In this week's story, Muffin of the Month, Derek tries to get out of his Muffin of the Month Club subscription
Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt was inspired by a random ad for an actual Muffin of the Month Club.
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 24 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Muffin of the Month
As always, this story was written using my typical podcast process, where I choose a word or phrase as a prompt, write a story based on whatever thoughts come to mind—with no planning and very little editing—and then share that story with you.
Today’s prompt came from a random ad I saw for a muffin of the month club. I didn’t know that was a thing, but a quick Google search turned up several places to sign up for gourmet muffins delivered every month.
Let’s see where that phrase led my quirky mind:
Muffin of the Month
“Hello, is this Derek Evanson?”
Derek shifted in his seat, hesitating to confirm his identity to the stranger on the other end of the line. She sounded pleasant enough but calling from a private number felt vaguely suspicious.
“Who’s calling?” Derek asked in what he hoped was a casual, friendly tone.
“Is this Derek Evanson?” the woman repeated, sounded mildly concerned. “Maybe I have the wrong number, I can be so flustered sometimes.”
Her nervous laugh reminded Derek of the blonde he’d met in the park last week. The blonde who’d cautiously accepted his business card after he’d struck up a conversation about dog groomers.
“No, you have the right number,” Derek responded with a smile. “This is Derek.”
He pictured the woman’s long blonde hair and tried to remember her name. Sarah? Suzie? Samantha? An admin walked past his open office door, and he tried not to seem too pleased with himself as he leaned back in his leather chair. First the promotion, now the pleasant surprise of this call.
“Oh, good,” the woman sighed with relief. “We’ve been trying to catch you for some time.”
His smile faded as Derek sat upright.
“We keep missing you,” the woman continued breezily. “It’s always your voicemail, and I guess you’ve been too busy to call back.”
“I, uh… Who did you say you are?”
Derek felt his knee knock against the underside of his desk, and he willed his leg to stay still.
“Oh, my, I don’t think I did say, did I?” the woman laughed, sending a prickling heat across Derek’s clenched jaw. “I’m Peg, from the Muffin a Month Club.”
Jumping up from his desk, Derek shut his office door. Two junior salesmen looked over at his closed door before shrugging and getting back to their conversation. Now hidden from their view, Derek leaned against the door and took a deep breath.
“I canceled your service two months ago,” Derek snapped into the phone. “Or I tried to, but your… Muffins keep showing up, and I keep sending them back, and you keep billing me.”
“Actually, we haven’t been able to bill you since you closed your credit card,” Peg informed him patiently. “I’m calling about getting an updated card.”
“An updated card?” Derek squawked with a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a snort. “I’m not giving you an updated card!”
“But, sir, you do have a contract with us,” Peg reminded him kindly.
“But I canceled,” Derek persisted. “I canceled two months ago.”
“Yes,” Peg agreed politely, “but your contract calls for a three-month commitment before canceling.”
“And I waited three months before canceling, and two months before closing that credit card, so you already have five months payment.” Derek shook his head, upset at himself for ever subscribing at all.
“But you never accepted delivery of any of our Muffins.” Peg sounded perplexed. “Your commitment wasn’t just for the money, but for three months of Muffins.”
“Well, that’s absurd!” Derek slouched against the door, then pulled himself up to pace toward his desk. “You have my money, and I received nothing in return. That should be more than enough to satisfy my contract!”
“I see,” Peg sighed.
Derek could hear rapid typing over the phone. He simultaneously wondered what she was typing and why her keyboard was so loud. Both questions competed for attention, beginning to give him a headache.
“I’m afraid that’s not what you agreed to in your contract,” Peg told him gently. “Our Muffin of the Month Club is quite clear in its contracts, and it does require accepting at least one Muffin.”
“But you didn’t send Muffins!” Derek blurted in agitation. “They were…” he trailed off, unsure how to finish the sentence without sounding like a jerk.
“I beg to differ,” Peg returned primly. “The companions brought to you each month were all named Muffin.”
