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Friday Five 4

The title (minus the Friday Five) is what I just yelled in the office. We had our Thanksgiving lunch at work and there was a walnut/chocolate/candy (let’s be real – it’s candy on a crust) pie. I ate most of the piece and now I have all the energy and have to maintain because I’m going to see the UNT Jazz Singers tonight and don’t want to crash before/during it.

Here are some things I enjoyed on the intrawebs this week:

  1. The Bloggess opened up her comments section for all of us to post our blog links because blogging is fun and cathartic and no one who enjoys it cares that it’s allegedly dying. It’s alive in our hearts.
  2. I visit my library at least twice a week (more now that the laptop has given up the ghost…*sigh*), and I approve this message.
  3. The 31 best dance scenes in movies. Any of your favorites on here? Any not on here that you love? My favorites on this list are #21 (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines!) and #31 (Steve Martin/Bernadette Peters with Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers in the background).
  4. I love these stories of complete strangers saving the day.
  5. And Jonathan Franzen’s 10 tips for novelists is inspiring as I start looking toward editing the novel in January.

What have you enjoyed this week?

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You might be a little faded. You might be a little dusty. You might spend most of your days perched on a shelf, more decoration than adornment.

If you were a hat.

If you were a hat, you might get picked up occasionally. Spun around. Twirled – up one arm and down another, landing briefly in one perfect moment only to be swept away and tossed to the side as another distraction appears.

If you were a hat, you’d spend a lot of time in boxes or on a rack. Rest is important for the spirit. But there’s a line between solitude and abandonment and, although it’s a fairly thick line, you might not always be able to tell the difference. It’s hard to see the truth of it when truth fades into things just being the way they are.

If you were a hat, you’d be nice hat. There would be nothing casual about you. You might spend a lot of time alone, but there’s no reason that ever had to come up in company. You’d exist to impress and command just a little more attention than others around you. Not enough to be off-putting. Just enough to be hard to ignore.

If you were a hat, your best days would be the ones when you didn’t have to think at all about how you’re only a hat. About how your whole purpose is to make them look good. About how much they love you, right up to the end.

If you were a hat, your worst days would be the ones when being just a hat is all you could think about. About how you only get the special events when you secretly know you’re much better suited to the everyday. About exactly how much time you spend on the table making small talk with the still-smoking ashtray and watered-down drinks while they all go dancing.

Sometimes you think you’re a hat. You make a grand impression, dashing into excitement and leaping to the next joy before any of the electricity has a chance to dwindle. But electricity burns, and who’s going to catch you when that shock jolts you out of the bliss?

If you were a hat, all of this would be fine.

But you’re not.

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (or whatever these are). Click to see the master list.

Day 6 – Roger

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Roger: A Walkie Talkie Production

Jeff: I’ve got a delivery for the director ready. Who wants it?

Cassidy: I’m about to give this family a tour.

Trevor: I have class in five minutes.

Scott: Roger that. I’m on it, boss. Over.

Roger: What? Did someone call me?

Meiya: No…Scott was just letting Jeff know he got the message.

Scott: What? Oh, yeah. Roger that.

Roger: *static noise* What is that? What do I need to do?

Trevor: Nothing, man. Everything’s taken care of.

Roger: Okay. Cool. Let me know if you need me.

Jeff: We’re missing one of the bikes – does anyone know what happened to the red one?

Meiya: I think one of the admins borrowed it for an hour or two.

Scott: No – I have it. I just finished a tour and am heading back to get the director’s delivery.

Jeff: That’s cool. Remember to log your checkouts in the future.

Scott: Roger that. I’ll remember that next time. Over.

Roger: What? I didn’t take it.

Scott: No, I said I have it.

Roger: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. I thought I heard my name.

Cassidy: Scott, stop saying “Roger.” It’s so confusing. We all know you get the message when you respond to it. You don’t need to tell us you got it.

*Pause*

Scott: Roger that, Cassidy.

*Communal groaning*

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (although some are more snippets). Click to see the master list.

 

Friday Prompt

On Fridays (or shortly thereafter…ahem) this month, I’m going to be following a Tumblr prompt that made the rounds for a while. I’m tweaking it a little, though:

On their 25th birthday, every person has the opportunity to request permission (because consent is sexy) to share the mind/vision of their soulmate. If permission is granted, they have 24 hours to observe and communicate with the person to see if they want to pursue a future together.

