Red Writing Hood — A Short Story

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Today’s assignment for The Red Dress Club is:

Write a short piece of fiction about seeing an ex in the grocery store from the first person point-of-view. Instead of writing from the female perspective, we want you to write from the male perspective. Hopefully, this will help us in regards to character development and stepping outside of ourselves as writers. Have fun ladies!
(It’s my first time. Go easy on me.)

The Jitney Jungle’s automatic doors swooshed open and a welcome blast of Arctic air hit me in the face. I swiped my damp forehead with my sleeve and yanked a cart from the jumble near the entryway. Ignoring the open container of anti-bacterial wipes, I headed straight for the frozen food aisle. I opened the freezer door and stood there for a minute, still recovering from the brutal Mississippi summer heat. It was like a hangover that wouldn’t go away. I slumped against the freezer door holding it open with my hip, hands jammed in my pockets, my eyes half closed, in a kind of trance.
“Anythin’ I can hep ya find?” asked a pudgy employee wearing fuschia lipstick all over her top two front teeth. She looked almost hopeful. I hated to burst the bubble of chewing gum she was working on, but frankly I’m a guy, and aside from sex, my needs are simple.
Over the annoying sound of her gum snapping I said, “Nah, I’m okay. Just lookin’ for some Hungry Man…Men…whatever,” I mumbled, as I felt a reddish hue creep up from my starched collar to my stubbly cheeks.
“Right there,” she gestured to the door I’d just been shamlessly cooling myself off in front of. Before I had a chance to thank her, she’d turned around to help an elderly woman with a walker who was asking where she could find the prune juice.

Shuddering, I tossed two weeks’ worth of frozen dinners into my cart, hurried past the Green Giant vegetables, and strode over to the hygiene aisle to grab some deodorant. After I made sure no one was looking, I sheepishly scooped up several twin packs of Secret Shower Fresh. For some reason it’s the only deodorant that works for me. I’ve tried other kinds before, believe me. And those were the only times I could smell my own special brand of stink. So for now I’ll just keep Secret one of my secrets. My bathroom cabinet is full of barely used Right Guard and Old Spice, which are only good for show.

I wandered around Jitney a bit, not quite ready to go back out into the oppressive heat. I ended up throwing some other necessities into the cart—Doritos, Diet Coke, beer, and what the hell, a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Once I realized it was in my best interest to head to the checkout, there were only two lanes open and both lines were long. I sighed, opened the bag of Doritos, and munched away as I draped my forearms over the cart’s handles.

Suddenly I glimpsed a head of honey-colored hair putting her groceries onto the conveyor belt. The familiar and deliberate tucking of her hair behind the ears, the dimple in her cheek as she smiled at the checkout clerk. My heart started racing and my armpits grew damp. No, no, no. This isn’t happening. It can’t be.

But it was. Sarah, the girl who had ripped my raw heart out of my chest, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it like she was under the chuppah at a Jewish wedding. I hadn’t seen her since the night she told me she “couldn’t do it anymore.”

“Do what anymore?” I’d asked icily, caught completely off guard.

“This,” she’d said with a sad look on her face. “Us. You and me. I just feel like I don’t really know you, like you’re hiding things.”

I threw my arms up in the air. “What things?” I snapped, with clenched jaws.

“Why haven’t I met your family after all this time?” she shot back, eyes blazing.

There it was. The secret of all secrets, rolled out like the red carpet. Only I didn’t dare step on it. The secret I couldn’t seem to share with anyone, not even my own girlfriend of a year. Because my dad is gay and lives with his lover, I answered her in my head. Because my mom’s best friends are her box of Franzia wine in the fridge and her bottle of Prozac. Because you have the perfect little family and no one has any problems, while we can barely keep up with our psychotherapy bills. But I couldn’t speak. Couldn’t say one word of any of this. Fear had taken its hold of me again.

She detested my silence. “See?” she said and walked out, slamming the door behind her.

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