This is a short story I submitted for NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction this past week. The assignment was to write a fictional short-story (under 600 words) that involves someone who finds an object with no intention of returning it. I have never before submitted any of my writing anywhere, so this was a new thing for me!
“Sarah, let me get the bill!” said Jen in a rare act of generosity. Her consolation prize, thought Sarah bitterly. As Jen turned to pay the bartender, she pulled her wallet from her cluttered purse and out with it came a torn piece of yellow paper fluttering to the ground behind her. Sarah looked down at the piece of paper and then at Jen’s back and then around the crowded bar. In one swift movement, Sarah bent down, picked up the yellow paper, stuffed it into her pocket and stood up. She glanced at Jen’s back and then around the room. No one glanced back until she saw Nate across the room, talking to his buddies. He turned his head and their eyes met, he smiled. She smiled back.
Without talking, Sarah and Jen walked outside to catch their cab rides home and when the first cab came, Jen graciously offered it to Sarah, “You take it, I’ll get the next one.”
Consolation prize number two, thought Sarah as she got into the cab and waved goodbye to Jen, who waved back. Perhaps she feels bad, thought Sarah. As she zoomed off towards home, Sarah took the yellow piece of paper out of her pocket and stared at it silently, written on it was was “Nate” and his cell number.
The next morning, Sarah looked at the piece of paper in her hand, cell phone in the other. She sat stiffly on her couch, recalling the previous evening. Sarah had been the one to strike up the conversation with Nate, while Jen worked the room, flitting from one man to another with her coy smiles, batting eyelashes, and flirty gestures. Sarah and Nate had spent the evening engrossed in conversation, even his friends did not try to interrupt. She had never had a conversation like that and she had felt exhilarated and giddy, until Jen showed up, laughing, leaning in close to him, putting her arm around Nate and finally, asking for his phone number. Nate had looked at Sarah for a moment and then wrote his number on that yellow piece of paper and gave it to Jen. She knew Jen would never call him and had no intention of calling him. Sarah stood up and began pacing the room as she thought, this was always the way it worked! How many times had this happened in their long friendship? Since they were teenagers! How many more times would it happen? When was it going to be her turn?
Sarah stopped and with shaking fingers, dialed Nate’s number. She starting pacing again. As the phone rang and rang she glanced back and forth from the number on the phone to the number on the paper. The ringing stopped and the phone flew back up to her ear.
“What the hell kind of friend are you?” said a familiar voice. Sarah stopped suddenly with her mouth open, but she didn’t speak. She looked down at her phone and again at the piece of paper.
“Jen? How …? Wha …? I … I thought I … I mean, I meant to call …”
“Nate? You meant to call Nate!?” Jen said in a quiet shriek. There was a long silence.
“Well, hon, he’s right here, still sleeping, do you want me to wake him for you?” said Jen shrilly. In the background, Sarah could hear the rumble of the trolley car that ran outside of Jen’s apartment.
“How…? How did you …?”
“You think I dropped his number by accident?”
Sarah sat down hard on the couch and turned off her phone.