The Lake

Terri looked out on to the wide expanse of bright blue water.

She was shocked that this was only one of the Great Lakes. It had to be an ocean, but in the back of her mind, reality set in that she was land-locked.

She made her way down the path, so she get closer to the craggy rocks that cradled the water at its edge. The waves ebbed and flowed, while occasionally jumping up to lick at the rocks. A splash of water would leave behind droplets and small pools of water, which would eventually make their return to their source.

The air reeked of dead fish, but there was no salt to it. This was indeed a lake, despite its immense size. Terri carefully ambled over the rocks, as she didn’t want to slip out of her shoes. She chided herself silently for not wearing boots.

Terri looked around the rocks, to see if she could find anything of interest. Glass bottles poked their necks out between cracks, amid used condoms and torn wrappers, broken doll arms, and the occasional muddied newspaper. A rat scampered quickly past, in an effort not to be seen or caught.

Eventually, Terri spied the perfect rock for her to take a seat. The top surface was flat enough, with only a slight dip on one side. She took her place atop the rock, crossed her legs, and began to stare more deeply at the water.

Occasionally a sailboat or two would make an appearance, where it seemed the edges of the water were touching the sky. A lighthouse way off to the distance began to emerge. The sounds of passing traffic veering down the nearby highway faded off into the distance. Terri closed her eyes, absorbing all that was around her.

Passing gulls swooped in and out, while calling out to each other. The sound of the waves gently crashing into each other, or pounding against the rocks made a soothing rhythm. The chatter of occasional passerby was hushed to a whisper. It was just Terri and the lake. A moment of rare serenity was gleaned.

 

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Hoodies Don’t Last Forever

Darcy looked down at her hoodie, dismayed that the zipper had suddenly broken.

She muttered a curse to the air in frustration. This hoodie was her absolute favorite one to wear. It was black, with sturdily constructed pockets, that had pyramid studs on the edges. She loved to dip her hands into the pockets, when the autumn chill nipped at her fingertips.

The oversized sleeves of the hoodie, made a repeating pattern of black and white stripes, with thumb holes. It was perfect. It was her favorite. Now, it was broken beyond repair. She didn’t want to replace it just yet. Perhaps a funeral would be in order.

She could see it now. She pictured her friends Gabby and Eva at her side, joining her in a solemn tearful farewell, as they laid the hoodie to rest. Dramatics were a necessary order for this hoodie. She had survived 2 years of school, while wearing her signature and most perfect hoodie as her fashionable armor. Darcy fingered the pins attached to her hoodie lovingly.

There was a sweet little cartoon rabbit pin, from her favorite toy designer Carrot Ties. Another pin, she collected from a book signing by a graphic novel writer she adored. Lastly, at a punk art swap event, she scooped up a funny little pin with an adorable monster face on it. This hoodie was part of her life story. It contained a rich collection of memories, from dodging scrapes, sipping bubble tea with her friends, and curling up with comics and magazines in secret corners and on fire escapes.

Darcy sighed, as she folded the hoodie and placed it on the corner of her bed. Looking over the hoodie sadly, she was lost in thought until a knock at the door broke the silence.

“Hey Darcy, your mom said it was cool if we came by.” Gabby said smiling as she entered the room.

“Who died?” Eva asked with an air of concern? She always seemed to notice when something was up with Darcy, almost immediately.

“My precious hoodie is no more. The zipper broke.” Darcy replied, pointing weakly at the hoodie.

“Well, maybe we can find a way to upcycle it?” Gabby suggested warmly.

“Upcycle?” Darcy asked, with a mix of hopefulness and curiosity in her face.

“Yeah, Darcy.” Gabby continued.“I signed up to this art and green life workshop. We’re learning about using old things that are still precious to us, or found objects. It’s about giving them new life.”

Darcy perked up. “Is there still room in the workshop?”

“Yeah. You should come too Eva.” Gabby answered smiling coolly. “Let me show you something I’m working on now.” Gabby began rummaging through her backpack. She pulled out a thick block of wood with some splatters and stains on it.

“See look, I rescued this wood from an alleyway, and I’m using it to make a block print. Pretty wicked, huh?” Gabby held up the block so that Darcy and Eva could get a closer look.

