This week our writer's give each other words to write around to spark a fresh creative flow :)
By: Ada Praun Petrovic
Slowly fading colors blurred together in the darkness behind my eyelids. A heavy tiredness weighed on my forehead, lulling me into a sleepy stupor. My head gently wobbled and leaned, leaned until a cold surface interrupted its steady fall. My hair, lying heavily across my shoulders, bunched up and rose, tickling my cheek. As my neck bent awkwardly and my ear pressed up uncomfortably against the glass, a distinct, hollow pit, pat, pit, pat startled me awake as drops of rain splattered against the other side of the window. As I slowly opened my eyes, my blurry vision focused on the beads of water, their trails crawling down the windowpane, pooling at the bottom, and dripping away.
I stared blankly out the window, unable to focus on any defined shape. Drab days like these made me want to sleep and never wake up. Sadly, I’d already slept so much that day that no matter how tired I felt I’d just lie awake for hours, in a weary place and time with no escape and, judging based on the consistent weather the past week, no foreseeable end. Huffing, I lifted myself off my window seat and onto my feet, leaning against the wall as the blood rushed from my head and my vision went spotty. I proceeded to dawdle around the house as if I expected some indefinite object of interest to magically appear - none did, so I made myself some tea and examined the shapes of the plaster on my wall while my finger drummed a hollow beat.
On my way back to my room, I passed my little sister’s closed door and vaguely wondered what she was doing. Probably nothing, same as me. I hesitated mid-step, the sudden break in momentum disrupting my balance. I considered opening her door and striking a conversation, placed my hand on the cold bronze doorknob, noticed a faint snoring, and stopped. Sighing, I trudged back to the window seat in my room, collapsed on it, and continued staring into empty space, sporadically sipping my tea. An unclear amount of time later - could’ve been minutes or hours, all I knew is that my hands cradled a mug gone cold, carrying nothing but dredges and tea stains - I was startled by a loud, high-pitched, clapping thonk emanating from down the hall.
My heart jumped in my chest and I whipped my head around, crashing it into the unflinching edge of the window frame. As I recoiled, wincing, I pressured the throbbing sore spot with the palm of my hand and attempted to get up despite the stiffness in my cracking joints. I staggered to my door, shook off the shock of the impact, and rushed to the living room to see where the noise had come from. Taken aback, I stopped in my tracks and breathed a lighthearted sigh of relief when I saw my sister sheepishly grinning at me through her bangs, standing underneath an open cabinet twice her height and next to a large plastic box lying cracked open on the floor.
I laughed as I noticed the watercolor paint boxes spilling out of the box and the scared look on her face. Stooping to help her pick up the art supplies, I smiled at her as she asked me if I wanted to paint together, and my “yes” lit up her face.
By: Ava Arasan
To be random,
to land 5 dots up on the wooden table,
to lay three above the last card of the deck,
to spark in the ocean of flame,
to be likely
a cup of tea in the morning,
each virtual day, flitting past in
to be impossible,
to predict the wide turn,
spinning around on a
to be a pattern
to be random
to be likely
to be impossible
to be living,
to be hypocritical by nature,
putting together the pieces of a puzzling
in the greater game,
a probability by fate.
By: Trisha Iyer
Yelp - Cafe Fortuna - 19 reviews
ItsFarleytheFoodie: 5 stars! When I was passing through the city, I stumbled upon this tiny place. What the coffee lacks (a bit weak, a bit watery), the cake makes up for—generously sized and enough for two people to share. Great ambience, and it really leans into that rustic Italian aesthetic (the outdoor courtyard!!). It’s a local, well-hidden gem: not too much traffic, so you can nurse your coffee or chat with another in peace if you don’t feel like talking with the friendly owner. She’s great. If you want to support your local businesses, go here rather than Starbucks (ugh). The menu is pretty typical of diners, but I noticed . . . [read more]
“Not too much traffic.”
Alex glanced down at his phone and checked the time again. 4:34 pm—the perfect time between an afternoon snack and tea (Alex’s grandma, a Londoner at heart even after she moved to the US, had always been a stickler for tradition). He was six minutes early, and that was good. Alex had mastered the art of being early without being early—being late risked missing his contact, and being on time left no opportunity to scope out the area beforehand for cams or sketchy-looking people. Alex wasn’t sure how he could detect sketchiness, but his instincts hadn’t wronged him yet.
