Always listen to your mother
A fun little short story inspired by another Substack
Welcome to Story Cauldron, my more or less bi-weekly newsletter focusing on both my fiction and where storytelling can be found in the ordinary world.
To my new subscribers, welcome! And to all, happy Summer Solstice!
Before I talk about this week’s story, I wanted to share some exciting news. I run a Substack called Fictionistas with my friend Geoffrey Golden as part of our efforts to organize the fiction writers on Substack. Last week, Fictionistas was featured in Substack’s weekly newsletter On Substack. In particular, they featured The Great Substack Story Challenge, our current round-robin story project. (You’ll be able to read my chapter in a week and a half).
And now on to regular business. For this week, I decided to share another short story. I wrote it at a writing prompt party hosted by Nicole Rivera of Story Hoarder and only had to make small tweaks to finish it up.
The story itself was directly inspired by the hilarious stories in Citizen Jim Stories by Chicken Sheets. Since Krystal, the author of that newsletter, doesn’t seem to realize how great her writing is, and since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I thought it would be fun to share my story. (And be sure to check hers out as well!)
I hope you enjoy it!
Always listen to your mother
I finally had a free day all to myself, and I was filling boxes with old clothing to take to Goodwill. Spring cleaning was a chore my mother had instilled into me as a kid, and when I moved out on my own, she had two pieces of advice: each year, give away three large boxes of things you don’t use, and never get a pet with white fur.
Now that she was gone, I suspected that if I didn’t fill the boxes in my living room, she would come back to haunt me.
I was hard at work when there was a knock at the door. I wasn’t expecting any packages, and no one dared surprise me after that one time my friend Beth came by in the middle of the afternoon while I was in the middle of dying my hair. She never forgave me for the blue stains on her favorite coat.
Anyway, I finished tucking in the corners of the current box, wiped the dust from my hands, and opened the door.
“Keith?” I said in surprise. “Is that you?”
Outside was a balding man with a tweed cap, and clothing that I belatedly realized was soaking wet. But as I glanced around, I realized it wasn’t raining.
“Hey Janie, I hope you don’t mind me stopping by.”
“Uh, no, I mean—” I stumbled over words. I literally had not seen Keith since we were in college, like 30 years before. We were friends on the Facesmash but I hadn’t as much as talked to him on the phone since I had moved away. “What can I do for you?” In the back of my mind I wondered, how did he even know where I lived?
“Yeah so…” he held out his arms. “I had a bit of trouble just now…” he started to giggle, which confirmed his identity. He had one of those silly laughs that had no business coming out of a man’s mouth. “I may have made an error in judgment, and…” he snorted. “My car—” he waved to the street, “I don’t know if I can get home now.”
“Huh?” I looked where he gestured. There was a red convertible parked on the street. “What’s going on? Why are you soaking wet?”
That made him laugh even harder. “Well…. I was in town for an important job interview,” he began.
“Right, you don’t live here, do you?” Last I recalled, he had bought a house in a city a couple of hours away.
“Nope,” he said, and he giggled again. “I sure don’t. Anyway, I had this interview and I didn’t think my car was up for the trip, so I decided to rent something nice. And while I was out, some jackass threw a soda at the car, messing up the roof.”
“Why did someone throw a soda at the car?” I dared to ask.
“Well no, they didn’t throw it at the car. They threw it at me.”
Now I barely held back a snicker. “Do I even want to know?”
“Well, they wanted the space, but I was in a hurry, and…”
“You poached their parking space?”
“Yeah maybe.” He flapped his wet arms.
I nodded and covered my mouth to avoid laughing.
“Anyway, after the interview I decided to go to the car wash to make sure it was all clean before I drove home.”
He started laughing for real now. “Yeah, well, everything was fine at first. I got through the prewash and all, but then something happened. There was this really loud noise, and I panicked. What if the carwash brushes were doing something to the roof? I must have pressed the release by mistake. Next thing you know, I was swimming in rainbow suds.”
I was laughing too. “So you came straight here?”
“Well, no, I was really hungry, so I stopped to get a burger, you know, those impossible meat ones? And then I remembered you lived here, so I looked you up while I was waiting.”
“Okay, so did you need something? I can get you some towels….” I mean, what else did you offer a friend you hadn’t seen in decades who had just gone through the carwash with the top down? I eyed my boxes of clothes. I didn’t think anything would fit, and I didn’t see Keith as the type to wear women’s stuff anyway.
“Yeah, that would be great. But I was really wondering if you could help me with something else.”
I raised an eyebrow. What else could he possibly want?
A huge shaggy dog came running up my lawn.
“I was wondering if you could keep Champ for me for a couple of days.,” Keith said.
My eyes popped wide open. “You brought your dog to an interview?”
“Oh no, I don’t own a dog. I found Champ at the Jack in the Box. But I don’t want to take him back with me because the rental place specifically said, ‘no pets in the car’.”
The car was still dripping water into the street. “I think that’s the least of your concerns right now."
“What do you mean?” He glanced over his shoulder. “That’s no big deal. They said to bring it back clean.” He bent down to scratch Champ behind the ears. “So will you take him or not?”
“Sure, I guess,” I said. He was cute, after all. But as I headed back inside with the giant mass of white fur, I swore I could see the ghost of my mom wagging her finger at me.
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Thanks as always for reading. If you like the story, be sure to subscribe. And if you haven’t checked out my other Substack, Unseen St. Louis, I’d love for you to give it a test drive (sorry, no red convertibles here!). And of course, each time you make a comment or like a post, a shaggy dog somewhere goes to the groomers.
Very funny! And a good reminder that I have a few bags of clothes in my car that are supposed to go to Goodwill.
What a delightful story! I enjoyed how you brought the mother’s advice full circle. It made for the perfect ending. 😄