Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
And here we are a year later doing it all over again. Today’s prompt was to write a story based on someone we know and as Tuesdays are my Red Cross volunteering days (well, mornings), I picked my colleagues there (who are thrilled if not somewhat nervous to be written about!) so here is my 548-worder which I also dedicate to my very good writing friend, fellow dog walker and co-ordinator of the Northampton Literature Group’s poetry competition (which coincidentally closes on Saturday!) Pat Archer, because I stole the title to one of her stories. That’s all I’ve stolen and as we know, titles aren’t copyright but I can’t claim credit to it and Pat, being the clever woman that she is deserves this recognition and you’ll see why when you get to the end.
Charity shops on Saturday
As the front door opened Dawn and Tracey stared at each other. No words were spoken but each knew what the other was thinking as a man and his four teenage children trudged through the shop with two large bags each, depositing them in the back room. The two ladies smiled and nodded at the donators as they trawled back out, like worker ants going about their day.
1pm on a late spring Saturday. A bright and sunny Saturday lunchtime following a very wet week. Nothing special in that, you might think, but wet weather keeps people indoors, so plenty of time to purge. To spring clean.
The onslaught of donations started even before the shop opened. Tracey had arrived first, unable to get to the front door because of the mound of black sacks… damp wet sacks from being out in the rain all night. One had been torn open (Tracey guessed by bargain hunters), with the contents sprawled out towards the pedestrian crossing, the pedestrians of which were walking through the clothes rather than stepping over, or heaven forbid, picking them up and putting them with the bags they were excreted from.
The steady flow of donations throughout that morning turned into a flood as the local car boot sales finished, the shop an easy drop-off point on the way home. Just peeling the white price stickers off the bric-a-brac would be a job designated to one of the two volunteers due in that afternoon.
Charity shops rely on their volunteers… they have piped audio that tells us this and like most shops they never have enough, so when the lady who’d held the door open (without thanks) for the man and his children, came to the counter to buy three blouses and a pair of trousers but more importantly, to ask for a form, Dawn and Tracey were thrilled. They’d seen her before, a semi-regular customer, always polite, often laden with purchases and always paying cash. Unlike some (which resulted in a sign behind the counter), she didn’t haggle over the prices, she always brought her own bag and never paid for a 50p item with a £20 note. She was the ideal customer and now she wanted to work with them… for free.
Dawn and Tracey are used to handing out volunteer forms and never seeing them, or the requestee again, but they lived in hope this time, knowing the lady’s track record.
As Dawn handed her the form the lady looked at it, squinted and frowned.
Again Dawn and Tracey stared at each other with their telepathic code. Before either of them could speak, the lady put the form down on to the counter, saying “Oh dear.”
“Is there a problem?” Dawn asked gently.
The lady nodded.
“Something we can help you with?” Tracey chipped in.
The lady nodded again. “I’ve forgotten my glasses.”
“You don’t have to fill it in now,” Tracey continued but then wished she hadn’t, given the history of other forms that had left the premises.
“Would you fill it in for me?” the lady asked.
“Of course,” Dawn said, pen to hand, pulling the form nearer. “Date… the 8th… shop, OK… can I have your name please?”
“Certainly,” the lady said with a broad beam. “Smith… Charity Smith.”
So there we have it… Charity shops on Saturday. Thank you, Pat.
If you like working from prompts you might be interested in my 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook (Vol 1).
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.