Short and Steep

Apparently today is National Coffee Day…and I forgot to bring coffee. But, I have backup! Thanks to my foresight, and laziness, I decided to stock my desk with different kinds of tea, so I wouldn’t have to decide between tea or coffee at 4am. I figured I could postpone my second major decision of the day (after deciding whether or not to get up) until I get to work.

So I raise my mug to you, National Coffee Day…even though it’s full of tea.

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My Son Knows [Almost] Nothing

It’s been a week since my last post and so far I’ve written a total of…zero stories. I haven’t even started a post until now (12:30pm). I can’t seem to accomplish anything without there being a deadline, so I’m going to self-impose a deadline: I want to have at least one post by midnight (Pacific) every Friday.

What should I talk about today? I’m not sure I could finish a story. They usually take about 1-2 hours to write, and I don’t have that much free time left in the day. I’ll talk about something that’s been on my mind the past couple of weeks. It’s something that’s fascinated me about my son.

He knows nothing…almost.

I can’t remember exactly when it hit me, but I remember looking at him and thinking that his whole world right now is sleep, food, and a little interaction. He can’t talk, walk, or even gesture. The most he can do at this point is smile and coo.

But what really got me, was the fact that he doesn’t know anything about air. His life depends on it, but he has no concept of what it is or how it keeps him alive. Think about it: the keys I’m using to type this very post mean absolutely nothing to him. Basic movements like kicking or opening his hands are beyond his conscious control.

The only emotions he’s been able to portray so far are pain, frustration, and happiness. He feels pain when he has gas or acid reflux, frustration when he’s hungry, and happiness when certain people or activities are in his presence.

I know this is a short post, and I don’t even have a profound life lesson. It’s really more of a rant of my befuddlement. I just can’t get over the fact that ideas and objects we pass off as common–if we even give them that much thought—aren’t even within his scope of comprehension.

Wow.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Final Day)

It’s the final day of my Personal Challenge, and I’m as excited as I am sad. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these stories for you to enjoy, and I truly hope you have. For that reason, I will continue to write these short stories, but on more of a weekly basis. I might write more or less, but I’ll try to publish one per week.

My wife made a good point, yesterday, when I was talking to her about how much fun this challenge is. She said it’s perfect for my ADHD because they’re short stories, which require minimal commitment (other than consistently writing them), and the topics are always different.

So, with a mix of emotions, I will write you my final story…this week:

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Mr. White bound down the street, dodging people and traffic alike. He always hated big cities. They reminded him of the impossible maze back home. Today, though, he could not hate the big cities. His watch was broke, and he only knew of one place that could fix it.

He found the door he was looking for and nearly knocked it off its hinges when he burst through. When he entered the shop, he was less than surprised to find the shopkeeper attempting to build a fountain out of sugar cubes.

“While I understand that you have a need to build a completely pointless contraption that will never work, I am in dire need of your help.”

“It no longer works, does it, Mr. White?” the shopkeeper said without turning.

“Indeed, but how did you know?”

“I fixed it last time, yes?”

“You did. Not very well, obviously.”

“Well, you see, I may have been using information from a book that I ‘borrowed’ to fix your watch. I now realize that the information was incorrect, which is very sad for you,” the shopkeeper let out a chuckle.

“I don’t find this humorous in any way. Fix it, or I’ll go to your brother,” White threatened.

The shopkeeper set down his box of sugar cubes and hurried over to Mr. White, balancing on the countertop the whole way, “I’ll fix it! You don’t need to go to him. His work is garbage! Come on, give it here!”

White pulled out an ornate pocket watch and handed it over, “How long will it take you?”

“It shouldn’t take me more than seventy rotations of the Globe,” he replied as he nodded toward a motorized globe spinning in the corner.

Mr. White started to grow impatient, “I don’t need your ambiguous comments. I need a precise amount of time given in the standard measure of hours, minutes and seconds.”

