I wrote this story after being inspired by the works of Dashiell Hammett. He used significant themes throughout his short stories. After you read my short story (with some of Hammett’s themes included), check out some of his stories and see if you can see the similarities!
“NO!” Katrina slammed her coffee mug on to the breakfast table. “I cannot live with someone who requires me not to have a social life just because they’re socially awkward. I am tired of living secluded from the rest of the world.”
Jim, who was sitting across the table didn’t know what to say. In the 3 years of their marriage, Jim had always thought they were perfect for each other. They stayed home on Saturday nights reading the paper and sharing insights from the latest books they were reading. Katrina had never shown an interest in having a social life. As Jim was contemplating what to say, he stared at the white floral print that accented her red apron. The intricate detail of the daisy print allowed him to think more clearly.
“I am sorry that I bother you. I don’t really know what you want.”
Katrina gave him a stare and with her nostrils flaring, shook her head. She then stood up and ran upstairs to their bedroom. Jim just stared at the wall, deep in thought. After 10 or so minutes, he finally made up his mind to go for a walk. He always went on walks when he needed to muse over difficult situations. The idea that Katrina wanted a social life scared him a bit. He had never been a socialite. He loved reading and found it hard to have long conversations with others. He enjoyed his quiet, alone time. He did love to look at people, though. Everyone was bundled up in their warmest gear. Black coats, brown coats, long coats, short coats, sport coats, business coats, mittens, scarves, gloves, hats, headbands. After walking for almost an hour, he found himself at the movie theater. On a whim, he stopped in to see a comedy, hoping it would take his mind off things.
At that very moment, Katrina had hailed a taxi to go to the Tea Club meeting. She saw an ad in the newspaper saying that the Tea Club was looking for new, interesting members. Katrina thought that is would be the perfect opportunity to get noticed in the social world. Excited, she bounded out of the taxi and on to the sidewalk which was lined with rows and rows of Victorian-looking fancy houses. Katrina felt under-dressed and covered up with her long, black wool coat. She checked the address that she had written on a scrap of paper in her pocket. 4623 Murphy Ave. She walked forward and found that she was standing right in front of the house that the tea club was meeting in. She looked in the window and saw that the lights were on. She saw shadows of women and tea pouring, so she knew she must have written the number down right. Slightly nervous, Katrina walked toward and up the stairs and rang the doorbell. She was greeted by a plump older woman dressed in a long, puffy red dress.
“Can I help you?” said the woman, rudely.
“Ah, yes. I am here for the tea club meeting,” there was a long silence as the plump woman looked her up and down. Awkwardly, she added “I saw in the paper that you were looking for new members.”
“Yes. Yes we were,” Said the plump woman. “Come in.” Katrina did as she was told and followed the woman in to the house. Katrina was having trouble navigating because of all of the mirrors and pictures littering the walls. The house was warm and smelled like baking bread. She was led into a dining room where about 7 women were sipping tea. As soon as they saw Katrina, the all stopped talking at once. “This woman is interested in joining the club” said the woman in the dress. The women greeted Katrina much more pleasantly than the plump woman had at the door. They introduced themselves and then resumed their chatting as the plump woman bustled in to another room. Katrina found a chair and started listen to the conversation. “Ah yes, I did hear about that robbery! How awful?? I cannot imagine being robbed.” Said one lady.
“Did you hear that Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are getting divorced??” Katrina felt like she was starting to understand how social gatherings worked. She liked it. Feeling like she needed to add to the conversation, Katrina said the first thing that came to her mind. “You’d never believe it, but a python got stuck in our sewer system last week!”. Instead of answering with ooohs and ahhhhs as Katrina had imagined they would, all of the ladies just stared at her with disgusting looks on their faces. Katrina looked out of the window and added “no big deal, or anything,” hoping to get the attention directed somewhere besides her. She was still learning this whole social etiquette thing. Luckily, at that moment, the plump lady returned carrying a tray of cookies, cakes and chocolates. Immediately, all of the ladies started chatting about how beautiful they all were.
“Oh how decadent?!?” said one. Katrina was so pleased to be in society. This was even better than she had imagined! As the afternoon went on, Katrina found herself becoming more in tune to what these ladies talked about. By 4:00, she was genuinely enjoying herself.
The movie finished at 4:00 and Jim walked out of the theater. He hardly laughed at any of the slapstick jokes and still didn’t feel any better. He guessed he would have to keep walking in order to feel better. He started his journey, turning on to whatever street he felt like walking on. The street lamps were turned on and a light snow was beginning to fall. As Jim walked he saw the scenery changing from being the hustle-bustle of the busy part of town to the more elegant, fancy part of town. The street lamp shone on a sign that read “Murphy Ave.” Jim thought that it sounded like a nice street and turned on to it. All of the lights on the street were turned off, except for one. As he got closer to the house, he noticed curvy shadows moving around. Intrigued, he moved right in front of the winder and watched in silence as the shadows talked, poured tea and picked up lumps of stuff-maybe truffles-from a tray. The shadows were so intricate and interesting. He stepped closer and closer to the window until he was only 2 inches away from the glass. At last he put his whole face on the glass so that his nose bent back and looked slightly like a pig. His breathing made the window foggy. He stayed like that for 10 or so minutes, just watching the figures. Then, a curtain was drawn and someone stared down at him.
“A window peeper!” yelled one of the ladies.
“How rude” yelled another.
Katrina looked out the winder and to her dismay saw her husband, dressed in his awful-looking coat and ragged hat. How had he found her here? She made eye contact with him and he started making a fuss pointing and yelling for her. “Do you know him?” asked the plump woman?
“Uh, well, sort of. It’s complicated.”
“Well it’s only polite for you to go out and stop him from fogging up my window. We don’t let people who are friends with people of that class be in our club. Do we girls?” All of the club-members nodded in agreement. Katrina was astounded, angry and most of all embarrassed. She had finally found her way in society. But, she really had no choice. She gathered up her things and was hurriedly escorted to the door by the rude woman in the red dress.
“Goodbye.” She said. Solemnly, Katrina walked down the stairs of the fancy mansion and realized how tense she had been for the whole meeting. As soon as she saw Jim, she relaxed. He grabbed her hand and they walked home together.
NOTE: This didn’t turn out as mystery-y as I wanted it to. I found it really, really hard to think of a mystery plot. You have to think completely backwards. I Thought this would be more of a mystery, but it’s really not.