I wrote this story for the Country to Coast competition and came runner-up! It was my NYWM goal to write and submit a short story for a competition so it was even better to get a prize for it, and some really nice compliments from the judges.
The prompt for the story was: “Ben Harkin’s father died when his coronary arteries closed over while he windsurfed at Club Med Bora Bora on his honeymoon with his energetic, third and youngest wife.” — Nick Earls
The Widow in the Black Mini-Dress by Shannon McKeogh
Some girls call Kaitlyn, among many other things, a gold-digger. But the only thing gold about her is these jingly-jangly earrings she wears on special occasions. Digging really isn’t her thing either, while I was digging holes for fence posts she was at the beauty parlour getting moisturised, waxed and dyed. She wasn’t a calloused farm-girl like me.
But I can’t deny that Kaitlyn has a soft spot for what she calls “silver foxes.” And if they’re loaded? Well, Kait says that’s just the cherry on top. I’d do pretty much anything for Kait but going to the Cider-house deck on a Saturday night – the local jaunt for wrinkles, tweed and conversations of yester-year – is not my idea of a fun night out. But when your best friend becomes a mourning widow you become a genie, their wish becomes your command.
So here I am, the Cider-house, where the air is thick with a lingering stench of talcum powder, moth-balls and old spice. Roger, Kait’s husband died two months ago and it was really tragic and unexpected even if he was seventy-eight. Kait has vowed to dress in black for a year or more, just like the traditional Italian custom to signify her broken heart. Tonight she’s wearing a tight, black mini-dress which shows off her freshly sprayed-on tan.
“Do you see the hottie over there sitting with that old-bag?” Kait hissed excitedly to me.
“What? The old codger with his wife?”
“Nah I don’t think that’s his wife. He’s a babe don’t you reckon? He looks like Richard Gere.”
“Yeah maybe when Richard Gere reaches his eighties.” I looked down at my drink forlornly, “Kait this is boring. Can’t we go somewhere else?”
“You’re bored?!” Kait looked at me like she’d been slapped in the face. “Please Beck, I’m having fun for the first time in weeks. How ‘bout I buy the next round aye?” Kait fluttered her mascara eyelashes at me and won me over. There was nothing else to do in this place but get drunk or chat-up your grandpa. I opted for the first.
Kait strutted to the bar turning a few of the grey and bald men’s’ heads on the way. I chewed on my nails idly, picking off the purple nail polish in flakes.
Kait returned with a tray overloaded with drinks.
“What on earth is that?!” I pointed at the large, alien cocktail on the tray. It had multi-coloured layers of pink, and blue frothy liquid but most disturbing of all was the large banana that protruded from the goop like a crooked periscope of a submerged submarine.
“Oh this? It’s a banana-deluxe daiquiri. A guy at the bar bought it for me, isn’t that sweet of him?”
Sweet was not the word that came to mind, no.
“So what are you up to next week? I thought we could go away for a bit. I need a sea change.”
“We live next to the sea!” I laughed.
“Thanks Captain Obvious but what I mean is to get away somewhere else. Maybe even get back home to Jindera for a bit.”
“Wriggle your toes in the dust?” I waited for Kait to laugh but the joke seemed lost.
“So how ’bout it? Road-trip to the Jin?”
I groaned, “I have to work Kait. And hey – didn’t you just start back at the travel agency?”
Kait treated work more like a hobby then something to be taken seriously. I was the opposite of Kait, rather than flittering from job-to-job I was wearing the same uniform since I was fifteen. Scanning, stocking and forever asking “hello how are you?” It was comforting and boring. Supermarket work.
Kait nibbled on the banana in her drink looking far from innocent.
“Well, I don’t think the Byron Travel Agency is for me.”
“I thought you loved it there.”
“I do. I mean, I did.”
“So why the change of heart?”
“Well,” Kait sighed, “I was at work on Thursday and this old lady came in. She wanted to know all about India. All the girls were off on their lunch break so it was just lil’ blonde me left to talk to customers. I couldn’t find brochures or pamphlets on India anywhere so –“ Kait paused and took a sip of her drink.
“-So what could I do? The lady wouldn’t leave and kept insisting I tell her all about “the exotic country” and I mean I haven’t been there! So I found myself describing scene for scene that movie Slum dog Millionaire. Oh it was awful Beck! And worst thing of all was the lady patted me kindly on the arm and said, “don’t worry love I’ll just Google it.” I mean I could have thought of that! So I just don’t think I should work there. I mean I’ve only ever travelled interstate not overseas.” Kait finished gloomily.
“But didn’t you and Roger go to Fiji for your honeymoon?”
“Oh yeah, of course.” Kait smiled sadly and then suddenly burst into tears.
“Oh Katie it’s OK.”
“No it’s not!” She moaned snot and tears dripped down her perfectly made-up face.
“I miss him so much. I don’t think I’ll ever get over him. He was the love of my life.” I put my arms around Kait and hugged her as she sobbed into my shoulder.
“Hey next round’s on me.”
Kait nodded like a little child. When I returned from the bar Kait had transformed back into her old self, legs cross seductively and her makeup had been reapplied. All snot had been wiped away and a thick layer of her favourite lipstick “red sorceress” was smeared over her lips.
“Hey don’t you reckon that babe over there is the splitting image of George Clooney?”
I was on my sixth or seventh drink. I squinted blearily at the old man Kait was pointing at, “Oh yeah Kait, he’s like a clone.”