Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#vss: Calamity

Today I wrote a tragic love story. About my ongoing struggle to find the right one for me… The right water bottle, that is.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

“Hey, did you see the new intern?” Mel asked me. “Her name’s Kiera, she works in HR.” I swiveled my chair to grab the stapler on the desk behind me and rolled my eyes at him along the way.
“Didn’t you almost get let go the last time you tried to ask an intern out?” I asked.
Mel snorted. “Only because she didn’t want to get coffee with me. If I’d asked her out to dinner, we wouldn’t have had a problem.”
“I’m sure that was it,” I replied sarcastically, shaking my head. “It had nothing to do with the office’s policy about not dating co-workers.”
“Look, here she comes!” Mel warned, then ducked back down into his own cube.
I glanced over my shoulder, but not because I was interested in checking her out or anything. We were going to be working together, and I figured that I should at least know what she looked like.
“Too bad about that no dating policy, huh?” Mel remarked.
But I couldn’t reply because the sight of her took my breath away.
Some people have a “type.” A guy I knew in college only dated girls who were getting philosophy degrees. A friend of mine from high school would only date someone if their eyes were brown. I had never spent much time thinking about that type of thing; I hadn’t put much thought into what I wanted my “ideal” partner to look like.
And now, I didn’t have to.
As she walked toward us, my life flashed before my eyes, but not in the usual way. Instead of seeing a rewind of my childhood and every embarrassing moment I’d experienced in junior high, I saw a sort of fast forward: a romantic walk by the river in the middle of the night, a wedding (featuring my mom crying happily), a stupid argument about lighting fixtures and curtains in a new house, taking our kids to the park on a beautiful Spring day, holding hands at our 50th anniversary dinner.
I was startled back into the present by Mel standing up and intercepting Keira before she walked by. He introduced himself, asked how she liked the company so far, and (ugh) winked at her. She replied politely, glancing at me once, and did a good job of ignoring Mel’s creepiness.
“Since you’re new, if there’s anything you ever have a question about or anything, you can ask me,” Mel told her.
“Thanks,” she said. “Actually, I have a question…”
“Sure, anything you need!”
“Could you tell me where to find Alex Hanson?”
Mel grinned and pointed at me. Still unable to speak, I waved a hand at her.
“Oh,” she said, her face going businesslike. Then she looked down at the floor and mumbled something under her breath. It sounded like, “okay, I can do this.” Then she squared her shoulders and looked me in the eye. “I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you,” she began. “I definitely made sure it wasn’t some kind of human resources ‘prank the new kid’ thing. But… um, you’re fired.”
My mouth fell open. Mel shouted, “What?! Seriously?” In a very professional tone, Keira reminded Mel that he wasn’t part of the conversation she was having with me, and he retreated to the relative safety of his own cubicle. Then she quickly but efficiently went over the details of my severance package with me.
“This definitely isn’t something I thought I would be doing on my first day,” she said when I stood to shake her hand. “I’m sorry we won’t be working together.”
“That’s okay,” I told her, “you’re just doing your job. It’s not your fault.”
“Thanks for understanding. And, um, I guess all I have left to do is tell you that you’ve got half an hour to clean out your desk, and then security will be up to escort you out.” She smiled apologetically. “Sorry again.”
Mel got up as she walked away, and immediately vented his feelings by shoving me sideways. “Did that actually just happen, Alex?” he asked.
“It did,” I said. “I just got fired.” I laughed suddenly, then grinned at him. “I guess today’s the first day of the rest of my life.”
“Are you in shock or something?” Mel asked, putting a concerned hand on my shoulder. I shook my head at him, too happy to even try to wipe the smile off my face.
“Too bad for you about that no dating policy, huh?”


