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Spring, 2011
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

The fruit vendor smiled at her through sightless eyes, enjoying the warm breeze and salty air. During casual banter with his customers, he seemed to remember the smallest details, even ones they couldn't remember sharing with him in the past. The girl had been coming to his stand daily for as long as she could remember. As she turned to leave, she patted his hand and said, "I'll see you tomorrow morning, friend."

Still smiling, he replied, "No, you won't..."

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


Make 'Em Feel Welcome
by Zoe Peters, Juneau, AK

"Morning!"

Anne stood by the breakfast kiosk outside her office building where she and two of her fellow interns, Jacob and Stephanie, met every weekday before work. Today, as per usual, they were late and Anne was alone with the blind kiosk owner, Robert.

"How was your weekend, Robert?"

"Pretty good, Anne. How's Mike?"

"Pretty good...wait, how'd you know about Mike?"

"Morning, guys!" Jacob greeted.

"Morning, Jacob, I expect Stephanie's behind you?"

"How are you, Robert?" Stephanie piped in.

"Very good. Now, Anne: orange juice and an oatmeal cookie; Stephanie: black coffee and a muffin; Jacob: coffee, two sugars and a banana?"

"I know I ask you this every day, but how do you remember all that?" Anne asked.

"Years of practice," he responded, smiling.

They waited, paid, and Robert handed them their food.

Stephanie took her coffee, "See you tomorrow!"

"I'm afraid you won't."

"Oh...okay. Bye."

The friends sat at the benches down the block.

"That was weird," Jacob said, sipping his coffee.

"What was weird?" Stephanie took a bite from her muffin, it was delicious.

"Why would he say you won't see him tomorrow?"

"I don't know, maybe he's taking the day off."

"No, I think Jacob's right; that was almost...threatening. AND when we were talking earlier, he asked me about Mike," Anne told them.

Stephanie felt defensive. Anyone who baked a muffin this amazing had to be a good person, "So? He's your boyfriend, it's polite."

"But I never told him...how could he know?"

"We must've mentioned it around him."

"He knew we were officially dating...I didn't even know that until two days ago."

"And three weeks ago he knew it was my birthday...did you tell him before I got here, Anne?" Jacob asked.

Anne swallowed a bite of her oatmeal cookie. "Sure didn't."

"Come on, guys, don't you think you're being a little ridiculous? He's a nice man who sells amazing baked goods and coffee and likes to make idle chit chat on the side, that's all." Stephanie argued.

"I know he's nice, but doesn't he almost seem too nice? And it's like he's studied us. He practically knows our life stories. All the details we never mentionólike when I found my old CD collection last month or the time I pulled an all-nighter because I was late on a report. Hasn't he ever known anything about you?" Jacob asked.

"Actually, yes."

"Tell us!" Anne looked at Stephanie intently, scooting in closer.

"He mentioned my new couch one time...I never told him I got one."

Jacob and Anne looked at each other.

"That proves it." Anne said solemnly.

"Proves what?"

"Bona fide stalker."

Jacob nodded.

"What if when he said we won't see him tomorrow he meant he was going to do something to make sure we don't get here--like slash our tires?!" Anne asked.

"Or kill us!" Jacob said.

"I didn't want to say it, but I think Jacob may be right..." Anne looked off into the distance, "I never thought I'd die so young..."

"You guys are insane. We probably just don't remember talking about those things." Stephanie said. But she had finished her muffin and, as the fresh baked goodness left her taste buds, their suspicion seemed more justified. What about when he asked if that concert she went to was any good? Or about her brother's wedding?

"He asked me about my dog's hair cut last week," Jacob said, "I never mentioned it."

"What are you trying to sayóhe wants to kill you because you're an attentive pet owner? Doesn't that seem a little extreme?" Stephanie asked.

"I don't pretend to understand the mind of a killer, Stephanie."

"I came home and my door was unlocked once. I thought I had left it open, but he must have broken in," Anne said, "Stephanie, he could have gone in and noticed your furniture while we were at work...the coffee stand is only open till ten. He has all day."

Jacob agreed, "There's no other way he could know! We're interns. No one in the office knows about our lives! He'd have to find out on his own. Maybe he followed Anne to the restaurant where Mike asked her out. What if he's not even blind?!"

They were silent.

"Okay, maybe some of the other stuff, but I'm pretty sure he's not faking his blindness." Anne said.

Jacob looked at his lap sheepishly, "It was just a theory."

Stephanie sighed, "I think you're both crazy...but I'm still a little freaked out...would it be paranoid to spend the night at a friend's place?"

Jacob shook his head fiercely, watching Robert play innocent with his next victim. "Not at all, Stephanie. In fact, I think we all should."

***

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow Robert." Henry said, taking his daily cup of coffee from Robert's hand.

"No you won't." Robert responded.

"That's a shame, why not?"

"I'll be out the rest of the week. My daughter and her fiancÈ are having a destination wedding in Key Largo. Anyway, how did your son's chemistry test turn out?"

"He got a 94! How'd you know about the test?"

"We're Facebook friends Henry; I like to keep up with my customers' lives. Gives me something to talk about and makes 'em feel welcome. But, between you and me, I can't believe some of the personal details they put up there."

 


What Zoe won:

$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

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