Short Stories Inspired By...
My last blog post was about finding inspiration in the places I visit. However, this time, I actually have some short stories for you. These are an exercise in showing how one event can inspire a multitude of different stories in different genres.
Last week, a friend put on Facebook that she'd gone to collect a table that had been advertised on Facebook Marketplace, but when she got there, the man informed her that he'd sold it to someone else and asked to take her out for dinner instead. Naturally, most people (including me) found this hilarious. It was such an odd situation to be in. I joked that there was a story in it somewhere. I didn't really intend it as anything more than an off the cuff comment, but it's been plaguing me all weekend, so this morning I sat down to see what I could make of it. There were so many different scenarios I came up with, that I realised it was the perfect event to demonstrate how one incident can be interpreted in different ways to create stories in different genres. The basic event remains the same in each case, but the reasons for it are different, as are the plots.
Jo knocked on the door. The house was a typical suburban semi and the man who opened the door was exactly as she had imagined him to be: middle-aged, slightly worried looking and the hint of a paunch peeping out from below the Marks and Spencer sweater.
‘Hi,’ she said, arranging her face into a smile. ‘I’m here for the table. The one you advertised on Facebook Marketplace,’ she added quickly, as he frowned.
‘Oh.’ He looked shocked and fumbled for his next words. ‘Sorry, I thought I’d messaged you to cancel. It’s already gone. Maybe I could take you out for dinner instead?’
A deep flush of red, like closely marching red ants, spread above the collar of his shirt. Jo opened her mouth, closed it again. Tried to speak, then changed her mind. Eventually, she managed to stutter out a polite refusal and returned to her car, wondering whether there was someone in the bushes beside the drive, filming the whole exchange for one of the prank shows her husband loved.
Steven closed the door behind her.
‘Maybe I could take you out for dinner instead?’ His soon to be ex-wife’s voice was mocking. ‘What the hell were you thinking? Why on earth would anyone want a date with you?’
She waved the gun at him.
‘Now… about my table.’
Jo knocked on the door. As she waited for it to be answered, she studied the collection of gnomes which covered the front lawn. The door opened and she took an involuntary step back as sulphurous fumes poured out of the house. The man wafted them away.
‘Sorry. Experiment went a bit wrong.’
Jo forced a smile and laughed through her nose.
‘I’m here to collect the table. We talked on Messenger?’
The man looked almost frightened for a moment.
‘Sorry. It’s not available any more.’
Jo felt anger at her wasted journey flood through her.
‘Could I take you out to dinner to apologise for wasting your time?’
Jo stared at him. If the fumes and the dishevelled state of his jeans and holey t-shirt hadn’t been enough to put her off, his age would have done. She was almost old enough to be his mother, for goodness’ sake!
‘Erm… no, you’re fine thanks. Not necessary at all.’ She backed down the path.
Eric smiled as he closed the door on the fleeing woman. There was no way he was getting rid of that table. Not now he knew the power it had. Besides, the Queen needed him by her side. He had to return to her land before it was too late.
Jo knocked at the door. If I lived in a house this size, I wouldn’t be worrying about flogging my old stuff on Marketplace, she thought. The house was intimidating when she compared it to her own little cottage. Set back off the road and hidden behind a high hedge, it was almost invisible from beyond its boundaries and she’d driven past it three times before spotting the open gate and the long driveway beyond.
‘Hi, I’m Jo,’ she said, as the door opened to reveal a handsome man in a three piece suit and an apron. ‘I’m here to collect the table.’
The man smiled and she felt her insides melt a little. The suit and apron combo had been enough to set her heart racing, but the smile was devastating.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘But someone else has just collected it. I’m terribly sorry to have wasted your time. Perhaps dinner to make up for the wasted journey?’
Jo’s lips began to form the word ‘yes’ before she clamped them shut and shook her head. Anyone who was this flaky over a table was not boyfriend material, no matter how badly she wanted to rip his clothes off.
‘Thank-you, but there’s really no need.’
She turned and left, leaving him on the doorstep.
Aaron closed the door behind her and returned to the kitchen, where he picked up the cloth and resumed cleaning the bloodstains from the table. Humming to himself as he wiped, he composed his next Marketplace advert.
Jo knocked at the door and ran a hand through her paint-splattered hair. She’d had to leave her painting to rush out to collect the table. The man had said he needed it gone quickly, so she’d agreed to pick it up later that morning. The door opened and Jo immediately wished she’d tidied herself up before leaving the house.
‘I’m here to collect the table,’ she said, her voice several pitches higher than usual.
For a moment the vision in the doorway looked confused.
‘It’s already been collected,’ he said.
Jo felt like crying. She desperately needed that table for the studio. She’d spent ages searching for exactly the right one and finding a good second hand one had been the answer to her prayers.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘Someone came round about an hour ago and I just assumed it was the person I’d been speaking to. I feel awful. Look, I was just about to go and get some lunch. Can I buy you some to say sorry?’
She couldn’t afford to turn down a free lunch, even if it would look like Prince Charming escorting pre-ball Cinderella. She nodded.
‘I’ll just get my coat.’
Alistair grabbed his jacket from the coat stand and had a quick look in the mirror. Thank goodness he’d had his hair cut yesterday. He silently thanked his flatmate, who had obviously caused this mix-up by ignoring his instructions to leave the selling of the table to him, before re-joining Jo outside. He’d visited her studio with his nieces the week before, but had been too shy to ask out the owner. He wasn’t going to let a second chance slip through his fingers.
Jo knocked on the door and it swung open with a squeak.
‘Hello,’ she called into the hallway.
A man appeared in a doorway about halfway down.
‘Hello,’ he said.
‘My name’s Jo. I’m here about the table. You said I could collect it this morning.
He came to the front door before replying.
‘Sorry. Someone’s already collected it.’ He paused for a moment, before continuing. ‘Can I take you out to dinner to apologise?’
‘I’m sorry. Have we met before? You look awfully familiar.’
‘You’re Jo Bentley, aren’t you? You own the art gallery in the High Street.
‘That’s right. Have you been in? Maybe that’s where I’ve seen you.’
‘I’ve been in a few times, but we’ve only spoken once or twice. I always think it’s such a lovely shop and you always dress so well. Your outfits always complement the artwork you have on display.’
‘Thank you. Look, don’t worry about the table. It’s not a problem. Thanks for the offer of dinner, but it’s really not necessary. Maybe I’ll see you in the gallery sometime.’
He watched as she got into her car and he jotted down the license plate.
‘Don’t worry, Miss Bentley,’ he murmured. ‘You’ll definitely see me again soon.’