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Short Stories – Stolen

July 27, 2010

I’ve been working on my writing for the last several months. I’ve been sending short stories out to different magazines, trying to get published. I’m also working on a novel and have completed a rough draft. In the meantime, I’ve decided to publish ones that have been rejected on this site. I am hoping to get some feedback for future work. I’m going to keep sending out what I feel is my best work, so please have mercy on these lesser stories.

Stolen by Tracy J. Johnston

            May in Central Florida is a time of madness.  The heat rises into the nineties and the humidity peaks at a hundred percent.  The sky begins opening up and comes down crashing in disapproval.  The roads begin to lighten up and the lines at restaurants are considerably shorter.  Snowbird season officially ends as the old, the wealthy and the vacationers begin to prefer their northern climates again.  Rodney opens the door out into the Florida afternoon and peers at the blobs of raindrops slashing their way down to the asphalt parking lot.  He pulls his apron off his waste and for a moment looks at his plastic bag.  The crash of thunder shakes the restaurant and he smirks.  A metal umbrella in a thunder storm in about as useful as a winter coat in the desert.  He could stay, wait for the storm to pass as they always do, but he is almost twitching in anticipation to get home.  He jumps out, skipping the half mile to his car.  By the time he is there, he is soaked to the skin but laughing at himself.

            The drive home goes by fast.  Twenty minutes is a breeze for him in the offseason.  Usually the I4 is packed with cars, buses and most of all minivans filled with excited and tired kids whose faces are usually pressed to the back window staring at him.  The storm ends quickly enough; the wiper blades are hardly even tired.  He grabs his plastic bag, the wet apron, and jumps out, running up the two flights of stairs to his apartment.  There is a piece of paper stuck to the door.

            Call me.  – Trish

            He blinks, looks at it again, and crumbles it.  The good mood drained.  Rodney became fully aware of his soaked clothing and the paper disintegrated against his pants.  He threw the bag and the apron on the floor and went to the bathroom to take a hot shower.  Most women left Rodney with the urge to take a cold shower, but not Trish.  He had the wish to burn the scent of her off his flesh.  She was the kind of girl who was sweet at first and but like a lollypop left out in the sun, quickly melted sticking to everything it touched.  Does she want money?  Does she want a place to stay?  Does she want me?  The last question sickened him and he stripped his clothing off.  The shower was refreshing in a scolding way.  His pores opened up and breathed in.

            Stepping out, he wraps a towel around his waist.  Rodney picks up the phone, dials the number and immediately regrets not changing.  He feels vulnerable with just the towel.  It’s too late as he hears the click of the other phone and her sweet voice.

            “Rodney, Oh my God.  Thank God it’s you.”  Trish exclaims.

            “What do you want and why are you still around?” He asks.

            “Oh, are you still mad at me?  Please don’t be mad.  You know I love you and would never intentionally hurt you.  I just get, confused sometimes.  I really try to be good, but I think sometimes I just forget who I am.  Please tell me you are not still mad at me.  I just don’t know what to do without my Rodney by my side.”

            “Paying your rent out of my checkbook is not a little mistake.  Neither was emptying my wallet on two occasions.”

            “I told you, I was just confused.  I’m seeing someone to help me with all that.  You know, a therapist.  He’s helping me out a lot.  I’m sorting things out.”

            “He.” Rodney says.

            “Now Rodney, sweetie, darling, won’t you do me just the littlest favor?”

            “What.”

            She pauses.  He tries to calculate it in his head.  It’s been four months since he had last seen Trish.  The bank had called him, a check had bounced and upon audit, the signature had looked different.  Rodney had gone down there and recognized the hand writing immediately.  He had known, somewhere deep within.  Money had gone missing several times; twice he was absolutely certain of.  His mother’s gold hoops had gone missing too.  She had left them while visiting the earlier fall and had asked Rodney to send them back.  Putting it off, he wrapped them in a few tissues and stuck the pair into his sock drawer.  At first, he assumed it was an honest mistake; they could have been thrown out in a quick cleanup.  But in the lobby of the Central Florida First National Bank, he knew.  The whole truth fell upon him in one quick swoop.

            “I’d rather not meet with you again.” He whispers.

            “What?” She asks.

            “Nothing,” He says.  “You can come by.”

            But I’ll be watching you, he wants to add.  The heartbreak has not gone away but neither has the love.  His heart beats faster.  She’s coming.  Did she actually say that?  Rodney isn’t sure as he puts down the phone.  He’s angry and sad, turning on the TV.  He turns it to Channel 5 and watches the six o’clock news.  It’s already fifteen minutes into the program and they announce the “what not to eat” segment.  Where, what and how not to eat.  Everyone, including the six o’clock news is trying to influence the life and times of Rodney Sneed.  He turns the news off.  There is almost no reason to watch the news during the month of May in Central Florida.  The weather is the only good report and its almost mid nineties, eighty percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.  Uh well.

            He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the arm of his couch.  Before long, the doorbell rings and he slowly lifts himself back up.  He peaks out the peephole and sees her, smiling with her long blonde hair pulled to one side.  She glows with excitement as he opens the door slowly.  Trish jumps into him, knocking him backwards and plants her lips hard against his cheek.  He yearns to kiss her back, but it’s impossible with her clutching him in this bear hug.

            “Ok, let go.” He regrets everything.  His heart has opened again, three times its size, leaping up his throat.  Her bosom is pressing against his chest, which does not hurt her cause.  He breaks her bond, and puts his hands on both her shoulders.  He moves her slowly into the apartment, not harshly but gently guiding her to the couch.

            “Sit down.”

            Trish smiles up at him.  She definitely is glowing now.  He counts the months again in his head.  Four.  Technically, three and a half months.  Fourteen weeks.  The numbers are alive within him.  He looks to her belly and sees nothing unusual.  There is no telltale bump or even a loose shirt to cover any such revelation.  Trish is wearing a skintight tank top with spaghetti straps cutting into her shoulders.  He sighs to himself.

            “I missed you.” She says.

            He is smiling despite himself. 

            “Give me a second chance?” She asks.

            “Maybe.” Rodney says.  He has already decided but she doesn’t have to know that. 

            She tilts her head to the side and looks up at him.  She gives him another peck and smiles coyly. 

            “I’m going to be singing Saturday night at the Ritz Club downtown.  Will you come watch?”

            Without hesitating he answers, “Yes.”

            She stands up and walks slowly toward the door.  Her hips rock from side to side.  She looks back and says, “I hope to see you then.”

            Rodney sits on the couch stunned as she walks out.  How can she walk in and out on him?  His chest hurts, his breathe short, and tingling traveling up and down him.  He looks to the door as it closes and glances down.  On the floor, where his apron and bag were thrown, is now empty.  His wallet, tucked into the plastic bag, is gone with it.  He looks back up, his eyes wide open.

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