Recently, I ran across a short story contest of five hundred words or less, and just for fun, I decided to write one. Now, I knocked this out in one hour, so I don't expect anything amazing, but the feedback from my family and friends surprised me, so I wanted to offer this up to my online community of friends and see what your thoughts were. If you enjoy it, please add your suggestions below, and each week, I'll write five hundred more words based on your suggestions. .
The old wooden café appeared safe enough, but the lack of surrounding cars gave Gino Canale pause as he opened the door of his hybrid. The GPS he and Sheila had been using had directed them off the highway in search of gas. But there were no gas stations around, just one country store on the outskirts of this Northern California town.
Sheila opened her door, but he waved her off. “Stay in the car. Let me check out this place.”
As usual, she did what she wanted and jumped out anyway. “I have to go. I’ve had to go since that last exit you ignored.”
“Fine,” Gino replied, walking toward the entrance, Sheila on his heels. He listened for sounds of life, but utter silence greeted him. Normally there’d be a hum of electricity, birds chirping … something. A lopsided sign behind a dusty windowpane indicated the café was open, though. He turned to his wife. “What do you think?”
“I think I need a bathroom — now!”
Gino reached for the doorknob, but before he could turn the tarnished brass handle, the door screeched open as if the wind — or someone — had opened it. Bells tinkled above the doorframe, announcing his arrival.
“Hello?” he called, but his voice faded into the stillness of the store. The only noise came from the creaking of the wood planks below the new Crocs his wife had talked him into buying. “Is anyone here?”
A crackling sound started up behind the counter. Someone had turned on an old AM radio. The music that emanated was reminiscent of old fifties-style music his grandparents used to listen to.
“Afternoon,” a man called out in a hoarse voice as he popped up from behind the register. “You kids ain’t from around here, are ya?”
“Uh, no, sir,” Gino stuttered, not sure why he couldn’t find his voice. “We’re heading to a wedding, and we just ran low on gas and were wondering if there was a gas station nearby.”
The man chuckled. “Son, you don’t need gas. You’ve got a full tank.”
Gino shook his head. “Excuse me, how would —” Sheila tugged on his arm, then flashed him the look he knew all too well; they’d stopped a hundred times on this trip. “Sir, is there a restroom my wife could use?”
“’Round back, but she doesn’t have to go.”
“What’s that racket, Joe?” An old woman stepped through a doorway on the other side of the room.
Gino gasped and grabbed Sheila’s hand, pulling her toward the door. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Trust me, honey. Something isn’t right.”
The old man stepped around the counter. “Just a couple of lost souls, Martha.” As the man moved toward them, Gino felt beads of sweat dampen his forehead, but the man just opened the door, allowing them to leave. “We’ll see yens back here soon.” He lowered his head and stared Gino deep in the eyes. “Don’t you recognize me, son?”
Gino nudged Sheila through the doorway toward their vehicle.
“What the heck are you doing, Gino?” his wife screeched.
Gino’s heart pounded in his chest. “That was my Grandpap Joe. He died twenty years ago.”
Okay, that’s it. Any ideas on what's happening or happens next? Please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I'll add five hundred words each week.
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