One of the great ironies of my bloggy thing is that I go on and on about fiction that I write, and even about how important it is to get over the nervousness of sharing that fiction with the world, all while never actually, you know, posting any of that fiction here.
Most of my current work is in a queue of some kind, a queue that keeps me from being ably to post it on my blog. Some of my stories are in a submission queue awaiting consideration from one journal or another. At least one piece of mine is (happily) in a line awaiting publication. A lot of stories are waiting for me to edit them and decide which journal’s submission queue to send them off to. Generally speaking, once I put a story up here I can’t submit it to a journal–hence, I haven’t put any stories up here.
I think that should change, though, if only because I despise hypocrisy.
Here’s a story that I first wrote for a competition over at WritingForums last spring. The prompt for the contest was “unexpectedly nude.” I have expanded this piece ever so slightly since then–the competition had a strict 650 word limit, which was just a tad too short for this story–but this is still a quick read.
One word of warning: while the sexual content here is a little oblique and extremely metaphorical, if sexual references aren’t your cup of tea, please skip this one and come back again soon. If you are still here, I hope you enjoy the story.
(Un)Clothed by Words
She began the same as always: “The girl sat in the coffee shop. Don’t worry about what she looks like. She’s just a girl.”
The girl considered her next words as a blast of cool spring air blew a group of tittering young women into the shop to order froo-froo drinks with foamed cream. The girl didn’t care what they drank, but she didn’t like how they dressed. They were such tawdry exhibitionists.
The girl thought that the guys who came in next must have seen the tramps through the big windows behind her. The bushes between the sidewalk and the windows were just beginning to leaf out. The girl knew that a person could surreptitiously peer into the shop from the sidewalk. She liked that in a writing spot.
None of the guys noticed the girl with the notebook at the table by the door. Maybe they were distracted by the female flesh on display elsewhere, she thought. If they were that easily distracted, those boys had no place in her story.
She kept writing, writing things the Internet was invented to contain, things the Internet would gladly deliver on a glowing screen in a darkened room. She wrote those things in her new notebook because putting them on the Internet to be read by just anyone wasn’t as good as putting them into a disposable notebook she could discretely abandon.
All of the seats in the little shop were filled with loudly flirting locals. Perfect, she thought, so long as it happens soon. Then she began to worry that the right one would not come along at all. That happened sometimes. It was fun to write and drink coffee anyway, she consoled herself.
Then he came in the door. He was a little older than the girl, with a short beard, or maybe just scruff. The weathered leather attache with a strap over his left shoulder might mark him as a businessman going to a meeting, but she decided that he was a writer looking for a cheap spot to work. Watching discretely, she saw his eyes flit over the trashy girls as they laughed and flirted. His eyes passed over the girl, too, as she hid behind her notebook. She rushed to fill in her story with this new protagonist.
He ordered an espresso. His voice was friendly, but . . . it was something else, too, she thought, she hoped.
The girl shivered and wrote furiously. As steam whooshed, she wrote about the strap from the attache whistling through the air. She gasped a little bit when it came down in her story. Did the man look over at her then? She blushed a little, but a flush was already on her cheeks.
The girl hurried to finish her work before the espresso was done. She got up just as the man was thanking the barista. She left the notebook casually on the table.
The girl felt hot outside in the cold air. She took a few steps toward the train station, but then stopped and watched through the tender leaves of the bushes and the big window looking in on the seat she had abandoned. The man looked around before he sat down in the seat she had warmed for him. After a moment, he opened the notebook she had left behind and read. No one ever opened it right away; she knew patience was required to receive this particular violation. She squirmed beyond the bushes, both voyeur and exhibitionist.
Then he stood up, notebook in hand, and flung open the door. She wanted to flee, but she was trapped alongside the bushes, unexpectedly nude before the hero of her own story.
“I think that you left this.” He held out the notebook.
She flushed even more and stammered, “Th-thanks. I . . . that is . . . embarrassing.”
“In a fun way, I hope.” He smiled. Did his left eyebrow cock up ever so slightly?
The girl nodded at the man as she took the notebook from his hand. She clutched the book across her chest and turned without another word. She ran to the train station, the cold air in her lungs as rough as a lover’s hands.
She shielded herself with the notebook for the entire train ride home.