Each month we shine a spotlight on a member of White County Creative Writers. This month, January 2023, we feature a short story by Lisa Lindsey. This story won third place in the 2022 Arkansas Writers Conference Dilemma Contest Award. Lisa is also the host of the WCCW Podcast.

We hope you enjoy her story!

Caught in the Middle

ommy hated Johnny the moment they clashed in Ms. Morrison’s diner. Johnny didn’t care for Tommy either, but he kept his mouth shut about it. Being new in town meant letting the locals have their way.

It started when Johnny took the table where Tommy and I always sat. I didn’t see the big deal. There were plenty of other booths around. It took more persuading than I cared for to get

Tommy to sit with me somewhere else, and he fumed the rest of the day about the audacity of someone taking what belonged to him. Nothing I said convinced him of his own arrogance, so I let it drop.

The next day, Johnny waited outside the school on his motorcycle.

Tommy sneered as he directed me toward his truck a few parking spots down.

“Want a ride, sweetheart?” Johnny called, winking at me.

“Back off, dirtbag,” Tommy said. “She’s mine.”

Johnny smirked. “I don’t see your name on her.”

Tommy grabbed my arm, dragging me to the passenger door. “Get in,” he ordered.

I jerked back. “How about no.” I shot a look between him and Johnny. “You two need to sort out your issues. Until then, I’m perfectly capable of walking.”

“Come on, Sally. What’ll your dad say?” Tommy asked.

“That you’re being a blockhead.” I stormed off, refusing to look back as Tommy continued shouting after me.

I made it half a mile before Johnny shot past me on his motorcycle. He stopped a few feet ahead of me.

I tried to ignore him, but he got off the motorcycle and stepped in front of me. “Hey, wait a minute.”

“Leave me alone,” I said.

He caught my arm. “At least let me apologize.”

I stuck out my chin. “For?”

He lowered his head. “Look, I just wanted to get a rise out of that guy. I shouldn’t have dragged you into it.”

“And talking to me will make it better?” I rolled my eyes.

He shook his head. “Probably not. But don’t worry. I won’t bother you again. That’s all I wanted to say.”

I tilted my head. “Apology accepted. And you can talk to me if you want. Just don’t be a jerk.”

Johnny grinned. “So are you and Short Fuse serious, or what?”

I shrugged. “Mom likes him. Dad thinks he’s a blockhead. I haven’t decided yet.”

He laughed. “I’m on your dad’s side on this one, sweetheart.”

My eyes narrowed. “Like you’re any better.”

He got back on his motorcycle. “At least I apologized. I don’t see Blockhead doing the same.”

I sighed as he rode away. He wasn’t wrong.

Tommy didn’t speak to me for a week. I guess he expected me to apologize for ditching him. Instead, I made a point to wave to Johnny whenever I saw him. It sent Tommy fuming, until he finally confronted me Friday.

“Why are you talking to him?” he asked. “You’re my girl, remember?”

“Get a grip, or I won’t be.” I noticed Johnny walking with his arm around Annabelle Andrews. She giggled when he whispered something in her ear. It didn’t help my mood.

“At least let me drive you home,” Tommy said, oblivious to everything but his own distress. “It’s about to rain.”

“I brought an umbrella.” I stormed past him, not wanting to cause a scene.

The rain started before I made it a block from school. A red car pulled alongside me.

Johnny rolled down a window. “Need a ride, sweetheart?”

I tightened my grip on my umbrella. “What about Annabelle?”

“Do you see her in this car?” He gave a sly grin. “Hop in.”

The rain worsened, and my skirt was getting soaked. I huffed as I lowered my umbrella and slid into the passenger seat.

Johnny didn’t speak as he drove to my house. I started to wonder if I’d done something wrong.

Dad came out as we pulled into the driveway. He raised an eyebrow as Johnny helped me out of the car. “Where’s Tommy?”

“Being a jerk,” I said as I headed inside.

Dad shook his head. “Blockhead.”

At sunset, I heard tapping on my window. Tommy stood outside, pouting.

“What do you want?” I asked as I opened the window.

“I want you to stop hanging around Johnny,” he said. “You know we’re meant for each other. We’ve been planning our lives since we were kids.”

“No. You’ve been planning our lives.” I crossed my arms. “I’m not your property,

Tommy, and I won’t be treated like it.”

He snarled. “Don’t you talk like that to me.” He began climbing through the window.

I tried to close it, but he shoved me back. I screamed as I fell to the floor.

Then, someone pulled Tommy back outside. My eyes widened as I saw Johnny wrestle him to the ground.

Dad stormed into my room. “What’s going on in here?”

I pointed to the window, too stunned to speak.

Dad ran from the room. I followed him out where the boys were fighting.

“What in blazes are you blockheads doing in my yard?” Dad yelled.

The boys separated.

“Mr. Smith,” Tommy said. “I was just-”

“Save it.” Dad yanked him up by his collar. He jabbed a finger at Johnny. “What’s your story?”

Johnny stood and dusted himself off. “I saw Tommy sneaking around the house. I wanted to make sure Sally was okay.”

“What were you doing here at all?” Dad asked.

Johnny shrugged. “Getting the nerve to ask her on a date.”

Tommy lunged at him, but Dad caught him by the arm and tossed him back.

“She’s my girl,” Tommy shouted. “Mine, do you hear?”

“Excuse me?” Dad’s eyes narrowed. “Sally is my daughter. Not your toy. Watch

yourself.” He turned to me. “So what do you say, sweetie? Do you want to give Blockhead here a chance to straighten up?”

I huffed. “I don’t think so. We’re done.”

Tommy’s eyes widened. “But-”

“Get out of here,” I said. “I never want to speak to you again. Not after this stunt you’ve pulled.”

Tommy started to say more, but one cross look from Dad sent him sulking down the road.

“Now then,” Dad said. “What about this one? Should I be worried?”

I put my hands on my hips. “What do you think of him?”

Dad looked Johnny up and down. “What’s he good for, do you reckon?”

Johnny shrugged. “I just got a job as a mechanic for Mr. Jones. My aunt says I’m handy with home repairs.” He bit his lip. “And I’m able to handle any other job you throw at me.”

“A working man then, eh?” Dad smiled. “Any good with yard work?”

“What do you need done?” Johnny asked.

Dad laughed. “I’ll let you know.” He winked at me. “More useful than Blockhead, I’d say.”

I smirked. “What sort of date did you have in mind?” I asked Johnny.

He grinned. “There’s a new movie at the theater Saturday if you’re interested.”

“I might be,” I said.

“Why don’t you run on home, boy?” Dad said. “It’s getting late.”

Johnny nodded. “Yes, sir. Sorry for the trouble.”

“See you Saturday,” I said.

He beamed. “See you Saturday.”