Serendipity by Duane Allicock

Dana’s paroxysm of scandalous laughter caused Peter to stop staring at his raggedy sneakers and sneak a glance at her face.

“Hold on,” she chortled “Hold on,” bent over at the waist trying to catch her breath.

The bright mid-afternoon sun produced a halo around the curls of her voluminous afro, which had fallen forward and danced with each spasm. She finally met his gaze, tears streaming down her sun kissed face. Peter’s own face burned with embarrassment. Even in her ridicule of him, he thought, she could not have looked any more gorgeous.

“Did I hear you right? You want, what?!” she asked incredulously.

“To, um, take you, um, out?” he repeated and flinched in anticipation of the second wave of derision.

She wiped her eyes with delicate and slender fingers as her composure returned, fingers which had playfully poked Peter for the duration of them being paired for their group project. The very one that had granted him the chance to become close to her during the last six weeks of the semester. Allowed them to chat and share easily about their lives and where they’d come from, over espressos and chai tea.

Her, a middle class family on a small island in the Caribbean, where she’d grudgingly become skilled enough playing piano to get a scholarship. He, a small, depressed mining town in Minnesota, where he’d had no extra-curricular activities. The blossoming, something, inspired enough bravery that decided to test his deceased father’s advice, “All you need to do Petey, is ask. You can only get two answers, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.”

What the old man neglected to mention, is that a ‘No’ is never as just no. It could also be accompanied by public humiliation.

As she looked at him, Peter saw the residual snicker give way to pity, before settling on calculated indifference.

“Petey, darling,” she sighed, “I don’t know what you thought this was,” she explained, talking with her hands, “but it’s not that. Besides,” Dana added and gestured at him in his faded hand-me-downs, “What would my friends think?” then picked up her things and left him standing in the half empty café.

Peter didn’t chase her, but instead with his head low, exited and trudged to the bus stop. The number two express was on time and still had seats. He occasionally stared at his reflection and tried to banish the ache he felt and curb his penchant for nostalgia, even as a memory flashed in his mind.

He disembarked and entered the small yard of the house that held his rented room. He’d barely latched the gate and walked a few steps, before a black blur of muscle tackled him to the ground.

“Okay Shadow, Okay,” Peter chuckled in greeting as his adopted pet pitbull licked and slobbered his face, “Yes boy, I’m happy to see you too.”

As he raised himself to his feet and dusted his clothes, he smiled as he remembered another favorite saying of his old man, “All we need is love.”

  • : Romance
  • : None

Comments

  1. Amrita Sarkar

    Hi Duane,
    For me, that was a really touching story! Also, a love story, since one-sided love too is love nonetheless. What I really like about your stories is the way you bring out the emotions in your characters, and make the readers relate to them. I love your descriptions because they literally paint the story before my eyes. I especially loved these lines, “The bright mid-afternoon sun produced a halo around the curls of her voluminous afro, which had fallen forward and danced with each spasm. She finally met his gaze, tears streaming down her sun kissed face. Peter’s own face burned with embarrassment. Even in her ridicule of him, he thought, she could not have looked any more gorgeous.” As I read, I could picture Dana’s face, her derisive laughter and at the same time, my heart went out to Peter. Unrequited love is something people experience once in their life for sure. It destroys some to an extent when there is no chance left for redemption. But I was glad to see that Peter did not go down that route and moved on. Great writing! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Duane Post author

      Dear Amrita, thank you for taking the time to read my story. I’m glad to know that you connected with it. In a lot of ways, I think that experiencing unrequited love helps a person appreciate the genuine article when it arrives. And it rarely gets more genuine than the love of a dog. ^_^ Twas a pleasure to share.

  2. maria delaney

    Hi Duane,

    This story is adorable and brings back memories of yesterday.

    I adored this line because the way you worded it worked for me to see visualize Dana crystal clear:
    “Petey, darling,” she sighed, “I don’t know what you thought this was,” she explained, talking with her hands, “but it’s not that.

    You want to watch for stumbles that have you saying the same thing over. For instance.
    As he raised himself to his feet and dusted his clothes, he smiled as he remembered another favorite saying of his old man, “All we need is love.”

    This ending is choppy. “As” is in the paragraph too many times. You could start the sentence with He.
    He raised himself to his feet, dusted himself off and smiled remembering another favorite from his old man., “All we need is love”.

    The ending is perfect for a 500 word piece. The story touches the soul.
    I enjoyed your piece,
    Maria

    1. Duane Post author

      Hi Maria, I glad to know my story moved you enough to read and leave a comment. You do have me dead to rights on the issues noted about the wording of the final paragraph. Have no excuses, except to say I will aim for a little extra proofing and editing next time around. All said, it warms my heart to know it touched your soul. Cheers.

