Story A Day May is so much fun! I haven’t had much time for creative writing lately, and not writing makes me very unhappy. I wasn’t sure if I could do SaDM this year, but I thought I would give it a try, and it’s been great. I’ve learned that I need to make time for creative writing, because it does me good.
Thanks again, Pete Laberge, for all the prompts for this year.
The Door to McDonald’s
by Marian Allen
Chilly day. Mack Chesney pulled his jacket out of the back of the coat closet. Too much to hope that it was finally spring. He shrugged it on — either it was shrinking, or he was gaining weight — and checked the pockets. He had a habit of sticking cash register tapes, grocery lists, and candy wrappers in his pockets and forgetting to throw them away.
He pulled out a sheaf of ten strips of paper, a hole torn in one end of each page, tied together with a stub of grubby string.
The last time he had worn this jacket, the last time he’d been to McDonalds for a Whopper, there had been a homeless guy selling “coupon books”. Mack had given him a ten on the way out, and the guy had made him take a book, saying, “You might could use it. You never know.”
Mack flipped through the “coupons.” Strength of ten. Courage. Good idea. One strip just had a childlike drawing of a sword.
He tossed the book onto the table where he kept his keys, grabbed his keys and his cap, and left for work.
On the way home, he thought about calling Josie or Helen and seeing if they wanted to do something tonight. Or LaDonna. Or he had heard that Bren was single again. Maybe she’d like to catch the new superhero movie.
He had turned into the McDonalds before he thought about it. “Oh, damn it,” he said, and clicked his tongue in mock frustration, “and I left my coupon book at home!”
But the old guy was there again. He flapped strips of paper at Mack. “Got yer coupon book? I know I sold you one. Used it yet?”
“No, I forgot it at home.”
“Better get you another one.”
Mack gave him a ten, but waved away the paper. “I never order any of that stuff.”
“You never know,” the old guy said, and pushed paper at him.
The guy was obviously “selling coupon books” to save his dignity, so Mack took one. He imagined himself going up to the counter and ordering a big sword with a side of strength.
He pushed through the plate glass door — and stepped onto the dust-churned floor of a stone room, the ceiling gone, remains of a castle looming against it.
Kilted men, crusted with blood and grit, slumped in exhaustion or groaned in pain, while some field-dressed others’ wounds.
He pivoted to get out, back to the parking lot, back to his reality, but the plate glass door was now time-blackened oak, with ornate iron hinges that swirled across the entire door, fastened on with huge, faceted bolts.
A rasping baritone voice roared, “MacKenzie!”
He spun to face the voice, stunned that anyone at all knew his real name, let alone anyone in this weirdness. He looked down at himself, and saw he was also in a kilt, with a strip of plaid cloth thrown over his bare chest. The words came back to him from his grandmother. Plaid. Sporran. MacKenzie tartan.
A bear of a man embraced him, stinking of sweat and blood. “How’d you get past them, man? How many with you?”
“I’m alone,” Mack said, knowing it to be true, both simply and profoundly.”
The man clapped him on the back. “A MacKenzie is never alone. One MacKenzie is a crowd in himself.”
The other men — the ones who weren’t bleeding out — laughed.
“The name is Brian,” the big man said, with a lift of his chin that told Mack this was supposed to be impressive.
“Brian who?” he said, and even the wounded roared with appreciative laughter.
Brian’s grin was genuine, then he replaced it with an overdone scowl. “Make yerself useful, if you can do anything but clown, ye MacKenzie reprobate.”
Mack checked his sporran and, yes, there was his coupon book. He paged through it and found one he had hoped he hadn’t imagined: Healing. He tore it out of the book, and it vanished. But he could feel the knowledge in his hands and in his head.
As night fell and a fire was built from bits of broken furniture, he made the rounds of the wounded and brought some relief.
One of the men was wildly delirious, but Mack soothed him into a gentle one. “Seven days. Will they come? Last stand, shut in here like rats. Can’t make a charge with only one door. Will they come? Brian, did ye send? Will they come?”
Mack didn’t care what it was all about. It didn’t matter.
When he had done all he could, Brian gestured him to the fire and handed him a … He didn’t know the name … a leather canteen or something. He took a swig, not surprised that it was whiskey. Damn good whiskey, too.
Brian said, with the other men around the fire nodding as he spoke, “They felled a tree just before you got here. Maybe you saw it fall?”
“Heard it,” Mack lied.
“Big one,” one of the other men said.
Another said, “Battering ram, we’re thinking. They ran out of arrows before we ran out of pigs.”
Mack had no idea what that meant, but the men all laughed, so he laughed, too.
He was terrified. He had never understood that insanity could be so real. What was happening couldn’t be happening, and yet he smelled the bodily waste, the decomposing offal in one corner (the remains of those pigs?), the putrifaction of wounds, the week’s-worth of dried sweat. The flagstones he stretched out on were cold and hard, the whiskey in his belly was warm.
impossible that he should sleep, but he woke to the first light of dawn and the thin triumph of distant shouts.
Someone said, softly, “They’re coming.”
Mack pulled out his coupon book as he levered himself up from the flagstone floor. Sword. The paper vanished and a sword lay at his feet. Strength of ten. Courage.
He picked up his sword — damn, it was heavy! His muscles bulged with lifting the weight of it. It would be too bad for the man who found himself at the other end of its arc.
Feet heavy with weight drew nearer, faster as they came closer. The ram crashed into the stones by the door — of course they would breach the wall: breaking the door would only let one at a time through. The stones, heavy, but without the strength passed to them from the rest of the building, bowed inward.
The weighted feet retreated, approached again. The ram struck. Stones toppled.
“The bloody fools!” Brian shouted. “They’re letting us out!”
Mack’s voice joined the others in a savage roar.
“Death or glory,” Brian shouted, almost in Mack’s face. “What’ll it be?”
“Both!” Mack shouted back.
“Both it is,” said a woman. “That’ll be twenty-two fifty. Step to the end of the counter, please.”
Mack blinked and swayed.
“You okay? Sir, are you all right?”
“Uh, yeah. Just zoned out for a minute.” Mack shuffled to the end of the counter. The lack of stench was disorienting. It smelled almost antiseptic. The civilized hubbub seemed library-quiet and his clothes clung tightly to flabby muscles.
His head stopped swimming, but his brain still felt wrapped in gauze. He heard the woman say, “…diabetic, I bet.” and a man shoved a tray at him.
“Grab you a fry real quick,” he said. “You’ll feel better. You need help to your seat?” The man’s nametag read, Hi! I’m Brian.
“No. Thanks.” Mack grabbed the tray and made it to the nearest empty table. Whoppers and fries had never tasted so good. A cold cup and a hot cup wobbled on his tray, so he had apparently ordered coffee and a fountain drink. He got both. He drank both.
What a beautiful restaurant! The colors were so bright! The table was so smooth and clean! The people were so friendly!
As the food settled into his stomach, his head cleared. Diabetic? Yeah, maybe he was diabetic. Time for a check-up and some blood work. Maybe time to settle down. The bachelor life was overrated, and he and Bren had been doing some kind of on-again off-again courtship dance for a couple of years. Time to drop the nonsense and see what happened.
The old guy was still outside. “Coupon book?”
Mack peered at him, but there was no sign the old guy knew, or even suspected, what had happened — assuming it had really happened. It shook Mack to his roots to realize that he had no doubt that it had really happened. But the old guy didn’t look like a wizard or a wise man or anything but an old guy trying to scrape together some coin and some pride.
“How many you got?” Mack asked. “Five?” He pulled out two twenties and a ten. “I’ll take them all. You never know.”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Whopper, coupon book, the local McDonalds