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The Purse: Flash Fiction by cam

Updated on November 14, 2019
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Grocery store
Grocery store | Source

The Purse

An elderly woman with a black purse swinging from her frail forearm, walks from the parking lot into the grocery store, apparently shopping alone. I follow about thirty feet back, nervous and excited that I have so quickly found the kind of person my plan requires. Not in my wildest dreams have I ever thought of doing something like this.

She chooses a grocery cart and walks past the alcohol department where vodkas, whiskeys, and wines are stacked behind floor displays. She doesn’t even glance at the bottles. Maybe she doesn’t drink, or possibly she can’t afford to. If it’s the latter, she may not be carrying much cash in her purse.

Not in my wildest dreams have I ever thought of doing something like this.

I drift among the spirits as though I’m shopping rather than stalking. I grab a fifth of bourbon and move in her direction. She’s examining the tomatoes and has left her purse in the child’s seat of the cart. Now she’s even farther away, browsing at lettuce varieties in the refrigerated section. Five feet to go. She turns. I turn. That was too close.

In the meat and deli department, she picks out ham and cheese, possibly to go with the tomatoes and lettuce. After a quick side trip for mayo, she’s perusing bread in the bakery section. I guess I know what she’s planning for lunch.

Now we’re entering the dairy section, and she’s studying a container of butter. I’m next to the eggs, just a couple of feet away, sweating like a butcher, my hand shaking as I reach out. She turns back, and I grab a carton of eggs. Did she look at me? Does she know?

My nerves need a break, so I head down the cereal aisle and loop around the end cap. We’re face to face. She smiles. I try. If I had been more alert, I could have done it as she walked past.

Through the fogged over glass of a freezer door, I see her image and have another opportunity. I move in, open the cooler door next to her and reach for the old woman’s black leather purse.


My basket of indiscriminate items sits abandoned on the floor of the freezer aisle, and the woman pushes her cart past without noticing. From the driver’s seat of my car, I have a clear view of the checkout line, so I sit with the engine idling to watch.

The clerk scans the mayo, bread, ham and other things as the woman stretches her hand out to pick up her purse. A white envelope protrudes from the top. She opens it.

A one hundred dollar bill dangles from between her pinched index finger and thumb. In the other hand she holds a note written by my own hand. She looks around, eyes wide open, mouth agape, possibly a tear on her cheek. The other customers in line and the checkout clerk laugh and clap their hands.

Another random act of kindness is in the books.


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    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Thank you, Carrie. I appreciate you taking the time today to read and comment.

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      2 years ago from Northeast United States

      Great twist, I love unpredictability. Very well done . Thank you for sharing :)

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      4 years ago from Cape Cod

      This is a truly fine piece of work Cam. It would have been excellent even if it had kept following the garden path you sent us readers down - and yet it was made even better by the very unrandom act of misdirection masking the brilliant ending. Ten thumbs up. I'd give more but that is all I have.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Shauna, I love, love, love that you love it, love it, love it. Thanks for reading.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      wingedcentaur, I'm glad this one took you by surprise and that you enjoyed it. The guy has a creepy way of doing good deeds.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Chris, this is awesome! All the while I thought the narrator was stalking this poor little old lady to steal her purse and I was mindful of how many times I leave my cart to walk up a few steps while my purse sits in the child's seat unattended.

      Your protagonist is a hero and a humanitarian. Love it, love it, love it!

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      5 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      That one was out of left field, Chris, but, of course, pleasantly unexpected. I'm sure all of us who first read that thought that the dude was stalking the old woman in order to mug her. But that is not what happened.

      I like the "random act of kindness." Let the woman believe in guardian angels!


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Perfect. You turned this would-be thief into a hero.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Genna, thank you so much for the nice words. I'm glad you were able to read my story today.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Chris, this is great flash fiction, and a beautiful tale of kindness. Thank you!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      peachpurple, I'm bringing my favorites over from my blog as I rewrite them, so yes, there will be more on the way. My HP profile has about thirty in it now, so you can look through those as well. Thanks for reading.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      awesome story, anymore?

