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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Ari James on June 19, 2010
"This post is a Grab Bag which uses the following words: no-frills, miraculously, inward, size, similar, demanding."

The Shopping Trip

Alana couldn't believe her awful luck. She'd gotten a job, sure, but why this one? Instead of the job at the animal shelter (the one she'd really wanted), she'd ended up with the one with Mrs. Emerson, a no-frills, 40-something woman who worked with her mother. The job entailed bringing Mrs. Emerson her coffee, taking Mrs. Emerson wherever she wanted to go, pretty much doing whatever Mrs. Emerson wanted to at the moment, which, like the menu of the school cafeteria, was subject to change without notice.

So, when Mrs. Emerson had called her up and barked, "I want to go shopping!", Alana, with an inward groan, had finally said, "Be there in five minutes."

The mall trip had to be the worst yet, Alana decided as she circled around the parking lot for the seventeenth time, searching for a parking space. Rain spattered her windshield, making it hard to see. "I want to go shopping!" snapped Mrs. Emerson.

"I know you want to go shopping, but I kind of have to park the car first," Alana said patiently, as if speaking to a small child. (Which, admittedly, was what Mrs. Emerson was acting like.) She couldn't wait for her date with Carson tonight at 6:30. A whole evening without Mrs. Emerson. It would be wonderful.

And then, she spotted a car pulling out of its parking space, miraculously leaving it open for Alana to park. "There's one," she said, pulling into the now-vacated spot. She turned the engine off and pulled the keys out of the ignition. She bent to grab her purse, not noticing when the keys slid off her lap and onto the floor. "Let's go."

An hour later, in the dressing room of Lane Bryant, Alana heard Mrs. Emerson snap, "Get me a size 18! This one's not big enough!"

Alana sighed. Mrs. Emerson was so demanding. "All right!" she hollered through the dressing room door. She headed out into the store area, searching for the rack where they'd found the shirt Mrs. Emerson was trying on. She rifled through the rack, frantically searching for a size 18, but there was none to be found. Hoping Mrs. Emerson wouldn't notice, she grabbed a similar shirt (size 18) from a nearby rack and scurried back into the dressing room. "I have it," she said.

The door opened a crack and a pudgy, bejeweled hand reached out to take the shirt.

What happened next was not pretty. Marilyn Horne, an opera singer Alana's mother enjoyed, would have been duly proud at the shrill shriek that split the library-like hush of the dressing room.

They left Lane Bryant very quickly.

Three hours and three hundred dollars later, they sat in the food court of the mall. Alana watched hungrily as Mrs. Emerson devoured a Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbun whole. She hadn't even offered one to Alana, who was starving. Unfortunately, Alana couldn't buy one for herself, because she'd spent all the money she'd brought (which hadn't been very much anyway) on a new shirt to wear on her date tonight.

"Are you ready to go home now?" Alana asked.

"Yesh," Mrs. Emerson said through her last mouthful of Pecanbun.

They stood and Alana grabbed the bags. "There's one missing," she said. "The one from Coach, with your new purse in it."

Mrs. Emerson shrieked again. Every single food court occupant turned to look. "MY PURSE!" she wailed. "MY PURSE HAS BEEN STOLEN!"
Alana wanted to dive under the table. I'm quitting, she thought to herself. This job is not worth the mental trauma.

They talked to a security guard. (Well, actually Alana talked; Mrs. Emerson screeched.) He calmly suggested they check Coach, and, sure enough, the bag was there. Alana pulled out her phone, checking the time. It was 5:30. She'd get home just in time to touch up her makeup, change, and maybe do her hair. Hurry up, she mentally ordered Mrs. Emerson.

Alana would never quite understand how she managed to carry all the bags out to the car. By the time they got there, her arms felt ready to fall off. Fortunately, it had stopped raining. Unfortunately, she couldn't find her keys.

"I thought I put them in my purse!" she wailed as she dug frantically through the black hole that was her purse. She found an earring ("That's where I put that!), a half-stick of gum, used tissues, Chapstick (Vanilla mint, her favorite), and her wallet, but no keys.

She looked through the window of the car and confirmed what her gut had been telling her. She had locked the keys in the car.

"Are you serious," she moaned aloud to no one in particular.

"Why aren't we getting into the car?" Mrs. Emerson demanded.

"Because I locked the keys in there, that's why!" Alana snapped.

"What's going on here, ladies?"

She turned to see a friendly-looking black man leaning up against the car next to hers. "I locked the keys in my car," Alana confessed, feeling like the world's biggest idiot.

"I'm a professional locksmith," he told her. "I can open it for you."

"Would you?" she asked.

He nodded and stepped forward.

A few minutes later, she and Mrs. Emerson were climbing into their car. "Thank you so much," she said again to the locksmith. "You're my hero, seriously."

He smiled. "No problem. Just don't do it again; I might not be there to help you." And then he was gone.

Alana pulled out her phone and punched in Carson's number. "I'm going to be just a little late," she told him as she pulled out of the parking lot. "I'll tell you about it when I get there."

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