Bite-Sized Story #1
Night Moves by Marcia Richards
Ali counts the minutes.
11:36. Her shift is nearly over. The golden neon arches’ glow creates a halo in the fog. For a second she wonders…no, it means nothing. People who do what she has planned, don’t become angels.
11:39. Ali is aching to leave now, but she owes it to her manager to finish out the night. She works her rag, wiping up the grimy stickiness her customers left behind. Just a few more tables.
11:42. She waits for the old man and his wife to finish eating. Through the fingerprinted doors, she has a view of the riverbank, just twenty feet beyond the dumpsters. The muddy water is running fast tonight; the rushing roar competes with the piped-in music. She’ll soon be able to slip away without fear of anyone stopping her; she won’t have to go back to her dreary rented room ever again.
11:46. The rumble of choppers takes Ali back to the night her parents died and resurrects the guilt. The garish red and yellow dining room comes to life as the bikers burst through the doors, bowlegged from too much time on their Harleys. They smell of oil, fresh air, and leather; their long hair is matted from perspiring under their helmets. A pair of blue eyes glance in her direction. Ali notices, then turns away self-consciously.
11:51.They devour their greasy burgers, laugh too loud and swear too much. The old couple stands, shake their heads and turn their backs on their half-eaten meal. The wife clasps her handbag tightly to her chest, as her husband steers her out the side door. Ali smiles, sensing there is nothing to fear from the blue-eyed one.
11:57. With elbows resting on the condiment counter, she closes her eyes, feels her breasts pressed against his back, her arms wrapped tightly around his solid chest. He lays his right hand on her thigh and the night wind stings her cheeks and draws tears from her eyes as they glide along the asphalt. Her daydream tempts her to rethink her decision, but she knows in her heart there is no other way to atone.
Midnight. Ali’s eyes fly open; she curses. It’s time. She wills her feet to move her into the locker room. She slips out of her uniform and into her jeans and sweater. On her way back through the restaurant, she tosses the uniform in the trash and silently prays they haven’t left yet.
The dining room lights are dimmed. It’s empty, but for the boy sweeping. Before she reaches the door, the night is filled with the throaty growl of V-Twin engines. Ali’s heart sinks. Her knuckles are white as she grips the door handle; she rests her forehead on the glass, believing her only hope has fled. With new resolve, she shoves her way through the door. As she turns toward the river, she’s startled. There in the darkness, are those cocky, blue eyes. “Let’s ride”, he says offering her a helmet. Ali smiles, relieved.
The river can wait.
Bite-Sized story #2
Eve dried her eyes and drove toward the beach, even though family and friends were gathered at her home to further mourn with her. She couldn’t face the emptiness if she had face all of them, too.
Her car plowed onto the sand. She wriggled out of her black dress and heels and raced into the surf. The power of the sea gave her new strength immediately. She swam until she was out of breath and could barely lift her arms for another stroke.
A big part of her wanted the waves to take her under so she could spend her last moments amid the beauty and calm of the deep. But, Jimmy would have told her again that she must go on. “You have a gift to give the world. You’ll see.” he’d say.
She shook her head. What gift? She was an ordinary woman with an ordinary job. Breathing easier now, she let the surf carry her back to shore.
A full week of meeting with lawyers and carrying out all the tasks to finalize Jimmy’s estate, left her more bereft than before. She had one more weekend to be alone with her thoughts, to grieve in privacy, before returning to her job. How would she be able to work as if nothing had changed?
Eve loaded camping gear and a cooler into her car and took one last look at her cottage that Jimmy built. Her plan was flawed but she had lost hope of ever being happy again.
She was set up on the beach by dusk. As she watched the orange sun sink into the water, she welled up and screamed, “Jimmy, tell me what my gift is, dammit! How can I go on if I have no idea why I should?” She ran into the foamy sea. After exhausting herself again, she plodded her way across the sand and collapsed in her lean-to.
Eve woke, startled by a nearby rustling noise. She peeked outside her shelter and caught a black figure in the act of stealing food she’d left unattended. She rubbed her swollen eyes and realized it was a young dog. Inching closer, she saw it had no collar and was thinner than she thought normal. When the dog noticed her, she remained still. The pup sniffed the air in her direction and Eve reached out a hand in welcome. The dog bolted with its tail between it’s legs.
As she drifted off to sleep again, she thought, “Poor hungry dog. How could anyone abandon such a pretty pup?”
Eve woke with the sunrise. She stretched and looked around. The dog was back, but sat twenty feet away just watching her every move. Eve felt sure it was looking for a handout again. Now, in the daylight, Eve could see the dog was a female. She was black with white paws and a faint white strip down her snout. Eve smeared a slice of bread with peanut butter and called to her. The pup trembled, moved a few inches closer and sat again. Eve moved closer. The dog snarled and moved backward. Unsure how to convince the dog she could be trusted, Eve sat back on her heels determined to wait out the dog.
Forty minutes later, the dog wobbled and fell over. Eve jumped up and grabbed a water bottle. She sat next to the pup and held its head in her lap. Eve dripped water into the dog’s mouth. She stroked her coat and sang softly to her. The pup looked into Eve’s eyes. That was all it took to move Eve to the point of tears again. For what seemed like hours, she cried for the dog and for herself. She prayed over and over that the dog would survive. Something told her survival was crucial.
That evening the dog gobbled up another piece of bread and peanut butter. She drank the remainder of the bottled water and then curled up next to Eve to sleep. For the first time in over a week, Eve’s eyes lit up.
“What an angel you are.”
The next morning, they splashed in the water and Eve tossed pieces of driftwood for Angel to fetch. Then Angel trotted off. Eve watched her go, assuming she had a family somewhere that she needed to get back to.
Eve’s black mood resurfaced.
One moment she decided she would find a way to adjust to her new circumstance and the next moment she just wanted to give up. Eve saw no happiness in her future, no purpose.
“Why does everyone leave?”
She ran to the water again, hoping the life-giving properties of the sea would heal her heart. Floating helped her focus only on the soothing nature of the water. Something suddenly spun her and dragged her farther from shore. A rip current. She fought for control but the force was too strong. She had heard of rip currents but had no idea how to get out of one. Screaming until her throat was raw, she prayed someone would hear her in time, before she became too tired to swim.
She truly did not want to die. Not that way. The sun hung lower in the sky. More than an hour must have passed but, no boats had. Eve’s arms and legs were jelly. How much longer could she hold on?
With heavy eyelids, she feared falling asleep as that would certainly be the end for her. She’d heard that singing could keep a person from drifting off to sleep. She had to try. A song popped in her head. It was Jimmy’s favorite.
except that, now, she would have Jimmy’s life insurance benefit. She could stop working if she chose to. She could