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Eggs, Milk, and Bread

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, writers’ prompts often originate from many sources. This week, my blog features work that was inspired by a website challenge: Compose a short story that includes Eggs, Milk, and Bread. After briefly pondering the items and how I might build a tale around them, the characters and their situations emerged. The words began to flow. As the simple plot line formed, an idea for an additional scenario popped into my head. Rather than ignore the bonus, I decided to take the original story line for a second ride. While reviewing the two shorts before posting on the blog, a third set of characters asked to join in. How could I refuse? Although the basic premise is similar in all three pieces, the characters and their circumstances have changed.

Enjoy the results. Thanks for stopping by.

Eggs, Milk, and Bread

SNAP!

“Ow! Son of a bitch!” he muttered.

Jagged plastic parted flesh from fingernail on Ted Jacobs’ right thumb. The abused credit card had managed to inflict a new variety of pain. His reaction to the searing wound had caused him to fling half of his wallet-sized budget-breaker into the darkness behind the targeted home. “Dammit.”

Blood oozed from beneath his thumbnail, which never would have happened if the issuing bank hadn’t decided to ban the VISA’s more traditional usage. So what if Ted’s indebtedness had far exceeded his previous annual income. He’d called and promised to pay them back. After all, he had to have a means of taking care of Sarah.

Following the bank’s refusal to reactivate the card, the plastic rectangle had taken on a new role––jimmying tool. Ted had considered robbing the bank that snubbed him, but he didn’t own a gun or found one during the other three house burglaries.

Ted applied the only first-aid he had––his wounded digit compressed between his lips. When he sagged against the rear entrance to the garage, the door popped open. The other half of the broken charge card previously wedged into the latch fell to the concrete floor and bounced behind metal shelving. The consequences of losing the card barged into Ted’s consciousness. What if the home owner or the cops find it?

As he stepped into the garage, Ted pulled a tiny flashlight from his jacket, clicked it on, and peeked behind the overloaded shelves. A rounded corner of the credit card was visible…until the light flickered and went out. He tapped the flashlight against his other hand to no avail.

“Dammit.”

Ted thought of Sarah waiting for him and knew he couldn’t waste any more time. “Good riddance,” he said toward the VISA. “Besides, if I’m, careful, nobody will know I was even here––except for the other half of the damned credit card somewhere in the backyard.”

He inhaled and exhaled, sucked the sting from his thumb once more, and donned a pair of gloves. “Chance I’ll have to take, I guess.” He crept to the entry that led into the house and was grateful to find it unlocked.

Inside, Ted inched through a mud room and into the kitchen. LED numbers from the stove and microwave dimly illuminated the space and allowed him to locate the primary motive behind the break-in––the refrigerator.

The stainless-steel side-by-side was well stocked, including leftover pizza…and beer. Flashbacks to his college days made him grin. The blinking red light on the wall behind him slapped him back to the present. It appeared that his intrusion had set off a silent alarm. He had to leave, but not without the eggs, milk, and bread he came for.

Ted scrambled through cabinets and drawers, but came up empty. “What’s the matter with these people? Everybody stashes plastic bags, somewhere.”

The phone began ringing and continued to ring.

“Geez. Think, Ted. Where would you put ‘em?” He scanned the kitchen. “Under the sink!” He flung open the lower cabinet door. “Thank God.” Ted grabbed two sacks, doubled-bagged a half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs, then hurried to the garage.

Red and blue lights strobed down the street as Ted Jacobs closed the outside garage entry. He wiped the doorknob with his sweatshirt when a reality set in. “Hell, if they find my credit card, my ass is grass anyway.”

With the pilfered bounty in hand, Ted raced into the shadows toward the pay-by-the-week, roach-pit motel he called home and where six-year old Sarah waited. His success as a thief meant he and his daughter would eat tonight––fried egg sandwiches. “Just hope the one-burner hot plate holds out…and that Sarah doesn’t ask how I paid for the food.”

Ted sighed and jogged on with the understanding that after supper, he and Sarah needed to find a new place to live.

 

**** OR ****

Eggs, Milk, and Bread—Version 2

SNAP!

