The Spot Writers – “Painted Red” by Eric Egger

Welcome to The Spot Writers. May’s prompt is to write a story about a character playing a prank on another. This week’s story comes from a guest writer to the group. Eric Egger is founder and publisher at Freedom Forge Press, a press dedicated to celebrating freedom and the spirit of the individual.

***

Painted Red

By Eric Egger

 

Every “i” had been dotted, every “t” had been crossed. Charles glanced at his beachside café, surveying every detail. The menu sparkled. The chrome napkin holders reflected the setting ocean side sun. The café’s pristine magnitude was overshadowed only by the pride in Charles’ eyes.

William poked Xavier in the ribs. Their roommate had worked so hard for his new business, and evening-before-opening-day-jitters wasn’t making him any more relaxed. The guy needed a laugh. They couldn’t wait to see the look on his face…

They did it just as rehearsed. William arrived with a stack of mail dated two weeks prior and a look of concern. He pretended to emerge from the sidewalk, spotting Xavier randomly.

“X, I think this is yours.” William held out an envelope from the credit card company.

Xavier feigned surprise. “Damn, I was wondering when that bill would arrive. Where the hell was it?”

William case his eyes downward just like they rehearsed. “Sorry, man. This whole stack of mail musta slid behind the couch.” He spoke louder than necessary, seeking Charles’ reaction in his periphery.

But Charles was all business. He’d spent hours battling city hall for permits, researching state and local laws, taking all the right people out to dinner… and all he ever talked about was all the red tape he had to slice through to open up a simple beach-side restaurant. Rules this and regulations that.

William flipped through a few additional envelopes and put on his best and most convincing look simulating both horror and shame. “William, there’s one here for you too…uh…it looks like it might be important.”

The government seal was easy enough to grab off the city’s website. The rest almost came naturally. “Board of Business Equalization and Regulation,” the city hall mailing address, even some official sounding text about “applicant’s proposed color scheme was deemed not in keeping with the objectives of the Board of Equalization action zone.

Charles’ eyes popped open as he grabbed the letter and quickly read its contents. His demeanor shifted as nervous energy transformed almost alchemically into righteous indignation.

“Where was this letter, Bill? It was postmarked two weeks ago!” The rage was building.

“Sorry Charles, like I said…behind the couch. Is it about your café?”

“Those bastards said they’re denying an occupancy permit because the color scheme of my umbrellas and awning aren’t uniform and don’t match the city’s approved color palette. What the fu—reaking hell am I supposed to do about that now? I was supposed to have my opening day tomorrow and they sent this two weeks ago and I’m just seeing it now for the first time because you constantly let the house become a hobo crap pile!”

“Whoa, Charl—” William began a feigned protest, but couldn’t finish as Charles made a bee line for the door and slammed it closed behind him.

Xavier looked sheepishly at William. “Think we should tell him it’s just a joke?”

“Nah, he’ll be ok, just needs to blow off some steam.”

***

The next morning William and Xavier looked for Charles in their apartment but couldn’t find him anywhere. He hadn’t come home last night, and the roommates were getting worried. They walked a few blocks over to the café, where they found a bleary eyed and paint splattered Charles painting over his awnings.

“All right! Hey, first customers!” Charles greeted his roommates with a sleep deprived grin. “No problem, I took my phone to the hardware store, matched up the color from the approved color swatch and painted all the umbrellas and awnings overnight. The website said any letter with deficiencies that weren’t structural or safety related could be used as a temporary occupancy permit as long as I maintained adequate records to prove that I made the changes scheduled a re-inspection within 21 days of the letter. Even though it was 2 weeks ago, I still had 6 days left. So I’m officially open for business!”

Xavier and William looked back and forth sheepishly. The prior maroon and navy combination had looked just fine, but the custom paint-over-fabric job had not gone well.

William started to speak, intending to fess up to the prank when a white SUV sped up. An officious city badge brandishing man approached the group waving a yellow piece of paper in his other hand. “Zoning and Ordinance Enforcement, I’m here on official business! There have been several complaints. This is a cease and desist demand ordering the halt to the opening of this business concern for non compliance with the city’s gentrification zone guidelines. We’re trying to gentrify this part of the city, boys. That means making it look like a place people would want to come and spend money, not making it look like someone painted a sleep deprived elementary art project in the dark!

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

Eric Egger http://www.freedomforgepress.com

 

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