So this is a writing exercise, in which I write a short story in the first person. .using the word “I” only twice. Enjoy.
It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon, I’m sitting at the mall’s food court, eating some Chinese and watching all that’s going on around me. It’s like a museum of people, the mall—all sorts of people come and go constantly, and it’s easy to make up a story for each of them. Sometimes, just watching and listening is enough. Like now.
There’s a middle-aged man a few tables away, eating a Rueben sandwich and talking on the phone. He laughs once or twice, inadvertently showing off some corned beef and lettuce.
Next to him, an older woman sits at her table with a cup of steaming coffee, brow furrowed in deep concentration as she works on her daily crossword puzzle. Her pencil delicately scratches across the paper, and she smiles every once in a while, muttering under her breath.
Behind the counter of the coffee shop are two workers in uniform, elbows on the counter, talking conspiratorially. The older one elbows the younger one, who rolls his eyes and goes to help the next customer.
A shift in gaze brings to sight a group of “the cool kids”—a couple of football jocks, three girls with blonde or reddish hair in tank tops and miniskirts, and another kid who looks like a younger Tom Cruise. One of the jocks has his arm around the red-haired girl, who’s leaning against his shoulder. One of the blondes shoots the Tom Cruise kid a cutting look. He’s too busy getting ready for a lip lock with the other blonde.
Also eating at the pizza place are a few couples and several families. One of the families is made up of a weary forty-something father and a woman who looks nearly half his age. There are three kids with them: a girl who looks about ten, wearing a sundress and flip flops; a boy about two or three years younger, clad in a sports outfit; and a toddler who’s screaming his head off.
Farther away, at the ice cream place, are a couple of teenaged boys in line. They look about sixteen or seventeen, and they’re ribbing each other and laughing. One of them pulls out his phone and shows it to his friends. They read whatever’s on it and crack up. The tallest one puts his arm around the one with his phone out. They look similar. Maybe they’re brothers.
There’s a buzz. My phone. It’s a text message from Chris, a good friend. He’s waiting in front of the water fountain. I shake my head, sigh, and get up, leaving the food court behind.
Less than three,