Trina knew he would say, “Yes,” the minute she blew out her candles. They’d planned it that way – a cozy dinner at home where the first thing she would see through his eyes was him carrying her to their room and laying her gently on the bed so that she would feel rested when she came back to herself. She closed her eyes, made the wish, and blew.

When she opened her eyes, she was sitting in a cafe. How did he get there so quickly? Or maybe it took awhile to take effect? Seeing through someone else’s eyes had to be a complicated process, she reasoned.

Maybe she should try saying something. Hello, Ryan, she thinks.

“Huh. Not Ryan. But…welcome? I guess this does actually work.”

Not Ryan?! But…no. That’s not right, she thinks. It was supposed to be Ryan. Ryan is my fiancee. We were supposed to spend the day together. Where am I now? Who is this?

“Works really, really well, in fact. Who is Ryan? Am I…are we…cheating? Feels a bit like cheating. Do you still want to do this?”

Oh, so everything I think…you hear. Huh.

“Apparently so.” There is a pause as he takes a sip of coffee. It’s not very good coffee. Grimace. “Sorry about that. I tend to go for quantity over quality. Is there something you prefer?”

Earl Grey would be nice. With a little cream. And sugar.

“Earl Grey it is.” He walks toward the counter. He leaves his book – Proust heavy reader – and his wool cap – brown, rose, burgundy, and turquoise stripes kinda sweet – at the table.

“Yeah, I’ve always been told I should read Proust, and I’m slugging through all right. It’s definitely more challenging than my usual fare, which leans more Crichton-esque.” She can tell that he smiles a little at this. Sheepish. Cute. “And the hat was a gift from my mom. She’s really into making hats this year.” Super cute. “Thanks. I bet you’re cute, too.”

She tries thinking about the selfie she took last year that she really liked, but before she could, she thinks of the unflattering one Ryan took when she fell over in the grass and had her mouth wide open, mid-cackle. Of course. Sigh.

He laughs a little, but not unkindly. “I like it. You look happy.” Pause. “And I was right. You are cute.”

He orders the tea, and the barista looks at him quizzically. “It’s not for me,” he explains. She looks back at his table without changing her questioning look. “I mean, I’m trying something new.”

You come here often.

“Are you trying to pick me up? Seems like overkill. I already said yes.” She can tell that he smirks at this. Charming. Witty. “I’ve gotta say – I like this arrangement. I always guess wrong at what others are thinking. It’s pretty helpful to have it right there in my head.”

Me, too. I thought it would be weird, but it’s actually super convenient. Pause to try and stop the next thought from coming, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I also thought it would be Ryan.

“I can’t help you there, but I sort of wish I were Ryan. He seems like a pretty lucky guy.” He takes a sip of the Earl Grey, delicious and sweet, and the barista, still watching, shakes her head. “My name is Nick, by the way.”

Of course it is. I’ve always had a thing for Nicks. But they’ve always been trouble. Erm…I mean…hi, Nick.

He laughs out loud this time. She can’t help but think he must look crazy. This just makes him laugh even harder, although he tries to subdue it.

A few minutes pass in silence, so he says, “Listen, I know you’re into this other guy, and you seem great, but I want you to be happy. If he makes you happy, you should go back to him. I just want…” He sighs. “I’m fine. I want you to be happy.”

She can tell he means it. Okay. Yes. I’m sorry about all of this. Um…enjoy your tea.

Another laugh. “Not likely, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new, right?” Pause. “Even if it’s not for me.”

It’s still dark outside when she wakes up in her familiar bed with Ryan right beside her. He looks nervous. “Did it work?”

She weighs her words carefully. She makes a choice. “No.” She commits. “No, it didn’t. I guess it only works if you’re still looking.”

Ryan smiles, relieved. She falls asleep in his arms.

A year and three months go by, and things don’t turn out the way she planned. Nothing is ever really right between them from that point on. Her small lie is always caught in the middle. On the eve of his 25th birthday, she says, “I think you should do the soulmate thing.”

Ryan doesn’t look at her. He knows. He’s known for some time. “It wasn’t me, was it?”

This time she tells the truth, even though it sounds like exactly the same answer. “No.” She tells him a little about the encounter, but stops when it’s clear he doesn’t really want to hear it.

The next day, he spends a day away from her and returns, excited and apologetic. She had already decided by 10:00 a.m., to let him go, so the conversation is easy. Cordial. Civilized.

