he just has to
Hi. I am doing the indie ink writing challenge thingy again. Debra Elliott challenged me with the writing prompt “Write your epitaph”… which I largely ignored and wrote whatever popped into my head. I’m like that.
Monday hangs heavy all around, as footsteps lightly echo on drying asphalt.
She walks like she studied ballet for years. It permeates her entire being.
Even when she stirs her iced coffee with a finger, it is extended in a dainty manner.
She licks her finger and keeps walking.
Down the main street.
Past the gas station/coffee shop/social gathering spot for all men over the age of forty-five. She’s learned to ignore the stares.
She turns left, and cuts through the parking lot of the video store/snack shop/laundromat, as the owner yawns through a morning smoke outside the front door.
He gives her an up-nod, the universal greeting of those who are forced to wake up before their words do.
Seagulls greet her as she turns right, down along the waterfront. They’ve been on the clock for hours.
She stops. She wonders if they are judging her relatively late start. Maybe they think that is why her business is floundering. Maybe they are judging her for leaving a lucrative career to open a cupcake shop in a small town.
They could have lunch with her mother. They’d have plenty to discuss.
She takes a drink of her coffee.
She inhales deeply, inviting in the just-the-right-amount-of-salty smell of the harbour.
Small boats bob on moorings.
Small waves lap at the posts of a rickety wooden wharf with relentless delicacy.
Small gusts of wind playfully tease her still-damp hair.
And she must face her day.
She almost doesn’t see it, as she steps up onto her shop’s porch.
Black writing on a white dry-erase board doesn’t really seem out of place.
But, as she fumbles with the lock, out of the corner of her eye she notices that someone has erased last week’s cupcake specials — mini carrot cake with cream cheese frosting — and replaced them with words.
She sighs, expecting to see some obscene message left by a bored teen.
That’s not what she finds.
“it takes eight minutes for light
to reach us from the sun
but your smile warms me immediately”
She reads it all.
And then she reads it again.
She takes a sip of her coffee.
She goes inside.
She checks her voicemail.
And it begins.
The older you get, the more quickly weekends go by, she thinks, as she double checks her pocket to make sure she didn’t leave her keys at home.
She walks past the gas station/coffee shop/social gathering spot for all men over the age of forty-five. She walks past the video store/snack shop/laundromat.
And no matter what turns she takes, the stiff morning wind seems to continue to blow directly into her face.
She’s almost at her shop when her phone rings. She hates that sound. She almost drops her coffee, fishing her phone out of her pocket.
It’s her assistant, who is feeling under the weather again. She thinks it’s remarkable how frequently that happens the day after one of the (five or so) annual all-day drinking fests this town passes off as culture.
But she can’t be bothered to point that out.
A rough day just got rougher.
She considers walking past her shop.
But her mother didn’t raise any quitters.
Just a daughter trying to recover from being hen-pecked almost to the point of being unrecognizable.
She walks up the steps.
She glances at the dry-erase board.
Even giving customers the correct change is a challenge for her today. Not that anyone would really count it around here.
A fact that normally cheers her up.
Not this morning.
A little old lady gives her exact change for her small coffee.
“I love this week’s poem, dear. Did you write it yourself?”
“Uhm… thanks. No. It just… showed up there,” she replies.
“Well isn’t that just lovely. A nice gift from the universe to start the day.”
She hadn’t really thought about it that way.
And while she does, blue hair turns and tells another blue hair behind her all about it.
Blue hair #2 replies with a “Good gracious. How wonderful.”
She narrowly avoids stepping in dog poop.
She could have lost a shoe — or leg — in a pile that big she thinks.
And then she laughs.
An increasingly rare occurrence. Especially on a Monday morning.
She arrives at her shop and goes directly to her dry-erase board.
There is more traffic in the shop today.
She’s the good kind of busy.
Various townsfolk gather around the dry-erase board, snacking on cupcakes and sipping coffees.
She watches them.
She shakes her head.
She pours another coffee.
She is running late on the fourth Monday since it all began.
She is bounding up the steps to her shop with her head down and almost plows into a small crowd that has gathered.
“It’s about time,” someone says in a jovial tone.
She is embarrassed. She mumbles a “Sorry.”
Someone else gently guides her towards the dry-erase board, with pushy hands and a “Check it out!”
“i want to kiss you
like no other
not to intrude
but to pique
to want to
and then add to
the perfect storm
in your eyes”
She bites her bottom lip.
“Someone’s got a crush on you.”
She almost drops the pan of cupcakes she is loading into the showcase. She hadn’t even considered that possibility.
She looks around the shop at all the men. Including at the elderly gentleman speaking to her.
He could be in here now, she let’s herself wonder.
“Oh… I’m sure it wasn’t written about me,” she barely avoids stumbling over the words.
“It’s your shop,” he adds.
“He could be writing about anyone. Whoever he is.”
“How do you know it’s a he?” a voice comes from somewhere in the crowd.
Another good point.
But now she’s locked on it being a guy.
And for once, she is going to risk the disappointment and let herself believe these poems could be written for her.
At least a little.
She spends the rest of the day analyzing each male customer.
Could it be short, overly eager friend-to-all-women guy?
No. If he could write like that, he wouldn’t need to be overly eager friend-to-all-women guy.
Could it be the bland, but nice enough she supposes, friend of friend’s boyfriend?
She yawns while wondering.
No. This guy is special. She knows it. He has to be.
He just has to.
This goes on for weeks.
A new poem every Monday morning.
An ever-growing number of customers for her shop.
And a lonely cupcake maker.
She grumbles to, and at, herself in the dark as she walks up the steps to her shop to pick up the paperwork for the Monday morning deliveries. Paperwork she forget Friday when she closed up.
She sees someone move and nearly screams.
He’s holding a marker and is hunched near the dry-erase board.
He stands up.
He straightens his baseball cap.
She steps closer.
She’s glad he is a he.
And kinda cute.
And not a bored teen.
“So you’re my mysterious poet?” she asks with a smile that could melt a glacier.
“Noooo. I’m robbing you. I love these markers.”
He sniffs it and starts coughing and gagging.
He finally composes himself.
“See?” he asks.
“I was afraid you’d think it was creepy,” he says, pulling into the restaurant parking lot.
“No. Creepy would be… I don’t know, stealing my underwear.”
“Yeah. You probably shouldn’t look in the glove box.”
“Write your own epitaph,” she requests.
He picks up a french fry and looks at it, before putting it back down on his plate.
“Great guy. Talented writer. Looked remarkably good for ninety-seven.”
“Why be so mysterious about it?” she asks.
“Man… a number a reasons. I liked the romance of it. I felt like if we got to meet, and hit it off, it would make a great story to tell our kids and grand kids.
“I like romance…”
“Plus, I came out of an ugly break-up a while back. And just wanted to dip my toe in, you know. I was afraid, I guess.”
“Cowardice is not a quality woman like, you know?”
“Yeah… but I was hoping my refreshing honesty – and understated good lucks – would make up for it.”
“Hmmm. Just about…”
She opens the door to her house, then leans against it, to let him pass.
“I guess I just wanted my words to make an impact with someone…”
He steps into her hallway, but something in her living room catches his eyes. He looks from side to side.
Then at her.
Then back at the room.
Dozens of white boards line the walls and lean against all of the furniture.
Each with a different poem.
“I guess they did…” she says, closing the door behind her.