Well shucks, corn man

by Julie Frayn on August 20, 2014 in  Fiction - short stories

I enjoyed the NYC Midnight 2014 Short Story Challenge so much – and did so well! – that I thought I’d take a shot at the flash fiction challenge. My first assignment was romantic comedy. O. M. F. G…

Not that I don’t enjoy watching a good rom-com. But writing one? In 1000 words or less? May I just say GAK! I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, so here it is – romantic comedy, in a corn field, with a bowling ball. Enjoy. Or not – your choice. But please, let me know if you think it’s as lame as I do. (Spoiler – no one dies in the end!)

Well Shucks, Corn Man

Her hair glistened in the bright sun, golden like perfectly steamed corn kernels, silky like those annoying strands that catch in your teeth with every buttery bite into the cob.

“Rory? Dude, pay attention.” Jacob tugged on Rory’s sleeve. “Somebody’s lost in the corn maze.”

Rory’s gaze never left the woman. He handed the teenager a radio. “Go find them. Keep me posted.”

Jacob hitched up his jeans and trotted to the maze entrance. Rory tracked Jacob’s gawky movements until he passed behind the blonde. He was transfixed anew by hair that dripped down her back like melted butter oozes down your chin.

She stared at the map mounted on a wooden billboard, one hand held the chubby fingers of an equally blonde girl of about four. The woman’s other hand held tight to the scruff of a boy’s collar. He twisted in his mother’s grip and swatted at her arm. It didn’t faze her. “There’s a huge slide, Charlie, how about that?”

“No!”

“And a bouncy castle type thing.”

The boy shook his head vehemently.

“Well pick something now or we’re just going straight home. No fun, no play. And no hot dogs.”

The boy pouted and crossed his arms. He analyzed the map. “Bowling.”

Rory sidled up to the child. “Good choice. That’s my favourite part of the maze.” He smiled at the boy’s mother. “First time?”

“Yes. A friend told us it was fun. Looks like too much corn to me.” She eyed him up and down and tightened the grip on her children. “You just hang around the maze by yourself and talk up little boys?”

Rory chuckled, his cheeks warm. “Not exactly. I own the place.”

The woman raised her brows and set her lips in a thin line. “I suppose that’s a good excuse.”

“I’m Rory.” He extended his hand, took note of her bare fingers.

She looked away. “I’m not interested.”

He held up his arms in surrender. “Sorry, Not-Interested. I wasn’t going to stalk you or anything.” He grinned. “Get it? Stalk? Like corn stalk?”

She threw him a withering look. “Yeah, I got it.”

He looked at his feet and scuffed the dry dirt with one worn cowboy boot. “Pay at the gate. Four and under are free. I hope you have a fun time.” He tousled the boy’s hair, turned and headed into the maze.

Why did he even bother? What woman wants a hick that runs a lame-ass corn maze? No worldly adventure, no excitement or intrigue. And no shortage of corn.

—————

“Charlie, wait your turn.”

Rory hesitated at the corner. He split the stalks with one hand and peered through to the bowling area. There she was, sparkling in the summer sunshine, grasping her son’s suspenders to hold him back. Her daughter was curled up on a hay bale sound asleep.

The family ahead of them finished their turn and carried on through the maze. Rory tipped his imaginary cap at them and stepped out of the shadow.

“Okay, Charlie. Go.” She relinquished the suspenders.

Rory picked up a bowling ball, the little five-pin kind, and handed it to Charlie. “Here you go, little dude.” Rory guided him closer to the pins near a sign that read ‘little cobs bowl from this line.’ He pointed to a set of five corn-cob shaped pins teetering in the uneven dirt. “Aim true, and wing it as hard as you can. If you knock any pins down, I’ll make sure you get a free hot dog.”

Charlie’s face lit up. “Mom! A free hot dog!”

“I heard. Go ahead, knock ‘em down. I’m starving.”

Charlie scrunched his face and underhanded the ball. It landed short. “Dang it!”

“Language, young man.”

Rory picked up another ball. “That’s okay. Everybody gets two turns.” He glanced up at Charlie’s mother. Her eyes softened and a slight smile had blossomed. Her ice was melting. Rory kneeled next to Charlie. “Try to aim just a little left of the centre pin.”

Charlie grunted and tossed the ball. It rolled just far enough to tip one pin down. “I did it, I did it!”

Rory clapped. “High five.” He held his hand up. The boy slapped it.

The woman broke out into a big grin. “You’re good, corn man. How’d you know he wanted a hot dog?”

“I have an ear for what kids want.”

“Oh, boo.” She creased her brow. “You must be popular with your family. I was skeptical, but this is pretty cool.”

“When we discovered I couldn’t have children, my wife left me.” An unwanted tear sprang to one eye.

“Oh.” Her turn to blush. “I’m so sorry.”

Rory held out another ball. “Will you play?”

She accepted it and raised one eyebrow. “But your balls are so small.” An impish grin graced her face.

“Big balls mow the corn down. And those holes. Who wants holey balls?”

She smirked, turned to the dirt lane and rolled the ball. It went just six feet and came to a rest far from the pins.

“There’s a trick to it.” Rory held out another ball. When she took it, he placed his hand under hers and slid behind her, his other arm around her waist. She smelled of lavender and peanut butter. He resisted the urge to bury his nose in her neck and lick her cheek. “Pull your arm straight back…”

“I know how to bowl.” She squirmed in his embrace.

“You don’t know how to corn bowl.” He tightened his grip. “Relax. Can’t you spare a minute to learn?”

She groaned. “Are your puns always this lame?”

“No, they’re usually just corny.”

“Well, I guess there’s a kernel of truth in that.”

He smiled. “Nice one. See? We’re made for each other.”

She relaxed and twisted her head around. “Well shucks, corn man.” She winked one sky-blue eye. “Maybe we are.” She turned to face the cob pins and leaned into him. “Go on, farmer Rory, show me how to corn bowl.”

 

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