Here’s one of the two co-winner’s of last week’s Flash Fiction contest (https://pulpcity.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/flash-fiction-writing-prompt/)…
I started to shovel my neighbors’ driveways in the predawn morning in order to get a boyfriend. Ten houses on a suburban street may not sound like much, but when you’re working on a schedule that demands a lack of free time, this can be major. School has never gone away no matter how hard everyone wished it to. Sleep was one of those minimum things where you needed at least eight hours. I was chewing up my sleep for shoveling driveways of people I never even talked to. I saw them sometimes because hey, we live across from one another in this white picket fenced neighborhood. The years of age difference between us always kept us apart, I don’t know why.
I saw them a few times shoveling the mountainous snow piles that accumulated this year each time it snowed. They would be out there, backs bent, breath fogging the air, and mittens slipping along the pole of the shovel. One day at three am, I stepped outside in the subzero weather and started to shovel my driveway. The snow had fallen that evening and it was heavy. There was mindlessness to it. It was like a drug to me. You see, I had been obsessing over this one boy at school and it was going badly. I was shy. I talked only to answer crucial questions. I laughed, but only very lightly—more air than voice. My shoulders were hunched as I walked eyes downcast. And of course, like an idiot, I had fallen for this cute guy in my class. I stared at him a lot.
I tried talking to him once, but all I said was, “Um… doyouwanttogooutwithme?”
He looked at me and inquired, “Huh?”
I repeated, strangely braver now, “Do you want to go out with me?”
He nodded and said, “Okay.”
Oh yeah, miracles happen. Then, after that I started to avoid him. I wouldn’t look at him in my class. He would approach me and I’d back away. He would look at me, and then I’d suddenly find a speck on the wall to observe. I had already memorized his schedule so I knew which corridors to avoid so we wouldn’t accidentally walk into each other. When I got home at night, I’d lie in my bed and just stare at the ceiling. Was I a moron? Why is this so hard? Why can’t I be more outgoing? I like him, so why can’t I speak? Why am I like this?
And worse, this amazing handsome, smart, funny, and kind boy had gotten the message. He glared at me. He ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ knocked into my shoulders when we found our seats for class. He hated me for putting too much on his plate.
So a few days later after staring at my empty ceiling, it snowed. I got my shovel and started to hack away my family’s driveway. I brought the thing down like a sword and hashed away the snow and ice. I threw it miles to our white lawn. My breath was the only thing I listened to, both outside and mental. I did this over and over again until my fingers went numb and blood spouted at the edges of my fingernails. But it wasn’t enough. I looked around, wanting more, needing more. There, across the street was another spotless bed of perfection. I strode across the empty road and started to hack away.
My neighbors spilt the blinds with two fingers and squinted out into the night. The plastic shovel grating against frozen cement was a kind of scary sound I guess, so it made sense. I ignored their stares. I took no breaks. After an hour I moved on to the next driveway, and the next. Dawn rose and I lay on the ground of some random neighbor’s yard. I was in the first stage of making a snow angel—where you just fall down with your arms and leg wide. In this case, I was just cooling off. I lost my jacket somewhere along the way. Sweat seeped through my shirt. My arms were made of lead. Heavy breaths coated the air in front of my face to the point where I was personally warming up the earth.
A door opened. I raised my head to look. An elderly woman who I only knew by her first name came out. She had a breakfast tray in her hands, complete with bagels and toast.
“You hungry, dear?” she asked. I didn’t answer. I stood up and looked at my feet. I was feeling nervous with her looking at me like that. She looked happy that I had done this nice gesture for her. Yet, it was my own need that drove me. I hadn’t been thinking about doing anyone a service at all. It was just me.
“To thank you, I’ve made this for you,” she continued.
My shyness and inner shame overtook me. “I’m…um…not hungry…” and I walked away, I walked down the street with heavy feet. It was just about the time where I would normally get up and get ready for school.
School…and that boy…
Suddenly, I started to cry. I walked home howling and screaming and wailing. I didn’t cover my face with my hands, my arms were so dead. Overwhelming disappointment overtook me. It was just disappointment, that’s it. I thought that by doing this, I could be stronger—that this would make me stronger. If I was like that, then maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid to fall in love. Maybe I could be at a level where it wouldn’t matter if I rook a risk because then I would be strong enough to handle it. I…I want to love somebody. I want them to love me too, but I also want to feel that happiness inside me just once. I wanted to smash away the wall the separated us with my snow shovel. Of course, I only was able to hack away the snow that covered it. You can’t break apart a concrete wall with flimsy plastic.