Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Patching It Up

[This is a free-writing crosspost from http://www.xrivo.com/works/view/615.  You may find it more readable there.

Originally posted in the thread "Scene Stealers: The Story Hook" and available here: http://writetodone.com/2012/08/17/scene-stealers-the-story-hook/# comment-83467

This is a small snippet of fiction written with two requirements:

  • It must start with the sentence "I’ve been working here for over thirty years and have never seen anything like this."
  • It must be no longer than 350 words.

The length requirement was amazingly hard for me to adhere to.  Even accounting for the extremely tight word count while writing, I ended up having to trim out over half the original piece and stitch the rest back together, leading to a bit of choppiness.]

Duct Tape
I’ve been working here for over thirty years and have never seen anything like this. Of course, thirty years isn’t what it used to be.

He sits forward, twisting his ballcap in his hands. His gaze flits around, refusing to settle on my face. He looks brutally tired.

“Could I go back and fix it?”

I stare at him. Once the timestream has been disrupted, the worst thing you can do is go back. I don’t even have to respond. He glaces at me for a moment and looks away again.

“I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what happened.”

He draws a ragged breath, closes his eyes. Words gush out of him.

“I didn’t think much of it. I mean, who even checks lineage any more? I diverted that kid, just moved him to another town. He never met the girl, the whole line was just pinched off. The Dictator was never born. The war that would have taken place, the global dictatorship, none of it ever happened.”

“How did that change the timestream?”

“Suffering.” His voice is dead, defeated. “Without the global unification, a thousand tiny dictators sprang up and there was no citizenry strong enough to overthrow them.”

“And how has that affected the present?”

“I don’t know. So much changed…”

No mistake there. We’ll spend generations figuring out how badly he screwed up.

His eyes stop darting.

“What happens now?”

It’s my turn to not meet a gaze.

“The council believes we caught it early enough. They’re… going to burn your existence out of the timestream. We won’t be quite back where we were, but–”

I look up. His ballcap is on the floor. He’s sheet-white and swaying alarmingly.

“They can’t. You’d– they can’t!”

I walk over, putting my arm around his shoulders to steady him.

“The agents have already been sent. The mistake will be unmade. I’m sorry.”

“Who would do this? To me? To you?”

I pause. The agents will work quickly. I have to tell him.

“It was my recommendation, Dad.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stop It.

[This is a free-writing crosspost from http://www.xrivo.com/works/view/612.  You may find it more readable there.  Developed from the writing prompt "A houseplant is dying.  Tell it why it needs to live."  Image (c) and CC-Licensed by Chad Miller]

Dead Plant
You need to stop dying.

I'm sorry, I'm not a plant person, I dont even know what kind of plant you are.  I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, just please stop dying.

Your leaves turned dry and brown, withered and wrinkly.  I added more water and they bloated, yellow edges, diseased and loathsome.  Dial back the water, and now you're all brown and crinkley again, and I don't know what to do and you need to stop dying.

She could take care of you.  When she was here you were rich, vibrant, and green.  Full of life and I ignored you because I thought that was just the way plants were, but you're my responsibility now and I don't know what to do and you're dying and you need to stop.

You need to stop because she cared about you.  You need to stop because you were the last thing she loved, and you never said those horrible things, and you never yelled spiteful insults, and you didn't drive her away and you were the last thing she loved and I'm so sorry I don't know any better and now I'm killing you too and I don't know how to fix this so please please please stop dying.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Brief Conversation

[This is a free-writing crosspost from http://www.xrivo.com/works/view/611.  You may find it more readable there.  Developed from the writing prompt "Tell the story of two people having a discussion, though one character barely speaks English."]

He's ignoring me again.  He ignores most of us and I can't really blame him, because we make the the most apallingly ridiculous conversation with him.  I try to speak to him differently; like I would speak to another member of the family.  Just because he can't talk like us is no reason for us to talk down to him.

I don't know that he understands me any better than the others.

"Dinner?  Do you want some dinner?"  I try again.

He looks at me, then back at his work without speaking.  *Whack, whack, whack* goes the hammer.