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mother of Invention

The life of an inventor is difficult. It’s not very glamorous or exciting, and it’s pretty hard work. The worst part is that the more successful you are, the harder your job becomes. Once people see that you have a knack for thinking up ideas to make life easier, then they expect that your next invention will be better, and that the next one will be even better than that, and that the one after that will be the best idea you ever had, and it just gets worse from there.
But the life of an inventor is fulfilling; you know that every light bulb moment you have will eventually help people in some way or another. More so if you’re someone who formulates new ways of conserving energy or dreams up an amazing new method of transportation. But even a lowly As-Seen-On-TV inventor can improve the lives of his fellow humans.
You probably haven’t heard of me. Or maybe you have. I’m the guy who came up with those heating/cooling cup holders a couple of years ago (“A thermostat for your beverage!”), and before that it was the headband comb (“Comb and accessory in one! Never be without a comb again!”).
Right now I’m working on my next big idea. But after a couple of weeks of brainstorming, tossing out mediocre ideas and improving the good ones, I’m beat. The past couple of mornings I have had to work really hard to gather up the willpower to get out of bed. This morning I had particular trouble.
As I lay there staring at the ceiling, waiting for a concept to appear in my head and trying to think of a way to force myself to get up, a thought appeared: “I should invent a way for people to stay in bed when they really should be going to work instead.”
And there it was. I could see the commercial in my mind: smiling actors carrying briefcases as they walked into the office, all while ensconced in snuggly duvet-like warmth; holding travel mugs of coffee while waiting for the bus, as they were nestled in varying stylish colors and patterns of comfort; attending an early morning meeting with colleagues, but still burrowed down in the same luxurious feeling they had woken to that morning. I could hear the marketing manager’s excited praise already: “It’s going to be bigger than the Snuggie!”
With such an encouraging fantasy to motivate me, I couldn’t wait to get to work. I leaped up, wrapped my down comforter around myself, and headed out for a walk around the block. Surely I could figure out a way to make that “sleeping in on a weekend” feeling portable.
I wasn’t very far from my front door when the first chilly early Spring air tried to permeate my shell of contentment. There was no way it could dishearten me; it only cooled my legs despite the flannel pajamas I wore, and I was confident that I could figure out a way to prevent chilly early Spring air from cooling the legs of the future purchasers of my product.
I rounded the corner at the end of the block and found that the gust of air I had experienced earlier had only been a light breeze, and folded the comforter more tightly around my head to ward off the icy fingers of the late Winter wind. But some clever designing, maybe fastening it into some kind of close hood… that would surely keep the icy fingers of a late Winter wind away from the heads of the future purchasers of my product.
I was halfway around the block when I passed one of the ladies from the senior living center down the street, who was out walking her dog. The bewildered look she gave me triggered another daydream, only this time it was more nightmare than fantasy: reviews. “Makes you look like a crazy person,” said one reviewer. “Nothing at all like being in bed,” said another. And finally, “If I wanted to walk around draped in a bed sheet, I’d throw a toga party. Honestly, who comes up with these things?” Then I heard the disappointed voice of the marketing manager echo through my head: “The Snuggie may look a little silly, but the reason it works is that you’re only looking silly in the comfort of your own home, not in a professional or business setting.”
I mourned the sacrifice of comfort to the fashion gods all the rest of the way back to my apartment, where I shut out chilly early Spring breezes, late Winter’s icy fingers, and the scorn of the shortsighted masses.
I had planned on going straight to the drawing board, but figured I’d warm myself up first, so back to bed I went. As I nestled down under the covers, my own body heat working together with the goose down in my comforter, I considered that this setback was probably a good thing, and that my bed was where I should have been all along.
Then I had my first actual good idea: “I’m going to stay in bed today,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll be ready to get back to work tomorrow.”

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention… arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.”
―Agatha Christie

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Age-Old Question

During a thunderstorm, many people spend time wondering where the birds go while it rains. I was driving past one of my favorite coffee shops the other day, and I noticed that it was undergoing extensive renovations.
It got me to wondering...
Where do baristas go when Starbucks is closed?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mistrust Not Unfounded

“I don’t trust you,” I told the weather. “The winter has frozen all my hopes of spring.”
It tried hard to thaw my hopes. It was the hottest March 16th in twelve years, beating the previous record by nine whole degrees.
But the next day it was forty degrees cooler; my hopes remained frozen, my mistrust not unfounded.

Friday, March 13, 2015

#vss: Alarm

Once when I was at a writing group, someone shared a story that had everything a story needs to be completely wonderful: conflict, heartwarming characters, and an amusing resolution. And it had all this in just 100 words.
Most people would think, ‘hey, it’s fewer words, so it must be easier to write, right?’ Wrong. I’ve never had a more difficult time than when I’ve been given a word limit.
#vss is a hashtag on twitter that means “very short story.” Mostly, I see people using it to write poetry, since getting an entire story in complete sentences in less than 140 characters is an interesting challenge (and you have to make sure to leave room for the hashtag, of course).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


