Short Story: The Contestant, Part 1 - The Cigarette
I've been experimenting with perspective lately, and the the following is the first installment in a series of three short stories. I've written the same story, more or less, but from three different perspectives (first person, second person, third person). Sounds kind of boring, but they're actually all quite different. It all comes down to perspective...
“There,” she said, banging the pen down on the yellowing formica. “I’m fucking done.”
“What’s that?” asked Sonja disinterestedly, busily inspecting the fat black and white cat for fleas.
“The application. I finished,” the girl replied. She leaned back in her chair, stretching the muscles in the back of her neck and shoulders. “Toss me one of those, wouldja?” Sonja ignored her, parting the hair along the upper belly of the fluffy cat. “Gotcha!” she exclaimed, pouncing in for the kill, her glasses almost buried in the halo of fur.
Artie had dropped the girl off sometime between Martha Stewart’s last guest and the start of The Price is Right. I’ll be back by four he promised. Sonja turned the t.v. down and pulled herself off of the pea-green armchair. She hovered for a minute, not sure if she was supposed to go up to the girl for an awkward hug or head to the kitchen to fix her a coke. The girl just stared around the cramped room like a trapped animal. Before Sonja could make up her mind, the girl threw her duffel bag towards the door and plopped onto the couch, causing the cat to leap angrily across the coffee table, knocking over a glass of water and upending a stack of magazines.
“Motherfucker,” said the girl.
They’d been staring at each other from across the room for at least ten minutes now, which, given how small the room was, wasn’t really enough distance for comfort. “Annie Olsen,” blared announcer-guy in the background, “come on down.” The girl had already rejected Sonja’s offer of coke, tea, coffee, breakfast, a sandwich, polite chit chat, brunch, call me Aunt Sonja, a different television channel, to talk about it, and a nap. So there they were. Staring. At each other. For at least ten minutes, possibly more. Some guy had already won a snowblower, some lady with blue hair was nervously teetering up to the Plinko apparatus. Finally, the girl spoke.
“Can I have one of those?” she asked, gesturing towards the open package of Benson and Hedges Light 100’s sitting on the t.v. tray.
Sonja was torn. On the one hand, at least the girl had finally said something to her that wasn’t an expletive. On the other hand, she wasn’t so sure about how Artie would feel if he knew the girl was smoking. No, scratch that, the girl obviously already smoked. Sonja would just be the one giving her a cigarette, but Artie might not like that, her giving a cigarette to his only niece, the one he doted on so much and kept a picture of on that shelf in the hallway, especially after he was always on Sonja to give them up. Then again, after everything the woman from the college had told them, something about a bottle of rum, or was it a broken bottle, a boyfriend who might or might not be married, or maybe it was the girl that was married, a fire in the dorm, who knows what else, maybe a cigarette was the least of their troubles. Sonja picked up the pack and saw her opening.
“How ‘bout if I give you one, you start working on that application for the temp agency Uncle Artie wants you to fill out?” The girl just stared at her, looking even more disgusted than she had since she’d first walked into the apartment, if that was possible.
“Fine,” she said.
Read parts two and three:
- Short Story: The Contestant, Part Two-- Somebody's Niece
A cat, a cigarette, and somebody's niece. Part two of a series of three short stories told from different perspectives.
- Short Story: The Contestant, Part 3-- The Cat
A cat, a cigarette, and somebody's niece. Part three of a series of short stories exploring varying perspectives in writing.
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