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Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by ChrisA, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. ChrisA Guest

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    A Free Newspaper

    A squat man sitting at a small display table removed a fresh copy of the C______ Tribune from a stack of newspapers, and began scratching out the ISBN code with a pen. His oily, crumpled face revealed the wearied look of a person who has drifted his whole life from one odd job to the next. A brand-new baseball hat was pulled down tightly over his thick forehead. Bright, shiny pins were stuck on the front that said “Love Jesus” and “DA’ Bears”. Hidden underneath the stiff bill was a pair of beady eyes.

    “At two dollars and twenty five cents per week, you’re saving 53 percent off the newsstand price. Now in addition to those savings, I’ll give you another 10 percent off . . .”

    He ignored me and continued on with his sales pitch, “I’ll even let you pick out one of these brand-new Bears hats . . . Or, if you buy the two year-subscription, you get an even better deal. That’s two free hats, one Bears calendar, and you’re saving 70 percent off the newsstand price.”

    The Bears had recently lost the Superbowl, which seemed to cast a shadow over the display table.

    “Basically,” he said, taking a different strategy, “The reason why you’re getting such a good deal here is—the Trib ain’t doing so well. In order to boost sales they’re practically handing them out. You’re not going to find an offer like this any time soon—”

    “No thank you,” I cut in. “But I will take that free newspaper.”

    He gripped the newspaper in his greasy hand. Suddenly, his face turned bright red and he glanced at me as if I had stolen something from him. I recalled how innocent those two words had sounded initially. I remembered thinking, “Now I’ll have something to read in the morning when I drink my coffee.”

    The newspaper was sort of sticking up in the air—I grabbed it out of his hand.

    “Hey, what d’you think you’re doing?”

    “I’m taking my ‘free newspaper’. Remember? You said it was ‘free’.”

    “It doesn’t work that way, buddy. You got to buy the one year subscription first.”

    “What are you talking about? Then it’s not ‘free’.”

    “Buy the subscription and you get today’s paper free.”

    “But that’s not what you said. You said, ‘free newspaper’. That’s false advertising.”

    I was stunned to say the least. How this oily, crumple-faced man could possibly take back a free newspaper was beyond my understanding. But he continued to gaze at me with his small, maddened eyes until finally I was persuaded to give it back. “Maybe I should tell a manager,” I thought as I walked away from the display table.

    I don’t consider myself a combative or hostile person. I rarely get angry. In fact, I have trouble understanding those who do explode with unnecessary anger. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe there are other pacifists like myself out there. But today was different. Pushing my shopping cart through the fruit and vegetable section, the thought crossed my mind, “I want to kill that man.”

    I immediately abandoned my shopping cart. When he saw me coming, the veins in his face turned purple and red. Pleasure and malice glimmered in his beady little eyes.

    “I will not accept this outcome,” I said definitively.

    “What?” He said, as if responding to an idiot.

    “I will not accept this outcome. You cannot do this to me.”

    “Do what to you?”

    “Take my free newspaper. When I walked past you the first time you said it was free. I remember exactly. I remember you said, ‘free newspaper, free newspaper’. You said it so plainly, so completely devoid of any guile or calculation. I believed you. I believed you. Only to find out you’re playing tricks on me. You’re messing with my head! How do you think that feels? To be mocked. To be ridiculed. How do you think that makes a person feel?”

    I wiped a couple tears from my eyes.

    “Here, man,” I heard him say. “Take it.”


    “The newspaper. You can have it.”

    “Really? Are you sure? Do you need a couple bucks?”

    “Naaa . . . go ahead.”

    “You sure?”

    “Yeah, I’m sure.”

    I took the newspaper from him and returned to my cart. My cart was standing next to the fresh tomatoes. It looked lonely, without me . . . I wondered if anyone had taken anything while I was gone. I looked inside the cart. I looked very carefully. Then I counted the items just to make sure: two apples, a pear, four bananas, one package of blueberries, some walnuts . . .



    Posted By ChrisA | Feb 15, 2007

  2. Artistic

    PaintedDiary JPiC Mentor

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    Dear Chris,

    This was a very interesting story. Very real life, and that dang newspaper! I could actually see this playing out. Very down to Earth, and could relate. I actually envisioned a smooth pastel painting that would work well with this story. Great job, and I loved reading this. Has many components, as humor, caring, real life, raw emotion, as etc. and blended very well.


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