Derek sat behind his desk, feeling the flush spreading across his cheeks. The narrow window beside his office door looked out on a maze of cubicles and all the employees who worked for him. What would they think if they knew what kind of club he’d joined one late, lonely night.
“But…?” Peg prompted, forcing him to spell it out for her.
“Muffin is a cute name,” Derek began weakly. “And the pictures on your site are all young and cute, but what you sent me… They were some of the most… well the most uncute… unlovable… dogs I’ve ever seen.”
Peg’s stiff answer brought a fresh flush to Derek’s face. He could feel the nervous sweat breaking out under his arms and across his upper lip.
“That does seem like a rather snap judgment, considering you never accepted delivery on any of the companions brought to you…”
“Oh, come, on!” Derek groaned in annoyance. “Did you see the dogs they sent me?”
There was a pause as Derek became aware of how loud he was speaking. He glanced out the window nervously and made a mental note to lower his voice.
As Peg sat in silent judgment, Derek quickly typed in the club’s website. His screen was filled with images of fluffy puppies frolicking on grassy lawns or curled up in cozy laps. A video began to play, and Derek quickly muted it.
On his screen, a handsome man in a stylish suit held a docile puppy in each arm. He smiled, nuzzling each dog, as the closed captioning displayed his words:
Do you want the love of a puppy without the long-term commitment? Our Muffin of the Month Club is here to help. Each month, we can bring you a new puppy to love—all named Muffin for ease of memory. Enjoy time at the park, take long walks, teach your Muffin new tricks, and at the end of each month, you can turn your Muffin in for a new model. Pause your subscription anytime or cancel after three months. No questions asked.
“Sir? Sir?” Peg’s prodding broke through Derek’s reverie.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, still watching the adorable puppies playing on his screen.
“Once you’ve updated your card, you can receive delivery of your next Muffin.”
“What? No,” Derek sputtered. “I don’t want any more of your Muffins. The dog’s you sent me were ragged and gaunt. One had a lame back leg, and one never stopped growling. The first one wasn’t so bad, I guess…” Derek’s memory ran through each dog that had been brought to his door, stopping on the spindly mutt with an impossibly frizzy face. “But it was…” he stopped short of saying ugly.
“Our Muffins are rescues,” Peg stressed, “and you were told there would be no guarantee on breed. Now, if you’ll just give me your new card number…”
“I can’t have another dog,” Derek insisted with a shake of his head.
“Another dog, but…?” Peg hesitated. “Our service is only for people without other pets.”
“Yeah, well… I didn’t have a dog when I signed up,” Derek admitted reluctantly. “But after seeing your, uh, companions, I decided to pick out my own puppy.”
“I see,” Peg responded frostily.
Derek felt his anger rising, pushing aside the shame she seemed intent on provoking.
“Look, the only mistake I made up was signing up for your stupid subscription in the first place. What kind of place lets people turn in a puppy for a new model every month? What you’re doing is sick! And, yeah, you can look down on me for getting a cute puppy from a breeder, but I’m actually committing to my pet. I’m the good pet owner here!”
Derek finished in a rush, taking a few rapid breaths to calm his outburst.
“Sending our dogs out for one-month trial keeps them out of shelters,” Peg said softly.
“What?” Derek blinked.
“They’re fostered while we look for forever homes, though people who take them for one month often fall in love and end up adopting. The Muffin a Month Club is just a gimmick to get attention… Did you even read your contract?”
“Oh, uh, I…” Derek stumbled. He vaguely remembered hearing something about that when he called to apply for the program, but he’d been really busy then, hustling for his promotion and hadn’t really been listening.
“It’s okay, sir,” Peg told him quietly. “I’ll cancel your contract.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” Derek felt a mix of emotions he couldn’t name. “Thanks.”
After he hung up the phone, Derek looked at the picture on his lock screen. The sight of his precious corgi’s adorable face with its white muzzle and bright eyes brought a lightness to his heart.
Though he suddenly felt strange about naming her Muffin.
Thanks for listening. If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website, SusanQuilty.com. You can also find me on social media or support me through my Patreon page.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]