“Looks like rain.”
“We could use some rain.”
“You’re right about that. It’s so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs.”
“Say Charles, is that anyone we know?”
“Shiny black SUV. Just turned off of Main.”
“Nope, none of my people.”
“Look, now they’re coming back. Must be lost.”
“Not much out here to get lost in.”
“Didn’t there used to a be a highway sign? Right there at the light?”
“If I remember right, the Hardison boys knocked it over in the combine.”
“Look, there’s the car, coming back again. They must be lost.”
“Lost as last year’s Easter egg.”
Gravel crunched under the tires of the SUV as it turned into the parking lot of CJ’s Minimart. Joe and Charles sat in paint-chipped rocking chairs on the sagging porch, as they always did, with sunflower seed shells scattered at their feet. A woman in a turtleneck and slick ponytail stepped out of the car, squinting at her cell phone. She teetered over the uneven gravel to where Joe and Charles rocked, hands over paunchy bellies.
“Hello gentlemen, it looks like I’ve got myself a bit turned around, and I can’t get a signal out here. Would one of you mind directing me to Cedar Branch Acres? Off highway 171?”
“Cedar Branch Acres you say?”
“Yes, do you know it?”
“Sure do. I’m Joe by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Diane.”
“Well, Ms. Diane, if you come to the light here and turn right, go a ways until you see the old tobacco barn, you can’t miss it, and the property will be on the left.”
“Okay, so turn right, old barn, property on the left. Thank you!”
“Sure thing, ma’am.”
The tires kicked up a cloud of dust when she pulled away.
“What are you up to, Joe?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Charles.”
“You know she’ll be ill as a hornet when she comes back.”
Ten minutes later, a black SUV turned onto Main, and rolled to a stop in the parking lot of CJ’s Minimart. The woman didn’t bother to shut the door when she stepped out again.
“Okay, hello again, I think you may have forgotten a turn. I went right, and there was no barn, and no signs for Cedar Branch Acres.”
“Did I say right? Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit, I meant to say left.”
“Okay so you’re saying turn left, then pass the barn, then the property will be on the left. Is that correct?”
“Yep, that’s right.”
“Okay, then. Well, I’ll be going now. You two enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”
Gravel clinked against the light pole when she pulled out of the parking lot.
“Now, Joe, you know you’re just asking for trouble.”
“It’s my poor old mind Charles, you know how it is.”
“Now you might be ugly, but you ain’t lost all your marbles yet, Joe. What are you playing at? Why didn’t you just tell her?”
“Seems like folk are asking lots of questions today.”
“Folks can ask any questions they want.”
“And I’ll answer them when I feel like it.”
“You sure are crabby today. Ugly and crabby.”
“Now we got something else in common.”
Ten minutes passed in silence before the men heard the engine of the black SUV revving down Main. They watched as it slowed to a stop in front of the minimart. The woman in the turtleneck stepped out, her forehead dotted with beads of sweat.
“Alright, I did exactly what you said, and I ended up at a pig farm. Look, I have an important meeting at Cedar Branch Acres, and I really don’t have time to be getting lost. Is there anyone else who can give me directions? Or a map maybe?”
“I might have a map in the truck.”
“Thank you, sir, Mister—”
“It’s Charles, ma’am.”
“Charles, thank you for your help.”
“Sure thing, give me a hot minute and I’ll see what I’ve got.”
“Great, thank you.”
“Okay, here we go, sorry for your wait. This is all I’ve got in the way of maps.”
“Oh my. Looks a bit water damaged.”
“Probably from when I drove through the creek.”
“Yep. Me and this rust bucket have had some adventures.”
“Um, Mr. Charles, I don’t mean to be unappreciative, but this map is from 1952. It doesn’t show Highway 171 anywhere.”
“1952? Well, wouldn’t you know it, I got myself an antique.”
“Yes, that’s nice, but this is useless to me right now.”
“Yes, uh, Joe was it?”
“Yep. I just realized, you have to go past this light, and then turn left. I knew I had something mixed up.”
