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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Laura on September 17, 2010

The Speeding Ticket

It was just a speeding ticket, Rick reasoned to himself. Happened to everyone once in a while. Probably. Although the last one for him had been all the way back during his college years. But after that all he had was the one for his registration being 3 months overdue that time, but there were good reasons for it.

Who was he kidding? His wife was going to kill him. She'd never received a speeding ticket. He could just picture himself slinking into the house and shame-facedly placing it on the kitchen table. He'd have to, because she'd see in his face that he was upset, and ask why. And then her eyes would narrow slightly, and she'd sigh in that disapproving way. Nothing too dramatic in front of the kids, but enough to get the message across. No, of course he wouldn't do that. He'd leave it in his bag and wait to tell her about it until later.

But then, what if she found it first? She'd go through the bag to take out his dirty dishes, and certainly see it before he got a chance to show it to her. Then she'd ask when he was planning to tell her about it, and accuse him of trying to hide it from her. No, he couldn't do that either.

He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. Another red light. His drive home began on the winding roads of a rural industrial park, but soon took him through the more congested parts of town during rush hour. He looked around at the other motorists around him, waiting, all for the same reason. Some were on cell phones, others were reading to pass the time, one was bobbing his head to the radio.

But many, like him, stared into space, savoring, or dreading, this short period of alone time before arriving back to wherever they were going. Did they all have someone waiting for them when they got there? Even if it was just a pet? Rick wondered what it must feel like for those who knew that no one was waiting for them - that they could get back whenever they wanted to, and it didn't matter.

Aha! That was it. Maybe, he could hide the ticket in the car, and then just pay it the next day. He'd have to record it in the check book, but he could just say something cryptic like... "purchase." But then, he'd have to buy her something. It was still another month until their anniversary, but that was close enough. Bonus points for advanced planning too.

But wait. $130 for a ticket. And then, say $100 for a necklace. That was $230 total. And it still all had to come out of the account. Would she notice? He pondered. Did women know the difference between a $100 necklace and a $230 one? Would she go online and look for it at the store website, just to find out how much he'd spent on it? Surely it was a possibility. He could tell her it was a special one-time 50% off deal, but that would seem tacky to discuss upfront.

Maybe he could put away $20 from each paycheck, and call it something else, like "food." No, that would take too long. And larger amounts would be too noticeable.

He stared at the ticket - his own signature painfully scrawled across the bottom of it. The winding cavalcade of cars had made their way to the bridge in the middle of town. 10 more minutes until home. He wished he could open up the window and just throw it over the railing into the river, and not have to look at it ever again. But then there would be follow-up letters, and maybe a court summons. And that would be even worse. Maybe if he appealed, and then contested it in court and won, she would never have to know. He sighed. Yeah, right.

He leaned back in his seat and stared at the Hawaiian lei hanging from the rear-view mirror. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. He was getting somewhere, but in the slowest possible manner. The bicycles who passed him were probably reaching their destinations more quickly. Such a shame that the most complex machines weren't always the best for performing simple operations, such as arriving home in the evening.

He remembered a time when he and Elise were dating. He'd stopped by her apartment unannounced, to return a book he'd borrowed, and was greeted with shame and chagrin because, as she sheepishly explained to him, "I haven't showered or put on make-up yet, and you didn't give me time to make myself presentable to you." While he gently chided her for such an attitude, he was inwardly glad that he'd finally been able to see the real Elise. And it ended up being one of the best, most revealing conversations they had up to that point.

She'd always looked presentable. She still worked very hard at it, dressing the kids as nicely as the budget would allow. She was also very clean, and quite adept at hunting down whatever crumbs and dust the house could hide. But if such things were so detestable, why did she spend so much time looking for them?

He pulled his car into the driveway and turned off the ignition. He gathered his belongings together, exited the car, and approached the back door, opening it to reveal the warm glow of kitchen lights and smell of orange chicken baking in the oven.

Elise turned from her work as he came in, and did a double-take at his grinning face. The real Elise was still in there, somewhere.

"Babe, I got a speeding ticket." He dropped it confidently on the table, and reached out and gave her a hug.

When he pulled away, she had the oddest expression on her face.

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