Flash Fiction: Please Don’t Feed the Ducks (713 words)

Becca slid the book across the table like contraband, smiling like she was sitting on the best end of the deal. Sadie accepted it with all the trepidation and curiosity of a kid who was about to find out if vodka really burned the way people said. Walking through the front door, Dana knew that something was going down.

“What’s that?” she asked. She walked into the living room, setting her bag in the corner and peeling out of her jacket.

“It’s just a book,” Becca said.

Dana pinned her with a dry look, just to point out how unhelpful that was. Then she tilted her head to examine the cover. It was populated with half a dozen young, attractive people, all staring moodily off the edge of the book. Three different breezes played havoc with their hair. The title was partly obscured under Sadie’s thumb, but it looked something like The Noise of the Waiting Crowd.

“What’s it about?” Dana asked.

“It’s a love story,” Sadie said, turning the book over to read the back. Dana wasn’t sure whether she sounded amused or terrified.

“It is,” Becca said quickly. She held up one hand to keep Dana from saying anything before she finished. “But it’s one of the most amazing love stories I’ve ever read. It’s not just girl meets boy. It’s a whole knot of relationships and friendship and heart.”

“Oh, no,” Dana murmured.

“It’s amazing,” Becca repeated. “So intricate. Just the depths that it goes into emotion and why we feel the way we do, and how much we risk just in loving a friend, let alone someone more than that. And it’s so…” She laughed as she ran out of words.

“No.” Dana shook her head and plucked the book out of Sadie’s hands.

Sadie looked surprised. Becca looked offended.

“I swear, she’ll love it!” Becca said.

Dana ignored her and looked straight at Sadie’s wide eyes. “Think back. Michelle’s Shoreline?”

Sadie’s expression straightened. Her mouth flattened into a sharp straight line and her eyes narrowed. “We agreed not to talk about that,” she said.

Dana raised her eyebrows, held up the new book questioningly, then shoved it back toward Becca.

“What’s Michelle’s Shoreline?” Becca asked without touching it.

“An evil book,” Dana said, looking at her, but it was a prompt for Sadie, who almost growled out her response.

“So evil,” Sadie said. “There were these six kids, and they were all stupid, but you didn’t notice it at first, because they had the smartest dialogue. But there was Michelle and Joey and they were in love with each other, except they couldn’t read clocks, or something, so they could never get their timing right to get together. So, Michelle started dating Nathan and Joey started dating Edie, and I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to root for those pairs, or if I was supposed to yell at Michelle and Joey to get together.

“And then Percy and Annie were dating, but they broke up because he was always wearing a tie and she was always getting drunk, and those… didn’t match? I don’t know. But he said he wasn’t sure if he loved her, and I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not.

“And Jane got a crush on her professor, which was just not cool.

“And Jason was chasing this random awesome girl who for some mysterious reason couldn’t date anybody, but I was pretty sure they were supposed to get together, but they were really busy being mysterious, and I couldn’t figure anything out. Some much stupid, but it was weird stupid and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it!”

Sadie stopped for a breath.

Becca looked up at Dana hesitantly, then back to Sadie. “Did you finish it?”

“Yeah, but in the middle, I couldn’t figure it out, because I couldn’t figure out whether I was following a straight line or squiggly line, or who was supposed to be where, or what to yell at them. And Jane kept being really stupid!”

Becca looked at Dana again, worried about how long this would continue.

“She did this every morning for a week,” Dana told her carefully. She held the book out to Becca again. “You shouldn’t give her love stories.”

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