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.
There was a tiny snail (or so he felt inside), who climbed along the garden wall in silence every day. Without fail there came along an angry boy each day, bitter and irate for reasons the snail could only guess. Each day the boy was just the same: he would pluck the tiny snail from the wall and toss him to the ground with a laugh and a sneer. And each morning for a long time, the snail slowly crawled back up the wall once more in hopes that when the new day rose he would reach the sunlight that only reached the highest parts of that wall.
As time wore on the little snail grew more weary as the frustration of never quite reaching the light of day began to weigh upon him. Every day the angry boy would return, his tongue all aflame with bitter words, and the little snail would find himself hurled once again to the ground so far below, where he would land with a painful thud. But one day, something changed in the world and the little snail could no longer bring himself to try.
When the angry boy returned to taunt the little snail, his face contorted in a strange fury when he saw that the snail had not begun to crawl up the wall again. Instead he had stayed just where the boy had thrown him down the day before. The angry boy cursed and spat, and very nearly crushed the little snail with his gigantic shoe, but for some unknown reason he hesitated and put his foot back on the ground. “You’re not even worth it” said the angry boy, and with a terrifying face he spat upon the little snail where he lay.
The little snail did not move, but stared ever up that wall at the sunlight so high above. He longed to feel its warmth upon his shell, but his heart sank and he said to himself, “I can never reach it, for I am not able to overcome the obstacles which beset me”. And for several days he remained exactly where he lay, his heart growing ever more sorrowful as each day slipped away into another night. For a few days the angry boy would come again and curse the little snail, but soon he seemed to lose interest and did not return for a long time.
When he became hungry the little snail would slink across the dirt and soil to eat sadly from the lowest leaves on the plants, even though they were caked in filth and did not taste as good as his favorite leaves just a little higher. Sometimes he would look mournfully up at those leaves, but he did not try to reach them any longer; “I can never reach them” he said, “for I am not able to reach so very far”. And though the little snail survived each day, his heart was filled with sadness.