Short Story: Gwen’s Dilemma, by M. L. Poncelet

Gwen stood outside the sidewalk looking at the address. The building had a closed sign, the windows looked grimy and the awning was missing. She smiled. This was going to be the future home of her new business, Gwen’s Flower Shop. She was going to be her own boss from now on. No more having to wake up and drive one hour to her government job.

As she peered through the glass she imagined all the new renovations she would do – new tile for the floors, a fresh coat of paint for the walls, and a good scrub on the outside wouldn’t hurt either. It was hard to believe this used to be a flower shop, but there in the corner was the refrigeration unit with its glass doors.

Her inheritance from her late uncle Bob was a huge help when it came to getting the loan. She walked around a couple of times as she waited for the loan manager to show up and give her the key. She couldn’t wait to get started.

“Hey lady, are you lost?”

Gwen turned around, somewhat taken aback by this toothless man.

“This is going to be the future home of Gwen’s Flower Shop.” She said, forcing a smile.

“Good luck to them,” he said as he approached closer. “How much did they pay for it? They probably got ripped off whatever it was. I’m Dan by the way, I work out the back at the radiator shop.”

Gwen took a step backward, and looked at him, unbelieving. Just then she spied the loan manager’s car come bolting around the corner in a blur of shiny metal.

Dan wandered off just as Jeff came careening into the parking lot, slamming the car door behind him.

“Gwen! You beat me to it!” He ran up and shook her hand, congratulating her. Jeff’s smile was infectious and soon her old enthusiasm was back. She shared her ideas of renovating and he nodded and smiled as he rattled the key back and forth in the lock. Finally it opened. “You might want to get a locksmith around, this lock is a bit rusty.”

Inside the place was a complete mess; dirt and cobwebs were everywhere, clinging to the edge of the countertop and hanging down from the ceiling. Even the normally chatty Jeff was at a loss for words. He brushed his jacket. “I should get going, Gwen. Good luck!”

Gwen watched him go and waved through the grimy windows but he was too busy swinging his neck around looking for a break in the traffic. Afterward, Gwen put on her apron and started to clean, first one spot and then another. It was hard to stay focused on just one area when the whole place was in such dire need of help. Even the ceiling was yellow. Someone must’ve smoked quite heavily in here. She left the door open for some fresh air but soon realized after she started coughing that she needed a mask.

The locksmith came around noon.

“Whatcha doin’?” He said.

“Cleaning! This is going to be the future home of Gwen’s Flower Shop,” she said between gritted teeth. “Who are you?”

“I’m here to change your locks,” he said as he rattled the door and the door frame. “This door is junk lady, it’s not worth the lock. You see how it doesn’t sit right in the frame?”

Gwen coughed as she came outside to see what he was talking about. He unscrewed the door handle.

“Ideally what you want to do is take out the bolt but this frame is so flimsy,” he poked at the frame with his screwdriver. “If I take this one out you’re going to have major problems. Looks like you need to call someone about these ants, they’ve found the rotten wood already.” The locksmith pointed his shoe at the small mound of earth next to the corner of the door.

Gwen took off her rubber gloves and bent over to have a look. There were ants all right, dozens of them. One more person to call.

“I need the lock changed, whatever hardware you have, could you change it?” She was getting exasperated.

“Sure, sure. You just continue on what you’re doing and I’ll do my thing.”

Gwen went back inside and resumed her scrubbing.

The locksmith opened the door, “I’m going to have to get another part, in the meantime, just keep this propped open, might be good for some fresh air.”

Gwen kept cleaning for the next hour and then the wind picked up, seeming to blow more dust into the shop. Gwen pulled the door shut in annoyance.

By the end of the afternoon, the locksmith still hadn’t returned. “Where is he?” Reaching into her pocket, she realized she had left her mobile phone in the car. Gwen strode to the door and hooked her fingers through the hole where the door knob used to be, but she couldn’t open it. Perplexed, she bent down until she was eye level with the round hole and saw that the lousy bolt bit was holding the door in the frame. She rattled the door a few times but the door wouldn’t budge.

“This is crazy,” she muttered to herself. She needed something to turn the black piece of metal, a nail file? She always kept a couple of glass nail files in her purse which was – in the trunk of her car.

How was she going to get out? Gwen knew she shouldn’t panic but she was tired and thirsty and hungry. She went around to all the windows but none of them would open. There was a small one out the back but it was stuck with grime and the lever was broken.

How was she going to get help? The phone company wasn’t supposed to come until the end of the week. Gwen put her ear to the hole in the door but all she could hear was the faint rumble of the machines from the radiator shop. She yelled for help, but it was useless.

She was trapped! Panicking, she alternated between yelling and kicking at the door. How did those people do it in those movies? Throwing doors open with their shoulder? Gwen hit her shoulder against the door but it just hurt. Near tears, she threw anything and everything at the door including a stool. Finally, it started to splinter in the middle. Encouraged, she kept ramming the stool at it until the hole was large enough for the stool. Out of breath, Gwen tossed it aside and started to squeeze herself through the hole; she felt the sharp splinters scratching her and causing a rip in her shirt.

She was half way through, her arms flailing in front of her as she tried to wiggle through when she saw the locksmith’s truck come around the corner.

“Whatcha doin’?” he called out.

Bio: M.L. Poncelet resides on the west coast of Canada in a place full of interesting characters and inspiration for her stories. You can read more of her short stories at

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