Blurb of Taking Up Space: A Short Story Collection
You can choose to hide under a blanket, giggle, or wonder what might possibly happen next. Even though most of the stories in this anthology probably just take you a few minutes to read, it’s likely that you won’t forget them anytime soon.
Taking Up Space: A Short Story Collection Chapter 1: A Place Called Chance (1)
Here he was, lost again.
Heat shimmered on top of the road. Fatty drove slowly, hoping his tires wouldn’t melt before he found someone who could point him in the right direction. Finally, a gas station. He pulled in and parked under the shade of the canopy.
Fatty unfolded himself out of the car and stretched. “One of these days, I need to get me a newer car with more head room.”He rubbed the sore spot, courtesy of an unexpected pot hole that bounced the top of his head against the roof. Fatty shaded his eyes with his hand while he surveyed his surroundings. “And one that comes equipped with one of those fancy navigators.”
A mechanic, dressed in coveralls stained muddy brown, slowly walked over to the car as he cleaned a wrench with a filthy rag. “Hot enough for you, mister?”He squinted at Fatty.
“You said it.”Fatty wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. “Where am I?”
“Didn’t you see the sign when you drove into town?”
“The darn sign must’ve blown off again. I’ll let the town council know.”
“So, I’m where?”
“This little slice of heaven is called Chance. A great place to live if you like crazy weather and natural disasters.”He reached out an oily hand. “My name’s Joe. And you are…”
“Teddy Sloan. But people call me Fatty, like Fatty Arbuckle, since I do stand-up comedy weekends.”
“You don’t know Fatty Arbuckle from the early 1900s?”Fatty’s eyes widened. “Fatty Arbuckle, silent film star, comedian, director, screenwriter? Fatty Arbuckle, one of the greats?”
“Sorry, that was before my time.” Joe looked at his hand and wiped it with his rag. “Anyway, pleased to meet you, Fatty. What can I do for you?”
“Can you give me directions to Moreland?”
Joe snorted. “Nobody goes there.”
“Nobody but me. I picked the worst day in the world for a sales call.”
“Yup, you sure did. So, you’re a salesman?”
Fatty nodded his head. “And I’m lost. Again. As usual.”
“Bad habit for a salesman.”
“You said it. I can’t find my way out of a paper bag without an exit sign.”
Joe laughed. “Before I tell you how to get to that god-forsaken town, I should replace your right rear tire. Otherwise, it will blow way before you reach Moreland.”
Fatty followed Joe around the rear to take a closer look.
Joe pointed to the tread. “See, that tire is almost bald. Plus, you’ve got a nail right there.”
“Well, I’ll be. How long will it take?”
Joe pursed his lips and thought about it for a couple of seconds. “Give me about two hours. I’ll have to send someone to the next town over for the proper tire. Plus, I have to finish the oil change I got on the rack.”
Fatty sighed. “How far is it from here to Moreland?”
“A good three-hour drive. With four good tires.”
“Any decent place to eat here within walking distance?”
“Sure. Mighty Good Diner is about a block away.” Joe pointed left.
“Well, then, see you in about two hours.”Fatty gave Joe the car keys.
“Sure.”Fatty walked to the right.
“No, Fatty. To the left.”
Fatty laughed. “Did I say I’m always getting lost?”
Joe nodded. “Bad habit for a salesman.”
Fatty washed down the last bite of cherry pie and vanilla ice cream with a chug of chocolate milkshake. “Pretty good food for a nowhere place.”He covered his mouth with his napkin to muffle a burp.
At the cashier’s counter, he looked at the clock on the wall. “Darn, another hour left before my car is ready. Anything to do here in Chance?”
The cashier blew a bubble and popped it with a bright red finger nail. “Mister, there’s nothing to do for miles and miles. If there was, I’d be there.”
“Guess I’m on my own, then.”Fatty stepped outside. The heat slapped him in the face and seared his throat. There must be a place around here to cool down for awhile.”He walked past shops closed for lunch, past a little market, past some old houses.
Then he saw an open door. A large sign in the window promised the future would be revealed, satisfaction guaranteed.
“Guess I have nothing to lose except a couple of dollars.”He walked inside. The blasting air conditioner chilled him.
“Hi, mister.”A dark-haired woman materialized from a back door. She wore a faded silk turban. Silver and gold chains adorned her neck, and large rings of all shapes and colors clung to her fingers. Thick mascara surrounded her eyes. “I’m Madame Natasha. But you can call me Nate. Everyone else in town does.”
“Nate, I’m Fatty.”
Nate ushered Fatty to a table. “Sit down, and tell me what you want to know.”
Fatty shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t have anything specific in mind.”
“Do you want to know the future of your love life?”
Fatty laughed. “Nah, the only love in my life is work.”
“Do you want to know if you’ll inherit a fortune?”
He shook his head.
“How about when you’re going to die? I’ve never been wrong about that one.”
Fatty sat forward in his chair. “I already know my old ticker is going to stop ticking someday.”He patted his chest. “Nothing much I can do about that. But hey, maybe you can tell me where I’m going to die.”
