Written for NYC Flash Fiction Challenge, Round 2
Zeeshan had never seen his father so angry. He was jumping up and down, screaming at Mr. Leonard, the owner of the tourist shop on the other side of Anchor Park. Leonard was busy methodically filling in the letter spaces on his sandwich board. Whatever he was spelling out was infuriating Zeeshan’s father. Zeeshan lifted his camera to his face, focused the lens so that his father’s long, white kurta stood out in sharp contrast to the old, rusted anchor the park was named for. He got a few good shots that seemed to really do his father’s anger justice. Zeeshan chuckled at the image and showed Leilani.
“Ohh… migod. What are they fighting about now?” Leilani was basking on the bench she and Zeeshan used for their breaks across the boardwalk from their respective stores.
“Your grandfather is putting something up on his sandwich board. I can’t see it from here, but it’s pissing my dad off somewhat.” Leilani gave a snort of laughter at Zeeshan’s understatement. The two had grown up together, working summers on the boardwalk and slowly falling in love despite the enormous rift between their families. Zeeshan sometimes called Leilani “My Maria” whenever things were particularly tense between their patriarchs.
Leilani squinted over at the two men and groaned. “Popop said he was going to really get him back today. He’s still upset about the sign last week. I think he’s started misspelling them on purpose.”
Zeeshan grinned. Omar, who had immigrated to the US as a young man, spoke impeccable Queen’s English. Leonard, who was born and raised in the US, spoke impeccable South Jersey. After enduring years of grammar and spelling errors on the other man’s signs, Omar began a subtle but targeted campaign to highlight the offending errors. The previous week he had finally penetrated Leonard’s dense shell of oblivion with a sign that read: “Unbeatable prices. Flawless spelling. More colors to choose from.”
Zeeshan and his father ran a typical boardwalk tourist shop. They sold useless crap emblazoned with the name of the shore town and witty phrases. They had an airbrush station they used to paint customized T-shirts for beachgoers. Leonard’s store was virtually identical. The two shops stood on either side of Anchor Park, named for the large anchor that was mounted in cement with no plaque, benches or greenery. It acted mainly as an entry onto the boardwalk and was a well-known meeting place. It was a small park in a small shore town that needed to spend its money on other, more pressing matters. “Clearly not on education,” Omar would grumble over dinner while watching the local news. Omar had many opinions about the inhabitants of the little shore town, most of them derived from his hate/hate relationship with Mr. Leonard.
Leilani stood up and pecked Zeeshan on the cheek. “I’d better get back there before one of them blows a vessel. I’ll see you tonight, right?” Zeeshan grunted an affirmation and tried to grab her as she giggled and walked off, her dark skin glistening from the sweat and sun. Zeeshan moved to where he could see Leonard’s sign. It read: “By American. Family own and operated since 1974.”
Omar was having a fit. “I am an American! My son was born in this country! At least I know how to spell, you arrogant, ignorant, useless, copycatting excuse for a business owner!” Zeeshan resignedly headed back to the store, figuring Leilani had a good point about keeping them from killing each other.
“Fraternizing with the enemy!” Omar screamed at Zeeshan as he walked up. Omar stormed into the store, heading straight to the back to get his own sign materials. Zeeshan sighed and leaned over the counter so he could see the sign making process. Omar’s new one read: “Buy local! Support our economy! Sales taxes to provide basic literacy instruction to residents.”
Later in the afternoon Zeeshan received a text from Leilani. “Watch out. Popop’s on his way.” Sure enough, the doorway was filled by the intimidating bulk of the aging former welterweight champion. “Where’s that asshole dad of yours?” Leonard growled.
Omar came out from the back of the store at that moment, carrying a box of snow globes. They clanked together as he shoved it roughly onto the counter. “You, sir, you get out of here. You leave my store now!”
“Git outside and deal with this like a man, you fucking pussy.” Leonard hissed at Omar.
“You are the one who has a vagina!” Omar screamed, nearly in hysterics.
The two men stormed out to the space between their stores. Zeeshan and Leilani followed them, Zeeshan’s camera at the ready. As their shouts became more belligerent and disruptive a crowd of brightly dressed, slightly sunburned beachgoers formed around them. The men hurled insults and epithets at each other, increasingly personal and mean-spirited. Finally, with a strangled scream, Omar ran at Leonard. Zeeshan clicked away, capturing his father’s complete breakdown on film. The entire confrontation was framed by the underachieving park and giant anchor.
A few days later, Zeeshan called Leilani and told her to pick up the local paper. “Look at page 5. You’ll get a kick out of it. They finally accepted one of my submissions.” He could barely suppress his glee.
Leilani opened to the Local News section and nearly choked on her coffee as she saw the picture above the fold. There were Omar and Leonard, hands pushing and pulling at any body part they could reach, faces contorted in passionate rage. The headline read: “ANCHOR MANAGEMENT. Local business men clash.”