“Your standard time is far less accurate than my globe, but I’ll give you my best approximation,” he set down the watch and pulled out a piece of paper. He found a key in his pocket, but quickly discarded it after discovering that it was a terrible writing instrument. He reached in the other pocket and pulled out a flower pen. Then he began scribbling numbers on the counter top.

“What are you doing?” asked White.

“You wanted an approximation, so I’m doing some conversion calculations. I can’t give you an inaccurate number if I don’t do the math wrong!”

“Just fix it please,” Mr. White sighed, “Quickly if you can.”

“Did you want it fixed or done quickly? I cannot do both.”

“Do the best you can in as little time as possible.”

“Again, I can only do one of those options proficiently.”

“Okay, fix it, so I never have to come back here,” White said impatiently.

“You don’t have to be so rude about it!” replied the shopkeeper. He dramatically picked up the watch and stomped to the back room to further emphasize his frustration.

~~~~~~~~~~

After what seemed like an hour, the shopkeeper finally emerged. He set the watch down on the counter and smiled, “Here you go, Mr. White.”

“Thank y—” White looked down and saw a rusty, dented watch on the counter, “This isn’t my watch! Where’s my watch?”

“Indeed, you are very observant!” he playfully replied, “This is, in fact, my watch. But it works! And since yours does not, I figured you would want this one instead.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Mr. White yelled, “You’ve been back there for nearly an hour, and this is all you have to show for it?”

“If you are that good at gauging time without a watch, why do you need one?”

“Just fix my watch!”

“Fine, fine,” the shopkeeper retreated to the back room for a few minutes before returning with Mr. White’s watch, “Here you go. Good as new.”

He picked up the watch and turned it over in his hand, making sure everything looked proper. Satisfied, he opened it to check its functions. The hands were moving as they should, so he closed it, placed it in his pocket and forced a smile, “Thank you. For fixing my watch and making this one of the worst shopping experiences ever.”

“My pleasure!” the shopkeeper grinned, “I aim to please. Now that will be one hundred gold pieces.”

“What!” White exclaimed, “You’re a crook! You should be paying me!” He turned and stormed toward the door.

“Very well,” the shopkeeper said, “but don’t expect me to fix anything else of yours!”

Mr. White slammed the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~

After setting his watch to the clock on the street corner, Mr. White immediately rushed to the train station. He only had a few minutes to catch the next train.

He arrived at the station just in time to hop on board. He found a seat and, for the first time that afternoon, he allowed himself to relax.

The train ride was only about half an hour—his destination was just outside the city, among the estates in the outlying countryside. By the time the train doors were fully open, he was already across the platform racing down the path.

He rushed down a dirt road until he found the large white mansion with the hedges under the windows and a clover patch on the side. His path took him around the side, to the back where he found a large party of people. No one saw him, as they were all engaged in conversations.

A little blonde girl seemed to notice him, but he didn’t have time to find out. He checked his watch as he ran toward the big tree.

He gasped, “I’m late!” and disappeared into the rabbit hole.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Day 4)

Well, it’s day 4. I don’t want to stop writing these stories, so I might start another blog page dedicated to writing. Ill let you know by next week.

In the meantime, we have a story to enjoy!

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“What a night,” said the ostrich, Mr. Gray. He stretched his neck and slowly sat up in his bed, “I feel like I’ve been hit over the head with a rock.”

“Close,” said a voice from the other side of the room, “It was actually a coconut.”

Startled, Mr. Gray didn’t immediately notice his surroundings, “What are you doing in my room?”

“The correct question, Mr. Gray, would be, ‘Where am I?’ to which I would reply, ‘Why, you are in a desert island of course!'”

The ostrich looked around and saw that he was indeed in some sort of cave. As his vision came into focus, he could see that his room was furnished with only the basic luxuries—a small desk and chair, a small bathroom stall, a sink, and the bed he was on.

He looked around for the source of the voice, but there was only an intercom in the corner. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Who I am is of little importance.”

“Okay, why am I here?”

“You are here for a competition of sorts. It’s a simple game, really. It just has severe consequences if you fail.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want to be in any competition,” Gray protested.

“That’s unfortunate for you. You’re here now, so you should probably start wanting to be here. It’ll give you a much better chance at success.”

“Okay,” Gray forced a smile and sarcastically replied, “I am so excited to be here. How can I use this opportunity to become a success?”

“Better. Still not that great, but it’ll work,” said the voice, “As far as the competition is concerned, I’ll fill you in on the rules:

First, the door opposite you will open in about five minutes, so I would use that time to prepare.

Second, you will have one minute to exit and make your way to the Arena. If you get lost on the way, you don’t deserve to win in the first place.

Third, arrive at the Arena ready for anything. And I mean anything. I don’t even know what they’re going to ask you to do.

