Footprints in the Hallway

The Website of C.L. Mannarino

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March Sun*

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

There is something very vulnerable about a newly risen sun, all orange and gold and pink at the edges. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky by morning, sailors take warning.” But there is no warning now, not with the edges of your grip reaching for the tops of the trees and houses, sending the fog and the low-hanging mist sparkling over grasses that look like straws, all of the color sucked out of them by the cold.

March is a difficult time, but today, at least, the sun is kind.

*I’m going to post two super short stories today because they’re both, well, super short! 🙂

A Walk on the Beach

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

They walked for a long time in silence along the beach, their hands swinging in the space between them. I watched them walk from where I sat on the highest mound of sand. They were a boy and a girl, only twelve years old, and I, her sixteen-year-old sister, was worried about her. She’d never had a boyfriend before and the kid she was walking with, his longish black hair swept over his forehead, had a squinty-eyed look about him. Maybe it was just the sun in his eyes. I don’t really know. I just saw that she kept glancing over at him, expectation in her gaze, and he never looked back, never took her hand. So their fingers continued to swing between them, alone in space.

They walked past me where I had concealed myself with a book and a wide-brimmed hat, but they never once looked up. When they finally reached the rocky cliffs on the other side of the beach, he stopped. They’d gone too far for me to see what they were saying, but I could feel that something big was about to happen. He stuck his hands in his pockets and faced her with his head bowed. She flicked her short black curls behind her ear and took hold of her elbow with the opposite hand, the toe of her sandal digging into the ground.

To give them some privacy, I turned away to stare at the sea. From where I was sitting, the roar of the surf sounded far off, a distant thing. The sky had a blinding, cloudless, shallow-pool blue about it that greatly contrasted with the glittering, blue-black surface of the waves. A line of weeds stretched across the shore and in their walk, the couple had avoided it.

Returning to them, I saw that he had something black in his hand. A cell phone. My heart dropped as I watched him play with it in front of her. The toe of her sandal stopped digging and her foot fell flat against the ground. A particularly strong gust of wind blew by and he shook the hair out of his eyes, his jaw moving as he spoke. He didn’t look up at her very often. I wondered if it was because her staring made him uncomfortable. I often felt that way myself.

He hefted the phone once, twice, offering it to her, but she didn’t take it. Putting it away, I saw his shoulders drop as he stuck his hands in his pockets again.

“Hey!” I heard a girl call from farther down the beach.

Looking to my left, I saw a blonde halo of hair jumping up and down, one arm extended in a wave as a slight girl walked towards them, moving away from a roving group of friends behind her. When I turned back to the couple, I saw him start walking away from the conversation. As he got closer to where I was sitting, my book poised in front of me in case he recognized my face, I saw him turn around a bit and call back, “I’m sorry!” before continuing to walk away.

My chest warming with sympathy for her embarrassment, I waited until she’d sat down next to me before I looked up again. To my left, he and the blonde were walking down the beach, their clasped hands swinging between them.

“He left me,” she said from my right. I turned and saw the first lines of despair starting to crawl across her face, the first of many heartbreaks to come, each of them ruining her otherwise cheerful laugh lines and making her seem older than her years. “He said he wanted to be with somebody else.”

After a second, I put my arm around her shoulders. She leaned her head against my neck and I could feel her quiet tears rolling across my sun-warmed skin. “I’m sorry,” I whispered into her hair as the brim of my hat covered both of us. “I really am.”

Prompt: They walked for a long time in silence.

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

From: writeworld


“It’s on the table.”

Everything in the house had gone quiet, so when Grandma CeeCee’s voice called out to five-year-old Shay from the room at the end of the hall, it sounded as though she was standing right beside the girl. This startled Shay for a minute and she glanced back over her shoulder to see if the old woman, who smelled like mothballs and mint gum, had followed her. Grandma CeeCee sat in her big red chair most of the time, calling to Shay’s mother in a loud voice about how she couldn’t get up so “could you do this for me?” But Shay had seen her hobble to her feet more than once when she wanted the jar of icky black licorice sitting on the kitchen counter.

Now she wanted the key to something called the “filing cabinet,” and Shay was the only other person in the house.

On stockinged feet, Shay wandered across the yellow kitchen floor. She could only just peek her nose over the table if she stood on her tiptoes.

Pulling out the nearest chair and climbing up onto it, Shay’s legs wobbled as she steadied herself on the stuffed vinyl seat. She could feel it deflating under her. Bending at the waist, Shay stretched her arms across the flowered tablecloth. The glaring white of the midmorning sun sparkling off the keys where they glittered in the clear glass dish in the middle of the table. Her hands fell short a few inches from the bowl. Breathing deeply, Shay stretched farther, pushing off from the seat with her toes.

