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Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Fiction

Susan sat across from Gavin, her date from Plenty of Fish. The waiter poured their wine. Gavin spoke at length and with authority on many topics. Having little knowledge and fewer opinions, she took him at his word.

How did I agree to meet?

Tuning in, she realized he’d begun another chapter on the Speed Dating event he attended.

“You’ve been to one, right?” She nodded. “They’re amusing if you like feeding frenzies. But like in poker, if you don’t know who the mark is…”

“It’s probably you…” He laughed, not knowing she meant herself.

She could admit her obsession with clothing to friends. Her dress arrived that afternoon. It was perfect. She fell in love with the soft fabric and pastel flowered print. But the cut… More frumpy than fashionable.

Of course, no one would say that to her face. She had good instincts. It arrived late. She threw it on and rushed to meet Gavin. First mistake.

“So, get this… I caught the lady’s eye before anyone had settled. Introducing myself I said, ‘You and I have better things to do. Let’s leave these clueless losers and have some fun.’”

He waited for Susan’s response.

She bought time with a knowing laugh. “Clueless losers… good alliteration always gets me. Was she impressed?”

“I’d decided to go for broke. Cut the chit chat. But she passed.” Susan made a sad face. “I figure I dodged a bullet. She didn’t realize I’m loaded.” He winked. “But the rest of the night, I was a marked man. A known upstart, I couldn’t get arrested.”

Susan sighed. “Win a few…”

“Right… What are you in the mood for? Order anything.”

Susan paused. “I thought…”

He made a face. “Susan… Indulge yourself. No obligation, stated or implied…” He grinned.

“Okay, if you say so…”

Susan thought, ‘I can’t look too frumpy, if he’s springing for dinner. Maybe it’s the pin.’

She called her fashion strategy ‘counterpoint.’ Offset the main theme with something unexpected. Cowboy boots with a dress. Pearls over a torn t-shirt. Keep them guessing.

Tonight, her Grandmother’s antique deco pin, countered her floral print dress. Etched into burnished bronze, the round pin depicted a leaping stallion. Was it flying, or bursting from flames? When light played off the finely crafted pin, the horse appeared to be three-dimensional.

“That’s an extraordinary pin.”

“Thank you. It was my Grandmother’s.”

“Have it appraised. I could get that done for you.”

“Thanks. But I’d never sell it.”

Gavin shrugged and murmured, “Never know…”

His focus on the pin embarrassed Susan. ‘You’d think it had a dollar sign on it.

“Is it a Montreux? His bronzes are impeccable.”

“I only know it was Granny’s.”

“I find such things out. Montreux’s later work has appreciated nicely.”

“How do you find the time…?”

“I’m the boss. The ‘A’ in AGS Inc.” Susan recognized the name of the accounting firm.

The waiter poured more wine and Gavin touched Susan’s glass.

“Tell me about your work, Susan.”

“I’m a recovery nurse.”

“That’s important work.”

“You think…?”

“Any patient waking up to your face would recover in no time. Ask for a raise.” She scowled at his odd compliment. “I’m not joking.”

She deflected, “I don’t think it works that way…”

He leaned in. “Waking to your face every morning, I’d live happily, forever.”

Susan balked. “Are you…?”

Gavin regrouped. “That came out wrong. I think I stepped in hyperbole. I’m not proposing, but I’d love to see your face in morning light.”

Susan didn’t rush. “Next time you have an operation, make an appointment.”

Conversation tapered after that. She finished her meal, thanked him, and left.

Susan got home and fell into bed. Exhausted, she only took time to throw her dress into her donation hamper. Frumpy or not, she’d never wear it after this awful night.

What a putz! How depressing!

The next morning she stuffed her cast offs into a garbage bag. The donation center was half way to work.

At lunch, Susan stopped in mid-chew.

“What have I done?”

She told her boss she needed the afternoon off. An emergency had arisen.

Susan hurried to the donation center she’d visited that morning. She asked for the manager.

Russell asked what she needed. Susan told him she’d accidentally donated a dress.

“I’m sorry, Susan. But we don’t do returns. Our policy.”

“I’d be happy to buy it. But I need that dress.”

“We couldn’t function if we let everyone paw through donations at every whim.”

“This is no whim. I’m looking for a specific dress. It was a mistake.”

“I understand. But I can’t.”

“This isn’t a big ask, Russell. I buy six to ten dresses online monthly. On a good month, I keep four. You know where the others go?” She pointed. “Into your bin. Whatever your mark-up, you make a tidy profit off me.”

Russell nodded slightly. “We’re a non-profit. But you’re right. We’ve done well since buying online became a thing.”

“Half of what you sell got dropped off by me.”

He shook his head. “We get a lot of donations, Susan.”

“You’re right. I can always donate somewhere else.” She turned to leave.

Russell said, “Even if I wanted to, the truck already left for the distribution center.”

“And where is that?”

He gave her a hard look and wrote an address on a slip of paper.

“You didn’t get this from me. Ask for Sergio.”

She grabbed the paper. “Thank you Russell. You’re a good man.”

He called after her. “No guarantees!”

“Right!”

Susan knew the place. Oblivious, she’d driven by millions of times. But getting there at this time of day… traffic was worse than insane. It was normal.

She parked and located the warehouse.

A man intercepted her. “Do you need directions?”

“I need to speak to Sergio”

“That’s me. How can I assist you?”

She told him her mistake. That she understood the unusual request. But this was no ordinary dress. It was an extraordinary dress.

He looked skeptical. When she said where she’d dropped it, he murmured, “Russell.”  

Sergio wore a standard issue warehouse uniform. But Susan noted it looked tailored.

