Originally, this was the final in-class writing assignment for my Creative Writing class: Write one scene using the following words: Money, ocean, planet, aggravate, grease, paddle, rooster, leer, gift, pillow, avocado, shoulder, wedge, planet, fortify. The first draft took about twenty minutes, and I polished this version with another twenty or so after I got home. Finally, I recently needed a story for a theater class I’m taking, so I revisited this one and added a little more polish to it. I think I actually kind of like this one. Tell me what you think in the comments!
Six Twenty Seven
“Six twenty seven.” Don thumbed through his wallet, counting what little money remained for food after buying his final bus ticket, the one that brought him here, to California from Kansas. This was the last leg of a three year journey that had taken him across continents in a quest to surf the waves of every ocean, on every coast it touched. He had exactly five dollars to his name, a pillow strapped to his back with a leather belt that had been a gift from his mother, and a simple digital camera, which hung from a strap on his left shoulder. From the corner of one eye he glanced toward the corner of the small building before him, where his surfboard leaned, its waxed and polished surface glinting in the evening sunlight as it rested comfortably on the warm, golden sand of the California coast.
“Six twenty seven. Please.” the cashier behind the counter of Mac and Dan’s Hamburger Stand said again, this time more insistently. Don counted the bills in his wallet once more, but they’d stubbornly refused to multiply since the previous count. He considered his options.
“What if we take off the avocado?” he asked, hoping that minor adjustment might lower the cost of the meal into his price range. He looked past the cashier, at the cook behind him. His gaze seemed lost in the bubbling grease of the meat-covered griddle while his hands, unwatched, lazily dismembered a wilted wedge of lettuce. The cashier sighed, cleared the transaction and started again. Don noticed a logo on the cashier’s shirt, a simple illustration of a rooster and one of those strange sets of toy wind-up teeth that automatically bite and vibrate along the floor. He smiled and considered that in all the states and countries he’d visited all across this little blue planet called Earth, he had never seen such a logo.
“What’s your shirt mean?” he asked, “I’ve never seen a rooster teeth logo before.” The cashier rolled his eyes and looked at Don—though it seemed more like a leer, Don thought—and half barked his reply.
“It’s not rooster teeth, it’s cock biter. They make machinima movies. Noob.” Apparently losing his place in the calculation of the pre-avocado cost of Don’s meal, the cashier banged his hand on the cash register and started over once more. Don smiled, hoping a little kindness might go a long way.
“Listen, I apologize. I’m new here, I didn’t mean to aggravate you, my friend. I’m just hoping to meet some new buds, fortify my stomach, paddle out a bit and catch a wave before calling it a night under the stars. I’m Don, if you’re interested.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s nice, buddy, but I don’t give a flyin’ fuck. That’ll be four ninety nine.” The cashier put out his hand and glared. Don’s heart sank, then lifted; at least he’d have a meal. Without another word he paid the cashier and collected the small paper bag that contained his burger and fries. He stepped toward the corner where his surfboard stood, and glanced at his watch: Six twenty seven. He chuckled and breathed the crisp, salty air of the Pacific Ocean. He admired the gleaming body of his surfboard and smiled even wider, happiness swelling in his heart one last time before the long dormant aneurism in his brain burst, and he fell dead on the golden sand of the California coast.