Being early, though, was perhaps worse. Alex reached inside his jacket and touched the fist-sized velvet pouch warmed by the pounding of his heart. Too early, and people would smell the eagerness all over you. The first thing Alex had learned after his fall from grace was to hide it. Being earnest was for the kids who still had things to care about and people to care about them.
The cold bite of new spring air hissed down his spine, making him uneasy. Alex shivered and curled his gloved hands protectively around the pouch.
This had been his biggest job yet. Alex shook his head, recalling the moments when he’d barely escaped from the jewelry vault without losing his backside to the singe of a police taser. Now I’m in the big leagues, he thought, because no small-time thief could have hacked that time lock.
The pair of heeled shoes clicked behind him. Their owner cleared her throat softly.
New life, new fence, I guess.
Alex scanned the courtyard—a crumbling building, yellowing at the edges—and, satisfied that it was nearly empty, spun around to lean close into the other person. With barely a touch, the pouch glided from the flap in his jacket into his fence’s hand.
The girl’s eyes widened as her fingers curled instinctively around the packet, fumbling out the shapes of the precious rings inside.
Alex grinned to himself. She could possibly make out the shape of a certain grand duchess’s distinctively shaped engagement ring inside. The petite teenager didn’t seem much older than he was, but she was a seasoned criminal who was clearly also impressed with the loot.
“You know what to do?” he said with a quick side-eye to the other cafe patrons. Nodding crisply as his fence forced out a reply, he floated down and away from the small building.
And stumbled over the battered boots of another person.
“If you want to support local businesses, go here.”
Cam climbed up the steps of the cafe, recalling the email he’d gotten that morning. The organizer of the upcoming citywide Easter egg hunt had put out a call for crafters to decorate and fill with candy small plastic eggs a month ago and had decided, at the last minute, to pick up each stash in person rather than setting one drop-off location. This was all well and good except for the fact that his parents, drunk on visions of their son as in Silicon Valley or Wall Street, would kill him for pitching into this particular brand of community service. So Cam had arranged to unload his contraband art here, in a local cafe.
It was a charming place, he thought, smiling appreciatively as the barista bustled busily between tables, shoving bread and olive oil onto the sole diners like an aggressive mother hen. Much better than Starbucks, for sure. He smile-refused a biscotti brandished by the barista and gazed around, gently cradling the bag of eggs against him. It had taken him hours to paint flowers—he’d been experimenting with mandalas lately, too—onto the plastic eggs as best as he could, but he thought the kiddos would enjoy finding them peeking out from under park swings and whatnot.
He kept that image in mind–of a ruddy-faced toddler gasping in delight over the tiny, twinkling Easter eggs nestled in a dewy lawn as he caught sight of an efficient-looking teen hurrying over to him. He smiled as he let go of that plastic, pointless piece of his heart and flung the bag into her arms. Then he walked crisply away, the clouds overhead clearing up for the first time that year to let the sun smile approvingly down at him.
In a dark room leaning off of a rickety tenement building, a woman startled awake and blinked anxiously at the sunlight stabbing her eyes, accustomed to squinting at gems all day through a monocle, as a reminder of what she’d forgotten. She typed out a text: I missed you by accident, Alex. Should I pick up the loot same time/place tomorrow?
“You can chat with another in peace.”
That’s all she really needed, Bobbie thought wryly as she wound a practical woolen scarf around her neck. Peace. Someone to tell her, perhaps, to stop going so hard and fast through everything—elementary school (skipped a grade), every single recital on her rented piano (flawless, but played at an skittering “Flight of the Bumblebee” tempo), and now her business project. Bobbie had two days left before it was her turn to present to the class. Bobbie’s idea was fairly straightforward: gather the work of local artists all in one place and take a cut of the sales. It was symbiosis at its best, with the craftsmen finding a platform and source of income, while Bobbie, well, got an A on her mini-business. Bobbie didn’t quite care how she got there, as long as it opened some doors out of her squalid public school.
