With 3 days to go in the challenge, we have a Rashomon-like prompt from storyaday.org: “Write a story in three sections, each section recounting the same event from a different character’s point of view.”
My story concerns a husband and father, his daughter, his wife, and his prized Hawaiian shirt, which mysteriously vanishes. Probably not my best story this month, but I found the official prompt tricky — a good challenge, though!
The Hawaiian-Shirt Triangle
It was a perfect day for flipping burgers. Standing on guard beside his charcoal grill, Ryan soaked in the sun, wearing shades, his favorite, authentic Hawaiian shirt — bought on vacation in Hawaii — and a novelty apron with ripped muscles printed on it.
To the squawking tunes of an old boombox, guests mingled about the backyard, enjoying ice-cold beers, wine coolers, and an endless supply of soda for the kids. The dogs were happy as could be, barking and running in circles until someone gave them attention or agreed to play fetch.
The only cloud in his blue sky was seeing his daughter, Emily, talking to that Jason kid from down the block. Ryan tried to be understanding — and not too controlling — but the punk looked ridiculous in those baggy pants, with that spiky hair. And was that an earring?
“Hey, babe.” His wife Kaitlyn slipped an arm around his waist and kissed the back of his neck. Her hand massaged his beer belly over his apron. “I love your rock hard abs.”
“I’ve got a six-pack,” he said, hefting his personal reserve beside the grill. In fact, it was just about time to crack open another.
She made a small, amused noise. “How’s it going out here?”
“Not bad. I’ve already gotten three compliments on the lawn.” It was perfect. Green. His pride and joy.
“Just pace yourself,” she said. “You remember we’ve got a serious dinner party tomorrow night, with my boss, his wife, and our very important clients?”
He did, though he’d been trying to forget. Maybe he could at least get away with wearing his Hawaiian shirt again, if he threw it in the wash tonight. It was perfect and comfortable for all occasions, and he’d heard they were considered formal wear in Hawaii. If he was going to put up with her painfully boring boss— the man didn’t even watch football! — he deserved to do it in style, at least.
Kaitlyn returned to the house where the more civilized conversation was taking place. At least, for now. That would all change as soon as the ballgame came on and the men commandeered the TV room.
Someone had rolled out a slip n’ slide in the yard, and once the burgers were done, Ryan considered it his obligation to take a turn. He yanked off his shirt, tossed it on the back of one of the deck chairs, and barrelled past the kids to dive headfirst down the slide, skidding along on his round belly. There were laughs and cheers from the backyard audience, and demands that he repeat the performance so they could get it on camera. He graciously obliged, and the video was soon sent along to the civilized guests.
At last he dried himself off with a spare towel and returned to the patio. The deck chair where he’d left his shirt was empty. A few inquiries of the people mingling about, and a quick search, bore no fruit.
He headed inside the house. “Hey, Kate!” As he passed by the kitchen, his nose twitched. “Hey, is something burning?”
She came hurrying up the basement stairs, carrying an armful of soda and chips. “I forgot the cookies!” She threw her supplies down on the counter, slipped into a mitt, yanked the oven open, and slid the tray onto the counter.
The cookies didn’t look too burnt, actually. Nice and melty chocolate chips. Ryan reached out to test them, just to be sure.
Kaitlyn slapped his hand away. “Wait until they’re cool, mister. And save some for the kids.”
“Fine, fine.” He pouted. “Oh, Kate, have you seen my shirt?”
“The one I was wearing. My Hawaiian shirt.”
She shook her head. “You managed to lose the shirt off your back? You’d lose your head, too, if it wasn’t screwed on.”
“You’re probably right.” No matter how hard he searched all through the day and night, no matter how he interrogated his guests, Ryan turned up nothing. He did think it was awfully suspicious that Jason punk apparently left the party, right around the time his shirt went missing. But Emily insisted he was innocent, and she’d seen nothing, either.
The shirt had vanished into thin air.
“No way!” said Emily, slapping Jason on the arm. “You like Death-Kill-4000, too? I thought nobody else had heard of them.”
He self-consciously tugged on his earring. “Uh, yeah. They’re only like my favorite band. I’ve got all their albums.”
She was so excited; none of her friends would be caught dead listening to Death-Kill. It was funny, though. Her and Jason used to talk all the time when they were younger, but they drifted apart during high school. Emily wasn’t sure why. “Okay, but have you heard Bedlam Behind Bars? It was secretly recorded during their time in prison for rocking too hard.”
His jaw dropped. “Are you telling me you’ve got a copy? I heard it doesn’t even exist on the internet.”
“It doesn’t,” she said proudly. Tracking the album down had been no easy feat, and had cost her six-months of tips from her restaurant gig, about two hundred hours of leg work, and a pint of blood. “Do you wanna listen to it?”
‘Um… yeeeaah.” Jason grinned.
“Come on.” She pulled him by the sleeve into the house, ignoring her dad’s grill-side grimace. He probably didn’t even know he was doing it, but he gave every boy she hung out with that look.
They wound up sitting side by side on her bed, sharing earbuds. There wasn’t a low enough volume setting to keep the music from making their ears ring. It rocked that hard.
