Remember the Day One prompt? Well, I did start it then and I've managed to finish the story over the course of the month. I'm not sending it out anywhere else, it's just going up here.
After Sarah finished the paper that day, she did what she always did, clipping the stories about animals. She didn’t mean to clip only the sad ones, as Brad had often accused her of doing—it was just that there were so many more of them. She had learned through bitter experience that it was better to have the clips neatly filed by the time Brad got home, so that they wouldn’t have to go through the rounds about it again. All the same, it irritated her. Brad was a nice guy, she supposed that she loved him, but sometimes she thought life would be a whole lot easier if she just lived alone.
She had already blown her budget for the month—again, Brad was the one who had insisted that she make one, but the plight of those combat dogs who would never return home without her help was just too terrible, and she thought she and Brad could probably get by on leftovers a couple of nights this week, but she would have to be ingenious, because Brad always complained if he figured it out. And she’d have to mail the check down at the corner box. If she left it in the mailbox, Brad might find it before the postman did. She knew for a fact that he checked, which was silly, because she was too clever for him, and he really ought to know that by now.
It was all ridiculous, really. It was her money, after all, inherited from her mother. She was entitled to spend it as she saw fit. He griped, because he said that meant it was his money they had to live on, but wasn’t that how’d he’d said he wanted it? For her to stay at home and take care of things there, and not worry about the sordid business of getting a living? A shadowy little thought flitted across her mind, because she knew that for Brad, this had included raising children. But she blinked her eyes and managed to ignore it for the moment.
She was already out on the street and the mailbox was even in view when she caught sight of the hardware store, and remembered that Brad had wanted her to pick up some screws for a project he was working on—she didn’t remember just what. If she had to keep track of Brad’s projects on top of everything else, she would never get anything done.
She stopped by a newspaper vending machine to rummage through her purse. Brad had written the specific kind he wanted on a piece of paper that she really hoped she’d thrown in the bag, because otherwise she didn’t know where it was and there would be a scene. The hardware store would be closed by the time Brad got home and he’d have to drive out to one of the big box stores if he wanted to get anything done tonight. He would not be happy about that.
Ah—here it was, thank goodness. It was only then that she took notice of the stray sheet of newspaper, an inner section, which was sitting on top of the vending machine. There was a picture of some tigers, very bedraggled, and the shocking story of their mistreatment at the hands of a small traveling circus from one of those Eastern European places where the people obviously didn’t care about the fate of animals at all.
And her own paper hadn’t even bothered to cover this! If it weren’t for a handful of people like herself, a mere remnant, the world was just beyond saving. With such thoughts in mind, she entered the hardware store, the bell jingling over her head to let the owner know someone had come in. The device failed to have the desired effect, though, because there were currently several small children running up and down the otherwise orderly aisles, creating havoc.
Sarah sighed. It was barely past ten in the morning. Wasn’t this what schools were for? Well, it was obviously some holiday that she’d forgotten about. Neither the parent nor the shopkeeper was anywhere to be seen. The children, all boys, circled the aisles with mad abandon. Every time they passed her, one of them would bump into her and the smallest one would scream.
It really was a shame, she thought, that some people were allowed to breed.
A few moments, an eternity, passed like this. Sarah felt that the time for patience was over. There was a little button on the counter with a sign “Please ring for assistance” taped beside it. As she reached for it her hand strayed across something she hadn’t noticed before, and instead of ringing, she picked up the small container from the counter. It was a box of bearing balls from Germany. From the picture on the front of the box, they were small steel balls, a little smaller than marbles.
It wasn’t anything she would have planned, it was just that they were so ready to hand. The top was not sealed, and it was a small matter to pull a few, only a few, from the top of the box. She waited until the children were on the other side of their seemingly endless circuit and squatted down, dropping them quietly down to the floor, where they rolled away from her in random directions. Three children, five or six small metal balls. The odds were that something would happen. She returned the box to its original position.
The result was swift and gratifying. The first child took the corner at breakneck speed, and skidded on one of the slick little balls, falling on his backside. The second one tripped over him, and the third only managed to stumble to a halt by careening into her and clutching her arm. Magnanimously, she steadied him. The boy who had fallen, the smallest one, began howling. Sarah had never had much appreciation for slapstick, but she was beginning to see its point.
Two men emerged from the back room. One wore a shop apron; the other was obviously the dad.
“What the hell is going on out here?” the father said.
“Jacob was running and he fell,” said the boy who was still clutching her arm.
“Jacob, what did I tell you about running?” He turned to the others. “Why didn’t you stop him?”
The boys cowered and said nothing.
The man picked up the still howling child, then turned to the two other adults. “Honest to god,” he said. “I leave them alone for one minute.”
“They’re children,” Sarah said. “It happens.” It’s the kind of thing that always does happen with children, she thought.
The hardware store owner rang up the man’s purchases, and then man shepherded the now very silent children out of the front door. The bell could be heard quite clearly.
The shop owner turned to Sarah. “And what can I do for you?” he asked pleasantly and even a little apologetically. Sarah brought out the piece of paper with the screw size on it, and he went and found some for her. She was quite calm as she waited—this whole little adventure had taken the edge off her. Perhaps she would even be a bit nicer to Brad tonight—find him something special for dinner.
The shopkeeper rang up the purchase and handed the screws to her in a small paper bag. As she headed toward the door, she had already forgotten him. There was the check still to be mailed, and her mind was back on that newspaper story about the circus as she headed out the door. If there was only something that could be done.
It was a pity, really. If she hadn’t been thinking so selflessly about the animals, she might have noticed that last small steel ball lying directly in her path.
(c) 2012 Seana Graham
(With apologies to philanthropists and children everywhere...)
Today's prompt is just this random thing I found on the Seventh Sanctum story generator--don't even know how I got there. I love this guy. Maybe someday I'll write something around him, but I don't mind at all if you do too...
This playful god of lakes takes the form of a mature man. He has a broad-shouldered build. His hair looks as if it is made from water. His slitted eyes are ash-gray. His outfit is that of a bard. His skin looks more like the scales of a fish. He carries a wheel...