Shae thought the yard unkempt, but the rent seemed reasonable enough. The door appeared to have the engravings of a southwestern artist. Carefully, she knocked.
It was the only house on the block with shade on its lawn. An unpruned mesquite tree welcomed the cactus wren and the occasional stray cat. Legumes and dead leaves littered the gray stepping stones of the suelo. Dingy and weathered, the front showed signs it was once a bright white with bold brown trimming.
A stout woman wearing a tank top and shorts forged a smile. She introduced herself, and Shae in kind.
First things first. Tammy was an ardent fan of The Standpat Gazette. She informed Shae of this without hesitation. Tammy was hoping this fact would scare Shae off, but at this point in Shae’s journey, it was going to take more than a subscription to an unpopular publication to send her looking elsewhere.
While showing Shae around the house, Tammy laid out the terms of renting a room, and Shae agreed. Christmas decor was up all year, and in mid-November, the white lights and garland above the kitchen sink reminded Tammy of the work she would not have to do.
Sunday mornings in the Haynesburg household consisted of laundry-turning and a trip to the local eatery for the sandwich special. Today was obviously busier than usual.
Moving took all of an hour as Shae’s belongings easily fit into the back of Tammy’s truck. Shae traveled light, always with one figurative foot in a door and one foot out.
Facing north, Shae’s bedroom was furnished with a cherry oak desk and twin bed. The floor and walls reminded her of the exterior with the exception of mother nature’s touch. The room was clean enough. Organizing was going to have to wait.
Bacon nuggets saturated the air with their smell. Tammy offered them on a blue Italian saucer.
Sipping lukewarm coffee, Tammy asked, “Don’t you think it’s true?”
The Standpat Gazette headline read: “Ethnic Cleansing is a Hoax.”
Shae’s eyes glazed over at the hummingbirds vying for their breakfast on the back porch.
“No. My days are numbered.”
“Oh! Don’t be silly! There’s no way–“
Shae wanted to tell Tammy there was no way to have it both ways, but having a roof over her head for that month was more important. Biding her time was a stark reminder of her resourcefulness.
“Shae! I absolutely love her!”
LaQuinta Hall, one of the local news anchors, was covering yesterday’s mass shooting.
“What’s her name?” Shae asked.
Quickly switching off the tube and telling Shae when to vacuum, Tammy made it evident that she was the queen of the castle.
“She’s so… smart!”
“What’s her name?”
When Tammy shrugged her shoulders, Shae decided to arrange for a Lyft to Meryl’s house. This wouldn’t be the last time she crashed on her auntie’s couch. At this point, Shae had to accept what she read between the lines. Tammy’s wasn’t the house, and this wasn’t the time.
I pull into the drive-thru at Starbucks to get my usual grande hot white chocolate mocha with no whip. I do a mental calculation of my near future expenses, and rationalise the temporary enjoyment of my favourite drink.
The barista says,”The customer in front of you paid for your order! Would you like to pay all or a portion of the customer behind you?”
Wow! All, of course.
I am the 32nd customer to pay it forward. Yes indeed, that kind gesture makes me feel, even if just for a moment, that the world isn’t so bad off after all.
Lucas was always placed first. He gazed from the front of the finish line at the last portion of the obstacle course on the playground. Its intricate design and tremendous height sparked his curiosity.
Protecting her patchwork skirt from the ground, Josefina ran toward the finish line. She had earned her badge of honor, burning both of her elbows on the candy cane twister slide.
Derek came running behind Josefina, his upper lip scrunched up toward his nose and squinting eyes. His legs were ashy from roughing it across the chain-link bridge.
Shannon’s on edge. Those big wigs are in town. Since the e-mail reminder about company dress, she’s kept her eyes peeled for shorts, flip flops, and beanies. The break room smells of supreme pizza. This is one of the few times the minions get free lunch. While carrying drinks across the room, Shannon spots the chief financial officer, and awkwardly places the bottles on the tablecloth. “Would you like a drink, sir… uh… Mr. Palmer?” It’s his favourite, but Shannon shook it a bit too much. It was like a prankster shoved mentos into diet coke and sealed it shut.
Rubbed sage saturates her salt lamp. Rose quartz sits on her altar. Shuffling the deck, she glances at me, then gently lays the deck on the reading cloth. Twice I cut the deck. As the cards appear, she tells me I had a past life with Langston Hughes. Confused, I nod, to hear her say that I will meet a man in New York City and develop a relationship with him. Oh, to be a black femme in search of fifteen minutes of truth. Were there better uses for my twenty five dollars? Maybe. But this time I’m not fooled.
It’s a chilly Saturday morning, and LaShae arrives at the university to find her name on Dr. White’s list. That was well-deserved after acing her senior level public speaking course. She soaks in the scholastic vibes when Barb waltzes into the foyer. Barb wants LaShae to be her runner. She shows LaShae the breakfast table decked down with donuts and decaf. So she thinks she’s found herself the help… LaShae abandons post. Four hours later, four centuries of giving it the old college try fails once more. Barb was chained by fury, and LaShae enjoyed and judged some lively debates.
Recently I ran a poll asking writers if it’s possible to write a new story every day. One voter responded to the poll by saying “quality over quantity.” I couldn’t agree more.
I went through a phase of feeling as though my visibility as a writer depended on how frequently I could churn out content.
The problem with that mindset is it actually reinforces writer’s block!
Think about it.
If you’re pushing yourself to come up with new settings, characters, plots, etc., nothing of high quality comes from that. It’s forced.
What increases your readership is captivating content. That content comes from your soul, and people quickly pick up on that. People remember and keep you on their radar.
Now having said this, it does depend on the type of story. I write flash fiction stories that are exactly 100 words. Sometimes if I’m energetic enough, I can write two or three per day. Then other days I’m so overwhelmed with work and my commute that I just need to veg.
But for short stories, it pays to invest more time into the quality of your writing. And besides, you deserve all that time.