She didn’t feel her feet sliding out from under her as they slipped across the vinyl. Reaching with all her strength, Shay gave one more push.

Suddenly, the chair disappeared and her body dropped to the table. The hand closest to the bowl struck the rim and the keys soared out, clipping her on the side of the head. A slight pain bloomed to life there as she heard them land on the ground with a jingle.

Pulling her arms back, she touched the spot and felt a thin line rising up where the keys had struck her. As soon as she’d noticed this, she realized that there were more spots where she hurt, too: on her belly and on the tips of her toes.

The tears came quick. They started as a low moaning in her throat, but the more she thought about the pain she was in, the more she hurt. Sitting down on the chair and holding the side of her head, Shay forgot about the keys and cried into her shirt. Fat, pearly tears rolled down her cheeks and made large splotches on the My Little Pony design.

“Shay!” Grandma CeeCee called.

Shay hadn’t heard Grandma CeeCee running down the hall until the old woman’s giant bosom engulfed her head in a bear hug that smelled like mothballs.

“What happened?” CeeCee asked. “What’d you do, darling?”

“Fell,” Shay muttered into her t-shirt, her head somewhat stuck under CeeCee’s chest and arm.

“You did what, now?”

Shay sat up some more. “I fell! I hit the table and—and the chair and—and I dropped the keys—and—“

“Oh, you’re fine, sweetie,” CeeCee said with a laugh, rubbing Shay’s tiny back. The girl was so small that CeeCee’s whole hand could span the width of it. “And here, look,” her grandmother said, picking up the keys from the floor. She rattled them between her fingers. “You got what I asked for!”

CeeCee paused for a second. Shay sniffled a bit, pushing her thin hair out of her eyes and running her hands across her wet cheeks. She felt her grandmother’s hand leave her back and saw it reach over the table for a napkin. The rough paper scratched Shay’s soft skin, but her grandmother’s hand was gentle as it ran over the small cut on the side of Shay’s face.

“Just a scratch, nothing serious. You had me worried, you little goon! I thought something horrible had happened to you. I heard you all the way down the hall,” CeeCee said. She kissed the top of Shay’s head with a loud, wet smack of her lips and helped her granddaughter off the seat. “Now, c’mon with me. We’re going to open us up some filing cabinets and get you some nice red licorice as a treat.”

Shay walked back to the living room holding her grandmother’s hand. When CeeCee pulled the plastic jar of treats down from the shelf by the mantle, she smiled, all of her minor hurts gone.

Shay really liked red licorice.


Prompt: It’s on the table.

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

From: writeworld

As usual, the pictures aren’t mine unless otherwise stated. 🙂


Pinky Swear

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

Shay sat on the front porch of the duplex, swatting mosquitos from her arms and listening to the end of the baseball game where the boys—Clare’s dad, her brother Buzz, and Steve from next door—were listening to it in the living room. A low moon hung in the sky, basking in the sun’s fading pink light. Down the road, a few cars drove past, their tires hissing along the gravel. When the sound had passed, she stood up and carried her empty lemonade glass to the screen door.


Shay turned at the sound of a young voice. Her goddaughter, Morgan, twelve and pink-faced with the day’s humidity, ran up the lane. Her white sundress billowed out around her waist and bare legs in the slight wind. She kept looking over her shoulder.

“Are you leaving?” the girl asked as she thumped up the stairs, pushing tendrils of brown hair away from her sticky face.

Shay nodded pointing her glass at the living room window. “I told my father I’d be out of here just after dark. He thinks I won’t be able to drive to Franklin in the dark.”

Morgan blinked at her, confused. “But that’s only two hours away.”

Shay nodded again. “And it’s all highway, but you’ve met my old man,” she said with a small laugh. “He’s getting senile in his old age. He can’t find his way down the hall in the dark unless we leave a nightlight on for him.”

Morgan grimaced and looked at her feet. Shay could see the small bulge of her budding breasts through the dress’s top and it struck her how, even at Morgan’s tender age, she managed to continue grasping at a childlike innocence. Part of her thought it was sweet—the longer they stay young, the better—but a bigger part of her worried. She and Clare, Morgan’s mother, both hoped that Morgan’s innocence wouldn’t leave her vulnerable to the boys’ advances.

“I wish you would stay,” Morgan said to her toes. “Your visits here never last long.”

