This is the exact photo prompt for yesterday's 15 For 15 Contest. My strategy when drawing inspiration from these prompts is to avoid the obvious, and find the clever story hidden deep in the picture. This time, for example, I didn't want to do a western-style story, a cowboys and Indians scenario, or a period piece from the 1800s. Here is what I did come up with. As always, forgive the punctuation and verb tense mishaps. I wrote this in exactly 15 minutes (maybe going over by 30 seconds or so...)
Don't be too quick to judge, Lydia's inner voice chastised. She peered through the restaurant's front windows, but humidity fogged it from the inside. She took a deep breath and pulled open the door.
It wasn't so much a restaurant as it was a bar. This thought, too, dripped with conflicted disdain, and Lydia scolded herself again. This was what she'd expected, after all. She was meeting a man for the first time who she'd connected with on an online dating site. Of course the restaurant turned out to be a bar. And the hot guy in Stuart's profile picture would probably turn out to be George Costanza.
Her eyes scanned the scene that seemed to dance with the strobing lights. A hand shot up, waved. And there he was, standing and smiling, beckoning to her. Oh God, Stuart was even more gorgeous than the photo.
Talk of their work, her at the library and him in Delivery and Receiving, was brief. The dance floor called to them. They laughed the evening away. Her life as a librarian was turning upside down in a matter of hours. With each martini she decided with firmer resolve to stop living life in hushed tones. It was time for her to live out loud. Stuart, Lydia was pleased to learn, could really move his body. And there was a sense of humor to his style of dance, like he didn't take himself too seriously. She liked that. It was refreshing.
Hours later and after constant shushing of her prudent inner voice, they ended up at Stuart's apartment. He went to the kitchette to open a bottle of wine, leaving Lydia at the other end of the studio's main room. An armoire stood in the corner, its door ajar. Lydia shot a look at Stuart's back, muscles rippling as he worked the cork screw. She giggled, emboldened by the liquor, and swung open the armoire door. Her jaw dropped.
Costumes hung from one end of the armoire to the other. Sequins and leather, uniforms of every sort, handcuffs, whips, hats. She reached a shaky hand in and pulled a hanger out. Cowboy regalia including a gun holster, sheriff's badge, boots with spurs and chaps dangled before her shock-stricken face. Stuart's shuffled step sounded behind her. She spun around.
"What the hell is all this?"
"My work clothes," Stuart answered with a gleem in his eye.
"I thought you were in "Delivery and Receiving."
"Yeah, I deliver singing telegrams, sometimes. I also strip for parties. Bachelorette, birthday, retirement... Hey, you chose my favorite. This is an awesome act. Wanna see it?"
Lydia stared at his open, honest face. Pure joy shone in his eyes. There was no embarrassment, no shyness. No hushed tones. Her eyes dove down, scanned his body and then lingered on the items on the hanger in her hand.
Remember, her inner voice cooed, don't be too quick to judge...
I'm a short story author, aspiring novelist, and world traveler who has penned fiction from homes on three different continents. I currently live with my husband and two children in the Atlanta area. When I find myself less inspired by my Southern locale, I have only to rifle through memories of adventures abroad until colorful characters or thrilling plots come forth. And on the rare occasion that none arise...I've been known to finagle a flight out.