Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Playing Clark Parker’s best friend in the school play was one thing, but finding the nerve to socialize with him at the cast party is quite another. And he’s coming this way…

My latest entry in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is a 995-word romance. As a romance writer, I am of course much more familiar with the genre than I’ve ever been with, say, horror, which made this story harder to write than the first two in this competition because there was pressure for it to be perfect. But of course that pressure came mostly from myself, so I set it aside, imagined the Cutest Boy in School, and wrote the best Very Short Romance that I had in me this day. And threw in a little Music Man, just to be on the safe side.

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Our group was given Romance for a genre, a tugboat for a location, and a map for an object. I’m gunning for big points on creative use of prompts…  😉 Enjoy

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Where they got the idea to use a maritime motif for the playground, I’ll never know. We’re a hundred and eighty miles from the nearest navigable river, six hundred from the coast; hell, they even drain the pool for winter and half the spring. And it’s not like it’s a pirate ship or the Love Boat. No, the centerpiece of Agnes Schmidlap Park is about two-thirds of a wood-beam tugboat plying the gravel, two sun-baked old tires hanging off the side. You know, for authenticity. Some mayor who owned the meatpacking plant fifty years ago probably wanted kids to grow up thinking hard work was the ultimate fun. Help tug our town to success! Too bad they shut the plant down like ten years ago. God, I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here.

Six weeks to go. Meanwhile, tonight’s the “cast party” for The Music Man, which means a keg in the park and enough teenager tequila barf to float this tugboat. It was a fun show and all, but I’ve been playing Marcellus to Clark Parker’s Harold Hill since rehearsals started in February; if I have to spend five more minutes within arm’s length of his shimmery hair without running my fingers through it, I’m worried the effort’ll break my elbow. Here on the prow of the tug, I can at least lust after him from afar, without his goody two-shoes “concern” about me smoking.

Except now he’s walking over here. And he’s carrying two big red cups full of beer. Is one for me? Do I hide mine? Chug it? Marcellus had lines to bounce off Harold; I have fuck-all to say to Clark Parker.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” OK, that wasn’t so hard.

He offers me a cup. “You need a beer?”

Mine’s full. “Yeah. Thanks.”

I flick my butt into the night, hoping he won’t start up.

“Can I bum one?”

Look who’s full of surprises. “You don’t smoke.”

“I do all kinds of stuff.” Did Clark Parker just wink at me? That’s definitely worth a cigarette. Continue reading