I have been very excited for today's post.
Recently, I had the chance to read this short story by Karen Wojcik Berner when she posted it on her popular blog, Bibliophilic Blather. This story, "Sheep Boy," had won an honorable mention in the short story contest at WOW! Women on Writing. Well, when I read it, I just had to ask Karen if she would share it for my FFD followers, and thankfully, she agreed. Because I know you're going to love this story and I'm going to stop talking now, but don't forget to read Karen's bio that follows, and learn about her book, A Whisper to a Scream.
By Karen Wojcik Berner
Okay. Mail the bills. Go to the bank. Get bread and milk, and, oh yeah, Brianna wanted more markers for school. Twenty minutes until the bus dropped the kids off. Just enough time to pick up a quick cappuccino.
"Hey, how are ya? Care to sample our new low-fat crumb cake? Not that you need it or anything."
Leah gave the kid a WTF look.
"No, I meant the low-fat part. You look pretty good to me."
Good save. He was cute, this kid, with his fuzzy white-guy 'fro all the college boys were sporting lately. She wanted to shear him. "I'll have a medium nonfat cappuccino, extra hot, please."
"Extra hot indeed." He smirked, then called out her order to a taller, skinnier fuzzy guy with a square Herman Munster head. Him, she had no desire to shear.
Drew had gone punk, not goth. What was wrong with her? Did she honestly think he would go all emo on her? When Leah was young, "goth" and "emo" did not exist, only jocks, preppies, nerds and stoners. She was beginning to feel more like her mother every day.
"What'll it be? Oh, hi. Nonfat cappuccino, right? Size?" Sheep Boy's grin was charming.
"Medium, please. Can I ask you something?"
He draped his hands over the cash register. "I'm all yours."
Leah shifted nervously. "Maybe you can help me understand something. My son recently went punk."
Sheep Boy's eyes lit up. "Awesome. Ramones. Green Day."
"Yeah, punk's punk. Wait, how old's your son?"
"Thirteen. He's in Junior High."
"No way." Sheep Boy threw his hands up and backed off the register, shaking his head. "There is no way you have a thirteen year old."
"Unfortunately there is." This did not look like calculated flattery for tips. This was a moment of true astonishment.
"Well, you sure don't look it. I mean, I knew you were older when you said 'son,' but I didn't think that old, no offense." He winked.
And so it began. The daily conversation. The oasis from her family's insanity. Her crush on Sheep Boy.
The cappuccino was waiting for her when she walked in. "Saw your van in the parking lot. How's your son?"
"He discovered 'Combat Rock' this week."
"Epic disc. Three-fifty-six, please."
Leah dug in her purse, remembering how old she was the first time she heard "London Calling." It was a lifetime ago. When everything was new. When there was electricity in the air. When music was...she chuckled to herself...epic. She handed him a five.
His hand touched hers briefly when giving her the change. Her face flushed. He did not look away. "So what are you up to tonight?"
Leah could not bring herself to recite the litany of monotonous chores awaiting her. "Not much. How about you?"
"My band is playing at Frankie's." Sheep Boy's eyes sparkled. "You should come. It's going to be awesome."
"Maybe." Leah scurried out of the coffee shop.
That night, Leah dreamt of being in the front row at Sheep Boy's concert.
"This song goes out to a very special lady." Taking her cheek gently, he tilted her face toward him and...
"Leah! Get up!" Her husband poked her. "Your alarm's been ringing for five minutes. Don't forget to pick up my suit from the dry cleaner. I need it for Thursday."
There were several people in line before her. Leah scanned behind the counter for Sheep Boy, but could not see him. Disappointed, she collected her cappuccino from Herman Munster and headed toward the door.
"Wait. Don't leave." Sheep Boy caught up to her. "I thought of you last night."
"I heard 'Should I Stay or Should I Go?' on 'XRT while I was driving home, and I thought of you." He searched her face for a reaction.
He was taller than she thought, standing there before her, out from behind the counter. She wanted to say she thought of him often. Each time her husband came home pissed from work expecting dinner. Each time she drove the same neighborhood streets over and over transporting the kids from school to activities to friends'. Each time she closed her eyes at night.
"That's a great song." Leah looked down. "I gotta go."
Sheep Boy's face fell.
"Goodbye." She left, knowing she could never return.
Karen Wojcik Berner is the author of A Whisper to a Scream, the first novel in the Bibliophiles series about the lives of the members of a suburban classics book club. It is available through amazon.com in paperback and e-versions, as well as for Nook e-readers.
She has been a writer/editor for 25 years, ten of which were spent in editing trade publications. A two-time Folio Magazine Ozzie Award for Excellence in Magazine Editorial and Design winner, her work also has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and countless regional newspapers and magazines.
She is currently working on her second book, How Long 'Til My Soul Gets it Right?, the second book on the Classic Book Club series.
To learn more about Karen, please visit www.KarenBerner.com.