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      MsDora, Spread it far and wide. Thanks for reading and for the nice compliment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Beautiful! You're a great story teller. This ending is out of sight. I'll have some other people read it. Thanks!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Faith, Every day is a good day for some good news or a story with a happy ending. I like how this one takes a person down into some negative thinking and then catapults them up at the last minute. Thanks for reading and commenting. It is always a pleasure to have you visit.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I don't remember reading this before. It is great flash fiction, completely surprised at the end. Bravo..

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Thanks Bill, I'm sitting here right now with my niece who is full time into writing, publishing, editing for others etc. We're laying out a strategy for me to begin publishing. It will take me a while to rewrite everything I want to use, but it will be worth it. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Chris,

      What an exhilarating flash fiction just in the manner in which it is written. I do not remember reading this one before, so I am thrilled you brought it back.

      Whew, on the wonderful ending! I've done that before but not in such a manner as you have written here. What a wonderful blessing it is to bless others.

      Peace and blessings

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've said it before, Chris: you are the king of flash fiction. A job well-done once again.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Buildreps, thanks for the assistance. That's great.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very nice. Wildest dreams are best. (Smile)

      The short of it Chris:

      Each word, combined in sentence, forming paragraphs, thus the story paced the common steps of being in a grocery store. I could almost hear the wheels on the cart; maybe I did!

      The long of it:

      .....I follow about 30 feedback nervous and excited....

      ....I drift among the spirits as if shopping and not stalking ...

      ....I turned. That was too close...

      ....My nerves need a break so I head down ...

      I can cite more.

      I have not read this before. It stands out to me. The writing grips well the place. This writing strikes me in a way to say "you gotta go with your talent to put down an emotive response to ordinary living."

      Apparently to me, in short expressive sentences you can trot around a place and tell anything that will come off good.

      Grocery store and envelope works well, try tomatoes in a post office.(laughing). I'm not postured to give good examples amI?LOL


      When I used to teach my daughters quilting and rock a small milliner needle; attempting to fill a one inch line with say up to12 -16 stitches (proficient quilters can do that ) the rhythm was enjoyable; light, and progressive to its finish.

      It was this sort of feeling I got as I made my way through the grocery store with you.


    • Buildreps profile image


      5 years ago from Europe

      Adding that one sentence is great, Chris!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Eric, I'm sure you've read this at least once, maybe twice. I'm glad you still enjoy it.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Eldon, thanks for reading this story. The grandma must be a good soul to have this happen to her.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ann, glad you enjoyed this fun little story. It was one of my earliest FF stories and is still a favorite.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great stuff. I totally remembered it. Very fun read the second time around also.

    • Eldon Arsenaux profile image

      Eldon Arsenaux 

      5 years ago from Cooley, Texas

      Good turns and twists in the grocery store. I can imagine this as a POV-video for 'Pass It Forward'. Glad the grandma 'got what she deserved'!


    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      I don't remember seeing the original story but I love this. Of course we all think the opposite and you carry that off well. What a great surprise at the end - for us as well as the old lady! Brilliant!


    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Sally, If I did this, I think I'd find a way that wouldn't have the possibility of getting me thrown into jail. :) Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I do seem to remember the original story Cam so I did have an inkling what was going to happen, but this was great and the ending very satisfying.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      I love this. I have so often visualised what it might feel like to pay for the groceries of a stranger and you just wrote about it, so now I know. Random acts of kindness are wonderful, especially when the person never sees them coming:)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Buildreps, let me know if that ending was too much of a jump. I've just rewritten it and can tighten it up if it needs some more work. Thanks for reading, I appreciate you showing up.

    • Buildreps profile image


      5 years ago from Europe

      Great flash story, Chris. You made a surprising jump from the store to the car. I had to read on before I got the clue. Short and brilliant!


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