As I said in my previous post, “I Started with This!”, part of my homework from the fantastic podcast “Start With This” (see what I did there?) is to post what you created in your first week to whatever medium it is that you use. I am getting a bit creative with this one. What I wrote for that first assignment was the first few pages of a novel I’ve been trying to work on for about a year. It is nowhere near ready to publish anywhere, even in its roughest form, as a whole bunch of my characters don’t have names yet and are differentiated by >Character 1<, >Character 2<, etc.
Instead, I thought I would post my very first story from Furious Fiction. This is rough. And I broke the cardinal rule of short stories. The story should be complete on its own. My story definitely reads like a prologue to something. But still. I wrote it, I finished it, and I met a deadline. So now, I post it. I sincerely hope you enjoy it, but this is not the point of my posting the story. The point is to see something all the way through to the end.
I have not edited this story in anyway. What you read below is exactly what I submitted back in April for this competition. Be kind, please! 🙂
I set up my stall in the mouth of the cleanest alley I could find, off the main road. Very few puddles, no open bags of waste, and an almost graffiti-free brick wall behind me, blocking any nasty surprises. I snapped my table in place and smoothed my lavender cloth over the top. Pastels had fallen out of fashion in the years after the infection; they were too hard to keep clean. But now, when people saw the immaculate pale pigments of my stall, they felt safe. Clean meant disease free. The best quality of any illicit baked goods.
I tugged my apron back into place. I had copied the housewives of the 1950s; full skirt, kitten heels, and a sweetheart apron complete with ribbon ties and ruffled trim. Looking like an idealised version of the past helped remind people of the good things of the past. Things I was hoping to sell them.
Once happy with my stall, I unloaded the treats from my car (which was parked behind one of the skip bins, keeping my scene intact). Muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, croissants, danishes, cookies, brownies, blondies, tarts, and pies; all housed under graceful glass domes. Not even I was crazy enough to leave food uncovered for too long. I sank onto my white-washed stool, straightened my skirt, and waited.
My usual customers trickled by. They slid my pink cards across the table to me. Only customers who returned more than twice ever received one. Customers gushed over the real lemon in my tiny lemon meringue tarts and savoured the cherries on top of my cupcakes. They all left with surreptitious paper bags and smiles on their faces.
Patrols crossed the opening of the alley a few times and whenever I saw them, my heart stopped. Discovery meant jail time. But the only patrols who approached the stall were ones I had already sweet-talked with conversation and free carbs. My patrols always helped keep the unfriendly patrols away. It wasn’t a guarantee of safety, but it was something.
As the sun set, and a cool breeze curled itself around my ankles, I began to pack down. It had been a rewarding day. Half a dozen new regulars, some large orders, and very few remaining desserts. While I started moving the empty domes to my car, I heard a splash behind me.
The man wore a high collared jacket over fitted black pants, which had been tucked into intimidating black boots. An icon had been stitched over his heart, reminiscent of a peace sign. Not the sign of a regular patrol.
He placed one of my cards onto the table between us, along with a plastic sleeve of actual banknotes. I hadn’t seen those in years.
“We require your services.”
I stared, dumbfounded, at the money. There were so many questions buzzing in my head that I felt as though I were vibrating.
“Who are you?” I finally managed.
“I’m with the government. Please, ma’am, we need your help.”