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The Loyalty Card - Flash Fiction - Feb 2024


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Flash Fiction First Friday is an effort to publish something small and fun on the First Friday of every month. The goal is simply to write more and to share more, and not get completely bogged down in huge projects. These pieces can spawn from writing exercises, prompts, or just freewriting. I'd love to see your flash fictions pieces if you participate, too! Either use the tag #flashfictionfirstfriday or comment below with a link to your blog. 


 

This short started with a writing prompt from Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction, Chapter 10.


Write a scene placing two characters in this fundamental conflict: one wants something that the other does not want to give. Let the conflict escalate. Who uses what tactics to get their way? Who wins?

The Loyalty Card


 It had been a long day. After an hour-long phone call with a client that hadn’t resulted in any meaningful progress, and a meeting that ran over time, Erin had already had enough. But then Karen, her cubemate, had decided that today would be a great day to start her quarterly review. It had been due a week ago, but it didn’t seem like anyone cared about deadlines in this office. Karen had needed Erin’s input on every single response. She needed references, she needed information from Erin’s meticulously maintained calendar, she needed help finding documentation that she should have been using regularly and what does this mean for the monthly reports if she’s not using the documentation?

When Erin’s watch gave a meager beep as it struck four p.m., she swept all of her things off her desk and into her tote bag. She gave a quick goodbye, said something about an appointment, and was out the door before Karen could ask another question.

She just needed to grab some quick dinner, go home, and stare at a TV screen for a bit. She needed to not talk to anyone for the rest of the day.

She decided to swing by the gas station that was on her way home. They had a limited selection of hot food for those nights when ease trumped quality. This was solidly one of those nights.

The gas station parking lot was crowded. Erin had to park along the side of the building. It was probably employee parking, but she wasn’t about to circle around for a fourth time to try to luck into a spot. This was good enough.

Inside was worse. The place was already pretty cramped from all of the product displays that took up most of the floor space, but it was nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with all the people trying to do exactly the same that Erin was doing.

The warming lamps shone down on plastic cartons of fried chicken pieces like they were artifacts in an Indiana Jones movie. It was like being at a concert, squeezing past so many people to make her way through the shop. But eventually, she had her dinner and a soda in hand and made her way to the long line for the registers.

It was fine. As long as no one talked to her, she’d be ok. She put on her best Resting Bitch Face and stared resolutely at the brown tiled floor.

So close. She was next now. Almost done with humanity for the evening.

Finally, up at the register, she placed her meal on the counter.

“Hi, are you a rewards member?” the cashier asked, scanning the items.

“No.”

“Aw come on, I see you in here all the time! Don’t you have a rewards card?”

“No, I don’t.” It was causing Erin physical pain to stay polite.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you use it before.”

The nosy cashier was right, truthfully. Erin did have a card. But it just didn’t matter at this point. She’d already said no. She’d just wanted to make it through this one interaction without the extra card swipe. Was that so much to ask?

“I don’t have it with me today,” Erin said. That was a lie.

“Oh, I can look you up by your email address!”

“That’s ok.”

They were just doing their job. They were being friendly. Their boss had probably told them to push the membership stuff for a promotion they were doing.

“Are you sure? It won’t take any time at all, and then you can use your points for a free coffee tomorrow!”

Erin gritted her teeth. “Just give me my chicken. Please.”

The cashier gave a nervous laugh and glanced over at someone wearing a polo and a name tag, presumably their manager.

“If you just give me your email address, I can enter in the number though.”

It would take precious seconds to spell out her whole email address. But she couldn’t admit to having the card with her after all this.

“Just give me my chicken,” Erin repeated.

Another sideways glance at the manager, then the cashier leaned forward. “Look, I’m really sorry, but we’re doing a competition thing and whoever has the most rewards transactions can get a prize.”

Erin stared at the young face but couldn’t drum up any sympathy. The stupid promotion wasn’t her problem. Why couldn’t you just go into a store and exchange goods for currency anymore? Why did it have to be this big production every time?

“I just want my chicken.”

“Please, let me look up your card. I’m so close to winning.”

Erin was going to scream. She was going to cause a scene. She was going to rage out and knock down all the candy bar displays on her way out the door. She was going to tip over the slushie machine and key the manager’s car. She was going to call the radio station during their call-in hour and take up the whole time bitching about being disrespected at the gas station. She was going to throw a drink in someone’s face. It wouldn’t even matter who.

Erin took a deep breath.

Then opened her wallet. The stupid membership card was right there, at the very top. But instead of handing it over, she threw a five-dollar bill onto the counter, took her dinner, and left without waiting for change.


 

Copyright KR Holton, 2024



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