During the track 25 Minutes of Ominous Silence, Emily nudged Jason with her shoulder. “How come we stopped talking, even though you live just down the street?”
“Well, you were in all those advanced classes. And you didn’t hang out with skaters much.” He glanced at her with his big green eyes, then looked away. “I guess you’ll be going to college, huh?”
“My classes start next month. What about you?”
“Working at the family business, I guess.”
She frowned. “It sucks I only found out how cool you are, when we won’t be able to hang out much.”
The Ominous Silence grew.
About five seconds later, they were making out, and she was helping Jason out of his shirt.
Thirty seconds later, someone knocked on her door, which she’d totally forgotten to lock. “Emily?” The door began to creak open.
“Oh crap, my mom!” With blinding speed, and previously unknown strength, she flung the shirtless Jason out her bedroom window.
Her mom entered and looked at her funnily. “What are you doing, hiding in here, when we have guests?”
“Nothing much,” said Emily, straightening her rumpled clothes. “Be out in a minute.”
“Mmhmm.” With a suspicious look, her mom retreated.
Emily stuck her head out the window. Jason was nowhere to be found. At least that meant he’d survived the second-story fall, though she hoped her dad wouldn’t catch him wandering around shirtless. There would be questions.
“Hey, babe.” Kaitlyn kissed the back of her husband’s neck, which tasted faintly of sunscreen. She rubbed his big belly, which he was still deluding himself into believing qualified as a beer belly. That excuse had gone out the window years ago. “I love your rock hard abs.”
“I’ve got a six-pack,” said Ryan, hefting his beer.
Which was about five more than he should be having. But it was his big party, he could act a little irresponsible. “How’s it going out here?”
“Not bad. I’ve already gotten three compliments on the lawn.”
That would certainly put him in a good mood all day. Maybe it was a good time to bring up bad news? “Just pace yourself,” she said. “You remember we’ve got a serious dinner party tomorrow night, with my boss, his wife, and our very important clients?”
She could practically see the wheels turning in his head. Ryan never did have much of a poker face. Right now, he was probably thinking he was going to wear that damned Hawaiian shirt again, which had completely embarrassed her at so many formal events before. Well, let him think that. For now.
Kaitlyn returned to her gossiping guests indoors, enjoying the relative peace and quiet compared to the rowdy outdoor crew. Until everyone started receiving a certain video of her husband on their phones, which showed him sliding around the yard like an overgrown child. She laughed and shook her head.
He was shirtless, of course, with his hairy potbelly on full display… Yes, this was her chance!
Trying to act nonchalant, she hurried back outside and found his discarded shirt on a deck chair. He was way too preoccupied to notice when she stole it, bunching it up into a ball.
But where could she hide it? He’d look everywhere for the damn shirt, scour every inch of the house. Except Emily’s room! He did at least respect her privacy.
Kaitlyn ran up to the bedroom and knocked on the door. “Emily?” It wasn’t latched, and she didn’t expect Emily to be here, so she pushed it open. Just in time to see Jason go flying out the window, head over heels.
Emily sat on the bed, looking a bit frumpled, acting perfectly innocent. Did she really think her mother hadn’t seen that? Kaitlyn sighed. Her daughter was old enough to make her own decisions about boys, but she really needed a bit more cleverness, instead of just booksmarts. She hoped Jason wasn’t too badly hurt.
“What are you doing, hiding in here, when we have guests?”
“Nothing much,” said Emily, red-faced and guilty-looking. “Be out in a minute.”
“Mmhmm.” But Kaitlyn had other things on her mind. She needed to dispose of this shirt, immediately. This called for desperate measures. Ryan would probably notice its absence any minute now.
She rushed down the stairs, rounded the corner, and descended another flight into the basement. Without hesitating, she flung the garish red-and-orange monstrosity onto the concrete floor. From a shelf, she grabbed the big can of lighter fluid that Ryan used for the charcoal grill.
She could always buy him another shirt. This was no time for half-measures. Nothing would ruin her dinner party… nothing! She began to laugh evilly as she doused the shirt, stepped back, and flung a match. The hideous thing went up in a roar of flames, her cackling rising like smoke.
Oh, crap! She grabbed a few random soda bottles and bags of chips as an alibi and raced up the stairs.
“Hey, is something burning?” Ryan yelled.
She pulled the basement door shut behind her as she emerged. The shirt needed to burn to cinders, leaving no evidence. She could sweep it up later, before he noticed.
But she still needed an excuse for the smell… “I forgot the cookies!” she exclaimed, dropping her decoys and pulling the cookie sheet from the oven. In reality, they were half-baked at best, but Ryan didn’t seem to notice as he grabbed for one.
Kaitlyn slapped his hand away. Maybe she could throw them back in the oven to finish baking, once he’d gone. “Wait until they’re cool, mister. And save some for the kids.”
“Fine, fine.” He pouted. “Oh, Kate, have you seen my shirt?”
Thanks for reading!
2 thoughts on “Story-A-Day May #29: The Hawaiian-Shirt Triangle”
Busted! And I was so sure Jason would end up running off with the shirt 😀
LikeLiked by 1 person
Then my red herring worked! 🤓 I figured, without a framing device or unreliable narrators, that was the best way to keep readers guessing.