Free Write Friday #16: Clarity/Survival

So, I'm really loving the whole Theme Thursday thing on r/writingprompts, so I figured, why not post my take on last week's theme and this week's theme for Free Write Friday. Hope you enjoy...


Penny gripped the steering wheel in front of her and stared at the green and white sign of the grocery store. She had been here so many times over the years that she could find theplace by memory, driving on automatic with a sense of distractedness that would be alarming to her if she cared.

This was their grocery store. It was closest to the house, an easy five minute drive, if that. The chaos of their life, raising the kids and running them around to all their activities meant that whether she meant to or not, this was where she would shop. She would run and get sushi or a whole grain artisanal pizza crust for a quick and easy dinner. When Rachel decided to be vegan for three painfully inconvenient months her sophomore year, this was the place with the food she would deign to eat. David's first job had been working as a cashier here. Jeff always insisted on the Fair Trade Coffee with the biodegradable, sustainably plastic K-Cup pods- and Penny may have rolled her eyes at his snobbery, but she had always gone inside and returned home with his damnably pretentious K-Cup pods.

"Fuck Whole Foods."

Penny said the words aloud and it was like a thunderbolt to the brain. She hated this place so, so much. She hated the shade of green that seemed to permeate everything inside. She disliked the obsequious nature of too many of the employees. She loathed the pretention that dripped off the bright colored, hand-lettered labels that proclaimed, "25% Off On All Impoted Lentils and Legumes! Today Only!"

Most of all, she raged at the thought of being in the same store as Jeff's K-Cup pods. Unbidden, his patronizing voice spraing into her head. "No, they need to be the Fair Trade Certified ones from Sumatra. Make sure they're the biodegradable K-Cup pods. The sustainably plastic ones."

Penny gripped the steering wheel tighter, wishing it was Jeff's neck.

She was in the parking lot of the grocery store, because she wasn't ready to go home yet. Their house- her house now, was too big and too empty and the ink on the divorce papers had barely dried. Jeff was settling into his upscale townhouse in the trendy, hipster district across town that his strumpet insisted they live in.

Breathe, Penny, breathe, she told herself. You won, after all. You have the house and after the lawyers take their cut, you'll have enough of his money that you'll never need to work again.

"Did I used to be this angry?" The steering wheel didn't answer. There was a long road ahead, she knew. Twenty years of marriage to dig through and at the bottom of it, maybe, she could find herself again and start to live the life she wanted.

She turned the car back on and carefully reversed out of the parking space. It was her life now. She could shop wherever she damn well pleased.

(I got some good feedback with this one, but probably the best would be the notion of having Penny go into the grocery store before having her moment of clarity, which I really like.)


The click of the tiles was the only sound in the smoke fielld room. A century and a half ago, the smoke would have most likely been opium. Now it was cheap cigarettes smuggled in from mainland China. The liquor had been flowing freely for most of the night, but as the money had grown, the conversation had tapered off. The four of them were playing for real money now and the stakes were high.

Greg had been surprised that the best mahjohng in Macao was played nowhere near the glittering casinos at the northern end of the territory, but in a ramshackle bar called Fernando's that overlooked Hac Sa Beach at the southern tip of Macao. The walls were a lurid shade of red velvet and there was a ludicrously large portreat of Kenny Rogers that dominated the far wall. The triad boss was apparently a big fan of his chicken and had it flown in from Vietnam on the regular.

Greg stared down at his tiles.

Normally, these games moved at breakneck speed. The Chinese didn't fuck around with their mahjong and Greg knew it was killing them to move at such a slow pace, but they thought he was a big dumb foreignor and wanted to take his money. The problem Greg now had was that he was one tile away from taking all of their money. The money wasn't going to be the problem. It was going to be getting out of here in one piece that was going to be the real challenge.

It was his turn again.

He picked up a tile. Red dragon. No help. He had been considering the door, but he hadn't liked the narrow confines of the entryway all that much. That left the window, which looked too narrow or the verandah which lead to a decent, but manageable drop down to the beach.

If survival was an art, Greg would be it's Picasso. He had grown adept at dodging beer bottles his old man liked to chuck at his head. He had survived basic with his old name, the one he didn't mention. He had come out of Fallujah alive. When the mercenary backed coup d'etat in Malabo had gone to shit he had been one of three to escape into the stifiling heat of the tropical night and swim back to Cameroon.

Another turn, now.

He picked up a tile. East wind. There it was. He held it in his hand for a moment tapping it on the table. Yeah, the verandah was the best option. He laid down his hand.

"Mahjong, fellas," he drawled. He reached into the center toward the stack of money when the burly looking Triad goon slammed his sausage fingered meat hook of a hand on top of it.

Greg sighed, regretfully. "So it's gonna be like that, huh?" Then with one fluid motion, he kicked upward with his boots, sending the table, money and tiles flying, drew out his gun and started shooting.


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