From the author: It's amazing how many people think it's their job to tell women to smile. The twist at the end of this story is also true.
The parking lot next to the driver’s license office was full. Laura parked in a lot five blocks away. She scowled as she shoved a ten through the slot for her space — even unattended lots were expensive these days. Then she had to run the gauntlet of two construction sites.
The wolf whistles came as soon as she crossed the street. “Hey, baby.” “Yum, yum.” “Wanna come home with me, sweetheart?” “Man, I’d like a piece of that.”
Laura gave them a black glare, hunched up her shoulders, and tried to walk faster. A man passing her on the street said, “Smile, honey.” She didn’t.
A few yards farther on a woman said, “Child, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.” And the next person she met said, “Things can’t be that bad.” She kept walking, kept scowling.
In the next block, another guy — this one in a well-cut business suit — said, “Come on, baby, give me a little smile.”
That did it. “I’m not your baby.”
“Bitch,” he said.
She was still fuming as she approached the second construction project. Here the cries of “hot stuff approaching” were interspersed with smacking noises. Laura didn’t yell back, though she muttered curses under her breath as she hurried down the block.
“Sweetie, a smile doesn’t cost anything,” said the next guy she met. If looks could actually kill, he would have fried right there on the sidewalk. At least it was only one more block to the license office.
Inside, the air conditioning was just barely working. She stood first in the line to get a form, then in the one to hand in the form, then in the one to pay, and finally in the one for pictures. She felt very grim when she finally took her place on the marker in front of the camera. At least this only happened every five years. She took a deep breath, looked at the camera, and gave a feeble smile.
“Stop smiling,” the clerk said.
“Stop smiling. You can’t smile in your driver’s license picture.”
Laura stared at her, open-mouthed. “All morning people have been telling me to smile, and now you’re telling me I can’t?”
“It’s a matter of national security,” the clerk said. “No smiling.”
Laura tried not to smile. But every time she got her mouth in a nice straight line, she looked at the clerk and a huge grin spread across her face. It was all she could do not to giggle.
“Stop smiling,” screamed the clerk. But the more she screamed, the more Laura smiled.
The guy behind Laura in line used his cell phone to capture a short video of her arrest. It went viral on You Tube and led to dropped charges and a personal apology from the governor.
“It’s too bad they didn’t get rid of the silly law,” Laura said at the press conference. “But at least they won’t be arresting anyone else for grinning.”
She smiled for the cameras.
This story originally appeared in Flashes of Illumination.
When we started Book View Cafe, I posted a flash fiction every week. About half of them were reprints, but the other half were written on deadline. This collection includes all of them.
Note: Curious Fictions may receive a commission if you purchase through Amazon.