Two years pass. Other boyfriends – some named Nick who drink bad coffee – come and go. One day she sees a knit cap – brown, rose, burgundy, and turquoise stripes – bobbing through the crowd. She follows him and finally catches up. Nervous, she touches his arm. “Nick?”

When he turns around, it’s the face she’s always loved the most. The face she knew the best. The one she chose.

After a long hug, Ryan takes off the cap. “Ugly thing, but I figured it was the best way to find you.”

 

I’m writing 31 stories in 31 days. Click to see the master list.

Lola

One of my proudest moments, getting sworn in. But more on that later.

When I was just a pup, I watched gumshoe movies. My tail would start wagging, and my heart would start pounding. I was always proud when I could guess who the ne’er-do-well whodunnit was, and I think Julie was proud of me, too.

“Lola, who do you think is the culprit?”

The dirtbag would come on the screen and I would bark like crazy, alerting the whole room (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) to my decision. She would pat my head and agree. “Me, too.” Then she would rub behind my ears just the way I like it. “Good girl. Smart girl.” I rolled over to let her scratch my belly, which she seemed pleased to do. “Smartest girl in the whole world.”

I enjoyed those times with Julie. But alas, they were not to last.

Soon, watching the movies wasn’t enough. I wanted to be in on the action. I wanted my own cases to solve.

When it was my time to go outside, I took advantage of it. I would patrol the perimeter of the yard, and alert the family to anything out of the ordinary. Most of them were less enthusiastic about my choice to share my skills with the neighbors than they were when I was performing for treats inside the privacy of our house. The neighbors didn’t seem to appreciate my vigilance either.

“Hey – would you make that dog shut up? People are trying to sleep here!”

I was just trying to root out dangers so that they could sleep in safety, but whatever. No one appreciates a protector. Heroism is a lonely life.

One night, I saw an intruder in the Geraldsons’ yard. It walked with a slink and had a mask embedded in its fur, like a bandit. I’m nothing if not fair, so I decided to issue a warning.

“Hey – you there – those trash bins aren’t yours!” I barked.

The reprobate turned to me and grinned. He grabbed an apple core off the pile and let the bin slam shut noisily as he sauntered over, clearly taking his time. “Aw, aren’t you cute, all riled up and huffing in your cage? What’s your name, sweetheart?” He flicked his prison-striped tail back and forth, giving him even more swagger as he approached. I noticed he also made a point of stretching out his legs so I could see his sharp claws.

I’m not one to be intimidated, so that got my dander up. I gave him a low growl as I ruffled up my coat and stood up as straight as I could. “I’m Lola, and this is my neighborhood, and I know you are up to no good. Now you just need to move along.”

He looked up at me and tapped his claws on the chain link fence between us. “And what are you going to do if I don’t?”

I bared my teeth. He wasn’t the only one with built-in weaponry. I let the silence sit so that he could get a good, long look at them. “I don’t expect that will be an issue. You’re going to leave while I’m still asking nicely.”

He snorted. “Well, that’s a cute little assumption, seeing as how I’m over here, and you’re over there, just where your rules and regulations say you have to stay. So as long as I stay over here, I don’t see how this is any of your business, and I’ll just keep doing what I like.” He turned his attention to the apple core, inspecting it. Then he looked me straight in the eye as he took a bite off the top that still had some of the peel left. That blasted scavenger!

I growled again and pushed the whole of my body up against the fence, causing it to bow slightly toward him. My nose pushed through one of the holes made by the chain link.

He seized the opportunity he had been waiting for. He dropped the apple core and swiped my face with his right paw. I felt a sharp pain and yelped in surprise as I drew back. I tasted blood when I licked my wound. I tried to shake off the sting with a few tosses of my head, and I looked up to see him trotting off as he snickered.

I lost it. I dashed far enough away from the fence to get a running start and then sprinted forward and leaped over it like a gazelle. I was on him before he knew what was happening. I returned the favor of the ripped snout and gave him a couple of retaliatory bites on his back and legs. He broke free and fled the premises as I barked after him, “And stay gone!”

I felt pretty proud of myself until I saw the Geraldsons’ back porch light go on. I tried to hide in their rose bushes, but it’s one of those biting shrubberies, so instead I stood very still, hoping that the darkness would be enough to hide my trespass onto their property.

It wasn’t.

“What are you doing here? Get back in your yard!”

I didn’t know how to do that without adrenaline, so I remained where I was. I bowed my head, hoping an act of submission would plead my case for me, since the humans don’t seem to understand canine and they were apparently already annoyed by my conversation with the intruder.

