Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.

He shows up at 25 minutes to 9. Nobody in the gravel parking lot.

He looks around for litter. A few busted-up pens and pencils on the ground (?) but no empty beer cans or used condoms.

He walks towards the building, surveying the area for vandalism that may have occurred the previous night. Nope.

He opens the door with the special key.

He deactivates a series of alarms. Once the beeping stops, he turns on all the lights and makes sure there aren’t any unwanted surprises in the building: raccoons, homeless people, birds, etc.

He turns on the computer and checks the answering machine.

He unlocks the front door.

He turns on the radio. Blue Note jazz flits around the rooms. Echoes.

He lays out the cast iron ‘welcome mat.’

He puts out the American flag. 13 stars. Flagpole in the special holder. Every few days, an elderly Vietnam vet will stop by. Starved for attention the aging biker will gripe about the improper display of the flag. This means going inside and finding the Boy Scout manual and its specific instructions for flag display. The Vet will insist “that’s not the way we did it.”

He once responded, “No wonder Charlie kicked your ass, then.” The Vietnam vet cried.

He gets another American flag out of the closet. This one goes up the flagpole on the lawn.

He gets three separate OPEN! Flags; those are planted on the picket fence; near the picnic tables; near the front door, beneath Old Glory.

He gets the hand-carved OPEN! Sign.   Made by a retired shop teacher who found himself with plenty of time on his hands after getting hit by a truck. The sign looks great. It hangs on a post near the parking lot.

He unfurls the 7-foor OPEN! Banner made of laminated rubber and plastic, and hangs it on the picket fence behind the building, just in case anyone comes from that direction.

9AM. He stands out front.

9:25 AM. An elderly man wearing white linen shorts and a baseball hat with an anchor on it appears near the fence. The old man examines the fence and the flags for several minutes. Every so often, the old man turns around, as if expecting to confront some invader.

Finally, the old man speaks…

”You guys open?”

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