Good morning, y’all!
I did something this weekend that I haven’t done in a couple months: I wrote a (very) short story. It was a little easier this time around, as I used characters and a setting from a story that I am inconsistently working on writing anyways. In fact, this story is a bit of background from before my story actually starts. I have wanted to get to know this character better since he came into the story, so I decided to see what he was like before the events which make up the bulk of my WIP (work in progress). I’m sharing a scene from the short story, which I hope you see as a treat!
A few things to know which aren’t explained directly in this scene: the character we’re following is a professional athlete who trains/lives/works in a major city. The town he’s visiting has yet to be named, but it is a small town in a southern state. I think that is all you really need to know which isn’t explained, although I know there is a lot going on which you won’t fully understand until I have the entire story written. I hope you enjoy this excerpt!
Running is boring. I prefer to be in the gym lifting weights, doing resistance training, or just about any other kind of workout. But, even though I am technically on vacation and attending my cousin’s wedding next week, that doesn’t mean I can take time off from working out, and the small town my cousin lives in doesn’t have much to work with. So here I am: headphones in, running shoes laced, route planned.
I take off from the hotel heading east, even though that means I’m running directly into the sun. Maybe getting some vitamin D will wake me up and help get rid of the not-so-good mood I’m in. I’m used to getting up early, but I usually go straight to the gym and do something much more interesting and fun than running. Sighing, I force myself to look at the sky up ahead, rather than running on autopilot and letting bitterness take over. The sun is just peeking over the horizon, and I have to admit that the few lingering clouds show an impressive variety of colors.
The first mile passes quickly. I’m getting close to downtown now, so the sidewalk becomes more crowded, and I can’t watch the progress of the sunrise. My pace slows as I go around a woman walking three small dogs, but other than a few tail wags they don’t seem affected by me. My loud breathing and clunky footsteps probably warned them I was coming up behind from a block away.
As I run down the city’s main street, I realize the term “downtown” is a bit deceptive. The center of town boasts a few office buildings, a moderately sized park, and a main street lined with an eclectic stretch of old-fashioned shops. Most of them are local businesses, featuring hand-painted windows and faded signs overhead. One of them smells amazing, like cinnamon and maybe some other spice, but I can’t pick out which one it is.
I make my way to the park and run a couple laps, which brings my run to a full 5K. That’s enough for now. The sun is fully over the horizon, and I let the warmth sink in and relax my muscles as I stop to stretch and catch my breath beside a fountain. Despite the early hour, the park is already full of activity and sound. The fountain bubbles consistently, and multiple types of birds call from the surrounding trees. There is a steady stream of runners, walkers, and stroller-pushers on the path, but nothing feels crowded. There is a camaraderie in the atmosphere that contrasts sharply with what I’m used to in a bigger city. Taking a minute to people watch, I realize I am in the minority wearing my headphones. Many people actually smile and wave when they pass someone else on the path.
After a few minutes I head back the way I came, leaving the park and walking down the main street’s sidewalk. There are wrought iron lamp posts evenly spaced along the way, each surrounded by a smattering of brightly colored flowers. It’s nothing fancy, but you can tell that the city is trying. To do what, I’m not sure, but they are definitely trying.
Suddenly, I’m hit again with the powerful aroma of cinnamon and…something else, that I cannot quite name. Instinctively I breathe in deeply, sucking in as much of the rich smell as I can. Memories of going out to breakfast for my Dad’s birthday growing up flood over me, and for a minute I stop and let them play through my mind right there on the sidewalk. We used to get up early and go to the most expensive coffee shop in town, just once a year. That shop baked cinnamon rolls the size of large dinner plates, which my brother and I would split. It’s been a few years since we did that. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not like we’re estranged and he hasn’t died or anything, it’s just that as my siblings and I grew up and moved away we somehow lost that tradition.
I’m brought back to the present and realize that I am definitely standing in the way of this sidewalk. But, no one shoves me as they go past. They just go. Neither does anyone yell or curse or even mumble under their breath, as far as I can tell. What a strangely nice town.
I’m about to start walking again, and notice for the first time an a-frame type sign sitting by the door of the next shop. The building is small, like most of those around it, and the sides are painted a light brown with darker brown spots. No, they aren’t just spots, they’re coffee beans. Of course. The sign advertises half-price cinnamon rolls with a coffee purchase. I already have breakfast planned back at the hotel (oatmeal, fresh fruit, and a custom sports drink), but can I really resist a cinnamon roll, given the circumstances?
Most of the front of the building is a glass window, which I step up to and look inside. If I stay outside, I can revel in the sweet aroma from a safe distance and, yes, I decide I can resist the cinnamon rolls, no matter how good and nostalgic they smell. The inside of the shop is what you would typically expect from a coffee shop: a couch and some chairs in the front, which are surprisingly vacant; a few tables and chairs are along one wall, with the counter on the other. There are paintings and knick-knacks on a few shelves, as well as a mural on the back wall. The barista is laughing at something someone in line said, her dark hair pulled back and tucked mostly under a ball cap displaying the shop’s logo. The smell of espresso and coffee beans mixes with the cinnamon rolls and nearly causes me to change my mind and go in, but I hold firm. One more minute, then I turn away.
The scent and happy memories accompany me back to the hotel, though I return by a shorter route than the one I ran. Maybe being away from everything for a few weeks will not be as boring as I predicted.
Maybe even running will not be as awful as it could be.
Maybe, I can’t wait to find out what this town is all about.
And that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this snippet. I can’t say that I actually learned as much about this character as I had hoped to by writing from his perspective, but I did figure out a few things. I’m much more interested in the town itself now; I’m going to have to figure out some more of what it is like. Does writing do that to anyone else: you start out working on one thing, and it leads you to questions about another, and researching that leads you to another thing that you want to know more about, and before you know it you’re on a rabbit trail in your book just trying to figure out the background for the actual action? Maybe my attention span just isn’t as good as I thought it was, or maybe my imagination is better than I give it credit!
Would you like to read more scenes, as I write them? Or should I stick to writing about other people’s writings here? I’m open to any sort of (constructive) feedback!
Have a good Monday!
Until the next chapter,