Only then did Shay realize that her goddaughter’s feet were bare. She bent down a little and put a hand on Morgan’s shoulder. Shay could already feel her hand beginning to stick to the girl’s sweaty skin. “Has that ever kept me away?” she asked.

The corner of Morgan’s mouth quirked in a smile. “No.”

Shay straightened up and pulled Morgan into a hug. As the sounds of a cheering crowd crested on the TV, she pulled away again and waved the girl inside the house. “I’ll be back in two mornings. I promise.”

Morgan stuck out her pinky finger and Shay wrapped it with hers, where they held it for a second. A dimple formed in Morgan’s cheek as she smiled. “Okay.”

A moment later, the pinkies were dropped and Morgan was hopping back into the house, the screen door slamming behind her. Picking up her purse, Shay started down the porch stairs.

“Where are your shoes?” she heard Clare ask her daughter, her voice echoing in the foyer.**

Prompt: Where are your shoes?

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

From: writeworld

**I apologize for the roughness of this story. It’s completely unedited and it’s not much of a story because I wrote it in a rush, but I wanted something semi-love-related for the upcoming Hallmark holiday. As usual, the picture isn’t mine.

Enjoy! 🙂

Short Story: You’d Like to Know

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

“I feel so dirty.” Clare hid her face in her hands, closing her eyes as another wave of nausea passed through her. A hand rubbed her back and the couch creaked as her friend, Shay, leaned closer. Clare could feel her friend laughing a little. There was uncertainty in the sound.

“It’s just being pregnant,” Shay said in a low voice. “It’s not the end of the world—“

“I don’t even like him that way!” Clare said, lifting her head. She watched as Shay’s wide eyes and tense smile froze under her scrutiny. Another wave a nausea rolled through her stomach and Clare rested her chest on her thighs, staring at her chipped pink toenail polish. “And it’s not just being pregnant. It’s never just being pregnant. There’s so much more involved than that. You can’t just be pregnant.”

Silence fell between them. Then, “Does he know?”

Clare felt something trigger in the back of her head and then the tip of her nose began to sting. She dropped her arms to hang beside her legs. As she traced the edges of her feet with her fingertips, she snuck a glance into the next room. Her roommate Jason’s dark head hovered above the top of his chair, profiled in the light of the computer. Beside her, she could feel Shay sit back.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“What the hell am I supposed to tell him?” Clare hissed in a low voice, sitting up in her seat. Shay’s honey-colored hair seemed to glow in the mid morning light, haloing her head, and for some reason, this angered Clare even more. Her face, already pinched with frustration, darkened even more as she mimicked the conversation. “‘Oh, hey, Jason, guess what? I missed my friggin’ period for the second time in two months, so I took a pregnancy test and guess what? It came out positive. How could this happen? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was that one time we both got smashed talking about our exes and wound up fucking in the bathroom!’”

Clare felt the prickle in her nose travel to her eyes and she pressed the heels of her palms to her forehead, breathing through her mouth. Her hands shook. “We were old enough to know better. We were old enough to know not to mess around like this…”

“You wouldn’t know that if you were drunk—“

“When you’re twenty-seven you do,” Clare said too loudly. She froze, lowering her hands from her head, and both girls looked towards the other room. The only movement he made was to tap his foot against the leg of his desk.

Shay took her hand from Clare’s back and folded both of them in her lap. For a moment, the only sounds they could hear were the clicking of a computer mouse and the low rumbles of Jason’s giggling. They grated on Clare’s nerves and she curled her fingers, digging her nails into the soft skin of her palms and stretching her arms out in front of her. She took a deep breath and then relaxed her whole body with a sigh.

“You think I should tell him,” she whispered.

“Yes,” Shay said. Clare could feel her friend staring at her shoulder, something they did so that the other didn’t feel pressured to meet someone’s gaze.

“I don’t even know if I’m keeping it.”

She saw Shay shaking her head from the corner of her eye. “I still think he deserves to know. He’s not a bad guy, and he’s as much a part of this as you are. And I think that if you were in his place, you’d want to know, too.”

Clare stared at the floor for a moment before it hit her that Shay’s right, I really would like to know, if I were him. She nodded and took another deep breath. On her exhale, she pushed herself up from the couch with both hands and walked into the next room. Her fists were clenched at her sides. “Jason?” she said.

Shay saw Clare’s roommate glance up from his computer, swiveling around in his chair. “What’s up?” she heard him ask as Clare closed the door behind her.

Prompt: I feel so dirty.

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

From writeworld.

Photo credit: Jackie Sullivan

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