupted her thoughts. The sliding glass door to the Arboretum was open. Gillian’s loud, angry curses emanated from the dense foliage. A brisk, tok,tok, tok announced her assistant’s angry arrival. Before Sophia could open her mouth Gillian dropped a bloody, hairy mess on the tiled floor. The woman’s hair and makeup looked like she had just rolled out of bed after fighting a rooster.
“What the hell?”
Gillian held up an angry hand, “Don’t even think of reminding me what today is,” the menace in her voice made Sophia step back. “I just had this fucking piece of meat dropped on my head. Then, as if I wanted to steal it from the fucking bird that dropped it on my head, it attacked me. Now, I don’t give a fuck how late we are, I need a bath!”
“But,” was all Sophia could say, before Gillian tok, tok, tokked her way to the guest bathroom and slammed the door.
Sophia glared at the mangled corpse. Somehow, this was Bepé’s fault. If she hadn’t already arranged his exile, she’d murder him and feed him to the bird in the arboretum.
I Played Center
by Perry Palin
My mother and her mother were friends, and I knew Dana and her older brother and younger brother and sister when we were still in elementary school. I knew them better than the eight country miles between our homes would ordinarily allow. My mother would visit her mother, and my sisters and I would be brought along to play. Dana and I were the closest in age. She was one year younger. There was teasing by the others, suggesting a romantic interest between us, but I weathered this fairly well for an elementary school boy.
Later, in high school, there was a kind of a romantic interest between us. It was a small school, and everyone knew everyone else. Still, groups formed and there were barriers between the groups. The Shore kids hung together. They were the social elite of our little school. We country kids were lacking in certain social graces, and while some of us might have been nice kids, we were, after all, country kids. I once had a girlfriend from the Shore but it didn’t last. She tired, I think, of having to explain away my rural address, and I lost out in the end to an older guy with a newer car. After my mourning period, during which I resolved to have nothing more to do with girls, I learned that Dana did not mind my country address and lack of style, and a little at a time we grew close. Dana and I were both country kids.
Dana was quiet and undemanding, and she was good to me. My limited experience with girls had not prepared me for someone who would agree with most of what I had to say, and defer to my wishes on where we would go and what we would do with our time, and I liked her very much. We would go to school parties and out to eat and to the movies, and I suppose we gave the impression of being a couple, though Dana never pressed me to make a specific commitment. When her friends urged me to take her to the prom, and I did not want to go, Dana did not complain, and I liked her very much.
Dana had brown hair, and clear fair skin, and brown eyes, and she was slender and moved with a quiet, strong grace. She was a cheerleader for our school, and I played center on the basketball team, and when she hugged me, after a game, or other times, her body was warm and she smelled clean and fresh, and my chin rested very nicely on the top of her head. But I’ve gotten way ahead of myself . . . .
by S.T. Ranscht
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