RP: SubStack Podcasts -Alice in Wonderland -#2 The Pool of Tears

Lucky Penny

The challenge was to write in the present tense as much as possible, 1000 words max. This can make the action seem more immediate and intimate. I was stuck for an actual story idea, so I I used the writer-igniter from diymfa.com to give me idea. I got Character - taxi driver, Situation - gets a cryptic letter, Prop - finds a lucky penny, and Setting - see the image below. This took a while to write, as I think I'm a little rusty, but I like how it turned out. 1067 words. 

Lucky Penny

Bess-Cozby-5-275x275 It’s a dark and stormy night. Dan much prefers to be snuggled up in bed to be driving his cab in this crap, but this is the only way to compete with all the ride-shares out there. They can afford to avoid the bad weather and slow nights. His old clunker has worn wiper blades and a shitty defroster, but the tires are good and it’s his clunker. Dan makes a good living doing this - but he can’t afford days off. He’s had a number of different jobs, bodyguard, chef, trucker, but this is getting to be his least favourite. He spots a flickering sign through the drizzle - Nell’s. It looks like a cute little diner - he could do with a coffee and a break.

The diner is clean, warm and cosy, with the radio tuned to a quiet jazz station. He’s just sliding into a booth when the waitress appears. Touch of grey, about his age, with a big smile.

“Coffee, sir? It’s a damp night. And I can recommend the pecan pie.”

He smiles back. “Sounds great, yes, please.”

The pie is very good. He scrolls through emails as he sips his coffee. Nothing exciting. And nothing on the job boards. Is nobody hiring anywhere? He sighs.

“Pie didn’t perk you up, sir?”

He glanced up at the waitress. “No, I mean yes, the pie was excellent, great coffee, a nice relaxing place. I drive a cab, usually it’s fun, and I enjoy helping people on their way. But sometimes, in weather like this, it sucks and I wand to stay in.”

She raised an eyebrow. “But in weather like this, maybe people need your help even more. That’s why I try to stay open, to be some place warm and dry, a place to regroup the mind. More coffee?

“No thanks, I’m still working on this one.”

He stares out at the storm, which seems to be getting even worse. His phone pings with a message from dispatch.

“Customer at Pine and Main.”

Nice to have a customer, too bad he doesn’t use dispatch anymore, not for months. Must be a glitch in the system.

What the heck. He reaches for his wallet to pay up and heads out for one last loop of the downtown.

He slows as he reaches his pickup point, wipes the fog from his windshield, and peers through the rain. Nobody there. Great.

There’s a flash of lightning, almost blinding, and suddenly there is his customer, or at least somebody, lying by the curb in a puddle.

He jumps out and darts over.

“Hey, lady, are you ok?”

She seems conscious, but groggy, and very wet. A young woman, nicely dressed, she grabs at her side as he lifted her up.

“Ow, jeez!”

“Sorry,” he says. “Lets get you into my cab and warm you up.”

Her skin feels like ice. He carefully eases her into the back and cover her with a blanket. He gives the dash a thump and cranks up the heater - thankfully it’s working again.

“What the hell happened, lady? Did you get hit?”

“I was crossing in the rain and somebody clipped me - I guess,” she says. “Not sure when it happened, but it feels like I’ve just been lying there forever.”

“Good thing I came along,” he says. “I should get you to a hospital.” He pulls away and heads for Main.

“No, I’ll be OK,” she says. “I’m glad someone finally stopped. You’re a nice guy.”

She reached forward and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hold on a sec, I have something for you.”

He stops just before the light and turns, about to protest that it’s a free ride, when he sees she’s just holding out a penny. A large one, like those old English ones in the movies.

“It was my grandmother’s,” she says, “and is supposed to bring good luck. A lucky penny” She grins. “Yes, I know. I did get hit by a car, but then you did stop, right? I want you to have it.

He takes the penny from her hand, still cold as ice.

“Thanks,” he says. “I hope —. “

An air horn blares and a Shell fuel truck, a double unit, blasts past his bumper, just inches away. It doesn’t even slow, right through a red light.

“Damn, that was lucky. “ He turns. The back seat is empty. Both doors are still closed. He checks the street - nobody is there.

He drives slowly, carefully, back to the diner. The waitress is just closing up, stacking chairs, turning off lights. She glances over as he stands at the door, then opens it.

“Are you okay?” she says. “You look pale.”

“I’m not sure,” he says. “It was - weird.” He looks closer at her. “Wait, have you been crying? Are you ok?”

“Not really,” she says. “Did you, did you want to come in? I make a yummy Irish coffee. Well, minus the cream.”

“Will your boss mind?” he says.

“I’m the boss,” she says. “So no problem. It’s my place - named it after my sister. I’d rustle up a snack for you, but my cook quit today. But a medicinal coffee is fine, a toast to my sister.”

“What happened to her?” he says.

“She died a year ago today.”

He reaches out and touches her arm. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s been a hard year,” she says. “She was killed in a hit and run, on a night a lot like tonight. They figured she didn’t die right away. She just had internal injuries, but she lay there for hours. Traffic cameras showed a few cars did drive by, but nobody stopped, so she died there, in a cold puddle, all alone.”

“There was some insurance money, so I used it and my savings to buy this place - we used to hang out here as kids when it was the Royal Cafe.”

She pours the two coffees. “Like I said, it’s been hard, but for some reason, I feel better tonight. Perhaps it’s time to move on. “

“So you’re Nell?” he says.

She smiled. “No, I’m Debbie. Nell was my sister.”

“Short for Penelope?” he says.

“Yes, but she hated that. Nell, or Penny.”

He fingers the coin in his pocket. “So, not to be insensitive, but you’re looking for a new cook?”

 

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