But to earn the grade and get a scholarship out of there, Bobbie had to make a profit. And to do that, she had to find someone willing to share the symbiosis with her. Hence, why she was here, to sweet-talk a painter her age who may or may not show up.
As Bobbie ground her teeth and reached into her blazer to call him again, her fingers brushed the velvet pouch some guy had thrust at her earlier. Clearly, he’d confused her with someone else, but before she could tell him, he was racing off. Bobbie slowly opened the silky drawstrings and gazed in shock at the gold and silver bands glittering inside. She was fairly sure she had seen some in a museum.
A kid who was probably a senior like her suddenly caught Bobbie’s eye and gave her a curious, probing smile, probably wondering why she had a few million dollars sitting in her hand. As she stashed it away, she noted that he could only be described as floppy—round with puffed-out cheeks, with very floppy brown hair. And the perpetually-stained hands of someone who worked in oil paints.
Bobbie shoved the jewels into her pocket and out of her mind and strode over to him, thanking whatever presiding deity there was that her potential partner had finally shown up. “Hi there!” she said. “So, what artwork do you have for me?”
He looked momentarily confused. “Wow, are you psychic?”
She smiled indulgently, thinking, no, just a person with a need for others to be punctual. He pulled out his phone and began scrolling through a camera roll. “Well, um,” he began, “I just handed off a bunch of Easter eggs I decorated for an event, so I can’t show that now, but I do have pictures . . .”
Wow, yes, very good pictures.
The chill in the air smelled like spilled blood and victory and the newfound confidence throbbing in the pouch in her pocket as Bobbie unfolded a vendor contract and asked him to sign on the dotted line.
On the other side of town, a man wrapped his arms around himself and sagged against his iced, unmoving car. Sighing with disappointment, he messaged: I can’t make the meeting (technical, transportational difficulties!), so sorry. Can I meet up with you another time, Bobbie?
Alex poked his head inside the plastic Target bag and stared for a moment, letting himself process the fact that, for some reason, dozens of plastic eggs—all adorned with flowers and circles and crap—were inside. It was a day, he supposed grimly, for handing off strange objects and having strange objects handed to him. Slowly sinking to a seat on the warm red stones of the cafe’s courtyard, he twisted open one of the Easter eggs to find a peppermint inside.
Alex shrugged, gamely eating the candy and wincing slightly at the medicinal taste. A rush of strong mint flooded his sinuses and brought him back to a memory of his grandmother, back when she was still alive. One day she brewed an herbal tea, a nasty concoction of mint and more mint that turned into something that he wanted to vomit up. But his grandmother had made him drink the brew, saying that bitter things in life were for swallowing, not harboring.
Alex popped open another egg on an impulse and found a fortune cookie-like paper inside. There weren’t any words on it, just a tiny picture of a smiling sun and Crayola-cast rainbow. Alex snorted softly, wondering whether the kids these eggs were intended for would have appreciated the corniness any more than he did.
An efficient-looking woman in a teal suit burst into the cafe. “’m the egg hunt organizer, and I’m so sorry I’m late, traffic was a beast—”
The shy boy who’d given Alex the eggs drifted into the scene suddenly, round-eyed.
Alex’s phone chimed, and he turned it over to see . . .
A girl in an oversized blazer, the rips of which were barely hidden by her scarf, looked down at her phone at the same moment . . .
The three teens looked at each other, then at the woman.
Bobbie’s hands tightened over the jewels, tucked safely into the glovebox of her car. She wasn’t going to ask any questions, but she knew that sometimes tickets—out of places, or to places—fell out of the sky. Now she might be able to focus on where she was going, not where she had come from.
Cam clutched his contract close to his heart and immediately began to formulate ways to hide it in his room where his father wouldn’t find it. Then, with a shake of his head, he refocused on the small opportunity in front of him.
Alex walked back to an empty house and, in a swift motion, took off his gloves and threw them on top of the highest, hardest-to-reach cupboard he could find. He patted the rainbow that he’d for some reason kept in his pocket, to keep on burning brightly, obnoxiously on.
Yelp - Cafe Fortuna - 20 reviews
LadyLuck: A little confusion never hurt anybody, did it? I guess all’s well that ends well, as one of my favorite mortals put it.