Finally…Win.

“Any questions?” asked the voice.

“Um, yes. I do—”

“Good! Enjoy your next couple of minutes. Like I said, I’d get ready for anything. This is so exciting!”

“Excuse me. I said I have questions,” the ostrich objected, but he was only answered with silence. Confused and groggy, Mr. Gray stood up and headed over to the sink. He gazed at the tired ostrich in the mirror, “What have you gotten yourself into?”

A buzzer sounded and the room was suddenly bathed in a purple glow. “Curious,” said Gray, “I would have expected red or no light at all.”

“Our last red light bulb burned out on the last contestant,” the voice announced, “We thought about the darkness thing, but the insurance on that is ridiculously expensive. Purple was all we had. It was left over from a party last year.”

“Hey! I thought—“

“And that’s where you should stop,” the voice laughed, “Don’t think. Just go.”

The door slid open to reveal a hallway that led straight to another door about twenty paces away. Gray followed the voice’s command and walked through the door. It immediately slid shut behind him.

“I guess I’m in it ‘til the end now,” said the ostrich. He walked toward the next door. It opened when he was a few steps away. On the other side was a large triangular room with a table and chair in the center and an empty swimming pool to the left.

“SIT!” a voice, different from the voice he heard earlier, commanded. He quickly walked to the chair and sat. The voice continued, “VERY GOOD! YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT YOU ARE—What?…He got the message?…Oh, the volume, yes. Ahem. Sorry about the volume. The last contestant was hard of hearing, which didn’t help her at all. If she had been able to hear the—Sorry, I tend to ramble when I’m excited.

“Anyway, you are about to participate in a competition. It may or may not be easy. It may or may not be fun. BUT! You will most definitely win or lose.”

“That’s not very reassuring,” Mr. Gray mumbled.

“Right you are! It’s not supposed to be reassuring,” the voice laughed, “if you want reassurance, you have already completed three tasks: you made it to the arena, you sat down at the table, and you haven’t stopped breathing.”

Mr. Gray was only slightly reassured, “I have a question.”

“It better be a good one.”

“If this is a competition, where are the other contestants?” Gray asked.

There was an audible sigh, then the voice replied, “Obviously, they failed the first test.”

“So does that mean I’ve won?”

“No.”

“I don’t get it. I made it further than everyone else.”

“Yes, they would have made it more entertaining, but this competition is not about beating others. It’s about completing your own tasks. So here’s your next one: place the object under the table on top of the table.”

Mr. Gray looked under the table and saw a knife taped to the bottom. He grabbed it with his beak and placed it on top of the table.

“Very good! Now answer me this: who was the first Pharaoh of Egypt?”

“Uh…” Gray could only think of one name, “King Tut?”

“Wrong! You lose,” the voice announced, “You must now suffer the consequences of your mistake. Pick up the knife.”

Mr. Gray’s heart was in his throat, “But…please. This doesn’t seem fitting—“

“Silence! You have failed the test. Now you must pay for your mistake. Pick up the knife.”

Gray unsteadily picked up the knife with his beak, thinking about all the different ways he could be commanded to use it. None of them involved him leaving the arena alive. A hidden door to his right opened and a well-dressed lemur stepped out, carrying an object. He quickly bounded over and placed the object on the table.

“That is an onion. You will cut it into little tiny pieces. And when you are done, you will get another. This will continue until you fill the pool.”

Hearing this, Mr. Gray began to cry.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Day 3)

It’s Day 3, and I’m still excited to write!

Feel free to start your own challenge with this awesome app!

Without further ado:

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I sat at the workbench in my garage, tinkering with a device. I’d been waiting anxiously for this day to arrive. It had to be today, or the whole plan would fall through.

A cargo door closed on a truck outside.

The postman!

I jumped up and ran to the front door, knocking over a bowl of plastic fruit along the way. I waited by the door, trying to catch my breath, then I heard the glorious rap of knuckles on wood.

Yes! It’s finally here!

After an excruciatingly long minute, I opened the front door and saw a small package sitting on the porch. I picked it up and checked the label, even though there was no doubt it was mine. There, on the label, was my confirmation—the world balanced on the tip of a sword.

I had the box nearly open by the time I reached the garage.

I reached inside, pulled out the final piece, and held it up in the light to admire the beauty of its craftsmanship.

I pulled out my phone and sent a text message to Doug, “Don’t go with her on that date tonight. The event has been moved up to tonight.”

He replied, “Okay. I’ll be there.”

I set down the phone. The piece gleamed in the light, begging to be used. I gingerly installed it in the device.

Finally, it’s finished!

The sun was setting. I quickly placed it in its container, carefully picked it up, and placed it in the trunk of my car. After getting in the car, I realized that I didn’t have my car key. I checked all my pockets, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

I don’t have time for this! Where could it be? The fruit bowl!

I ran to the kitchen and picked up the green apple from the floor. I unscrewed the bottom and pulled out the spare key.

