This is a draft of a fictional short story I am working on. It is based on personalities i’ve encountered and a charming plaque given to me by a friend. It is far from finished, so constructive criticism is welcome!
The Friendship Plaque
A friend is
a push when you’re stopped
a word when you’re lonely
a guide when you’re searching
a smile when you’re sad
a song when you’re glad.
Your sister plans a trip to Wisconsin. It’s your last chance to get out together, before she marries in August. As the miles take you further from home, she chats in excitement about her upcoming nuptials, and the places you’re going to see. What did she call it again? The land of cheese? You’re anticipating the cows, and the smell of fresh non-citified air.
Driving through Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, you pass miles soybeans and corn. Finally you hit a small town, which doesn’t even furnish a traffic light. When you cross the state line into Wisconsin, there are many cows, and you decide the city smells better then they do. Despite the smell, you have a hankering for a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.
The car comes to a hault, and out comes the camping gear. You never cease to be amazed at how much your sister can cram into the trunk of her Oldsmobile.
“Hey Linda! Do you think you have enough junk in your the trunk?” Linda gives you a cold expression, and punches you in the arm, and you drop your pillow in a pile of dust. Linda has always struggled with body image, even though she is the best looking member of the family.
It takes half a day to set up camp, and you spend a restless night sleeping on the rocky side of the tent, with a dirty pillow.
Thankfully, your sister is much more organized then you, and has the entire trip planned. Like a real tourist, Linda wants to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum. You would like to believe that you also appreciate the arts, so you agree. At the museum, you find the abstract paintings to be, well… abstract. You question their competency as art. You decide you are not fond of art, when you see the 19th-century face jugs.
Linda can’t leave without stopping at the souvenir shop to purchase a postcard for her scrapbook. She grabs your hand and drags you into the cute little boutique, and you are struck by the unyielding smell of potpourri. Linda marvels over the assortment of junk, and settles with a postcard which features a serene looking cow, a pink vase on the highest shelf, and stuffed koala. You however, pick nothing.
“You must have something to remember the trip by,” Linda says, with large meaningful expression in her eyes. Because heaven knows, the face jugs and the rocks embed into your spine aren’t enough. She reaches over to a small friendship plaque. “Isn’t this cute?”
“Yes,” you respond reflexively. But, then you pause to wonder if that is really your opinion. She hands you the plaque. You’re a cheap person, so you flip it over to make sure the price is low enough. It is. The words “Handcrafted with Pride in Wisconsin USA,” catch your eye. Nothing is made in the USA anymore. You go to the counter, and make the purchase. Then, with your sister’s encouragement, you decide it will look good in your living room above the sofa.
The rest of the excursion goes well, and its time for the long drive home. You are all talked out, and neither of you speak.
Back home, in your pocket sized apartment, you unpack. Remembering the friendship plaque, you stand on the couch and hold it to the wall. It looks terrible, and perhaps a little cheesy.
By tomorrow, you know it is cheesy. You set it on your dresser, but at night before bed, you see it. In the morning, when you wake, you see it. Feeling annoyed, you flip it over and forget about it.
You are not a planner, so it’s a good thing Linda calls to remind you about Jessica’s birthday party. Jessica has been your best friend since second grade, so you feel terrible forgetting about it. But, even worse, what in the world are you going to give her?
Fiddling with the daunting task of housecleaning, you come upon the friendship plaque on your dresser, and thankfully you locate some festive tissue paper to wrap it in. Maybe Jessica will like it.
– – –
Today, is your thirtieth birthday. You are disheartened. Not because you feel old, but because you are too old to have a cool birthday party with a candy-filled piñata, and your body doesn’t appreciate the amount of cake you want to consume.
Linda planned your Birthday party. It was supposed to be a surprise, but Linda is not good at being discrete. You anticipated the party as soon as she asked your favorite color. You pointed out a pleasant blue, and she quickly corrected you, “Turquoise?”
You told everyone not to bring gifts, but none of them listen. So now you have a hodgepodge of things you will never need.
Thoughtful Linda, selected a plush Koala toy. The tissue paper and bag containing said toy, both the same shade of turquoise as the napkins and paper plates. Linda is Sally’s older sister. You hit it off with Sally instantly when you moved next door to her in second grade. Linda was a package deal, because she was so annoying that all the other kids in the neighborhood avoided her.
One rainy day, the three of you spent the afternoon playing Monopoly. Sally couldn’t decided if she wanted to purchase States Ave, and Linda got bored and started looking around the room. Linda found out about your Koala bear curiosity, as she flipped through a book you borrowed from the library. Since then, Linda has purchased every Koala bear item she has ever seen, and you now have collection of charming furry creatures in the depths of your closet. You now despise Koala bears.
Predicable Amber, gave you a peach candle still in the bag from the outlet. Amber was your assigned freshmen roommate. You roomed together during the entirety of collage because both of you where afraid of testing a new roommate, and found each other equally tolerable. After four years of sharing the same bathroom, late night papers, to much to drink, and heartbreak, you bonded.
Sally, who obviously forgot your birthday again, like she has for just over two decades, gifted you whatever she found in her apartment. This time, it was a friendship plaque balled up in tissue paper with a festive red and green Merry Christmas pattern. Sally says, “That would look cute above your couch.” Linda punches Sally in the arm, and Sally drops her cupcake icing-side-down into the dirt. Sally, picks it up, rubs the icing into a napkin and continues to enjoy her cupcake to Linda’s dismay.
When you get home, you are sick to your stomach. You ate way to many cupcakes, and should have stayed away from the champagne. You pour yourself a glass of water, and set to the task of putting away your new gifts. You toss Koala bear in the closet. Then, you set the candle on the kitchen counter and light it. You grab the friendship plaque, stand on your couch, and hold it to the wall. It looks terrible, and you wonder if it’s cheesy.
Then, you start to tear up, and it takes you a moment to realize it isn’t because of the friendship plaque. You taste a fruity flavored chemical concoction similar to hairspray, and realize it’s the candle. You set down the plaque, rush to the kitchen, and blow out the candle. You open all the windows, and make a trip to the bathroom to empty your stomach contents. Afterwards, you return to the couch and pick up the friendship plaque. By this time, you know it’s cheesy. Luckily, Sally will never notice if the friendship plaque is not hanging over your sofa, so you carefully place it on top of your donation pile. You go to your room, and collapse onto your bed.
– – –
You are wading slowly through the rows at Goodwill. You have three shirts loaded into your buggy, and are sorting through the ceramics. You find a mug which matches your dish set, and the cutest friendship plaque. It has pretty leaves painted on the edges, and was even handcrafted in the United States! You remember back in the day, when purchasing American goods was common. Purchasing a foreign vehicle was practically a sin. You still refuse to buy a foreign car, but social security doesn’t give you enough for a newer American model. So, you are content driving your old Chevy.
Driving home slowly, you are annoyed with the youngster tailgating you for the last three blocks. You pull into you driveway, and he zooms past. Stepping out, you are greeted by Mittens, who wants his lunch. Together, you walk into the house. You set down your amazingly heavy purse and shopping bag. Then you stoop to help Mittens wipe his paws on the doormat.
After feeding Mittens his favorite blend, you dust the friendship plaque and look for a place to hang it. You decide to hang it above the sofa. The leaves on the border of the plaque are just the same shade of green as your prized afghan draped over the sofa. You step back and admire how well the friendship plaque suits your home.
Written by: Jamiegoof
Edited (rewritten) by: b
Originally Published: here