Short Stories

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One Good Turn
By Lisa Vogt

Traffic slowed to a dead stop when we reached the top of the bridge causing my bad mood to take a turn for the worse. From here I saw the rolling gulf, bubbly surf and dazzling white sand of Clearwater Beach that I’d be missing today.

“I don’t want to stay at Grandma’s,” I said. “I’m fourteen, old enough to stay home alone.”
“After that little stunt you pulled last weekend, there’s a small thing you’re overlooking called trust,” Mom said. “You’re going to Grandma’s.”

“Ugh,” I slumped in the seat, stuffed ear buds back in, and cranked my iPod. It’s not fair. Katelyn’s the one who wanted to sneak out at midnight to meet boys, not me. We’ve been best friends since pre-school; I couldn’t let her go alone. If it hadn’t been for Princess, we would’ve gotten away with it. Thanks to that spoiled, barking Yorkie, I’m spending spring break with my dull, Bridge-playing Grandma instead of hanging out at the beach with Katelyn and her family.

Princess opened her button eyes, and lazily looked up at me before cuddling deeper into Mom’s lap. Mom cooed and scratched her scruffy head. She cares more about that darn dog than me.

Once on the island, we cruised down Gulf Boulevard past the cupcake colored gift stores, noisy arcades and tempting ice cream shops. We coasted slowly by the beach, crazy with suntanned girls in bikinis and barefoot boys sporting board shorts.

Helplessly, I watched paradise fall behind when we crossed over the channel onto Sand Key. Several miles down, Mom turned into the Sandy Shores visitor’s lot. She dumped Princess in my lap and sent us for a walk in the bushes while she buzzed Grandma’s condo from the gate.

“Mom, I don’t want to stay here,” I told her in the elevator. “Grandma smells.”
Mom sighed.

“Seriously, she smells like old sun screen,” I whined.

Grandma was waiting outside her door when we reached her floor. “Oh my goodness, Meagan, look how big you are,” she said, then poked at my hair. “Hmm, what are we calling this color?”

“Arctic Ice,” Mom answered.

Tossing my head, I flipped long bangs back over my eyes where I like them.

“Looks blue to me,” Grandma said. “I like it.”

“Hi Grandma,” I sighed then held my breath until the long hug was over.

Grandma led us into her apartment. “We’re going to have such fun.”

“See, you’ll have a great time,” Mom agreed. Princess, safe under Mom’s arm, confirmed with a smug blink.

“Yeah, right.”

Grandma’s place is a retirement condo; her balcony overlooks the pool and beach. She has the usual knick-knacks you’d expect, wicker furniture, sunset pictures and bowls of sea shells. It’s not uncomfortable, just boring.

“I have to get going.” Mom had to take Princess to the vet before going to her writer’s conference. She’d be back Sunday afternoon. At the mention of the vet, Princess’ pointy ears fell flat and the whites of her eyes flashed like bulbs.

“Ha,” I said. “At least this pen has a view.”

Mom frowned, pecked me on the cheek and left. When Grandma disappeared into the kitchen I flopped on the sofa and kicked my sandals off. After a few minutes Grandma breezed in to see if I wanted a snack. “No thanks,” I said. She ducked back behind the wall and left me wondering if she’d ever get it. I haven’t liked juice boxes or fruit roll ups since I was twelve.

“Do you have cable?” I called.

“Princess chewed through the wire last time she was here,” Grandma said. “It’s okay. I don’t watch a lot of TV.”

Figures—that little monster always gets the last word.

“How ‘bout a computer?”

“The computer club’s updating the software on my laptop. It’ll be back Monday,” she said.

“This sucks.”

After awhile, she asked if I wanted to go to the pool. I told her I forgot my suit. Truth is, last time a wrinkly old geezer in a Speedo winked at me. The experience left me scarred.

“How about a walk on the beach?” she asked. “We can collect shells.”

“Think I’ll hang here.”

“Suit yourself,” Grandma shrugged.

She went to the bathroom, returned with a bucket of water and disappeared behind the wall outside on the balcony. I spread out, tucked ear buds in and turned up my volume. Half an hour passed without Grandma checking on me. The uncharacteristic disregard made me fidgety. I wondered if she had a heart attack. Last thing I needed was another lecture on responsibility from Mom. I jumped up to go check on her and was shocked when I plucked my ear buds out and heard loud pop music playing outside.

“You’re listening to Lady Gaga?”

Grandma looked up, “Sure.” She was covered in mud, sitting legs spread, hunched over a big wheel with a wobbly ball of clay between her hands. Dirty water poured through her fingers, spilled on the turning table and dripped into a tray underneath. Music rocked from an iPod.

“What’re you doing?”

“Throwing a pot,” she leaned into the pile of goo, squeezing it tight until the lumpy mass was smooth and round. She dunked her hands in the bucket, poked a thumb into the center and made a hole. With one hand inside, the other on the outside, she pulled until the thick walls were thin. I dropped into a chair and watched in awe as Grandma shaped muck into an awesome vase.

It was mesmerizing, like watching a camp fire.

“That’s really cool,” I said. “Who turned you on to Lady Gaga?”

“Glee,” Grandma said.

“No way,” I shook my head. “You watch Glee?”

“Sure, I have the first two seasons on DVD,” Grandma smiled.

Grandma let up on a foot pedal. Before the wheel could coast to a stop she cut the pot off with a wire. With clay-caked hands she covered it with plastic; so it would dry slowly she told me. Then she shelved it with others saying soon she’d have enough to fire the big kiln in the studio downstairs.

“Your turn,” she pointed to a second potter’s wheel.

“Really?!”

Grandma set me up, she showed me how to hold my hands and squeeze the ball to center the clay. It was cold and slimy, and felt like pudding squishing through my fingers. Grandma lied sweetly and said my first creation was a masterpiece. “The best coffee mug I’ve ever seen.” Even though we both saw it was fatter on one side and the rim was wavy.
Grandma sat down, turned the music up over the hum of two machines and started in on a bowl while I made another cup. We talked about Glee and music, about blue hair and even boys.

Before I knew it the sky turned the color of cotton candy and the sun was sinking out of sight.

“Grammy?” I grinned.

“Yes, Meagers,” she smiled.

“Can I have a juice box and a fruit roll up now?”

“Great idea, think I’ll join you,” she laughed.

The weekend was looking up. As it turned out, Grandma is kind of cool.

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