~~~~~~~~~~

“You’re late,” Doug whispered as I met him at the center of Times Square.

“Barely,” I mumbled, “Is everything ready? We only have one shot at this.”

“Yes, everything is ready,” he said, as he nodded toward a coffee shop down the street.

A couple was emerging, while a businessman hurried inside, probably to meet a colleague after a late night at the office. Across the street, a group of tourists was taking photos of themselves and all the lights.

“It’s a busy night. I believe we’re going to make quite an impression,” I said, while I unpacked and prepared the device. A few passers-by gave us suspicious glances, unsure of what was about to happen.

“Ready?” Doug shifted his stance, “Now.”

In unison, we drew our bows across the strings of our violins, releasing a gentle breeze of romantic notes. The couple stopped in front of us to enjoy the song of love as it danced through the air. At the man’s signal, we stopped the music.

He knelt down beside her and changed her life forever.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Day 2)

Yesterday’s story was so much fun that I almost wrote another one at bedtime! I hope these stories turn out to be as entertaining as they are fun to write.

Also, I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that I’m not going to change the prompts unless I’ve already seen it. That way, I can’t just cycle through them until I get one that fits my thinking or makes it easier. The point of this is to help me focus and expand my creativity beyond what’s “easy”.

If you want to try something like this, you can get the Writing Challenge app here.

Let’s see what today’s prompts are:

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“What are you laughing at?” Tom asked.

Shelly giggled and pointed at the drawer her dad had just installed, “It’s upside down, Dad.”

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “Silly me. I’ll just fix that right quick.” He pulled out the drawer, flipped it over, and re-installed it.

“Are we going to Granny’s house today? It’s a beautiful day! Look at how happy the animals and trees are!” she pointed out the kitchen window.

Tom stood up and evaluated the cabinet, “We don’t have time to stop by today. I have to get to the bakery to help your uncle with the order for the banquet.”

Shelly mumbled to her doll, “We never have time to visit Granny anymore.”

He heard the conversation and knelt down beside her, “I’m so sorry. I want to walk with you through the trees and play in the meadows, but I have to work to make sure we have food to eat. This banquet is going to help us a lot. I shouldn’t have to work any extra hours for at least a couple weeks. I might even get a day off! I promise that we’ll go visit Granny soon. I love you, Shelly.”