  3. Tapan Mozumdar

    “The bright mid-afternoon sun produced a halo around the curls of her voluminous afro, which had fallen forward and danced with each spasm.” I adore good language skills and your writing made me so pleased due to sheer display of literary brilliance. The story is quintessential. Happens all the time, across all the culture. You have touched a raw, universal chord. Well done! The ending being good, I was relieved. 🙂

    1. Duane Post author

      Dear Tapan, you’re too kind and thank you for gracing me with the time to read my story and the compliments. On the ending, I admit that while I’ve written my fair share of submissions with morbid climaxes, when the happy endings arrive organically, I enjoy them as much as the reader. Again, the feedback is appreciated. ^_^

  4. KB

    This was really awesome. Your descriptions of her are really great and she stands out very vividly, even as Peter fades into the background of his own narrative. That’s a pretty neat technique. I also really love Peter as a character, it was a huge relief when he just went home, a bit disappointed and loved on his dog instead of doing anything weird and toxic. It was a breath of fresh air.
    I have two tiny nitpicks. As much as I love your word choice in paroxysms it sent me diving for the dictionary before immersing myself in your fantastic prose. I also think the He/She paragraph should have colons instead of commas.
    Nit-picks aside, this was 100% enjoyable.

    1. Duane Post author

      Hey KB, thanks for taking the time to read my entry. On the matter of that second word in my story, I suppose I have too many years of academic writing to thank for throwing around $10 words when a humbler one would suffice. ~_~ Will definitely reach for my thesaurus the next time I’m editing to ensure I don’t take a reader out of the story even before they’ve gotten into it.

      The recommendation about replacing the punctuation in the paragraph you mentioned could also be considered. All the same, the constructive criticism is most welcomed. Thank you.

  5. Tassilo von Droste

    Hi Duane, this was a very enjoyable read, with great descriptions which help to visualise the characters . You have great vocabulary and imagination. Only thing is that at times I think the descriptions are almost too detailed and slow down the pace of your story. Besides this thumbs up from me.

    1. Duane Post author

      Hey Tassilo, greatly appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my submission this month. Will admit that sometimes one can get a bit carried away in painting a picture for the reader, but would hate for that to make the experience halting or distracting. Shall work on getting to place where things are more balanced. Again, thanks for the constructive criticism. Cheers.

  6. Michael

    Excellent writing skills there – those descriptions are scrumptious. 😉 This was great, and damn near perfect for a 500 word story. This was a really sad line for me, “Even in her ridicule of him, he thought, she could not have looked any more gorgeous.” Great work on this – I felt a range of emotions: guarded curiosity, embarrassed, sad, then kind of happy – kind of. A least Shadow will always love him.

    1. Duane Post author

      Hi Michael, I agree with you that having the dog in his life did make a sour day end on an positive note. Remain grateful knowing that you and the others who’ve read my story were touched by it. Thanks for the comment and review. Much obliged.

  7. Irene

    A wonderful story. As a woman, it helped me understand the difficulties for men ( especially of my generation ). Also as a person well aware of the role a loving pet can make in one’s life ( I am eighty-two and a widow ) the ending is letter perfect.

    1. Duane Post author

      Dear Irene, you touched me with this response. The range of persons who’ve reacted to my story so far highlights the reality that finding someone to love is a universal challenge we all face. Glad to provide a little perspective and thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  8. Sue Maynes

    I really enjoyed the descriptive sentences, they conveyed the scene and the emotions very vividly. While the story had its cutting moments, the overall emotion left with the reader was not sadness, but almost relief. Both characters were well fleshed out, although the last couple of paragraphs felt a touch rushed after all the detail of the previous ones. It felt like you were running out of enough words to finish and Peter was left a touch insubstantial.

  9. Jan

    Hi Duane,

    I think Peter deserves better and hopefully will meet someone who would appreciate his sincere heart.
    Again I have to compliment you on your use of language – both vocabulary and description – reading you is like having fine wine in beautiful company 🙂

    Thank you for sharing and well done!

  10. Sharon Hancock

    You did a nice job of defining your characters. Very descriptive. I felt sometimes you used vocabulary that wasn’t necessary. Paroxysm of scandalous ,incredulously, and wave of derision didn’t add to the story in my opinion. Thanks for sharing. I am sure many of us an relate to that type of situation.

  11. Seyi

    Hi again Duane. You knocked it out of the park again. Not sure I should thank you for this story, it took me back to a couple of very similar scenes 😀 Seriously, I really liked the conversation and your descriptions. They worked together to pull the reader in from the beginning and did not let go. However, I did find myself returning to the sentence where you described Dana’s face as “sun-kissed”. Perhaps because I seen this a few times before, I wonder if you need it in the sentence? May be personal to me so do feel free to ignore this. Does not detract from an awesome story, very well told. Regards, Seyi