A Man Without Qualities

The Word: GUARD

Doug didn’t realize. He didn’t know. Nobody told him. He took the job because it was easy. Sit in the hotel lobby and watch the to and fro. Read lots of books. He was a slacker. A stoner. His skin was bad. A certain time of night. Goodlooking women arriving. Alone. Well dressed. It was a swank hotel. Boutique. On a side-street just off the prime shopping district. He was told to challenge late night visitors. Women clearly not staying at the hotel. He read his book. All the time in the world. He’d already gotten through 2666, Infinite Jest, and A Man without Qualities. He heard the click of her heels. The waft of expensive perfume. Lilies or something. Lilacs. He looked up. She was long-legged, in a very short gold dress. Her honey hair in a ponytail, up high, cascading. “Can I help you?” he asked. His throat was dry. She smiled. She came close. She leaned over him. Lilies. She slipped something in the pocket of his guard uniform. He didn’t have to look. A folded bill. A twenty, probably. He swallowed. He knew he was going to be fired. Make way for some other reader. Some other pimply slacker. She kissed a fingertip, then pressed it to his dry unkissable lips. He watched her walk to the elevator on those heartbreaking legs, and press the UP button.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: BRUSH


5 Responses to “A Man Without Qualities”

  1. Dave C Says:

    Perry hired me at Starbucks in Newport Beach right after I showed him my portfolio. He offered me a very good salary and told me he would pay me $10,000 on my the first day of work – just to be nice he said. It was like a dream come true, even if it was in Long Beach. On my very first day I was shown to my office and sure enough there was an white No. 10 envelope on my keyboard. I didn’t have to open it. I knew what was in it. The place had gray concrete floors and I hated it already. When the employees walked by they had their eyes lowered like abused, unloved adopted children. No one had even bothered to introduce themselves. There was a a loud knock on my door and I looked up. A dragon lady with a mans haircut came over to me and held out her hand. Somehow I felt I should salute her, but held back. “Hi, my name is Enid. I’m Perry’s wife, and I’m your new boss.”

    Perry had had somehow forgotten to mention her at Starbucks as we had our lattes and he told me how talented I was.

    I looked at the envelope on the keyboard and remembered the yellow roses on my mothers grave a few weeks before in New England. The roses looked so out of place in the cold snowy cemetery in the gathering dusk. I wished I could excuse myself and go out to the parking lot and call her. She’d know what to do.

    I looked at the envelope again and stared at the gray prison floor.

    • Good premise, but your transition to mother’s grave and roses is forced. And withholding the prison fact from readers simply ticks them off. Try leaving a clue earlier so we don’t feel like you’ve manipulated us, and so it doesn’t remind us there’s an author writing. You want your readers to be lost in the story and not remember there’s an author making it up.

  2. She was on guard the second she laid eyes on him. He had that boyish charm to him that she always fell for. Under her breath she said, “I swear to God, if there’s a guy like that within a 500 mile range, he’ll find me.”

    He pretended to look through the magazines on the table. She pretended to ignore him.

    “Good Evening, Ma’am.” There it was, that crystal clear calming tone that she knew would match his looks. She turned her head so they didn’t make eye contact and muttered back, “Good Evening.”

    The words “Go away!” broke the serenity of her previous thoughts. She wanted him to leave. She didn’t have time for a relationship right now. She also knew with 100% certainty that if they spoke for any length of time, she would pursue him.

    No one could pursue a man like she could. It was a natural talent and she was trying very hard not to implement it. It didn’t help that he was exactly her type.

    She dug her phone out of her purse and tried to figure out who she could call. She needed a distraction. She needed the front desk of the lobby to start on fire. She needed something.

    He decided right then and there to move in front of her. For a few seconds, she remained staring at his shoes. Nice shoes. Polished shoes. Great.

    “Yes?” She wanted nothing more than to bolt for the door, but that was hardly dignified. She didn’t even try to keep the impatience out of her voice.

    “I think you left your keys at the front desk,” he held out his hand and in his palm was the delicate gold keyring with the small attached chain that housed a large garnet at the end.

    She reached for her keys and he flashed her the warmest smile she had ever seen. Before she could say thank you, he turned and left.

    She sat there stunned for a second. Did he really just give her keys back and walk away? He wasn’t going to hit on her? How dare he.

    She tucked her keys in her purse, smoothed down her skirt and headed in his direction.

    So much for letting her guard down.
    It was on now.

  3. I must tell you, Ms. Fitch – that I think you’re a brilliant writer. I love my copy of White Oleander and tell everyone about it. I was excited to find your web site.

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