Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: Let’s solve a mystery. While walking down the street, your character finds: a scrap of fabric stuck in a rose bush, a torn shirt in the gutter ten yards away, and a shirtless man lying on a lawn several houses down the block. What happened?
They Never Listen
by Carol R. Ward
Lanie shut the front door behind her with her foot, juggling the two bags groceries in her arms and dropping her keys on the small table near the door.
“Hey, a little help here would be nice,” she called. “Gordon?”
With a sigh she continued on to the kitchen where she just made it to the counter before the heavy bags slipped from her grasp. Grumbling under her breath she put the groceries away. She folded the reusable grocery bags neatly and placed them in a drawer for next time.
“Gordon?” she called again once she was done. “What did you do, fall asleep?”
Padding out of the kitchen she checked the couch in the living room first, then went down the hall to the bed room. There was no sign of him. They were supposed to be going out to dinner. Where could he have gotten to?
As she was leaving the bedroom she glanced towards the en suite bathroom – well that didn’t look right. Going over for a closer look she gasped aloud. It looked like a war zone. The tub was partially filled with water, a few small islands of bubbles floating on the surface. Water was everywhere – the walls, the sides of the tub, the floor…
Several towels were crumpled on the floor. A couple looked like they’d just been pulled from the towel rack, but the one she picked up had blood on it.
“Oh, Gordon, you didn’t! I told you not to.”
Leaving the towels behind, Lanie followed the faint trail of water out of the bathroom and towards the back door. As she expected, the door was slightly ajar. There was no sign of Gordon in the back yard and she rounded the house towards the street. Her eye was caught by a scrap of white, fluttering in the neighbor’s rose hedge.
Plucking it free she realized it was from the shirt Gordon had been wearing earlier. “Damn it Gordon, you never listen, do you?”
Lanie glanced up and down the street. There, about ten yards further up, it looked like the rest of his shirt lying in the gutter. She went over and picked it up – it was torn up pretty badly and there was blood on it.
“If this is how bad his shirt is, I hate to see what Gordon looks like.” She felt a flash of sympathy, after all he’d probably thought he was doing her a favour.
She continued up the street, a little worried about what she might find. There didn’t seem to be any blood on the sidewalk and she took that as a good sign. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as she thought. There, several houses up, was that a body laying face down on the lawn?
Lanie hurried over. “Gordon?”
With a grown he rolled over onto his back. She winced at the bloody furrows on his chest and arms.
“Are you all right?”
“No,” he said.
She looked around. “Where’s Princess?”
Gordon slowly pointed upwards.
Lanie looked up into the tree above them. There, looking down at them, tail swishing angrily, was a small white cat, wet fur making her seem even smaller.
“There’s mommy’s little angel,” Lanie cooed. “Come to momma.”
The cat moved closer until she was able to reach up and pluck her from the tree. Lanie cradled her in her arms and turned back to Gordon.
“Don’t think this gets you out of taking me out to dinner,” she told him.
“But I’m injured!” he protested, making an attempt to sit up.
“It’s your own fault,” she sniffed. “I told you not to try and bathe Princess. You never listen.”
by Jamie DeBree
Karen took a deep breath as she stepped out of her apartment expecting a whiff of fresh morning air. Instead she got a big, choking taste of her new city-life: cigarette smoke, skunk, sewer gas and open dumpsters. Chasing it quickly with a sip of hot coffee, she noticed a bit of white fabric stuck fluttering in her new neighbor’s rose bush. It shined in the sun, and she frowned, reaching down to feel it.
As she suspected, the satin was smooth and cool, and certainly not something one would expect to find torn as it was. Had a bride run this way last night, tearing her beautiful gown? A prom queen or debutante, perhaps? White satin wasn’t really an everyday kind of thing, and she carefully detached the piece from it’s prison, wondering if she’d ever find out what happened.
A few houses down, she caught another glimpse of white fluttering in the breeze, only this time it was fluttering in the gutter. Frowning, she looked down, and saw that it was more of the same white satin, but not a dress or skirt. It was a button-down shirt, almost certainly custom-made and not cheaply at that. The bead work on the front suggested a female wearer, but that wasn’t terribly surprising. Karen couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a man wearing satin, aside from the ubiquitous suit-pocket handkerchief.
The shirt seemed special and she picked it up carefully, checking for any mysterious stains before committing more than two fingers to the task. When she finally stood and held the shirt up in front of her, she could see where a piece had torn from the bottom right side – and the swatch she’d freed from the rose bush matched perfectly.
She would bet money that somewhere nearby there was a very unhappy woman trying to remember what happened to her very expensive custom shirt, and she tucked it over her arm. She’d post it online after work and see if anyone recognized it. It was a long shot, but maybe the owner would see it and want it back.
Her heels clicked heavily on the sidewalk as she continued toward work, and considered what could possibly have happened to get the shirt off the woman with only a small tear. Thank goodness there was no blood, but was the woman possibly in trouble? Maybe she should alert the police. There was no evidence of anything aside from a woman losing her shirt though. And that wasn’t necessarily a crime – although with a shirt like this, it kind of was.
Coming up on the left just before her bus stop, she spied a man laying face down on his lawn, wearing only a pair of jeans with rhinestones on the pockets and a large snake tattoo that covered the majority of his back. He was just starting to stir as she drew near, and pushed off the ground with a groan.
“That was some night,” he mumbled, shaking his head as if to clear the cobwebs. Karen kept walking, figuring it was smarter not to engage, but when he saw her, he called out.
“Hey! Just because you tore that off me last night doesn’t mean you can just take it! I paid good money for that shirt!”
Karen stopped and turned to look at him. “This is your shirt?”
He nodded, pushing to his feet and stumbling toward her. “You should know. That was some party last night, wasn’t it? I was so wasted. Thanks for letting me snooze on your lawn. I hope I didn’t get too crazy after…you know.” He reached out and took the shirt from her – she was too shocked to resist. Pulling it on over those broad shoulders, he quickly buttoned it across his chest, and Karen wondered why she’d barely noticed his nipples when he was bare-chested, but now that they showed through the light fabric, they seemed…more ‘out there’, so to speak.
He grinned, noting the direction of her stare. “All the ladies seem to like that. Headlights out – gets ’em every time. I’d let you have another lick, but I’ve got to get to work. Sorry darlin’. Call me for your next party?”
Karen couldn’t think of a single thing to say, so she just stood there as the strange man leaned in, kissed her on the cheek, grinned and walked away.
Her parents might have been right, she thought as she forced her legs to move toward the bus stop again. The big city just might be too much for her to handle.
Later that day, she reached into her purse for something and her fingers brushed the bit of satin she’d found stuck to the bush that morning. She remembered the man and his ‘headlights’.
Check back next Sunday for more free flash fiction! And check the writing prompt on Monday’s blog too, in case you might be interested in writing something to submit for this weekly post as well…