Urges

I recently read an intriguing article in Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine about writing Flash Fiction and decided to give it a try.  Flash fiction is generally stories under 1,000 words which was quite the challenge.  For me the most difficult was providing enough details to make the writing interesting without wasting words.  Additionally, ensuring there was enough development to allow the reader to connect to the characters and the plot.  Enjoy.

Have you ever had that urge to yank your steering wheel hard and sail off the edge of a mountain road?  What about wanting to run as fast as you can with your grocery cart then let it go?  Where do these urges come from?  Hopefully most of us never act on these, but the urges are there.  

My unusual urges sprung to life one day driving home from work, luckily I don’t drive canyon roads.  Speeding home I remained in the far left lane even as my exit approached.  Three miles to exit 60.  Two miles.  One.  Gone.  Usually a cautious driver, I try to move right early, so I don’t cut anyone off.  Today was different.  I stayed in my lane without even glancing toward my exit.  Of course there were other exits, alternate routes, ways to turn around, but I didn’t.  I continued to heading north toward my unknown destination.

Over the next couple hours my phone vibrated frequently with new messages.  I let it go to voicemail, then I followed through on another random urge—I turned it completely off.  I knew who was calling; knew I should answer; even knew what she wanted.  We had been growing apart for some time as she focused on moving up the corporate ladder while I wanted out.  She needed her friends while I only wanted to be with her.  Were we really this different when we met?

I was over two hours away from home with no explanation or destination in mind.  Hunger came over me like a tidal wave.  My stomach assumed control and headed toward the nearest exit.  I couldn’t recall which state I was in or the nearest major city, but I knew there wasn’t much around including light.

Turning off the highway, my conscious mind figured neither direction was likely to resolve my hunger, yet my stomach chose to go east.  Both directions were pitch black like tunnels with the starless sky above and towering pines growing close to the berm of the road.  The darkness grew darker.  My headlights didn’t pierce far enough ahead to insure my safety.  Another half hour passed before light seeped in through the edges of the tunnel walls.

The town wasn’t much.  Aging neon lights announced the barber shop was closed and the diner was open.  Dim street lights struggled to reveal the unlit signs for a woman’s clothing store, drug store and bank.  The movie theater marquee was dark, but I could make out “CLOSED” as its coming attraction.

I parked in the empty space waiting for me in front of the diner.  For a brief moment, my rational side broke free and turned on my cell phone.  Ten missed calls and 28 missed texts, all from Audra.  The last text read, “Thought we were going to talk.  Can’t do this by myself anymore.” I clicked it off knowing I would never read any more or listen to the voicemails.

An engine roared to life; bright lights shone in my rearview mirror.  A beat-up pickup pulled out into traffic, sputtered down the road, and disappeared where the street lights ended.

The greasy smells pulled me through the diner’s door.  For the middle of nowhere, the diner was not lacking for business.  Heavy, flannel-clad workers hunched over their meals at the counter while ageless waitresses refilled their coffee.  A lone man in a suit read a folded newspaper in the corner booth while a young couple giggled and slurped milkshakes near the door.

“Anywhere you want, hon,” a waitresses offered from behind the counter.  I shimmied into a window booth and the waitress pushed a menu and glass of water in front of me.  She departed as quickly as she arrived.  Hunger gnawed at me but my eyes stared out the window at the shadowy, deserted street.

“What can I get you, hon?” the waitress asked.  I ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a coke.  Without another word, she floated away.

Headlights flashed as a familiar looking car parked behind mine  A woman rose and her tense gaze caught my eyes over the car roof.  Her face flushed, she shut the door and entered the diner.  Both waitresses stopped like statues, neither acknowledging Audra, as she plodded toward my booth.

Water and a menu appeared before Audra’s arms touched the table.  We stared in silence until the waitress returned.

“What is this place?” Audra asked.

“The Way Station Diner, dear.”  Our heads tilted in mirror images.  “A place to refuel before taking the next step in your journey.”

“Together?” we both blurted out.  “But, we broke up.”

“I don’t even know where I’m going or how I got here,” I said.

“No one here does.  We usually only see singles and the occasionally couples, but they arrive together.  The two of you are the first couple that I have ever waited on who arrived separately.”

“What does that even mean?” we asked in unison.

The waitress shrugged.  “When you figure it out, hon, you let me know.”  She floated to the next table.

I stared at Audra and she unexpectedly stared back.  Slowly, smiles grew on our faces like on our first date.  She began to laugh and quickly clasped her hand over her mouth.  I threw my head back, shaking it and laughing.

The waitress returned with my meal.  Audra snagged a fry from my plate, just like she boldly had done on our first date.  I raised my water glass and offered “Cheers!”.  She responded, clinking her glass with mine as we had done at every dinner out since.

Reaching across the table I gently took her hands.  Her eyes softened and our smiles grew wider.  We slid out of the booth without losing hold of each other and left the diner.  Audra headed toward my car, so I trotted ahead and open her door chivalrously.  Hopping in the driver’s seat, I pulled out into the deserted street with no clue where we were going.

I’d be interested to hear what you think, so if you are so inspired, please leave me comment.  Thanks!

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