Micro Fiction: Vol. 1 June 2009 Entry #1

Starting today, Morning will begin a new, five-day-a-week publishing regimen of micro fiction during the month of June. Each story will run between 300 to 650 words and all ideas will be taken from two randomly generated words or phrases. Works must be written in under 30 minutes. Honor system, guys.
I fully expect most of the material produced by this experiment to be nonsensical, but who knows ... we could stumble on a gem.

Want to contribute? E-mail me.

06/08/09 - TWO RANDOM TERMS: Horse/Navy Pier (Chicago)

Before departing the Pier for her apartment in the South end, Nadine always stopped for fried dough.

One serving with two spoonfuls of sugar. Hold the sauce.

It'd been her weekday lunch for the past five years.

Nadine would be the first to admit the fried dough regimen wasn't going to make any dietary advice books, but what did she care? She drove a horse for a living — it’s not like she was on television.

Besides, Grant, proprietor of the old fried dough stand, seemed to like having her around.

And he absolutely loved Clarence.

Nadine had purchased Clarence 20 years ago from a farm in her native North Dakota. She’d shipped the cream-colored Clydesdale to Chicago in 1993 and had been giving horse-drawn tours ever since.

Over the years, the Navy Pier had changed a lot.

Restaurants came and went. Kitsch stores hawking model skyscrapers and “I Saw Oprah” T-shirts opened and closed at a nearly monthly rate.

One by one, the mom-and-pop business of the 60s and 70s shuttered their doors — selling their valuable real estate to young investors hoping to score the next big restaurant deal.

But all the changes didn't stop Clarence and Nadine.

The popular pair continued to be a hot attraction among the tourists, who enjoyed Nadine’s insights on the Chicago's history and the relaxing clomp-clomp of Clarence’s hooves.

Lately, Nadine always ended her tours with the same line.

"Finally, ladies and gentlemen, on your left ... you’ll see Grant McCormick, proprietor of the Navy Pier's only authentic homemade fried dough stand. I myself have been a steady customer for more than 15 years. Why not try a slice of Chicago's history?"

Usually Grant would look up and offer a casual wave before directing his attention back to his modest stand, but increasingly there were never any customers in the queue as Nadine and Clarence made their final turn into the pier and Nadine uttered her two-second pitch.

"I tell ya, Nadine,” Grant said, “you two are the only thing keeping me afloat.

“Twenty years back there was none of this chain crap down here. Used to be just good old cookin'. You’d come to the Navy Pier to get a Chicago-style pizza, not some shitty Thai dish ...

“I swear though, if you didn’t have Clarence and your tours, I dunno what I would do. These new places all have music, cheap menus and booze for Christ sakes. And whadda I got? This dumpy little stand with its 20-year-old heating unit and crappy yellow umbrella. That’s what. Hmmph.”

One time, after working up some courage, Nadine blurted out the obvious question.

“Well if you hate it so much, why keep coming down here after all these years?”

Grant paused and stifled a short laugh.

“Look, kid, if you’re expecting some grandiose bit of wisdom … I don’t got it. I work because I have to. Why do you?”

Nadine didn’t have an answer for that.

She preferred the farms of North Dakota to the congestion and noise of the city. She made decent money giving tours, but could have found work elsewhere.

“I guess guiding Clarence was all I ever felt right about doing,” she thoughtfully responded. “If he were to go away, I’d be lost. I’d lose my purpose. There’d be nothing keeping me here anymore … I’d leave.”

A flash of something flickered across Grant's eyes. His old face broke into an unreadable smile.

Chuckling, the old vendor reached into the stand and pulled out a hot slice of fried dough.

Two spoonfuls of sugar. And no sauce.

"Here you go, kid. No charge."

Nadine never had a better tasting lunch.

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