Free Fiction Thursday – Cleo and the Scout

Good morning, Internets!  Time for a little Free Fiction Thursday, road trip edition.

I’m spending the week on the Oregon coast, soaking up the scenery and absorbing more business of writing knowledge than one overloaded brain can handle.   Am I having fun?  You betcha!

Enough yammering, on with the story. *g*

Cleo and the Scout

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art copyright Dvarg Vasiliy at and

copyright Anna Velichkovsky at

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press


Cleo’s neighbors thought she was a witch.  She thought that was rather ironic.

She did look a bit like the witches of old, what with her hunched shoulders, humped back, and long, stringy gray hair, not to mention the black shawl she always wore wrapped around her shoulders.  She never wore designer jeans or fashionable boots like some of the other neighborhood women old enough to be grandmothers, and therefore old enough to know better.  Cleo wore long, voluminous skirts and used a cane, more for affect than need.  She’d learned long ago that people saw what they expected to see, and their expectations were always based on first impressions.  If the neighbors thought she was a witch, so be it.  She could live with a few evil eyes being cast her way whenever she made her way down the street to the corner grocer’s or the bank where that nice young man with the nice young smile spent far more time than necessary explaining to Cleo how to use her ATM card properly so she wouldn’t have to always come to the teller window to withdraw cash from her account.

It wasn’t that Cleo was too old to understand how to use such a thing as an ATM card.  She understood perfectly well.  She just preferred not to.  When a person got to be as old as she was, that person earned the right to be cranky.

She especially earned the right to be cranky with the Cub Scout who insisted on helping Cleo cross the street whether she needed help or not, which she most certainly did not.

“Can I carry your bags for you?” he asked as she made her slow way back home from the grocer’s.  He held out his pudgy hand for her bag of bread and cheese and olives and wine.

He was little more than a babe, though he spoke with the solemnity of a man.  The buttons on his uniform strained against his rotund little body, and his chubby legs looked like fat little sausages sticking out of his shorts.  His cheeks were round and altogether too rosy for a boy.  His hair, what little Cleo could see of it beneath his Cub Scout cap, was coppery red and poorly cut.

Cleo snatched her bag in closer to her body.  “I can do this myself, young man,” she said.

His arm dropped back to his side.  “I’m just trying to be nice.  Why do you have to be so mean about it?”

“No one’s nice just to be nice.”  They never had been, and they never would be, not in Cleo’s long experience.  Everyone, from babe in arms to the most powerful men in the land, had always wanted something from her, and she’d grown tired of it.  She thumped her cane against the concrete sidewalk.  “So tell me, my persistent young man, what do you really want from me?”

He’d looked crestfallen before.  Now he positively deflated.  “I get a citizen pin for helping old people,” he said.  “You’re the only old person I know.”

She blinked at him.  “I have seen grandmothers who live in this neighborhood.”  She could identify four or five that lived in her block of row houses alone, although not by name.  Cleo had no desire to know anyone in this neighborhood by name.

“But they’re not old,” the boy said.  “They don’t need me.”

Perception.  This boy saw what everyone else saw — a helpless old woman.

For a moment, Cleo thought about throwing off the disguise.  She could never regain her youth or her beauty, but she was far from helpless.

“Don’t you know what they say about me?” she asked.

(read the rest of the story here)

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