Ham & Cheese

Earlier today, I tweeted out a writing prompt--a ham-and-cheese-driven story. Here's my result:


      Joe kicked the dust from his boots as he opened the truck's driver-side door. Pouring himself behind the wheel, he hurled his hard hat onto the passenger seat. Outside of quitting time, lunch was the best hour of the day. He tore out of the construction site with a gravel-filled spray, making the ten-minute drive to his favorite deli in under seven minutes.

      He crossed the deli's threshold, expecting his usual gleeful greeting from Jessa, the shop's proprietor. Instead, she said her hellos with a tight-lipped smile and the shake of her head. Her eyes flicked from Joe to a man across the counter to her right. The man stood cross-legged, leaning against the wall opposite the cash register. His hands were hidden behind his back.

      "The usual, Joe?" asked Jessa. She attempted a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes.

      "I dunno, Jessa," said Joe, "I'm thinking of trying something new." Stepping closer to the register, he turned and asked the stranger, "What'd you get?"

      Visibly uncomfortable, the man shifted his weight. Darkness slid behind his eyes, but he remained calm. "Turkey and Swiss on pumpernickel."

      Joe moved two steps closer to the register. Placing a hand on his chin, he stroked his goatee, pondering the man's suggestion. Jessa's eyes darted from man to man, finally resting on Joe.

      "That sound good?" she asked.

      Joe crept until he and the man stood an arm's length apart. He looked to Jessa, readying for more small talk. Suddenly, the man sprang from the wall, lunging at Joe. But Joe was ready--he had been watching the man's reflection in the glass deli case. Joe's elbow caught the attacker in the throat. The blow threw the man backward, and he dropped to the floor, cracking his skull with a resounding thud. A pistol skittered across the floor. With the attacker unconscious, Joe gathered the gun.

      Jessa let out the breath she had been holding. "God, Joe! I think you just saved me!"

      Joe pulled out his cell and dialed 9-1-1. He gave Jessa a gentle smile. "And all I wanted was a ham and cheese."