“Ow! …Son of a bitch!” he muttered

Jagged plastic separated flesh from fingernail on Terry Parker’s right thumb. The fractured debit card had inflicted a new variety of pain. Terry’s reaction to the searing wound caused him to fling half of his wallet-sized budget-breaker into the darkness behind the home.

“Dammit.”

Blood oozed from beneath his thumbnail, which never would have happened if his parents hadn’t banned the debit card’s more traditional usage. What did they mean by telling him the convenience had become a burden? Had his indebtedness really far outweighed his meager part-time income––and threatened theirs? And so what? They had plenty of money. Plus, he’d promised to pay them back as soon as he got out of school and landed a real job. Their refusal to reactivate his card prompted Terry to find a new role for the VISA––jimmying tool. He’d considered another option but, with the Tremont University cuties already declaring him plain and unbearable, Terry Parker, Campus Gigolo held no promise of success or of fattening his wallet? At least there was Sarah.

Terry applied the only first-aid he had––his wounded digit compressed between his lips. When he sagged against the rear entrance to the garage, the door popped open. The other half of the broken charge card previously wedged into the latch fell to the concrete floor and bounced behind metal shelving. The consequences of losing the card barged into Terry’s consciousness. What if they find it?

He snickered and stepped into the garage. “So what if they do? After Dad’s know-it-all lecture on prudent spending, using it again was a lost cause, anyway. Besides, his name’s on the card, not mine. Good riddance.”

Terry thought of Sarah, patiently waiting for his arrival. He glanced at the time on his smartphone and knew he needed to get moving. Still trying to suck the sting from his thumb, he donned a pair of food-preparation gloves and crept to the entry that led into the house.

Inside, Terry passed through the mud room and ambled into the kitchen. LED numbers on the stove and microwave dimly illuminated the space. The primary motive behind his break-in was located where he remembered it. The stainless-steel, side-by-side refrigerator also remained well stocked, including leftover pizza…and beer. “Hallelujah!” Flashbacks to fuzzy mornings after most Sig Ep keggers made him smile. The blinking red light on the wall behind him slapped him back to the present. “Crap, I forgot about the friggin’ alarm.”

Terry closed his eyes for a moment, then grinned. He punched in the disarm code that he’d used as a teenager when he took care of his neighbor’s cat. Then the telephone rang.

“Hello?” he said.

“This is Kevin Fulbright with Sentry Alarm. We received a signal from your residence, is everything all right?”

“Everything’s great. I, uh, had a bundle of groceries in my arm when I came in and really had to pee. Forgot to disarm the system.”

Terry followed-up by giving the dispatcher the all-clear code he remembered. Fulbright seemed satisfied, wished him a “Good evening,” then hung up. Apparently that code hadn’t changed either. Still, Terry knew he had to get out of there, but not without the eggs, milk, and bread he came for––and, what the hell, the beer, too.

Terry searched for grocery bags in the upper cabinets and drawers, but came up empty. “What’s the matter with these people? Everybody stashes plastic bags, somewhere.” He scratched his head. “Think, Terry, where would you put ‘em?” After a moment he flung open a cabinet door beneath the sink. “All right!”

He grabbed two sacks and doubled-bagged a half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs––and three beers. He reset the alarm, then shuffled toward the garage.

Red and blue lights strobed down the street as Terry closed the outside entry. “Damn, wonder if the clearance code got changed. Guess I’d better scram. Wish I hadn’t locked my keys in the dorm room. Hope, my roomie’s there when I get back.”

With the pilfered bounty in hand, Terry hurried into the shadows toward the city zoo, where Sarah, a six-year old orangutan, awaited his arrival. His success as a thief meant that––as long as nobody discovered the one burner camp stove he’d borrowed from another heist and stashed in the brush near her cage––he and Sarah would snack again on egg sandwiches, plus milk for her and beer for him. Terry picked up his pace. “Wonder if Mom and Dad’s neighbors will notice anything? If they find Dad’s broken debit card, things could get mighty exciting for him.”

 

**** OR ****

Eggs, Milk, and Bread––Round Three

SNAP!

“Ow! …Son of a bitch!” she muttered.