“Are you absolutely positive?”
“As sure as the sunrise.”
“So, I go past this light, take a left, go past the barn, and then the property will be on the left?”
“Okay. I’m leaving now, and I do not want to have to come back.”
“You take care now!”
They watched the taillights disappear around the corner.
“So, you finally came to your senses, Joe?”
“You can say that.”
The men sat in silence, listening to the rhythmic creaking of the rocking chairs.
The SUV didn’t bother to stop at the red light when it sped back down Main Street and skidded to a stop in the parking lot of CJ’s Minimart.
“Oh, boy, you done it now, Joe. She looks madder than a wet cat.”
The woman’s hair poked out of her elastic tie in several places and sweat stained the underarms of her turtleneck.
“Alright, I can’t believe I’m back here again. I found the property, but the gate is locked, and I was supposed to meet the owners today. They know I’m coming, but I can’t get in. Do either of you have a phone I could use? I don’t know what else to do at this point.”
“You’re welcome to use mine. I just put more minutes on it.”
“Minutes? Okay then. Let me just find his number in my file here.”
“Take your time ma’am.”
“Ah, here we go. Okay, it’s ringing!”
A jaunty ringtone exploded from Joe’s shirt pocket. He pulled it out casually and mashed the answer key.
“Joseph Harris of Cedar Branch Acres speaking.”
“What in the—but—you—it’s you—what is wrong with you? I was sent all the way down here to discuss the sale of your property and you think this is all some game?”
Joe rose from the paint-chipped rocking chair and stretched. “Now that I have your full attention, you can get back in your overpriced set of wheels and tell those high-falutin, city-slicker developers that I will never sell my land. Not one acre, not one square inch, not one blade of grass. This land has been in my family for over 100 years, and I intend to keep it that way. I don’t want another call, no more letters, no more emails, no more suits showing up at my door waving checks in my face. Have I made myself clear?”
The file of paperwork flew open and scattered across the parking lot when the woman cast it at Joe’s feet and stormed off in a huff. Bits of gravel pelted the men’s denim clad legs when she tore away. Joe settled back into the rocking chair.
“Told you she’d pitch a hissy fit.”
“You were right, Charles. I probably was a bit too hard on her.”
“Are you kidding? That’s the most fun I’ve had all day.”
“Well, more fun’s coming. Looks like rain.”
“We could use some rain.”
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Great read, Aeris! I thought this was the hardest of this week's prompts, but you definitely proved me wrong on that one. Lovely interpretation of the prompt! Very humorous too. Love how you wrote this one. Even before you mentioned they were sitting in rocking chairs, that's how I pictured Joe and Charles just from their dialogue. Their banter was also top-notch. That "ugly and crabby" retort was lethal! Really liked the circular nature of the story too, how the ending replied to the opener. Bookends are great in fiction because we get to s...
I absolutely struggled with last week’s prompts. It took forever to settle on an idea, and I had something totally different written up until Friday, but the more I read it, the less I liked it 🥴 I felt bad for a Diane too lol, but I figured she’d dealt with worse in her line of work. As always, thank you for reading and leaving your kind comments, it means a lot.
Very clever and well-written! Thoroughly enjoyed it!!!
Thank you 😊
Next time I get a cold caller I'm going to try this! Fabulous story, great conversation, great fun. Love it.
Aeris, this was a gorgeously funny read. The dialogue, particularly between the two old boys was superb. Great pace and tone. Just a couple of sentences that I loved: “Lost as last year’s Easter egg.” “Did I say right? Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit, I meant to say left.” “Oh, boy, you done it now, Joe. She looks madder than a wet cat.” Lovely!
Hi Jay! Thank you for reading! I so appreciate your positive reaction and look forward to reading some of your work 😊
Two old friends, one lost lady. One man won't help properly, the other can't help no matter. They mess with her, sending the lady on a wild goose chase to find the place she's heading to. Even though it was them all along who were the owners. Great story, as usual. Good job, Aeris!