It was 1 am and I was walking down the middle of the street lopsided. It would have been more comfortable to remove my remaining shoe, but they had been my favorite pair. But I guess you can't have a favorite pair of shoes if there's only one left.
I had begun the night like Cinderella getting ready for the ball. I was fluttering with excitement, nervous to finally be going on a date with Craig, the guy I had been crushing on for months. But it turns out that daydreaming about a man does not necessarily make him your Prince Charming.
It wasn’t that Craig was boring, or rude, or unintelligent. The night didn't go the way I had hoped it would because we had absolutely nothing in common. He didn’t seem that interested in hearing about my vintage lunchbox collection and I had trouble keeping up with the Gardening 101 lecture he gave me. By the end of the night I was so disappointed that I agreed to his suggestion that we go dancing just to liven things up. "At least he's spontaneous," I thought, "and maybe this way we'll actually have a good time!"
But it was not meant to be. Due to the hazardous combination of my two left feet, an overcrowded club, and the unlucky star I had apparently been born under, Craig and I managed to fall down, bash our heads together, and lose one of my shoes within 30 seconds of stepping onto the dance floor.
So that's why I was wandering alone in the dark, partially unshod, completely pumpkin-carriageless. It wasn’t my fault that my night was terrible. It wasn’t Craig’s fault. It wasn’t even the fault of the mutual friend who fixed us up. Sometimes things just don’t go the way you hoped they would. Not everyone meets their Prince Charming at the ball; sometimes you have to wait a while for him to appear. Life is not a fairy tale. Sometimes, if you lose your shoe at midnight, chances are you’re walking home barefoot.

This isn't a writing prompt, but I can treat it that way if I want!
This image is from Pinup Girl Clothing's facebook page, where they are
constantly sharing images of their lovely dresses, fancy accessories,
and gorgeous shoes (like these)!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Writing Prompt: Laundry Day

There are some things you have to do no matter how much you hate them. She would sadly admit that she was one of those people who procrastinated taking care of her laundry. In her opinion, doing laundry was the worst. To maximize her non-laundry-doing time, she would give every garment the sniff test several times and would wait in a comfortable state of denial until the last possible moment before finally having to convince herself that it was time. Then, she would dedicate an entire day to washing, drying, folding, and putting away all of her clothes.
And now, after almost a month of postponing and promising herself that she'd do it next weekend and re-wearing the shirt with the mustard stain on it, it was finally time.
She was ready. Nearly every single piece of clothing that she owned was neatly sorted into baskets, and the baskets sat waiting in the order she planned to wash them.
She armed herself with a basket of towels and rode the rickety elevator all the way to the basement, where there was a damp, ill-lit room with a couple of coin operated washing machines and a coin operated dryer that was broken so that it no longer required $2.50 to tumble your sheets.
Then disaster struck. Apparently the building manager had finally caught on to the fact that the dryer was giving it away, and there was an out of order sign on it. Only, “of” had an extra “F,” so what the sign really said was “out off order,” but she got the gist. But that wasn’t the disaster. The day already sucked; she was doing laundry. She tried the top secret get-the-dryer-to-go punch-and-kick move, but nothing happened. She resigned herself to having to hang dry her clothes in her bathroom. Oh well.
Then she turned around to plunk her towels and a handful of quarters into a washing machine. That’s when the disaster struck. Not one, but both of the washing machines sported very stylish handmade signs, in a similar state “off” misspell to that of the one stuck to the dryer.
Worst day ever.
No, it wasn’t that bad. She was already doing laundry. Go big or go home.
She rode the elevator back up to the fifth floor and got to work. She knew that it would take a while, but figured that washing everything by hand would be easier (and cheaper!) than hauling it all off to a laundromat. And she was right. Well, at least the part about it taking a while. After about half an hour, the tub was scrubbed clean and everything washable was in it, including the scruffy t-shirt and the basketball shorts from high school that she’d been wearing earlier. She stepped back and surveyed her hard work. The first stage was over, and there was no sense in putting off the next.
She leaned on the sink and absorbed herself in a badly written novel while she ran water over her clothes. A chapter and a half later, she put the book down, shut off the tap, and grabbed a soggy pair of jeans to get to work.
She picked up a nearby bottle without thinking much of it, but when she looked at it, she laughed at herself. There was no way she was going to clean her clothes with shampoo. She put down the jeans and went to the hall closet for her laundry detergent.
But it wasn’t there.
The only thing that was there was the joke gift her brother had given her two Christmases ago: her very own bear themed one piece footie pajamas.
“It might be worth it to invest in a laundry service,” she thought as she walked down the street to buy more laundry detergent, wearing the only piece of clothing she owned that was still clean. “But really, it could be worse; at least the little bear hood is keeping my ears warm.”

A Writer's Relief Writing Prompt from March 2, 2015