Jagged plastic separated flesh from fingernail on Tammy Dunklin’s right thumb. The fractured credit card had inflicted a new variety of pain. Tammy’s reaction to the searing wound caused her to fling half of the wallet-sized budget-breaker into the darkness behind the home.

“Dammit.”

Blood oozed from beneath her thumbnail, which never would have happened if her mother hadn’t been such a ditz with her VISA. The card’s more traditional usage had become so blasé to her mom––like she had hundred-dollar bills rolling out her ass. Like, as long as she had that damned hunk of plastic, there was cash in the bank. Yeah, there was cash all right, but none of it was hers. The issuing-bank manager tried to explain that he was canceling the account because her indebtedness far outweighed her meager income; that the convenience for most folks had become her financial burden. Taking the VISA was the best thing Tammy could have done for Dear Old Mom. Joining the gang was the best thing Tammy was doing for herself. But first she had to complete the initiation. She’d considered another option but, suicide was for the totally depressed. By taking on a new role––jimmying tool––her mother’s credit card was supposed to help her regain lost hope. Split in two, the card was as useless as Tammy felt once more. “What now? I have the list. Sarah will be waiting.”

Tammy applied the only first-aid she had––her wounded digit compressed between her lips. She sagged against the rear entrance to the garage, and the door popped open. The other half of the broken charge card previously wedged into the latch fell to the concrete floor and bounced behind metal shelving. The consequences of losing the card barged into Tammy’s consciousness. What if the home owners or the cops find it?

She smirked and stepped into the garage. “So what if they do? Maybe a stretch in prison will set Mom straight. At least she’d get three meals a day and have a roof over her head. After all, her name’s on the card, not mine. Good riddance.”

Tammy thought of gritty Sarah, waiting for her arrival. She glanced around the space and knew she needed to get moving. Still trying to suck the sting from her thumb, she donned a pair of gloves and crept to the entry that led into the house.

Inside, Tammy passed through the mud room and ambled into the kitchen. LED numbers on the stove and microwave dimly illuminated the space. The primary motive behind her break-in stood out like a monument to salvation. The stainless-steel, side-by-side refrigerator was well stocked, including leftover pizza…and beer. “Hallelujah!” Flashbacks to evenings when she and her mom cuddled on the couch with a deep-dish pie and a movie made Tammy smile. The blinking red light on the wall to her left slapped her back to the present. “Crap, I must have set off a friggin’ alarm.”

Panic coursed through her body. Tammy closed her eyes for a moment and reviewed the list. Eggs, milk, and bread. Eggs, milk, and bread.  She grabbed the items from the refrigerator shelves and placed them on the counter. Knowing Sarah would appreciate the beer, Tammy grabbed several cans and set them next to her stash. She was lifting a slice of pizza for herself when the telephone rang.

She jumped. “Jesus!”

The pepperoni and sausage triangle fell to the floor. The phone continued to ring.

Tammy picked up the errant pizza slice, placed it back in the box, and grabbed another. “Never did like the five-second rule.”

As she consumed the cheesy delight, Tammy scanned the kitchen. She had to get out of there, but not without the eggs, milk, and bread she came for––and Sarah’s beer.

She searched the upper cabinets and drawers for grocery bags but came up empty. “What’s the matter with these people? Everybody stashes plastic bags, somewhere.” She scratched her head. “Think, Tammy, where does Mom put ’em. Where would you put ’em?” She flung open a cabinet door beneath the sink. “All right!”

She grabbed two sacks and doubled-bagged the half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs, plus the three beers, then scurried toward the garage.

Tammy closed the outside entry and wiped the doorknob with her oversized hoodie. Red and blue lights strobed from down the street. “Damn, that was cuttin’ it close.”

With her pilfered bounty in hand, Tammy ran into the shadows, heading toward the abandoned house on State Street. The gang would be pleased with her achievement––especially Sarah. Tammy’s success as a thief meant her initiation would be complete. She’d belong to a family that cared about and protected one another again, something she’d been missing for way too long. She thought about the likelihood of her mother being arrested after her broken credit card halves were discovered at the house she’d just robbed. Tammy signed the cross on her chest. “Sorry, Mom, but it’s probably for your own good––and mine.”

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