Thank you, Ace! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and leave your comment :)
Ha! How fortunate Charles had a map in his truck so he could be as helpful as possible! Nice touch to add the water damage, too. You might have tagged this one "friendship" as well. I was immediately charmed by the two old men in their sitting in the rockers outside the minimart "as they always did." I enjoyed their dialogue very much, too, the way they spoke to each other as only old friends can, and how they teamed up to best the city slicker.
Hi Carolyn! Thank you for reading and leaving your sweet comment :) I really appreciate it. Looking forward to reading more from you!
You’ve got me cracking up over here! This story is so clever and I loved the twist on the prompt. I’m especially impressed that we know virtually nothing about Joe and Charles but by the end, just through their dialogue, I had a clear picture of each of their personalities. Fantastic work—thanks for making me smile 😊
I love this take on the prompt! I could totally feel the womans frustration until the end when the twist just made me smile, great writing!
Thank you for reading! I really appreciate it 😊
You always capture voices so well. Dialogue pitch perfect here I think (tricky for me as a Brit) but it sounds spot on. I loved the comic twist and completely in character well done. Enjoyed this.
Thanks, Rebecca! I appreciate you reading and leaving such kind feedback. I enjoyed your story this week too! (And I think you’re dialogue was just wonderful;)
HAHAHAHAHAHH! This was great. So cheeky and just the right length! The plot is so simple and mischievious that I couldn't help but laugh out loud at this goose chase they sent the SVU person on. This line made me snort laugh- “Lost as last year’s Easter egg.” Because ain't that a thing we all know too well. What a fun read, Aeris!
Thank you, Shea for such a vibrant comment haha! I’m glad the story brought you a good laugh 😉
Hey Aeris! I always look forward to your stories, and this one doesn't disappoint :) Like Jim Firth, I also liked "It’s so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs." And I also think it easily have the funny tag. Although, from the POV of Diane, maybe horror is more apt :) There's great layers here. The first time they mess with her, I saw how the prompt was going to factor in. But what choice did she have? She had to follow their directions. But the twist was marvellous, didn't see that coming :) But while we might feel for Diane on some lev...
Hi Michal! As always, thank you for your thoughtful comments, and for just making Reedsy a better place with your digital presence… Yay, I’m so glad the twist ending worked and wasn’t too predictable. And thank you for catching that typo! You are right, it’s two words ;)
Aeris, 'The trees are bribing the dogs' made me chuckle right off the bat. You put a great twist in there when Joe answers the phone. I didn't see that coming at all. The dialogue moves the plot along nicely while retaining a very natural feel and not being overly expository. Nice job! I would say that it deserves the 'funny' tag as much as it does the 'drama' tag.
Thank you, Jim! I’m glad you think it flowed naturally; I had nearly 3,000 words of an entirely different story written for this week, but when I read it over again Friday afternoon, I just didn’t like any of it and scrapped the whole thing. So this was kind of a last minute crack at something new. So thank you for reading, I really appreciate it 🙃
Blimey, that's a quick turnaround in getting something new from scratch done! I'm intrigued about that 3,000 worder and what made you scrap it. I'm not sure I could start from scratch that late in the game because I'm a polish, polish, polish person (In a revising sense, not an eastern European sense).
I guess it just got too grand. I am not typically a big idea person, putting more emphasis on the characters and the prose, and there were just too many moving parts that by the end of the story, I felt no real connection to any of my characters. So while I was glad that I maintained the discipline of writing, I just wasn’t happy with what I wrote. You can tell you are a “polisher,” you’re writing is neat and succinct and punchy in all the right places. I am typically a slow and meticulous writer, which usually means the editing process is ...
Ooh, a hyper-caffeinated story? Reminds me of that experiment they did on spiders where they gave them caffeine, LSD and marijuana and observed their web spinning skills. LSD got the best results, I think. Yeah, the miracle prompts should be good fun. They're pretty all encompassing, so there's plenty of scope for whatever you want!
Oh now there’s your experiment; Here’s my Reedsy short story on three shots of espresso. Here’s my Reedsy short story on LSD. 🥴🥴🥴