Passing the block around, an idea struck Darcy. “When do they meet, people for the workshop?”

“It’s two times a week, on Thursday and Saturdays. Sometimes on Fridays, there’s open studio space too. That’s when there’s a community free-for-all for creating all sorts of stuff.” Gabby answered. “You want to show up around 3pm. You two will like it, I’m sure.”

“I’m in.” Eva replied. She had dreams of making some more bracelets to stack on her arms.

“Me too.” Darcy said with a smile. She was looking at the hoodie, now confident that she had a solution to her problems.

Thursday came around, and the girls all met up at the workshop. Darcy was excited. There were people of different ages around, but mostly students like themselves. Everyone had a very laid back vibe, and were very friendly. Only a few seriously older people looked a bit stern and possibly grouchy, but that was because they were deep in focus, carving or painting very large found items.

Darcy took a seat next to Eva, Gabby, and three other people at their table.

“Hi, I’m Julie.” A friendly girl with freckles, braces, and vibrant magenta bangs with a skull hair clip held out her hand for a shake.

“I’m Darcy, and these are my friends Eva and Gabby.” Darcy said as she gave Julie a handshake.

“Yeah, Gabby told us about you and Eva. These two are Donald and Sand.”

Donald was a quiet type, but smiled and gave a short wave. Sand looked like he was the brooding leader of the bunch. He just gave a head nod, without taking out his headphones.

Soon, the workshop began. Wynn, an amiable artist-in residence and instructor came to each table. As she introduced herself, Darcy explained to her what she wanted to accomplish.

Darcy pulled out her block of thick styrofoam padding. This had been rescued from the alley of the old electronics store, which she would pass on her way to school. She quickly got the hang of learning to carve out a design. When she was finished, she ended up with the image of a swallow tail bird. Encircling the bird, Darcy carved some flowers and lightening bolts, to give it more edge.

Everyone oohed over her emerging skill with carving. “I’m not done yet. Just wait.” Darcy picked out her inks, and rolled up the block carefully. Next, she pulled out a black piece of cloth. She placed the cloth lovingly on the table, and imprinted her print onto the fabric.

“What are you going to do with the patch?” Gabby asked excitedly.

“Yeah, it looks really cool.” Julie commented. Eva and Donald nodded in agreement. Even Sand seemed to look up from his work, to investigate.

“Well, this patch I made from my old favorite hoodie. I didn’t know what to do when the zipper broke. So, I decided to give it a new life as a patch.” Darcy answered proudly. She later stitched the patch to her backpack. The spirit of her hoodie lived on, never to be lost again.

 

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Swingset Chain

Ellie walked through the playground.

It had been years since she had left her old neighborhood. A lot had changed. The tire swing was no longer hanging around. It had been transformed into a planter, near the entrance of the park. The normal swings were still around, but the cement which was underneath, was now covered in wood chips.

She chose to sit at the bench under the big maple tree. Someone had hidden a makeshift bird feeder in its branches. The air was cool, but not bitter. A gentle breeze passed through the leaves of the trees, making them shift and turn in the wind, as if dancing. She was alone.

Something about visiting this old park, stirred up emotions over life and growing older. Ellie thought about the time she fell of the slide. She managed to chip her tooth. It was the second one, to the left of the center front teeth. She would still emit a slight whistle when she spoke certain words.

Ellie touched her cheek, thinking about the first time she got a kiss from her crush. There was only a few weeks left of school when it happened. The kids that noticed broke out into songs. They loudly teased her with pointed fingers and disgusted groans.

She pulled out her notebook, and began to jot down the memories that began flooding back. So much time had passed, and remembering her childhood had been so distant. Life had been filled with work, dating, traveling, and barely sleeping. It was nice to finally have a moment to rest.

When she finally felt it was time to go, Ellie paused. She gave the playground one last look over, before slinging her bag over her shoulder. She left a tiny paper crane on the bench. It was a memento for her time at the park, a place she thought she had left behind. The years had touched her. The gray hairs, like the old maple trees, were her only witnesses.

 

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The Laundromat

Vivian watched the swirling gray water slosh around the laundry machine. As the socks, shirts, and slacks slipped and slid over one another, bubbling suds began to cover the clothes from clear view. The laundromat was always a good place to get away from the apartment, depending what time she came. Sometimes, she imagined herself a sociologist or anthropologist deep undercover. She would mentally record the comings and goings of the local patrons, seeking to clean their dirty laundry while listening out for whatever gossip they could monger up.