The Geraldson went back in the house, and I thought the coast was clear. Then I heard Julie at their back gate.

“Lola! Come here now!”

I knew I was in trouble because she was using only short words. I think she thinks she’s speaking canine when she does this, but I’ve never been brave enough to call her on it.

(To be continued…)

 

I’m writing 31 short stories during the month of October. Click for the master list.

[Microfiction is any story told in 300 words or less, by many definitions. I suppose “micro” is in the eye of the writer/reader.]

I didn’t mean to do it. Not really. But there it was – the incriminating welt on Gerald’s head as he was loaded into the ambulance – so I couldn’t pretend it didn’t happen.

It all started on the day of the first accident. Stephi broke her ankle two days before the season began, so I had about a minute to take over as captain of the golf team. Our name – the Bedford Bettys – was a little outdated, so our first order of business was to come up with a new one. Thinking “A” was a good grade and a hole in one was the best thing that could happen on the course, I suggested “A-holes.” There were snickers all around, but I figured they just thought I was clever.

Gosh, was I wrong.

Gerald, captain of the guys’ team, was the first to congratulate us on our new name. He walked up and interrupted our conversation, “Sorry to butt in, ladies, but I can’t wait to see you wipe the green with your opponents in your first tournament.”

Laurel rolled her eyes and told him not to be a jerk. Naively, I jumped to his defense, which made him laugh and say, “Yeah, Laurel. Don’t be an a-hole.”

I saw my mistake, but it was too late. The shirts had already been printed.

The torment continued the rest of the week. By the time the tournament rolled around, I had had it. Right there in the parking lot, I dropped a ball, took my 9-iron, and let it fly. The next thing I knew, Gerald was on the ground moaning.

It was a pretty good shot, all things considered.

 

I’m writing 31 stories during October. Click to see the master list.

 

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The Case of the Missing Pen
(that was just here one ^*&#%!@ minute ago)

I have learned in my short year of being a cubicle dweller that there are very few things in life that you can count on. Officemates cannot be trusted to make a fresh pot when they finish the last cup. Drawers and cabinets will be inexplicably left ajar. That report will not be on your desk on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., even though you desperately need it to be there in order to review it in time and not look like an idiot at the 1:30 meeting.

In fact, the only thing I can truly depend on is that, if I am not in my seat at 9:00 a.m., I will get a cheery text from Megan that reads, “Are we meant to experience the pleasure of your company today?” Which I guess is nicer than “Get your @$$ to work, you &$^#(*! slacker.”

What I really wish I could depend on is that when I leave my pen in one place that it will remain in that one place until I need it again. Alas, that is apparently not a reasonable expectation.

Eleven months ago, when I placed my first supply order for my desk, the office manager read over it and cackled. Once he recovered from his fit, he scratched out my naive order of three different pens, patted me on the shoulder and said, “I’ll just order you two boxes of each. For starters.”

He may have saved my life.

On a typical day, I lose three to five pens. I will put my pen down, but it will not be there when I go to pick it up. I don’t quite know how this happens, but I am committed to getting to the bottom of it.

First, the suspects. Usually, this loss occurs when I have walked away from my desk, so it could be any one who has access to my workspace. Coworkers. Supervisors. Passersby from other departments. Customers on their way to meet with the bosses. It could be anybody.

Second, the motivation. Do my coworkers see my absence as an invitation to come and hang out by my desk, during which gathering one of them will inevitably have a thought they can’t afford to lose and therefore grab my pen and scurry away with it, scribbling furiously on a notepad? Is there one lone offender who covets my pens so ferociously that a pen lingering unattended on my desk is too much temptation to avoid? Does the thrill of petty theft make customers who wander through feel alive?

Third, the evidence. Gathering proof is tricky. I could enlist an accomplice who watches my desk when I’m not around, but the drawback is that for all I know, I could be asking for help from the perpetrator. I could set up a hidden camera, but I’m sure legal would have issues with that. I could take my pen with me everywhere I go, but then who’s to say other things wouldn’t start to go missing?

I imagine all my pens hanging out together, somewhere, trapped and afraid because they know they’re not where they’re really supposed to be. Do they think I’ve abandoned them? Forgotten all about them? I most assuredly have not. Why, just this morning, I was about to read this report when…what’s that lump under there? Hey! My pen!

Case solved. Until next time.

 

During October, I’m writing a short story a day. Click to see the master list.

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