Who does that? Sergio, evidentially.

Sergio checked some paperwork and gestured for her to follow. They entered the cavernous warehouse. Two men on a scaffold worked on the fluorescent lights.

She followed Sergio into a sea of waist high canvas storage bins.

“Wow!”

He turned with a smile. “You can understand why we don’t usually return donations.”

Every bin held a variety of random objects, small furniture, books, kitsch, and you name it.

“After arriving here, we sort for redistribution to the regional stores.” He pointed. “Clothing’s over there.”

They stopped before several dozen bins piled high with clothing.

“Your dress should be…” He checked the ID numbers stenciled on the canvas. He pointed. “…here.”

Susan moved toward the bin but Sergio stopped her. “Sorry, only staff handle donations. Was it in a bag?”

“White garbage bag. With a bunch of other stuff…”

He leaned in and began rummaging. Soon, he held a garbage bag up like a freshly caught trophy fish.

“Yes!” Susan reached.

Sergio waved her off and set the bag down. He pulled several items out.

“Those were mine. Keep looking. I don’t see the dress.”

“Is this it?” He held up her floral print dress.

“That’s it.” She reached for it. “May I?”

Handing her the dress, he stuffed the other items back into the bag. Her Grandmother’s pin was still attached.

Sergio stood. “Hold it so I can see.” She acted the model. “Is that a Kizmet? They’re the best of the knock-offs.”

“I fell in love with it online. But… Let me put it this way. You could drive a truck between ‘small’ and ‘medium.’ If it says ‘medium,’ it should be medium.”

Sergio laughed. “If it were that simple, the fashion industry would collapse.” He admired it. “Great color. Looks like ‘magic hour.’”

“It glows. But it fit weird.”

Sergio shook his head. “Can’t have that. It could be gold leaf, but if it doesn’t hang right…”

She held it close.

He looked askance. “So, Susan, if it doesn’t fit, what’s the point?”

She held up the pin. “It was this I cared about. I forgot to remove it last night. It was my Grandmother’s.”

“So you don’t care about the dress?”

She shook her head. “I figured, if I can find the dress, I’ll find the pin.”

He shrugged. “Okay. I need you to sign a release. And you’re free to go.”

“That’s it?”

“Mission accomplished…”

Susan signed the form. “Thanks, Sergio. This means so much.” He smiled. “Oh, and I guess you can keep the dress. I won’t need it.”

He took it from her and she left.

Susan practically skipped to her car. She didn’t care if the pin was by Montreux, or Mattel. It was her Granny’s.

May 14, 2022 03:09

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11 comments

Tommy Goround
02:16 May 23, 2022

So thanks Nikki...I edit content and avoid mechanics. John is my new favorite author of the day. (I am grateful to see people that give critique that takes time.. it is helpful to all) The start was hard. You build your characters in such lovely layers that the beginnings could always be difficult in that pacing. So why stay? The last Story gave me really good payoff. I do not think that you can make the man in the dating scenes more interesting. His purpose is to be static. I did not fully understand the poker metaphors. They gave the p...

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17:10 May 16, 2022

Hey!! thought I'd critique... Unneeded commas: " No obligation, stated or implied…” He grinned." "‘I can’t look too frumpy, if he’s springing for" "Grandmother’s antique deco pin, countered" Missing something: "She acted the model." (as a model not the model) not sure what you were trying to say tbh "Sergio into a sea of waist high" (waist-high) "Sergio wore a standard issue warehouse" (standard-issue) "Thank you Russell." comma needed (Thank you,) "The donation center was half way to work." *halfway "The next morning she stuffed her ...

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John K Adams
17:37 May 16, 2022

Thanks for the critique. I agree with some. Not with others. I'll inform my resident comma-Nazi of what she missed. Glad you enjoyed the story. Hope you'll read others.

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17:45 May 16, 2022

Which do you not agree with? It's your story and not mine so I can only correct so much. I also can understand so much. Like you know what you're talking about, but I was a bit confused like especially the model one. I couldn't tell if you meant the actually model of the "pin" or if she "modeled" it. You know? If it's any of the "unneeded commas" you don't agree with I can inform you those are all 100% correct.

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John K Adams
18:04 May 16, 2022

Hi, My comma use is admittedly eccentric. " No obligation, stated or implied…” seems right to me. The second part would follow a pause. The hyphenates are a judgement call. The Hemingway editor I use doesn't flag those. Some of your corrections are technically correct, but as they are in dialogue and in the vernacular, I think they work. People don't speak out of a grammar book. You have a point if they aren't in dialogue. "I think I stepped in hyperbole." He makes a joke. "Have it appraised." is a command, not a question. Most of the rest, ...

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John K Adams
18:06 May 16, 2022

I hope I didn't offend you with my critique.

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19:14 May 16, 2022

LOL definitely NOT a C+!! I was not offended at all! I just realized you were the same person that did critique me😂! But no, your critiques were great. I went back and corrected everything. Thank you for pointing out my mistakes by the way. The only way you would have offended me is if you were to be rude to me. You were very kind LOL why would I be offended? After you corrected me, I literately put you in my bio. What do you mean calling you out? In a bad way? Or... and like I said sense it was your story sometimes I could see the mistak...

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John K Adams
20:00 May 16, 2022

Not a problem. Thanks again for the critique. People don't take the time like you have, in general. But following so close after my corrections, I didn't want to get into a series of tit for tat, gotcha points. Thanks for the link. I've used grammarly, but in their disclaimer they say they take ownership of anything you send them. Or that was my understanding. Sometimes, especially in dialogue, you have to go with how it feels over nit-picky perfection. But obviously, I subscribe to clarity over style.

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