Day Dream Believer

Daydream believer

Ann Garvin 2004

Official Participant Number: #130

Title: Daydream Believer

Word Count: 1,400


This was her last Friday night, Dog & Suds, Arf and Barf, dinner-and-a-movie special at the Drive All Night Drive-In.

No more wiener jokes;

“Hey Jen, can I ride my baloney barge into your bun?” Goodbye, dick heads trying to cop a feel when she reached down to give them their change. So long fending off old geezers waiting for her to close to give her a ride home. “Gas or ass, honey, nobody rides free.”

She hadn’t heard any original material since she started working four years ago. Jen was leaving Sunday for college. She started packing months ago, pulling out her best underwear. She’d been saving the bikini undies with cartoons of food on them for about six months now. Plates of spaghetti, chocolate sundaes, and her favorite; the hotdog with onion rings. She knew this had a subtle sexual quality and thought it might be good for a university girl. A girl of the world.

Rummaging in her fanny pack for dental floss, Jen considered possible college majors to pursue. She had better try theatre if she was ever going to use that Oscar speech.

“As a little girl, my mother always said when invited to a party, you should keep it short, thank the host, and say you had a nice time. So, to my fans and the academy, thank you for having me. I had a nice time.”

Interrupting her thoughts was still another raggedy pickup with a large blanket covering about four extras in the bed, scamming a ride. Illegal aliens dying to get across the border for the latest Spielberg flick. Life on the edge in Michigan.

She rolled her eyes and ignored them. The acceptance speech could be adapted.

“I want to thank my fellow dentists for this great distinction; the happy-molar award is the highest of honors.” She did think teeth were important. Maybe she should be a dentist with a performance minor. Always good to have a Plan B.

She would wear a tiara, she thought, diving back into her reverie. Or maybe not. She didn’t want it to look like she was trying too hard, just a day in the life of your typical huge movie star.  Still, how many times in your life do you get to wear an actual crown? Jewelled headgear is usually reserved for four-year-olds, beauty queens, and bachelorettes drinking their last single-girl beer with a penis prosthetic attached. So, maybe no tiara.

The speech was good, she thought; short, a little humor, no political or save-the-whale-like comments. She would definitely wear red. Maybe pink.

“Holy Mary, I’m a loser,” she whispered. How much time have I wasted on this particular fantasy? Pulling the gum out in a long string from her mouth and snapping it with her tongue, she tried to get the last of the popcorn kernels embedded in her front left incisor. That would be so her, she thought.

Kenny was coming later, and she would welcome him looking like someone living on a greyhound bus who hadn’t heard of oral or any other kind of hygiene.

She loved the Oscar fantasy. She usually traded between the Academy daydream and the one where Tom Cruise discovers her, passing through town on his way to shoot on location in the Porcupine Mountains. He would be filming an adventure-hiking movie about that guy who sawed his arm off with a nail file. She would be cast as his love interest and move to LA when filming was done.

It could happen, she thought. The Upper Peninsula would be a cheap place to film. There were lots of rocks. A boulder could fall on you and trap you for life. She had surely felt trapped here, boulder or no.

The sound of gunshots exploded through the air. Yep, 9:37 pm. Right on time, she thought. She had seen this movie twenty-seven times. The body count would be twenty before Kenny arrived in an hour. He always came precisely when twenty-two bit the dust. Geez, she could act so much better than that woman on the screen. She sounded like someone who had been directed to read her lines like she had never seen them before, and she was great at it.

Gazing out from her drive-in kiosk, she didn’t feel 17. She felt ageless, as if she could press through the night and come out on the other side of the darkness where she knew something real was happening. Something she could actually live through.

Sometimes she felt like a bottle of Coke that someone shook up, her lid on so tight, her thoughts pressing to get out and scatter in a thousand directions.

She plucked at her uniform, harvest gold, and sticky in the heat. She sniffed under her arms, sure that movie stars never did something so low class, even alone in their bathrooms, let alone in a ticket booth for anyone to see. She pretended to wipe her nose with her shoulder, in case Mr. Cruise was around and watching.

She could smell a cacophony of odors, unsure which were hers and which belonged to the booth. Popcorn, cigarettes, cedar, a vague chicken soupy scent, mold, and that distinct smell the air carries when it is serious about summer.

Then she thought of Kenny.

He was a whole year younger and wouldn’t graduate until next May. How had she not told him that she wouldn’t wait to go to school like they had planned? What was she waiting for? Wasn’t it time to grow up? He was a genuinely nice guy, one of her first really nice boys, which she supposed, was her fault.

Her mother always said she was too impulsive and didn’t wait for “all available information to present itself in due course of time.” God, who the hell talks like that? she wondered. It was hard to tell with boys. They were so… what was that word from math? Obtuse.

If only boys were forced to wear ingredient lists like on the nutrition labels, she thought. This would allow full disclosure for all potential pairings. Ingredients would be listed from most to least:

Freakishly afraid of commitment; won’t call when says will call; only cares for self; demonstrates said lack of caring in many and varied ways.

And then of course, the only characteristics any attention is paid to: charming; mildly sexy; smart; likes fruit.

As it stands, women like her mother, who marry these men, come to learn of these ingredients after years of soul searching, therapy, and meetings with a court-appointed mediator. It was like a sad twist on that old song. Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Wasn’t that song talking about a parking lot? Boys were a little like a parking lot; you parked yourself and then moved on.