A doubtful smile broke her frown, “I love you, too, Daddy. I just miss going over there every day like we used to.”

“I know, dear. Tomorrow, I’ll make sure that we visit her, no matter how late it is,” he hugged her tight, “Make sure you help Mom weed the garden today. I think we have more weeds than vegetables.”

“Yes, sir,” she finished combing her doll’s hair, then left the room to get ready for the day.

The sadness in his daughter’s eyes sent a wave of guilt through his veins. He grabbed a silver piece to buy her a some chocolate after work and headed down the road toward town.

If only his life were as simple as it used to be. He decided that, from this day forward, he was going to find a way to take those walks with his daughter. He was going to laugh and play more.

The plan didn’t go as expected, though. Just then, a strange man stepped out onto the path.

“Hello, good sir,” the man smiled a yellow, crooked smile, “I was wondering if you could help me out.”

“I’m sorry, but I must hurry. I have to open the bakery–“

“Yes, yes. Everyone is always in a hurry when it comes to helping others. It’s a simple request that will take no time at all,” the man’s smile widened.

Tom felt his fear growing, but fought to hide it, “What is it?”

“I’m in a bit of a tough spot. I only have a few pennies, but my family needs food. Do you have any to spare?”

“No, I don’t. I work at the bakery, so I don’t take money to buy my lunch.”

The man’s smile faded as he pulled out a knife, “Surely you can find a spare coin or two in your pockets.”

Tom’s eyes widened at the sight of the metal blade, “I-I don’t have any money. Honest.”

“Honesty,” the man spat, “It gets you nowhere. I watched you put something in your apron just before you left home. What was it?”

Tom’s resolve was failing. He tried to think of something mundane, “It…it’s just a l-lucky trinket my d-daughter gave me. It has no value and means nothing to anyone except her and me.”

“Liar! If it was of no value, you wouldn’t be fumbling with your words. This has already taken too long. I’ve got an appointment and you’re making me late.”

“Okay, here. Take it!” Tom wrestled the coin out of his apron and tossed it to the man.

The robber gazed at the coin, “Thank you, kind sir. But where there’s silver, there must be gold.” His eyes flashed with a wild hunger.

Tom didn’t have time to react before a flash of light disappeared into his stomach. The knife drove deep, sending a blinding pain through his body. His eyes went wide as his life was stolen from him. He had so many questions, but only one thought stayed with him as he left the world: I told her I loved her.

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Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories

Thanks to my ADHD, I have a hard time finishing projects and focusing. I’m going to try to combat this by giving myself challenges. This is my first challenge, so I’m only going to make it one week long. I may continue beyond this week, but I don’t want to push it.

Here’s my personal challenge: Every day, I will write at least one short story and post it/them here on my blog. I may have to post it later than the date written, but I must write at least one a day. I will be using the Writing Challenge App to give me my daily prompt(s).

Here we go!

Prompt 1:

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“Tell him I’m here to pick up my suit,” Charlie nervously said to the clerk. His eyes shifted from wall to wall as he surveyed the place.

The clerk gave him an uncertain look before he turned hurried off to the back room. While the clerk was in the back, Charlie pulled out his knife and stepped over to the side of the counter. He could see the sweat on his brow in the large mirror next to him. It was now or never. He didn’t have time to ponder his decisions.

His hand tightened around the handle of the knife, nerves hanging on by a thread. His thoughts raced to a faraway place. Shaking his head, he forced himself to focus.

He lifted the knife just as the clerk entered from the back room.

The clerk calmly placed the tuxedo on the counter and asked, “Is the big day today, sir?”

“Yes sir,” Charlie replied, guiding the knife through the forest of stubble on his chin.

The clerk smiled, “She’s a very lucky lady to have a man so concerned about his appearance. Congratulations, and I wish you many years of happiness.”

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