“Company’s Coming” by Debra Marrs

Welcome to our second Staff Selection here at Metro Fiction. Please review the Welcome page for more information about us. This week we bring you “Company’s Coming” by our editorial advisor Debra Marrs. Have you ever realized you’re unprepared for visitors? Then you’ll relate to this week’s protagonist.

Our official launch will be January 1 when we run our first Feature Story. Please enjoy this week’s selection:

The visitors should be here today or tomorrow. One never knows and the not-knowing makes her nervous. In preparation, she hurriedly sweeps dust bunnies from the corners of the bathroom floor. In the living room, she spends a great deal of time rearranging the calico doll’s skirt just so in order to hide the dust on the end table. She looks around, tries to see her home from their point of view.

It’s a small Victorian cottage furnished with dainty chairs covered in cabbage roses, round parlor tables adorned with lace doilies, and hurricane lamps that cast a soft glow. She hopes they’ll remember all the keepsakes they knew as her mother’s–the high school graduation picture when Momma was the most beautiful and thin, the majolica vases on the piano, the rose-colored Hungarian cutwork cloth spread across the dark cherry dining table.

The sharp knock at the back door signals company has arrived. As she introduces them to her husband, she realizes she has not prepared a meal. She doesn’t cook anymore, but they don’t know that. They’ll expect a meal. She invites them in, shows them around. She’s pleased when they notice her mother’s mementos placed carefully here and there. She ushers the two of them to the front porch, her hands pressed lightly against each of their backs. She bobs her head in a nod to her husband, catches his eye. Her arched brow says, “Entertain them. I’ll be right back.”

She dashes off to the kitchen, searches the cupboards, the pantry, finds nothing to prepare. She grabs her pocketbook, flings open the back door, and skips down the wooden steps onto the dusty road. She hurries toward town while the lowering sun warns time is ticking past too quickly. Halfway there, she realizes by the time she walks to the market, walks back home, cooks the meal, and serves supper, it will be after 7 o’clock. After dark. They won’t want to eat that late. What can she do?

She pushes on anyway, passes the stables, the cobbler, the hardware. She enters the heart of town, walks by the bakery, the green grocer, the florist, the candy store, all closed for the day. She approaches a lane, walks ahead, crosses an alley, and another, then turns right at the next. She peers in shops for answers.

Up ahead she sees Harry Drake seated against the wall outside Drake The Butcher. From behind a blue haze of cigarette smoke, he watches her approach. She watches him watch her. She runs up the steps, sees the black roller blinds pulled low on Drake’s, just as they’ve been everywhere else. She tugs on the knob, rattles the door anyway.

“Been closed a while, ma’am,” Harry Drake says. “Want a smoke?” He holds up the Viceroy’s, extends the pack to her.

She turns away, looks toward home. She doesn’t smoke, has never smoked, isn’t about to smoke today. She turns back to Harry, looks past him, peers into the receding light of day, turns up the alley the other way.

No answers. She sits down, for just a quick rest, leaves a decent space between her and Harry. She places her pocketbook in the gap between them, leans into the wall.

“Here, have a smoke,” Harry says. “It’s just what you need. A smoke to stem the hunger.”

He smiles, a crooked smile, one half curled up and the other under.

She thinks of Cy back home, wonders how he is doing with her company, what he must be telling them now. Thank God for Cy.

She reaches for the pack, feels the cool cellophane, wraps her hand around it.

She looks up the alley again, unable to see through the darkness.

“Here, the light’s over here,” Harry says. She hears the flint catch and turns back to a lit cigarette inches from her face.

She takes it, places it between her fingers the way she’s seen Carol Lombard do, pulls a long drag, tips her head back, exhales a long cloud-puffed sigh.

Harry Drake reaches across her pocketbook, pats, then squeezes her knee.

“Just what I like in a woman. A gal who knows what to do.”

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  1. I can almost taste that first draw from the Viceroy. Does she inhale? Harry Drake seems to think so. I think yes.

    • Carolyn, you can decide. One of the things I teach others about writing short fiction is a good ending allows the reader to continue the dream. Or finish the story. I know you and your imagination will. Thanks for stopping by and reading. I so appreciate you!

  2. I love this story. Well done, Debra. I love the irony of coming into alignment, taking a moment to stop and consider – over a cig!

  3. Powerfully vivid imagery Debra! And what a fascinating way to end it. This is a story your readers will remember and it is quite a feat to accomplish that.

    • Thank you so much, Columbia! I hope you’ll continue to stop by Metro Fiction. We’ll be posting new stories twice a month.

  4. I loved your story Debra!! You have a great way with words and I was quickly drawn in to see what would happen. I notice that the rush of something about to happen stops us from being present in each and every moment for that which we have been anticipating. I will use this story to get back to the focus of being ever present through this crazy holiday season. Thank you for sharing this story and for your inspiration. You are a very talented and gifted writer Debra!!


    • Helen, you are SO right. This is a busy season of rushing, and in this story there’s that element too. I hadn’t recognized the synchronicity of our publication date and the seasonal busyness until you said that. It’s nice to know the story inspires you (and hopefully, others) to stop, slow down, and enjoy the moment. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! I appreciate YOU!

  5. I am dying to know what happens next?!! Did the people get dinner? LOL! What a fabulous story. It immediately draws you in and makes you feel like you are right there. YOU ROCK Debra! :-)

  6. I’m having a very hard time imagining that this lady KNEW company was coming a didn’t plan ahead. Makes me nervous thinking about it. I have relatives like this. Drives me nuts.

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