Early That Morning (My 3-Word Challenge Story)

Sit back and relax while I tell you a story. A story in response to the Bonnywood Manor 3-Word Challenge. Bonnywood Manor is the Blog of Brian Lageose. It is witty and well written. I admire his sense of humour and vocabulary. It usually makes me laugh and envious of his talent. Check out Brian’s stuff here.

For this challenge, Brian tossed out three unique-to-each-participant words that he hoped we could relate to because he reads our blogs; then we use them in a short story. My three words were: piano, clandestine and haphazardly. I told you he reads our blogs. Here is my story:

Early That Morning

Ralph slipped the bottle of cough syrup into his pocket and stepped into the hallway of the home. It wasn’t one of those fancy private old folks homes. This one was low budget and just barely met licensing standards. It smelled like sweat and piss and wayward old men. It smelled just like the parking lot of Ralph’s old bar. No wonder he liked living in the place. That and the fact that there were few rules. Shady Haven tended to be more shady than haven. 

At the end of the hall, he opened the health-code-violating door, stepped outside and closed it behind him. These clandestine outings were routine for Ralph. It had to be thirty years since he snored through the night. Outside was still dark and quiet. Ralph headed around the side of the building in time to see a dog, the biggest dog he had ever seen, cross the street with what looked like a mannequin’s leg in its mouth. It had to be from a mannequin. Couldn’t possibly be real–there was no blood. Effing big dog though. Effing long leg too. Very strange.

Ralph took his usual route down Main Street and past McDonalds. Some fifteen years ago the beautification committee, taking their name way too seriously, decided to tear down the building that once housed his bar, dig up the parking lot and put in a park. Goddam waste of good real estate as far as Ralph was concerned. Still he turned into the tiny green space and sat in the closest of the two benches that were positioned kitty-corner across the park from each other.    

In the middle of the park was an old piano covered in painted flowers and vines that appeared to move under Ralph’s gaze. So damn soggy it’s growing, thought Ralph. He couldn’t remember seeing it before, but any piano left outside in this area was subject to the tortures of rain and fog. It made him think of the old piano in the bar. The live bands. The booze. The parties. The women. He had a good run. No regrets. Not really. He repressed a sob. No he didn’t, Ralph wouldn’t sob. It must have been phlegm. He started hacking and coughing like a preteen smoking his first cigarette. He grabbed the cough syrup, unscrewed the cap and tipped it between his teeth.  

The darkness started retreating to the shadows, and Ralph scanned the park as colours brightened and things came to life. A red squirrel dashed across the grass, bounded onto the piano bench with a single vault and barely touched down before springing up to the keyboard. It ran and jumped haphazardly up and down the keys playing notes that filled the morning air. Ralph’s arthritic knees couldn’t help themselves and bounced to the familiar beat of Bob Seger’s Old Time Roc and Roll. Upon finishing the song, the squirrel jumped down and ran around the piano three times before racing off to a nearby maple tree. 

Hoping for an encore, Ralph watched the squirrel running through the branches then turned his face towards the rising sun. He could feel the morning’s warmth on his legs and now it spread over his forehead and cheeks. He closed his eyes and let it settle on his lids.

When Ralph opened his eyes, there was something large and pink looking at him from across the park. It started moving towards him. Ralph squinted and shook his head hoping to clear the fog from his brain. What the hell? He squinted some more and shaded his eyes with his hand to cut the morning glare. It moved towards him with intention, and he noticed it had a horn. Or was it a trunk? No it was a horn. Three of them in fact. It winked at him. At that moment Ralph realized he was looking at a she. She swayed and sashayed until she was barely twenty feet away. Her large eyelash fluttered once again. 

“OK that’s it,” Ralph said. His voice raspy and rarely used. “Something is definitely off here. Dinosaurs are extinct.” He pulled the cough syrup from his pocket, thinking he’d check it for side effects. The bottle was unusually large for cough syrup, and it was completely empty. There was no label or instructions on the back. Taped to the front was a small white card with purple calligraphy that said: To Alice, From The Rabbit. There was a flicker of a memory. A day trip with a blonde named Alice. A party of some sort with fancy little cups and odd guests. Ralph shrugged his shoulders and placed the bottle next to him on the bench. He tightened the belt of his housecoat by tugging the loose ends then sat there glaring at the pink triceratops that continued to flirt with him.

Thank you for reading. And thanks Brian for an opportunity to do something totally different.

Photo: Will Paterson, Unsplash

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14 thoughts on “Early That Morning (My 3-Word Challenge Story)

  1. Holy cow, this was a terrific read. I knew you could do it, and I’m getting a little bit misty-eyed that my simple challenge helped contribute to this deliciousness. (Okay, maybe my eye-wateriness is a result of the vindictive pollen running amok in Spring-time Texas, as it always does, but we’ll ignore that angle for now and focus on your amazing talent as the source of my wetness.)

    Now, in times past, when I would run the fake “Cultural Arts Festival” wherein I envision celebrities introducing the stories for the latest round of entries, I would normally wing it and run with my own personal inclinations. But I feel that you have earned the right to be whimsically praised by the celeb of your choice. It can be anybody, obscure or prevalent, as that’s how it works at Bonnywood. Any thoughts on the matter? Or, if you’re not all that invested, I can pick one for you. Just let me know.

    Loved the story. (Still watery.)


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much. I am sending virtual tissues and Claritin to go with my real appreciation. I was happy with how well it came together and the tweaking process that followed to get it to work. Guess my brain really needed this. Much more than any-out-of-budget psychiatry. A new career option if you are so inclined. As far as the aftermath, please take it and run with it. Surprise me!

      Liked by 3 people

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