She’d laugh to herself, as she watched women with pendulous bodies, overburdened with years of childbearing, heavy loads of dirty clothes in tow, waddle in like they were royalty. They only seemed to take notice of the other ladies, who bared similar appearance. Occasionally, Vivian would catch them huddled together on the block, smoking cigarettes, and making disapproving comments at passerby. They were the old hens of the roost and consequentially the unofficial neighborhood watch. They definitely let everyone know, who ruled the pecking order of the neighborhood, and that you were on notice.

There would be single men, either the college-age yuppie wannabe types, or SRO regulars. Both were often looking to score a number. Sometimes the single men were older, perhaps widowers, or had always been a bachelor. They didn’t seem to mind not separating the light and dark clothing, or tossing detergent, softener, and everything but the kitchen sink into the smallest washers available. This would happen often, if the attendant wasn’t looking.

The attendant on staff would grumble under their breath, mumbling curses as they hurriedly rushed to grab a mop. The need to clean up overburdened washer machines, spewing out soap suds everywhere, occurred a little too often. Kids would take the opportunity, to run and attempt to slip and slide in the wet soapy mess. Otherwise, they would be too busy whamming the buttons of arcade machines, that they never had enough quarters to play. Occasionally, candy and sticker machines would get stuck. This tragedy would create a sobbing child, who would be dragged away, with promises of a beating, or a treat to make up for the loss.

The laundromat was always a curious place. Brimming with life, the denizens of the block would shed their need to always out-do and out-polish one another in appearance. Of course, there would be those few exceptions, but they were often on the prowl for a new date, or side-piece. Vivian enjoyed the smells of the laundry softeners mixing together. The hum of swirling washers and dryers, made a unique rhythm, which complemented the flow of customers coming in and out of the laundromat.

At last, her laundry was done. She stopped peering her eyes over her glasses, keeping score of how many people dropped their soap powder, or how many times a quarter got stuck in a machine. She went to her dryer, and quickly pulled out the still burning hot clothes. They landed cleanly into the laundry basket, except for a few socks that got loose. Vivian focused on folding her clothes, making sure to tuck in the corners of sheets, and turn any shirts or pants outside-in.

After the last item was neatly stowed away, Vivian slung her laundry bag over her back and made her way out into the street.

Iris

Iris stared at the broken plate that had shattered into several pieces, now lying at her feet on the floor. It had all happened so quickly. She didn’t think that her hands were so soapy, or that she had been moving too quickly, for the accident to occur. Still, the plate had missed its mark. Instead of landing safely in the dish rack, it was now nothing more than a mess to be swept away.

She rinsed the suds still lingering off of her hands, and turned off the tap. Next, she walked solemnly over to the utility closet, to collect the dustpan and broom. As Iris swept the pieces into the dustpan, she mused over the loss of the plate. It was a collector’s item, or so she thought. She had never spent the time to research the brand and decorations on it. However, she was convinced that it had to be of some finer value, because she picked it up at a thrift store for a very good price.

Iris enjoyed watching TV programs like The Antique Roadshow, and often dreamed of hitting pay dirt for purchasing a rare sought after item. She fancied herself being featured on the show, showing off the now broken plate, which would have been valued at $500 or more. Iris thought of all the things she could have done, if she hadn’t made such a stupid mistake.

She could have flown to Paris or Milan. She could have opened up an antiques shop in a quaint small town. She could have written books or given talks about how to find rare antique gems among the clutter in a thrift store. Now, all these dreams were as jagged and broken, as the pieces of plate being swept up to go into the garbage bin.

It didn’t matter to Iris, that the plate was in fact, simply a copy of an antique plate. She never bothered to do the research. Yet, she enjoyed painfully musing over her fantasies that couldn’t be helped, and would never come to pass.

After the plate was laid to rest in the bin, Iris walked over to the stove to make some tea. She put the tea kettle over a moderate flame, and took a seat at the small end table to wait. “Some day…” Iris thought out loud, as her eyes flitted around the menagerie of kitsch items littering her kitchen.

