A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Bread on the Water
by Beth Stephenson (Jan 2010)

        The handsome English professor, Joseph Richardson, nodded when the pretty coed stopped at his table. “I loved your lecture today.” Her painted fingernails tapped the table.

        Bottom five percent brains, top five in looks, he thought.

         “I thought your last novel was the best of all.”

         “Thanks.” It was already a best seller, but it would be nothing when his next book came out.

        Her pointed shoe tapped. “How can I raise my grade in your class?” The professor tossed a bill on the table and stood. “Make up old assignments and turn the rest in on time and you might pass.” Richardson brushed past her, nodded at the waitress and drove his Escalade toward home.

        A year earlier, He’d swallowed his front teeth when a student on athletic scholarship punched him when he posted semester grades. Students seemed worse by the day.

        He wore false teeth since that event and he took them out when he got home. He donned a greasy mechanic’s jump suit, a shapeless hat and blackened his nails with dirt from the back flowerbed. His ’72 pickup sputtered as he drove toward Curly’s truck-stop diner.

         Curley’s was just off the interstate. “Hi, Ginny,” he greeted the redheaded waitress with the gray streak at her part, as he entered. A moment later, she handed him a coffee with two sugars and two creams.

        “Thanks, Sweetheart,” Joseph mumbled as he opened his spiral notebook and borrowed a pen topped with a fake flower.

        “How’s the book coming, Joe?” Ginny spoke in the sugared tone a young woman uses to a deaf, old man.

        “Comin’ ‘long.” He murmured. “You’s t’ star, ya know.” He held up the notebook, but his scrawling long-hand was unreadable to her.

         “I’m sure it’s grand.” She patted his shoulder and turned to her paying customers.

        “Get rid of that bum.” Curley didn’t lower his voice.

         “He’s harmless. Cain’t say that ‘bout most folks.” She lisped a little through broken teeth.

        Joseph watched Curley press a slice of ham on the grill. “I’m givin’ Ginny half the cash when it’s published, ya know.” Curley wagged his head.

        Ginny grinned. “Thanks, Joe. Maybe I’ll buy me an SUV.” The customers laughed with her.

        Joseph grinned toothlessly. “Whatever you like, Sweetheart.”



        Joseph Richardson’s “Roadhouse” was a best-seller in its first week. The famous author resigned his professorship. Ginny bought an SUV and got her teeth fixed.


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