More Than Meets the Eye


WRITING PROMPT: Write a story or poem that includes all three of these elements: a new job, an enemy, and a secret room.

There were simply no jobs available. I had applied everywhere. Walmart, Target, FoodLion. I had even put in applications to Hardee’s and McDonald’s. I needed summer money and I didn’t care where I had to work to get it.

Being just a junior in high school had its limitations on what kind of job you can pursue in the suburbs. My country cousins all have jobs mowing lawns or are working on a neighboring farm with cattle or hay in the fields. Here in the suburbs, the lawns are cared for by specialists. Even the pets have unionized pet-walkers.

This was my third day here at Aunt Harriet’s- it was her turn to keep me for the summer- and it felt as if I would be trapped in this small, basement apartment for the entire summer. Don’t get me wrong. Aunt Harriet is wonderful (for a spunky, 75-year-old aunt who stays up to write half of the night, sleeps half of the day, and putters around in her immense backyard with her garden the remainder of the time).

And I understood why my parents wanted me to ‘experience other places’ before I went away to college- They put it… “to get in touch with living on my own.”

But it felt as if the world was out to get me. The entire summer: no friends… no car… no pocket money. Thanks’ Mom and Dad; this is going to be a great experience.


That was Aunt Harriet. That is how she always enters my room.

“Are you ready to start this morning or do you want to walk around and see the town one more day?”

“Start what?”

“Your summer job. Didn’t your folks explain why I needed you here so badly this summer?”

“Aunt Harriet, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“My gardens. This is the year I have planned to thin them all and pot the plantings for reselling. The Newburg Gardening Society will be here in three weeks and we have to have the entire garden thinned, all the differing specimens correctly labeled, and my entire gardens redesigned and mulched. The proceeds from my prized specimens are going to be donated to the local United Way.”

“I don’t know anything about gardening.”

“Oh, you don’t have to… I’ll teach you. Right now I just need your muscles and sweat. I can’t get around for as long a periods as I used to.”

“Sure, Aunt Harriet. If that is all you need… My sweat is for sale.”

“Great! Start getting the tools out of the old shed in the back of my lawn. Here’s a list of what you need.”

“Aunty, you didn’t have to provide pictures to match.” I chuckled as I looked at the intricate, yet child-like, drawings.

“Well, you are the one that said you knew nothing. I take no chances.”

Walking through the gardens to get to the work shed, I was amazed at the variety of plants surrounding me. Everything was immaculately groomed, but in such a carefree manner. I could not see a single sprout of a weed rearing its ugly head. Keeping this garden in this impeccable a manner was a great deal of work. To maintain this garden, Aunt Harriet got around a whole lot better than she claimed, I was sure.

Releasing the deadbolt from the door to the workshop, I found the light switch at the side and I began to locate all the tools that Aunty requested. I placed them, one at a time, in her huge red wheelbarrow- just like in her drawing.

Her garden shed was as carefully and efficiently organized as her gardens. Everything was in its rightful place. The small tools were all hanging over the workbenches to the right. The larger tools were positioned on the wall to the left. And the stacks of soils and accruemental nutrients needed to supplement her soil were positioned in the back.

Being a bit of a science geek, I walked over to all the supplements just to see what Aunty was using to facilitate the growth in this fabulous garden. Four bags of Scott’s Turf-Builder, an entire stack of Miracle-Gro Soils, one stack containing only bags of lime with bags of peat moss stacked atop, four bags of vermiculite and four bags of gypsum. The last stack, on the far left. was made up of something called Extreme Nature’s Soil Supplements. Aunty had quite a collection of chemically-infused nutrients for her soil. Good thing that I knew she was just an old-lady gardener.

Just as I was turning to leave, I noticed a light shining from beyond the back wall. I would have assumed it was just a small crack in a fissure of the wall, but the emitting light was pulsating like a blue strobe.

Stepping closer to get my eye at the fissure in the wall I heard another “Ah-hum… Ah-hum…”

It was Aunty. “Well, it certainly didn’t take you long to find my secrets.”

She was smiling… I think.

“Guess it would have helped if I had turned off the receivers last night.”

Aunt Harriet slide her arm around me- pushing me behind her. She stoically walked to the fissure, pressed three times and a door suddenly opened.

“Aunty…” was all I could say.

There were hundreds of small lights- a multitudes of colors blinking everywhere along the desks and shelves of the back wall. As I turned, the wall to my left was an enclosed armory: boxes and boxes of shells along the lower shelves, a row of semi-automatic weapons lined to center encasement, and a multitude of pistols – all shapes and sizes- were delicately affixed to the wall in clear, holding compartments.

“Sit down, Alfred,” Aunty said pointing to a small, circular conference area of comfortable-looking, cushioned chairs on the right.  “I think it is time we talked.”

I sat.

NOTE: I might use this one as a first writing assignment from which to bounce ideas for the opening of school?

Written for Creative Writing Now: Be a Writer Now class


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