Seconds to Discourse

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Suspense

“I saw her. Getting in your car!”

My eyes and blue-inked pen formed a frantic partnership to solidify every nuance of the situation into my worn notebook. Snowboarder’s posture as he leaned over the bar with palms flat on the surface. The tips of Employee’s fingers working around the rim of a glass. 

This was exactly the sort of scenario that often drew me to local spots before dawn. While most sane individuals snoozed through the subzero temperatures blowing through the valley, insomnia and my passion for writing compelled me to hunker down to possibly witness residual drama of long nights or early days.

This morning, the trek through fresh powder would be well worth the frozen toes.

My own home-brewed beverage had become an afterthought—my two-seater booth a private glimpse into an authentic moment.

The only other customer, probably a tourist still running on east coast time, had downed a coffee to banish the flurries still clinging to their eyelashes. As soon as the jingling bell had signaled their departure, Snowboarder pushed his way into the place with a scowl joining his frosty brows. His boots had clomped mini white clumps all the way to his target.

Only me, Snowboarder, and Employee now felt the heat of the crackling fireplace and smelled the warm cinnamon coating fresh pastries.

Two seconds pass…maybe three? Employee’s silence and controlled motion tip Snowboarder into irrational territory. A gloved fist comes down on the bar, rattling a nearby fork.

“You saw Lisa. Fess up!”

“To what?” Employee said. His tone was soft as if this situation was a tired routine from a life he no longer lived. Was it?

My pen swooped up and down the rows on my paper, striking the chords of an intimate symphony taking place between lofty peaks. The following two seconds brought even richer material. I risked moving my head slightly to the right to catch each emotion on Snowboarder’s bushy-bearded face.

  • Heaving breaths
  • Hiss of coat material
  • Deeper lines by eyes
  • Crooked nose wrinkling, sniffing 

Snowboarder threw up an arm and said, “You know.”

“She needed a ride—”

“Not that kind!”

Two more seconds. My handwriting devolved to preschool scribbles as I smother a giggle into my neck gaiter. My moist breath was building inside the fleecy material covering my mouth, every bit as quick as the escalating tension just twelve feet away. I was invisible—a mere background-dweller to a melt-in-your-mouth drama that would perfectly complement the cinnamon roll I planned to purchase.

  • Staring contest
  • Assessing
  • Nostrils flare
  • Lips part

“Not that kind,” he had said. An accusation with obvious past connections. 

Beautiful. Authentic. Life.

No one could make this stuff up unless they witnessed it as I was. Just two resort bums forgetting the outside whistle of the wind and the grumbling in their stomachs. 

Snowboarder couldn’t possibly be aware of how his hands would be sweating into his glove liners or how tapping his boot would soon create a shimmering puddle on the aged hardwoods below. The scents of bacon and hazelnut coffee were unsmelled; the frost in his hair was forgotten. A lonely line of sweat or melting snow from his goggles ran down his cheek, catching the can light. 

Though Snowboarder was almost a head taller and even more imposing in his mountain gear, Employee held an inner focus equating him to the bigger man. No elevated voice, and no fear of consequence. The situation was all Employee’s. He had something Snowboarder wanted. 

A confession?

A dodge?

A fight?

What would he do with his power?

All these scenarios ran rampant with my scribbles, unbeknownst to the colorful bear painting or elk head hanging above me. Only three breathing souls displayed a grand performance of life for the multitude of illustrated and taxidermied onlookers.

The next second preceding Employee’s response was a brilliant teacher in character. I studied the tick of his eyebrow on his otherwise emotionless features. He stood behind the counter, the polar opposite of his accusor.

“Again, it’s not like that.”

I had to hold back a gasp as my mind worked at lightspeed to unwrap that one sentence. The word “again” was self-explanatory; these two had almost resorted to fists over love before. The same person? How deep did it run? For how long had they been wary of each other’s actions and feelings? Had these encounters built to a point where an altercation was the only solution to appease Snowboarder’s wounded ego?

My mind kept zooming around the latter part of Employee’s statement. It held no inkling of fear or regret; it was simply factual to him. But, from where did that confidence stem? His ability to lie and get away with it? To appease the out-of-control buffoon in front of him? Allay the inevitable clash at least until quitting time when the pub was filled with the dripping gear of chatty vacationers?

Or did Employee indeed harbor some feelings for this woman? I had to know.

My eyes snapped up the next second when Snowboarder said, “Prove it.”

It was my turn to tense. Was this about to explode into a legitimate fight? I wasn’t sure what I had expected, but both stationary parties appeared as calm as an incline before a tree-hopping squirrel triggered an avalanche. An insistent pop from the fireplace had my nerves jumping.

Employee said, “Ask her.”

In a fraction of a minute, a slew of previous emotions had built to a flood, threatening to culminate into what could be anything from a black eye to broken bones—all thanks to assumptions and pride.

The two remained focused on each other.

A challenge. A pact.

Whoever made the next move would either turn tail or accept the brutish battle.

“Ask her.” My respect for Employee’s character shot higher. What a logical suggestion; it also masked the insult to Snowboarder’s ability to humble himself instead of forcing matters on his terms. Just two three-letter words, nestled together, encompassing the ideal of open communication. Employee knew more about key ingredients to a healthy relationship than Snowboarder. Ask, have the patience to listen, and the humility to accept.

And the respect to give control to another.

I couldn’t blame Lisa if she ditched Snowboarder for Employee. All the information I needed to recreate a complete scene of the rapid spectacle was now forever etched onto paper. The rest was tucked away in my mind to be triggered again by the scent of warm spices. Could this instance be the inspiration for a future bestselling novel? A movie? A Broadway show? 

I smiled at the possibilities while the two men hesitated. I had to banish the image of two puffy-coated marshmallow figures slapping padded blows at each other before I laughed aloud.

It was time to interject a new dynamic into this cockfight; a clear winner had been named

And I was about to prove it with an exemplary plot twist.

One swift tug had my new hat and neck gaiter free from my face.

“Yeah, Brent. Ask me.”

January 01, 2021 22:12

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Jay Heltzer
12:58 Jan 07, 2021

You’ve captured what I miss so much about going out, (thanks pandemic!) sitting somewhere eavesdropping like mad and writing down others comments and conversations. You’ve personified the fly on the wall with glee and bromantic drama, and a great final twist. The twist itself though sets up an interesting question: If she knew the two guys, why write them anonymously as Snowboarder and Employee? I’m sure theres a reason, but it’s not clear why. I love how she is hiding out, and can’t be detected by the two guys. Nice job.


Lydi B
13:10 Jan 07, 2021

Thanks for your lovely comments! Inspired by me always out before dawn when we skip timezones to go snowboarding. I had given the men names at first but changed them to anonymous should Lisa later decide to use this for published material. It was also meant to help take her out of the scenario until she needed to step in. Leaving the names probably would have been fine, too. Just trying something different, heh.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Carrie Sheldrake
23:27 Jan 01, 2021

Well done! Your imagery and vocabulary add so much to the description and make the story very captivating. I liked the use of bullet points as this isn’t something you often see


Lydi B
21:12 Jan 02, 2021

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I was unsure about the bullet points, but I figured that was the only way to take the reader straight into the written notes.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.