Maybe Sunday

Autumn walked through the lonely city streets. Her mustard yellow boots protected her from the pools of water, as she trudged along through the rain. It had been raining for three days, with no end in sight. Tucked tightly under her left arm, her notebook was wrapped carefully in a plastic bag. She could not afford to lose her work. Autumn was a writer.

After making a left turn at Duffy and Lane, she finally arrived at her destination. Autumn enjoyed holing up at Maybe Sunday, a doughnut and coffee shop. It wasn’t a pretentious and expected place for a freelance writer, like those well known designer coffee shops. She was a down-to-earth low-key kinda lady. Plus, those stuffy coffee shops didn’t have a 2-for-1 special on doughnuts after 3pm. The cinnamon and bow-ties were her favorite choices.

“The usual, Autumn?” Andy asked with a smile.

“You bet.” Autumn smiled back, as she put a five-dollar bill in his hand, and plunked a golden dollar into the tip cup. She wasn’t well-off, but after spending years scraping by in the service industry of diners, coffee shops, and retail, she knew tips mattered. Plus, joints like this one had a je ne sais quoi about them, and were a treasure for story incubation. Maybe Sunday was one of the last gems in a city, that had been all too quickly overtaken by gentrification and chasing trends. Autumn vowed she would protest and chain herself to the doors, if the city ever sought to push her “office space” out of business.

Andy would chuckle, when Autumn would say these things. “Well Autumn, you and a few of these other customers still believe certain things are worth preserving.”

Andy was the son of the original owner of Maybe Sunday. His father had come to the city seeking a better life, after escaping the war. He wasn’t much good when it came to door-to-door sales, and didn’t want to handle work at the stockyards or factories. He choose to make doughnuts and brew coffee instead. Turned out, he had a natural knack for powdering fried dough and sourcing great beans. Business thrived, and after the old man died, Andy decided to keep a family tradition going.

“So what you writing about these days, Autumn?” Andy asked with a lighthearted curiosity. He was wiping down the counters with a damp rag, and moving the napkin dispensers and sweeteners around.

Autumn enjoyed watching Andy and the other staff work. Everyone at Maybe Sunday operated with such precision, that the coffee shop ran like a fine-tuned machine. No matter if business was slow, or the number of customers swelled and created a line out the door, everyone got ample attention and quality service.

“Well, I just picked up some work on the changing face of real estate in the area.” Autumn replied. “I’m also juggling some side assignments on pet ownership, and the struggles of dating for 20-somethings in the city.”

“Sounds interesting,” Andy responded. “Hope you put in a good word for us at Maybe Sunday, if you can. Maybe the city will one day make us a landmark. That would be something, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, that would be fantastic.” Autumn then paused before speaking up. “Well, as long as the prices don’t go up too much for one of your favorite customers?”

“You’ll always get something for loyalty.” Andy assured Autumn with a wink.

“And hopefully no terrible food trends or diet police come in, trying to make you offer fat-free or sugar-free doughnuts!” Autumn chuckled while clapping her hands in amusement. She imagined some emaciated health-critic storming through the doors of Maybe Sunday. Their face turned up in disgust, and with slits for eyes, they would vilify Andy and the offerings of Maybe Sunday with a pointed finger.

Andy went to the back to grab some more doughnuts to restock the front. Autumn went back to writing in her notebook. Customers would occasionally file in, shaking off the rain from their umbrellas and coats. Orders for coffee with two sugars – no cream, old-fashioned, jelly-filled, and eclairs were called and filled. Autumn decided to call it a day around 8:20 pm. It was ten minutes to last-call and closing time for Maybe Sunday.

“See you around Andy,” Autumn said, as she gathered up her belongings. She placed her notebook back into its plastic bag, despite the rain finally tapering off to just a drizzle.

“Have one for the road, wordsmith.” Andy replied, placing a paper bag filled with doughnut holes into Autumn’s hand.

“Thanks Andy, you’re the best!” Autumn shouted over her shoulder, as the door closed behind her. The bell in the corner jingled gently, announcing her departure. As she made her way across the street, she turned back to look at Maybe Sunday. The sign at the entrance was flipped to show ‘Closed’ and the lights had been turned out. Only the steady glow of the neon, with its persistent low hum, was the only light left.