They hadn’t done “it” yet. She knew she was the only virgin in the current Senior class (total population 35) of White Pine High School. That’s if you don’t count Clara, the 10-year-old child genius and Jennette, who was clearly not interested in anything male.

Jen just wasn’t into the whole blow-job, body parts, smeary mess of it all. Kenny never pressured her, and she suspected he was relieved not liking anything sticky on his hands. He wouldn’t even go near cotton candy. He said he loved her mouth, though. She loved his, and the whole amazing, eyes-body-lips-hands-package of him.

That was the whole problem. She would create the words in her head, and he would swallow them when she opened her lips for a kiss.

She promised herself she would tell him tonight.

She would open her mouth and make the speech.

She would live outside her head.

She would speak real words and commit to actual movements.

She would move from dreamy girl to speaking woman.

She would open her world and begin to move through the atrium of dreamer into doer.

And then he was there, in front of her, moving into the small room, and without a sigh, or a wink, or warning, he stole all her words and shut the door.

*Second Place win.





  1. Lynn Davidson on June 7, 2023 at 7:38 am

    Ann, how was this not a first place win! This story is so enjoyable, holding the reader all the way through, and not disappointing with the ending. Congratulations on your leap into realizing your potential as a writer.

    • Ann Garvin on June 7, 2023 at 3:11 pm

      The first place story was wonderful and written by Christy Clancy another author with more experience and great books. But thank you Lynn, this made me smile. Ann

  2. Cindy Gillespie-Lena on June 7, 2023 at 11:13 am

    Delightful! Jen is an enchanting young woman, ready to take on the world and find her way to the podium of success! Bravo, Ann . . . you won the trophy!

    P.S. The Michigan references caught me being a Mitten girl myself!

    • Ann Garvin on June 7, 2023 at 3:12 pm

      Thank you and yes, we midwestern women know a good Michigan reference.
      So nice of you to read and enjoy this story.

  3. Kathleen Williams on June 7, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    It’s so inspiring that you shared this, and I became so excited when you mentioned a picture prompt. The only contest I ever win was international created by an artist who wanted stories to go with her paintings. After I won, I was asked to write a story for one more painting that she didn’t like any entries for, and it was one of the greatest joys of my life. Such a tiny thing, really, but it made my writing matter, and inspired me to continue. The painting is so beautiful and so worthy of interpretation. Thank you so much for sharing this, Ann. if you know any great contests s, please share those, too! I absolutely loved meeting you in Chicago and love your work. Kathy

    • AK White on June 7, 2023 at 2:05 pm

      That’s a truly amazing story. So much said In so few words. Thanks for sharing it🌼

    • Ann Garvin on June 7, 2023 at 3:14 pm

      I know exactly what you mean, Kathleen. It’s such a wonderful thing to write for someone and have it feel meaningful. I’m so lucky and I can feel how happy that writing for a painting made you.
      I’m so glad we met and you were here to read this.
      More contests to come, I hope!

  4. Annette on June 7, 2023 at 2:25 pm

    Wow! I am in total awe of your ability to weave words. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Ann Garvin on June 7, 2023 at 3:14 pm

      You are so welcome, thank you for taking the time to read this. 🙂

  5. Kirsten on June 7, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    Oooh this is a delightful thing to get today! I’ve been wanting to read this since you first mentioned this in Collioure. So many beautiful things in here – but as I have found with everything I read of yours, there is always a line that stops me and makes me read it once more. Twice more:

    “… as if she could press through the night and come out on the other side of the darkness …”


    • Ann Garvin on June 8, 2023 at 10:55 am

      Well, It’s about time I posted it then! I’m so glad you liked it 🙂

  6. Brenda Ploegstra on June 7, 2023 at 10:32 pm

    This reminds me of myself many, many moons ago. I had so many big dreams and plans. Then he kissed me and they all faded away. Wish I could go back and start over again. There I go – daydreaming again.
    I loved your story. I am so glad it wasn’t your only one. Haven’t found one that I don’t like. Keep on writing and I will keep on reading.

    • Ann Garvin on June 8, 2023 at 10:54 am

      This was the most beautiful short love story ever!!! I just LOVE this so much. xxxxx

  7. Heide on June 8, 2023 at 6:45 am

    This is Great! It’s a little like me. I didn’t work at the Drive In, but I did go with a bunch of friends. Tuesday Night, Dollar Drive In. Wyoming, Michigan. Nowhere-ville. My group of friends met up with another group that had friends in common. One Boy told me a bunch of fibs, was a little younger than me and I was smitten. I married Him a year later. Now 46 years and 4 kid later we are still here. Dreaming of retirement. The Drive In has been torn down.

  8. Ann Garvin on June 8, 2023 at 10:55 am

    I could live all day on a story like this. I love it so much. xoxox A

  9. Vicki C on June 9, 2023 at 12:13 am

    I could certainly relate, being a midwest farm girl. Only I dreamed of being famous (nothing specific for how I was going to become famous) and being interviewed on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I always thought it funny when he interviewed someone and they said they came from a small town of 10,000 people. I came from a town of 315 people. So my daydreams didn’t happen at the drive in, but on the warm blacktop of the county road we lived on, as I walked along the road looking for wild strawberries that grew on the shoulder and hoped my boyfriend would drive over for a visit. Good memories, thank you for sharing this story!

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