First Date

 

September 13, 2011

Prompt of the Day

I started writing it, got an idea I really liked, and ultimately decided to wrap it up before I got around to developing my big idea. I may come back to it later, we’ll see how I feel about it in a few days. As it is, it’s definitely a little rough, but I’m pretty satisfied with it for the exercise.

Groggily, Ted’s eyes heaved open. Light streamed in from everywhere, forcing Ted into a retreating wince. Bits of information started to come to him – a dank, earthy smell, cool air on his bare arms, the sounds of dripping water and something flapping in the wind, and above all, a dull, echoing roar. His head lolled forward and dropped heavily to his chest as his eyes adjusted. He saw first the spindly wooden chair in which he was sitting, and the small plastic table in front of him. He tried to place these objects in his memory, but they didn’t offer up any clues as to his location. He wasn’t sure where he was, or if it was where he was supposed to be.

He managed to roll his head upright, and gave his surroundings a quite stern glare. He did not mean for it to be all that severe, but it took a great deal of concentration to bring distinct objects into focus. As he accosted his surroundings with a wild glare, he was able to discern a tiny room, small enough that he could reach walls on either side, if he could only lift them. On the table sat an empty Spam tin with a candle in it, but it was unlit, and Ted could only barely make out the dirty, brownish walls, which curved up to a low, lopsided dome. Leaning over in his rickety chair, and nearly falling altogether into the wall itself, he reached out to touch it and found it was cardboard. Dropping his gaze to the floor, he found it was covered in mottled squares of rug, all faded and dirtied to the same tan-grayish non-color. Beneath the rug, the ground was uneven and sloped towards the front – well, it couldn’t quite be called a door exactly, but a flap perhaps – that is, the front entrance. Ted tried to synthesize all of this information into a complete picture, but try as he might, he could not make it all fit together into anything that even remotely made sense.

As he pondered his situation, and began to get the distinct impression that something was very wrong, there was a rustling outside of the front flap. He turned his deceptively-fierce gaze on the flap and was met with what at first seemed to be a sea-green cloud of taffeta and tulle. As he blinked, the shape coalesced into a young, bedraggled woman in a dress that might have once had a slim chance of being in vogue at an 80s high school dance. Over the dress she wore a ratty overcoat, and a satchel slung over one shoulder. The woman’s straggled hair, a brownish that matched the walls, was pulled back messily into a haphazard ponytail, revealing pock-marked skin, overly large eyes, and lips that looked too small to conceal her largish, stained teeth. As Ted stared at her, trying again to fit together information into a sensible explanation, she stared back at him, stock-still, until she seemed to suddenly realize the awkwardness and moved forward.

“Oh, hm, you’re awake,” she timidly stated.

“That seems to be yes,” he agreed. “But I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure about that. Can you tell me, where am I?”

“You don’t remember anything?” As he shook his head in the negative, she sidled into the room, and sat on a milk crate opposite to his chair, perched in front of the entrance. She began to explain, halting here and there with hesitation. “You’re – in my home… in the park underpass near 7th street… I- I think you got mugged.”

Ted rubbed his head, trying to remember something that fit with her explanation. He maybe remembered walking near the park…

“I just brought you here ’til you woke up, I don’t have any way of calling for help… I didn’t want to leave you alone, unconscious…” she continued in a quick burst. Ted checked his pocket.

“My wallet’s gone,” he confirmed. Maybe it made sense – his head was beginning to hurt, and he couldn’t recall anything at all.

“You’re probably still a little loopy,” she sympathized. “I got some food, from the shelter… Maybe eating will help.”

That didn’t sound exactly right to Ted, but the eagerness in her face was clear, and considering what she had tried to do, he felt obliged. Her reasoning perhaps wasn’t completely sound, but she hadn’t left him out in the open. She was due some thanks.

“Yeah, I, uh, could have a couple bites, just before I go find the police,” he agreed.

A crooked smile grew on her face, as she dug out two styrofoam containers from her bag, and two mismatched spoons wrapped in paper napkins. She set everything on the table, and carefully arranged a set in front of each of them. She watched him nervously as he peered down at the cup of soup, but he could barely see anything in the dim light. She dove back into her bag, and came out with an almost empty lighter. Cupping the tin can, she lit the candle inside. He flashed a smile of gratitude, and picked up his spoon, and shared a quiet dinner over candlelight, beneath the underpass.

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