"We have sandwiches.  Do you want a sandwich?"  I mime putting a sandwich in my mouth.  "Sandwich?"

I'm pretty sure he knows "sandwich", but he just ignores me.  One of the kids turns on the television behind us, and the volume is loud enough to make me jump.  On it, Spiderman is making a snarky observation at a large villian in a rhinocerous suit.  The steady whacking of the hammer doesn't even pause.

"Do you want--" I have to collect myself, then speak over the television.  "Do you want some food?"

Nothing.  Annoyed, I reach for his hammer.  He yanks it away from my grip.

"Mine!" he shrieks.  He follows this up with a stream of gibberish that means something to him, I'm sure.

"Mine" is one of the few English words he has a solid handle on.  It's ridiculous, he has so much junk already, but God forbid you try to take any of it away.

"Look, can we just put this away and go eat?"

*Whack, whack, whack*

The kitchen gate squeals as it opens, and Momma leans out.

"Suppertime!" she bellows.

The hammer clatters to the floor and he's running toward the kitchen, wobbling, toddling.  Even at 18 months, he knows that when Momma calls it, supper is *actually* ready, and that Daddy is only trying to get him in his booster seat.

Defeated again, I creak to my feet.  Squatting kills my knees.  I could stay here, but supper is ready.

The Morning Routine

[This is a free-writing crosspost from http://www.xrivo.com/works/view/610.  You may find it more readable there.  Developed from the writing prompt "Describe your morning routine as though you were instructing yourself for the first time"]

Depending on the baby Nathan's mood and current level of illness, your morning will begin anywhere between 3:00 AM and 6:00.  Michelle (your wife), will turn him over to you, having been exhausted from a long night of trying to wrangle him to sleep for stretches longer than an hour.

Once you have the Nathan, he will either 1) scream for Michelle, 2) fall back asleep, or 3) play.

In the event of 1), congratulations!  Hand him back off and go back to bed for a bit longer.

If 2), then you can sack out on the recliner with him.  Your joints will regret this later, but your body is too tired to care.

If 3), well... he's fine.  Sack out on the recliner.

Around 6:30, somebody will need to get Jasmine up for school.  Since she's 12, she can manage to get herself out to the bus with most of the school supplies, paperwork, and clothes she'll need for the day.  If you get her up... congratulations!  Sack out on the recliner again.

At 7:00, somebody needs to check on the laundry.  Invariably, we will have discovered the previous evening that somebody is missing a critical item of clothing for the coming schoolday.  ("Critical" as defined by you or Michelle; the boys would be happy to re-wear the same socks and/or underwear until they could be used as construction material).

At 7:30, it's time to roll Jason and Zack out of bed.  Good luck, and make sure your yelling voice is tuned up.

At 8:00 Jason and Zackery will actually roll out of bed and possibly begin dressing.  Or, they will find a nice spot of floor to curl up and fall asleep on.

By 8:10 they will have manage to assemble a single complete outfit of clothing between them, and are critically close to missing the bus, which arrives at 8:15.  Continue yelling when you discover them exploring the many ways they can splash water from the bathroom sink onto each other.

At 8:15 they will be out the door, with whatever clothes they managed to get together.  If you've put in enough effort, this will generally represent enough body coverage for both of them to be socially acceptable.

8:20: Rest.  Haha!  That was a little joke.  Sometime during the battle with Jason and Zack, baby Nathan will have woken back up.  It's time to play!

A recent strategy that has proven fruitful is to drop him off in Ben's bed.  Nathan is happy to do the gruntwork of waking up 4-year-old Ben.  Even at 18 months, Nathan displays a frightening prediliction for waking people like his early-bird granddad: rudely and with unwholesome glee.

Michelle will generally be up at this point, preparing the final two kiddos for daycare.  You may, at this point, brew some coffee.  You will by no means have time to drink it, but its comforting presence on the kitchen counter will give you the hope and motivation necessary to help get everyone out the door.

By 8:45, with luck, Michelle will have Ben and Nathan strapped into the minivan and be on her way to drop them off at daycare.

At this point you may go back inside, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and settle in front of the computer to begin your workday.  Relax!  You've earned it.