1st Place – Flash 405, February 2020: “Bright Spot”
After being out of work for so long, the four of us started getting together at the abandoned shack every Friday. We’d sit and talk and mostly bitch.
We took turns bringing the beer. No matter what—the kids could starve, the rent could be due, you had to steal from your grandmother, whatever—you had to come up with enough change to bring two six-packs of beer. Cheap was all right, but lager, not lite.
Three of us were already there that Friday and we were in a real quandary: Fred had got a job at the boat plant. He’d been there a whole week. Could we let him stay on as a member of the Out of Work Club? Tony said no, said he’d be looking down at his nose at us, and we got enough of that elsewhere. Clyde said Fred had been with us a whole year, so he should stay. I sided with Tony—people with jobs do tend to say people who don’t have jobs are just lazy, and sometimes it’s true.
I was willing to listen to reason but the two of them got so heated over it I almost had to referee. But all argument ended when it dawned on us that IT WAS FRED’S TURN TO BRING THE BEER!
So, as it turned out, we did what any fair-minded Americans would do: when he showed up with a WHOLE case of Bud, we magnanimously made him a lifetime member.
This was my favorite entry because of the amount of story it condenses into so few words. The minimalist style and the out-of-work characters who are willing to steal beer money from their grandmothers have a Carver-esque quality. There is also something particularly charming about the piece in the characters’ simplistic love of domestic beer. All of that being said, I think my appreciation of the piece might hang upon this one line: “Cheap was all right, but lager, not lite.”
Born in Mississippi and moving to South Carolina as a teen, Roy Haymond, Jr. played clarinet in the Charleston Symphony before graduating from North Charleston High School. Hitched in USMC and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, he’s a career classroom teacher and on the staff of a small-town weekly. His pieces have been published in mostly obscure journals in sixteen states and Canada. He’s now retired to a rural enclave where he writes and plays tenor sax (and has been a hit in retirement homes)