Telling stories and then trying to sell them is a little like trying to distract a toddler. You hold up a shiny toy and shake it, hoping that this will get their attention. And sometimes it does.
This one did not attract the attention of the judges, but I enjoyed writing it for a contest last spring. It's unlikely to sell elsewhere, so here you go. Free fiction.
Vernon and Jeannette loved their place in Malibu. You never knew who you’d see around town – Ali with the big sunglasses in the cereal aisle, Bo in riding breeches, Kurt and Goldie having lunch like anyone. Plus –– the house.
When taking hayseed houseguests on the grand tour, Vern would throw his arms wide and proclaim, “The sky and the water, and our neighbors the stars.” Always followed by that staccato laugh of his “Ha! Ha! Ha!” like something hard falling down three steps. The jokes never changed. Showing off their beach access, he’d add, “Watch out for that last one…it’s a doozy! Ha! Ha! Ha!” It sometimes made Jeannette gulp her Long Island iced tea a little faster.
But who could complain? Vern was steady. Not a beauty, but he made his own money and didn’t bitch about what Jeannette did with hers. No indiscretions, no cruelty. That was worth something. Seventeen years together made theirs a legacy marriage. Some friends were hammering out the details on their third and fourth divorce settlements already.
Jeanette didn’t like to judge, but –– honestly. She hated thinking about the spouses who moved away. Retreating to their flyover home-states or shifting bitterly into condos on Topango. Or Sunset, heaven forbid. It gave her a bad feeling. Not that it would be her, downsizing into something bijoux and brave, with the one good Aubusson draped over the loveseat.
No, she had every expectation of living out her years right here. She loved this view, loved the cool, dark cement tunnel that led to the beach-stair, loved the sound of the waves. When Vern predeceased her (what with his blood pressure and the bacon every morning, there was little doubt) she’d probably join the flock of rich old birds that strode along the sand early in the mornings, all skinny legs and good bone structure.
Maybe take up an eccentric hobby. Bird-watching, perhaps, or ship-spotting, something she could do from the deck between-times. No remarriage, that went without saying.
Oh, who was she kidding? The whole thing was collapsing. No amount of replenishment was going to fetch the dunes back from the surf. And she might just as easily go first. Breast cancer, probably. She wouldn’t fight it. God. She hated the quavery, courageous sound of the word “remission.”
They should sell. Cash out. As soon as the market came back a little. If it did. But it always did, right? Whenever someone admired their view – nothing but ocean all the way to Hawaii –– Vern would hitch up his pants (very community theater-esque, that bit of broad stage-business) and adopt a hick accent to say, “Ain’t nobody making waterfront any more. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
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