In this week's story, Rain or Shine, a woman makes a reservation for patio dining
Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Today's prompt came from more of a random thought about how people can find different meanings in the same statement.
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.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 38 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 Rain or Shine
I’m glad you made time for a story break today. In case you’re new here, here’s how this podcast works: I use a word or phrase as a prompt to write a story—with no planning and very little editing—and then share that story with you.
Today’s prompt was weather inspired. It came up on one of those dark afternoons where the heavy air feels like impending rain, but a partially blue sky suggests the storm might just pass by. Since I have nowhere I go, I’m hoping for a good downpour, but I also hope the rain doesn’t ruin anyone else’s plans for the day.
Whatever the weather where you are, let’s see how it influenced this story:
Rain or Shine
“Hello! Le Petit Chou Bistro. How may I help you?”
“Oh, hello. Yes, uh,” Patty checked her notes, though she already knew what she wanted to say. “I’d like to make a reservation for six, please. On your patio. Your covered patio.”
“Ah, oui. I can help you with that. When would you like to dine with us?”
Patty again checked her notes.
“On the 16th, please. Of October. This Saturday.”
“Very good, madame. What time of day?”
“Oh, right!” Patty swallowed nervously. “Do you have anything at 2 o’clock? For a late lunch.”
There was a pause as the woman presumably checked for availability. Patty fidgeted with the scrap of paper in her hand. She did not like making phone calls.
“Yes, we have a table for six available on the patio this Saturday at 2 o’clock.”
“Oh, good!” Patty breathed a sigh of relief. “I was hoping you would. It’s kind of last minute, but it’s my sister’s birthday, and she didn’t want to do anything to celebrate, but then she wished we’d planned something, and I know she loves your food, so I decided to surprise her with a small lunch, just for a few friends.”
“Lovely,” the woman noted politely.
“But nothing special!” Patty rushed on. “I mean, she wouldn’t want a fuss, so it’s not an actual party or anything. Though some people might bring gifts, but she wouldn’t want you to sing or anything.”
“Of course,” the woman responded kindly. “We do not sing to our guests at Le Petit Chou Bistro, so that will not be a problem.”
“Oh, yeah, of course.” Patty laughed awkwardly, feeling the heat in her cheeks. She had never been to Le Petit Chou Bistro and wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We could arrange a small cake if you would like?” the woman offered, pulling Patty out of her embarrassed silence.
“Oh, I suppose that could be nice.” Patty reflected on the offer for a moment before making her decision. “Yes, let’s do that. A simple cake. We won’t put her age on it or anything.”
“But, of course,” the woman agreed.
After her answer, Patty realized that they couldn’t put her sister’s age on the cake, since she hadn’t told them how old she would be. She almost mentioned that but realized it wasn’t all that necessary.
“The cake will simply say Happy Birthday,” the woman supplied, when the silence had again stretched between them.
“Yes, okay.” Patty looked back at her notes and saw where she’d scrawled the word rain with a question mark. “Oh, I did say your covered patio, didn’t I?”
There was a slight pause before the woman confirmed, “Oui, madame, we only have the one patio and it is covered.”
“So, it will be covered if it rains?” Patty asked awkwardly, wanting to be sure.
“It will be covered rain or shine,” the woman agreed pleasantly.
“That was a silly question, wasn’t it?” Patty laughed again but didn’t wait for an answer. “I don’t make reservations like this very often. I mean, planning a party like this. Not that it’s a party… but, you know, for a… special occasion.”
“You are doing very well,” the woman encouraged, with a touch of amusement.
“You might know my sister,” Patty blurted out. “She eats there a lot. Carol Blindell? Tall, thin, blonde? Likes to toss her hair around when she talks?”
“I’m sorry, no,” the woman replied patiently. “She does not sound familiar to me.”
“Oh, okay.” Patty felt a curious sense of relief.
“Perhaps I’ll recognize her in person,” the woman added generously.
“Perhaps,” Patty agreed vaguely, half wishing she’d chosen a restaurant where there wasn’t a chance of her sister being recognized.
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Patty knew that the woman was winding down their conversation, but her tone did not sound particularly rushed. In fact, she sounded as if she would genuinely not mind if they continued to talk a few more minutes if that would put Patty’s mind at ease.
Or… that’s how Patty interpreted her tone.
“Do you know which table we’ll be seated at?” Patty asked, trying to visualize the picture she’d seen on their website before calling.
“Ah, no…” the woman hesitated. “Is there a particular table you would like?”
“Well, I haven’t been there,” Patty clarified, “so I wouldn’t know exactly… but I think Carol would like a table at the edge of the patio. Overlooking the lake.”
“I can arrange for that,” the woman responded agreeably. “We have a lovely table for six at the back corner of the patio. It offers a view of the lake, as well as the garden to the south of the restaurant.”
“And it’s still covered?” Patty asked urgently. “It’s not so close to the edge that rain will blow in on the table?”
As another pause stretched, Patty felt her palms grow damp and her stomach clench. She could just picture Carol saying, “This would be a lovely table if it weren’t for the rain!”
The woman came back on the line, speaking smoothly into the quiet.
“There is currently no rain in the forecast for this Saturday. However, if it should rain, the table is sufficiently covered from the damp.”
“You must think I’m very silly,” Patty returned, deciding to lean into her awkwardness in hopes of diffusing it.
“Not at all,” the woman assured cheerily. “It’s lovely that you want to arrange a nice lunch for your sister.”
“Yes, well…” Patty bit her lip and let the scrap of paper flutter out of her hand.
Her eyes went out of focus as she remembered past family celebrations with her sister. She scarcely heard the woman ask her another question before a string of thoughts came tumbling out of her mouth.
“We don’t get along all that well,” she confessed. “Or, I mean, we do, but not really. You know how it can be? She’s always been better than me… in the things that matter to her. You know? She was always the center of attention. The baby of the family. The one who couldn’t do anything wrong. You know?”
Patty rushed on, emboldened by the woman patient listening.
“And one time we did have a party where it rained. It was her 10th birthday, and it was at this beautiful park. She’d planned to have all sorts of games—tag and three-legged races and all that—but then it rained, and we had to stay under the pavilion the whole party.
“So, Dad ran to a nearby store for coloring books and crayons, while Mom set up a game of Bingo, and I taught her friends a dance I’d learned at camp. Everyone was having fun, except Carol. She pouted, and whined, and kept standing at the edge of the pavilion and complaining that the rain was hitting her. It was so miserable, she ended up getting a second party the next weekend just to make it up to her.”
Patty shook away the memory and looked down at her phone. It was still on speaker with the time of the call steadily counting away, but the woman made no response.
“Um, hello?” Patty twisted her hands together, mortified at what she’s said.
After a moment of silence that felt like an hour, the woman’s voice came back on the line.
“Madame? Thank you for holding. We have a reservation for six on the patio, this Saturday at 2 o’clock, and a cake that says Happy Birthday. Can I help with anything else?”
“No, thank you,” Patty murmured softly.
“Very well,” the woman returned pleasantly. “We will see you Saturday, rain or shine!”
“Yeah, see you then,” Patty echoed. “Rain or shine.”
Thanks for listening. To learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website, SusanQuilty.com. You can also connect with me on social media, or offer your support through Patreon.com/SusanQuilty.
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]