The Prize

This story was written for a contest. I was given the genre, romantic comedy; the location, a private island; and an object that had to be mentioned, a walking cane. The story had to be 1000 words maximum, and submitted within 48 hours.

Susan lifted her glass. “To new friends.” Frank raised his glass to hers, and looked into her eyes.

“Beautiful. Hold it – ” a camera flashed ” – good. Now facing me.” The camera flashed again. “Thanks so much, you’ve been great. We’ll be leaving you alone now.” The DJ winked. “The boat’s back in the morning at nine with breakfast, and to bring you home whenever you are ready. You kids have fun, and keep listening to Classic Rock 95.”

Susan and Frank watched him walk out on the dock, get into the boat, and set out into the river.

“I thought he’d never leave,” said Susan.

“You wanted to be alone with me? I’m touched.”

“Well, my prize was supposed to be a romantic night on a private island. It’s a little hard with DJ Dan hovering like a camera toting Mr. Roark.”

Frank waved away a few mosquitoes. “Were there mosquitoes on Fantasy Island?”

Susan brought her glass close to take a sip of wine, and noticed bugs floating in it. She put the glass down. “How about a walk?”

“Sure.” Frank stood up, and offered his hand to help her up.

She declined, but appreciated the gesture. Her friend Bonnie had promised that her brother Frank was a real gentleman, and so far that seemed true. He’d graciously accepted the invitation to act as Susan’s boyfriend for the benefit of the radio station, even though he and Susan had never met. They started walking the cabin’s wrap around deck.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” said Frank.

“Not as isolated as I expected for a private island. Between tour boats and jet skis, a park in downtown Kingston is probably quieter.”

“Perhaps, but you’ve lived here all your life. I’m a prairie boy, impressed with my first view of the Thousand Islands, and delighted to be seeing them in such beautiful company. When I asked my sister to plan a few outings for my visit, I never expected anything like this.”

“Thank you. At least it’s quiet now. This place is also smaller than I imagined a private island would be, but size isn’t everything. I mean, it’s a nice size. Great that you can look over the river in any direction from the cabin, and I love the views from this deck.”

“I’m enjoying the view myself.” Susan glanced down to make sure she wasn’t showing too much, but Frank had stopped and was looking down at the tiny beach. She stood beside him.

Frank said, “I’ve never had dinner on a beach before.”

“Neither have I. Shame about the wasps. How’s your hand?”

“All better. I can barely tell the sting from the mosquito bites. Dan was very good about bringing everything in, and the food was great. This is best first date I’ve ever had.”

“Thanks, and thank you for coming to my rescue. Six months with Todd, and he dumps me two days before my name is drawn. I didn’t want to give up the prize, but it would have been embarrassing to show up at the radio station alone this afternoon.” She wiped her eyes.

“Are you crying?”

“No. My eyes are still irritated from the smoke. It was worth it to roast marshmallows, though. I haven’t done that since Guides.”

“Same here. Scouts, not Guides. My ex did not approve of camping, so we never went.”

“We practically lived in a tent when mine was in the field, but it was all work, no play. Was that lightning?” She pointed up at a thick cloud.

“I’m not sure.” A bright flash briefly illuminated several other islands. “That was. Let’s get inside.” In the few minutes it took them to reach the door, rain started hammering on the cabin and roaring into the river.

Frank groped the wall beside the door. “Where’s the light?”

“No electricity, remember? Where did Dan say the flashlight was?”

“He just said it was in the cabin. My phone’s in the bedroom,” said Susan.

“Mine’s in my bag, here,” said Frank. He fumbled through his bag. “Need a minute to turn it on.” Once his phone was casting a faint glow around the room, Susan spotted a flashlight on the counter. She turned it on, but it produced less light than the phone.

“So much for that. I’ll get my phone.” She disappeared into the bedroom. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong? Do you need help?”

“No. Got my bag. But the roof is leaking. The bed is soaking wet.” She stood in the doorway. “What else could go wrong?”

“No worries. We’ll go to plan B. I’ll sleep on the floor, and you can have the couch.”

Susan turned on her phone, and walked back into the main room. Frank walked towards her, and they met at the couch. He moved to hug her, and they stayed together for a moment, watching the steady drip of water which had already left a puddle on the couch. “We might have to go to plan C,” he said.

“What’s plan C?”

“We both sleep on the floor. Let’s pull the couch forward, so it doesn’t get any wetter.”

Half an hour later, the rain had stopped, the room was softly lit from a battery lantern they found, and Susan and Frank sat on the couch, sipping tea.

“The extra sheets and blankets are dry,” said Frank, “and I sopped up where the couch was wet, so you don’t need to sleep on the wet spot. I mean, it’s dry. I’ll set up on the other side of the fireplace.”

Susan looked over, then picked up the lantern.

“Frank, there’s a walking cane beside the fireplace – ”

” – just like in –

“- Miracle on 34th Street.”

“At least, in the original,” said Frank. “I’ve never seen the remake.”

“Neither have I,” said Susan.

“It’s a sign.”

“Several,” said Susan. She leaned over, and they shared a long kiss. “But for tonight, you’re still sleeping on the floor.”

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