On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
THIS MONTH'S CRITERIA
Your story must begin on the side of a road.
Your story must include the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, LEMON (plurals are okay).
Your story must include a splash.
I was pulling up outside number 11 when I saw her. The car was parked on the side of the road, but the driver’s door was ajar. Her body was hanging out, fingertips dragging along the road. Heart pounding, I took a deep breath and ran over to help.
“Found ‘em!” The well-built woman in her late seventies was slowly heaving herself into a seated position, her face red from exertion. “Bloody keys. I’m always dropping them. Good Lord. You’re more out of breath than me.” She launched into a wheezy cough, groaned and got out of the car. “What are you gawking at?”
I didn’t mean to stare. I had imagined myself as a good Samaritan, running (literally) to the assistance of an old lady, but found myself staring up at woman who towered over me, wild grey hair cascading down her back and a ruddy, reptilian face.
“I'm here to help,” I said, still getting over the shock.
“Ha! You were ten minutes too late. I could have used a skinny thing like you to crawl under my car.” She started walking inside, and glanced back at me. “What are you waiting for? You said you wanted to help? Come on. I could do with some help.”
She opened the door to a previous era. Textured wallpaper, huge velvet chairs in a tiny room with threadbare carpet, sepia photographs in wooden frames.
She strode over to me, put an apron over my head, and struggled to tie frilly ribbons behind me. I looked at her hands. Large, twisted fingers. No wonder she was struggling with the keys.
Before I knew it, she was barking instructions at me in the kitchen. Two and half hours later, I’d produced lemon slice biscuits (“Did you have to splash the lemon juice everywhere?”), red velvet cupcakes (“Gawd, it’s red food colouring, not red pigment! Who says pigment??”) and caramel slice. (“My mother’s recipe, bless her soul.”)
“Not bad, but you’ve made a bit of a mess.” She wandered over to the armchair and plonked down, sighing loudly.
Of course there was no dishwasher, so I washed up by hand. The kitchen was sparkling. I’d done a good job. The old lady was asleep in her chair.
I checked my emails on my phone. The HTH icon was emblazoned at the top of the letter, and I scanned it for more information.
The Here To Help employee:
- provides companionship and light home duties, based on the individual needs of each client.
- Is respectful, helpful and caring.
“Mrs Edwards?” I spoke in a loud whisper. My first shift was over. “Mrs Edwards? It’s time for me to go now.”
She roused from her nap. “What? Who? Mrs Edwards? Enid, you mean? She’s next door, love, at number 11. This is number 13. Are you going over? Take her some slice, will you? She’s such a sweet old dear.”
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.