City of Cardboard Boxes

“Don’t forget,” he says, as he drops her off at the Sweet Shoppe.

She smiles and promises vaguely.  She unlocks the door and ties on her pink apron and goes about the business of running a business.  It’s this business, this busyness that allows her to get through the day.

She turns on lights and puts on music and runs a feather duster along the shelves.  She gathers wastebaskets and takes them to the back of the building where shopkeepers stow shattered glass and plastic bags—the detritus behind the façade.  Directly behind her shop, a group of homeless people has constructed a city of cardboard. 

She returns to the shop and officially opens for business.  She sips her coffee and calculates overtime and wonders about a new chocolate distributor.

The bell over the door sounds.  A man walks in.  She smoothes down her pink apron and puts on her pretty jelly bean face because no one wants to see the truth beneath the candy coating.  She looks at his face.  Feels the backs of her knees pull.  “I know you.”

He gives her a dangerous grin.  “Open the register.”

She presses the No Sale button.  The register makes a hollow and desperate ring and she tries to remember what her husband said an hour ago.

“Not again,” she thinks as he empties the register and slips between buildings; tripping down the dark alley to the city of cardboard boxes.

She chases him, screaming.  She allows her mind to return to the wheres and the whens and this time she is consumed by fury not fear.

The residents of the city of cardboard boxes awaken and emerge, blinking.

He is easily caught.

She watches, later, as the garbage men empty the dumpsters.  She pours out coffee for the residents of the city of cardboard boxes.  And she is glad that she forgot to call the police this morning to complain about the cardboard city that has recently sprung up behind the Sweet Shoppe.

This was written in response to The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  This week's word was alley.

Labels:

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: City of Cardboard Boxes

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

City of Cardboard Boxes

“Don’t forget,” he says, as he drops her off at the Sweet Shoppe.

She smiles and promises vaguely.  She unlocks the door and ties on her pink apron and goes about the business of running a business.  It’s this business, this busyness that allows her to get through the day.

She turns on lights and puts on music and runs a feather duster along the shelves.  She gathers wastebaskets and takes them to the back of the building where shopkeepers stow shattered glass and plastic bags—the detritus behind the façade.  Directly behind her shop, a group of homeless people has constructed a city of cardboard. 

She returns to the shop and officially opens for business.  She sips her coffee and calculates overtime and wonders about a new chocolate distributor.

The bell over the door sounds.  A man walks in.  She smoothes down her pink apron and puts on her pretty jelly bean face because no one wants to see the truth beneath the candy coating.  She looks at his face.  Feels the backs of her knees pull.  “I know you.”

He gives her a dangerous grin.  “Open the register.”

She presses the No Sale button.  The register makes a hollow and desperate ring and she tries to remember what her husband said an hour ago.

“Not again,” she thinks as he empties the register and slips between buildings; tripping down the dark alley to the city of cardboard boxes.

She chases him, screaming.  She allows her mind to return to the wheres and the whens and this time she is consumed by fury not fear.

The residents of the city of cardboard boxes awaken and emerge, blinking.

He is easily caught.

She watches, later, as the garbage men empty the dumpsters.  She pours out coffee for the residents of the city of cardboard boxes.  And she is glad that she forgot to call the police this morning to complain about the cardboard city that has recently sprung up behind the Sweet Shoppe.

This was written in response to The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  This week's word was alley.

Labels:

12 Comments:

At June 13, 2012 at 4:07 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

I continue to marvel at how you build a plot and charecters with the little bits of information that come out in the story. You really get into the story!!

 
At June 13, 2012 at 7:09 AM , Anonymous Annabelle said...

I love that the cardboard city residents turn out to be the solution here! And the phrases "pretty jelly bean face" and "feels the back of her knees pull" really struck me.

 
At June 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM , Anonymous Tara R. said...

Yes! I too love that the cardboard citizens came to her rescue. Once again your imagery is amazing. I could see the scene unfolding perfectly.

 
At June 13, 2012 at 2:58 PM , Anonymous Vinobaby said...

I hope the cardboard heroes were rewarded with some sweets along with that coffee. Love the detritus imagery.

 
At June 13, 2012 at 8:46 PM , Anonymous JannaTWrites said...

Great story! I'm glad she didn't complain about the alley dwellers, too. I also like that she acknowledges she had planned to complain and shows them some compassion in a round of coffee.

 
At June 13, 2012 at 9:12 PM , Anonymous Sandra said...

I love the irony. You are amazing writing so much detail in this story in so few words. I can see the entire scene happen as in a movie clip.

 
At June 14, 2012 at 5:02 AM , Anonymous Mary said...

Had to read twice regarding the burglar...at first it appears to be her husband. Does she know this man from a previous encounter? Where does her husband come in...what does "don't forget" mean? Was he warning her about the homeless people or the potential for theft? Is she unhappy in her marriage? This appears to be another of at least one other burglary. I'm confused.

However, I do love your metaphors. And, you've taken the performance of everyday tasks to a new dimension. I want to know more about this woman and her situation.

 
At June 14, 2012 at 6:21 AM , Anonymous Jennifer Worrell said...

Well done! I'm also glad she didn't turn in the alley dwellers!

 
At June 14, 2012 at 7:09 PM , Anonymous Carrie said...

Oh, nasty way to go. Those garbage trucks do a god job of mulching evidence :)

 
At June 14, 2012 at 10:52 PM , Anonymous Trifectawritingchallenge said...

Thanks for linking up with Trifecta this week. Wow--you told an awful lot in under 333 words! I, too, have questions about the husband, but I really enjoyed the story. I loved the "jelly bean face." I've never heard a look described that way before. Great job with the prompt. I know this one will stick with me.

 
At June 15, 2012 at 5:20 AM , Anonymous Fauldspj said...

Can I get this on my Kindle.

 
At June 18, 2012 at 1:21 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I know there's a way to do it, but haven't done it myself. Here's a link that may prove useful: http://sendtoreader.com/. And another: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-subscribe-to-blogs-for-free-on-your-kindle-.html

Thanks so much for reading.

 

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