Contest #95 shortlist ⭐️


American Fiction Speculative

"Okay, I'm ready, ma'am," she said. The young customer tucked her dirty blonde hair behind her multi-pierced ear. She sported some bleached jeans with a black 'Nirvana' T-shirt. Her bangs rested heavy on her blue eyes. Her eye makeup, with its bright greens and yellows, seemed to have been based on a millennial's YouTube tutorial video.

Alex appreciated the three day old disposable mask that hid the tightness of her lips even if it cut off her oxygen supply by about forty-seven percent. To keep up her excellent customer service, Alex only had to refrain from an eye-roll every once in awhile. She mumbled whatever she wanted under her breath. She had made it through an entire four years of college without uttering a single cuss word, but a few years in customer service unleashed everything she held in over the years.

"What are we getting, today?" She tightened the stained apron around her waist then signed into the register that separated her from the young girl. Alex had a headache. Her dark curls were tied in an impossibly tight bun, customers had been lined up ten minutes before they had even opened, and country music had been playing all day.

"The 'Pineapple Surf', is that a popular one?" her eyes squinted as she nibbled on her lip.

"It's probably our most popular," Alex said. Her brown eyes cut continuously to the mount of tickets piling on the counter. The drive-thru orders weren't slowing down, and this customer continued to take her own delicious time. Her coworkers eyed Alex in desperation. They had been short staffed for months. Ever since the checks had been rolled out by the government, the younger generation decided a job was too outdated for them. It left people like Alex and her coworkers to suffer through the demand for semi-healthy smoothies. Ever since COVID-19, people decided to take their health semi-seriously.

"Okay, let's go with that," she said, seemingly unhappy with her decision. She gazed over the colorful menu a moment longer as if ready to change her mind once again.

"Okay," Alex gave her another moment. Once you sent an order, it was a goner. There was a lengthy process to reverse it, a process she didn't have time for. "Would you like to add anything special for ninety-nine scents? it's buy two get one free." Alex almost hesitated to ask, but, in the end, it'd be more money for her. For every enhancer she sold, her boss promised her fifteen cents. It added at least another two-hundred dollars to her paycheck.

"Actually, give me the 'Strawberry-Kiwi Breeze', I'm sorry."

She laughed.

Alex didn't.

If there was one thing Alex hated more than Mississippi, it was the people that lived in it. She had sworn she would never return to the state after that redhead broke her heart in that small Junior College. He was so certain she was what he wanted. She was so certain about him, too. But he sent that text, "Hey, I think God wants us to be just friends." It changed her forever. That was life. Things change. People change.

"Yes, I would like to have multivitamin, prenatal,"

Prenatal? Looks a bit young to be a mother.

"and for my last one," she took a lengthy look. "Let's add a pure recharge."

Alex froze. Her gloved finger hovered over the Pure Recharge button. The business was busy and this girl had already soaked up much of Alex's time, but, with the little patience Alex had left she dug through the priority bag of her upbringing and at the bottom was her conscience.

"Ma'am, you realize Pure Recharge is caffeine bean extract?" Alex said.

"Yeah girl, I need the energy for these assignments I've been putting off for the longest." She chuckled.

"I notice you also got prenatal added to your smoothie." Alex tried her best to drop enough hints as to not offend her.

"Oh, yeah, me and my fiancé are trying for a baby. Well, my boyfriend. When he can afford a ring, we'll make it official," she said.

What taking prenatal had to with getting pregnant, Alex had no idea, but she didn't care to make that point. She was more curious as to why such a young girl was trying to impregnate herself.

"What's your name?" Alex asked.

"Emma," she replied.

"Miss Emma," Alex repeated as she typed in the name for the ticket, "Why so young?" The rush of the lunch hour seemed to disappear behind her.

"Well, we've been together for three years. All of my friends have babies. I kind of have baby fever, you know?" she said. She extended her card but snatched it back before Alex could receive it.

"Wait not that one," she chuckled. Her long, bedazzled, neon nails flipped through her deck and pulled a different one. "Use this one," she said.

Alex was almost nervous to run the card, hoping the "DECLINED" message wouldn't pop up on the screen.


"You're very young. What're you, in high school?"

"I graduate next month!" She smiled.

"Look, I'm not saying 'don't have the baby,' just make sure you're ready and secure." Alex didn't know what else to say. She barely knew the girl, but felt compelled for the child.

"We're sure. He's sure about me and I'm sure about him. Might as well have a baby," she shrugged her shoulders.

She seemed more certain about the 'Pineapple Surf' than she did in that last statement.


"No, thank you."

"Alright, your smoothie will be out in a bit," Alex said.

She got to work on the orders that were waiting on the counter. After making several, she personally handed Emma the 'Pineapple Surf.'

"I hope everything works out for you," a smiled as she opened the straw against her stomach. She bit it, and she slid the plastic off. "Have a nice day." Emma pulled the door, but it didn't budge.

"You push it," Alex said.

"I'm such a blonde," Emma laughed.

Alex didn't.

May 27, 2021 23:45

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Joan Wright
22:11 Jun 10, 2021

Great story. You showed it without telling! Clever dialogue which revealed each of the characters. Loved how you brought covid problems into it. I love how Alex's prejudices turned to concern. Loved it.


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T.H. Sherlock
07:38 Jun 06, 2021

Oooh! I love this! How many times have I deliberated about which sandwich to buy for lunch - trivial, pointless decisions which don’t matter in the grand scheme of things - only to make rash decisions about those things which might actually have a real impact. Emma’s character reminded me of this contrast - she’s hesitant about which smoothie to buy but seems almost flippant about her intention to have a baby: ‘ Might as well have a baby,’ she shrugged her shoulders. I thought the way you show how someone can be indecisive and impulsive at...


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Mischa Plattner
23:13 Jun 05, 2021

Oooooo! I like it! Just wondering... is Alex a Christian? Great job for the shortlist!!


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A.Dot Ram
15:10 Jun 01, 2021

These are two well fleshed out characters and I was invested. I like how you gave Alex the context of the redhead as a foil or maybe foreshadowing for Emma. Alex is older and wiser. She doesn't laugh. I like the way you put that: Alex didn't.


A.Dot Ram
18:46 Jun 04, 2021

Congratulations on the shortlist! You packed a lot into this story and I enjoyed your subtle observations.


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