I finally wrote a short story! Woo hoo!
This is a big deal for me for a number of reasons. To begin, I have been reading a lot over the last few years about what makes a story a story. If you think about it, the craft is incredibly complex, as are many processes that try to yield simple outcomes. I will be sharing more about my findings in the future. But as to writing my own stories, I had let my own over-analysis inhibit my creativity. I also carried some particularly hurtful negative feedback around with me for years before realizing I didn’t have to believe it. I decided I needed some structure if I wanted to get back into creative writing, so for the last few weeks I have been following along with a fiction writing MOOC (massive online open course). The prompt for the story below was ‘A lady gets on a bus with a dog in her purse; the dog is wearing a bow that matches the lady’s sweater.’
Enjoy! Happy Friday!
One Day on the CTA
A CTA bus is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
I clambered onto the bus at Clybourne and Armitage on my way to visit a friend who lived in a western neighborhood. I beeped my bus pass and made my way down the aisle, dodging a lady toting her groceries. I found a seat toward the back near a hipster girl in the requisite flannel, her head encased in grapefruit-sized headphones.
After realizing I had forgotten my own headphones, I let my gaze drift from the window to the other passengers. A yuppy father cooed to the baby strapped to his chest. Further up, a young African American woman with a textbook in her lap struggled to concentrate under the uncomfortably steady glare of the tall, hulking man sitting next to her. The man’s eyes looked out in different directions. He breathed heavily, his lips twitching as if he wanted to say something. The woman glanced up at him several times before making up her mind to change seats.
The bus stopped and did the pneumatic kneeling thing it does when letting on disabled passengers. Up stepped an itty bitty woman with bright white hair that swooshed just so around a leopard-print poof hat. I noticed I was not the only one eying her as she fussed through her voluminous purse digging for her bus pass. Her bracelets jangled loudly as she searched, and each time her round glasses slipped down her nose she pointed her face upward, sniffed, and slid the bridge of the glasses up her long nose with hyper extended fingers. To add to the spectacle, the fluffy face of a Pekingese popped out of the lady’s bag and began yapping. The animal wore a red bow on its head that matched the sweater on his back that matched the booties on his feet that matched the sweater worn by its mistress. At last, the woman located her pass, beeped it, and settled herself down in the seat the African American lady had just vacated, next to the man with the crazy eyes.
The woman seemed not to notice or care that she held a captivated audience. She was too busy speaking sweet nothings to the dog in her bag. She bounced the dog on her lap and stroked its head and fed it treats. “Oooo what a good little boy you are, yes you are, yes you are!” she gushed. Nearby, Mr. Crazy Eyes stared fixedly at her, his chest heaving and his face issuing a look of deepest disgust. She continued to praise the dog and produce treats for him to guzzle. “Oooo you make mummy so proud, yes you do, yes you do! My little baby boy, such a good boy, yes you are, yes you are!”
With every handful of treats she produced, Mr. Crazy Eyes fumed more vehemently. His body twitched and his lips spasmed liked he was practicing ventriloquism. The lady still took no notice. Then, out of her bag, she pulled a huge hunk of steak and held it up to the pup who swiftly sunk his teeth into the meat. This was too much for the man.
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” yelled Mr. Crazy Eyes, getting to his feet and leaning over the lady and her dog. “HUH? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Feeding perfectly good steak to a dog when there are children dying of hunger on the streets of this very city! Ever think to look around you? Huh? Ever think there might be real children to care for? NOooooo! Of course not! You think this DOG is your child! You blithering old freak! You snobbish, dog-crazed piece of…Oh!”
He stopped his rant suddenly and looked up, his demeanor completely altered. He yanked on the stop wire. Hurrying to the back door he waited for the bus to come to a complete stop. He wore a serene expression, seemingly unaware of the stunned onlookers. Everyone on the bus watched him disembark and trot eagerly toward the building on the corner and go inside. As the bus pulled away, we could all read the sign on the building.
“West Side Shelter for Cats.”