“Where?”Nate’s eyes widened.
“Yes, where. All I have to do is avoid that place, and I’ll add a little more time to my life.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Yes, it is. Just tell me where.”
Nate shrugged her shoulders. “Whatever you want.”She peered into her crystal ball. It clouded up and glowed yellow. “Hmmm.”
“What do you see?”
“Let me confirm my reading.”She shuffled some tarot cards, then picked the first card on top of the deck. “Oh, my….”
“What?”Fatty sat on the edge of his seat, his face inches away from Nate’s.
She laid the card back on top of the deck, then looked Fatty in the eyes. “You’re going to die here, in Chance.”
“Not if I can help it. As soon as my tire’s fixed, I’m outta here.”He grinned and stood up. “Thanks Nate. How much do I owe you?”
“Two bucks. But….”
Fatty pulled a five-dollar bill out of his wallet and tossed it on the table.
Nate followed him to the sidewalk, where he turned to the right. “Fatty, you’re going to walk out of town.”
He turned around. “I get lost all the time.”
“But you only know the future.”
As the sun was starting to set, Joe and Nate met at the diner, just like always.
“Hot as a furnace today.”Joe took a swig of beer. “At least it should be a slow night tonight.”
“I hope you’re right.”Nate checked her makeup in the mirror of her compact, then used a tissue to dab at the little blobs of mascara that stained her cheekbones. “Anything exciting happen at work today?”
“An out-of-towner stopped by for directions. Fatty’s his name. Nice guy. I sold him a new tire.”Joe examined the gunk under his nails
“He came by my place, too. He’s gone now, right?”
Joe nodded his head.
Nate closed her eyes. “He’ll be back, you know.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“It will be, for him.”
Taking Up Space: A Short Story Collection Chapter 2: A Place Called Chance (2)
Fatty turned down the sheets of the motel bed in Moreland. His presentation went well, and Brick&Brack Company was a new addition to his customer list. It was a fine end to a trying day. Could life get any better?
It could. He opened his flip phone and answered a call. It was the Senior VP of Sales.
“How’s everything, Fatty?”
“Everything is wonderful, sir. Couldn’t be better.”
“I understand you closed the deal on that Moreland company. Tough nut to crack, and you did it! That’s why I wanted to reach out to you. You’ve been selected for Top Salesman of the Year.”
Fatty pumped his arm in the air. “Oh, thank….”
“And there’s more. Our company is growing…”
“Yes sir, I know sir. You mentioned that at the last all-hands meeting.”Fatty held his breath.
“Managing our growth will require a paradigm shift. Fatty, you have a natural ability to think outside the box, and we need your talent to be successful. I want you on our S.W.A.T. team so that we can leverage your skill set. Since sales is obviously your core competency, how would you like to be Northwest Sales Director? Can you wrap your arms around this position?”
“Yes, sir. I’m amped up about it.”Fatty paused for a moment. “By the way, how much travel is required?”
“Other than the yearly all-hands meeting and a conference or two, you’ll be flying your desk at corporate. Do I have your buy-in?”
“Excellent! Take the rest of the week off, and meet me at corporate headquarters Monday morning at 8 o’clock. We’ll discuss the details of your new position then.”
“Thank you, sir. See you Monday, bright and early.” Fatty ended the call and grinned. “No more getting lost and ending up in places I don’t want to be. I’m going to live forever!”He wiggled his body, dancing in his sweaty boxers.
“Morning, Boss.”Artie’s breathing was labored. He gave Fatty a cup of coffee. “Three sugars and half cream, just the way you like it.”
“Thanks, Artie.”Fatty scrutinized his top salesman. “Are you ok?”
“Actually, I’m a little nervous.”
“You know you can talk to me about anything.”
Artie closed the office door. “Truth is, Boss, I want to apply for the VP of Overseas Sales position. Can you put in a good word for me?”
Fatty took a sip of coffee. “That’s a big leap, Artie.”
“But you did it. You went from Director to Senior VP In five years. That’s a world record.”
“I did it by working 12-hour days, including weekends, spending most of my day in meetings, and meeting impossible schedules. You have the skills. But are you willing to put in the time?”
“I can’t fault you for your enthusiasm.”Fatty shook his head and smiled. “I’m meeting with the CEO in about 10 minutes. I’ll pitch you for the position then.”
“Thanks, Boss!”Artie grinned. “You’re still going to the lake, right?”
“Yup, me and my fishing pole have a hot date.”
“It’s about time you took a vacation. I hope you have a great time.”
“Thanks, Artie. I hope so, too.”
“Be careful. You might hit a few storms.”Artie opened the office door.
“Thanks for letting me know.”
“No problem, Boss.” Artie waved as he walked out of Fatty’s office.
Author of Taking Up Space: A Short Story Collection
The writer of Taking Up Space: A Short Story Collection is Nolcha Fox. Writing has always been a part of her life, beginning with poops and crayons on the walls. A lengthy career in technical writing resulted from that. After retiring, she started blogging and creating short stories (27 of which have been published; 1 was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018).