I was going through some of my old journals and notebooks and came across one from last year’s Writing Short Stories course. I found this piece and I don’t even remember writing it. Funny how things unsignificant at the time of creation suddenly seem intriguing after so much time spent away. I haven’t read through this. I just read the first line. So reading it is as much a new experience for me as it is for you. I’m hoping it’s good… And if not, I hope I’ve improved.

Penny had worked all night. Her muscles ached and there were some bruises from where old men had pinched her. Younger men tended to smack her, but they were usually too drunk to hit very hard. She pulled the grey trench coat around her tightly and pushed the collar up around her face.

Some women liked the lifestyle, but Penny despised it. She hated the stupid hair extensions and the uncomfortable, yet hardly existant underwear. She hated the other girls when they called out, “You go, baby! Show ’em that beautiful ass!” They’d cackle and squeal as Penny tried to numb her mind. It was her vain hope to forget who she was. But most of all, she hated Teddy, the club owner, for all the times he’d stroked her cheek or felt her up. She hated him for taking her money and she hated how he called her “doll-face.”

As she passed through town, she wished for a blue-berry muffin and a cup of coffee more than anything else. More than a change of clothes. More than her tired, worn bed.

She stopped in front of the town cafe. She knew George, who owned and managed it. Many times, Penny had entered inside to rest from the long walk home. The little amount of cash she kept from Teddy was strictly reserved for paying her rent. George always seemed to understand and would treat Penny to some free coffee and a complimentary muffin. George was a very good man.

But tonight, all of Penny’s money was gone. Teddy had taken it all due to how Penny’s regular viewers had switched to Kimberly’s performance.

“If you don’t pick it up, and soon, I’m riddin’ myself of ya! Got it?” Teddy rubbed a fistful of cash in her face.

Penny got it, but didn’t want it anymore. As she approached the cafe window to peer inside, she could see George cleaning the bar counter. No one else was there–it was too early yet, so she walked inside.

“Hello, Penny,” George greeted her.

As Penny sat on a stool, she shivered and her eyes and cheeks became flushed. George could tell she’d had a long night.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“George?”

“What?”

“Did you always want to serve coffee and clean counter tops?”

“Nope.”

“Then why do you do it?” Penny was pleading.

“Because it’s what I want now,” George answered.

“Well,” Penny sighed. “I don’t want this anymore.”

“So stop,” George shrugged.

Penny laughed outright, “As if it’s that simple!”

“Isn’t it?” George smiled. “How about some coffee? You look like you need some. I’ll get you a muffin, too.”

“No, George,” Penny threw up her hands and the cheap plastic jewelry jingled around her forearms. “I can’t pay you.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, George, it does,” Penny was upset. “As much as I want that coffee, I don’t feel right taking it.”

“I’m giving it–”

“And I’m taking advantage of your generousity! No thanks, George!” Penny stood and charged for the door. George stared after her.

Penny looked to her left and saw the sun begin to rise. A new day was beginning and life was slowly creeping into the neighboring stores. She looked to her right and saw a fountain with a centerpiece of sculpted angels and naked babies with wings.

George stepped through his front door and the bells chimed as he did. Penny glanced in his direction and then back at the fountain. With a smirk, she dashed for the angels, spilling water over their cement garments.

“Penny!” George shouted.

Penny stopped at the three-foot barrier surrounding the fountain. She stared up at the angels and her breaths grew short.

“I wish for a new life,” Penny said as she stripped of her coat, exposing her half-naked body, and stepped daringly into the circular pool built around the heavenly centerpiece. The left heel on Penny’s tiny shoe slipped and she toppled into the water. She gasped in shock from the cold.

“Penny! What are you doing?” George screamed as he ran towards her.

Penny quickly stood up and began collecting all the change she could hold in her hands.

“This is my wish!” she shouted to herself.

George looked at her. “Your wish is to freeze to death?” He paused, but Penny didn’t respond. She continued to grab at and drop coins. George reached for her, “Penny, get outta there! You’re gonna get hypothermia!”

Penny stopped and through shivers, managed to say, “I-I-I’m ti-ti-tired, G-George.” She wanted to give up. “I don’t–I don’t want to do th-this anymore…”

“So stop,” he whispered, taking up her coat from the slippery ground. He reached his hand out to her. “So stop.”

Penny looked down and realized her ridiculousness. She smiled depite her chattering teeth and chuckled softly.

As she reached for George’s grasp, she said, “Thank you, George.”

George slipped the coat over her shoulders and guided her back to the cafe.

Writing Exercise, written May 8, 2002

Wow. Almost exactly a year ago. How coincidental I should find it just now. Perhaps?

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